Back in Time

Recently I was looking through the web-site of the Ayrshire Archaeological and Natural History Society and came across a number of documents published by the Society about birds in Ayrshire stretching back to 1948. I thought these might be of interest to readers of this site and so, with kind permission of the Society, I have included links to them below. Note, these are pretty big PDF documents.

Storm Petrel Ringing Recovery

I recently bumped into a fellow dog-walker, Vivienne Glew and her dog Baillie, who told me that she had recovered a moribund Storm Petrel that had dropped into the sea near Irvine harbour mouth. While the bird didn’t last long, Vivienne did notice that it was ringed. She sent the details off to the Natural History Museum and the BTO returned the following ringing info:

Ringing Scheme: London
Ring Number: 2694931
Species of bird: Storm Petrel (Hydrobates pelagicus)

This bird was ringed by D Manley as age at least 1 year, sex unknown on 12-Aug-2015 00:30:00 at Annagh Head, Bellmullet, Mayo, Ireland (54deg 14min N -10deg -7min W).
It was found 2883 days after it was ringed, 379 km from the ringing site, direction ENE.

My thanks to Vivienne and Baillie for such an interesting chat.

The Story behind the Photo 8

Green Sandpiper at Tarholm, 1975

The possibility of Green Sandpipers over-wintering in South Scotland had occurred to a few Ayrshire birders during the 1970s, with the pattern of increasingly regular winter sightings suggesting the same birds returning each year to specific locations within the county.  Although primarily an autumn migrant, there were only 5 records of the species prior to the 1960s according to Richards’ Checklist of Ayrshire Birds (1966).  Had they simply gone undetected?

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The Story behind the Photo 7

Bewick’s Swans at Shewalton

Like many bird species in the UK, Bewick’s Swan has become much scarcer as a winter visitor.  This is partly due to a decline in its world population, and also because of changing patterns of migration.  During the 1970s, autumn passage and over-wintering of Bewick’s Swans in Scotland was regular, with birds often stopping off on islands like Islay, these birds heading to their winter quarters in Ireland.  During the period of October-December, some would occasionally drop in at well-watched Ayrshire localities such as Shewalton Sandpits.

8 of a party of 12 Bewick’s Swans at Shewalton in December 1978  (Angus Hogg)
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Red Kites Breeding in Ayrshire

Background – Red Kite (Milvus milvus) formerly nested in Glen App during the early 1830s, but vanished as a breeding species soon afterwards (Gray & Anderson 1869). The last 19th century sighting of a live bird was at Lendalfoot during Oct-Nov 1892, by which time the species had become extinct over much of Scotland, largely due to persecution and egg-collection. Between 1856 and 1859 Gray recorded it breeding in Argyll (Bonaw), and Loch Lomond around the same time.

Since that time, Red Kite has remained a rare visitor to Ayrshire – until 1989, when they were re-introduced to several parts of the UK. A steady increase in sightings resulted from their re-introduction to Dumfries and Galloway in 2001, after which time records within Ayrshire became almost annual, often involving more than one bird after 2010, as the breeding numbers in D&G increased.

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The Story behind the Photo 6

Harlequin Ducks at Kennedy’s Pass

As someone who often spends the whole day, when sea conditions are right, trundling down the south Ayrshire coast counting divers, I’ve got to know most of the good vantage points and headlands at which to stop.  Kennedy’s Pass is one such spot, and the lay-by on the bend as you approach from the south provides a slightly more elevated viewing platform.  Another lay-by exists about 100 metres further on, just as you leave the second bend in the road.

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Book Review: Collins Bird Guide 3rd Edition

Collins Bird Guide 3rd Edition

The Collins Bird Guide was first published in 1999 and instantly became the go-to guide for all birders. The 2nd edition was published in 2009 with a subsequent reprint with further amendments in 2018 (though not enough amendments to call it a 3rd edition). The long-awaited 3rd edition was finally published earlier this December. Is it still the go-to guide for birders?

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The Story behind the Photo 5

Eurasian Spoonbill at Hunterston in 1978

In the days before Global Climate Change was a phrase we all got to know, winters in Ayrshire tended to be cold, wet and dreich affairs (so, what’s changed, I hear you say?).  The general pattern of our winter weather was something which people in the south-west of Scotland knew well, and met with the usual resignation.  Occasionally, there would be a day when a ridge of high pressure brought slightly colder and sunnier weather, and it was during such a period that an unexpected visitor appeared at Hunterston. 

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The Story behind the Photo 4

European Storm Petrels at Turnberry Point

During 1980, my interest in seawatching had got to the point where Turnberry lighthouse had almost become a second home.  However, it kept on producing interesting seabirds and the head greenkeeper at the golf course was happy to allow me to take my car all the way down to the point, thus avoiding the need to carry tripods, telescopes etc,

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The Story behind the Photo 3

Leach’s Storm Petrel, and the Girvan Police

The 18th of November 1982 turned out to be an interesting evening, and not, I might add, because of the parent-teacher meeting I’d just been to.  The weather on my way home from Ayr was wet and windy, with strong, blustery rain showers battering the car from time to time.  On my arrival, I was greeted by my wife who told me that the police had dropped by earlier – a Sergeant McClung from the Girvan station.  He’d enquired if “I might be able to do anything for the wee bird which he’d had handed in to the station by a member of the public who’d found it sheltering in a garden in Girvan.” 

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