Friday, 31 January 2014

PWC 2014 prizes - the overall comparative league winner

The winner of the overall comparative score league will win a £50 voucher, kindly donated by NHBS. All birders love bird books (some a little too much, according to my better half...), so we're confident that this will be a very well received prize!

Of course, there's so much more to NHBS than bird books alone, so whether it's spent on the latest ID guide, mothing equipment, or sound recording equipment, it'll go a long way toward enhancing your enjoyment of your patch - or at the very least, adding a bit of weight to those no doubt already straining bookshelves!

It's worth mentioning here that as well as selling you things, often at reduced prices, NHBS review many of the books they stock, and also support a number of worthy causes - see here to find out more - and please help out in any way that you can!

PWC 2014 prizes - the Cameron Bespolka prize

We are delighted to be able to announce the selection of prizes that are on offer for the winners of the various leagues, all of which are available through the very kind donations from the good people mentioned below. Don't thank us, thank them!

First up, the winner of the NGB league will receive the Cameron Bespolka prize - which for 2014's winner will be a years subscription to British Birds magazine, kindly donated of course by British Birds themselves. Here at PWC we feel that a subscription to BB is an absolute essential for any young birder, and it is fitting that the prize donated by BB, who give grants to young birders to visit bird observatories and/or obtain ringing training, should go to a young birder. NGB themselves may also be able to offer additional prizes here - watch this space - who wouldn't want a Jonnie Fisk original?!

 Also worthy of mention here is the Cameron Bespolka Trust. The trust aims to raise money to help young birders gain experience and develop their hobby (much like the BB grants) with a focus on helping those young birders less able to travel due to financial constraints.

If either of these schemes help mould the career of a future conservationist then I'm sure they'll consider themselves to be successful. And if you are young, or remember being young once, I'm sure you'll consider them worth donating to.

Thursday, 30 January 2014

Submitting your scores

It’ll soon be the end of the month – the first month of PWC 2014, and the first month of any Patchwork Challenge for many folk. We hope you've enjoyed exploring your patches and have been rewarded accordingly!

When you've finished your patching for January, you'll be in a position to submit your scores – which you do via a form on this blog, somewhere to the right of the text you're reading now!

Essentially it’s the same process as you went through when registering for the competition, i.e. just fill in the fields and press the submit button. Please note that you do not receive anything saying your submission has been successful, but the text in the form should change to say something along the lines of ‘your data have been received’.

What we'll ask for are your name, patch, minileague, species total and points, just as we did for last year. In addition, at the end of every month this year we'll be asking you for your Birdtrack Birdrace details (see here and here for more info). Please remember that you can be in more than one minileague - for example coastal scotland and NGB. For January, please record all of these in the same box, but note that in future we will be providing tick boxes for these leagues. 

After January, we will be collecting info on who's scores are eligible for the non-motorised league. Details of this league will be announced formally very soon - watch this space!

If there's anything thats not clear, you can ask via our twitter or facebook feeds, email us, or leave a comment on the blog.

Wednesday, 29 January 2014

Inland East Anglia 2013 Minileague

Inland East Anglia produced the highest scores of any inland area, with two grafting patchers breaking the 150 species and 200 points barrier - well played to both Jamie Wells and Ben Lewis for this achievement - something many coastal patchers didn't manage! In the end, Jamie wins out by virtue of a 7 species and 9 point gap from Ben, who in turn had a margin of 12 species and 32 points over Ed Keeble in third place.

Jamie Wells also wins out in the comparative score league, although this time it's Emma Webb's Maldon patch in second and Alison Allen at Thorpe-next-Haddiscoe in third. 

Monday, 27 January 2014

Helping House martins

Thanks to all those who took part last year, and of course, to the generous support of Meopta and Forest Optic, we were able to generate £314 to donate to the BTO's 'Out of Africa' appeal. This work has furthered our knowledge of the migratory and wintering ecology of cuckoos considerably -  and following the progress of Patch, the cuckoo named after the Patchwork Challenge, was not only great fun last year, but a real eye opener into the distances travelled by these birds and the remarkable speed with which some of the longer journeys were made.It was fascinating stuff.

This year, we are again in a position to make a contribution of £1 for every species seen on PWC 2014, this time thanks to those good people at Bresser and Forest Optic. The Out of Africa appeal is not running any more, so instead, we have decided that the monies raised will be donated to support the BTOs work on House Martins.

House martins are in decline in the UK, with data suggesting that the long term decline in numbers might be to the tune of 66% - so it's clear that some effort is needed to conserve this charismatic bird on both its breeding and wintering grounds. We're delighted to be able to support this project (Mark especially - it's one of his favourite birds!) and we hope you think it's worthwhile to. If you do, please consider helping out by making a donation.

