Thousands of Scandinavian Waxwings have arrived on the east coast of Scotland! If you do not know what they look like and do not have a bird field guide to hand, pop into the SWT Centre at The Basin to look at the bird books there.
They really are beautiful, being the size of Starlings only a little plumper, with their crests, yellow tips to tails and red wax markings on their wings. A couple of flocks have flown past the window, and others have been seen at Ferryden and Hillside. A berry failure in Norway and Sweden seems to be the main reason for the invasion, and we are not complaining about this as these are very spectacular birds.
Luckily for us, they are fairly confiding and are not too bothered by the presence of people. In many parts of our countryside the hips & haws are abundant, and in some gardens I have seen red hues of cotoneaster berries. These three along with White Beam are the birds favourite fruits, but it is essential that water is to hand (or beak) as these berries are pretty dry. I have seen the birds at puddles on the ground and also drinking from gutters on buildings. However, if you put out water containers you may not only get Waxwings in your garden but many other bird species as well. Many people feed the birds in winter, which is great but often forget to put out a water dish as well which can be more important.
If you are thinking of feeding the birds or encouraging friends to do so, the Wildlife Centre has an excellent stock of seeds and nuts, which can make a very good Christmas present!
The new scrapes in the salt marsh, in view from the Centre windows, are starting to settle down and attract a few birds such as Greenshanks and Teal. It is possible that some of the 3,800+ Wigeon may grace these new scrapes as well. A dream is that the waders one day may chose this area to roost instead of just 100 metres further on!
The local Ferryden Primary has been making use of the Teacher/Naturalist facilities at the Centre recently and has been learning about goose migration as well as all sorts of aquatic beasties. It would be wonderful if other local Primaries would do the same!
There is an outdoor clothing exhibition in the upstairs room at the moment, which could be yet another source for Christmas presents!
A little tip for those of you who have bird boxes in your garden. Now is the time to clean them out in preparation for next year. If the old contents are left to fester, they could affect the young birds the following year. I am sure that you all know that these boxes must be facing away from direct sunlight and the prevailing wind i.e. they should be facing N/E! ' I find that it is fun to look for any signs of flowers still out in bloom at this time of year. You might be surprised just how many are surviving. For example, recently I have noted Meadowsweet, Slender Speedwell, Knapweed, Red Clover, Yarrow, Ivy-leaved Toadflax and Autumn Hawk-bit as well as Dandelion and Daisy.
Apart from the comfortable viewing from the Centre with a cup of coffee in hand, you could visit the Old Montrose Pier at The Lurgies where several Little Grebes, Goldeneyes, Goosanders and Mute Swans feed along with a possible Kingfisher.