Every year, the People’s Postcode Lottery Goose Breakfast is held at the Montrose Basin. This unique event involves attendees and staff members willingly (and not so willingly) getting up at, or before, 6am, gathering at our visitor centre for 6:30am, and then heading out onto the reserve to watch the amazing spectacle of tens of thousands of pink-footed geese taking off at sunrise. Everyone then returns to the visitor centre for some well-deserved homemade porridge and hot drinks.
This was my first year helping out at the Goose Breakfast, and the thought of catering for 40 people at the crack of dawn was a little intimidating to say the least. But the whole morning ended up being a truly memorable occasion for all the best reasons.
After the Goose Breakfast attendees had driven out with the rangers to Sleepy Hillock on the opposite side of the reserve, the visitor centre staff and volunteers were left to stir the porridge, make sure the toasters were all plugged in, and watch the geese from afar.
While our view may not have been as spectacular as that from the other side of the reserve, it was a really special experience to watch the skies slowly lighten over the Basin as the sun rose. We even had a welcome visitor – the kingfisher sat on her perch for a while and caught an early morning breakfast. It’s a shame we were the only ones to see it! It was a beautifully calming way to start the day.
Even from about two miles away, we could tell that this year’s Goose Breakfast was a particularly good one – there were tens of thousands of geese lined up along the mud flats just by the cemetery, and we could see flocks of them taking off and settling multiple times before they finally lifted off in huge numbers, clearly flying right over the heads of all the birdwatchers.
When people started returning to the centre for breakfast, the morning changed from a state of calm to a sudden whirlwind – people enjoyed their hot porridge, slices of toast, and hot drinks while chatting with other attendees, volunteers, and staff members. Everyone made good use of our scopes and binoculars – one of our members spotted a water rail in the salt pans and was soon showing everyone where it was. There’s nothing better than wildlife watching for bringing people together.
By 9:45am, the event was over, and the staff started setting up for the visitor centre’s usual opening hours. It was a little surreal to continue on with the day as normal as if I hadn’t been awake since 5am and helped run an event for three dozen people…
If this sounds like the kind of unique experience that you’d like to take part in one day, then keep an eye out for next year’s event programme in March/April 2019! Next October, we can’t wait to do it all again.
Visitor Centre Assistant Manager