Still in the depth of winter but signs spring is on the way

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Bird Notes for December by Jim Cassels

The mild weather of November continued into December with no negative temperatures. December was wetter with about 50 per cent more rain than November.

Winter visitors in December included: five purple sandpiper on Silver Sands on 5th and a first winter glaucous gull by Fisherman’s Walk on 13th. The last Arran record of this gull was in February 2020.

While the numbers of fieldfare and redwing, regular winter visitors, were down on recent years, the number of brambling, an irruptive winter visitor, were the largest ever recorded on Arran with 40 at Cnoc na Dail on 12th and 50 at the same location on 18th.

Wintering wildfowl were to the fore including: 550 greylag geese in the Shiskine Valley on 5th; 50 pink-footed geese also in the Shiskine Valley on 5th; four wigeon in Kildonan on 6th; 29 Canada geese in Clachaig on 24th; 23 teal on Cleats Shore on 28th and eight whooper swan flying and calling over Machrie on 9th .

Groups of wintering birds included: 20 turnstone and 21 black-headed gull on Silver Sands on 4th; 44 ringed plover in Blackwaterfoot on 8th; 70 curlew and 18 snipe in Port na Feannaiche also on 8th; 140 common gull on Cleats Shore on 13th; 200 jackdaw in Machrie on 19th; 20 lapwing on Cleats Shore on 28th; 23 woodcock in East Bennan also on 28th; 200 starling in Cloined on 31st and 30 greenfinch at Drumadoon Point also on 31st was the largest group for a number of years.

In December the 17 records of little egret from 12 locations, featured in last week’s Banner bird note.

Other interesting records this month included: two returning shelduck in Kildonan on 5th; a jack snipe at Port na Feannaiche on 8th; five yellowhammer in Sliddery on 10th; 10 rook in Clachaig also on 10th; a dipper in Machrie on 19th and a kingfisher in the Rosa Burn, Brodick on 21st.

In addition, all three divers were around the coast including six great northern diver at Port na Feannaiche on 8th; two red-throated diver off King’s Cave on 26th and two black-throated diver in Whiting Bay on 30th .

Although still in the depth of winter there were some signs of approaching spring with great spotted woodpecker reported drumming in Brodick Country Park on 27th; Red-breasted mergansers displaying in Lamlash Bay on 28th and a song thrush singing in Pirnmill on 29th.

Gardens provide a safe refuge for some birds in winter. Among the more unusual records received were: three Brambling in Sliddery on 19th; a Treecreeper in Sannox on 23rd; two Great Spotted Woodpecker in Lagg on 26th and 16 Long-tailed Tit in Corrie on 26th.

Finally, here is a date for your diary: the weekend of Friday 28 to Sunday 30 January.

That weekend stock up your bird feeders, spend one hour of your weekend watching your garden birds, and note down the highest number you see of each bird species.

This is the weekend of the Big Garden Birdwatch. Last year nearly half a million people throughout the UK and more than 30 on Arran took part in this valuable exercise.

For more information and to get the free starter pack, visit the RSPB website Big Garden Birdwatch 

If you do decide to take part, please share your records with me.

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