The unsettled weather in January continued into February. In comparison to last February, February 2020 was milder and wetter. There were three named storms with prolonged spells of wet and windy weather. The resulting rainfall in February was more than double that of February 2019. The weather was not conducive to being out of doors and this may have had an impact on the number of species seen in February which was down from ninety-six in 2019 to eighty this year.
Birding highlights included two reports of Waxwing. Both sightings on 24 February of this normally gregarious winter visitor were of a single bird, one photographed in a garden in Cordon in the morning and the other reported in a garden in Brodick at lunchtime. Same bird? In addition there was a report of three Snow Bunting on Sannox shore on 27th, as well as reports of a single Snow Bunting in Pirnmill during the month. The Sannox sighting was from a delighted couple who had never seen the species before. On 29th another observer was also delighted to see not one but two white-winged gull species at Thunderguy in a flock of more common resting gulls. The Iceland Gull and Glaucous Gull were both first-winter gulls . These Arctic breeding species are not reported every winter on Arran.
Wintering wildfowl continued to be present including: a male Goldeneye on Mossend Pond on 10th, seven White-fronted Geese in the Shiskine Valley on 11th, three hundred and fifty Greylag Geese also in the Shiskine Valley on 17th, twelve Wigeon in Auchenhew Bay on 26th and twenty Teal at Carlo also on 26th.
Other wintering flocks included: forty-six Goldfinch on Brodick shore on 1st, two hundred and fifty Chaffinch with two hundred Linnet and ten Twite in one field in Machrie on 9th, fifteen Turnstone in Porta Buidhe on 6th, a mixed flock of Redwing and Fieldfare of around eighty birds at Clachaig on 9th, forty Curlew at Clauchlands on 16th, twelve Lapwing at Shannochie on 20th, five Golden Plover at Catacol on 27th and eighty Jackdaw at Machrie also on 27th. In addition wintering Blackcap were reported from gardens in Whiting Bay and Alma Park.
Other sightings included: one Dipper in Lochranza on 2nd, three Great Northern Diver off Kildonan on 4th, one Yellowhammer on Brodick Golf Course also on 4th, one Puffin in Brodick Bay on 7th, two Moorhen on Mossend Pond on11th, one White-tailed Eagle over Dougarie on 16th, one Merlin on Kilpatrick Farm also on 16th, four Little Grebe Loch Ranza on 23rd, four Bullfinch in Cordon on 24th and a Kingfisher on the Rosa Burn on 27th. In addition the long-staying Magpie in Kildonan first reported on 11 May 2019 may have been last reported on 2 February. In forty years of the Arran Bird Report this is by far the longest staying Magpie on Arran.
Gannet seemed slow to return this year with only three records, two Pirnmill on 11th, one Kildonan on 21st and one Lamlash Bay on 22nd. A returning Lesser Black-backed Gull was reported from Shannochie on 16th. Other signs of approaching spring included: Grey Heron nest building in Stronach Wood on 2nd, pair of Golden Eagle displaying over Lochranza on 3rd, four Fulmar exploring nest sites in Catacol on 18th, Great Spotted Woodpecker drumming in Brodick Castle Gardens on 19th, twenty Eider displaying off Cosyden on 20th and Song Thrush and Wren singing in Kilpatrick on 28th. By the end of the month there were signs that spring was on its way.
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.