Sunday, 26 January 2014

Dinton Pastures 2013 review - Marek Walford

January 1st notched up 56 species with nothing unexpected. My next visit added Ring-necked Parakeet, an absolute mega less than 10 years ago but now a regular sight and sound. I also caught up with the regular wintering Bittern. A snowy spell brought in two Golden Plover, Dunlin and Ruff and a fly-over Skylark. Patch Gold arrived in the form of a Coal Tit, always a difficult bird in the park.
Woodcock is a previously mythical species at Dinton until it was discovered they’re fairly regular at dusk and after a couple of attempts I had a brief fly-overJack Snipe completed the trio. A first-winter Mediterranean Gull was my first good find of the year.
A Shelduck on 1st was bang on cue. Oystercatcher was expected, with several pairs breeding in the county now. A fly-over male Goosander was major grip-back having missed one in January. A drake Pintail required an after-work twitch in fading light without bins (school boy error). Thankfully there’s a selection of “spares” in the Lea Farm hide! A Grey Wagtail was my first of the year and remained a scarce bird all year, despite being a regular breeder in previous years. The first Swallow of the year was seen on 23rd. A superb drake Garganey was another good find.
A Brambling was a good start to the month but a trip to Extremadura saw me miss Little Gull and Arctic Tern. Most of the regular summer visitors were added with the highlight being a very elusive Grasshopper Warbler. A Peregrine was one of only two sightings all year.
May was very slow with the only new bird added being a Lesser Whitethroat.
June is always quiet on the patch and I made few visits. The only new bird was Little Ringed Plover.
July brings the hope of wader passage but the only new one was a Black-tailed Godwit.
A Spotted Flycatcher was a good bird. Green Sandpiper and Ringed Plover joined the wader list. Yellow Wagtails were fairly regular fly-overs and Redstarts put in an appearance in the hotspot that is the Lavell’s car park field. A good find was a Whinchat on the landfill.
Laziness eventually saw me go out at night to get Tawny Owl. Having missed all the spring birds I eventually caught up with Wheatear! Early morning pre-work visits paid off with a Little Gull.
After a brief Yellow-browed Warbler early in the month Fraser Cottington found it, or another bird twelve days later! This required an emergency early-and-extended lunch break without bins, again! Thankfully I was able to borrow somebody else’s on site and add Yellow-browed to the patch and county list.
The highlight was a Lesser Spotted Woodpecker. This bird dug out a hole in a dead alder and roosted in it every night for a couple of weeks before a Great Spot drilled out the hole! Another new bird and a patch tick was a fly-over Yellowhammer.
No new birds were added during December so I ended the year on 124 species and 139 points. This was my best ever year (by four species) and included two patch ticks. Bird of the year was the Yellow-browed Warbler, even though I didn’t find it. My best finds were Mediterranean Gull, Goosander, Garganey, Peregrine, Whinchat, Little Gull and Yellowhammer. All barely annual or less than annual but none earning any bonus points! The joy of inland birding!

Thursday, 23 January 2014

Coastal Scotland 2013 Minileague

With not a point added amongst the Top 3 it is as you were in Coastal Scotland with John Bowler on Tiree, leading Rob Fray at Virkie and Gary Bell at Sumburgh who complete the podium. Both Chris H and Ali Shuttleworth manage to climb a place in December to claim 14th and 17th respectively. 

With not a position change in the table it is no surprise that Barrie Hamill's exceptional 132% held off this parishes finest, Mark Lewis. John Bowler holds on to third in what was a very tight league. Chris H and Adrew Whitehouse are the final members of the hundred club with nine patches scoring 100% or more.

Coastal East Anglia 2013 Minileague

With the two top scorers nationally in the Coastal East Anglian minileague it is no surprise to see Moss and Simon leading the way but a closely fought battle with many excellent birds goes Moss's way. James Brown at Corton takes third place well adrift of the leaders but out of reach of Jonathan and Ryan who were the best of the rest so to speak. The movers and shakers this month were Gary White, Peter C, Dave Sivyer and Justin Zantboer who all moved up a place to make several close finishes throughout the table including a tie for 16th place...

Despite Moss's monster score he fails to to take the comparative crown with Gary White, the national comparative champion scoring a whopping 160% at Trimingham. Well done to Gary. Simon Chidwick completes the Top 3 with his big points total getting him to 135%. PWCs Ryan Irvine gets fourth place while poor Jonathan Gibbs at Minsmere falls two places as the Winterton massive finally gain some ground.

Inland Scotland 2013 Minileague

Graeme G's slender lead over Chris Pendlebury held out in the battle of the Upper Forth and Graeme is the champion of the Inland Scotland Minileague. A recategorisation of Alastair F's patch sees it straight in at number three preventing Chris from claiming two podium spots. Andy Dowse manages to climb two places to eighth in the only move of the month. 

