Basin Notes - October 1998


The nights are drawing in and the days are getting colder and your thoughts turn to sun, sea and sand in warmer climes. But as your plane heads for Gran Canaria and its warm beaches, your dreams are interrupted by the voice of the captain who announces that adverse weather conditions over Las Palmas means that you are diverted to Morocco. In the heat and dust of a strange country with the wrong currency in your pocket, nowhere to stay the night, thirsty and hungry you must somehow survive. Thank goodness this only happens every few thousand flights.

But every year birds that have bred in northern latitudes and wing their way south to spend the winter in Africa’s warm embrace are "diverted" by the weather. Strong winds can blow some of the thousands of these long distance travellers off course across the North Sea and the Atlantic to land in the UK. Tired and hungry and in a strange land they make for the nearest cover to rest and hopefully feed before trying to resume their journey. Sadly some migrants cannot survive this dislocation in their travel plans and succumb to the cold and starvation.

The recent windy weather has bought in a red-backed shrike to Usan on it’s way to Africa. A red-necked phaloarope took it’s ease in a pond near Colliston before heading for the Middle East. Others "lost" birds include barnacle geese and a brent goose who are mingled in with the arriving pink-footed geese and should be further south and west of Montrose Basin. A firecrest near Ethie is also way too far north. Hopefully, these birds will be able to continue their journey and arrive in their winter quarters soon.

On the other hand, some bird species winter on Montrose Basin, considering the East of Scotland plenty warm enough compared with the Arctic regions where they breed. These include wigeon, teal, golden plover, knot and dunlin. Closer to home the curlew and lapwing have come in from the hills and moors to feast in the fields and on the mud. These, plus the thousands of pink-footed geese, have been putting on impressive displays for visitors to the Wildlife Centre. A less common wintering migrant is a great grey shrike, escaping the Scandinavian winter, which has been seen near the pond in front of the Centre which is also attracting the regular interest of a kingfisher.

So now is the time to grab the binoculars and dust off the field guide and get out to see what the weather has bought in.