Breeding season successes and concerns

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Bird Notes for June by Jim Cassels

April and May’s dry spell ended, with June having 70 per cent more rain than May. In comparison with last June, June 2017 had more than twice as much rain and the mean temperature was two degrees cooler.

While these wet cool conditions were not ideal for breeding, there were many reports of fledged birds in gardens including unfamiliar looking young birds, such as goldfinch, without the red face of the adult birds, and robin with spots and no red breast, as well as the more familiar birds such as blackbirds, blue tits and chaffinches all with young.

There were reports of a family of bullfinch in Brodick on 8th, eight house martin nests and a spotted flycatcher nest in Shedog on 16th, a family of blackcap in Cordon on 27th and young great spotted woodpecker with its distinctive red cap in Lamlash on 30th.  Most prolific of all seemed be to house sparrow with 30 in Alma Park on 18th being one of the larger numbers and also lots of reports of numbers of siskin and goldfinch with young around homes across the island.

Away from gardens there were many signs of breeding including: a dipper carrying food in Sannox on 7th, hen harrier carrying out a food-pass over Machrie Moor on 13th, tree pipit carrying food in Leanna Cuil also on 13th, fledged stonechat and whinchat in Glenscorrodale on 18th, a family of snipe by the String on 21st, over 100 sand martin nest holes in the colony in Sannox quarry on 26th, long-eared owl young calling in North Corriegills on 30th and activity at the grey heron heronries in Stronach Wood, Brodick, and Whitehouse Wood, Lamlash by the end of the month. There was also encouraging reports of young lapwing from two areas, but this once widespread farmland breeder is just hanging on.

Around the coast there were further signs of breeding including: eider with eight young at Auchenhew on 4th, shelduck with 13 young at Carlo on 14th, fulmar with young in the nest at King’s Cave on 24th, an active common gull colony at Drumadoon Point on 25th, red-breasted merganser with 13 young in Loch Ranza also on 25th and a mute swan with seven young in Lamlash on 26th.

But it was not all good news. Observers involved in regular shore bird counts reported increasing disturbance of nesting shore birds from human activity including dog walkers with dogs roaming freely. Some shores had no successful breeding oystercatchers this year. There were increasing reports of shore birds breeding away from the shore perhaps because of this disturbance. These included oystercatchers nesting in a flower tub by Machrie Golf Course clubhouse, oystercatchers breeding by the distillery in Lochranza, common sandpipers breeding in gardens in Blackwaterfoot and Lamlash and ringed plover nesting in the sand quarry.

The birding highlight of the month was a red-backed shrike in Kingscross on 16 June. The last record of this rare vagrant to Arran was 20 years ago when a male was reported in Kildonan on 27 September 1997.  The next bird notes in the Banner will feature this species.

Other highlights included the following.  There were four swift over Sliddery on 4th.  A nightjar churring in Dhunan on several consecutive nights, in the middle of the month, was the first Arran record since May 2015. A puffin off Clauchlands Point on 19th was the first record this year and a garden warbler in Glenashdale on 28th was also the first record this year.

Cuckoos, whose decreasing numbers are a cause for concern nationally, seem to be thriving on Arran. Throughout May and June there have been many widespread reports. People need no prompting to report the first cuckoo. How about reporting when you hear or see the last cuckoo this year? Most adult cuckoos, taking no part in rearing their young, leave around mid to late July. Juveniles leave breeding areas soon after they fledge, quickly becoming independent of their hosts before also migrating south, usually in late July and early August. These young cuckoos have a white patch on the back of the head.

Finally in July, look out for early signs of breeding being over for some birds this year. These could include the return of some Arctic breeding species to our shores. Remember July is the time when many birds, having raised their young, go about the process of renewing their feathers by moulting them. As birds are vulnerable when they are shedding flight feathers they literally make themselves scarce. On any birding walk you may see fewer birds but they are still around.

Enjoy your birding.

Please send any bird notes with ‘what, when, where’ to me at Kilpatrick Kennels, Kilpatrick, Blackwaterfoot, KA27 8EY, or email me at jim@arranbirding.co.uk  I look forward to hearing from you. For more information on birding on Arran purchase the Arran Bird Atlas 2007-2012 as well as the Arran Bird Report 2016 and visit this website www.arranbirding.co.uk

Chaffinch feeding young.
Great spotted woodpecker young.
Stonechat young.
Oystercatcher young in flower tub.

 

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