I started my Basin Notes this time last year by saying: "Geese, geese and more geese, skein upon skein filling the sky". This year, however, numbers are much reduced.
At the time of writing the highest count of pink-footed geese on the Basin has been 15,000 whereas last year we had 38,600 by October 14th. I would expect thousands more to arrive during the coming weeks but I do recall that in 1999 numbers were similar to this October and in that year only reached 18,500 by mid winter.
Having said that, 46,000 were counted recently at Loch of Strathbeg which is a high count for there and many of these birds will eventually come to the Basin. Some will stay the winter while others will move further south.
On September 22nd, two common cranes visited the Basin. As far as I am aware this was a first sighting on the Basin so they are anything but common in this part of the world.
They are large, stately looking birds standing over four feet tall. Plumage is mainly grey with black and white markings on the neck and head with a large bunch of plumes covering the tail.
In spring pairs perform a delightful courtship dance where they leap into the air with outstretched wings and erect "tail plumes" then making deep bows and giving loud trumpet-like calls.
Rare as passing migrants in Britain, this pair may have been blown off course by easterly winds en route from their Swedish breeding grounds to a wintering site in Southern Europe or North Africa.
Sightings last month included four whooper swans, two brent geese and an excellent count of 103 grey heron. The last osprey was seen on September 11th. Raptors seen this month from the visitor centre included peregrine, sparrowhawk, kestrel and buzzard. Recorded recently in front of the centre have been whitethroat, stonechat, mistle thrush (4), yellowharnmer (4), redwing, house martin (4) and swallow.
A water rail appears on the pools out front periodically, as does a great spotted woodpecker on the peanut feeder. The two little egrets first spotted on June 18th are still with us.
Further afield, two Arctic skuas were reported off the coast of Montrose and a firecrest was seen at Scurdieness.
Earlier this year the Scottish Wildlife Trust put out an appeal to residents of Montrose to raise funds for certain refurbishments of Montrose Basin Wildlife Centre. As a result of that and other fundraising efforts, and in conjunction with an award of Heritage Lottery Funding, certain building works are to start in January 2003. These include the installation of a lift to provide disabled access to the lower ground floor Education Area. It is hoped to embark at a later date on an update of the interpretation within the centre.