October was cooler and more unsettled than September. In comparison to October 2019 it was milder, mean temperature one degree higher, and wetter with twenty percent more rain. There was a brief settled spell in the middle of the month, but October ended with the first named storm of the winter. It was the wettest month of the year so far. 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. This October did not disappoint.
A particular highlight was Arran’s first ever Lapland Bunting which was caught and ringed on Cleats Shore on 11 October. There will be more about this Arctic breeding bird in the next bird note. Moreover, there was the first ever photograph of a Nuthatch on Arran. This bird was reported from gardens in Pirnmill throughout the month. This is a species that it is anticipated will colonise Arran in the near future. In addition, for the fourth year in a row another colonising species, the Little Egret, was reported in the Shiskine Valley and on the shore of Lamlash Bay. On the 20 October there were three birds, two at the Rodden and one at Cordon.
The build up of the number of winter thrushes, Fieldfare and Redwing, was a feature of the month. The first Fieldfare were reported on 2nd and the first Redwing on 3rd. Soon there were widespread reports of the birds feasting on the autumn berries, with flocks in the hundreds being reported from the north to the south of the island including three hundred Redwing at Narachan on 20th and two hundred and fifty Fieldfare at Clachaig on 22nd. Other winter visitors included: twenty-five Wigeon at Kilpatrick Point on 10th, one hundred and seventy-four Rook at Sliddery on 12th, nineteen Pink-footed Geese on Cleats Shore on 13th, two hundred Greylag Geese at Clachaig Farm also on 13th, twenty Whooper Swan flying over Shiskine on 17th, six Yellowhammer in Sliddery on 18th, seventy-six Teal at Kilpatrick Point on 23rd and two Brambling at Sliddery on 29th.
Migration was in full flow in October as birds were moving out of colder northern Europe to milder climes. These included: a Bar-tailed Godwit on Cleats Shore on 1st, thirty Twite also on Cleats Shore on 11th, twenty-three Redshank in Whiting Bay on 12th, ninety Skylark at Clachaig Farm also on 12th, a Sanderling at Drumadoon Point on 16th, thirty-three Golden Plover and thirty Turnstone at Catacol Bay on 18th, four Lapwing at Kilpatrick Point on 23rd, one male Merlin photographed in a Sliddery garden on 24th, three hundred Starling at Kilpatrick on 27th and three hundred and eighty Kittiwake in Whiting Bay on 28th.
There were some “last sightings” of summer visitors also moving south including: a Chiffchaff in Sliddery on 2nd, a Spotted Flycatcher at Bailemargaidh on 8th, four House Martin at Porta Buidhe on 14th, a Swallow at Clachaig Farm om 15th and two Lesser Black-backed Gull on Cleats Shore on 23rd. Also on 23rd, there were two reports of Gannet, one in Lamlash Bay and one off Cleats Shore. Earlier in the month on 14th one hundred had been reported off Imachar
Other interesting records from a month with over one hundred species reported included: four Moorhen on Mossend Pond on 5th, six Little Grebe on Loch Ranza on 12th, three Goosander at Dougarie on 20th and ten Black-throated Diver in Whiting Bay on 31st, In addition here were two reports of Red Kite on October, one at Sliddery on 18th and one North Sannox on 20th.
Finally, my thanks to all the “volunteers” who took part in the Eider survey in late September. Total number of birds recorded round Arran was seventy-five. There was total coverage of the Arran coastline. Last year the total was forty-seven. In 2000, it was considerably more, at over six hundred. The data on the Eider survey contributes to the ongoing research of Chris Waltho who has been monitoring Eider in the Clyde Estuary for almost thirty years. The population trend is down. For the latest report from Chris, visit this website: http://www.arranbirding.co.uk/files/Firth-of-Clyde-Eider-News-No.18-Aug-2020.pdf