The third in a series of double winners, Graeme managed a hefty 127% which for an inland site seems to be a truely impressive score. Andy Cage finishes in second while Graeme Buchanan manages to overhaul both Chris Pendlebury's to finish third whilst joining the hundred club at Boghall. 

Ireland 2013 Minileague

A national league is quite something and making the competition truly international is the Ireland Minileague. As such Owen Foley should be delighted with being the champion of Ireland or something like that. In all seriousness a great effort and a massive score worthy of securing the leaders jersey. Dave Suddaby's excellent autumn at Blacksod clinches second spot whilst Colin Barton's slackness when it comes to monthly submissions sees him claim a surprise third place for Galley Head. Niall Keogh has to be content with a respectable fourth despite being in second place for much of the year. The only other change of places involves a late climb into 7th by Tom M at Kilmore Quay.

The Ireland Comparative winner is Owen Foley and he becomes our second double winner with a giant score of 145%. The rest of the places stay static with the exception of dark horse Colin climbing into 4th and joining the 100 club with a final score of 114%. Alan Lauder's excellent year at Carrick Mountain with flyover Little Egret and last gasp Med Gull deserves praise for perseverance and we are hoping that more patches of this type take part in 2014 and this highlights where the comparative scoring comes into its own. Third place on Rathlin is Neal Warnock just climbing on to the podium ahead of the crowd.

London 2013 Minileague

Adam Bassett at Little Marlow GP hits back after surprisingly losing top spot in November to take the London Minileague by three points. Paul Whiteman holds on to third place with Marek Walford hot on his heels in fourth. Extremely competitive throughout with little between the positions all the way to the bottom of the league. The rest of the league remained static although a first update from Alan Cox sees him straight in to eleventh place.

Adam completed the very tricky task of doubling up taking both the points and the comparative competitions for the London area (it is a pretty broad definition and is easier to write than London and the South east...). In fact none of the published leagues thus far have double winners so extra congratulations for a tremendous effort. The only change of places in the final month was Paul Whiteman moving up one place to fourth with Jason R the unfortunate patcher slipping back. No new additions to the 100 club this month but Fraser Cottingham and Michael Terry came very close. With plenty of new patchers the London Minileague is looking very competitive in 2014.

Wednesday, 22 January 2014

South Coast 2013 Minileague

The autumn of Andy Johnson's dreams with find after find including the Meopta and Forest winning Semipalmated Plover secured a well deserved victory on the South Coast. It was never really in doubt but the 102 point margin is impressive. Ian Roberts failed to add to his score in December nearly letting Liam Curson into silver. In the end Samphire Hoe was superior to Cuckmere Haven but only by three points. Adam Faiers climbs one place to fourth whilst Cameron Bespolkas score was good enough to secure fifth place. Joost Brandsma finishes 6th slipping a place whilst the bottom two remain as you were.

The comparative league is as you were with Liam winning comfortably. Ian Roberts failed to add points in December and is left high and dry on 99% for the year. Maybe in 2014 Ian? Well done to all who took part and here is hoping the South Coast leagues are a touch more competitive this year.

Coastal North 2013 Minileague

Ian Mills gets the win in the Coastal North Minileague but after sitting pretty for a good portion of the year he won by a single point as Jane Turner at Red Rocks leapfrogs Iain Robson at Druridge. There was little change in December with a few points added here and there but no other position changes.

Iain Robson holds on to the comparative league despite Ian Mills closing the gap and Jane Turner busting through 100% like it didnt even exist to get third place. Alan Tilmouth at Newbiggin misses out on a podium place but can be satisfied with being the final member of the 100 club in the Coastal North.

Tuesday, 21 January 2014

Midlands 2013 Minileague

We have been fairly maligned at times for overlooking the inland patchers and we have been trying to rectify this since the New Year but I have just spotted a major oversight. We failed to produce a Midlands November update. Complaints were thin on the ground so maybe it wasnt that productive. Since October Nick Crouch has added four species to cement his place as inaugural winner of the Midlands minileague. Matt Griffiths at Earlswood lost out to Dave Roberts at Marston by a single point despite his greater species tally. Lower down it has remained static in terms of positions and points although Richard Harbird managed to add a creditable six species in November and December to get within a hair's breadth of the podium.

Despite no additions since October Alan Kydd has managed to hold on in a highly competitive comparative league which despite the small number of entrants remained open until the end. Richard's excellent showing was nearly enough to catch Dave Roberts but the positions remained the same at the final whistle. Well done to all. It seems the Midlands is going to be highly competitive in 2014 and with many more patchers by the looks of things.

