Kintyre Habitat Surveys - Spring 2008…
Throughout May and early June 2008, a total of 40 consecutive dawn surveys were carried out at all main deciduous woodlands and selected upland habitats in Kintyre, Argyll.
The Kintyre peninsula covers an area of some 300 sq km: a significant 184 hrs (3-4hrs per day) of observation in selected multi-habitats revealed a vast amount of information on the breeding distribution of many of our local songbirds and presence of other species. Casual observations en-route to all survey area is also included.
Links to all the maps including some showing occurrence of non-breeding species / interesting visitors can be found below.
One of the foremost surprises was the increased density in the breeding population of Blackcap at known hotspots. A surprising total of 158 singing males were located at around 47 sites with the highest densities occurring in the policy woodlands at Carradale House - Dippen (15 males), Torrisdale Castle (12 males), Saddell House (10 males) and Ronachan House (9 males). Very obvious increases were noted at twelve regular breeding sites with a combined total of 97 singing males.
In addition, a total of 61 singing males were found at a further 23 locations where none had been documented in the past (Eddie Maguire / Rod Angus / unpublished information).
A superb total of 20 singing Garden Warblers were located: total includes results from additional surveys by a RAFOS BTO ATLAS team.
Three singing Redstarts were at Saddell and around West Loch Tarbert (see map showing alarming decrease in this species breeding distribution).
Common Crossbills (singing males and noisy contact calls) were heard at a total of 20 sites including a prolonged sighting of adult females with several streaked juveniles (at Sally’s Walk, Carradale on 19th). The largest noisy flock seen by us was 27 at Homeston on 29th May; however, the RAFOS BTO Atlas fieldworkers had the good fortune to encounter a sizeable flock of ca. 50 birds at Feorlin, near the Mull of Kintyre (RAFOS pers. com.).
Fifty species were recorded around Saddell House woodlands, and adjoining habitats, in 3hrs on 9th May including Great Spotted Woodpecker, Redstart, Common Crossbill, Bullfinch and Lesser Redpoll. In addition, a brood of eight (‘short-tailed’) Long-tailed Tits was a good find.
Around Rhunahaorine Point (the top species site) 54 species were logged in 3 hrs on 12th May including 8 Little Terns, Blackcaps, Bullfinches and Lesser Redpolls.
A male Pied Flycatcher, probably a migrant, was one of many songbirds recorded at Killellan Lodge in 2 hrs on 10th but it was not seen or heard there during another visit on 14th.
Some outstanding cumulative distribution totals included 62 Cuckoos at 45 sites, Bullfinches at 31 sites and an unanticipated pleasing total of 69 Lesser Redpolls at 27 sites.
Other interesting cumulative totals include Great Spotted Woodpecker at 5 sites (Waterside near Southend, Saddell, Torrisdale, Brackley Largieside, and Corranbuie), Tree Pipits at 33 sites, House Martins at 32 sites, Stonechats at 29 sites (including six broods), Long-tailed Tits at 12 sites (including 3-4 broods), Treecreepers at 29 sites and Siskins at 39 sites (including many birds at peanut feeders).
Species found to be common in most survey areas included Common Buzzard (ubiquitous!), Pheasant, Meadow Pipit, Swallow, Pied Wagtail, Dunnock, Robin, Song Thrush, Blackbird, Goldcrest, Willow Warbler, Great Tit, Blue Tit, Coal Tit, Jackdaw, Rook, Hooded Crow, Starling, House Sparrow, Chaffinch, Goldfinch, Greenfinch, and Siskin.
Species found at low density in most survey areas included Grey Heron, Mallard, Wood Pigeon, Cuckoo, Wheatear, Sky Lark, Grey Wagtail, Mistle Thrush, Whitethroat, Sedge Warbler, Grasshopper Warbler, Chiffchaff, Spotted Flycatcher, Treecreeper, Raven, Linnet, Lesser Redpoll and Bullfinch.
