In the depth of winter some signs of approaching spring

Red-breasted merganser already males displaying anticipating the arrival of breeding in spring. Photo Ewan Urquhart

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Bird Notes for December by Jim Cassels

The mild weather of November continued into December. The month was however notable for some very wet weather with rainfall totals double those of December 2018

Following on from Arran’s first ever report of a surf scoter in Catacol Bay on 24 November, this North American species of duck continued to be reported in December from 21st to 30th between Whitefarland, Pirnmill and Catacol Bay.

Other visitors in December included: four purple sandpiper at Silver Sands on 6th, two snow bunting at Glen Chalmadale on 10th, a merlin at Machriewaterfoot on 11th, 40 redwing at Kilpatrick Farm also on 11th, 22 rook at Sliddery on 13th and 160 fieldfare and seven yellowhammer at Sliddery on 14th.

Wintering wildfowl were to the fore including: a male goldeneye in Loch Ranza on 9th, 240 greylag geese in Feorline on 13th, 100 teal on Cleats Shore also on 13th, 70 pink-footed geese at Torbeg on 15th, 42 wigeon at Kilpatrick Point also on 15th and six whooper swan flying over High Kildonan on 21st.

Groups of wintering birds included: 60 curlew at Clauchlands Point on 1st, 300 common gull at Strabane also on 1st, 32 goldfinch in Sannox also on 1st, 100 linnet in Carlo on 8th, 40 twite at Machriewaterfoot on 9th, 100  turnstone at Machriewaterfoot on 11th, 24 lapwing on Cleats Shore on 13th, 60 starling at Silver Sands also on 13th, 300 jackdaw at Machriewaterfoot on 14th, seven woodcock at East Bennan on 19th and 500 kittiwake at Pirnmill on 20th.

Other interesting records this month included: a white-tailed eagle over Thunderguy on 9th, three moorhen at Mossend Pond on 12th, three goosander at Pirnmill on 20th, a kingfisher in Corrie also on 20th, a long-eared owl in Glenree on 22nd and that long-staying magpie, first reported on 11 May, still in Kildonan on 31 December. Magpie is a vagrant to Arran. In addition, all three divers were around the coast including seven black-throated eiver off Kilpatrick Point on 15th, two great northern diver off Drumadoon also on 15th and four red-throated diver off Pirnmill on 22nd. An article on the identification of divers will feature in a future edition of the Banner.

Although still in the depth of winter there were some signs of approaching spring with great spotted woodpecker reported drumming in Brodick Country Park on 21st and male red-breasted mergansers displaying in Pirnmill on 22nd.

Gardens provide a safe refuge for some birds in winter. Among the more unusual records received were: three goldcrest in Pirnmill on 9th, a brambling in Newton on 14th, a great spotted woodpecker in Lamlash on 21st and six long-tailed tit in Whiting Bay on 25th.

Finally, here is a date for your diary: the weekend of Saturday 25 and Monday 27 January. That weekend stock up your bird feeders, spend one hour of your weekend watching your garden birds, and note down the highest number you see of each bird species. This is the weekend of the Big Garden Birdwatch. Last year nearly half a million people throughout the UK and more than 30 on Arran took part in this valuable exercise. For more information and to get the free starter pack, visit the RSPB website Big Garden Birdwatch . If you do decide to take part, please share your records with me.

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


Purple sandpiper is a winter visitor to Arran. Photo Brian Couper NO_B02bird01

Fieldfare one of our more familiar winter visitors. Photo Nick Giles NO_B02bird02

White-tailed eagle a spectacular December visitor. Photo Alex Penn NO_B52bird03

Red-breasted merganser already males displaying anticipating the arrival of breeding in spring. Photo Ewan Urquhart NO_B52bird04

Goldcrest an unusual garden visitor, Europe’s smallest bird. Photo Dennis Morrison NO_B52bird05