Basin Birds

The Montrose Basin LNR is particularly important for birds, especially migrant waders and wildfowl attracted by either abundant food supplies or a safe roost site. It is internationally important (1) for Pink-footed Goose, Knot and Redshank. It is nationally important (2) for Shelduck, Wigeon and Eider.

A total of 213 species has been recorded on the reserve. The majority of these are winter visitors, passage migrants or both. Species breeding or suspected of breeding number 52.

Species Notes

Pink-footed Goose: The first pink-footed geese of the winter arrive on the Basin during the second half of September. Numbers increase rapidly through October, peak during November at 20,000 to 40,000, decline and then level off at several thousands for the rest of the winter.


Eider: The eider has shown a gradual increase in numbers wintering on the Basin since the early 1960s. Whereas counts once peaked at 200-300, nowadays 1700-2000+ are regular. This species first nested by the Basin in 1961. The present estimated breeding population is about 200-300 pairs (2011).

Swans in pen Mute Swan: These birds are present on the Montrose Basin throughout the year but their peak numbers - sometimes up to 300 - are attained when birds arrive on the Basin to moult in July and August. Thus, at least some of the population may be classed as passage migrants. Three or four pairs regularly nest at the western end of the reserve, on the saltmarsh, Lurgies and at Old Montrose. Numbers of have fluctuated during recent winters between 100 and 200 birds. There has been a regular round-up of swans as part of the UK Swan Study Group research. In summer the moulting and flightless juveniles were caught and ringed.
Over the period 1998-2002 a Demonstration Project was undertaken to investigate the possibility of encouraging mute swans to feed in particular places to minimise crop damage. Please read the article explaining the background to the project.

waders over basin

Redshank: This species is not easy to count accurately on Montrose Basin. Winter figures are regularly a little below 2000 but it is likely that present counts are on the conservative side and 2000+ do regularly winter on the reserve. Redshanks, estimated to be in the order of 15-20 pairs, nest in the wettest Mains of Dun fields, the Lurgies and on the saltmarsh itself and wet parts of Gilrivie.

shelduck Shelduck: It is thought that over 10 pairs of shelducks nest within the reserve. Nesting areas appear to be near the northern shore of the Basin, the Lurgies 'hanging' woodland, and parts of the sea banks and under the hides. Wintering on the estuary in some numbers shelduck (whose major food is Hydrobia) have reached 900 in recent years.

Wigeon: There is some confusion over the changing fortunes of wigeon on the Basin. Local wildfowlers are of the opinion that numbers have declined since the 1970s but National Wildfowl Counts show an increase. Currently about 3000 are to be found here in winter.

Knot: According to Birds of Estuaries Enquiry figures, the peak count of knot on the Basin occurred in January 1972 when 8000 birds were present.

oystercatcher Oystercatcher: Maximum numbers of oystercatchers feed on the Basin's mud and sand flats between October and March when up to 4000 may be present. 10-15 oystercatchers breed over a wide area of land within the reserve.

Grey Partridge: The area seems particularly well endowed with these birds. No estimate of breeding numbers has been made.

Lapwings: Probably between 20 and 30 pairs nest in the wet meadows and arable fields, preferring the former. Between 500 and 1000 lapwing winter on the Basin.

Sedge Warbler: This is an important breeding species in the reedbeds, especially the one through which the Mill Burn runs. The reedbeds at the western end of the Basin are important roost sites.

Reed Bunting: Pairs of this species have been noted during the breeding season in many areas at the western end of the reserve, primarily near the reedbeds and drainage ditches. It is estimated that up to 20 pairs might be present.

Other wildfowl and waders regularly wintering on the estuary in some numbers include pintail (for which the Basin is the major site in Tayside), Teal (whose numbers vary considerably and are difficult to count accurately), mallard (whose numbers have increased dramatically during the 1980s), curlew, bar-tailed godwit, black-tailed godwit and dunlin.

Peregrines regularly prey on waders. Sparrowhawks hunt round the margins for small birds and redshanks. Short-eared owls visit the Lurgies, salt-marsh and wet meadows.


1. International Importance

A site is Internationally important if it holds 1% of the world's population of a species.

2. National Importance

A site is Nationally important if it holds 1% of the UK's population of a species.
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