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March 2024

Bird Sightings
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. On Arran, March was wet. It was yet another wet month. December 2023 was the wettest month of 2023. That has been followed by three wet months this year. Comparing the rainfall for January to March for 2023 with the first three months of this year, this year there has been over 20% more rain. A few pioneer summer migrants did arrive. On the 17th the first Wheatear was reported at Thunderguy. There were six further records in March. Last year the first record was 21st . On 18th the first Chiffchaff was reported at North Kiscadale. There were ten further records in March. Last year the first record was 23rd . On 31st the first Willow Warbler was reported from Auchencar. There was one other record. Last year the first record was 5th April. These were all the regular summer visitor species reported in March. April should see improving weather and the arrival of other migrants like Sedge Warbler, White Wagtail, Sandwich Tern, Manx Shearwater, Swallow, House Martin, 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: twenty-eight Wigeon in Machrie Bay on 1st, four hundred Greylag geese in Shiskine Valley on 8th, forty-five teal on Sliddery Shore on 9th, four Purple Sandpiper on Silver Sands on 11th, a female Blackcap in Corrie on 28th and ten Fieldfare in Strathwillan also on 28th. In addition, some winter visitors were heading north including sixty-nine Whooper Swan over Sliddery on 4th and two hundred Pink-footed Geese over Kildonan on 29th.

In March there were many other signs of migration. One hundred and fourteen Curlew on Corriecravie shore on 1st, nine Black-throated Diver and twenty-one Great Northern Diver in Machrie Bay on 2nd, the second Osprey of the year over Porta Buidhe on 16th, twelve Golden Plover, twenty-eight Turnstone and thirty-nine Ringed Plover at Machriewaterfoot also 16th, a Sanderling in Blackwaterfoot on 19th, two reports of a single male Ring Ouzel on the northern hills on 24th, and a Great Skua in Brodick Bay on 30th. In addition, there was a pair of Garganey in Auchenhew Bay on the 11th. This is only the third Arran record of this summer visitor. Garganey will feature in a future bird note.

Gannet sightings began to slowly increase during the month with seven off Pirnmill on 30th being the largest group reported. In addition, there was an increase in numbers of Goldfinch and Siskin at garden feeders from several areas, as these species began to move north.
In a month when around one hundred species were reported, here is a small selection of other interesting March records: two reports from the west coast of a single White-tailed Eagle, sixteen Lapwing in the Shiskine Valley on 4th, four Common Scoter off Machriewaterfoot on 16th, a Red Grouse on Mullach Buidhe on 30th, a Water Rail at Lakin Farm on 31st and two further reports of a single Red Kite, following on from two reports in February, one at the Rodden on 27th and one at Whitefarland on 30th. In addition, there were three reports of leucistic birds in March. Leucistic birds will feature in a future bird note.
Again, Little Egret seems to have over-wintered on Arran. That’s the third year in a row. Unlike last year when there were no March records, this year there were records throughout March including two on the shore at Strathwillan on 29th. Perhaps one year they will stay to breed.

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: nine Shag all with their wispy breeding crest at Balliekine on 15th, Great Spotted Woodpecker drumming in Lagg on 25th, Skylark singing over Machrie Moor on 29th. seventy Eider courting off Kingscross Point on 30th and numerous reports of sky dancing Hen Harriers display flying over Arran’s moors.
I am interested in all records of arriving summer migrants and any signs of breeding birds.
Please remember that under the Nature Conservation (Scotland) Act 2004 it is an offence to intentionally or recklessly damage or destroy the nest of any wild bird while it is being built or used.  Take particular care on our shores and beaches and please keep your dogs on a lead at this time. They are a danger to all our ground nesting birds.
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