With at last a bit of heat, June was noticeably warmer than the cool May. The mean temperature was three degrees higher but June was wetter with three times as much rain as May.In comparison to last June this June had a similar mean temperature but had twice as much rain most of it falling in the first half of the month. The wind direction this June was more easterly than last June.
This easterly wind direction may have assisted the arrival of two unexpected species which winter in India and breed in easternmost Europe across temperate southern Asia. These birds overshot their breeding areas and arrived on Arran! On 4 June an adult Rose-coloured Starling was by the shore at Blackwaterfoot and on 6 June a male Black-headed Bunting was in a garden in Strathwillan. Both are rare birds in the UK. The bunting is the first ever record on Arran. It will feature in a future Bird Note in the "Banner".
The warmer spell of weather benefitted many breeding birds. There were many reports of fledged birds in gardens including unfamiliar looking young birds, like Goldfinch without the red face of the adult birds, spotty young Blackbirds and Robin with spots and no red breast. As well as the more familiar birds like Blackbird, Song Thrush, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Coal Tit and Chaffinch all with young, there were reports of a family of Grey Wagtail in a garden in Corrie on 6th, young Bullfinch being fed in Brodick on 20th, a family group of Long-tailed Tit in Alma park on 24th and young Great Spotted Woodpecker with its distinctive red cap in Auchagallon on 30th. Most prolific of all seemed be to House Sparrow with twenty in Lagg on 27th being one of the larger numbers and also lots of reports of numbers of Siskin and Goldfinch with young around homes across the island. Like last year it was again encouraging to get reports of young Greenfinch from widespread locations. This species had been decimated by the parasitic disease, trichomonas.
Away from gardens there were many signs of breeding including: two hundred Starling with many young birds in Glenkiln on 21st, a Sand Martin colony in Glen Catacol with one hundred and thirty-five nest holes on 23rd, two young Moorhen on Mossend Pond on 24th, a Woodcock with four young at Auchareoch on 26th and activity at the Grey Heron heronries in Stronach Wood, Brodick, Lagg and Whitehouse Wood, Lamlash by the end of the month. In addition the healthy vole population in many areas was beneficial to some breeding raptors. There was also encouraging reports of young Lapwing from four areas. This once widespread farmland breeder is just hanging-on.
Around the coast there were further signs of breeding including: Shelduck with seven young and Mute Swan with eight young at Cosyden on 9th, thirty Black Guillemot by the King's Cave colony on 26th and with the strenuous efforts of local people keeping disturbance on the shore to a minimum, young Oystercatcher and young Ringed Plover were seen on the shore at Kildonan on 27th. In addition the Common Sandpiper, who having travelled from south of the Sahara to breed, had chosen to nest in a garden in Blackwaterfoot, presumably trying to avoid disturbance on the shore from human activity, successfully raised young this year.
Other highlights in a month with again over one hundred species reported included the following: two Sanderling at Blackwaterfoot on 3rd, a Great Northern Diver in Whiting Bay on 4th, two Puffin in Brodick Bay on 10th, a male Tufted Duck on Mossend Pond on 24th, two Swift over High Kildonan also on 24th and that Magpie first reported on 11 May was still in Kildonan on 28 June. Magpie is a vagrant on Arran.
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? Most adult Cuckoos, taking no part in rearing their young, leave around mid to late July. Juveniles leave breeding areas soon after they fledge, quickly becoming independent of their hosts before also migrating south, usually in late July and early August. These young Cuckoos have a white patch on the back of the head.
Finally in July, look out for early signs of breeding being over for some birds this year. These could include the return of some Arctic breeding species to our shores.Remember July is the time when many birds, having raised their young, go about the process of renewing their feathers by moulting them. As birds are vulnerable when they are shedding flight feathers they literally make themselves scarce. On any birding walk you may see fewer birds but they are still around.