More than 110 species recorded during May’s breeding season

Cuckoos are synonymous with summer and there were numerous and widespread records of these birds during May. Photograph: Dennis Morrison.

Want to read more?

We value our content and our journalists, so to get full access to all your local news updated 7-days-a-week – PLUS an e-edition of the Arran Banner – subscribe today for as little as 48 pence per week.

Already a subscriber?
Subscribe Now

Bird Notes – May by Jim Cassels

After the very dry April, May was much wetter and in comparison to last May, it was not only wetter, with double the amount of rain, but colder.

The mean temperature was 1.5 degrees lower.


At the end of the month with the winds moving away from a northerly direction the temperature began to noticeable rise.

There was a feeling that while spring was arriving it was late.

Conditions were generally good for birds trying to get on with breeding, but swallow and house martin seemed to be delaying nesting perhaps because of the lack of flying insects.

Throughout the month the numbers of familiar summer visitors like swallow, house martin, sand martin, willow warbler, whitethroat, sedge warbler and cuckoo continued to build up.


Cuckoo seemed to be particularly widespread and noticeable this year with small groups being reported from some areas.

In addition to the ‘firsts’ reported in the April notes, here are some further ‘firsts’ with the 2020 arrival dates in brackets for comparison: a swift over Clachaig Farm on 4th (30th); a garden warbler in Clauchlands on 7th (15th April); a wood warbler by Corrie Golf Course on 11th (9th); six arctic tern on Pladda on 12th (15th); and a spotted flycatcher in Leac Gharbh on 13th (8th).

In addition, there were reports of three scarce summer visitors; a common redstart by Fairhaven on 9th; a lesser whitethroat by Cleats Shore track on 18th; and a yellow wagtail on Silver Sands on 27th. To date there have been no reports this year of corncrake, nightjar or common tern.

Species which breed further north continued to pass through including; 15 dunlin on Silver Sands on 1st; a merlin at Clachaig Farm on 4th; 17 whimbrel at Porta Buidhe on 5th; 12 white wagtail on Cleats Shore on 7th; 46 pink-footed geese flying north over Clachaig on 10th; six great northern diver and two sandwich tern in Machrie Bay on 12th; a male scaup on Fisherman’s Walk on 14th; three common scoter in Catacol Bay on 21st; three turnstone at Blackwaterfoot on 25th; and four black-throated diver in Machrie Bay on 26th. In addition, there are now two single whooper swan not heading north but over summering on Arran: an adult in Lamlash Bay and a sub-adult on Sliddery Shore.

In May, breeding was well underway for many species.

Encouraging signs included reports of golden eagle, golden plover, hen harrier, red-throated diver and short-eared owl all holding breeding territories.

Activity was reported from all the monitored heronries on the island and four areas held small numbers of breeding lapwing.

A number of coastal cliffs held single figure numbers of nesting fulmar which seem to be in serious decline on Arran.

I would be interested to receive any reports of young birds. None were reported in 2018, 2019 or 2020 from any colony.

By contrast the black guillemot colonies seem to be thriving.

Other breeding records included: two skylark singing in hills above Lochranza on 1st; shelduck with two young at Porta Buidhe on 15th; two woodcock roaming over Machrie Moor on 19th; pair of mute swan with seven young in Lamlash Bay on 24th; over 60 pairs of nesting herring gull on Holy Isle on 28th; and a mallard with four young at Imachar on 29th.

In addition, towards the end of the month, there were many of reports of garden birds carrying food and feeding recently fledged young, but few reports of blue and great tit feeding young which seem to have had a poor breeding season.

In May over 110 species were recorded. Here are some other highlights: a white-tailed eagle over Cleiteadh Buidhe on 6th; an adult mediterranean gull on Cleats Shore on 7th; two puffin in Brodick Bay on 8th; a leucistic herring gull in in Shiskine on 11th (This ‘white’ herring gull was ringed on Arran in June 2018); pair of goosander in Catacol Bay on 12th; a kingfisher at Merkland Point on 13th; a dipper in Glen Cloy also on 13th and around 450 Manx shearwater in Whiting Bay on 20th.

With the long daylight hours, it is a great time of year to be birding. Most birds are getting on with the business of breeding.

Please take a moment to report any signs of breeding birds to me, but please also 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.

Do not hesitate to report any criminal activity to the local police. Particularly take care on our shores and please keep dogs on their leads at this time of year.

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 jim@arranbirding.co.uk I look forward to hearing from you. For more information on birding on Arran purchase the Arran Bird Report 2020 and the Arran Bird Report, the first 40 years, or visit the website http://www.arranbirding.co.uk/index.html