In March the arrangements to control the spread of Covid-19 started to have a major impact on all our lives but in terms of the number of bird species reported on Arran the arrangements had no impact. There were ninety-four bird species reported on Arran in March 2019 and exactly the same number this March. Some of the species were different, for example in terms of winter visitors Brambling was reported in 2019 but not 2020, whereas Fieldfare was not reported in 2019 but was reported this year.
Irrespective of Covid-19, spring 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. This March had around half the rainfall of March 2019 and the second half of March this year was particularly dry with latterly the wind coming from a northerly direction. It was during this more settled spell that a few pioneer summer migrants did arrive. The first Chiffchaff was reported from the track from Lamlash to Brodick on 21st. By the end of the month Chiffchaff were widespread including seven singing in Auchenhew Bay on 31st. The first Wheatear was on Holy Isle on 22nd followed by three on Porta Buidhe the following day. On 30th a White Wagtail was reported at Kilpatrick Point These were all the migrant species reported in March. April should see improving weather and the arrival of other migrants like Sand Martin, Sandwich Tern, Swallow, House Martin, Willow Warbler, Common Sandpiper and Cuckoo – all signs of the approaching summer. Please keep me posted.
In March, our winter visitors were still to the fore including: sixty-three Wigeon at Machriewaterfoot on 4th, one Iceland Gull by the Fisherman's Walk on 15th, five White-fronted Geese in Torbeg on 17th, three hundred and seventy Greylag Geese in Feorline on 22nd, seventy-five Fieldfare at Cosyden on 23rd, twenty Pink-footed Geese and thirty Redwing in Shiskine on 24th and thirty-four Teal at Kilpatrick Point on 28th.
In March there were many signs of migration including: twenty Whooper Swan flying over Clachaig on 2nd, a flock of over two hundred Chaffinch and Linnet at Machrie on 4th, thirty Pied Wagtail on Lochranza Golf Course on 17th, thirty-six Turnstone at Dougarie on 19th, two Common Scoter off Cosyden on 23rd, two hundred Starling at Tormore on 25th, six Black-throated Diver off Imachar on 28th and after 19th there was a huge decline reported from several areas in the number of Goldfinch and Siskin at feeders, as these species began to move north.
Here is a small selection of other interesting March records: one hundred and fifty-two Eider off Cosyden on 4th, three Goosander by the mouth of the Black Water on 5th, a Little Grebe and two Moorhen at Mossend Pond on 8th, seventeen Gannet off Plada on 13th, two Dipper in Machrie Water on 14th, fifteen Shelduck at Cosyden on 23rd, six Common Crossbill at Cnochan Biorach on 28th, and a White-tailed Eagle off Pirnmill on 31st was the fourth record this month.
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: Skylark singing Creag Ghlas Cuithe on 19th, Wren displaying in Cordon on 20th, Great Spotted Woodpecker drumming at Shedog on 24th, Grey Herons nesting in Lagg on 25th, fifty Shag many with breeding crests off Kilpatrick Point on 26th and a Kestrel chasing a Raven from its territory by Brown Head on 28th. In addition a fledged Woodpigeon was photographed in a garden in Cordon with its parent on 5 March. The young would have hatched early February. The egg having been laid in mid-January!
I am interested in all records of arriving summer migrants and any signs of breeding birds. Even if you are only looking out of your window or checking your garden, there are still plenty of birds to be seen.