Time to migrate as breeding season comes to an end

Young cuckoo showing its distinctive white spot on the back of the head. Photo Arthur Duncan

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Bird notes for August by Jim Cassels

August was a little cooler and much wetter than the very dry July.

The mean temperature was one degree lower, and the rainfall was five times as much, all at the beginning of the month.


In comparison to last August while temperature and rainfall were similar, the winds were lighter.  Last August there were two ‘named’ storms. This August the light winds of May, June and July continued.

Towards the end of the month there was just a hint of the approach of autumn.

Having said that this, summer visitors were still to the fore including: a chiffchaff in Lochranza on 3rd; 40 willow warbler in Corriecravie on 5t; three common sandpiper on Sliddery Shore on 9th; six whitethroat on Cleats Shore on 14th; 15 sedge warbler, a whinchat and six tree pipit by Corriecravie Ponds on 15th; 11 lesser black-backed gull in Sannox on 19th; five spotted flycatcher in Glen Rosa on 23rd and a late swift over Sliddery on 26th.

The largest group of each hirundine reported was 30 sand martin in Glen Catacol on 2nd, 75 swallow in Shannochie on 22nd and 100 house martin in Sliddery on 26th.


Please try to give me your last record for swallow and house martin this year. Last year there were October records for both species.

The last record I have so far of cuckoo, is a young bird photographed in West Bennan on 2nd.

Some other signs of successful breeding this month included: young black guillemot in Catacol Bay on 2nd; five young shelduck at Kilpatrick Point on 5th; a single young fulmar at Catacol on 12th; a family of five kestrel at Glenscorrodale on 16th; a family of four little grebe on Mossend Pond on 19th; a pair of mute swan with seven large young in Lamlash Bay on 24th and a family of great spotted woodpecker in Lagg on 28th.

As well as this, there were widespread reports of young birds at garden feeders.

Of these the species that seems to have had the most successful breeding season has been house sparrow, with widespread reports of many groups with more than 50 birds. House sparrow may be in decline in the UK but not on Arran.

In August, breeding is coming to an end, and after breeding a number of species begin to flock together, some in preparation for migration.

These included: 60 curlew in Corriecravie on 5th; 70 goldfinch in Sliddery on 7th; 25 red-breasted merganser in Machrie Bay on 19th; 20 chaffinch in Shannochie on 22nd; 78 linnet in Kilpatrick also on 22nd 30 redshank in Lochranza on 26th; 50 kittiwake in Machrie Bay on 28th and 100 golden plover with 150 ringed plover at Machriewaterfoot also on 28th.

All around the island, but particularly on the coast, there were signs of birds on migration, including: six sandwich tern including two young on Silver Sands on 8th; three whimbrel on Sliddery Shore on 9th; a knot by Fisherman’s Walk on 14th; 34 turnstone in Machrie Bay on 19th; six dunlin in Blackwaterfoot on 24th; a black-tailed godwit in Blackwaterfoot on 26th; a wigeon on Sliddery Shore on 30th; five sanderling at Blackwaterfoot also on 30th and five wheatear at Porta Buidhe on 31st.

In addition, there was a passage of skuas, uncommon passage migrants.

A great skua at Drumadoon Point on 23rd was followed by reports of Arctic skua off Blackwaterfoot on 24th and 25th, off Sannox on 26th and two in Whiting Bay on 27th.

The last Arran report of great skua was 2018 and the last report of Arctic skua was 2019.

Among the 100 plus species reported in August there were a number of other noteworthy ones including: a dipper in Lochranza on 5th; a water rail in Corriecravie on 15th; a moorhen and a coot on Mossend Pond on 19th; three red-throated diver over Shiskine Golf Course on 19th; three great northern diver in Machrie Bay also on 19th; a male merlin on Burrican Hill on 20th; eight black-throated diver off Cosyden on 28th and two white-tailed eagle over Kildonan on 30th.

September sees the start of the peak migration season when many birds are on the move.  It is the time to expect the unexpected.  I look forward to hearing from you.

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 2020 and the Arran Bird Report, the first 40 years. Plus visit the website http://www.arranbirding.co.uk/index.html