Eider down as owls strug­gle to find food

The Arran Banner - - News - by Jim Cas­sels

The cool wet weather which had been a fea­ture of July and Au­gust con­tin­ued into Septem­ber. In fact, there was even more rain in Septem­ber than there had been in July or in Au­gust. This Septem­ber was wet­ter than the same month last year.

It is dif­fi­cult to know the im­pact of this on our lo­cal birds but owls in par­tic­u­lar strug­gled to find food. One young long-eared owl was for­tu­nate when it was found drenched and un­der­weight by the lo­cal vet. Ten days later it was feed­ing it­self and was fit enough to re­turn to the wild.

Septem­ber is the start of the peak mi­gra­tion sea­son, when many birds are on the move. There was a wide range of species recorded in Septem­ber, al­most 100. It was cer­tainly the time to ex­pect the un­ex­pected and among the un­usual records was a black-tailed god­wit on Shisk­ine Golf Course on 1st, an os­prey over Pirn­mill on 24th, a puf­fin off Lag­gan on 25th and two great crested grebe off Pirn­mill on 23rd. This was the first record of great crested grebe on Ar­ran this year.

Other birds on mi­gra­tion in­cluded: two sander­ling at Dru­madoon Point on 2nd, a great north­ern diver in Loch Ranza on 3rd, an Arc­tic skua in Whit­ing Bay on 4th, two black-throated diver off Tor­rylin­nwa­ter Foot also on 4th, two white wag­tail in Auchen­hew Bay on 7th, two sand­wich tern in Kil­do­nan on 13th, three bar-tailed god­wit on Shan­nochie shore on 20th, a great skua off the Cock of Ar­ran on 25th and a wheatear was pho­tographed on Black­wa­ter­foot shore on 30th.

At this time of year birds be­gin to flock to­gether, often in prepa­ra­tion for mi- gra­tion. Re­ports in­cluded: 10 dun­lin in Black­wa­ter­foot on 2nd, 80 star­ling in Ben­lis­ter on 2nd, 170 jack­daw on Dru­madoon Farm on 5th, 141 golden plover at Machriewa­ter­foot on 6th, 20 long-tailed tit on Fish­er­man’s Walk on 18th, 18 turn­stone on Sil­ver Sands on 21st, 42 red­shank in Whit­ing Bay on 24th, 30 goldfinch on Sil­ver Sands on 28th, 100 kit­ti­wake at Machriewa­ter­foot on 29th and 100 lin­net in Black­wa­ter­foot also on 29th. This gives an in­di­ca­tion of the num­bers of birds that are on the move at this time of year.

In Septem­ber, there were re­ports of re­turn­ing win­ter vis­i­tors, namely two wigeon in Loch Ranza on 18th and four com­mon scoter off Pirn­mill on 23rd. A num­ber of sum­mer vis­i­tors were also still around in Septem­ber in­clud­ing: a wil­low war­bler on Ben­nan Head on 1st, a whitethroat at Kingscross on 4th and a chif­fchaff at Sil­ver Sands on 14th. The fol­low­ing are the last Septem­ber re­ports of the hirundines: a sand martin at Auchen­car on 8th, three house martin in Lam­lash on 19th and two swal­low at North San­nox on 30th. Oc­to­ber should see the last of the house mar­tins and swal­lows de­part­ing south.

Other sight­ings this month in­cluded: a moorhen at Mossend Pond on 2nd, 80 gan­net in Brod­ick Bay on 5th, two lit­tle grebe in Loch Ranza on 7th, a yel- lowham­mer at Tor­rylin­nwa­ter Foot on 9th and a dip­per in Cor­don on 24th. Plus, af­ter no records in 2016, there were 26 records of king­fisher in Septem­ber from four lo­ca­tions mainly on the east of the is­land. In ad­di­tion, the Ar­ran Black Grouse Group re­leased a fur­ther 40 black grouse. To help with the mon­i­tor­ing of these birds, Kate Samp­son, head ranger at Brod­ick Coun­try Park, would be de­lighted to re­ceive a note of any sight­ings of black grouse.

Fi­nally, my thanks to all the ‘vol­un­teers’ who took part in the eider sur­vey in Septem­ber. To­tal num­ber of birds recorded round Ar­ran was 36. There was al­most to­tal cov­er­age of the Ar­ran coast­line. The pre­vi­ous three Septem­ber counts had been con­sis­tent at around 115. Ten years ago it was con­sid­er­ably more at over 600. The data on the eider sur­vey con­trib­utes to the on­go­ing re­search of Chris Waltho, who has been mon­i­tor­ing eider in the Clyde Es­tu­ary for over 20 years. The pop­u­la­tion trend is down. For the lat­est re­port from Chris visit this web­site. http://www.ar­ran­bird­ing.co.uk/files/ Clyde-Eider-News-No-15Aug-2017.pdf En­joy your bird­ing. Please send any bird notes with ‘what, when, where’ to me at Kil­patrick Ken­nels, Kil­patrick, Black­wa­ter­foot, KA27 8EY, or email me at jim@ar­ran­bird­ing.co.uk. I look for­ward to hear­ing from you. For more in­for­ma­tion on bird­ing on Ar­ran pur­chase the Ar­ran Bird At­las 2007-2012 as well as the Ar­ran Bird Re­port 2016 and visit this web­site www. ar­ran­bird­ing.co.uk.

Photo: Char­lotte Clough.

The ef­forts of the vet and her helpers gave this rain­sod­den, starv­ing long-eared owl a sec­ond chance.

Photo: Den­nis Mor­ri­son.

The first record this year of a great crested grebe.

Photo: Den­nis Mor­ri­son

More birds have been re­leased by the Ar­ran Black Grouse Group as part of a re-in­tro­duc­tion pro­gramme.

Photo: Peter Dob­son

An ab­so­lutely stun­ning pho­to­graph of a wheatear taken at Black­wa­ter­foot.

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