Basin Notes

The MONTH of May sees the countryside bursting with new life as fresh young growth thrusts its way through last year’s dead vegetation.

The Tayock corner of Montrose Basin Nature Reserve, with its mixed habitat of young trees, scrub and grassland is an excellent area to explore our local flora and fauna. Willow herb, cow parsley, thistle, dock, stinging nettle and teasel are all growing rapidly just now.

There are not that many wild flowers in bloom yet but green alkanet is one – a perennial that flowers from April to July. This strong, upright plant with prominent hairy leaves carries clusters of small bright blue flowers with a white eye.

Also coming into flower is common comphrey with its hanging clusters of tubular flowers which may be purple, pink or cream. If you pause for a minute you may see a bumble bee biting its way through the side of a flower to reach the nectar, as it is too big to go down the flower tube.

Dandelions are now much in evidence giving a vigorous flush of flowers this month.

Viewed up close, the flower head is a beautifully constructed work of nature. It is made up of hundreds of ray florets, each with its own petal tube and a tight central disc of smaller florets. All this in lovely golden yellow, but the dandelion does not fit into our orderly scheme of things so we dismiss it as an ugly weed.

Continuing with the yellow theme, gorse has its final flourish in May before taking a rest in June but its warm yellow flowers can be seen at most times of the year. May and June is the main flowering period of broom and the numerous pea-like yellow flowers create a bright splash of colour wherever they grow.

Butterflies have been on the wing for some time now and on sunny days you can see large and small white, green-veined white, peacock and small tortoiseshell at the Tayock site. These will have two to three broods over the summer. However, do look out for the orange tipped butterfly between now and the end of June during which a single generation is produced.

It is a white butterfly with only the male having orange tips on its forewing. On a bright day he will be constantly on patrol checking out his territory in search of a mate. But the lady is elusive, often hiding away in the vegetation for long periods.

Eventually she will lay her eggs singly on the flower buds of cuckooflower or garlic mustard. After a few days the eggs will turn pink then orange. This butterfly hibernates as a chrysalis whereas the peacock and small tortoiseshell overwinter as adults.

A prominent aerial insect in May is the St Mark’s fly. You will see the black hairy males with their long dangling hind legs wafting in the breeze waiting for the females to arrive.

Songbirds are in full voice this month and the Tayock habitat is a great place to see and listen to blackbird, song thrush, dunnock, wren, robin, chaffinch and goldfinch.

Our most numerous summer migrant, the willow warbler, breeds here and you can now listen to the wistful and liquid song of several males. To think that a few short weeks ago they were 3,000 miles away in Ghana or the Ivory Coast. The female will lay five or six eggs in a domed nest at ground level and the pair will usually raise 2 broods during the summer.

Ken Donald