The ‘flying pig’…

The Basin has seen a recent increase in sightings of the so called ‘flying pig’. On the 11th of July an adult water rail was seen with 3 chicks and then again on the 15th with 4 chicks, on both occasions just in front of the visitor centre. The nest is thought to be situated just to the left of the sand martin wall, directly in front of the centre.

Water Rails have earned their odd nickname because they often emit a call that compromises of a series of grunts followed by a piglet-like squeal and completed with a further series of grunts. This call is used in territorial disputes and when the bird is alarmed, but is replaced by a more melodic tyick-tyick-tyick for courtship.

Water rails are monogamous and build their nests using a wide variety of wetland material, constructing it just above the water surface on clumps of roots, tree stumps or any other available support. The typical clutch size is 6-11 eggs with at least an 85% hatching success rate, so there may yet be some more unseen chicks in the brood seen at the Basin.

When seen at the Basin the Water Rail displayed its characteristic nervous behaviour, with the adult and 3 juveniles repeatedly walking along the edge of the pond in search of food before dashing back into the reeds momentarily and emerging once again. Water Rails have laterally compressed bodies, allowing them to easily move through the densest vegetation where they are difficult to spot and will also freeze when spotted in the open.  The family seemed to be following a feeding route along the edge of the pond, water rails frequently using the same feeding paths and hunting grounds. Water rails are omnivorous and will eat a wide variety of things, but most frequently feed on small animals such as worms, snails, spiders and crustaceans. They have even been known to climb to take berries, jump to dislodge apples from trees and kill smaller birds by drowning them!

So why not come down to the reserve and help us try to spot our elusive guests!

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

Wed 18th July, 10.30am – 12.30pm: Art Attack

Children’s activity, let your creative side go wild as we use natural materials to sinpire your art!

Wed 25th July, 10.30am – 12.30pm: Mud Glorious Mud

 Children’s activity, discover and examine the many ‘muddy’ creatures living in the basin. Don’t forget to wear wellies!

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


Craig Shepherd

Visitor Centre Assistant Manager

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The Basin has seen a recent increase in sightings of the so called ‘flying pig’. On the 11th of July an adult water rail was seen with 3 chicks and …

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