April is the month when spring migration gets underway, with arrivals and departures of birds, all seeking their best breeding territories. In comparison to March, April was warmer and drier. There were sixteen dry days. In comparison to last April, this April was wetter. There was double the rainfall of last April. 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.
As reported at the end of March, the first Wheatear, Chiffchaff, and Sand Martin had arrived. Here are April “firsts” with the 2022 arrival date in brackets for comparison: White Wagtail 3rd(13th), Sandwich Tern 3rd(10th), Willow Warbler 5th(28 March), Swallow 6th(6th), House Martin 11th(6th), Common Sandpiper 17th(14th), Cuckoo 19th(17th), Grasshopper Warbler 22nd(17th), Whinchat 26th(24th), Whitethroat 28th(19th) and Sedge Warbler 28th(16th)
In April some of our wintering birds were still around, including fifty Fieldfare in Sannox on 1st, fifteen Whooper Swan in Sliddery on 3rd, thirty-four Teal at Kilpatrick Point on 7th, two Purple Sandpiper on Dhunan shore also on 7th, three hundred and fifty Pink-footed Geese flying over the south of Arran on 15th and a Rook in Sliddery on 25th.
April is an ideal time for watching migration. These are a few examples: a Merlin at Glenashdalewaterfoot on 2nd, eight Lesser Black-backed Gull at Porta Buidhe on 5th, an Osprey over Sliddery on 8th, two hundred and seventy Manx Shearwater passing through Whiting Bay in an hour on 13th, nineteen Golden Plover by Lagg Distillery on 16th, twenty Turnstone Catacol Bay on 16th, a Bar-tailed Godwit in Porta Buidhe on 22nd, seven White Wagtail in Porta Buidhe on 26th, and three Dunlin in Blackwaterfoot on 28th. In addition, groups of migrating Whimbrel were reported including sixteen at Porta Buidhe on 26th, twenty-five at Tormore on 28th and thirty-one at Blackwaterfoot on 29th. One of these Whimbrel, A2, had been ringed on a southern Arran shore in 2017. For more information on A2 click here. Migration was also in evidence from the widespread reports received of Goldfinch and Siskin moving through people's gardens throughout the month. Tens of thousands of birds seem to be moving through the island at this time of year.
In April there were over one hundred and ten species recorded on Arran. One of these, a Little Egret , over-wintered on Arran but seemed to have left on 27 February. On 27 April there was a report of a single bird at Carlo. Here is a further small selection from this list: five Great Northern Diver off Kilpatrick Point on 7th, a Puffin off Lochranza pier also on 7th, a leucistic Herring Gull in Blackwaterfoot on 9th, twenty Gannet off Pirnmill on 11th, three Goosander in Loch Ranza on 16th, eight Shelduck at Kilpatrick Pint on 21st, six Common Crossbill at Tormusk on 22nd, five Red-throated Diver in Whiting Bay on 26th and thirty displaying Red-breasted Merganser in Machrie Bay on 27th.
From a birding point of view, May should be an equally interesting month with the bulk of our summer visitors arriving including more species like Tree Pipit, Garden Warbler, Lesser Whitethroat, Wood Warbler, Spotted Flycatcher, Arctic Tern and hopefully, even Corncrake and Nightjar. Please continue to keep me posted on all summer visitors in your area. Your ongoing support is much appreciated.
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, Blackbirds carrying food, fledged Ravens, Fulmars on breeding cliffs and Lapwing displaying in a small number of areas.
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. They are a danger to all our ground nesting birds.