Basin Notes - June 2003

May Springs Forth

The month of May, with its lengthening days and rising temperatures, finds nature simply bursting with new life and vigour. The sap is rising, hormones are jumping and millions are multiplying. It's a fertile month full of frenetic activity and rampant reproduction!

Wintering waders on the Basin will have depleted the mud worms, shellfish, shrimps and snails but the breeding cycle of these invertebrates will now be in full swing to replenish their numbers.

The shore crab sheds its crusty outer shell several times during its lifetime. This moult only takes a few minutes but the new, soft shell will take up to two weeks to harden. Look out for these discarded hollow shells along the Basin shore for they are a remarkable replica.

Millions of summer migrants are now on the move from Africa into Europe and some have arrived around the Basin including sand martin, chiffchaff, willow warbler and swallow.

This month will see the major influx of summer migrants to our shores. Some will be seen from the visitor centre windows and will breed nearby such as swallow, house-martin, sedge warbler and whitethroat.

Look out too for an osprey fishing over the Basin. They are now well established in Scotland with about 160 breeding pairs and in the past two years have also bred in England.

On the Basin at present ducks are involved in the rituals of courtship. Eider, goldeneye and red-breasted mergenser each have a distinctive display of head and bill tossing, neck jerking and stretching along with pursuit flights through the water.

Two pairs of great crested grebes have recently been displaying on the Basin and their courtship is one of the most unusual and elaborate.

They erect their head plumes while facing each other, swaying their heads from side to side. They also present a beakful of vegetation to each other while pressing their breasts together and paddling furiously with their feet, which forces their bodies upright into a standing position. It is truly a remarkable ritual to observe.

In our 'camera nestbox' at the visitor centre, the blue tit laid her first egg on April 22nd, two days earlier than last year. An egg is laid each day, usually in the early morning, until the clutch is complete.

Last year 11 eggs were laid and nine chick fledged.

The Scottish Wildlife Trust has introduced a Reserve Rucksack to some of its wildlife reserves and one is now available at the visitor centre. It contains guide books on birds and wild flowers, reserve information, a bug box, notebook, pencil and a pair of binoculars. Visitors may borrow the rucksack to explore the reserve. A deposit (which is returnable) is required but there is no charge for the hire of the rucksack.