Two ‘firsts’ for Arran as wintering birds arrive

Siberian chiffchaff, this bird should be wintering on the Indian sub continent. Another first record for Arran. Photo by Arthur Duncan.

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Bird Notes for November by Jim Cassels

November this year was colder and drier than November last year. The mean temperature was two degrees lower and there was 40 per cent less rain.

The weather on the colder continent may have had a bearing on the outstanding number of species recorded in November. Last November 94 species were recorded while this year it was 104. Among these were two firsts for Arran, having never been recorded on Arran before. On 24 November a female type surf scoter, a North American species, was photographed in Catacol Bay. A few days later on 28 November a Siberian chiffchaff, a species that winters in the Indian sub-continent, was photographed at Clauchlands.

Not surprisingly in November, winter visitors were to the fore. Throughout the month there were widespread reports of foraging fieldfare and redwing, sometimes in mixed flocks. The largest groups were 400 fieldfare at High Kildonan on 2nd and 250 redwing at Sliddery on 16th. There were 14 reports of snow bunting from three locations including two on Cleats Shore on 17th. Another snow bunting by the shore by the Fisherman’s Walk from 15th to 19th was particularly confiding, giving excellent views.

Other records of wintering birds included: 150 golden plover at Machriewaterfoot on 3rd; 30 twite also at Machriewaterfoot on 6th; eight lapwing at Kilpatrick Point on 14th; 100 rook on Sliddery Shore also on 14th; four records of merlin included one at Levencorrach on 16th; 200 starling at Sliddery also on 16th; four yellowhammer at Sliddery on 17th; two purple sandpiper at Silver Sands on 18th; a greenshank at Kingscross also on 18th; three jack snipe on Sliddery Shore on 22nd; 27 turnstone at Silver Sands on 23rd; a first winter Iceland gull in Catacol Bay on 24th and 25th and over 300 common gull at Mossend Pond on 29th.

Reports of wintering wildfowl included: 83 teal at Kilpatrick Point on 14th, a male goldeneye at Mossend Pond on 15th, 250 greylag geese on Cleats Shore on 17th, a whooper swan flying up the Ross also on 17th, 50 wigeon at Kilpatrick Point on 18th and a common scoter off Dougarie on 30th.

Gardens are safe refuges during the winter months with many people providing regular food and water for their feathered friends. These are a small selection from the many reports from gardens round the island in November: 10 long-tailed tit in Newton on 2nd; a great spotted woodpecker in Invercloy on 3rd; seven blackbird in Lagg on 8th; a male blackcap feeding on crab apples in Sliddery on 14th; four goldcrest in Brodick on 24th; four greenfinch in Torbeg on 25th; and a treecreeper in Lamlash on 29th. In addition from 21st to 23rd a male black redstart was in a garden in Kildonan. The last Arran record of this scarce passage migrant was at Cordon on 24 June 2017.

Perhaps less welcome were the reports of magpie. As well as the now long-staying one in Kildonan there were four reports from Sannox between 8th and 10th and six reports from the Alma Park area between 16th and 30th. The Sannox and Brodick records could be down to one bird. Magpie is a vagrant to Arran.

Finally here is a further selection of highlights from what has been an exceptional month for bird-watching on Arran. After the dearth of eider round Arran in September for the annual Clyde eider census, in November there were widespread reports including 77 off Pirnmill on 2nd, 117 in Lamlash Bay on 18th and 75 in Whiting Bay on 24th. Little egret reports, all of a single bird, continued throughout the month from 4th to 29th with reports from eight coastal locations on the east of the island from Carlo to Cordon. In addition there were two long-eared owl in Glenscorrodale on 8th, two black grouse in Kilmory on 10th, six great northern diver off Cnoc Buidhe also on 10th, two white-tailed eagle seen from North Sannox car park on 14th, 12 black-throated diver off Aird nan Ron on 16th and a sparrowhawk was harassing 19 common crossbill at Cnocan Biorach on 23rd.

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 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