Basin Notes - June 2005

Fingers crossed for heat

Summer is here - or it should be, but the colder spell of late will be having quite a detrimental effect on the wildlife of the SWT Montrose basin.

The nesting Eider Ducks have ducklings at the moment and the female will feel the need to keep them warm all the time which will cut down the amount of time that the young birds need to search for food.

Once they are a day or two old, the three to five ducklings will be able to feed for themselves, but with the cold, wet weather, the female will want them underneath her and they are likely to get very hungry indeed.

Another bird of the Basin at the moment is the Common Tern which catches small fish and then flies off to the nearby colony to feed its young, but with the cold, wet weather the adults will be torn between taking care of the young or searching for food.

Let us hope that warmer, drier conditions prevail soon. The Arctic Tern is the furthest travelled of all birds including the wandering Albatross, and will happily travel from Pole to Pole. This means that it is also the bird which sees the most daylight.

One of the problems that these birds have is that they like to nest on beaches, which are quite often frequented by human beings, and, in particular, dog-walkers. So this is a plea for these people to take care during die summer months, and to keep a wary eye out for distressed birds. The Terns usually let you know as they will dive-bomb anyone or anything that goes near their nest or young.

Another fishing bird has been present most days in the Basin in the form of an Osprey, which would normally try to catch flatfish, but volunteers at the Wildlife Centre believed that an eel was taken during one dive, which is a bit unusual.

It is normally the Grey Heron which prays on such fish. The Osprey has been eating its fish on a perch quite close to the centre.

You are guaranteed to see Sand Martins from the centre windows as the artificial nesting bank once more is a success.

Those are delightful aerial feeders who pick up nasty insects, which can cause us a bit of discomfort. The pond-dipping pond is right beside the colony, which is ideal for them but not so ideal for the bugs as when they hatch out these aerial feeders will snap them up.

Our teachers/naturalists have been busy showing the children what is in the pond, and while doing so, it has been observed that the Sand Martins just carry on as normal.

I wonder if last year's incident of an adult Moorhen snatching a young Sand Martin from its nesting hole to feed its own young will be repeated?

Other birds of note have been the Egyptian Goose whose origin is unknown, and a raft of 40 Red-breasted Mergansers.

These are members of the duck family, which have specially serrated beaks for retaining slippery fish.