Birds flock together ready for migration

Whooper swans are winter visitors arriving. Photo Angela Cassels

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Bird Notes for September by Jim Cassels

September was cooler than August. There were no ‘named storms’ and the second half of the month was particularly dry and settled. September is the start of the peak migration season when many birds are on the move. The weather was conducive for watching this migration.

There were several first records for the year; a Slavonian grebe at Machriewaterfoot on 17th, a curlew sandpiper at Drumadoon Point on 18th, a ring ouzel on the Narachan on 24th and a little egret in Lochranza on 28th. Curlew sandpiper was last recorded on Arran in 2006.


Other birds on migration included: six white wagtail at Porta Buidhe on 1st, a greenshank on Silver Sands on 5th, two sanderling at Drumadoon Point on 9th, four knot also at Drumadoon Point on 15th, two sandwich tern at Blackwaterfoot also on 15th, a merlin on Meall Bhreac on 17th, 12 dunlin on Silver Sands on 20th and six wheatear on Shiskine Golf Course on 21st.

At this time of year birds begin to flock together, often in preparation for migration. Reports included: 50 pied wagtail at Corriecravie on 1st, 32 robin on Silver Sands on 6th, 300 starling also Silver Sands on 15th, 40 kittiwake at Sandbraes on 17th, 158 golden plover at Machriewaterfoot on 18th, also on 18th 300 skylark and 300 goldfinch on Cleats Shore, 40 redshank at Sandbraes on 20th, 50 turnstone at Machriewaterfoot on 22nd, 70 long-tailed tit at Sannox on 23rd and 250 linnet on Cleats Shore also on 23rd. This gives an indication of the numbers of birds that are on the move at this time of year.

In September there were reports of returning winter visitors including 48 rook in Sliddery on 1st, 18 wigeon in Cosyden on 21st, 50 pink-footed geese over Kildonan on 23rd, 25 whooper swan over Coire Fhionn Lochan on 25th and three redwing over Sliddery Shore on 27th. A number of summer visitors were still around in September including: 46 lesser black-backed gull at Lochranza on 1st, a willow warbler at Pirnmill on 5th, a spotted flycatcher on High Corrie on 6th and six chiffchaff at Sliddery on 20th. The last hirundine records to date are one sand martin at Machrie on 1st, two swallow at Porta Buidhe on 26th and one house martin at Machrie on 28th. October should see the last of the house martins, swallows and other summer visitors departing south.

In all 110 species were recorded on Arran in September, 10 more than last September. Other interesting sightings this month included: four water rail at Corriecravie on 1st, four moorhen on Mossend Pond also on 1st, a kingfisher at Port na Lochan on 10th, three goosander at Dougarie on 12th, a shelduck, returning after the autumn moult, at Cosyden on 14th, two dipper by Brodick Golf Course on 18th and 15 gannet off Loch Ranza pier on 21st. Gannet also will soon be heading south for the winter.


The other widely reported event was the number of dead auks washed up on Arran’s shores, mainly on the west coast. Around 30 bodies were reported – the majority were razorbills with some guillemots. One of the razorbills had been ringed on the Shiants as a fledgling in 2018. The event was also reported from other shores in the Firth of Clyde and was monitored by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds and the Scottish Environmental Protection Agency. It was thought to be related to the two named storms in August which had disrupted the birds’ feeding.

Finally, my thanks to all the volunteers who took part in the eider survey in September. There will be a brief report on this in the October notes.

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 jim@arranbirding.co.uk 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 www.arranbirding.co.uk