The wet unsettled weather that dominated much of the winter came to an end in February with the wind coming latterly from the east. There was no measurable rain after the 19 February and the temperature fell. In comparison with January, February had 40% of the rain of January and the mean temperature was a degree less in February. In comparison with February last year, this February had 60% of the rain of last February and the mean temperature was two degrees lower this February.
Gulls were a feature with reports of two species of uncommon white-winged gulls.A first winter Glaucous Gull was photographed in Catacol Bay on 3rd and a first winter Iceland Gull was photographed among hundreds of Common Gulls in an unharvested crop field by the Castle Drive on 4th.The first returning Lesser Black-backed Gull was reported from Machriewaterfoot on 22nd, an early sign of approaching spring.
Reports of winter visitors included: a Brambling at the Dyemill on 4th, seventeen Rook in Sliddery on 6th, two hundred and fifty Redwing in Shiskine on 8th, two hundred Fieldfare in Feorline on 9th and seven Purple Sandpiper at Silver Sands on 18th.
In February wintering wildfowl were present in numbers including: two hundred and fifty Greylag Geese in Feorline on 2nd, fifty-two Pink-footed Geese on Corriecravie Moor on 7th, a male Goldeneye on Mossend Pond on 8th, thirty-two Teal at Cosyden on 17th, two Whooper Swan at Kilpatrick Farm on 19th and seventy-five Wigeon at Cleiteadh Buidhe on 21st.
Other wintering flocks included: sixteen Common Crossbill in Clauchan Glen on 2nd, thirty Lesser Redpoll at the Dyemill on 4th, sixty Skylark in Sliddery on 6th, eight hundred Common Gull with four hundred Woodpigeon plus eighty Hooded/Carrion Crows in an unharvested crop field by the Castle Drive on 7th, one hundred and twenty Starling at Bennecarrigan on 17th, sixty Curlew in South Feorline on 20th and thirty-six Lapwing in Shiskine on 28th.Some of these flocks may have included birds beginning to migrate north.
The occasional calm days were ideal for sea watching. Reports included: a Red-throated Diver off Imachar on 2nd, five Black-throated Diver off Fairy Dell on 4th and two Great Northern Diver at Dougarie on 9th.There were some signs of approaching spring; eight courting Red-breasted Merganser at Alltgobhlach on 7th, eighteen displaying Eider in Cosyden on 17th,seven Black Guillemot at their breeding colony in Corrie on 25th and three returning Gannet off Clauchlands Point on 26th.
With sources of food for some species of bird becoming scarce, gardens were havens for many species.Among the many garden highlights were; a Great Spotted Woodpecker in Lamlash on 4th, a male Blackcap in Strathwillan on 9th, fifty Siskin in Shiskine on 10th, twenty-two Collared Dove in Blackwaterfoot on 19th and ten Bullfinch in Cordon on 21st.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: two Jack Snipe at Hazelburn on 2nd, fifteen Reed Bunting at Sliddery on 6th, six Yellowhammer also at Sliddery on 8th, three Goosander in Loch Ranza on 13th, a Merlin at Torbeg on 17th, four Little Grebe in Loch Ranza on 25th and a Kingfisher on Fisherman's Walk on 26th .
By the end of the month with most of mainland Scotland covered with snow and biting, freezing winds from the east, the low lying snow-free fields of Arran and the shore itself were areas that seemed at times to be alive with many species of birds foraging for food includingBlackbird, Fieldfare, Lapwing, Mistle Thrush, Redwing, Reed Bunting, Skylark and Song Thrush.With this severe weather stretching into March, the official start of Spring looked to be on hold.
Having said that, March could see the arrival of some 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.