Basin Notes - May 2005

Plans made for grassy sward

Acording to Horace "you can pitch nature out with a fork, but she will always come back."

This has proved true in the case of clubrush clearance in the ponds below the wildlife centre - now only a small reflective area survives in front of the man-made sand martin nesting site. However, the sand-martins aren't put off and they have been busy cleaning out their nest tunnels and getting down to the business of raising their families.

Innumerable midges are the key to their success. Examining the ponds there are myriad hatchings of midges - a success story which has humans reaching for Avon's Skin So Soft Woodland before venturing out on a dull day.

Later in the season Grant Baird will get the clubrush clearance underway. The original ponds were designed to taper from muddy scrape to deeper water, thus giving scope for waders and moorhens, and alongside a grassy sward to attract the widgeon up from the Basin.

This time the grassy sward will, we hope, be ideal for children's activities for the Watch Group and school parties having fun with the teacher/naturalists. This hardworking group has a remit which includes nature studies and science as part of the school curriculum. Sometimes, birthday parties are organised in the Wildlife Centre and are popular with young and old alike. Booking well in advance is essential.

The BBC Springwatch survey 2005, sponsored by the Woodland Trust, wants to hear about your first sighting of peacock butterfly, swift and hawthorn flowering. Log your data on the BBC website at or call the Woodland Trust on 0800 083 7497 - calls are free and lines are open 24 hours a day.

Sightings should be within a 10km (six mile) radius of the location (postcode). The Springwatch results will be announced by Bill Oddie on BBC2 in due course.

Volunteering at the wildlife centre and on the nature reserve has many different aspects to it and may appeal to those with curiosity about the natural world, and to those who enjoy meeting people. Glenn Rudman gives an outline of the range of volunteering activities currently available at the Montrose Basin Wildlife Centre.

The people in the Scottish Wildlife Trust are just as important to the organisation as the wildlife and conservation - education not just being facts and figures, important though they are, but also loads of fun. Each nature reserve has its own special character and the conservation ideal for its management is to interfere as little as possible with the natural habitat supporting this very special place and its inhabitants.

Currently we have a camera within a nest box for the blue tits. Comfortably lined with moss and soft lining, they have at least 11 eggs already. Sixteen would be extremely ambitious for this breeding pair, who will have a hectic time finding caterpillars to feed their chicks. Let's wish them success this season.

Migrants such as the sedge warbler will be setting up home on the salt marsh edge, their nest will be built and family raised in a single clutch, then off they fly back to Africa - a 4,000-mile round trip.

Montrose Basin will be about the most northerly extent of this bird's migratory range. The attraction must be all those insects on the salt marsh and, as we all know, Montrose Basin creates this special climate enjoyed by locals and tourists to our area known as "The Eastbourne of the North".

Seabirds all along the east coast of Scotland had difficulty breeding successfully last year due to lack of food. Guillemots, razor-bills and puffin suffered severely.

Gulls, adapted to town dwelling, are really on their survival strategy number two. They have a couple of eggs which duly hatch and then the wily parents will toss out the stronger one from the nest onto the doorstep of a kindly householder for adoption. This will present the hapless person with a dilemma as nowadays anti-social behaviour orders prevent the feeding of big birds in towns.

Bring back the inshore fishing fleet to Ferryden, and bring back the fish in the North Sea to keep them busy.

Ospreys are enjoying the fruits of the sea in Montrose Basin, where a semi-submerged tree root is their favoured dining area.