Trip reports

York Group Trip to the Isle of Arran 3 - 8 April 2019

York Group Trip to the Isle of Arran 3 - 8 April 2019
Barry Bishop

Tuesday, 29 October 2019

On a dull, cold Wednesday morning in early April, we met at Union Street coach park to start our Arran adventure. We set off 10 minutes early, much to the pleasure of our coach driver, John. We did wonder what had hit us as the snow started falling quite thickly as we drove over the A66 but this did clear as we went further north. We stopped in Moffatt for lunch before continuing on to Ardrossan for the ferry to Brodick. I got quite excited to see my first black guillemot of the trip in the harbour as we were waiting for the ferry, but I was quickly told that I could not count it as the 'numbers count' did not start until the ferry had cast off! Needless to say, they had disappeared by the time we set sail!
Landing in Brodick we took the road that splits the island in half which is locally known as the String Road. This led us to Blackwaterfoot where we were staying at the Kinloch Hotel next to the beach (right) which was ideal for pre-breakfast birding and looking for the 'elusive resident otter'!
Thursday 4 April
We were on foot today as John the driver had the day off. So, while he took his bike off over the back roads, we set off on a walk around the bay. We started off watching a pair of white wagtails, which liked the lawn in front of the hotel and seemed to be there most days. Whilst walking around to the point we saw our first great northern diver, as well as gannets, fishing out at sea. On the return journey back to the hotel a few of us stopped to watch a LBJ that was determined to keep us guessing as it kept bobbing up and down in a field. Whilst trying to determine what we were looking at we heard that unmistakable 'koor' and a pair of ravens flew into the field and perched on the tree.
After a packed lunch back at the hotel, most of us walked to the King's Caves (left). These are, where legend has it, Robert the Bruce sheltered and had his encounter with a spider. In actual fact, they have some fabulous Christian and pre-Christian carvings within them.
Friday 5 April
Back on the coach this morning we took the road to Lochranza and diverted off the coast road to a forestry/moorland area to look for hen harriers. Almost as soon as we got out of the coach a male was seen flying over the trees, and some people saw a female flying also. Continuing our journey and stopping on the way and looking out at sea we saw several great northern divers as well as red-breasted mergansers. Once we arrived in Lochranza some of us got out at the beginning of the village whilst others stayed on the coach and went to the Arran Distillery. During the walk through the village, we encountered a herd of red deer, which are locally known to walk down the main road and sit on the golf course!.
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Whilst looking at the bird feeder in a cottage garden we also spotted two red squirrels, merrily helping themselves to the peanuts. Arriving at the distillery we looked towards the mountains behind to see a golden eagle flying in the clouds. After a break for lunch, we headed down Glen Sannox - a very scenic drive - where we pulled off by a burn and scanned the mountain tops. After a while, our patience was rewarded by a couple of golden eagles flying over the tops.
Saturday 6 April
Lamlash and Whiting Bay were the destinations for the day. A cold day with great views over the bay to Holy Island. The bay is well-known for its fight to become Scotland's first 'No Take Zone' (right) a protected area of sea and seabed where no sea fish or shellfish can be removed by any method. In the bay, a red-throated diver was seen as well as eider, turnstones, ringed plover, curlew and a whimbrel and there were many spring flowers emerging.
On the way back to the hotel we took the String Road. Halfway along John stopped the coach for us to look over the hills and the moors. Whilst we were there, we observed the sight of a peregrine chasing a buzzard chasing a hen harrier whilst a golden eagle looked on (or something like that!). After all that fun we then stopped off in Shiskine where a young whooper swan had made its home.
Sunday 7 April
On our last full day on Arran, we returned to Lochranza, so those that had not seen the red squirrel could try again. Unfortunately, they were unsuccessful, but we had a better day weather-wise to enjoy the pretty village. Along the coast, we saw plenty of great northern divers, black guillemots and as the first sign of summer, a few sandwich terns. Those who had not yet caught up with the elusive otter outside the hotel were finally able to see another one here, resting on some rocks!
The whole trip was fantastic, with a final bird count of 79 species. Thank you to Barry for organising and leading it and to everyone for making it such a great break.
Tracy Peacock