Gardens ‘awash’ with young as birds flourish in lockdown

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Bird Notes for June by Jim Cassels

June was noticeably warmer than May. The mean temperature was three degrees higher. This June was also warmer and drier than last June. The mean temperature was one degree higher and the rainfall was almost 20 per cent less, most of it falling in the last 10 days of the month. This weather was generally conducive to birds raising young during the long daylight hours in June. This fine weather combined with less human disturbance, because of the COVID-19 restrictions, meant that many species had a successful breeding period.

Observers reported gardens ‘awash’ with young birds. There were many reports of fledged birds in gardens including unfamiliar looking young birds, like goldfinch without the red face of the adult birds, and robin with spots and no red breast. As well as the more familiar birds like blackbird, song thrush, blue tit, great tit, coal tit and chaffinch all with young. Most prolific of all seemed to be house sparrow with 20 in Alma Park on 15th being one of the larger numbers. Also, there were many reports of numbers of siskin and goldfinch with young around, including 18 goldfinch in Whiting Bay on 1st and 18 siskin in Cordon on 24th. Like last year it was again encouraging to get reports of young greenfinch from widespread locations. This species had been decimated by the parasitic disease, trichomonas.

Away from gardens there were many signs of breeding including, a sand martin colony in Glen Catacol with 115 nest holes on 7th, woodcock with young at Leac Gharbh on 10th, curlew holding territory on Machrie Moor on 20th, a pair of hen harrier with four lively young seen from a forest trail close to one of the main villages on the island on 20th and activity at the grey heron heronries in Stronach Wood, Brodick, Lagg and Whitehouse Wood, Lamlash by the end of the month. The healthy vole population in many areas was beneficial to some breeding raptors. There was also encouraging reports of young lapwing from four areas. This once widespread farmland breeder is just hanging-on.

Around the coast there were further signs of breeding including: a crèche of 26 eider with 18 young off Silver Sands on 2nd, a pair of mute swan with six young in Catacol Bay on 3rd, three pair of oystercatchers, whose nests were washed away in the storm in May, successfully re-nesting in Kildonan on 8th, 100 starling including many young birds in Blackwaterfoot on 11th, a pair of mallard with 10 young at Pirnmill on 18th, a family of peregrine on a coastal cliff on 20th, black guillemot carrying food into the Corrie colony on 25th and five pair of fulmar on nests on Drumadoon Cliffs on 30th.

Other highlights in a month with almost 100 species reported included the following: four red-throated diver off Corrie on 2nd, a bar-tailed godwit at Machriewaterfoot also on 2nd, a little grebe and three moorhen at Mossend Pond on 6th, an osprey being mobbed by gulls in Lamlash Bay on 7th, a water rail on North Sannox Farm on 23rd and a particular highlight for one observer in a lay-by on the String was an aerial dispute involving two golden eagle being harassed by two buzzard and a peregrine. Another magic birding moment on Arran.

Cuckoos, whose decreasing numbers are a cause for concern nationally, seem to be thriving on Arran. Throughout May and June there have been many widespread reports. People need no prompting to report the first cuckoo. How about reporting when you hear or see the last cuckoo this year? Most adult cuckoos, taking no part in rearing their young, leave around mid to late July. Juveniles leave breeding areas soon after they fledge, quickly becoming independent of their hosts before also migrating south, usually in late July and early August. These young cuckoos have a white patch on the back of the head.

Finally in July, look out for early signs of breeding being over for some birds this year. These could include the return of some Arctic breeding species to our shores. Remember July is the time when many birds, having raised their young, go about the process of renewing their feathers by moulting them. As birds are vulnerable when they are shedding flight feathers, they literally make themselves scarce. On any birding walk you may see fewer birds but they are still around.

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 e mail 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 this website



Black guillemot carrying food into colony. Photo Arthur Duncan NO_B29bird01

Mallard with young. Photo Arthur Duncan No_b29bird02

Oystercatcher with young. Photo Arthur Duncan NO_B29bird03

Spotted flycatcher feeding young on Holy Isle. Photo  Howard Sargeant NO_B29bird04

House sparrow feeding young. Photo Brian Couper NO_B29bird05

Ringed plover first tentative steps. Photo Brian Couper NO_B29bird06