Basin Notes - June 2009

Newly fledged birds take to the waters of the Basin

This is a busy time of year for wildlife on the Basin. There are newly fledged birds of many species pursuing their parents for food.

Mallard and eider ducklings can be seen paddling in the wake of the older birds who noisily try to protect the young from predation by larger birds. Many other species are still feeding young in the nest and are frantically foraging for food. Most of the summer visitors have now arrived and are established in their breeding territories.

The tern raft, sited in front of the visitor centre offers good views of both common and arctic terns. It is too soon to know how many birds will finally nest there this season, but at present in excess of 70 birds are using the raft most days. The arctic tern travels astonishing distances each year, spending summers here and in places further north, and winters in the Antarctic.

Montrose also hosts a small breeding colony of little terns, easily distinguished from other terns by its yellow beak and small size. They occur in Scotland in relatively small numbers with only about 300 nests in the whole country. Their nest is no more than a scrape in the sand just above the high water mark on a beach and it is extremely easy to destroy the nests accidentally by walking in the colony.

The breeding site in Montrose is at the mouth of the South Esk and signs alerting the public of the presence of the birds have been erected. If the birds are to breed successfully, it is important not to walk inside the site and also to keep dogs on leads or under close control in the area. The breeding season only lasts a few weeks, and it is hoped that local residents and visitors will help to conserve this wonderful species by following the advice on the notice boards.

The western edge of the Basin often hosts some interesting birds, even if only for short periods. This last week has seen a visit by a common crane, which in Scotland is far from common. This bird of northern Europe and Asia is an occasional visitor and is much bulkier than the grey heron, the only native bird with which it might be confused. The wonderful thing about being near the coast is never knowing what might arrive from Europe.