Basin Notes - November 2010

Winter wonders

A group of 71 people rose very early on Sunday to watch the spectacle of 59,502 Pink-footed Geese take off from the SWT Montrose Basin during the latest 'Goose Breakfast' event.

The geese were not actually on the menu, but instead these stalwarts enjoyed porridge, tea and toast. The geese did not totally behave as planned, and a member of staff was forced to aid them on their way just a little! However, with so many geese around, and with some of them feeding locally, there are always some birds to be seen.

Another interesting event, which took place last weekend, was the sight of watching a Peregrine catching a Redshank.

This bird of prey was harassed by a couple of Carrion Crows, and eventually (and surprisingly) the Peregrine gave up its quarry, but later the crows were bullied by a local Buzzard, which flew off with its spoil!

Still on the subject of raptors, a late Osprey was spotted in Glen Esk on October 9. Also, a Merlin visited the area in front of the Centre probably encouraged by the variety of small birds feeding on Harry Bickerstaffs feeders. The locally uncommon Tree Sparrow is one of these species along with the three common tit species (Blue, Coal & Great), Goldfinches, Chaffinches, Greenfinches, Robins, Dunnocks and Starlings. Scott O'Hara was telling me that this latter species has adapted a feeding technique of literally 'jumping up, off the ground at the feeders to steal the food rather than attempting to cling on. The more common bird of prey to visit bird tables is the Sparrowhawk.

We are sure that you are all aware of how important it is to feed birds in winter. Thousands of lives will be saved if you do so, and the seeds, nuts and fat balls can be purchased at the Visitor Centre.

It will be interesting to note if any of the current seven Greenshanks will stay for the winter. One of the birds sighted last weekend had been colour-ringed, probably locally, and if any one sees any further ringed birds, please let the staff at the Centre know. The reason for colour-ringing is to let ornithologists know the route taken by these migrants, the time taken to reach a destination plus giving them some idea of how long birds live. Some parrots in captivity can live longer than humans (not in captivity), and Herring Gulls can live for 30 years whilst the small birds in our gardens may only survive for a few breeding seasons.

If you have visited the Visitor Centre recently, you will have noticed the SWT's 'flying flock' of sheep. These are animals which carry out important management by cropping the grasses and rushes which will allow wading birds to nest plus open up areas for other birds to feed. These sheep tend to spend a month or so in one area then 'fly' to another SWT reserve to carry on the good work. This technique is also used on reserves managing flower meadows.