Wednesday, 8 January 2014

PWC 2013 - Askernish

Firstly i'd like to say that i've really enjoyed taking part in the PWC during 2013, it certainly gave me extra incentive to get out there and my daily routine now involves getting up, making coffee, running the scope over the patch.

The final results:-
Ian, 119 spp / 169 points / 129.7% (This includes 12 points for finding the Gyr)
Yvonne, 106 spp / 140 points / 103.7%

The extra effort we put into patching this year certainly shows in our percentages.

January - The month started off steadily but the 26th bird to be added to the list was pretty special - Gyr Falcon - the story of which was told here on the PWC blog just after the event. We wondered if we'd peaked too early in the year...

Ian had to go down to his Essex homeland  mid-January when his mum was taken ill, leaving me to guard the patch myself. I was able to get out most days, searching in the vain hope that i could find something really good that he wouldn't be able to see (nothing like a bit of marital competition). The best i could manage was Water Rail - it took Ian until November to claw this one back :)

February - Was a pretty dire month weather-wise with gales and rain and even I couldn't get up much enthusiasm for going out in winds of up to 60+ mph. Bird of the month was Short-eared Owl, an early returning bird. I found an off-patch Bonaparte's Gull while doing a goose survey.

March - A month of highs and lows

We were only at home, and therefore on-patch, for the first and last week of March. The month started off very well, adding Glaucous Gull, Merlin, Gannet and Little Grebe on the 1st. Happy about the Glauc as white-wings have been in pretty short supply in the Uists this winter. New for our patch was Pintail on the 2nd and Pink-footed Goose on the 3rd.

We returned from our trip down south late on the 21st March and headed out the next day eager to see if there was anything new about. Ian had been really cheesed off that i'd seen Rock Pipit while he was away in February, and he wasn't holding out much hope of finding one, they're pretty scarce here on the patch. The first bird we found that morning was a dead Rock Pip by the front door. Ian had a brief dilemma about whether he could/should tick it. No chance!

I had quite a bit of work to keep me busy indoors so Ian was able to have a few walks out on his own. My low point of the month was when he phoned me to say he was watching a White-tailed Eagle flying out of patch. You'll have to use your imagination about how blue the air was and how many names i called him. WTE - bloody 3 points + 3 points finders bonus! @!*x$~/ Still, at least it's not like the Rock Pip - i should get to see one before the end of the year...

Sandwich Tern was a new patch bird. Ian saw it on the 30th March as it flew south along the beach. (More blue air). However, luck was with me as the next evening we headed to the beach to take some photos of the waders and there it was, flying south again. Five minutes later and i would have missed it. Marital harmony (apart from the White-tailed Eagle) restored.

April - Always a pleasant month on the patch, a mix of birds passing through on their way north, winter visitors still hanging around and summer visitors arriving. I was working full time for the next three months (doing wader surveys) sadly not leaving so much time for patching, but one bonus (apart from the wages) was the patch was one of the chosen areas for the survey work, meaning one day a week spent surveying there. 13 species were added to my total, nothing out of the ordinary but always good to see Whimbrel, Great Skua and Arctic Terns.

May - A good month, Common Sandpiper was feeding in the garden, an unseasonal Waxwing was in the neighbour's garden late one evening and a stonking male Ruff was out on the machair for a few days. Highlights were Arctic skua and Corncrake.

June - Just one bird added to the list, a Turtle Dove trapped and ringed in the garden.

July - Red-throated Diver was the only bird added to my list. We left the island on the 22nd July to head down to the Med to man the Strait of Gibraltar Bird Observatory to help out with a trans-Saharan migrants project. It's a hard life but someone has to do it…

August, September - away

mid-October - Ian returned to the patch and was able to add quite a few to his list.

November - i returned to the patch after Gibraltar i had wandered around northern Spain for a few weeks (500 miles backpacking on foot on the Camino de Santiago). Only one species added to my list  in November - a White-tailed Eagle. Bit grumpy when i found out that Ian had finally found the elusive Rock Pipit. Ian was lucky enough to find an off-patch American Robin while doing a BTO thrushes survey.

December - A Water Rail was in the garden most days. Despite trawling the seal and dolphin carcasses on the beach no Ivory Gull was found on the patch (and much to my dismay I was stranded up in Lewis when the one turned up in Uist, the ferry sailing back to the Uists cancelled for two days). 2 Glossy Ibis were seen on a croft just off-patch but no matter how hard we tried we couldn't see them from the patch. No further species added to the list, and I ended the year on 106 species, 140 points - 103.7% 

It was interesting analysing my sightings - there were quite a few species that I saw during 2013 that I hadn't seen during 2012 and vice versa, quite a few species i'd seen in 2012 that just didn't turn up in 2013. Birds that I didn't see that I should have seen? - Corn Bunting, Chiffchaff, Blackcap. Sadly there was no Gropper for the 2nd year running.

What would I have missed if I hadn't been away for an extended period? Common Rosefinch, Crossbill, Yellow-browed Warbler and Whitethroat all turned up in the neighbour's garden.

I'm happy to say that our enthusiasm has rubbed off and this year two new patches have been signed up in the Uists - Stuart who's patch is around Balivanich (and who found not 1 but 3 Glossy Ibis on it on the 1st January 2014!! 12 points!!) then there is Brian who has chosen the RSPB reserve at Balranald - he found Harlequin Duck on his patch last year, so the potential is huge! When I last saw Brian on the 3rd January he was already up to 65 points!

I'd like to extend my thanks to Mark, Ryan and James for all your hard work organising
Good luck to everyone who is patching in 2014. Enjoy!

Yvonne B

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