Red kites record in month of firsts

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Bird Notes for October by Jim Cassels

October was much wetter than September with 70 per cent more rain. It was milder and wetter than last October. This October 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 a report of six red kites in the Shiskine valley on 5th in the afternoon. There had been a report of one in Lochranza that morning. In the afternoon a helicopter had been in the Shiskine valley, which caused some disturbance. These birds may have been feeding on carrion. The experienced observers had recorded some of the spectacle on their mobile phone. This is the largest group recorded on Arran. In 2001 birds were released in Dumfries and Galloway for the first time and that year one was reported on Arran, the first record since the mid-1800s. In the following years there have been small numbers of records of single birds. In 2018 there were 12 records and one of these was of two birds together.

Other highlights included: a first winter Mediterranean gull by Fisherman’s Walk on 4th and 6th, first record since October 2018; a flight of 26 barnacle geese passing Kingscross on 15th, again first record since October 2018; and for the fifth year in a row little egret, a colonising species, was reported, with one at Cordon on 29th.

Winter visitors included: two brent geese and 41 rook on Cleats Shore on 5th, 300 greylag geese also on Cleats Shore on 6th, 14 teal at Carlo on 7th, one brambling and one yellowhammer in Sliddery on 15th, 50 whooper swan flying over Lamlash Bay on 17th, 40 wigeon at Kilpatrick Point on 24th, one snow bunting in Glenkiln on 21st and two snow bunting on Goatfell summit on 30th. While redwing numbers built up during the month with over 800 in Sliddery on 30th, fieldfare, in contrast, had only one report, eight on Machrie Moor on 21st.

Migration was in full flow in October as birds were moving out of colder northern Europe to milder climes. These included: a sanderling in Blackwaterfoot on 1st, 380 kittiwake in Loch Ranza on 3rd, two wheatear on Sliddery Shore also on 3rd, 50 linnet on Cleats Shore on 5th, 50 goldfinch on Lakin Farm also on 5th, 300 skylark on Cleats Shore on 6th, 70 golden plover in Machrie Bay on 10th, 20 Turnstone at Dougarie also on 10th, 60 lesser redpoll at Catacol on 15th, 60 ringed plover by Fisherman’s Walk on 23rd, a merlin at Blackwaterfoot on 24th, 11 redshank at Sandbraes on 29th and 350 starling at Sliddery also on 29th.

There were some ‘last sightings’ of summer visitors also moving south including: a chiffchaff in Sliddery on 2nd, nine lesser black-backed gull by Fisherman’s Walk on 4th, seven house martin in Kildonan on 13th, 16 gannet off Silver Sands on 23rd and a swallow in Sliddery on 25th.

Other interesting records from a month with over 100 species reported included: a moorhen at Port na Lochan on 3rd, a white-tailed eagle at Imachar on 11th, two little grebe in Loch Ranza on 18th, two dipper at Slidderywaterfoot on 23rd, 10 long-tailed tit in Margnaheglish on 27th, seven black-throated diver and 10 great northern diver off Drumadoon Point on 28th, three goosander at Imachar on 29th and over 100 eider in Lamlash Bay on 31st. This was more than the island total during the eider survey in September!

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 45. There was total coverage of the Arran coastline. Last year the total was 75. In 2019 it 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:

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 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


A remarkable group of six red kite was seen in the Shiskine valley. Photo Angela Cassels NO_B47notes01

Mediterranean gull a first Arran record since October 2018. Photo Jim Dickson NO_B47notes02

Fieldfare a regular winter visitor but only one record in October. Photo Nick Giles NO_B47notes03

Dipper moving down river to the coast to feed as rivers and burns in spate. Photo Arthur Duncan NO_B47note04

A number of whooper swan groups moving through Arran in October. This group were almost a garden bird in Shannochie. Photo Brian Couper NO_B47notes05