South West 2013 Minileague

Kev Rylands had this one wrapped up from a good way out but a strong showing from Paul Bowerman managed to cut the gap to 23 species and a mere(?!) 56 points. Marcus Lawson overtook Dick Best at the last to claim 5th. Peter Hazlewood failed to add to his score allowing Shaun Robson capitalise. Dan Chaney managed to outstrip Derek Julian to make the top 10.

Roger Musgrove has led from a long way out and held on despite a late charge from Marcus Lawson. Dan Chaney keeps hold of third place to complete the podium. Positions remain the same further down with Paul Bowerman being the final addition to the hundred club. A great effort all round. Can Roger hold on for a second year in 2014?

Wales 2013 Minileague

The results are in and Steve Stansfield has won by a landslide in the points league with an outstanding 310 species. Ben Porter leapfrogs Mathew Meehan to make it a Bardsey Top 2. Further down Julian Hughes managed to split Henry Cooks twin patches of Conwy and Little Orme with his own efforts at Conwy. Elsewhere things remain the same. Well done to all involved... I wonder if anyone can make inroads into Bardsey's dominance?

Congratulations to Marc Hughes with a superb score of 152%. Henry Cook took him close with his Conwy patch finishing on 148%. All the remaining positions have remained the same since November but a closely fought league with no scores under 90%. Five 100 percenters this year - hopefully next year will be equally successful in Wales.

PWC 2013 - the national winners - Comparative and Non-comparative.

The comparative score table has always been the main aim of PWC and it was always going to be a bit hit or miss on the first year, the whole top 20 managed over 120% through increased effort rather than a low predicted score, or at least that is the case for myself and Mark who both finished with nigh on 130%. Congratulations to Gary White who posted 160% to win, a combination of an excellent year for scarcities and increased effort as the PWC bug kicked in. Roger Musgrove and Marc Hughes made up the top 3 and were the only others to pass 150%. 2014 should see this league become even more competitive as we all use the 2013 score to aim for.

Matthew Meehan flys the flag for Wales in the non-comparative league, thanks in no small part to finding a stunning Penduline Tit. East Anglia make up the next two spots with Rob W and Craig Fultcher finding more species than Matt but falling just short in the points. Well done Matthew, a great effort.

Monday, 20 January 2014

Inland North 2013 Minileague

Jonny Holliday takes the title in the Inland North Minileague after finishing third nationally. A superb 189 points and 149 species - can he make it 150 in 2014? Pete Antrobus has managed to climb into the silver medal position bringing himself level with Mark Reeder at the close of play. Few additions were made in the final month although Adrian & John managed to pull level with Mark Breaks for joint 4th place. James Common at Stobswood also managed to gain a place whilst George Watola fell three places to 11th. A really competitive league with friendly rivalries that hopefully carry on to 2014.

James Common wins the 2013 comparative minileague with a whopping 148%. Six competitors managed to breach 100% with Mark Breaks getting within a couple of points. Richard and Chloe May made it in the final month and in doing so went back ahead of Mark after he claimed 6th in November - its the final scores that matter! Well done to all that took part and hopefully more decent birds are found next year.

PWC 2013 - the national winners - Total Species and Points

I'm sure most of you have seen the Birdguides webzine with the final top 20s here but we thought it best have a quick round up here too.

The good people at Birdguides have generously provided prizes for the best comparative and non-comparative scores, the best inland score, and the best points per bird (ppb) score. The winners will receive subscriptions to Birdguides Bird News Extra service, but before we announce the winners of those, let’s have a look at who came out on top in terms of pure numbers.

Congratulations to Simon Chidwick at Cromer who amassed over 200 species! I never though that 200 species would be reached in such a small area so it truly is a great record. His neighbouring patch at Weybourne almost managed the same feat as Moss Taylor finished on 198 species. James Brown completed an East Anglia 1,2,3 while Kev Rylands and Ian Mills ensured the South West and North East made it into the top 5.

Moss and Simon swap places in the points table with Moss finishing 10 points ahead. The rest of the top 5 had a Celtic feel with Owen Foley not too far  behind Simon in third, Steve Stansfield flew the flag for Wales in 4th and John Bowler was the Scottish top patch in 5th. The Best Find winner Andy Johnson was the only other 300+ score as he finished 6th.

Hemsby: 2013 vs 2014, the first 19 days!

Now that the second year of PWC is up and running I thought I would have the first look into 2013 vs 2014 at Hemsby. Three weekends into 2014 and in my mind this year has been pretty dire on patch; the mild and wet weather has left the patch a bit stagnant, no finch or thrush flocks moving through, wildfowl numbers out at sea very low etc.

