Basin Notes - November 2007

Pink footed geese are a no-show

The last few weeks have been a busy time for all the staff here at the wildlife centre and once again we have realised how true the saying never work with wildlife is.

All the birds that visit Montrose Basin are truly wild, they are free spirits. They demonstrated this to full effect in recent weeks.

One of the main events in the wildlife centre calendar was held at the start of the month, the goose breakfast, so popular that we put an extra one on this year because of the huge demand. Brilliant, we all thought, as we made all our plans to ensure it all went like clockwork. It was a few days before the event when I added pink footed goose to the 'shopping list'.

We had gone from numbers regularly around the 25,000 mark down to 15,000 but still that's one massive spectacle when you see it so nobody was really too concerned.

But then on the day when all the eager participants arrived the sight that greeted us was not that which we had expected. An open expanse of mud lay before the group hardly a goose to be seen. Fortunately despite the early hour (6.30am) everybody was in good spirits and the situation was salvaged and we were still able to identify Oystercatchers, Shelduck, Wigeon and Eider out on the reserve. A lucky few even saw the Kingfisher on its favoured perch when we went back to the centre for an early breakfast.

On the reserve goose numbers always fluctuate, they tend to peak in mid to late October and then decrease to a low in December and January. Much of the British population of Pink Footed Geese are familiar with the Montrose Basin and will visit it many times in their life.

Most birds will use the reserve as a staging post on there journey south and then later in the year upon their return north to Iceland in spring. Those of you who regularly read the Basin Notes may remember that last year the geese arrived later than usual. Well this year weather conditions meant they arrived earlier again so naturally by early November the numbers were declining as the birds move on.

There are also many other factors that we have to consider when planning activities on the reserve. Everything we do revolves around the ebb and flow of the tide, the moon also plays an important role in the movements of wildfowl and then there's also a few unexpected problems thrown in as well. This year fireworks some of which were misguidedly released on the reserve undoubtedly unnerved the geese too.

For all of the staff and volunteers at the centre its all these challenges that are thrown at us by the nature of our work which keep us on our toes and are one of many reasons we enjoy our work. Hopefully next year we will have a crowd of people wanting to join us at the goose breakfast but we'll all have fingers crossed that this time the geese put on the spectacular show is all part of a winters dawn on the Montrose Basin.