There are areas of the SWT Montrose Basin Nature Reserve other than the immediate environs of the Wildlife Centre.
It is well worth visiting the section by the Old Pier from where you can walk up to the Bridge of Dun following part of the South Esk river, looking over the 'Lurgies' and the 'Slunks'.
Along this walk, there is a small reed bed in which hundreds of Swallows can roost in early autumn prior to heading off to Africa. On the river itself, you should see Little Grebes (often in double figures), Goldeneyes, Goosanders, the occasional Kingfisher, Redshanks, Curlews, Lapwings and several species of gulls. It will not be too long now before the first Sand Martins arrive from Africa, and it is at the Bridge of Dun where I often see my first ones of the spring. These migrants can arrive in central Scotland by the 11th of March!
There is a car park near the Mains of Dun which can easily hold around 10 cars, and from here, you can walk through a working farm to the Shelduck and Wigeon Hides. The farm manager, Grant Baird, is very 'eco-friendly' and has left several 'beetle corridors' which also benefit small mammals and pairs of Grey Partridge.
This area is also very good for Brown Hares which will be 'boxing' at this time of year. Seemingly, it is not two males which box but a female and a male, and it is her way of saying "I'm not quite ready yet!"
The fields adjacent to the Shelduck Hide are where some of the Whooper and Mute Swans are feeding at the moment along with flocks of Starlings and a large flock of around 120 Twite.
These small brown finches are also known as Mountain Linnets as they will breed in the Angus hills and winter near the coast. They get their name from their calls, and on Sunday when I was there, a party of around 60 of these little birds perched on a Hawthorn bush and sang their hearts out. Also in full voice were Skylarks and Curlews, and it was lovely to hear the bubbling calls from the latter along with the more wintry sounds from the Whooper Swans and the Pink-footed Geese. From the Wigeon Hide you will have a commanding view over the Basin as this is a stilted hide, and you should add a few duck species such as Pintail, Teal, Red-breasted Merganser and perhaps even the flock of wintering Scaup.
Our 'TV Star', the Avocet, is still with us along with the rarer North American Lesser Yellowlegs which I mentioned in my last 'Basin Notes'. Other commoner waders include the 2,000+ Knots, the 1,000+ Dunlins and the more accurately counted 1,734 Curlews. Some of the Hawthorns are looking quite green already, and Lesser Celandines are in flower along with the very early Coltsfoot which I have seen out for around two weeks now. In Grant's fields there is even a crop of yellow Oilseed Rape in flower!
From the Centre, up to three Great Spotted Woodpeckers have been feeding on the hanging feeders along with the commoner finches, sparrows and tits. A Water Rail was observed in the pond below the Sand Martin colony, and Common Seals can still be seen loafing on the sand bars at low tide.
Some of the Teacher/Naturalists will be busy this week with the schools' 'March into Spring', and will be pond-dipping with the children looking for Phantom Midge Larvae, Freshwater Shrimps, Diving Beetles, Daphnia, Flat Worms, Bivalves, various Pond Snails and many more aquatic creatures.