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July 2016

Bird Sightings

While the mean temperature in July was a little lower than June and the rainfall in July was more than double the rainfall in June, the period May to June this year was warmer, mean temperature two degrees higher, and drier, thirty percent less rain, than the same period last year.  This was more conducive than last year to the successful breeding of many species of birds.

For some of our avian summer visitors like the warblers and hirundines which rely on insects to raise their young, the weather conditions were better than last year.  Whereas last year many of these species had given up and left, this year many seemed to be attempting to raise a second brood. Examples included: House Martin and Swallow starting a second brood in Kildonan on 8, Sand Martins with young in Kilpatrick on 13, Grasshopper Warbler setting up breeding territory again in Lakin on 15, a family of Blackcaps, the young with brown caps, in Lamlash on 28  and at least twelve Willow Warbler including many young in a small patch of High Kildonan on 29.

Other signs of a successful breeding season included: ten Blue Tit at Gortonallister on 8, twenty Lesser Redpoll on Corriecravie Moor on 12, one hundred and five House Sparrow in Sliddery on 15, twenty-five Chaffinch in Margnaheglish 24 and, encouragingly, after the devastation caused by a trichomonas parasite, young Greenfinch in Cordon on 8.  It was not just small birds but some larger species also seemed to be doing well including: forty Black Guillemot by King's Caves on 3, Shelduck with ten young at Kilpatrick Point on 14, thriving Herring and Lesser Black-backed Gull colonies on the Holy Isle on 20, young Great Spotted Woodpecker in Lamlash on 24 and six Common Sandpiper on Sliddery Shore on 27.

July marks the end of the breeding season for some birds.  It can be an interesting time looking out for birds that are heading south from their breeding grounds further north. This year there was an exceptional sighting when on Sunday 31 July, a juvenile Red-necked Phalarope was photographed on a pond on a farm in Sliddery. The Red-necked Phalarope breeds in the Arctic regions of North America and Eurasia. It is migratory, wintering pelagically off central-western South America, in the Arabian Sea, and in central Indonesia. This species is a rare vagrant to Arran. It had stopped off on its long flight to refuel. The last Arran record was in August 1983. The bird was also present on 1 August but there was no sign of it on 2 August.

On the 27, a number of these northern breeding species, many still in their breeding plumage, were reported including: a Whimbrel at Kildonan, a Greenshank at Cosyden and six Dunlin, two Sanderling and eight Turnstone at Machriewaterfoot.

These are some other July reports of birds which are already dispersing, flocking or migrating south after breeding: seventy-eight Curlew at Corriecravie on 15, four Black-headed Gull at Sandbraes on 21, fifteen Redshank in Lamlash on 24, four Sandwich Tern at Sandbraes on 24,  twelve Golden Plover at Cosyden on 26, twenty-six Red-breasted Merganser at Machriewaterfoot on 27, one White Wagtail on Sliddery Shore also on 27 and three Wheatear on Silver Sands on 30.

Over one hundred species were reported in July.  Other highlights included: two Moorhen on the pond by Machrie Golf Course on 5, a pair of Bullfinch in Dippin on 9, two Black-throated Diver in Brodick Bay on 12, two Water Rail in Corriecravie on 17, six Swift over High Kildonan on 19, one Common Crossbill in Sliddery on 26 and thirteen Canada Geese on Cleats Shore on 29.  Interestingly, whereas earlier in the year there were reports of up to eighty Gannets together, in July all reports were of single birds.

Finally in the June Bird Notes I wrote “Cuckoos, whose decreasing numbers are a cause for concern nationally, seem to be thriving on Arran. Throughout May and June there have been many widespread reports.  People need no prompting to report the first Cuckoo.  How about reporting when you hear or see the last Cuckoo this year?”   My thanks go to those of you who have responded.  By now the adults will have left the UK leaving the young to be brought up by their foster parents. The young have a distinctive white spot on the nape of the neck. The latest date that I have had so far for a young Cuckoo is one on Newton on 9 July.  

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