Basin Notes

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WHERE do you look for good information about wildlife?

There are many websites that might be your first port of call; BBC Nature, UK Safari, The Wildlife Trusts and Bird Guides to name a few.

In printed form, BBC Wildlife might be the only one you can think of (apart from the members magazines of the SWT, RSPB, WWT, etc) but one that you might have missed is British Wildlife.

BW is a subscription publication that has a wide range of articles by wildlife experts written for the general reader and includes digests of current issues and reports of sightings and happenings in all the major species groups in the UK.

In the current issue there are articles about the RSPB reserve at Lakenheath Fen in Suffolk, the dolphins in Loch Carron, Oxfordshire reserves, foreign Killer Shrimps in Wales and the DEFRA White Paper on the Natural Environment as well as the wildlife reports.

This wide range of topics will always include something of interest and the opportunity to learn something new about the world of nature.

The article about dolphins in Loch Carron is interesting because they were Short-beaked Common dolphins, not the Bottlenose dolphins that are resident in the Moray Firth. From Summer 2007 until Summer 2011 two female Common dolphins entertained visitors to Loch Carron even in the very cold winter (2010/11). These dolphins were at the northern end of their normal range.

Sightings of a Sei whale, Minke whales, Sperm whales, Killer whales, Long-finned Pilot whales, Risso’s dolphins, White-beaked dolphins and Atlantic White-sided dolphins all occurred around Scottish coasts this year, showing how rich the seas are and what you might see if you keep your eyes open. If you were directing your eyes seaward in June you might have seen Humpback whales off the Aberdeen coast and off Montrose.

The long-stay Spoonbills at the Basin have given a lot of pleasure to many who have seen them and British Wildlife reports that a pair have bred in Norfolk this year, which suggests we may see more of these elegant waders in the future.

The Capercaillie, that iconic bird of the Highland conifer forests, is struggling to maintain a foothold in Scotland, and research into their feeding requirements has revealed an interesting inter-species battle.

Capercaillie prefer to browse in conifers that have higher levels of magnesium in their needles and lower levels of a natural group of chemicals called terpenes. The problem is that as those trees that Capercaillie favour are over-browsed, they produce fewer seeds and hence the forest will, over a long period, become dominated by the trees with high terpene levels and Capercaillie will have to move on to find more palatable forests. A good example of nature’s checks and balances, although in this case bad news for the Capercaillie.

A section in the wildlife reports section of British Wildlife is devoted to plants in Scotland, and it notes that non-native invasive species are a continuing worry and while Himalayan balsam and Japanese knotweed are well known in this category, recent findings on Harris of giant rhubarb and Bronze Pirri-pirri-bur show that vigilance is required to find and eradicate these species before they take hold of the Scottish countryside.

If you want more information about British Wildlife go to their website at www.britishwildlife.com where you can also browse through a sample issue.

Now what about local information? The website www.montrosebasin.org.uk is a good starting point and the SWT website www.scottishwildlifetrust.org.uk has reserve information as well as ranger blogs.

No one in Montrose can have missed the arrival of thousands of pink-footed geese over the past week as they flock into the Basin after their migration from Greenland and Iceland. This early influx bodes well for the three Goose Breakfasts at the Basin Visitor Centre on October 9, 16 and 23. Early booking is essential, so call 01674 676336 for more information.