My Montrose Basin highlights

Today marks the last day of my internship here, so I thought I’d dedicate this blog to my favourite moments of my three months spent in this lovely and unique place!

As a native to Stonehaven I’ve been to the Montrose Basin Visitor Centre a number of times over the years; from pond dipping as a kid, to attending a goose breakfast in my early teens (events that still run all these years later!). However those were quite different to spending three days a week here, during which I’ve gotten to appreciate the day to day running of the centre, and the ever changing wildlife of the reserve.

My internship kicked off at the end of March which was great timing as I managed to catch the tail end of the winter season, and some of the birds which would soon be leaving the Basin.

The main highlight was of course the almost daily sightings of the kingfisher, which spent a good proportion of the day posing right outside the visitor centre windows. This was the first time I had ever seen one sit still long enough for me to get a telescope on it, let alone to watch it fish and eat its catch.

Kingfisher © Harry Bickerstaff

The kingfishers were dutifully available for me to gaze at until late March, after which they moved further inland to their breeding ground in the Lurgies. Their departure was replaced by the arrival of the sand martins, whose nimble flight and active use of the sand wall made them a fast favourite to watch. At the end of May the common terns returned back to the tern raft, and we now have over 120 all squeezed on, and nesting.

Sand martin on the “kingfisher” stick © Scottish Wildlife Trust

Throughout my time here I’ve also been lucky enough to observe the osprey coming over to the basin to fish. My best experience has been when a pair proceeded to hover and dive for flatfish just to the left of the tern raft, giving me a fantastic view. They then carried their catches over to one of the stick perches, before tucking in to their well-deserved meal. Quite unaware of the audience that had gathered to watch them from the visitor centre!

Osprey fishing © Ron Mitchell

Despite the beauty of the osprey, for me the most exciting time had to be the first sightings of chicks on the Basin. This came in the form of three very fluffy (and slightly ugly!) moorhen chicks. A few weeks later they were followed by shelduck and eider ducklings, which I have very much enjoyed seeing out on the Basin, hurrying after their mothers and diving for small crustaceans.

In addition to the ducklings, chicks from the garden birds have been fledging over the last few weeks. I will always remember the day when it was raining non-stop and the sparrow chicks chose to huddle up together on one of the bird feeders for shelter, making the picture perfect sight below.

Sparrow chicks © Rosie Hurley

The Basin has also been the place to see some quite rare visitors like the spoonbills. On a normal day my guilty pleasure has been watching the various rabbits that have made the reserve their home. Rain or shine the rabbits are usually an animal you can reply on spotting, and their behaviour is wonderfully cheeky.

The most dramatic moment involving them had to be the day a stoat came and dragged a rabbit down a burrow. I then watched on tender hooks as another rabbit looked keen on going down the same burrow, even though it seemed to be able to smell the stoat, and perhaps the dead rabbit which had gone down only minutes before. Luckily it returned from its explorations, leading us to believe the stoat must have traveled through the warren network to eat its prey elsewhere.

The rabbit investigating where the stoat had gone © Rosie Hurley
A pair sitting together in the rain © Rosie Hurley

Overall I’ve had great time learning about the wildlife here, and getting to talk to the lovely people that come to visit the Centre. Many thanks to the staff and volunteers who have made me feel welcome and have imparted some of their wisdom and vast wildlife knowledge.

Signing off for the last time,

– Rosie Hurley (intern)

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Today marks the last day of my internship here, so I thought I’d dedicate this blog to my favourite moments of my three months spent in this lovely and unique …

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