Although present, Fulmars have declined considerably at four mainland-breeding sites (Keil Point, Glenacardoch Point, Killacraw and Muasdale). At the main site (Keil Point) the max number of birds seen ashore during May was only 12. Very few birds were present at all the other sites (3-5)
At present, only two sites are known to hold breeding Mute Swans (Smerby and Lochan Luing) and only a meagre three sites have been discovered for Moorhen including a minimum B/2 at one (Rhu House, W L Tarbert). The others were at Glenreasdale and Lochan Luing (Rhunahaorine).
Black Guillemots were present at the usual mainland sites (15-20 pairs) in Campbeltown Loch and at Kennacraig pier (at least one pair).
Single Tawny Owls were found at Kilchrist Castle on 22nd (photographed – see our Wildlife Gallery), Oatfield House (calling at 0810hrs!) on 26th, at Lossit House wood (bird in flight 1045hrs!) a roosting bird (flushed from a Rhododendron stand) on 27th, Glencreggan on 31st and one calling regularly at Waterside, Southend. In addition, at least three, possibly four territories are in/around Campbeltown.
On 26th, a new Long-eared Owl site was discovered at Christlach (near Southend)
Carrion Crows were noted at five sites (Southend, Ronachan, Carradale, Cour and Skipness).
At Glenmucklach (near Southend) on 26th, we had a pleasant encounter with a flock of 27 mainly ‘short-tailed’ Long-tailed Tits. It was difficult to determine how many adults were in the group (minimum 7), but it seems likely that three broods were on the move!
During our early morning excursions we were amazed by the numbers of Goldfinches (foraging) and Pied Wagtails (on territory) by all roadsides throughout Kintyre – both species are truly abundant! Also, House Sparrows show no signs of a decline, anywhere, being recorded in exceptional numbers in both Campbeltown and Tarbert, in all villages and around most farms. This species is particularly abundant throughout the The Laggan farmlands and around Stewarton village.
The numbers of singing Whitethroats and Sedge warblers was excellent. Both species were found in all areas surveyed.
All our known Sand Martin colonies (21) were visited, and all were found to be active.
Seven new Raven nest sites were also discovered (at Kildonan, Barr Glen, Glenmucklach, Killean (B/3) and Carskiey (all trees nests); the other two were on crags at Torrisdale and Loup hill). The number of known nest sites in Kintyre (2006-2008) has now reached 71.
All known rookeries are still active; a newly discovered one (30+ nests) at Glenreasdale is exceptional being isolated from the south and west coast populations (the nearest known rookery to this one is Clachan!).
The largest Jackdaw colony (75+ pairs) in Kintyre at Kilkivan Quarry, near Machrihanish continues to thrive.
On the negative side…
Kestrels have been noted at only three sites (singles at Glenahanty, Mull of Kintyre and Machrihanish), Curlews at three (Claonaig, Tallatol and Rhunahaorine Point, Lapwings at four (Westport Marsh, N and S Tayinloan and Tallatol) and Redshank at one (S end of Gigha).
The numbers of Redstarts (only three singing males located at Saddell, Achadacaie and Near Mundells yard) and Wood Warblers (only four singing males at Saddell, Torrisdale, Crossaig and by Mundells yard) was actually startling. Apparently both species suffered a serious decline!
At least 2 pairs of Twite are breeding close to the Seabird Observatory, a pair was seen at the north end of Gigha, a few pairs were present at the Mull of Kintyre and just N of Macharioch on the SE coast.
So far, only one site has yielded Yellowhammers (Southend).
We enjoyed these (very) early morning woodland habitat surveys and accrued a vast amount of information regarding the breeding distribution and abundance, of not only many deciduous woodland species, but also many other songsters in a variety of other important habitats.
A selection of distribution maps for a variety of species can be accessed on this site.
Eddie Maguire / John McGlynn