The weather in December was characterised by mild temperatures with no negative temperatures. Indeed the mean temperature was three degrees warmer than November. It was also twenty-five percent drier than last December but in the few days leading up to Christmas the island was swept by storm force Atlantic fronts.
Waxwings, first reported in November, continued to be reported throughout December including twenty photographed by the Goat Fell track on 2 and thirteen in a garden in Corrie on 30. These berry-loving, colourful birds from Northern Europe sometimes venture into the UK during winter if there is a shortage of food in their Scandinavian breeding area. While they are not reported every winter in the UK, let's hope that they continue to be reported on Arran this winter
Other winter visitors included: eighty Rook on Clachaig Farm on 1, three hundred Fieldfare and sixty Redwing at the entrance to Cnoc na Dail on 10, twelve Purple Sandpiper on Hamilton Rock also on 10, two Brambling in Sliddery on 26 and six Yellowhammer in Hazelburn on 27.
Wintering wildfowl were to the fore including: twenty-two Pink-footed Goose in Shiskine on 2, one hundred and fifty-six Teal at Kilpatrick Point on 3, a Tufted Duck on Mossend Pond on 7, four hundred Greylag Goose in Shiskine on 9, twenty Common Scoter and thirty-six Wigeon in Cosyden on 10, two Whooper Swan in Shiskine also on 10, a long staying female Scaup by the Fisherman's Walk also on 10 and three Goldeneye on Mossend Pond on 29.
Groups of wintering birds included: four hundred Starling in Sliddery on 4, forty-two Lapwing in Kilpatrick on 6, eight Black-throated Diver and five Great Northern Diver in Cosyden on 10, one hundred and twelve Golden Plover at Machriewaterfoot on 11, two hundred Chaffinch in Sliddery on 12, thirty-seven Turnstone in Kildonan on 13 and over four hundred Common and Herring Gulls on Silver Sands on 14.
Gardens provided a safe refuge for some birds and among the more unusual records received, as well as the Waxwings mentioned earlier in these bird notes, were: a male Blackcap in Kilpatrick on 5, nine Coal Tit also in Kilpatrick on 6, five Long-tailed Tit in Alma Park on 23 and a Great Spotted Woodpecker in Margnaheglish on 25.
Other interesting records this month included: a male Goosander at the mouth of the Iorsa on 4, two Jack Snipe in Hazelburn also on 4, a female Merlin hunting over Shiskine Golf Course also on 4, two Little Grebe in Loch Ranza on 10, five Fulmar on Drumadoon Cliffs on 11, a Dipper at Glenashdalewaterfoot on 26 and a spectacular display by an immature White-tailed Eagle being mobbed by Buzzard in Clauchan Glen on 17. noteworthy records included these. After their autumn absence for their post-breeding moult, Shelduck returned to the island, first to Cleats Shore on 9. In addition, there were reports of courting Red-breasted Merganser including five off Rubha Salach on 31.
Finally, here is a date for your diary: the weekend of Saturday 28 and Monday 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 over thirty 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 http://www.rspb.org.uk/birdwatch/ . If you do decide to take part, please share your records with me.