While last July was the wettest July in my thirteen years as bird recorder, this July was much drier with about fifty percent less rain than last year. Generally, the warm settled spell that started in late May continued throughout July. In the main this was conducive to birds raising young and many species had a good breeding season. There were widespread reports of Swallow and House Martin with young and the Sand Martin colonies in Sannox and in Catacol were thriving. Another measure of the successful breeding season came from the local bird ringing group, who in three hours in Auchenhew Bay on 24 July caught and ringed fifty-two Willow Warbler, forty-eight of which were young birds. Some observers reported gardens "awash" with young birds including Blue Tit, Great Tit, Coal Tit, House Sparrow, Robin, Song Thrush, Blackbird, Chaffinch, Goldfinch, Siskin and encouragingly, Greenfinch.
Other signs of a successful breeding season included: a family of Dipper in Gleann Easan Biorach on 4th, seven Grey Heron on Loch a' Mhuilinn on 8th, a crèche of four female with eight young Eider in Loch Ranza on 18th, a pair of Mute Swan with five young at Glenashdalewaterfoot on 19th, a female Red-breasted Merganser with five young by Fisherman's Walk on 20th, a family of Grey Wagtail at Port a' Ghille Ghlais also on 20th, a young Great Spotted Woodpecker in Sliddery on 21st, four young and two adult Kestrel over Torr Mhoile also on 21st, a pair of Shelduck with six flying young at Kilpatrick Point on 24th, a family of Common Sandpiper at Whitefarland on 25th and a family of Spotted Flycatcher at Shannochie on 29th.
There was some concern expressed that low water levels in some hill lochans had affected breeding Red-throated Divers and that Barn Owl breeding may have been delayed as a result of the extended wintry spell of weather in March/April.
July marks the end of the breeding season for some birds. It can be an interesting time looking out for birds dispersing after breeding. This year a Rose-coloured Starling turned up in Sliddery almost exactly a year after one had appeared in Sliddery last year. This year it was reported from Thursday 19 July to Saturday 21 July. This was an exceptional sighting. The previous Arran record was in June 2002. The Rose-coloured Starling's breeding range is from easternmost Europe across temperate southern Asia. The next bird note in the "Banner" will feature this species.
A number of northern breeding species heading south from their breeding grounds, many still in their breeding plumage, were reported, including: a Great Northern Diver in Catacol Bay on 1st, a Greenshank in Lochranza on 12th, eight Turnstone in Machriewaterfoot on 13th, fifty-four Golden Plover also in Machriewaterfoot on 19th, two Whimbrel and four Sandwich Tern at Silver Sands on 28th and three Dunlin at Blackwaterfoot on 29th.
Around hundred species were reported in July. Other highlights included: a Moorhen and a Little Grebe on Mossend Pond on 19th, twelve Manx Shearwater in Brodick Bay on 26th, eleven Puffin off the Cock of Arran on 27th and three Swift over Clachaig Farm on 28th.
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 in Glen Sannox on 26 July.