October was the driest month this year. It was the driest October that I have recorded here, with less than a quarter of the rainfall normally recorded in recent Octobers. It was also storm free and mild providing a welcome settled spell of weather. During the month there were plenty of interesting birds to enjoy. Around one hundred species were recorded. October is arguably the busiest birding month, as summer breeders depart, migrants pass through, winter visitors arrive and there is always a strong chance of something unusual.
The build up of the number of winter thrushes, Fieldfare and Redwing, was a feature of the month. There were widespread reports of the birds feasting on the autumn berries, with flocks in the hundreds being reported in the north and in the south of the island including 1,300 Fieldfare and 300 Redwing in Sliddery on 29 October. Skeins of migratory geese and swans in their distinctive V flying formation were also a feature, including, again on 29 October, fourteen Whooper Swan over Kilpatrick and Shiskine, twenty-two Whooper Swan over High Kildonan, thirty Pink-footed Geese over Sliddery and thirty-two Greylag Geese over Kilmory, their honking and trumpeting calls filling the autumn skies.
Other sightings that indicated that migration was in full flow included: forty Turnstone in Silver Sands on 2, six Dunlin in Blackwaterfoot on 6, a Bar-tailed Godwit in Auchenhew Bay on 10, a Greenshank in Cordon also on 10, one hundred and sixty-two Golden Plover at Machriewaterfoot on 15, a Knot in Kildonan on 16, three hundred Skylark over Sliddery also on 16, twenty-five Twite in Kildonan on 19, thirty Goldfinch in Auchenhew on 21, and one hundred Teal and one hundred Starling in Cosyden on 28. Familiar birds were being reported in numbers that would suggest birds moving out of cold northern Europe to the milder climes of our island, including one hundred Chaffinch on Cleat Shore on 1, eight Dunnock in Sliddery on 19, twelve Coal Tit in Balmichael on 21, seventy Robin in Auchenhew also on 21 and ten Blackbird in Sliddery on 25.
There were some “last sightings” of summer visitors also moving south including: a Whinchat on Cleats Shore on 1, a Sandwich Tern in Whiting Bay on 4, one hundred Gannet off Pirnmill on 5, a Chiffchaff in Auchenhew on 21, a Lesser Black-backed Gull in Lochranza on 23, a Wheatear in Kilmory on 24 and a Swallow in Sliddery on 28.
Winter visitors arriving included: three Brambling in Sliddery on 19, one hundred and twenty-seven Rook in Kilmory on 28, sixty Wigeon at Cosyden also on 28, a male Blackcap in Lochranza on 31 and two Yellowhammer in Sliddery also on 31.
Other interesting records from a month with a plethora of birds included: all three divers - two Red-throated Diver in Whiting Bay on 2, twenty-three Black-throated Diver off Blackwaterfoot on 8, three Great Northern Diver in Machrie Bay on 29, three Red Grouse on Meall Mor on 2, a Jack Snipe in Mayish on 14, four Bullfinch on Lamlash Hill on 21, five Little Grebe in Loch Ranza also on 21, twelve Long-tailed Tit in Lochranza on 30 and two Tufted Duck in Port na Lochan also on 30.
Finally, on Monday 31 October there was a report of a Sooty Shearwater four nautical miles south of Pladda in the afternoon. This species is a long distance migrant breeding on islands in the South Atlantic and South Pacific. It is a rare vagrant to Arran. The last record was 2009. The observer's report has been submitted to the appropriate rarities committee, the official adjudicator of rare bird records in the west of Scotland.