On Tuesday I was lucky enough to be given a tour of the Montrose Basin, a local nature reserve just an hour and a half away from Aberdeen by car. The reserve itself is enormous, incorporating a plethora of different habitats; saltmarshes, freshwater streams, extensive reedbeds and arable land. The basin is perhaps most famous for the bird species that feed, breed and roost here – most notably migrant waders and wildfowl. This year the reserve had a record breaking number of wintering pink footed geese: over 78, 000 individuals were sighted, which drummed up a wealth of media attention!
So, naturally, I arrived at the basin with my birders head on. I was most excited to see a Kingfisher, a bird I’ve always wanted to see in the wild. I’d been assured montrose was the place to spot them, and, sure enough, there was one perched with a rather regal air right outside the visitor centre. Conspicuous in his vivid uniform of turquoise and burnt orange, he kindly stayed there long enough for me to grab a quick photo before flitting off to complete the days business.
Other spots included a huge variety of garden birds (great tits, tiny blue tits, and a multitude of sparrows or “spuggies” as they are known back in geordie-town) and Mrs Pheasant, who wandered about rather forlornly until the slightly more flamboyant Mr Pheasant appeared…
One of the most important habitats on the reserve is the reed bed, a great, rippling sea of rushes that provides vital hiding places for many wetland species. A pair of bearded tits have been spotted in this area, and although they didn’t show their faces to me, it’s greatly hoped that they’ll start nesting at the site.
But perhaps the most rewarding moment of the day came when two brown hares came tumbling out of the undergrowth in the field next to us. Having never seen these animals in the wild, I was surprised at how big they are, and how relatively easy they are to spot with those tall, black-tipped ears to serve as defiant flags admist the grass. As we watched, they even began to box – a fantastic sight. It’s not quite boxing season for hares – which mainly occurs in Spring – so these males must have simply been using one another as practice.
The bouts lasted for about 30 seconds before one would chase the other, their bobbing white tails only seeming to taunt the pursuer. It was a brilliant end to a wildlife-filled day. I would certainly recommend the basin to anyone – it’s one definite place where the wild things are!