Winter on the Basin

During the winter months here at MontroseBasin, the main focus at the reserve is on the incredible number of pink-footed geese which over winter here making the site of international importance for the species. So far this year, numbers peaked at an impressive 63,356.  But winter on the basin is not all about the geese…

Another significant wildfowl species is the Eurasian Wigeon (Anas penelope):


 The population of this medium sized duck is currently thought to be at around 406,000 birds. Wigeon are migratory and will arrive in their wintering grounds in October and September.

The habitat at the Montrose basin is ideal for wintering wigeon as they prefer coastal salt-marshes, freshwater, brackish and saline lagoons. Eel grass Zostera sp. is also in abundance across the basin and is an important food source for wigeon along with stubble, grass and winter cereal fields adjacent to the basin where these ducks are often seen feeding during the night.

Data from previous Wetland Bird Surveys (WeBS) conducted at the basin, shows that for the past 10years, an average of 1% of the wigeon population winter here, making the site of national importance for the species. The latest WeBS count on 9th October 2011 revealed 2331 wigeon and we may see numbers increasing yet.

In recent weeks we have also had some more unusual sightings…

On 21st October, 2 White-tailed sea eagles Haliaeetus albicilla were seen in the area:

This is the largestUKbird of prey with up to an 8 ft wingspan!! Once widespread throughout theUKthis raptor was thought to be extinct in the early 1900s following persecution.  However a re-introduction programme inScotlandhas seen a gradual increase in population though numbers are still very low due to a slow reproductive rate with a clutch of 1-2 eggs. Another obstacle to the success of the re-introduction of the species inScotlandhas sadly been the negative impact of egg thieves.  As a Schedule I species in the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, this bird has the highest degree of legal protection in the UK meaning any person caught disturbing a white-tailed sea eagle, its nest, eggs or young can end up with a hefty fine of up to £5000 or even a prison sentence.

A smaller and more understated sighting of late has been that of a Water Rail (Rallus aquaticus):

This secretive bird lives in wetland habitats and has been seen from the Bank of Scotland Hide here at theMontrose BasinVisitor Centre. ThoughUKnumbers increase in the winter as we see migrants from the continent, this elusive rail is more often heard than seen.

This week, visitors to the reserve reported seeing a Great White Egret on the West of the basin. This is certainly a species we will be looking out for.


Don’t miss out on December events here at the Montrose Basin Visitor Centre:

Sat 3rd and Sun 4th December, 10.30am – 4pm: Crafty Christmas kids and stocking fillers

Time to let the kids get crafty, making Christmas stockings, crackers and much more while you have some festive fun shopping for stocking-fillers! Free entry to gift shop.

Donation for kids’ crafts. Meet at Visitor Centre

Saturday 10th  December, 12.30pm – 2.30pm: Meet the Ranger

Afternoon of ranger-led bird watching. Staff and volunteers will show you how to use telescopes and binoculars and point out the wildlife of the Basin.

Meet at Visitor Centre

*Unless otherwise stated, normal Visitor Centre admission charges apply to the events in this programme. Join today and you can get in for free!

Don’t miss out! Book your place by phoning Montrose Basin Visitor Centre on 01674 676336 or emailing



For details of other events that may interest you, why not follow the link to Scottish Wildlife Trust events programme?:


 Montrose Basin Ranger

Montrose Basin (c) Scottish Wildlife Trust
Montrose Basin (c) Scottish Wildlife Trust


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During the winter months here at MontroseBasin, the main focus at the reserve is on the incredible number of pink-footed geese which over winter here making the site of international …

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