The weather in December could best be described as changeable. There were mild periods with heavy rain, and cold, bright, dry spells. There were days with snow on the hills and occasionally on lower ground and the year ended by the island being swept by a storm force Atlantic front.
Following on from the report of two juvenile White-tailed Eagles on the west coast in November which was the first report of this rare vagrant to Arran this year, an adult bird was reported in Clauchan Glen on 2nd December. The observer’s attention was drawn to a commotion with three Buzzards and a Raven calling and wheeling around a White-tailed Eagle perched at the top of a broken-off lone pine. The mobbing by the smaller birds drove the eagle off. It dwarfed the other species and gave great views of its short white tail and broad long wings as it flew south.
Other visitors in December included: seven Purple Sandpiper in Silver Sands on 1st, seven Rook in Sliddery on 9th, a Brambling also in Sliddery on 12th, twelve Yellowhammer also in Sliddery on 15th, a female Blackcap in Cordon on 19th and one hundred and twenty Fieldfare with forty-five Redwing on Corriecravie Moor on 23rd. In addition there was a report of a Chiffchaff in Sliddery on 2nd. This regular summer visitor has been increasingly reported over-wintering in more southern parts of the UK.
Wintering wildfowl were to the fore including: two hundred Greylag Goose in the Shiskine Valley on 10th, forty-two Wigeon in Machrie Bay on 12th, eight Pink-footed Goose in Hazelburn on 20th, two White-fronted Goose flying over Corriecravie Moor on 24th, five Goldeneye at Clauchlands on 28th, fifty Teal in South Carlo on 29th and a Whooper Swan by Mossend Pond on 31st.
Groups of wintering birds included: one hundred Jackdaw in the Shiskine Valley on 3rd, eleven Wren roosting in a reed bed in Kildonan on 9th, twenty-two Lapwing in Kilpatrick on 11th, one hundred and twenty Skylark in Sliddery on 15th, twenty-eight Snipe in Hazelburn on 19th, six Great Northern Diver off Blackwaterfoot on 21st, one thousand gull mainly Common Gull and Herring Gull in Hazelburn on 29th and five hundred Woodpigeon by Mossend Pond on 30th.
Other interesting records this month included: two Black-throated Diver off Cosyden on 12th, a Kingfisher by Fisherman’s Walk also on 12th, a Woodcock by the entrance to Cnoc na Dail on 16th, a pair of Goosander in Catacol Bay on 20th, a Little Grebe in Loch Ranza on 30th, a Moorhen in Mossend Pond on 31st and a Dipper at the mouth of the Glenashdalewater also on 31st.
Gardens provide a safe refuge for some birds in winter. Among the more unusual records received were: ten Long-tailed Tit in Lamlash on 15th, a Treecreeper in Invercloy on 18th, two Common Crossbill in Sliddery on 19th, four Goldcrest in Shannochie on 21st, a Great Spotted Woodpecker in the Lakin on 28th, a Lesser Redpoll in Cordon on 29th and five Siskin in Torbeg on 30th.
Finally, here is a date for your diary: the weekend of Saturday 27 and Monday 29 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.