The settled weather of April continued into May with no rain recorded in the first ten days. It was warmer and drier than May 2016 with the highest temperature five degrees warmer than last May and the rainfall some twenty percent less than May 2016. Conditions were generally good for birds trying to migrate north and birds getting on with breeding. May, like April, was an interesting birding month, again with over one hundred species recorded.
Here are some highlights. On 8 May there was a report of a Hobby hunting hirundines over Lochranza Golf Course. This record has to be confirmed by the rarities committee. This raptor is a summer visitor to the UK and a rare vagrant to Arran. The last record was in June 2011. On 13 May there were eight Common Crossbill on Brodick Golf Course. A Long-eared Owl seemed to investigate two bird-watchers on the Machrie Moor road at dusk on 14 May. This is the first record of this secretive owl since July 2015. On 21 May a male Black Redstart posed on a post for a Lamlash resident on his regular evening walk. The last record was also in Lamlash in April 2015.
Our regular summer visitors continued to arrive. Here are May "firsts" with the 2016 arrival date in brackets for comparison: Whinchat in Glen Rosa on 1(2 May), Ring Ouzel on Mullach Buidhe on 2 (10 April), Swift over Cleats Shore on 5 (9 May), Wood Warbler in Auchenhew on 7 (no records in 2016), Lesser Whitethroat in Kildonan on 11 ( 11 May), Spotted Flycatcher at Machriewaterfoot on 12 (8 May) and Arctic Tern at Silver Sands on 14 (14 May). In addition, throughout the month the numbers of familiar summer visitors like Swallow, House Martin, Sand Martin, Willow Warbler, Whitethroat, Sedge Warbler and Cuckoo continued to build up. To date there have been no reports this year of Garden Warbler, Common Redstart, Nightjar, Corncrake or Common Tern.
Species who breed further north continued to pass through including: one Black-tailed Godwit at Porta Buidhe on 1, ten Whimbrel also at Porta Buidhe on 3 , two White Wagtail on Cleats Shore on 5, four Great Northern Diver off Millstone Point on 6, ten Dunlin at Torrylinnwaterfoot on 7, a Bar-tailed Godwit at Sliddery Shore on 10, four Black-throated Diver off Cosyden on 11, eight Turnstone at Machriewaterfoot also on 11, three Sandwich Tern at Drumadoon Point on 13 and six Sanderling on Blackwaterfoot shore on 19.
In May, breeding was well underway for many species. Encouraging signs included reports of Golden Eagle, Golden Plover, Hen Harrier, Red-throated Diver and Short-eared Owl all holding breeding territories. Activity was reported from all the monitored heronries on the island but only two reports were received of Lapwing holding territories. While a number of coastal cliffs held nesting Fulmar, I would be interested to receive any reports of young birds. None were reported in 2016 from any colony. However breeding Stonechat were again reported from widespread areas. These delightful birds appear to have recovered after the two consecutive very cold winters. Other breeding records included: around sixty Sand Martin at a new colony in Glen Catacol on 9, five Woodcock roding over Machrie Moor on 14, Dipper with young in Glenashdale on 16, thirty Arctic Tern at the colony on Pladda on 28 and a pair of Shelduck with seven young at Clauchlands also on 28. In addition towards the end of the month, there were lots of reports of garden birds carrying food and feeding recently fledged young.
With the long daylight hours it is a great time of year to be birding. Most birds are getting on with the business of breeding. Please take a moment to report any signs of breeding birds to me, but please also 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. Do not hesitate to report any criminal activity to the local police. Particularly take care on our shores and please keep dogs on their leads at this time of year.