Wintering flocks a January highlight

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Bird Notes for January by Jim Cassels

In comparison to last January, January 2019 was as cold but was considerably drier with almost a third of the rain of the previous January. With snow at times even to low levels, the weather was not conducive to being out of doors. Nevertheless almost 100 species were reported.

Highlights included: eight woodcock above Pirnmill on 16th and five Jack Snipe by Sliddery Shore on 23rd. Both are species which move out of the colder continent in the winter. Other highlights included four goosander off Balliekine shore on 10th, a moorhen on Mossend Pond on 22nd, a little grebe on Fisherman’s walk on 27th and a dipper at Glenashdalewater Foot also on 27th.  In addition there were reports of all three divers including: four Great Northern diver off Pladda on 9th, four black-throated diver in Sannox Bay on 26th and two red-throated diver off Imachar on 28th.

Five species of geese were reported namely: two white-fronted geese with 480 greylag geese in the Shiskine Valley on 1st, 12 Canada geese in Clachaig on 3rd, two pale-breasted brent geese on Silver Sands on 6th and 92 pink-footed geese in Sliddery on 8th. A solitary whooper swan in the Shiskine Valley throughout the month was probably the same bird that has been reported all last year that did not appear to migrate north at the end of last winter. Other wintering wildfowl included: 75 teal at Carlo on 4th, two goldeneye on Coire Fhionn Lochan on 10th and 45 wigeon at Sliddery on 27th.

Wintering flocks included: 17 turnstone on Silver Sands on 2nd, 110 curlew in Corriecravie on 4th, six purple sandpiper on Silver Sands on 6th, 40 jackdaw in Catacol on 14th, 80 lapwing in Shiskine in 17th, 12 golden plover in Catacol Bay on 19th, a mixed flock of over 100 fieldfare and redwing in Shiskine on 23rd and 111 common gull at Clauchlands on 27th. There were no January reports of waxwing or brambling.

Interesting garden birds in January included: a great spotted woodpecker in Lamlash on 25th, ten long-tailed tit in Torbeg also on 25th and on 28th two bullfinch in Marganaheglish and a goldcrest plus a treecreeper in Corrie.  In a future Bird Note there will be a report on the Arran RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch Weekend of 26 to 28 January.

While there was only one record of returning lesser black-backed gull, Catacol Bay on 24th, and only one record of returning gannet, Lamlash Bay on 30th, shelduck were on numerous coastal territories including Auchenhew, Clauchlands, Cosyden, Drumadoon, Fisherman’s Walk, Kildonan, Kilpatrick. King’s Cave and Pirnmill.  Other signs of approaching spring included: 18 courting eider in Whiting Bay on 17th,  displaying golden eagle over Lochranza on 23rd, three fulmar visiting nest sites in Catacol on 25th and a blackbird singing in Lamlash on 28th.  But the winter is not over yet.

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  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 2017 and visit this website


Jack Snipe a well camouflaged winter visitor. Photo: Dennis Morrison. No_B06bird01

A gannet who has made an early return from warmer climes. Photo: David Hogg. No_B06bird02

White-fronted goose, one of five species of goose on Arran in January. Photo: Jim Cassels. No_B06bird03

Goldcrest was the smallest European bird visiting gardens in January. Photo: Brian Couper. No_B06bird04

Fulmar – early exploration of nesting cliffs. Photo: Carl Reavey. No_B06bird05