Review of 2013

Before we continue into a 2014 that will hopefully be filled with rare sightings, exciting news and fantastic events, I thought it would be good to take a look back at the highs (and sometimes lows) of 2013! So here’s a quick overview of what was happened each month last year, starting with January to April.


2013 started well here at the reserve, with a White-Tailed Eagle being spotted on January the 3rd. The individual had turquoise wing tags indicating a 2009 release by the East of Scotland Sea Eagles (ESSE) project.

Other highlights in January included; 2 Velvet Scoter, 3 Long-Tailed Ducks and regular visits to the feeders by Long-Tailed Tits. The winter of 2012/13 proved to be a boom year for Waxwings, with large numbers being seen across Montrose and the rest of Tayside, including various sightings in our Visitor Centre car park.


Our White-Tailed Eagle sightings continued into February, with sightings on the 4th, 17th and 27th. On these occasions we were able to identify the individual bird as being ‘Red E’. Red E was an immature male released in 2011 at the RSPB’s Loch Leven reserve, having being brought over from Norway.

February was also a good month for seeing our resident Kingfishers, with both the male and female seen regularly on our ‘Kingfisher perch’ in front of the Visitor Centre. This winter was a particularly good one for seeing the species, as the pair left their summer nesting grounds up river on a regular basis to come and visit our salt pan ponds. Some interesting behaviour was observed, with the male being seen to catch multiple fish in the pools before impaling some on the perch and leaving. The female then appeared a few hours later and happily helped herself to the gift!

Kingfisher (c) Nick Townell
Kingfisher (c) Nick Townell

Over the winter months it wasn’t just the birds that were stirring here on the reserve. There was a volunteer ranger team working away during the week, digging, hammering, sawing and chasing to help keep the reserve spick and span. Included in the tasks undertaken by the team were making a new hand rail for the path to the Bank of Scotland Hide, preparing the area in front of the Centre entrance for a wildflower demonstration garden and undertaking swan management duties.



Not wanting to break the pattern, March also began with a White-Tailed Eagle sighting, ‘Red E’ being spotted on March the 1st. Just as this was looking to become common place, however, it was to be our last White-tailed Eagle sighting for a considerable time.

On a good year, the end of March would see the start of our summer migrants returning to the reserve, most notably the Osprey or Sand Martins. However, the migrants were slower than usual in arriving last year. This was probably due to the harsh wintery conditions that continued into March, halting any progress made by our migrants, with most failing to cross the channel until the weather became a lot milder.  Many of the early arrivals in The UK were being found dead, due to the lack of insects for them to feed on, another knock on effect of the cold weather. So March passed without any migrant sightings here on the reserve. The first Tern sighting

The Easter family fun day, run on the 30th of March, was as always, well attended and kicked off another year of events here at the Visitor Centre and reserve. Activities included biscuit decorating, making bunny ears, pin the tail on the bunny and Easter themed story telling.

Easter Family Fun Day
Easter Family Fun Day


It didn’t take long in April for our first ‘big’ migrant sighting of the year, with an Osprey seen on the 1st. Bucking the trend of last Spring, the sighting was earlier than would usually be expected here on the reserve, Osprey traditionally arriving after the Sand Martins and Swallows. This was seen across the country and was probably due to them being able to withstand the harsher conditions easier than smaller birds, with their feeding habits also making them less susceptible to prolonged cold weather.

Sand Martin at Montrose Basin (c) Richard Blackburn
Sand Martin at Montrose Basin (c) Richard Blackburn

We had wait until the 14th for the first Sand Martin to arrive, around 3 weeks later than usual. This individual was soon joined by other, with 36 being counted just a week later. Swallows, or may I say A swallow, was soon to follow, being seen on the 19th. Before the month ended the maximum counted was two, although this normal with swallows not usually arriving back in large numbers until early May.

Other notable sighting in April included a Red Throated Diver seen on both the 6th and 14th, a Blackcap, Short Eared Owl and numerous Long-Tailed Duck sightings.

Craig Shepherd,

Visitor Centre Assistant Manager.

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Before we continue into a 2014 that will hopefully be filled with rare sightings, exciting news and fantastic events, I thought it would be good to take a look back …

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