Wettest July brings mixed breeding season

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Bird Notes for July by Jim Cassels

This July was the wettest July in my 12 years as bird recorder.  While April and May this year had been dry, the cooler, wetter theme of June continued into last month.

The highest temperature this July was six degrees lower than last July, and with a third more rain than last year, this July was not conducive to the successful breeding of some of our avian summer visitors such as the hirundines which rely on flying insects to raise their young. The number of young swallows and young house martins reported has been fewer than last year.  With numbers of hirundines still around including 80 swallow at Sliddery on 23rd, 100 sand martin at Sannox on 25th and 30 house martin at Balmichael, perhaps later broods will be more successful.

By contrast seed eating species seemed to have had a successful breeding season, with, for example, widespread reports of young house sparrow, chaffinch, goldfinch and siskin in gardens.  Other signs of a successful breeding season included a young great spotted woodpecker in a garden in Brodick on third, young fulmar at Cnoc Buidhe on seventh, seven young shelduck on Cleats Shore on 11th, two young mute swan at Catacol on 17th, 40 black guillemot on Pladda on 18th, three young spotted flycatcher in Lochranza on 22nd, 169  jackdaw at Drumadoon on 24th, 16 eider at Machriewaterfoot on 24th and three young Hen Harrier at Torr Righ Mor on 25th.

July marks the end of the breeding season for some birds. It can be an interesting time looking out for birds dispersing after breeding. This year there was an exceptional sighting when on Monday July 10, a rose-coloured starling turned up in Sliddery. The last Arran record was in June 2002. Its breeding range is from easternmost Europe across temperate southern Asia. The next bird notes in the Banner will feature this species.

Other dispersing highlights included: a male scaup on Mossend Pond on 1st, a redstart at Sliddery on 4th, a male tufted duck joined the scaup on Mossend Pond on 4th and a Kingfisher was at Cladach on 18th, the first Arran record since August 2015

A number of northern breeding species heading south from their breeding grounds, many still in their breeding plumage, were reported including: a greenshank on Sliddery Shore on fifth, an Arctic tern in Brodick Bay on 17th, 17 redshank in Sandbraes also on 17th, four Dunlin, 92 golden plover and 12 turnstone at Machriewaterfoot on 24th and three Sanderling, two Whimbrel and three White Wagtail on Sliddery Shore on 26th.

More than 100 species were reported in July. Other highlights included: grasshopper warbler reeling in the dark at Bennecarrigan on first, moorhen on Mossend Pond on 11th, garden warbler at Corriecravie on 12th, five little grebe on Mossend Pond on 13th, 500 manx shearwater in Whiting Bay also on 13th, three swift over High Kildonan on 17th, six water rail in Corriecravie on 23rd, a black-throated diver in Catacol Bay on 24th and a tree pipit at Cnoc an Fheidh on 29th.

Finally in the June Bird Notes I wrote: ‘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?’

My thanks go to those of you who have responded.  By now the adults will have left the UK leaving the young to be brought up by their foster parents. The young have a distinctive white spot on the nape of the neck. The latest date that I have had so far for a young cuckoo is one at Corricravie on July 20.  The photograph of the young cuckoo being fed by the Pied Wagtail was taken at the Fairy Dell on 18 July.

Enjoy your birding.

Please send any bird notes with ‘what, when, where’ to me at Kilpatrick Kennels, Kilpatrick, Blackwaterfoot, KA27 8EY, or e mail 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