World Migratory Bird Day was celebrated around the world on 12/13th May and is held to highlight the amazing spectacle of bird migration as millions of birds make journeys that can amount to thousands of miles. It also brings attention to the threats to those birds that cannot complete their journeys because vital stopping-off places have been destroyed by man's activities.
This problem is exemplified by the recent news of Saemangeum Wetland in South Korea, where a 33 mile long sea-wall was closed last year to drain the wetland for conversion into paddy fields. The 155-square mile wetland used to have a tidal range of 7 metres but now that has gone down to 17 centimetres. The thriving fishing activity has been destroyed and the few remaining wet areas are covered in an algal bloom with shellfish beds and water plants dead. The 400,000 waders that used this wetland as a vital refuelling point on their migration from the southern hemisphere to Russia and Alaska are now threatened unless they can find an alternative site. (See www.rspb.org.uk/news)
In California the Tijuana River National Estuarine Research Reserve is 2,531 acres of tidal wetland, riparian, and upland habitats lying immediately north of the U.S. - Mexico border. (Compare this to the 2,000 acres of Montrose Basin). Their Visitor Centre has a shop and interpretation areas and there are several walks around the reserve to get to the best bird watching points.
Their recent quarterly newsletter "News from the Sloughs" ruefully reports on the lack of recognition of the reserve from the inhabitants of the local area (who number about 1 million!), the need for more volunteers to help with reserve activities and the arrangements for education activities for children. There are also adverts for guided walks and illustrated talks. I'm sure the SWT staff at the Basin Visitor Centre will sympathise with the sentiments in all these items. (See www.tijuanaestuary.com)
In Iceland, the Floi Nature Reserve is a river estuary that covers about 1,230 acres and is the breeding site of many birds that would be seen on the Basin in winter; dunlin and black tailed godwit are two species that make the return journey each year.
The Greater Zandvlei Estuary Nature Reserve in South Africa, like a lot of Ramsar sites around the world, celebrated World Wetlands Day this year with an event that saw 80 local school children visiting the reserve and learning about the environment and wildlife. (See www.zandvleitrust.org.za)
Montrose Basin is also a Ramsar site (an International designation of wetland habitats) and World Wetlands Day is an annual fixture in its event programme. The similarities with other wetland reserves all over the world are obvious from these few examples above and it is clear that Montrose Basin is an example of a habitat that needs nurturing and is important in worldwide terms as well as locally.
While Montrosians may think of the thousands of pink footed geese as "theirs", those same birds are "claimed" by Norfolk residents, as well as the people in Iceland and Greenland. The continued existence of these wildlife spectacles depends on clean, healthy estuaries to provide migratory species with the refuelling stops they need. So come along and support your local Reserve - wherever you live.