Works update: Demolition work is almost complete – the Big Shed and Dutch barn are no more, and there are huge holes in the sides of the Visitor Centre where the new bird-feeder viewing window and connecting door to the toilets and office are to go. The interior of the VC looks rather forlorn, with all the roof cladding ripped out! There are alternative toilet facilities round the back of the byre, and car parking is at the end of the house or in the field behind; this is getting rather muddy as the autumn goes on, so please be careful if you are visiting. All the hides remain open during building works.



(De)construction work – all photos by Ed Grace

Recent sightings: The geese are back in full force, with around 31,000 pinkfeet counted on the morning of 5 October, and up to 1000 barnacle geese, although a figure of 5000 of the latter has been reported. Most of the activity seems to have been at the Rattray end of the Loch, where the geese are feeding on the stubble and grass behind the old Kirk. A small number of greylags were also around. Visitor Gordon Biggs spotted this gorgeous jack snipe on the track near Rattray on 13 Oct.

Jack snipe – Gordon Biggs

A kingfisher was seen at Starnafin on 16 October, looking for a convenient perch overhanging the water. Goose numbers had fallen to just over 18,000 pinkfeet by the WeBS count on Sunday 18 October; many of the geese seem to have headed south, with SWT’s Montrose Basin having record numbers of 85,000 on the same day. Some other figures from the WeBS Count are: barnacle geese-239, wigeon–2931, gadwall–64, pochard-80, mute swans-171, whooper swans-312, snipe-31, water rail-4.

Water rail – Paul Cameron

More excitement was caused at the end of the count, when a white-rumped sandpiper was spotted on Starnafin Pools – this was viewable from the field behind the house. Autumn migrants such as redwings and fieldfares have been seen, and there are some good wader flocks, - curlews, lapwings and golden plover- many of which are using Mosstown Marsh and the Save Our Magnificent Meadows project area - looks like the combination of grazing and recent Softrak cutting is producing favourable habitat! Our volunteer intern has been kept busy logging the cut areas on GPS, measuring the height and density of the sward, and recording the plants across a set of quadrats on the marsh, which we can compare from year to year. The first set of GPS collar downloads has been done, and the re-set and refurbished collars are back on the ponies to collect more data on their movements.  The vet was back to finish inoculations on 7 October, picking the one wet day in an otherwise fine week; the ponies are starting to grow their thick winter coats and will soon look much fluffier, ready to face whatever the weather throws at them!

There is also an impressive starling murmuration over the airfield in the evening at the moment, which goes to roost at dusk in the small reedbed at the southern corner of The Loch. The nearest viewpoint for this is Rattray Kirk, as there is no access to the airfield.