In February, the mild winter continued with only five days where the temperature was in negative figures. The mean temperature was a degree and a half warmer than last February. There was 25% more rain than last February but fewer winter storms. There was also about 25% more rain than January. To sum up, the weather was changeable with the coldest spell being around 11 February.
Winter visitors were to the fore including: nine Purple Sandpiper at Silver Sands on 8, eight Redwing at Torbeg on 9, twenty-five Fieldfare at Cnoc Dubh on 23, one Rook at Sliddery on 24, two Brambling at Sliddery on 27 and throughout the month the long staying Greenshank at Clauchlands. The largest group of wintering Yellowhammer was ten at Sliddery on 7 but there has been no report of Waxwing since the turn of the year
Wintering wildfowl were present in numbers including: one hundred and twenty Teal at Kilpatrick Point on 4, forty-seven Pink-footed Geese in Kilmory on 14, eighty-two Wigeon at Machrie on 15, two hundred and twenty Greylag Geese at Feorline on 16 and two male Goldeneye on Mossend Pond on 18.
Other wintering flocks included: forty-two Redshank at Sandbraes on 3, 200 Common Gull at Lenamhor Farm on 4, 100 Herring Gull at Kilpatrick Point also on 4, twenty-four Lapwing at Kilpatrick on 6, ninety-six Curlew at Corriecravie on 9, one hundred and seventy-nine Jackdaw at Machrie on 12, one hundred and fifty Starling at Kilpatrick on 18, one hundred Chaffinch at Clachaig on 21 and one hundred and thirty-five Skylark at Sliddery on 24. Some of these flocks may have included birds beginning to migrate north.
The occasional calm days were ideal for sea watching. Reports included: five Black-throated Diver off Rubha Creagan Dubha on 12, six Great Northern Diver off Cosyden on 15 and two Red-throated Diver in Whiting Bay on 18. There were some signs of approaching spring with some reports of species in full courtship display including forty Eider off Cosyden on 15 and fourteen Red-breasted Merganser in Whiting Bay on 24.
With sources of food for some species of bird becoming scarce, gardens were havens for many species. Among the many garden highlights were eight Coal Tit at Torbeg on 8, ten Long-tailed Tit in Brodick on 9, a Great Spotted Woodpecker at Cordon on 17 and ten Goldfinch in Shiskine on 26. Increasingly, numbers of Siskin on their annual journey north began to appear at garden feeders including three in Whiting Bay on 22. It was also encouraging to receive more reports of Greenfinch. This once common species has been decimated in recent years by the parasitic disease trichomonas.
Other sightings included: a pair of Goosander off the Craw on 1, two Little Grebe on Mossend Pond on 3, one Moorhen also on Mossend Pond on 5, one Water Rail at Corriecravie on 9, one Twite at Sliddery on 19 and two Dipper at Cordon on 24.
As well as displaying Eider and Red-breasted Merganser on the coast, other signs of approaching spring included; a Blackbird in splendid song outside the Co-op in Brodick on 1, a Grey Heron in full-breeding plumage at Strabane on 5, twenty House Sparrow nest building in Lamlash on 5, twelve courting Fulmar on the cliffs at Drumadoon on 7, Woodpigeon on a nest in Clachaig on 23, Raven nesting Clauchan Glen on 25 and returning Lesser Black-backed Gull in Kildonan on 26. In addition, in February there were reports of returning Gannet from twelve locations around the island.
Finally, March could see the start of the arrival of our summer visitors like Wheatear, Chiffchaff, Willow Warbler, Sand Martin, even Swallow and House Martin, but their arrival will be dependent on the weather. Keep an eye out for these migrants and let me know when you first see them.