Late July and early August is a period of change on the Basin as far as the bird populations are concerned.
There is a gradual build-up of returning wading birds from their breeding grounds to winter on our estuaries here in Scotland and, further south through Europe to Africa. These birds herald the start of the autumn though many of our breeding birds are still escorting their families to feed in the rich mud of the Basin.
A striking summer plumaged Knot was the first returning wader to be seen on July 6th, closely followed by a group of black-tailed Godwits, resplendent in their orange summer plumage.
Other waders seen recently have been single Whimbrel and Ruff, up to 12 Common Sandpiper and a group of eight Dunlin on July 26th.
For the second consecutive year Water Rails have bred successfully in the reed and sedge beds on the salt pans below the wildlife centre. Four fluffy black chicks with bright yellow beaks were first seen along the reedy edge of one of the pools during July, gradually turning to a drabber brown colour and then assuming some of the adult features. These birds were comical to watch as younger chicks were often chasing each other or young Pied Wagtails over tbe surface of the mud.
Kingfisher sightings have been mainly confined to the Lurgies area this year, the latest being seen on July 31. Common and Sandwich Terns have been present on the Basin in huge numbers recently with 1000+ on July 22th. Both species appear to have had a fairly successful breeding season with good numbers of juvenile birds present within the flocks. This is in complete contrast to seabirds in general further north where a lack of fish food supplies has resulted in a poor breeding season.
Despite the antics of our resident family of stoats, rabbits are becoming a serious pest within the centre grounds. We are currently trailing a Sonic Pest Chaser in an attempt to keep them off some of the flower beds. This device offers a humane method of ex- cluding rabbits from sensitive areas and may offer a cheaper alternative to fencing the entire grounds.
Our volunteer gardening group, which does a sterling job, has a tough enough task in keeping the grounds looking good for visitors without the added complication of grazing rabbits.
And finally, our wildlife themed shop now has a new selection of wildlife printed t-shirts and is offering a substantial discount on the remaining stock of our own Montrose Basin polo and sweatshirts.