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December 2023

Bird Sightings
December was wet, very wet. While December had a similar mean temperature to November it was considerably wetter with more than six times the amount of rain. With a number of disruptive storms, over 200mm of rain fell in December, making it by far the wettest month of the year. In comparison to last December, this December was wetter with about twice the amount of rain.

This unsettled spell had an impact on our birds. For example, on Thursday 14 December there was a report of around 3,000 birds feeding in the comparative shelter of Kilbrannan Sound off Pirnmill. This spectacle included a range of gull species including Kittiwake, Common Gull, Herring Gull, Great Black-backed Gull, a range of auks including Guillemot and Razorbill plus numerous Shags and Cormorants. In addition, on Sunday 31 December there was a report of a single Gannet off Newton Point. Gannet normally winter further south off Spain or west Africa. The last Arran record was one off Pirnmill on 7 November. Not sure if this record was a lingering bird or an early returning bird but the weather in the Atlantic had been very lively.

Winter visitors included: three Rook in Kilpatrick on 4th, four Purple Sandpiper on Silver Sands on 7th, two Dunlin in Blackwaterfoot on 11th and ten Redwing in Corriecravie also on 11th. In addition, there was an overwintering male Blackcap in a Lamlash garden that was first reported on 11th that was still there at the end of the month.
Wintering wildfowl were to the fore including: three Pink-footed Geese with four-hundred Greylag Geese in the Shiskine Valley on 3rd, seven Wigeon in Machrie Bay on 5th, seven Whooper Swan in Pirnmill on 14th, forty Teal in Carlo on 26th and two White-fronted Geese in the Shiskine Valley on 31st.
Other groups of wintering birds included: one hundred Woodpigeon in Torbeg on 3rd, twenty Reed Bunting on Burrican Hill on 5th, fifty Starling in Kilpatrick on 6th, twenty-five Lapwing in Kilpatrick on 8th, one hundred Jackdaw in Feorline on 11th, twenty-four Turnstone on Silver Sands on 13th, two-hundred Chaffinch in Kilpatrick on 15th and forty-one Curlew at Clauchlands on 26th.
Again, this year, both Kingfisher and Little Egret appeared on Arran after the breeding season. In December there were three further reports of Kingfisher, all from the east coast of Arran including one on the shore in front of the Arran Active store on 27th. All were of single birds. In addition, in December there were forty-one further reports of Little Egret. While most reports were from the east coast there were five from the west coast. All were single birds except for two at Rubha Salach on 2nd, two at Merkland on 19th and two at South Carlo on 24th.
Other interesting records this month included: a Moorhen in Port na Lochan on 4th, a Dipper in Sannox on 6th, a Little Grebe in Port na Lochan on 11th, four Black-throated Diver off Corrie on 18th, a pair of Goosander at Clauchlands on 26th, six Great Northern Diver off Pirnmill also on 26th and also on Boxing Day, a juvenile White-tailed Eagle over Machrie Moor that gave a flying exhibition.
Although still in the depth of winter there were some signs of approaching spring with, nine Red-breasted Merganser displaying by Whitefarland on 5th, sixteen Eider courting in Whiting Bay on 27th , a Great Spotted Woodpecker drumming in Brodick Country Park on 15th and a Starling singing in Shiskine on 31st .

Gardens provide a safe refuge for some birds in winter.  Among the many records received were: thirty House Sparrow in Kilpatrick on 3rd, nine Goldfinch in Pirnmill on 13th, eight Coal Tit and two Greenfinch at Lagg on 15th, ten Blue Tit and twenty Great Tit at Pirnmill on 24th and five Robin in Kildonan on 30th.
Finally, here is a date for your diary: the weekend of Friday 26 to Sunday 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”. 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.
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