An ideal time for watching migration

Whimbrel A2 seen again on Arran. Photo Joan Thomson.

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Bird Notes for April by Jim Cassels

April is the month when spring migration gets under way, with arrivals and departures of birds all seeking their best breeding territories.

This April was very dry with no significant rain for more than 20 consecutive days. Like the previous two Aprils, there was a lot of easterly winds. The impact on migrating birds of the weather here and throughout their route is difficult to know, but even by the end of the month the bulk of the migrants had still to arrive.

By the end of March, the first chiffchaff, wheatear and white wagtail had been reported.

Here are April ‘firsts’ with the 2019 arrival date in brackets for comparison: house martin 4th (4th); sand martin 5th (31st March); swallow 5th (6th); willow warbler 5th (10th); sandwich tern 6th (2nd); common sandpiper 10th (14th); cuckoo 14th (19th); garden warbler 15th (24th May); sedge warbler 16th (20th); tree [ipit 18th (20th); grasshopper warbler 19th (19th); whinchat 22nd (18th); whitethroat 23rd (20th) and manx shearwater 28th (4th).

In April, some wintering birds were still around including 20 whooper swan at Clachaig on 2nd, two rook in Sliddery on 5th, nine redwing in Sliddery on 7th, two greylag geese at Cosyden on 17th, four wigeon at Machriewaterfoot on 18th and four fieldfare on Corriecravie Moor on 22nd.

The last report of pink-footed geese was 100 flying north over Porta Buidhe on migration on 7th.

April is an ideal time for watching migration. These are a few examples: 80 golden plover at Machriewaterfoot on 1st; 38 common scoter off Cosyden on 8th; five great northern diver off Imachar on 10th; one bar-tailed godwit at Cosyden on 23rd; three dunlin on Blackwaterfoot shore on 24th and 20 turnstone at Catacol on 26th.

There was a much-reported passage of sandwich tern, including nine at Porta Buidhe on 11th, and whimbrel, including 14 at Auchenhew Bay on 27th. One ehimbrel which had been ringed on a southern Arran shore three years ago was reported yet again almost on the same shore, for the third year in a row, having again spent the winter in Africa.

Migration was also in evidence from the widespread reports received of goldfinch and siskin moving through people’s gardens throughout the month. Larger garden numbers reported included 10 siskin in Machrie on 15th and 11 goldfinch in Lagg on 27th.

Tens of thousands of birds seem to be moving through the island at this time of year.

In April, there were 109 species recorded on Arran.

Here is a further small selection from this list: 17 shelduck at Cosyden on 3rd; 18 roosting wren at Sandbraes, also on 3rd; one moorhen and one male scaup at Mossend Pond on 13th; one snipe at Fisherman’s Walk on 16th; 30 gannet feeding close in shore in Brodick Bay on 19th; three goosander at Iorsa mouth on 20th and two woodcock roding over the Lakin on 21st.

The highlight in April was the Hoopoe seen at Levencorrach on 8th, which recently featured in the Arran Banner bird notes.

Thanks go to the many people who have been in touch to share their sightings in what has been a remarkable month.

As a result of measures to control the spread of the coronavirus, the island has been in lockdown throughout the month. In this situation, I have appreciated the many people who have continued to make the effort to share their bird sightings with me.

May should be an equally interesting month with the arrival of more summer visitors including lesser whitethroat, wood warbler, swift, common tern and, hopefully, corncrake and nightjar.

Spring is a great time to be birding, as most birds are getting on with the business of breeding. This involves attracting a mate by song, courtship display and ritual, defining a territory, nest building and generally establishing relationships.

Please take a moment to report any signs of breeding birds to me. Already there have been reports of blue tits nest building, robins feeding young, blackbirds carrying food, grey heron with young in the nest, dipper carrying food and song thrush with young out of the nest.

Please remember that under the Nature Conservation (Scotland) Act 2004 it is an offence to intentionally or recklessly damage or destroy the nest of any wild bird while it is being built or used. Take particular care on shores and beaches and please keep your dogs on a lead.

Enjoy your birding and keep safe.

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 Report, The First 40 Years, which includes the annual report for 2019 and visit


Cuckoo, the sound of approaching summer. Photograph: Charlotte Clough. NO_B20bird01

Hoopoe last recorded 14 years ago. Photograph: Dennis Morrison NO_B20bird02

Whimbrel A2 seen again on Arran. Photograph: Joan Thomson.NO_B20bird03

Common scoter, the largest gathering for many years. Photograph: Robert Lambie NO_B20bird04

Sedge warbler another summer songster. Photograph: by David Russell NO_B20bird05

Grey heron doing home improvements. Photograph: David Russell NO_B20bird06