The weather in December was a little cooler and a little wetter than November. In comparison with December 2017 it was milder, 1.4 degrees warmer, and wetter with almost twenty percent more rain.
Following on from the reports of Little Egret from various locations round Arran starting on 27 September there was a further report from the east coast at Rubha Salach on 20 December, giving thirteen records in total this year. Given that 2017 saw only the second ever record for Arran, this species may be about to establish here. In a similar vein following on from no records of Red Kite on Arran in 2017, December saw two further reports giving six in total for the year and the report on 10 December was for two Red Kites on the slopes above Corrie and Sannox.
Other visitors in December included: a Purple Sandpiper at Silver Sands on 3rd, a Merlin at Porta Buidhe on 13th, two Dunlin at Kildonan on 15th and nineteen Redwing at Cnocantubha on 16th. In addition the Arctic breeding Long-tailed Duck on the sea at the north end of Whiting Bay on 7th and 9th was a particular highlight.
Wintering wildfowl were to the fore including: thirteen Whooper Swan at Torbeg on 5th, eighty-two Teal at Kilpatrick Point on 11th, one hundred Wigeon in the Shiskine Valley on 16th, four hundred and eighty Greylag Geese in the Shiskine Valley on 28th and with these geese on 31st was a Barnacle Goose.
Groups of wintering birds included: nine Black-throated Diver off Cosyden on 3rd, forty-eight Golden Plover, thirty-seven Turnstone and one hundred Jackdaw at Machriewaterfoot also on 3rd, six Great Northern Diver off Cnoc Buidhe on 10th, forty-nine Curlew at Cordon on 13th, twenty-four Lapwing at Torbeg on 16th, one hundred and ten Starling at Blackwaterfoot on 23rd and fifty-six Rock Pipit in Auchenhew Bay on 26th.
Other interesting records this month included: two male Goosander at Fisherman's Walk on 1st, a Moorhen at Port na Lochan on 23rd, a Dipper at the mouth of the Glenashdalewater on 27th and three Little Grebe in Loch Ranza on 31st. There were further reports of Shelduck returning to Arran after their annual departure to moult with sightings from Auchenhew Bay, Carlo, Kildonan and Kilpatrick. In addition on 29 December there was a report of a Gannet flying west off Silver Sands. At this time of year most Gannet are wintering in the Bay of Biscay or off the west coast of Africa!
Gardens provide a safe refuge for some birds in winter. Among the more unusual records received were: three Greenfinch at Kilpatrick on 1st, a Goldcrest at Pirnmill on 3rd, twelve Long-tailed Tit at Blackwaterfoot on 23rd, four Siskin in Shiskine on 28th and a Great Spotted Woodpecker in Lamlash also on 28th.
Finally, here is a date for your diary: the weekend of Saturday 26 and Monday 28 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”. This year will be the fortieth year of this survey. 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.