RSPB Information – April 2011

rare gull on Tiree

April was dominated by high pressure with light SE winds, much sunshine and very little rain. The warm temperatures encouraged many migrant birds to arrive a little earlier than normal, whilst others such as Lapwings and Greylags also started breeding earlier.

April is a very busy month for migration and Tiree is an important staging post for many species heading to breeding sites further north. Scattered flocks of up to 100 Black-tailed Godwits in their brick-red breeding dress stopped off for a few days to feed around the lochs (8th-27th) and included colour-ringed birds from both wintering sites in southern England and breeding sites in Iceland.

There was also an arrival of some 300 Pale-bellied Brent Geese around the coast (15th-21st), including birds that had been ringed at their wintering sites in Ireland and on staging areas in Iceland. Golden Plover numbers built up at their traditional staging area at The Reef to at least 5,000 birds (12th) and were joined briefly by a trip of 14 Dotterel (19th), the largest flock ever recorded in Argyll.

Most of the Greenland geese departed early in the first two weeks of April, although there were 4 late Barnacle Geese at Loch Bhasapol (21st) and two late Greenland White-fronts at The Reef (26th), plus a scattering of lone Pink-footed Geese and at least 13 Whooper Swans at the end of the month.

April rarities included a 1st-winter Bonaparte’s Gull at Gott Bay , the first record of this small North American Gull for the island and only the second for Argyll. Other good spring birds included two juvenile Glaucous Gulls together at Traigh Bhi (17th), a hybrid Glaucous x Herring Gull at Gott Bay (7th), a drake Garganey at Loch a’ Phuill (21st-24th), a female Redstart at Carnan Mor (16th), a male Ring Ouzel at The Reef (26th), a Brambling at Carnan Mor (30th), single Lapland Buntings at Balephetrish (11th) and Traigh nan Gilean (12th) plus 2 including a summer plumaged male at Loch a’ Phuill (24th), a male Ruff at The Reef (4th-5th), an early Woodpigeon at Balephuil (4th), a Barn Owl at Heylipol (5th-8th) and single Lesser Redpolls at Balephuil (10th and 21st) followed by 2 at Carnan Mor (24th).

There was an unprecedented spring influx of up to 12 Blackcaps (from 9th) and Sand Martins (record count of 550 on 27th) plus good numbers of both White Wagtails and Greenland Wheatears. A colour-ringed Pied Wagtail observed at Sandaig (12th) had been ringed at Slapton Ley, Devon in September 2009 and is believed to have wintered in Portugal.

Arrivals of spring visitors were mostly early and almost all of the regular breeding migrants were back by the end of the month. Following early arrivals of Blackcaps, Chiffchaffs and Wheatears in March, April arrivals included Swallow (2nd), Sand Martin (4th), White Wagtail (5th), Manx Shearwater (7th), Great Skua (7th), Willow Warbler (9th), House Martin (10th), Little Tern (11th), Whimbrel (18th), Arctic Tern (21st), Sedge Warbler (21st), Grasshopper Warbler (21st), Whitethroat (28th), Whinchat (30th) and Cuckoo (30th). Lapwing chicks were observed from mid-month and were widespread by the month end, whilst Corncrakes returned from 14th with some 50 scattered males back by 30th. Many smaller birds took advantage of the good weather with early nests seen of Blackbirds, Stonechats and Linnets.

Many thanks to those of you who have kept me posted with your latest observations. If anyone would like to report unusual sightings of birds or other wildlife on Tiree, please contact me at the address below:
John Bowler, Pairc na Coille, Balephuil, Isle of Tiree PA77 6UE. Tel: 220748

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