Eider down as owls struggle to find food

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Bird Notes for September by Jim Cassels

The cool wet weather which had been a feature of July and August continued into September. In fact there was even more rain in September than there had been in July or in August. This September was wetter than the same month last year.

It is difficult to know the impact of this on our local birds but owls in particular struggled to find food. One young long-eared owl was fortunate when it was found drenched and underweight by the local vet. Ten days later it was feeding itself and was fit enough to return to the wild.

September is the start of the peak migration season, when many birds are on the move.  There was a wide range of species recorded in September, almost 100.  It was certainly the time to expect the unexpected and among the unusual records was a black-tailed godwit on Shiskine Golf Course on 1st, an osprey over Pirnmill on 24th, a puffin off Laggan on 25th and two great crested grebe off Pirnmill on 23rd. This was the first record of great crested grebe on Arran this year.

Other birds on migration included: two sanderling at Drumadoon Point on 2nd, a great northern diver in Loch Ranza on 3rd, an Arctic skua in Whiting Bay on 4th, two black-throated diver off Torrylinnwater Foot also on 4th, two white wagtail in Auchenhew Bay on 7th, two sandwich tern in Kildonan on 13th, three bar-tailed godwit on Shannochie shore on 20th, a great skua off the Cock of Arran on 25th and a wheatear was photographed on Blackwaterfoot shore on 30th.

At this time of year birds begin to flock together, often in preparation for migration.  Reports included: ten dunlin in Blackwaterfoot on 2nd, 80 starling in Benlister on 2nd, 170 jackdaw on Drumadoon Farm on 5th, 141 golden plover at Machriewaterfoot on 6th, 20 long-tailed tit on Fisherman’s Walk on 18th, 18 turnstone on Silver Sands on 21st, 42 redshank in Whiting Bay on 24th,  30 goldfinch on Silver Sands on 28th, 100 kittiwake at Machriewaterfoot on 29th and 100 linnet in Blackwaterfoot also on 29th. This gives an indication of the numbers of birds that are on the move at this time of year.

In September there were reports of returning winter visitors namely two wigeon in Loch Ranza on 18th and four common scoter off Pirnmill on 23rd.  A number of summer visitors were also still around in September including: a willow warbler on Bennan Head on 1st, a whitethroat at Kingscross on 4th and a chiffchaff at Silver Sands on 14th.  The following are the last September reports of the hirundines: a sand martin at Auchencar on 8th, three house martin in Lamlash on 19th and two swallow at North Sannox on 30th. October should see the last of the house martins and swallows departing south.

Other sightings this month included: a moorhen at Mossend Pond on 2nd, 80 gannet in Brodick Bay on 5th, two little grebe in Loch Ranza on 7th, a yellowhammer at Torrylinnwater Foot on 9th and a dipper in Cordon on 24th.  Plus, after no records in 2016, there were 26 records of kingfisher in September from four locations mainly on the east of the island. In addition, the Arran Black Grouse Group released a further 40 black grouse. To help with the monitoring of these birds Kate Sampson, head ranger at Brodick Country Park, would be delighted to receive a note of any sightings of black grouse.

Finally, my thanks to all the ‘volunteers’ who took part in the eider survey in September. Total number of birds recorded round Arran was 36. There was almost total coverage of the Arran coastline. The previous three September counts had been consistent at around 115. Ten years ago it was considerably more at over 600.  The data on the eider survey contributes to the ongoing research of Chris Waltho who has been monitoring eider in the Clyde Estuary for over 20 years. The population trend is down.  For the latest report from Chris visit this website.  http://www.arranbirding.co.uk/files/Clyde-Eider-News-No-15-Aug-2017.pdf

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

First record this year of a great crested grebe. Photo Dennis Morrison
More birds have been released by the Arran Black Grouse Group as part of a re-introduction programme. Photo Dennis Morrison
An absolutely stunning photograph taken at Blackwaterfoot of a wheater, one of many migrants passing through Arran in September. Photo Peter Dobson

The efforts of the vet and her helpers gave this rain sodden starving long-eared owl a second chance. Photo Charlotte Clough. NO_B41bird01

The first record this year of a great crested grebe. Photo Dennis Morrison. NO_B41bird02

An absolutely stunning photograph of a wheater taken at Blackwaterfoot. Photo Peter Dobson NO_B41bird03

More birds have been released by the Arran Black Grouse Group as part of a re-introduction programme. Photo Dennis Morrison NO_B41bird04