In May spring arrived, with the temperature building up during the month giving a particularly settled spell towards the end of the month. There was no rain at all after the 20th and temperatures were in the twenties after the 24th. Although there was a cold start to the month, it was generally warmer and drier than recent Mays. 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.
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. In addition to the "firsts" reported in the April notes, here are some further "firsts" with the 2017 arrival dates in brackets for comparison: Lesser Whitethroat on Cleats Shore on 30 April (11 May), two Swift over Blackwaterfoot on 5th ( 5 May) and a Garden Warbler in Gortonallister on 31st (28 June). There were only two records of Garden Warbler in 2017. To date there have been no reports this year of Wood Warbler, Common Redstart, Nightjar, Corncrake or Common Tern.
Species who breed further north continued to pass through including: seven Turnstone and two Black-throated Diver in Blackwaterfoot on 3rd, six White Wagtail at Drumadoon Point on 5th, six Dunlin on the shore by Shiskine Golf Course on 6th, a Whooper Swan at Clauchlands also on 6th, six Sandwich Tern in Lamlash Bay on 7th, two Whimbrel at Kilpatrick Point also on 7th and eight Great Northern Diver off Drumadoon Point on 13th.
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 three 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 2017 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. There were also May reports of Kingfisher in two possible breeding territories. To date there has been no confirmed breeding of Kingfisher on Arran. Other breeding records included: around thirty Sand Martin at a new colony in Glen Catacol on 8th, Dipper with young in Glenashdale on 9th, three Woodcock roding over Machrie Moor on 12th, nineteen Black Guillemot off Whitefarland on 13th, a family of Shelduck near Bennan Head on 23rd and a report of Common Sandpiper nesting in a garden in Blackwaterfoot on 27th. In addition towards the end of the month, there were lots of reports of garden birds carrying food and feeding recently fledged young.
Here are some other highlights: fifty Gannet feeding in Machrie Bay on 18th, two Puffin feeding off Pirnmill on 31st, only the second Arran record this year, and an adult Mediterranean Gull flying along Sliddery Shore also on 31st. The last Arran record of this vagrant gull was in 2015. Finally it was encouraging to receive increasing numbers of reports of Greenfinch whose numbers have been decimated in recent years by the trichomonas parasite
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.