A time to look out for birds feasting on autumn berries

Nuthatch by David Kilpatrick. This species is moving north from England and colonising parts of Scotland. There were records all month from gardens in Pirnmill. This is the first photograph taken on Arran.

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Bird Notes for October by Jim Cassels

October was cooler and more unsettled than September. In comparison to October 2019 it was milder, mean temperature one degree higher, and wetter with 20 per cent more rain.

There was a brief settled spell in the middle of the month, but October ended with the first named storm of the winter. It was the wettest month of the year so far.

October is arguably the busiest birding month, as summer breeders depart, migrants pass through, winter visitors arrive and there is always a strong chance of something unusual. This October did not disappoint.

A particular highlight was Arran’s first ever Lapland bunting which was caught and ringed on Cleats Shore on 11 October.

There will be more about this Arctic breeding bird in the next bird note. Moreover, there was the first ever photograph of a nuthatch on Arran.

This bird was reported from gardens in Pirnmill throughout the month. This is a species that it is anticipated will colonise Arran in the near future.

In addition, for the fourth year in a row another colonising species, the little egret, was reported in the Shiskine Valley and on the shore of Lamlash Bay. On the 20 October there were three birds, two at the Rodden and one at Cordon.

The build up of the number of winter thrushes, fieldfare and redwing, was a feature of the month.

The first fieldfare were reported on 2nd and the first redwing on 3rd. Soon there were widespread reports of the birds feasting on the autumn berries, with flocks in the hundreds being reported from the north to the south of the island including 300  redwing at Narachan on 20th and 250 fieldfare at Clachaig on 22nd.

Other winter visitors included: 25 wigeon at Kilpatrick Point on 10th, 174 rook at Sliddery on 12th, 19 pink-footed geese on Cleats Shore on 13th, 200 greylag geese at Clachaig Farm also on 13th, 20 whooper swan flying over Shiskine on 17th, six yellowhammer in Sliddery on 18th, 76 teal at Kilpatrick Point on 23rd and two brambling at Sliddery on 29th.

Migration was in full flow in October as birds were moving out of colder northern Europe to milder climes. These included: a bar-tailed godwit on Cleats Shore on 1st, 30 twite also on Cleats Shore on 11th, 23 redshank in Whiting Bay on 12th, 90 skylark at Clachaig Farm also on 12th, a sanderling at Drumadoon Point on 16th, 33 golden plover and 30 turnstone at Catacol Bay on 18th, four lapwing at Kilpatrick Point on 23rd, one male merlin photographed in a Sliddery garden on 24th, 3oo starling at Kilpatrick on 27th and 380 kittiwake in Whiting Bay on 28th.

There were some ‘last sightings’ of summer visitors also moving south including: a chiffchaff in Sliddery on 2nd, a spotted flycatcher at Bailemargaidh on 8th, four house martin at Porta Buidhe on 14th, a swallow at Clachaig Farm on 15th and two lesser black-backed gull on Cleats Shore on 23rd.

Also on 23rd, there were two reports of gannet, one in Lamlash Bay and one off Cleats Shore. Earlier in the month on 14th 100 had been reported off Imachar.

Other interesting records from a month with over 100 species reported included: four moorhen on Mossend Pond on 5th, six little grebe on Loch Ranza on 12th, three goosander at Dougarie on 20th and 10 black-throated Diver in Whiting Bay on 31st. In addition here were two reports of red kite on October, one at Sliddery on 18th and one North Sannox on 20th.

Finally, my thanks to all the ‘volunteers’ who took part in the eider survey in late September. Total number of birds recorded round Arran was 75. There was total coverage of the Arran coastline. Last year the total was 47. In 2000, it was considerably more, at over 600.

The data on the eider survey contributes to the ongoing research of Chris Waltho who has been monitoring eider in the Clyde Estuary for almost 30 years. The population trend is down. For the latest report from Chris, visit this website: http://www.arranbirding.co.uk/files/Firth-of-Clyde-Eider-News-No.18-Aug-2020.pdf

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 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


Lapland bunting by Chris Southall. This is the first record on Arran of this Arctic breeding species. NO_B46bird01

Nuthatch by David Kilpatrick. This species is moving north from England and colonising parts of Scotland. There were records all month from gardens in Pirnmill. This is the first photograph taken on Arran. NO_B46bird02

Little egret by Nick Giles. Another colonising species spreading north through the UK. Three birds on Arran in October. NO_B46bird03

Brambling by David Russell. Look out for these wintering finches among the flocks of the familiar Chaffinch this winter. NO_B46bird04

Lapwing by Robert Lambie. One of many species whose numbers build up on Arran at this time of year as birds from the colder continent move west to milder climes. NO_B46bird05

Little grebe in hail storm by Arthur Duncan. I thought this captured the season of October! NO_B46bird06