A survey in 2013 of most of coastal Ayrshire’s Stonechat breeding population was undertaken, mostly by volunteers from the SOC or RSPB, following the devastating effects of the 2010 and 2011 winters. With a run of milder winters from 2013 onwards, it was hoped that there might be some improvement, although the rate of recovery was unknown at that time.
The Green Woodpecker (P. viridis) was first recorded in Ayrshire in 1925 when one was heard calling from the Blairquhan estate woodlands. Unfortunately, the bird was not seen, but the person who heard it was, apparently, well aware of the species’ rarity in Scotland at the time. Indeed, the bird scarcely gets a mention in South-west Scotland before this, and national records remained at a low level until the end of the 1940s.
“Well, nobody looks at pipits!!” An often repeated statement from birders and non-birders alike. It’s perhaps understandable, since this little group of birds is maybe not the most glamorous. Well, maybe I can persuade you to have a look at some of these “little brown jobs” since there’s a lot more to them than meets the eye (at least, in the first instance!).
Some years ago – well, a considerable numbers of years ago – I decided to take part in a county-wide survey of Rooks which had been organised by the late Malcolm Castle. This wasn’t the first such survey which he’d organised, and it wasn’t going to be his last, but it seemed so delightfully simple that I chose one or two rookeries which I would then go out and try to count.
When the American Golden Plover turned up at Maidens on 17th October, I was confronted by that thorny problem of having to write a description. There are those among us who, for good reasons or not, prefer not to bother, in the hope that:
someone else will do the job;
lots of observers will see the bird (and that’ll make it OK); or,
The Ayrshire’s Breeding Birds Survey 1991-97 is the result of many hours field-work by many observers and probably even longer analysis by Angus Hogg. Separate maps have been produced for over 130 breeding species giving their distribution and abundance, with a commentary by Angus on the latest status. Not only is this an important historical resource, it also provides a comparison with the results to appear in the new BTO Atlas. Details on how to interpret the maps and some background information is given in the Ayrshire’s Breeding Birds Survey 1991-97 page. The maps themselves are accessible from the Ayrshire Species List (select it from the menu) and then click on the icon beside the species name.
On 7 June I joined a bunch of ringers (I’m sure the collective noun is something obscene so we’ll stick with ‘bunch’) on a trip out to Lady Isle to do some ringing. Lady Isle is a small, privately owned island 4km from Troon that is only 6m at its highest point. For many years this has been a nature reserve and you need permission to land, which made a trip to it an exciting prospect.
“The Great Crested Grebes at Martnaham, with two young? I thought you’d know about them!” Just one comment from a birder some years ago which highlights a problem facing all county recorders. Then there’s “that bird was around all spring, from mid May. Very distinctive. It kept sitting on the fence at the edge of my field, before flying off and catching a bee. Then it would return to the fence line and knock seven bells out of the insect before swallowing it.” All very frustrating! However, strange though it might seem to those of you who know me, the first comment is one of the type which frustrates me most.
For the past three years, Martnaham Loch has been the site of a long staying drake Smew during the winter months. However, last year we were fortunate enough to be visited by a redhead Smew before the drake, unfortunately it did not stay, which at the time we thought was a shame. Having a pair of Smew on a loch, well who knows what could have happened! The drake Smew subsequently appeared and stayed the whole winter.