This is the centrepiece of Patchwork Challenge, the competition that could be won by anybody lucky enough or hardworking enough to pull that mega from the bag. The Bresser & Forest Optic Best Find Competition. This is the best find of the whole patchbirding year as voted for by you, the competitors. Last year, Andy Johnson's Semipalmated Plover took the prize with an inland Pied Wheatear and a Mourning Dove running it close. The Sooty Tern which was found on The Isle of May didn't even make the podium. The kind people at Bresser & Forest Optics are very generously awarding the winner of the best find competition a pair of Bresser Montana 8.5 x 45 Binoculars worth £665.00. Not a prize to be sniffed at.
As winter made way to spring and as spring now starts to head towards summer we have a fine selection of birds with four candidates for the overall prize as well as hoardes of scarcities. Once esteemed rarities such as Glossy Ibis and Great White Egret are heading towards padder status and are barely worthy of a mention here whilst Serins and Bluethroats are upgraded in quality by every passing year. There have been a number of near misses as patchers have had great finds taken from under their feet (I am thinking Crag Martin and Yellow-rumped Warbler here). Here we take a look at the very best birds of 2014 thus far.
Up to the end of April there were four contenders although perhaps Alastair Forsyth's brace of drake Blue-winged Teal should be viewed as a single contender at Old Nisthouse on Orkney. Martin Garner flew the flag for the East Coast and also Birding Frontiers with his beautiful Northern Treecreeper in January. Possibly the strongest contender so far is Barry Stewart's Franklin's Gull at Burry Inlet in South Wales which is sure to be on the short list at the end of the year.
Franklin's Gull at Penclacwydd 24-Apr-14 from Barry Stewart on Vimeo.
January started strongly with the first Blue-winged Teal for Alastair Forsyth and the detection of the Northern Treecreeper at Flamborough. Underneath the headlines were a good selection of scarcities with four patches recording Glossy Ibis. Two of the Irish patches recorded Ring-billed Gull in January. Other twos were White-billed Diver and Great White Egret. There was a Black Brant for Gary Elton at Holme while John Bowler had a Green-winged Teal on Tiree. Hanging over from the autumn was a Yellow-browed Warbler for Tim Farr at Sutton Bingham whilst the first of the years PWC Kumlien's Gulls was found on Guernsey by Mark Lawlor.
Unsurprisingly February was slower than January but some typical winter scarce fare was discovered. The first Sabine's Gull and American Wigeon for this years competition were found on the Inner Hebrides while on the Outer Hebrides Brian Rabbitts had a Ring-necked Duck at Balranald. Andy Johnson continued his form from 2013 with a Black Brant at Sandy Point. Doubles were pairs of Ring-billed Gull, Green-winged Teal and Kumlien's Gull.
The first signs of migration in March failed to change the make-up of scarcities with no 'new' species recorded. Kumlien's Gull was the story of the month with four found boosting the total number recorded in PWC in 2014 to 8 birds. In second place were three Green-winged Teal as wildfowl movement became more obvious. Single records of Great White Egret, Black Brant and Glossy Ibis were also recorded.
April dawned and some diversity arrived amongst the scarcities with fourteen species recording 3 points or better found. The headliners were Barry Stewart's Franklin's Gull and a/the Blue-winged Teal on Orkney for Alastair Forsyth. Triples of Serin and Wryneck proved popular including Ian T's Serin which was the first for the Outer Hebrides. Another county first was Espen Quinto-Ashman's Bluethroat in Herefordshire. Another Kumlien's Gull and the second of the year at Larne Lough took the total to nine birds this year. Wildfowl movement helped with American Wigeon, Surf Scoter and Snow Goose all recorded. More summery fare included a Red-rumped Swallow at Flamborough and a White Stork on Bardsey. Holding on to winter was a Ring-billed Gull on Tiree. There were also a couple of Great White Egrets and a single Spotted Crake.
So there you have it PWC2014 to date. Well except the May scores aren't in but we already know of multiple Rustic Buntings, Citrine Wagtails amongst other goodies. What will your patch bring you? Who will find the one?