On Wednesday 8 April Fiona Laing was on her regular early morning round island delivery route when she saw a bird that she instantly recognised as a Hoopoe. She wrote “I'll admit I think I yelled Hoopoe when I saw it fly in front of the van.” And no wonder. The Hoopoe is an exotic looking bird that is about the size of a mistle thrush. It has a pinkish-brown body, striking black and white wings, a long black downcurved bill, and a long pinkish-brown crest which it raises when excited. With broad, rounded wings, it has a characteristic undulating flight which is like that of a giant butterfly as the wings half close at the end of each beat.
Fiona explained that she saw it below Levencorrach, stopped and managed to get a photograph as it landed in the hedgerow trees. The image was more than good enough to confirm identification. It then headed off towards the houses.
At around the same time Pauline Nicolson was heading in the opposite direction from her home in Shannochie to her workplace in Cooriedoon, Whiting Bay. She also saw the bird but did not know what it was. However Maggie Dunn, the resident bird expert in Cooriedoon, was able to help with identification.
The Eurasian Hoopoe is widespread in the warmer parts of Europe, Asia, and North Africa and northern Sub-Saharan Africa. Most European and north Asian birds migrate to the tropics in winter. It does not breed in the UK, but does turn up from time to time mainly in the spring, when birds heading north overshoot their usual destinations and finish up much further north.
From the Arran Natural History Society records, there have been three previous reports of Hoopoe on Arran. The last occasion was in July 2006 when a single bird turned up in a garden in Thunderguy. It was photographed by Graham Ross.
I will leave the last word to Fiona who wrote after her encounter “A stunning bird and in these sad times has really cheered me up.”