April is the month when spring migration gets underway, with arrivals and departures of birds, all seeking their best breeding territories. This April was warmer and drier than last April. The mean temperature was 1.5 degrees higher with a temperature range of twenty degrees and the rainfall was about a fifth of the rainfall of last April. Like last April there was a lot of easterly winds. The impact on migrating birds of the weather here and throughout their route is difficult to know but even by the end of the month the bulk of the migrants had still to arrive.
By the end of March the first Chiffchaff, Wheatear and Sand Martin had been reported. Here are April “firsts” with the 2018 arrival date in brackets for comparison: Sandwich Tern 2nd (31 March), White Wagtail 4th(7th), Manx Shearwater 4th(26 Match), Swallow 6th(6th), Willow Warbler 10th(7th), House Martin 14th(15th), Common Sandpiper 14th(14th), Whinchat 18th(28th), Grasshopper Warbler 19th(19th), Cuckoo 19th(16th), Whitethroat 20th(27th), Sedge Warbler 20th(20th) and Tree Pipit 20th(24th),
In April some of our wintering birds were still around including fifty Greylag Geese in the Shiskine Valley on 7th, one of which had a coloured collar on. This had been fitted to the young bird in summer 2017 in north Iceland where it had hatched. Last winter it was reported in Fair Isle and this winter obviously decided to winter further south on Arran. Other wintering birds included: fifty Fieldfare at Shedog on 8th, two Redwing at Lagg on 9th, a Brambling at Sliddery on 18th, five Wigeon at Machriewaterfoot on 19th, one Rook on Sliddery shore on 27th and one Whooper Swan in the Rodden on 10th may have been the bird that over-summered last year. The last report of Pink-footed Geese was one hundred flying north over Silver Sands on migration on 18th.
April is an ideal time for watching migration. These are a few examples: a Ring Ouzel at North Sannox on 7th, an Osprey in Lamlash Bay on 7th and 8th, sixty Golden Plover at Torrylinnwater Foot on 14th, six Common Scoter off Cosyden on 17th, fourteen Great Northern Diver off Dougarie Point on 19th, two Dunlin at Blackwaterfoot on 24th and a Bar-tailed Godwit on Sliddery Shore on 27th. In addition there was a much reported passage of Sandwich Tern, including twenty-four in Machrie Bay on 26th and Whimbrel, including twelve at Porta Buidhe also on 26th. One Whimbrel which had been ringed on a southern Arran shore two years ago was reported again almost on the same shore for the second year in a row having again spent the winter in Africa!
Migration was also in evidence from the widespread reports received of Goldfinch, Siskin and Lesser Redpoll moving through people's gardens throughout the month. Larger garden numbers reported included; eleven Goldfinch in Kildonan on 10th, six Siskin in Shiskine on 14th and six Lesser Redpoll in Torbeg on 25th. Tens of thousands of birds seem to be moving through the island at this time of year.
In April there were one hundred and seventeen species recorded on Arran. Here is a further small selection from this list: five Goosander at Machriewaterfoot on 6th, two Moorhen on Mossend Pond on 7th, a pair of Yellowhammer in Lochranza on 26th, a Dipper at Lagg also on 26th and the long-staying Water Pipit first reported in 23 February was last reported on 4 April. Finally it was good to see an increase in the reports of Greenfinch in April. They may be on the recovery.
My thanks to the many people who have been in touch to share their sightings in what has been a remarkable month. Those of common birds are as welcome as those of rare ones. May should be an equally interesting month with the arrival of more summer visitors including Lesser Whitethroat, Garden Warbler, Wood Warbler, Swift, Common Tern and, hopefully, even Corncrake and Nightjar.
Finally, 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. Please take a moment to report any signs of breeding birds to me. Already there have been reports of Blue Tits nest building, Robins feeding young, Blackbirds carrying food, Grey Heron with young in the nest, Dipper carrying food and Greenfinch with young out of the nest.
Please remember that under the Nature Conservation (Scotland) Act 2004 it is an offence to intentionally or recklessly damage or destroy the nest of any wild bird while it is being built or used.
Take particular care on our shores and beaches and please keep your dogs on a lead at this time.