Little egret a highlight of October migration

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Bird Notes for October by Jim Cassels

October was cooler and wetter than September. In comparison with October 2018 it was wetter with almost 60 per cent more rain. The temperature range in 2019 was less and there were no major storm events.

October is arguably the busiest birding month, as summer breeders depart, migrants pass through, winter visitors arrive and there is always a strong chance of something unusual. This October there were plenty of interesting birds to enjoy with 110 species recorded.

A particular highlight was little egret with records from a range of coastal areas throughout the month including Carlo, Cladach, Clauchlands, Corrie, Corriegills, Fisherman’s Walk, Merkland Point, Rubha Salach and Strathwillan. This is the third year in a row that this colonising species has been reported on Arran and it is the first time that records have included more than one bird, with two at Rubha Salach on October 12 and two by the Fisherman’s Walk on October 28.

The build up of the number of winter thrushes, fieldfare and redwing, was a feature of the month. The first redwing were reported on 4th and the first fieldfare on 16th. Soon there were widespread reports of the birds feasting on the autumn berries, with flocks in the hundreds being reported from the north to the south of the island including mixed flocks with both species of over 1000 birds at Lenimore and at Lochranza on 22nd. Other thrushes featured as well, including 20 mistle thrush at Glenree on 7th and a ring ouzel in Newton North on 14th. Brambling, an irruptive species from northern Europe not recorded every winter, were reported from Pirnmill on 9th and High Kildonan on 29th.

Other winter visitors included: 363 pink-footed geese over Sliddery on 1st, 60 teal at Cosyden on 2nd, a yellowhammer at Sliddery on 20th, a brent goose on Cleats Shore on 21st, 11 wigeon at Cosyden on 23rd, five snow bunting on Mullach Buidhe on 26th, 220 greylag geese in Sliddery on 27th and 50 rook also on Sliddery on 28th. In addition, flocks of migratory whooper swan filled the autumn skies with their honking and trumpeting calls, including 10 over Clachaig on 14th and 16 over Cleats Shore on 25th.

Migration was in full flow in October as birds were moving out of colder northern Europe to milder climes. These included: 60 linnet on Cleats Shore on 2nd, 186 golden plover at Machriewaterfoot on 20th, 200 common gull at Cleats Shore on 21st, 35 twite at Machriewaterfoot on 22nd, 100 starling in Lamlash on 26th, one grey plover on Cleats Shore on 27th, 11 snipe and 20 lapwing at Corriecravie on 28th, 60 skylark at Sliddery also on 28th, 34 turnstone at Silver Sands on 30th and 100 curlew on Sliddery Shore on 31st.

There were some ‘last sightings’ of summer visitors also moving south including: a lesser black-backed gull and two wheatear on Cleats Shore on 2nd, two house martin in Alma Park on 6th, one swallow in Sliddery on 15th, 1000 manx shearwater off King’s Cave on 18th, a chiffchaff in Lochranza on 22nd and three gannet off Silver Sands on 25th.

Other interesting records from a month with a plethora of birds included: the long staying magpie in Kildonan now entering its six month, a velvet scoter off Cosyden on 14th ( first Arran record since 1998), five black-throated diver in Auchenhew Bay on 16th, a common scoter at Machriewaterfoot on 17th, three red-throated diver off Pirnmill on 18th, after the annual moult the first returning shelduck at Cleats Shore on 21st, three little grebe at Mossend Pond on 22nd, two red kite over Invercloy on 25th and two water rail at Corriecravie on 28th. In addition, October like September was an outstanding month for kingfisher. There were 14 records from five locations. The next article in the Banner will feature the Kingfisher.

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 2018 and visit this website www.arranbirding.co.uk