In terms of weather May was almost a re-run of April with similar rainfall and temperature. In comparison to last May, this May was cooler, with a mean temperature 1.5 degrees lower, and drier with over 40% less rain this May, most of it falling in the last week. The wind direction this May was more often from a northerly direction whereas last May it was more from a southerly direction. There was a feeling that spring was arriving but a little delayed. Conditions were generally good for birds trying to get on with breeding but Swallow and House Martin seemed to be delaying nesting perhaps because of the dry conditions. In addition the absence of southerly winds seemed to be holding up northward migration with the result that many more species were seen on Arran this May than previous recent Mays.
It was an exceptional month with one hundred and twenty-two species recorded some of which had not been recorded on Arran for a number of years. These included the following uncommon passage migrants, irregular summer visitors and vagrants. (The last year recorded on Arran is shown in brackets): a male Pied Flycatcher(1998) in Corriecravie on 3 May; two Dotterel(2012) on the northern hills on 4th and 5th; a Green Sandpiper(2008) in Blackwaterfoot on 11th; an immature female type Marsh Harrier(2004) by Machrie Farm on 18th; and a Coot(2016) on Mossend Pond on 30th.
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 2018 arrival dates in brackets for comparison, all later this year: Lesser Whitethroat at Fairhaven on 1st (30 April), two Swift over Glenscorrodale on 10th ( 5 May), a Spotted Flycatcher in Brodick Castle Gardens on 11th (30 April), four Arctic Tern on Pladda on 14th (20 April) and a Wood Warbler in Pirnmill on 17th. There were no records of Wood Warbler in 2018. 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; twenty-five Whimbrel in Auchenhew Bay on 1st, eleven Turnstone in Catacol Bay on 2nd, a Greenshank on Porta Buidhe on 5th, twenty-two Sandwich Tern at Machriewaterfoot on 6th, two Bar-tailed Godwit and an Arctic Skua at Blackwaterfoot 11th, a White Wagtail at Porta Buidhe also on 11th, a Knot at Drumadoon Point on 13th, four Great Northern Diver and three Sanderling at Drumadoon Point on 15th and seventeen Dunlin on Silver Sands on 22nd.
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 and four areas held small numbers of breeding Lapwing. A number of coastal cliffs held single figure numbers of nesting Fulmar which seem to be in serious decline on Arran. I would be interested to receive any reports of young birds. None were reported in 2017 or 2018 from any colony. By contrast the Black Guillemot colonies seem to be thriving. Other breeding records included: seven Woodcock roding over Machrie Moor on 11th, a family of Dipper in Glenashdale on 13th, around twenty occupied Sand Martin nest holes in Glen Catacol on 16th, a pair of Canada Geese with five young in Auchenhew Bay on 16th, a pair of Shelduck with ten young at Kilpatrick Point on 24th and a pair of Mute Swan with six young at Clauchlands 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, including young Goldcrest in Lochranza on 29th.
Here are some other highlights: sixty Gannet off Sandbraes on 15th and after the reports in April, two further reports of Osprey one over Sannox Bay on 12th and another at the top of the String on 21st. Similarly there were further reports of Ring Ouzel on the northern hills on 17th and18th. A Magpie, a vagrant on Arran not seen every year, was in Kildonan from 11th to the end of the month. Finally reports of a single Whooper Swan along the Kildonan shore from 11th to 21st and then at Sandbraes on 27th appears to be preparing to over-summer here rather than migrate to northerly breeding grounds like Iceland.
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.