Birds begin to flock after signs of a successful breeding season

A sandwich tern feeding its young en route to its wintering area off the west coast of Africa. Photograph: Arthur Duncan.

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?


Problems logging in and require
technical support? Click here
Subscribe Now

Bird Notes for July

by Jim Cassels

In comparison to June, July was much drier and warmer. The mean temperature was three degrees higher. In comparison to July last year, July this year was also drier and warmer. There were only three days when there was more than two millimetres of rain. The light winds of May and June this year continued into July giving a prolonged settled spell.

This had a positive impact on the breeding success of most our visiting summer birds, particularly those that relied on airborne insects to feed young.

Looking at the proportion of adult to young birds from information gathered by licensed bird ringers, willow warbler, chiffchaff, whitethroat, sedge warbler and blackcap all had a good season. Similarly, sand martin, house martin and swallow had a good season although this was not uniform across the island.

As reported in the June notes, garden birds seemed generally to thrive and seed eating birds like lesser redpoll, siskin and goldfinch all had successful breeding seasons.

Other signs of a successful breeding season included: grey wagtail family on Eas Mhor on 5th; three large shelduck young by Cosyden on 6th; female mallard with nine young at Cordon, also on 6th; young great spotted woodpecker in Lochranza on 8th; red grouse family Carn Mhor on 9th; golden plover family Beinn Tarsuinn on 10th; four young eider on Sliddery Shore on 17th; five fledged common gull young on Brodick Castle on 19th; three young oystercatcher at Corrie on 22nd; spotted flycatcher family at Fairy Dell, also on 22nd; common sandpiper family at Porta Buidhe on 24th and female red-breasted merganser with nine young at Cladach on 28th.

On the downside, with the removal of some Covid restrictions, there was increased human activity on shores, with many ignoring notices of breeding birds and allowing their dogs off leads to cause disturbance to breeding shore birds. And there was concern that increased human activity on the hills near lochans was adversely affecting breeding red-throated divers and diminishing records of breeding curlew and fulmar is a continuing worry.

July marks the end of the breeding season for some birds. It can be an interesting time looking for breeding species dispersing from their breeding grounds, many still in their breeding plumage. Reports included: two black-headed gulls with two young by Fisherman’s Walk on 21st; four turnstone at Blackwaterfoot on 27th; one dunlin at Blackwaterfoot on 31st and an adult sandwich tern feeding young in Lamlash Bay, also on 31st. As well as reports of our red-throated diver round the coast there were also reports of two more northerly breeding divers, two great northern diver off Cosyden on 6th and two black-throated diver in Brodick Bay on 21st.

In addition, after breeding many species begin to flock together. Reports included: 14 black guillemot in Catacol Bay on 6th; 60 house sparrow in Kildonan on 13th; 100 shag off Pladda on 19th; 16 curlew on Brodick shore on 21st; 140 jackdaw in Lochranza on 23rd; 200 starling in Sliddery on 27th and 20 ringed plover with seven redshank in Blackwaterfoot on 31st.

More than 100 species were reported in July. Other highlights included: four manx shearwater in Brodick Bay on 2nd; three common scoter off Fisherman’s Walk from 3rd to 8th; a swift over Largybeg on 11th; a female goosander in Catacol Bay on 15th; an osprey off Clauchlands on 18th; 11 gannet in Whiting Bay, also on 18th; three common crossbill in Newton on 22nd and continuing reports of two over-summering whooper swan, one in Lamlash Bay and the other near Torrylinnwater Foot.

Finally, there was a record of a yellowhammer on Holy Isle on July 3. Summer records of this once widespread breeding species are now most unusual on Arran. This species will feature in a future Banner article.

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 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. Plus visit the website


Red-breasted merganser with its young on a rock. Photograph: Arthur Duncan. No_B34BirdNotes01

Red-throated diver are being driven off the hill lochans where they breed. Photograph: Dennis Morrison. No_B34BirdNotes02

An Arctic breeding bird which will be heading south, a turnstone in breeding plumage. Photograph: Simon Davies No_B34BirdNotes03

A sandwich tern feeding its young en route to its wintering area off the west coast of Africa. Photograph: Arthur Duncan. No_B34BirdNotes04

Common scoter, one of the highlights of July and an occasional visitor to Arran. Photograph: Colin Cowley. No_B34BirdNotes05

Another one of the July highlights was an osprey. Photograph: Brian Couper. No_B34BirdNotes06