Sunday, 19 October 2014

Wales Minileagues - September

In Wales, the islands lead the way. The Bardsey duo are in the clear and only have each other to beat for the top spot. This island piled on the points again in September with classic Autumn species such as Ortolan, Greenish, Yellow-Browed and Barred Warblers, Richard's Pipit, Red-Breasted Flycatcher and a Nightingale. Steve Stansfield has seen more species this year than Ben Porter, but a higher points per bird score for Ben sees him in top spot with 3 months left to run. Will Steve pay for the trip to Sweden that meant he dipped on the Western Bonelli's? Maybe Steve needs to arrange a trip to the mainland for Ben in October!

Final podium place is filled by Jason Moss on Skomer who has daylight between 3rd and 4th thanks to a healthy point per bird score, evidenced by an enviable list of rarities this year including Black-Headed Bunting, Lesser Yellowlegs and Melodious Warbler.

Zac Hinchcliffe continues to lead the way on the Birdtrack lists, the only Welsh contender into 5 figures.

In the all important comparative tables, 2 competitors are over the 100% mark. Alison and LlanfairTH is running away with the title with an impressive 127%. Ben Porter on Bardsey has an impressive 110%, eclipsing a tough target of 251 from last year with October still to come.

Inland Scotland Minileague - September

Despite a quite month all round, Alastair Forsyth at Old Nisthouse appears to have the Inland Scotland league sown up, with an impressive total of 160 points at an average of 1.41 points per bird. He also tops the green and birdtrack statistics too.

In the comparative league, Alastair has a comparative of 125%. Andy Cage and Chris Pendlebury are battling it out for 2nd and 3rd with just 1% between them.

Friday, 17 October 2014

The Big Vis - Filling in the Form

You may have noticed the appearance of the Big Vis form on the right hand sidebar. Due to the limitations of blogger and google forms it isnt quite as all singing and dancing as I would like BUT it will record the data effectively. In this post we will explain how to fill out the form for those that arent regular PWC competitors (and those that make a mess of it each month - Im looking at you Ryan).

There are two main things to note about submissions:

  1. They are broken down by hour. You should only submit an individual hour per form.
  2. There are only enough fields to submit ten records per form. Please fill in multiple forms if you get plenty of species or birds flying in various directions and need extra fields. This isnt ideal but it is the limitations of google forms I am afraid.

The first field is observer name. Who are you? As it is the weekend I will be Judy BUT my submission will be under my given name,

The second field is Location and here we need the name of where you are watching from and even more importantly the grid reference. You can find the grid reference using the link below:

The third field is date and that is simply going to be 18/10/2014 or 19/10/2014 dependent upon whether it is Saturday or Sunday when you take part.

Start time is the fourth field - this should be dawn which will be 7.40ish. To get the sunrise time for your location try this website:

For the weather field we want to know whether it is raining/snowing/sleeting/dry etc, the temperature in celcius, the cloud cover expressed in octets (8/8 for fully cloudy sky, 0/8 for no cloud), the wind direction and strength using the beaufort scale and the visibility in distance (>2km if vis is excellent, 500m-2km if a bit ganky and <500m any="" as="" be="" can="" changeable="" fog="" here.="" horrible="" if="" included="" notes="" other="" p="" showers="" such="" weather="">
Hour - we are asking you record for a minimum of two hours and we want an hourly breakdown for results so here you tick which hour you are submitting results for. If you are super lucky and get an awesome passage you may stay beyond 4 hours and this all goes in the 4+ hours tab.

The next three fields are for each record and are repeated 10 times on the form. First up we want the species of bird followed by the number and then finally the direction of flight. If you have a single species with multiple flight directions then each different direction should get its own 'record'.

If (when) you run out of space as you have had an awesome mornings migration add extra records on a new form after you submit the first one - there is no limit.

Which birds to count? Those that are moving through - so not the resident birds and not the flock of waders flying round in circles. Anything you think may be a migrant from the geese and ducks to the thrushes and Tree Sparrows. There are no hard fast rules so use your own judgement. If you have any questions get in touch on twitter using the hashtag #BigVis and tweet us @patchbirding and also @trektellen

Good birding!

Thursday, 16 October 2014

Coastal Scotland Minileague - September

Despite the best attempts of the chasing pack to close the gap, John Bowler continues to rack up great species on the patch and has now surpassed the 300 mark, adding 11 species and 39 points in September. This included American Golden Plover, Buff-Breasted and Pectoral Sandpipers as well as multiple Barred Warblers. A score was not registered for North Ronaldsay for September, so the gap could close next month.

Gary Bell at Sumburgh had a good month, with perhaps the best two birds recorded in the Coastal Scotland league in September, a Myrtle Warbler and Red-Flanked Bluetail. This has put him on an impressive 1.75 points per bird. The best find of the month went to Peter Stronach who located a Rose-Coloured Starling on his Durness patch.

