Arrival of first summer migrants on Arran

Wheatear, one of the first summer visitors to arrive. Photo Dennis Morrison

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Bird Notes, March, by Jim Cassels

Spring is an exciting time of year as we await the arrival of summer visitors and see the last winter birds leaving.

The timing of the northerly spring migration is dependent on the weather, not just locally, but throughout the length of the migration route.

On Arran, March was warmer and dryer than February. The rainfall in March was a third of February’s total. No rain fell in the second half of the month. It was a sunny, settled spell with temperatures reaching 18 degrees.

It was during this more settled spell a few pioneer summer migrants arrived. On March 15 the first wheatear was reported at the Cock of Arran.

Last year the first record was on March 25. On March 18 the first chiffchaff was reported at Lakin Farm. Last year the first record wason March 17. On March 24, the first sand martin was reported over Machrie Golf Course. Last year the first record was on March 31. On March 28, the first willow warbler was reported on Holy Isle. Last year the first record was on April 2. On March 30 the first sedge warbler was reported from Kildonan. Last year the first record was on April 14.

These were all the migrant species reported in March.

April should see improving weather and the arrival of other migrants including white wagtail, sandwich tern, manx shearwater, swallow, house martin, common sandpiper and cuckoo – all signs of the approaching summer. Please keep me posted.

In March, winter visitors were still to the fore including: 10 redwing in Corriecravie on March 3; 250 pink-foot geese at the Rodden on March 4; one purple sandpiper on Silver Sands, also on March 4; a jack snipe in Bennecarrigan also on March 4; 32 wigeon at Tormore on March 5; 10 yellowhammer in Sliddery on March 9; four brambling also in Sliddery on March 10; two goldeneye on Mossend Pond on March 12; 16 teal at Kilpatrick Point on March 16; 200 greylag geese and five white-fronted geese in the Shiskine Valley on March 18 and 140 fieldfare in Sliddery on March 27.

In March there were many signs of migration. Flocks of up to 40 whooper swan were reported flying north over the island on March 26 and 27. Other signs included 27 lapwing and 33 curlew at Torrylinnwater Foot on March 1; 12 twite on Sliddery Shore on March 12; one bar-tailed godwit at Torrylinnwater Foot on March 22; nine golden plover on Sliddery Shore on March 25; 20 linnet also on Sliddery Shore on March 26; 15 lesser redpoll on Holy Isle also on March 26 and 30 great northern diver in Machrie Bay on March 27.

Gannet sightings slowly increased during the month with 12 off Sliddery Shore on March 26, the largest group reported. In addition, there was an increase in numbers of goldfinch and siskin at garden feeders from several areas as these species began to move north.

In a month when more than 100 species were reported, here is a small selection of other interesting March records: two little grebe in Loch Ranza on March 2; a dipper in Benlister on March 4; a Magpie on Lamlash Golf Course on March 6 – last Arran record February 15 2021 – a reed bunting in Cosyden also on March 6; three lesser black-backed gull in High Kildonan on March 9; two goldcrest in Brodick on March 11; two red grouse on Maol Donn on March 12; a moorhen on Port na Lochan on March 18 and eight Shelduck on Cleats Shore on March 19. Also, on March 19 two snow bunting by Drumadoon Point and between March 25 and March 31 a single snow bunting was reported on the summit of Goatfell.

Like last winter, a little egret seems to have over-wintered on Arran and as the breeding season approached it seems to have again left. This winter it was first reported on October 29 in Cordon and the last report received was March 17 by the Fisherman’s Walk.

Spring is a great time to be birding, as most birds are getting on with the business of breeding. The business of breeding involves attracting a mate by song, courtship display and ritual, defining a territory, nest building and generally establishing relationships.

In March the signs were there including: a long-tailed tit gathering spiders’ webs for nest material in Cordon on March 6; six male red-breasted merganser courting two females in Machrie Bay on March 17; a great spotted woodpecker drumming in Sannox on March 21; a blackcap singing in Whiting Bay on March 26; three skylark in full song soaring over Torr Dubh on March 29 and numerous reports of sky dancing hen harriers display flying over Arran’s moors.

I am interested in all records of arriving summer migrants and any signs of breeding birds.

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 buy the Arran Bird Report 2021 and the Arran Bird Report, the first 40 years and visit


Wheatear, one of the first summer visitors to arrive. Photograph: Dennis Morrison. NO_B15notes01

White-fronted goose, one of the winter visitors still lingering. Photograph: Alex Penn. NO_B15notes02

Increasing numbers of siskin have been appearing at garden feeders in March. Photograph: Richard Henderson. NO_B15notes03

Magpie: it has been more than a year since this species was last reported on Arran. Photograph: Helen Logan. NO_B15notes04

Snow bunting, one of many interesting species that appeared on Arran in March. Photograph: Charlotte Clough. NO_B15notes05

Long-tailed tit collecting spiders’ webs for nest building. Photograph: Arthur Duncan. NO_B15notes06