March was warmer and drier than February. While March this year was a little warmer, overall it was a little wetter than March last year. There was a lovely settled spell from 24 to 28 of March. It is an exciting time of year, awaiting the arrival of our summer visitors and seeing the last of our winter visitors leaving. The timing of the northerly spring migration is dependent on the weather, not just locally, but throughout the whole length of the migration route.
The first summer migrants arrived earlier than last year. The first Chiffchaff was reported at Sannox on 11, sixteen days earlier than 2016. The first House Martin was reported at Blackwaterfoot on 22, almost a month earlier than 2016. The first Wheatear was reported at Kilpatrick Point on 20, eight days earlier than 2016. The first Swallow was reported at Kilpatrick Farm on 26, seven days earlier than 2016. The first Sand Martin was reported at Machrie Golf Course on 28, three days earlier than 2016. The first Sandwich Tern, a group of five, was reported at Machriewaterfoot on 31, a day later than 2016. While these first arrivals are interesting, by the end of the month the bulk of our migrants was still anticipated. Please keep me posted. April should also see the arrival of other migrants like Manx Shearwater, White Wagtail, Willow Warbler, Whinchat, Common Sandpiper and Cuckoo – all signs of the approaching summer.
In March, our winter visitors were still to the fore. The highlight was an adult Iceland Gull in the fields in Sliddery and Corriecravie on 17 and 18. This is the first Arran record of this white-winged gull since March 2014. Other wintering species included: five Purple Sandpiper at Silver Sands on 1, one Greenshank at Clauchlands on 9, three Brambling in Sliddery on 17, fifteen Redwing in Sliddery on 18, twenty-two Fieldfare on Kilbride Hill on 26, two Rook in Sliddery also on 26 and thirteen Wigeon at Tormore on 31. In the Shiskine Valley the wintering geese included two hundred and fifty Greylag Geese and thirteen White-fronted Geese on 9. Towards the end of the month skeins of wildfowl were heading north to their breeding grounds including: forty Whooper Swan over Clachaig on 26, with a similar number over Brodick Golf Course on the same date, one hundred and twenty Pink-footed Geese over Dippen on 27 and one hundred Whooper Swan over Shiskine also on 27 and a further eighty Whooper Swan over Shiskine on the 29.
In March there were many signs of this ongoing migration including: in fields twenty-eight Skylark on Kilbride Hill on 5, thirty Lapwing in Clachaig also on 5 and a male Merlin in the Roddin on 9. By the shore there were more signs of migration including: ten Twite on Cleats Shore on 6, three Black-throated Diver and four Common Scoter off Cosyden on 7 and four Great Northern Diver in Machrie Bay on 21. In gardens there were further signs of this northerly movement of birds with thirty-two Siskin in High Kildonan on 17, three Lesser Redpoll in Sliddery on 28 and thirteen Goldfinch in Torbeg on 31.
In a month in which records were received on one hundred and three species, these are a small selection of other interesting records: four Little Grebe in Loch Ranza on 1, seven Common Crossbill in High Kildonan on 7, two Goosander in Whiting Bay on 20 and a Moorhen in Mossend Pond on 26. In addition, it was encouraging to get Short-eared Owl records from five different locations in March.
Spring is a great time to be birding, as most birds are getting on with the business of breeding. The business of breeding involves attracting a mate by song, courtship display and ritual, defining a territory, nest building, and generally establishing relationships. In March the signs were there, including: a Grey Heron carrying twigs in Stronach Wood on 5, seven Fulmar on nesting sites on Drumadoon Cliffs on 6, House Sparrows exploring nest holes in Lamlash on 7, six Eider courting in Loch Ranza on 12, Hen Harrier displaying over Machrie Moor on 24, fourteen Black Guillemot in breeding plumage on Pladda on 25 and among many reports of birds singing, there was one of a Yellowhammer in Sliddery on 29. If it stays to breed it will be the first confirmed breeding of this once widespread familiar farmland bird on Arran since 1999.
I am interested in all records of arriving summer migrants and any signs of breeding birds