Basin Notes - May 2008

The natural world is on the move despite the weather

The weather in April always seems unsettled. This year, the first few days were warm, then suddenly the temperature plunged and we had sleet and snow, then more rain. This is in stark contrast to April 2007 which was the hottest and sunniest on record. Despite the vagaries of the weather however the natural world is on the move.

Throughout April the UK's population of pink-footed geese (around 260,000) will migrate to Iceland and Greenland. Pintail, teal and wigeon will leave the Basin to breed in Iceland, the Baltic or Northern Russia.

Waders such as knot will head north as far as arctic Canada, turnstone to Greenland and bar-tailed god-wit to Scandinavia and Northern Europe.

Iceland is also the destination for black-tailed godwit and redshank although both species will breed in small numbers in the UK.

Millions of birds that spend the winter in tropical Africa will migrate north to Europe during the next few weeks and some have already reached Montrose Basin. An osprey was spotted on 29th March a couple of miles west of the Basin and on the 1st April there was another sighting over the Basin.

Other first sightings were a sand martin on 30th March and a common sandpiper on the 6th April.

We look forward to the arrival of other summer migrants to the Basin this month including wheatear, swallow, house martin, sedge and willow warbler, chiffchaff, whitethroat and blackcap.

Last year there were a few sightings of the rarer grasshopper warbler and we hope this elusive bird makes an appearance again this year. Smaller than a robin and with its various shades of brown and buff, it tends to stay in dense cover and is very difficult to see. You will need an acute ear to hear its remarkable song which is described as a fine trill with up to 26 double notes per second and this can continue non-stop for several minutes!

Sandwich, common and arctic terns should appear by the end of April and we hope that little terns will again return to Montrose beach to breed. Swifts used to get here around mid May but in recent years have been arriving earlier and last year my first sighting over Montrose was on 30th April.

On the Basin eider duck, shelduck, goldeneye and red-breasted merganser are all displaying, each exhibiting their distinctive and individual head and neck movements designed to attract a mate.

The lesser yellowlegs and avocet that graced our shoreline this winter have both gone.

The last sighting dates were 24th February and 9th March respectively.

Recent sighting of note on the Reserve have been long-tailed duck, scaup, red-throated diver, greenshank, green sandpiper and great spotted woodpecker.

An excellent sighting was that of a jack snipe in front of the Visitor Centre.

At the Visitor Centre a female blue tit is constructing her nest of moss and grass in our "camera nest box".