Wintering flocks weather a wet January on Arran

Waxwing, a stunning visitor to a garden in Shiskine. Photograph Tony Gallagher.

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Bird Notes for January by Jim Cassels

In comparison to last January, January 2020 was milder and wetter. The first fortnight was marked by a prolonged spell of wet and windy weather culminating in Storm Brendan. A short spell of calm but very dull and damp weather followed on, before a few colder days brought snow on the mountains. The month finished with a return to unsettled wet and windy conditions. The weather was not conducive to being out of doors. Nevertheless over 100 species were reported.

Highlights included: a surf scoter, an American species first reported on 24 November in Catacol Bay, in same location on 1 January, three little grebe in Loch Ranza also on 1st, two jack snipe on Sliddery Shore on 4th, a dipper in Porta Buidhe also on 4th, a water rail on Mossend Pond on 7th, a kingfisher on Rosa Burn on 25th and a sub-adult white-tailed eagle off Machrie from 24th to 27th. In addition there was a hybrid gull, most likely a cross between a herring gull and a lesser black-backed gull, at Whitefarland between 1st and 3rd.

Wintering wildfowl included: 23 Canada geese on Pladda on 10th, three goldeneye at Clauchlands Point on 17th, two whooper swan over Newton on 19th, 53 wigeon at Machriewaterfoot also on 19th, 48 teal at Cosyden also on 19th and 350 greylag geese with two pink-footed geese in the Shiskine Valley on 25th.

Other wintering species included: a merlin and 100 fieldfare on Corriecravie Moor on 1st, 47 rook in Sliddery also on 1st, 17 yellowhammer in Sliddery on 5th, a greenshank in Loch Ranza on 24th and 50 Redwing in Lagg on 26th.

Wintering flocks included: six woodcock in Sliddery on 1st, 15 bullfinch in Clauchan Glen also on 1st, 200 jackdaw in Cosyden on 5th, eight goldcrest in Kildonan on 8th, 132 curlew at Clauchlands on 13th, 32 turnstone in Machrie Bay also on 13th, 18 lapwing in Kilpatrick Farm on 19th, 100 starling in Dippin also on 19th, 21 twite at Machriewaterfoot also on 19th, 20 linnet at Blackwaterfoot also on 19th, six black-throated diver off Pirnmill on 20th, 12 long-tailed tit in Torbeg also on 20th, 100 common gull in Brodick on 23rd, 15 skylark at Mossend Pond on 25th, 20 siskin in Torbeg on 26th and 25 goldfinch in Shannochie on 27th. There was a feeling that some of these wintering flocks were smaller than flocks in recent colder Januaries. There were no January reports of brambling.

Interesting garden birds in January included: a waxwing in Shiskine on 3rd (last Arran record was January 2017), a snow bunting in Pirnmill on 17th, a blackcap in Alma Park on 21st and a great spotted woodpecker in Largymore on 27th. In addition there continue to be reports of a magpie in Kildonan and in Alma Park. In a future bird note there will be a report on the Arran RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch Weekend of January 25 to 27 .

While there was no January records of returning gannet, shelduck were on numerous coastal territories including Auchenhew, Carlo, Clauchlands, Cleats Shore, Fisherman’s Walk, Kilpatrick, Lenimore, Porta Buidhe, Thunderguy and Whitefarland. Other signs of approaching spring included: 200 courting eider at Clauchlands Point on 13th, five displaying black guillemot at Thunderguy on 22nd and four fulmar visiting nest sites in Catacol on 25th. 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 2018 and visit this website

White-tailed eagle were reported at several stretches of the west coast but mainly around Machrie. Photograph Brian Couper No_B06JanBird01

Greenshank, one of many wintering birds reported in January. Photograph Robert Lambie. No_B06JanBird02

Waxwing, a stunning visitor to a garden in Shiskine. Photograph Tony Gallagher. No_B06JanBird03

The return of shelduck indicate that spring is on its way. Photograph Angela Cassels. No_B06JanBird04