Looking at the raw numbers though suggests that 2014 has not been that bad, 60 species up to the 19th compared with 62 in 2013 and the point’s totals look even better with 76 in 2014 vs 70 in 2013. So, 2014 isn’t doing too badly despite my misgivings but why do I feel that I have struggled this month. Delving beyond the raw numbers and you get a far more accurate picture. Despite there only being 2 species between the years I have missed a massive 18 species that I saw in 2013 by the 19th January! I’m missing some ‘easy’ birds but a cold snap should hopefully see me pick up Siskin, Bullfinch, Goldcrest, Redpoll, Fieldfare and Redwing along the lanes and wildfowl and waders should start moving giving me a chance of catching up with Oystercatcher, Mallard, Curlew, Lapwing etc.

This may also be a reason for my higher points total, I’ve missed a lot of 1 pointers and in their place I’ve picked up a couple patch ticks in the shape of Black-throated Diver and Red-necked Grebe as well as Great Skua, Great Northern Diver, Little Gull (257 in one afternoon), Puffin and Med Gull (all 2 pointers) all of which I didn’t see until later in the year in 2013. So walking around the patch has been difficult and slow compared with 2013 but (sofa) seawatching has been the saviour.

So far then, quality over quantity, let’s hope that continues......

Thursday, 16 January 2014

How to access your numbers for the BirdTrack Birdrace

As we've mentioned here, for an extra element of competition, but primarily to make our patchwork worth a little more, we'll be asking you to submit the number of records and complete lists you have submitted to BirdTrack with your scores each month. Our aim is to smash a collective total at the end of 2014 of 1.25 million records!

BirdTrack is free to use web based software that allows to to contribute your sightings to a massive and rapidly growing database on UK and Irish birds, as well as giving you an excellent platform for organising and displaying your own data. The homepage can be found here, but you should note that there are also android and apple apps for use in the field - if you're interested just search for 'BirdTrack' in the relevant app store.

Signing up and using BirdTrack is straightforward - as is retrieving the info we'll be asking you to report with your scores - those who are unfamiliar with the system might be grateful for a little guidance though, so here goes...

What we need from you, month by month, are the numbers of 'complete lists' and individual records that you have entered into BirdTrack that were recorded on your patch. To do this, we'll add a couple of fields to the form we use to get monthly scores from you (via the blog) - and it should be fairly obvious how to fill them in. For you to access the numbers from BirdTrack, read on...

...On the homepage, look in the box on the left hand side and choose the 'Explore my records' option. On the new screen you'll see a series of options labelled Date, Location, Species and Project - have a look through these as they'll help you get the most oout of investigating your own records via BirdTrack. What we need from you are records from a given month (click on the Dates tick box, select the date range radial button, and choose the relevant dates) and from within your patch (click the Locations tick box, click the 'specific locations radial button, and ensure all the locations that are within your patch are listed). Finally, make sure that 'all species' is selected in the Species section.

Hey presto - its as easy as that! The software then returns all the data you've specified, and in the blue bar that hovers underneath the short eared owl, you can find the info we're after - the number of records and complete lists.

Wednesday, 15 January 2014

PWC in numbers

Us birders like to keep tabs on the numbers, so here are a few of ours...

314 - the number of species in 2013 - 315 species on our total cumulative list (the additional species is short-toed treecreeper, on a Guernsey patch!).

3044 - the number of km in 7 days - Patch the cuckoo's journey across the Sahara.

1823 - the number of @PatchBirding tweets, and 96,472 - the number of blog hits, since November 2012.

319 - the number of patches signed up for 2014 (and counting!)

30 - the number of patches we anticipated taking part back in late 2012...

8 - the number of PWC self found greenish warblers last August!

7 - the number of emails we sent to Birdforum asking them to reinstate the PWC thread ;-)

37 - the number of individual BB rarities found on UK and Irish patches in 2013.

10,000 - the number of points awarded for finding a great auk on your patch.

3 - the number of times Mark forgot to submit his score at the end of each month...

Tuesday, 14 January 2014

Stobswood PWC review 2013, James Common.

For me 2013 marked the best year yet for my little patch at Stobswood, Northumberland. Though still in its infancy the site holds a good mix of habitats including open agricultural land, mature forest and a number of relatively new pools created as part of an opencast reclamation scheme subsequently attracting a diverse range of species. Constantly commuting between university and home this year has certainly taken its toll on my patching efforts however resulting in me missing a few rather good birds with Kittiwake, Long-Eared Owl, Little Owl and Brambling to name a few. This in mind I still managed a final score of 110 points for 103 
species with some memorable and extremely enjoyable encounters along the way, not bad for such a new site!

