First signs that spring is on the way

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Bird Notes for February by Jim Cassels

Unsettled January weather continued into February. In comparison to last February, this year was milder and wetter.

There were three named storms with prolonged spells of wet and windy weather. The resulting rainfall in February was more than double that of February 2019. The weather was not conducive to being outdoors and this may have had an impact on the number of species seen in February which was down from 96 in 2019 to 80 this year.

Birding highlights included two reports of waxwing. Both sightings on February 24 of this normally gregarious winter visitor were of a single bird, one photographed in a garden in Cordon in the morning and the other reported in a garden in Brodick at lunchtime. Same bird?

In addition there was a report of three snow bunting on Sannox shore on February 27, as well as reports of a single snow bunting in Pirnmill during the month. The Sannox sighting was from a delighted couple who had never seen the species before.

On February 29 another observer was delighted to see two white-winged gull species at Thunderguy in a flock of more common resting gulls. The Iceland gull and glaucous gull were both first-winter gulls . These Arctic breeding species are not reported every winter on Arran.

Wintering wildfowl continued to be present including: a male goldeneye on Mossend Pond on Febraury 10, seven White-fronted geese in the Shiskine Valley on February 11, 350 greylag geese also in the Shiskine Valley on February 17, 12 wigeon in Auchenhew Bay on February 26 and 20 Teal at Carlo also on February 26.

Other wintering flocks included: 46 goldfinch on Brodick shore on February 1, 250  chaffinch with 200 linnet and 10 twite in one field in Machrie on February 9, 15 turnstone in Porta Buidhe on February 6, a mixed flock of redwing and fieldfare of around 80 birds at Clachaig on February 9, 40 curlew at Clauchlands on February 16, 12 lapwing at Shannochie on February 20, five golden plover at Catacol on February 27 and 80 jackdaw at Machrie, also on February 27. In addition, wintering blackcap were reported from gardens in Whiting Bay and Alma Park.

Other sightings included: one dipper in Lochranza on February 2, three great northern diver off Kildonan on February 4, one yellowhammer on Brodick Golf Course also on February 4, one puffin in Brodick Bay on February 7, two moorhen on Mossend Pond on February 11, one white-tailed eagle over Dougarie on February 16, one merlin on Kilpatrick Farm also on February 16, four little grebe at Loch Ranza on February 23, four bullfinch in Cordon on February 24 and a kingfisher on the Rosa Burn on February 27. In addition, the long-staying magpie in Kildonan first reported on May 11 2019 may have been last reported on February 2. In 40 years of the Arran Bird Report, this is by far the longest staying magpie on Arran.

Gannet seemed slow to return this year with only three records, two Pirnmill on February 11, one Kildonan on February 21 and one Lamlash Bay on February 22. A returning lesser black-backed gull was reported from Shannochie on February 16. Other signs of approaching spring included: grey heron nest building in Stronach Wood on February 2, pair of golden eagle displaying over Lochranza on February 3, four fulmar exploring nest sites in Catacol on February 18, great spotted woodpecker drumming in Brodick Castle Gardens on February 19, 20 eider displaying off Cosyden on February 20 and song thrush and wren singing in Kilpatrick on February 28. By the end of the month there were signs spring was on its way.

March could see the arrival of some of our summer visitors like wheatear, chiffchaff, willow warbler, sand martin, even swallow and house martin, but their arrival will be dependent on the weather. Keep an eye out for these migrants and let me know when you first see them.

Enjoy your birding.

Please send any bird notes with ‘what, when, where’ to me at Kilpatrick Kennels, Kilpatrick, Blackwaterfoot, KA27 8EY, or email I look forward to hearing from you. For more information on birding on Arran purchase the Arran Bird Atlas 2007-2012, the Arran Bird Report 2018 or visit


There were two reports of waxwing in February. Photo Arthur Duncan NO_B11bird01

Snow bunting sighting was a first in Sannox. Photo Charlotte Clough NO_B11bird02

Iceland gull is the middle gull in the photo by Alex Penn. NO_B11bird03

Glaucous gull the gull in the foreground by Alex Penn. NO_B11bird04