Steve Minton at Scatness is leading the non-motorised league with an impressive 4th place in the overall standing. Our own Mark Lewis has submitted the most Birdtrack records and is on target to break the 10,000 records submitted by the end of the year.

Two birders have now broken the 100% barrier, with Stephen Welch pushing John Bowler into second place. Plenty of others are closing in, a good October should see more beating last years score next month.

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

Ireland Minileague - September

Irish patch birders got stuck into Autumn with some notable species and points increases from last month.

The addition of 12 species including three six pointers in September by Dave Suddaby at Blacksod ensures a comfortable lead with 219 points and an impressive 1.64 points per bird. Niall Keogh at Kilcoole remains in second but Julian Wylie at Baltimore is hot on his heels in third with 12 new species added leaving him just one point short of second place. Not much movement elsewhere on the table but worth mentioning Tom Moore at Kilmore who added nine new species, consolidating his 7th place position.

The O'Donnells continue their post 100% run in the Comparative League with Michael adding three new species whilst Eamonn adds one. Great to see the momentum going here although ultimately making a tougher challenge for them next year (but that's what it's all about!). Tom Moore, Alan Lauder (Carrick Mountain) and Niall Keogh all break into the 90% region taking up 3rd, 4th and 5th pace respectively. 

A Red Kite at Kilcoole was a long awaited patch tick for Niall, a Pectoral Sandpiper at Baltimore was a good find by Julian (especially in a year with few yank waders about) and both Cory's and Great Shearwaters at Brownstown Head were well worth the seawatching time put in by Paul Walsh. Dave Suddaby is on hot streak at Blacksod adding a fine suit of excellent patch birds including a Red-backed Shrike (1st patch record & 200th patch species), Wryneck (2nd patch record), Firecrest (2nd patch record) & Barred Warbler (3rd patch record). There's hope for us mere mortals yet as I have it on good authority that he still needs Pheasant!

Red-backed Shrike as seen from Dave Suddaby's toilet!

Monday, 13 October 2014

Midlands Minileague - September

John Hopper closed the gap on Ian Cowgill at the top of the table but the Lound site still leads the way in the Midlands league. John's Hoveringham patch had additions in the month more reminiscent of a coastal site, with Great Skua, Rock Pipit and Grey Plover among his finds. Nick Crouch had a patch tick and grip back Great White Egret in the month to edge into 3rd ahead of Andy Mackay at Eyebrook.

In the non-comparative league, the 100% mark is in sight for most. A final push in the last 3 months
should see them bettering last years target. Dave Roberts has managed to climb a place into third leaving Richard Harbird a massive 0.3% back. This is going to be a very tight minileague!

The Big Vis - with Trektellen

Visible migration is one of the thrills of patch birding as squadrons of finches and larks surge overhead and hirundines snake past. We have been asked by Toby Collett and Trektellen to help support this weekends #BigVis - the inaugural visible migration event for birders in the UK and we want you to join in. What better way to get that elusive Lapland Bunting on your patchlist than by joining in?

If you are unfamiliar with Vismigging then it is simply getting to a suitable watchpoint at dawn and watching the diurnal migrants move through. From the 'seep' of the first Meadow Pipits and the twitterings of Goldfinches into the chacking Fieldfare and listening for the 'glip' of a band of crossbills. It is the spectacle of hundreds of birds on the move, with a purpose and with whom you get to share just a few seconds of their existance as the bound ever onward. It makes the common exciting and the commonplace essential as you appreciate Woodpigeons moving en masse or Tree Sparrows going from rural denizens to full-scale migrants. 

Clive Mckay has written a number of articles for our sponsors Birdguides on the subject and they illustrate in a way that I cant what is so special about Vis Mig. Check out here, here and here for the best bits! There are also a couple of articles by Clive in recent Birdwatch magazines which may prove helpful.

So where do you or in fact we come in? Well the count is going to be undertaken by anyone who wants to take part. All you need to do is from dawn until mid-morning when movement has stopped either next Saturday (18th October) or Sunday (19th) count and identify the birds moving over your patch or Vismig point. You need to work in hourly slots from sunrise and note the weather conditions (wind direction and strength, cloud cover, precipitation, visibility and temperature) and keep tallies of each species seen and which direction they were heading e.g. 120 Meadow Pipits S, 16 Meadow Pipits N. Record all this info in a notebook and then our part comes in - we are going to record the data in the same way we do the monthly submissions via a sheet on the right sidebar. Enter the data asked for and you are done! Trektellen will be collating the data and we will hopefully be able to get Mark to produce some pretty pie charts and bar graphs to illustarte what people find. Everyone can take part be they PWC contestants or not so get involved and help further knowledge of bird movements in your neck of the woods!

For those of you on twitter get involved with @trektellen and @patchbirding and the hashtag #BigVis which should keep you up to date with what people are seeing. We suggest that the formal count runs two hours from dawn unless the birds are still moving in which case keep going! Sunrise is 07:44 on Saturday and 07:46 on the Sunday so give yourself plenty of time and settle in to what will hopefully be a great weekends bird movement.