Jan-April was spent at university (and in the Gambia) resulting in very little time spent on the patch with only conspicuous and common species noted during this time including the usual tits, finches and corvids though NuthatchTreecreeper and Lesser Redpoll in the garden at least gave me something interesting to look at.
Finally managing to get back for some serious birding I quickly upped the year list to 64 species picking up some patch scarcities such GadwallShovelerBarn Owl and Stock Dove as well as a pair of patch firsts in the form of both Wheatear and Yellow Wagtail. The highlight of the month however defiantly goes to the Avocet located on a temporary flash just up the road from my home, great birds.
70 species noted this month (my highest count for any month in 2013) with new birds including Tawny Owl, Grey Partridge andBuzzard alongside a couple of new wader species with the most surprising of these being the lone Black-Tailed Godwit noted on the north pool mid month. The usual summer visitors of Whitethroat, BlackcapWillow WarblerSand MartinChiffchaff and my first Cuckoo of the year also made for a interesting month.
Common Sandpiper and Greenshank provided new ticks in July alongside an out of season Short-Eared Owl and most welcome of all a male Marsh Harrier which loitered at the site all month undoubtly making use of the plentiful Mipits and Skylarks breeding on the reclaimed grassland. Elsewhere only a wayward Sanderling provided anything new.
Little Stint and Little Ringed Plover where the highlights of this month providing me with a few welcome points and renewed sense of hope whilst other patch ticks came in thick and fast in the form of Green SandpiperSnipeLesser Whitethroat and Tree Sparrow though most surprising of all was the Great Crested Grebe that put in a brief but no less enjoyable appearance on the 15thGolden Plover and Peregrine topped off what had been a very rewarding 30 days on the patch.
Back to university so very little seen in the way of new birds though more widespread species such as YellowhammerBullfinch,SparrowhawkGreat Spotted WoodpeckerDunlin and Wigeon were all noted on my infrequent visits home.
November marked the appearance of my first ever patch Whooper Swans as well as the new additions of Pink-Footed Goose and Cormorant though the highlight of the month was without a shadow of a doubt the lone Snow Bunting found feeding around the outskirts of the west pool during a practically dreary mornings visit. With these winter beauties cropping up just down the road at Druridge I had expected at least one to turn up but this made encounter no less species when it finally did occur! Elsewhere only a few Jay and Goldcrest were of particular interest.

The final month of the year turned up a host of common winter migrants with RedwingFieldfare and Mistle Thrush all boosting the years tally somewhat whilst lingering Golden Plover, Redshank, Pink-Footed Geese and Curlew entertained me somewhat as I frantically dashed around in search of one last year tick. Two days before Christmas I got my wish in the form of a handsome drake Goldeneye located on one of the shallow (surely fishless) pools to the east of the site. Not a rarity by any standards but still a welcome and somewhat surprisingly addition to the year list.
So there you have it, nothing particularly rare but a few nice scarcities noted in the form of Snow Bunting, Marsh Harrier, SEO, Avocet and Little Stint I can hardly complain! Birding is about the enjoyment after all and I have certainly enjoyed participating in the PWC this year and am greatly looking forward to 2014 and whatever It may bring.

Sunday, 12 January 2014

My 2013 PWC review from Barmston

Nominally Barmston has been my patch since I moved to East Yorkshire 6 years ago but until 2013 I hadn't really been there very often with the lure of Flamborough, Filey and Spurn just too much on those special days. Despite this I had managed some amazing days there and after finding Rough-legged Buzzard, and Glaucous Gull along with the rather distant day of a thousand Little Auks (2007? when the Farnes had 28,000) I realised it must have a little potential... I signed up for PWC in November 2012 and had a few exploratory visits to get a feel of the site - I was hugely excited.

Kumlien's Gull in February
The year was everything I had hoped, a star bird, some decent finds and learning about the site. Like the other guys I will do a month by month breakdown but my year can be divided into three parts which reflect the success and additions I made. The first 3 months I was self employed and due to the sporadic nature of my work I managed to spend a great deal of time on patch, finding a lot but seeing few migrants as spring didnt really arrive until after I got a full time job in Newcastle in April. That limited my patching majorly and I tried to keep visiting but effort levels dropped. I kept enthused though and in late August I joined the PWC team giving them the third pair of hands that was required with the level of success the competition has had. I hit the patch more often and in a more structured way turning up bits and pieces without getting the big one that I craved. This year...


I was well and truly wrapped up in Footit last year - a great competition and it took my focus at the start of the year. Despite this I still managed six visits and 63 species in the first month. Top of the pops was the 1w Kumlien's Gull which wintered last year. This much debated individual returned later in the year as a 2w and has firmed itself in in the Kumlien's camp. The supporting cast of both Dark-bellied and Pale-bellied Brents, European White-fronted Goose, Woodcock and Jack Snipe were concentrated by extremely cold snowy conditions whilst other visitors were storm driven such as the Red-breasted Mergansers that flew south over my head and a couple of Little Gulls dancing over the surf after a huge blow that removed most of the sand from the beach. Snow Buntings were ever present in the dunes to the north. One of the highlights of the month was a Water Rail that took to feeding on the upper beach in the snow.

