Basin Notes - November 2005

The Geese and Ducks are Here

The coming and going of thousands of pink-footed geese at Montrose Basin is a great spectacle of nature and I am often asked at this time of year: "How many geese are at the Basin just now?"

Numbers are at their peak in October and the most recent estimate is 30,000 The highest October count averaged over the past five years is 25,500. The highest recorded count was 46,000 in October 1994.

Other recent goose sightings include 70 barnacle, five greylag and two brent.

A white goose has also been seen but not close enough for identification. It is likely to be either a white pinkfoot or a snow goose.

Some 43 whooper swans were recorded on the Basin on October 31st. The whooper is similar in size to the mute swan, weighing in at around 10 kilos and is one of the world's heaviest migratory birds. Its neck is straighter than the mute, and it has a distinctive black and yellow bill.

Ongoing studies at wintering sites such as the Wild fowl Trust Reserve at Caerlaverock in Dumfriesshire have enabled staff to recognise individual birds by the colour pattern on their bill. Regular colour ringing also takes place at several Wildfowl Trust sites.

Wintering whoopers in the UK are mainly Icelandic breeders but some stay the winter in Iceland.

Recent sightings of note on the Basin have been red-throated diver, long-tailed duck and 1000 golden plover. Six to eight common seals haul up on the lug bank on a regular basis.

Buzzard, peregrine, kestrel and sparrowhawk are seen periodically and the more rare merlin was spot ted last month.

In front of the Visitor Centre, long-tailed tits have been seen searching for insects while great spotted woodpecker, blue, great and coal tits partake of the peanuts provided. A single redwing along with a song thrush and four blackcaps, have also been dining well by eagerly taking the elderberries.

During the last few days of October, a male king-fisher visited the pool in front of the Visitor Centre. It displayed its full repertoire of diving into the water returning to its perch with a fish then bashing it on the perch to stun it before turning it round in its beak and swallowing it head first.

A number of visitors had not seen a kingfisher be fore and using the telescopes were delighted to sec this beautiful bird at close quarters.