Annual arrivals at Montrose Basin peak at more than 70,000

Montrose Basin is living up to its nickname of ‘the Heathrow of the bird world’ with tens of thousands of migrating birds being spotted this winter.

Mark Dowie
Monday, 15th November 2021, 4:09pm
Annual arrivals at Montrose Basin peak at more than 70,000
This year, the number of pink-footed geese spotted at Montrose Basin peaked in October at 72,350.

The Scottish Wildlife Trust’s (SWT) nature reserve earned the title as there are reputedly more take-offs and landings per hour than at the famous international airport.

And the number of migrating pink-footed geese reached a high of 72,350 this year.

The first few hundred geese arrived from Iceland and Greenland on 19 September 19 and just five days later there were 30,000.

The peak count was made by the reserve’s rangers and volunteers on October 16.

Numbers are now rapidly falling, however, as the pink-footed geese move on to wetlands in the east of England.

A small number will winter on the Basin until spring triggers the return to their northerly breeding grounds.

The largest number of pink-footed geese ever recorded on the Basin, an estimated 90,000 birds, came in October 2016.

Despite the departure of the pinkfeet, there is still plenty of wildlife to see at the Basin, including kingfishers and large numbers of wintering ducks.

Anna Cowie, Basin ranger, said: “The crowds of pink-footed geese disperse almost as quickly as they gather, which makes the spectacle created by huge numbers even more special to see and hear.

“The Basin is a superb resting place for them.

“They’re relatively well protected from predators, and there are large areas of surrounding farmland where they can find food.

“Montrose Basin is also a fantastic place to see a wide range of wildlife throughout the winter. Kingfishers are regularly seen, and this is a great time of year to spot wintering ducks.

"We counted almost 10,000 here at the start of November and there are also hundreds of shelduck and teal to be seen.”

The crowds of pink-footed geese were briefly joined by a rare sighting last month.

On October 19 a solitary Ross’s goose was spotted among the crowds.

This species is rarely found outside of North America and the bird spotted on the Basin is likely to have escaped from captivity.

Montrose Basin Visitor Centre is currently open from Friday to Monday, 10:30am-4pm.

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