Snow Bunting in January

I was offshore for two weeks, working in Cumbria for a week and in Spain for 5 days looking at Wolves in February leaving not much time for patching but I did get a few common waders ticked off and better views of the Kumlien's Gull which was still present although quite bleached by this time.

Purple Sandpiper in April

The so called Beast from the East dumped lots of Lobsters and assorted dead fish on the beach leading to squillions of gulls and I managed to get onto the patch plenty which was a good thing. A smart summer plumage Mediterranean Gull and lots of Kittiwakes joined the throng which still included the now snow white larid from Baffin Island. A couple of Little Gulls offshore were nice as was a passing Great Northern Diver. The pipit field acquired its name as half a dozen Scandi Rock Pipits spent most of the month there including a very pink breasted bird. A good passage of Jack Snipe went through in mid to late March with up to four birds seen daily. On the dung heap near Barmston drain a male Continental Stonechat took up residence, black underwings and all. Very smart indeed, far smarter than the drab Black Redstart which put in a brief appearance. None of the 'proper' March migrants emerged and indeed Chiffchaff never did...

Common Scoter in May

With work starting properly in April only a single visit on the 7th was achieved. The Stonechat and the Kumlien's Gull were still present with some Scandi Rock Pipits and a couple of Jack Snipe. Not particularly spring like but the first passage Curlews and a Bar-tailed Godwit kept the species count ticking along. A few Siskin in the plantation were the only ones of the year.

Corn Bunting in May

I was desperate to get to the patch in May to find out what bred on site and where with the lure of several easy year ticks in recently arrived migrants. In the end I managed a couple of visits. A slightly cool day on the 11th and a warmer one on the 19th. The first visit yielded a nice surprise in a singing Corn Bunting. This part of the country still has them hanging on so it was great to see one on patch. Sedgies piped up in the reeds and a Common Sandpiper pratting about on the sewage outflow was a brucie bonus. A few Yellow Wagtails turned into a plethora by the following weekend and a female Common Scoter on the drain looked out of place whilst above my head one of the local Peregrines was making short work of the Feral Pigeons. My first Wheatear of the year (I know...) was well received and looked to be heading to Greenland whilst on the beach a Whimbrel was parading about. 107 species already.

Continental Stonechat in March

Due to work I failed to get to the patch but I was getting to know my away patch at St Mary's, Northumberland a bit better with a rather smart adult Long-tailed Skua.


Another blank month...poor work really but then I was either in Scotland or Northumberland the whole time.


Still no time for patching. It was driving me nuts not getting down to Barmston but I had managed a bit more time at St Mary's. Mostly I was in Kefalonia enjoying the sun.


Into the PWC admin fold and back onto the patch. Some decent seawatching failed to produce a shearwater but both the common skuas went past in decent numbers and Pintail and Eider were both new for the year. A juvenile Black Tern doing the worst plunge diving I have ever seen was the highlight of the month. On the land nothing new was added as I failed to visit when there was any east in the air.


Again I failed to visit when there was any decent weather so all I got was a hot hot day with all the local raptors up including 3 Peregrines dogfighting and a good number of Buzzards and Sparrowhawks messing about on thermals. Grey Wagtail was new for the year.


A Richard's Pipit came bounding out of the marsh calling its head off. A likely bird in a likely place but a very happy birder. In terms of additions it had slowed right down and my score was plateauing rapidly. The local holiday camp tried to introduce pay and display on the car park. Hmm. Apparently this was when the Kumlien's Gull came back but it took me until the following month to see it again.


The all white save for a bit of grey in the primaries gull was back on my patch and amongst the screaming south westerlies were a few other bits and pieces. I added Black-throated Diver to complete the commoner trio and Razorbill was the second auk of the year. I discovered a big area of cover crop which held lots of buntings and finches including a good number of Corn Buntings - hopefully they would stay into the new year. A (the?) family party of Pale-bellied Brents made a late appearance with birds feeding on the fields to the south of the marsh.

Overall I managed 121 species and 155 points for 2013. I also managed 28 complete lists for Birdtrack and 930 records. Not too bad for a first timer although I missed all the big passage days aside from one seawatch.

Friday, 10 January 2014

A few words from the winner.....

Andy Johnson has been in touch with us and has a few words to share:

"Huge thanks to everyone who voted for the Semipalmated Plover as the PWC 2013 best find – very much the icing on the cake for what was a long-awaited ambition! I’m also glad that so many people got to see it during its 13 day stay. Congratulations to all the other candidates on their superb finds, especially Nick Crouch, whose inland Pied Wheatear deservedly came close to taking the honours, and Sean Morris whose Mourning Dove will be hard to beat in terms of rarity value.
Thanks also to Ryan, Mark and James for organising PWC and dealing with what must be an enormous amount of admin (and far more than originally hoped for, I’ll bet!) - good work! 
Good luck to everyone in 2014! Andy"

A cracking find and congratualtions again to Andy, the Semip fought off some very stiff competition! If you want to hear more about how it was found and what it looks like, take a peek below at the finders account.

