Wednesday, 2 July 2014

The Bresser and Forest Optics Best Find Rarity Roundup - May 2014

This is the May update for Patchwork Challenge’s blue riband event The Bresser & Forest Optic Best Find Competition. This is the best find of the whole patchbirding year as voted for by you, the competitors. Anyone could win this prize, and whilst those in rarity hotspots may have an advantage, it should serve as reminder to everyone else that an inland Pied Wheatear ran the competition to the wire last year.

For the winner of the competition, 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. Now that is a prize worth winning!

As the Spring hit full swing and the migrants arrived en-masse, the ever exciting month of May resulted in a raft of rarities for determined patchworkers. It is a month that always helps to boost that all-important list, and each outing has the potential for great rewards.

Our good friends at Bresser & Forest Optics have kindly sponsored this centrepiece of Patchwork Challenge, the best find competition, and the quality of birds in May has not disappointed with two in particular being real contenders for the big prize.

The first was a Eastern Bonelli’s Warbler at Newbiggin in Northumberland. For Alan Tilmouth, the 3rd May had started as a quiet morning with few birds on the move, but a strange call from a Phylloscopus warbler changed all of that. Initially identified as a Western Bonelli’s Warbler, the story of the find is a demonstration of the process required to split some of our more difficult species. A combination of sonograms, photos, videos and European expertise helped to change this identification to the rarer orientalis. This was all a testament to Alan’s persistence in the identification process aided by the extensive data recording whilst the bird was present. Points well-earned indeed.

  Eastern Bonelli's Warbler, Alan Tilmouth

The second contender required a less extensive process to clinch the identification but was arguably a more beautiful looker. John Bowler had accumulated a mouth-watering list in May (not to mention a hefty points total) including American Wigeon, Common Rosefinch, Marsh Warbler, Red-Backed Shrike, Red-Rumped Swallow and Rustic Bunting. So when on 27th May a glorious male Collared Flycatcher decided to grace his patch at Balephuil on Tiree, it capped off what had been the best ever May for the island. Almost half of the British records have been found in May, so it was the right time and for John the right place to notch up this first for the county of Argyll.

      Collared Flycatcher (John Bowler)

As per usual in May, there were a number of Heron overshoots from the continent. Glossy Ibis and Great White Egret are becoming a regular feature and could be following in the footsteps of Little Egret with increased colonisation of our shores. Cattle Egret is however still a bird to draw a crowd, so a bird at Little Marlow GP was a welcome find indeed for Adam Basset, who also added a first patch record of Spoonbill to his May points tally.

It is not very often that more patches report Black Stork than its white cousin. However, this was the case in May as birds appeared at 3 sites spread right across England, with birds at Goole Fields, Little Orme and Dawlish Warren.
There were not many seabirds of note during the month, with a couple of patches reporting Long-Tailed Skua and Storm Petrel amongst their highlights. Perhaps the most notable seabird came from Wall Common with Somerset’s first Blue Fulmar proving to be quite a coup for Roger Musgrove. A Gannet seen at the inland location of Saul Warth was also an unexpected bonus for Gordon Hodgson.

As you might expect in May, ducks took something of a back seat in the rarity charts, but a Ring-Necked Duck found by Pete Antrobus at Neumann’s Flashes was a patch first for that Cheshire location. An American Wigeon was found on Tiree whilst a number of patches reported Garganey amongst their highlights in May. Dunnet in Scotland saw both White-Billed Diver and Surf Scoter put in appearances for Dan Brown, but perhaps the most spectacular sighting of Dan’s month was worth no points at all, as a pod of 6 Orcas cruised slowly south past Skirza Duncansby.

May is usually a good month for waders with many sites reporting Wood Sandpipers amongst their highlights and 3 patchers adding self-found Temminck’s Stints to their point totals. A Stone Curlew was a noteable find on Bardsey Island. The best wader found on patch this month however goes to the stunning Broad-Billed Sandpiper located by Wayne Gillatt after a report of an odd looking Dunlin at Alkborough Flats. A long walk to get closer to the bird in question paid off as the identification was clinched before the bird flew off high over the Humber.

Whilst no rare terns were found by patchers in May, Martin Elcoate at Topsham enjoyed a gull bonanza. A Ross’s Gull had already added 4 points to the Topsham total when it was joined by a stunning Bonaparte’s Gull in the same group. Matching the 4 points for the Ross’s, this is then doubled to reward this great patch find. Add to that a further Bonaparte’s and Little and Mediterranean Gulls, this was the place to be in the UK for gull watchers in May.

Top : Bonaparte's Gull (Keith Mitchell)
Bottom : Ross's Gull (Martin Elcoate)

As might be expected in spring, Hobby’s featured prominently in the highlights, perhaps for the impact that this dynamic summer visitor bird has on our birding imaginations. Martin Garner recorded a Honey Buzzard at Flamborough, and a Black Kite put in an appearance at North Lowestoft whilst a Montagu’s Harrier lit up Adam Faiers day at Sandwich. The latter is the subject of the RSPB hotline initiative this year to encourage the reporting of all sightings of this all too scarce summer visitor.

Bee-eater added a splash of colour at Flamborough in the month, whilst other classic Spring fair included a scattering of Common Rosefinch, Golden Oriole, Red-Backed Shrike, Savi’s Warblers and Red-Breasted Flycatcher. An impressive 5 different patchers reported self-found Marsh Warblers. Icterine Warbler and Red-Rumped Swallow on the Isle of May and Tiree respectively were also typical fare for the season and welcome double pointers.

Blyth’s Reed Warblers put in a good showing, with three patchers demonstrating fine ID skills by finding their own birds. One of these was located at Wanstead Flats for what is surely the inland bird of the month whilst Andrew Whitehouse found the bird below at Girdleness in Aberdeen.

Yellow-Browed Warbler will feature on many lists by the end of October, but a Spring bird is more unusual sight, so a bird at Holme NOA was an earlier than expected addition to the year list for Gary Elton.

For three patches, this May proved to be a Citrine special, with this little gem putting in appearances at Portland Bill, Bardsey Island (a joint find for both of the Bardsey patchers) and Red Rocks where Jane Turner managed to rattle off the same number of camera shots as expletives in order to produce the shot below. In addition, the Bardsey patch added a Blue-Headed Wagtail to their year list.

      Citrine Wagtail - Jane Turner

Another find on Tiree was a Rustic Bunting which was yet another addition to John Bowler’s spring rarity list. Peter Donnelly on North Ronaldsay found a Short-Toed Lark on his patch while having to settle for just the 5 points for the Yellow-Rumped Warbler which put in an appearance on the 6th May before moving on to Unst the following day.

So what will the June scores show. We know June has not been short of quality birds with Short-Toed Eagle and Bridled Tern both commuting in UK airspace. Surely one of these will make a patchers day soon and will become a real contender for Bresser & Forest Optics wonderful prize.

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