Remarkable story of the Kildonan whimbrel

A remarkably regular visitor to Arran is A2, the Kildonan whimbrel. Photograph: Joan Thomson.

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Bird notes by Jim Cassels

A whimbrel that winters in Africa and breeds on the tundra of Northern Europe has turned up five years in a row at the same time of year on the shores around Kildonan.

The remarkable story has been uncovered by Arran’s renowned bird expert Jim Cassels who told the Banner: ‘The photograph by Joan Thomson is of a whimbrel taken on the shore at Porta Buidhe in Kildonan on April 28, 2019. From the little flag ring on its leg, this is not any whimbrel, this is A2. The group of bird ringers on Arran had caught and ringed this bird in April 2017 with the intention of trying to learn more about the movements of whimbrel.

‘Whimbrel are related to curlew and do not breed on Arran. They breed in the north on subarctic tundra and taiga bog in places like Iceland, Norway and Russia with some breeding in Orkney and Shetland. They winter on African coasts, rarely in Europe. It is during this biannual migration between African coasts and northern tundra that whimbrel pass through Arran in late April/early May and again in September.

‘Having been ringed and released from a south Arran shore in April 2017, the bird continued on its journey. To date there have been no reports of A2 from any breeding area nor any wintering ground, but on April 26, 2018, one year after it had been ringed, it turned up on the shore at Porta Buidhe.

Another year later, almost to the day, it turned up again on the same shore on April 28, 2019. In 2020, the bird turned up again on a Kildonan shore where it was again photographed by Joan Thomson on April 22.

‘This year, on April 26, A2 has once again returned, with one obvious difference, the colour of the ring. When fitted it was bright red but winters in the African sun have caused it to fade. How do birds do it? Birds are fascinating.

‘For more information on the excellent work of the bird ringing group on Arran, I recommend the Bird Ringing on Arran report by Terry Southall in the annual Arran Bird Report.’

Further updates on A2 can be found at and recent sightings can also be found on the website by following the recent sightings link.


A remarkably regular visitor to Arran is A2, the Kildonan whimbrel. Photograph: Joan Thomson. No_B18whimbrel01