Around 9am on Thursday 17th October, whilst doing the rounds of my patch at Sandy Point, I decided to see what was gathering at the Black Point high tide wader roost on the spit to the west of Hayling Island Sailing Club. This is something I try to do every day if I can, as the roost holds good numbers of up to eight wader species on a daily basis. I try to count each species as best I can, and of course I’m always hoping to find something good amongst them (although the best I’ve managed in the nine years I’ve lived here were both in 2009: a Kentish Plover in May and a White-winged Black Tern in September).

There were over two hours to go to high tide, but from the bottom of the causeway I could see a fisherman at the end of the spit had already flushed everything, and a couple of dog walkers were finishing off the job (both frequently a problem here). Nevertheless I went up to Sparkes Marina to see if there was anything left. When I got there I could see there were about 20 Ringed Plovers flying around the spit. Then I heard a clear, unequivocal "Chewit!". I should perhaps say at this point that this was something I’d specifically been waiting to happen ever since I’d started watching the Black Point high tide roost. The roost holds excellent numbers of Ringed Plovers – peaking at up to 300 in the autumn – and, depending on the tide height, often affords excellent views. So as soon as I heard the call, I thought "This is it!!"

I looked to where the noise came from to see the last two remaining ‘ringed’ plovers take flight – one clearly a lot smaller than the other! They flew round and round for what seemed an eternity, but eventually landed on the near edge of the mud, around 60m away. I swung my scope onto them and got onto the smaller bird to specifically look for a white wedge above the gape… it was there! Clear and obvious!! Elation turned to edginess, however, as they quickly took flight once more, and joined three more flying round and round again. Eventually all five settled at the far end! My only choice was to walk all the way down Wittering Road and back up the causeway to Hayling Island Sailing Club. This takes around 15 minutes, during which I was thinking "If they’ve flown off by the time I get there, then that’s that! If they’re still there, I’ll nail it!!"

I got to the spot, and they were still there… got myself into position about 45m away, scope up, start from the left "Nope… nope… no… GOTCHA!!" Britain’s 4th ever Semipalmated Plover!!!

Meopta and Forest Optic Best Find 2013 - and the winner is.......

2013 finally came to a close and what a year for PWC, excellent birds found throughout the year and throughout the country with many people highlighting it had been an exceptional year on their patch. Back in January Meopta and Forest Optic were very kind to offer a prize for the best find on a patch during 2013 and it didn't take long before a stunning white-phase Gyr Falcon was found at Askernish! What a way to start the year and a shoe in to make the best find short list at the end of the year. The rest of the winter rolled past with excellent finds in the form of White-billed Diver, Green-winged Teal etc keeping many a patcher happy. 

Spring had a slow start but by the end of April a nice male Lesser Scaup appeared at Pugneys, Yorks. May was swamped with a deluge of common and scarce migrants and just as we thought the summer doldrums would take over July provided two more highlights of the year. Over in Cork, there was a seawatching day to remember, three Fea's Petrels in one afternoon!!! Another seabird stole the headlines in July when the 'Farnes' Bridled Tern turned up on the Isle of May.

Autumn was the time where the coastal patches really took off with many a scarce and rare migrant in August and September, a skulking Blyth's Reed Warbler at Red Rocks and a Western Bonelli's Warbler at Burray, Orkney probably the highlights. As expected October hit home with some major rarities, first a Red-flanked Bluetail at Weybourne, not quite as rare as in the past but still a cracking bird to find. It was left to two real top notch rarities to see out the month with a  Semipalmated Plover at Sandy Point, Hants and a Mourning Dove in Kinloch, Rhum, a garden tick no less! Two amazing birds and the rarest seen throughout PWC 2013.

As winter approached an inland patch hit back with one of the best finds of the year, Pied Wheatear at Collingham, Notts. A county first and a genuine rarity anywhere let alone on an inland patch. What a way to end the autumn. Winter helped patchers add a few winter specialties but unfortunately none of the Ivory Gulls made it on to a patch. Maybe next year.....

So there is a very brief run down of 2013 and a look at the Meopta and Forest Optic Best Find contenders and all that is left to do is announce the winner.........................

Congratulations Andy Johnson, you are now the proud owner of Meopta Meostar B1 10x42 HD binoculars. A cracking find and for want of a less tired phrase, a true birders bird. And congratulations to all the runners up, all great birds that I'm sure made your year, and birds all of us would dream of finding on our patches.

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