Basin Notes

Many young birds will be suffering from the cold, wet weather of late but this does not seem to be affecting the Eider ducklings in the SWT Montrose Basin.

From the centre window you can watch a wonderful ‘creche’ of around 50 of these ducklings being cared for by seven females. Shelducks also form ‘creches’ to look after their young. It seems that some females are better parents than others, so the better ‘carers’ gather all the locally hatched youngsters together to watch over them.

The adults do not have to feed the ducklings as after a few hours of hatching they can feed for themselves, usually searching for aquatic insect life. The adult birds are there to ward off gulls and crows, and also to keep the young ducklings warm and dry. It is the time of year when thousands of baby birds will be leaving their nests. As I am sure you have heard before, it is always best to leave these babies alone as the adult birds will not be very far away, and will no doubt have a beak full of food ready to feed them.

The SWT’s famous Ospreys at Loch of the Lowes near Dunkeld are feeding only one chick this year but this may not be a bad thing as it will receive all the attention that is going from its parents with most of the fish being brought to the nest ending up in its greedy stomach. It will also be able to keep warmer underneath one of the adults as there will be no competition from other chicks. Recently, up to three Ospreys have been seen fishing the shallow waters of the Basin, probably chiefly searching for flatfish.

Another interesting bird, which is being seen almost daily at the moment, is a Black Swan. These are native to Australia but sometimes birds escape from wildlife collections and do very well in a foreign country. In some parts of Britain they are successfully breeding. So if a second bird turns up of the opposite sex, who knows what may happen.

Yet another unusual bird has been causing a bit of a stir for the SWT staff at the centre as a Marsh/Reed Warbler was seen recently from the window. I write “Marsh/Reed Warbler” as these two birds are very similar and some people would like to see the bird in the hand to check the wing formula to be really sure which one it is. So good luck to the recorders.

At one point this year the tern raft, ‘Maid of Sterna Stuff’, had around 120 terns showing an interest in nesting again. Last year the young productivity was very high but this year in recent days, only a handful of birds have been present. Come along to the Centre to see how these ‘sea swallows’ are faring.

Southmuir Primary 5 from Kirriemuir visited the centre recently on a foul, wet day but still managed to show great enthusiasm while pond-dipping and searching for creatures in the mud. The children had obviously been well ‘primed’ as the questions they asked about wildlife were very mature.

Please take a note in your diaries of the forthcoming ‘Children’s Activities’ – July 11: ‘Bugs & Slugs’; July 18: ‘Art Attack’; July 25: ‘Mud, Glorious Mud’ and August 1: ‘Pondamonium’. These activities are from 10.30am–12.30pm and booking is essential (01674 676336). Also, if you would like to attend a Ranger-led event on June 23 around the Mains of Dun, then phone the same number to book.

Russell G Nisbet

Teacher/naturalist