Friday, 25 April 2014

Coastal North Minileague - March

Its been quiet oop norf with a static top three. Martin Garner's Northern Treecreeper is still present and there were no other three pointers in the region with best of the rest featuring Iceland and Med Gulls with a couple of patchers getting Jack Snipe. Iain Robson and Seumus Eaves make progress up the table with Ian Mills dropping down to 8th.

In the comparative league Alan Tilmouth heads it up with 55% leading by a healthy 7% from Iain Robson in second. James Spencer is in third a further 7% back with Ian Mills dropping off the podium into fourth with 38%.

South West Minileague - March

Sean Foote on Portland manages to draw level with Kev Rylands at Dawlish Warren thanks in part to finding a Kumlien's Gull. Kev has been top in the South West for so long this is a real turn up for the books. In fact there is a Portland pincer movement with the assistant obs warden, Joe Stockwell closing in as well only six points back and we know he has already found a Serin in April - perhaps he has bridged the gap? Marcus Lawson at Swineham GPs drops out of the top 3 but is still going great guns with 128 points for an inland patch. Other good bits and pieces included a Hoopoe on Portland and a Chough at Gwithian for Paul Freestone.

Nowt but a fag paper between Marcus Lawson and Dan Chaney in the comparative league with the former taking charge by less than 0.3% with both guys in the 69%. Will it be one of these guys that breaks 80% in April? Paul Bowyer moves up a couple of places to take third and is only 3% back on the leaders. In fact the top 5 places are covered by less than 7%. All very close and hopefully plenty of competition throughout.

Thursday, 24 April 2014

Inland East Anglia - March

A paltry March in East Anglia with Mark Nowers' Crane the best find. Jamie Wells is still in top spot despite no additions. Mark Nowers moves up from fifth after adding 17 points to take second spot. Ed Keeble keeps hold of third with Ben Lewis dropping a couple of spots to fourth.

With Stutton and Linford remaining first and second the fight was for third and Jim Bradley at Surlingham takes control for March. Mark Nower's score of 90% is incredible after just three months and he holds an 10% lead over Steve Swinney. Nick Watmough drops to fifth from third last month.

Wednesday, 23 April 2014

Wales Minileague - March

Competition in the principality was excellent throughout 2013 and with a spectrum of scores and no huge leads to looks like that could continue in 2014 (if Bardsey doesnt run away with it). Barry Steward at Burry Inlet is top of the tree for March with his first score. A decent start! His month was made better by a Black Brant and a couple of Great White Egrets with bonus points aplenty and a healthy 1.24 points per bird. Matt Meehan is also entering his first score of 2014 and goes straight into second with his Newport Wetlands patch six points back from Barry. February's leader Darren Coombs is in third, a further 11 points behind despite a self found Green-winged Teal. We still await Steve Stansfields first submission and Ben Porter continues to rack up the points in Steve's absence on Bardsey. Best finds away from the top of the table were a couple of Osprey's and Mark Hipkin's Kumlien's Gull.

Alison continues at the top of the comparative table but additions are slower to come by at LlanfairTH now and the field closes. A bit. Henry Cook and Graham Powell both climb a place on 64% and 61% respectively meaning Adam Tilt drops to third.

Coastal East Anglia Minileague - March

Tim Hodge bestrides both the local and national tables like a behemoth. His magnificent first quarter score testament to a fine patch and no doubt plenty of effort. James Brown continues in second 24 points back. Nothing a decent spring cant bridge! Gary White is a further 26 points behind at North Walsham. Best finds in March were Great White Egrets at Horsey and Frampton.

Gary White keeps first place with 58% which gives a flavour of the sort of scores required to compete in this league with low comparative scores throughout despite some heavy points scoring.Craig Fulcher makes his season debut in second at Southwold with PWCs own Ryan Irvine in third.

Tuesday, 22 April 2014

Midlands Minileague - March

Ian Cowgill reached an astounding 131 points by the end of March which sees his Lound patch top of the Midlands pile by 22 points. Nick Crouch's Glossy Ibis helps him move into second at Collingham whilst John Hopper at Hoveringham goes solo in third drawing a couple of points clear of Andy Mackay at Eyebrook reservoir. Richard Harbird's Green-winged Teal was the only other six pointer in the Midlands for March.

 Nick Self turns the comparative table on its head and it moves from last to first place with a heady 72%, clear of last months leader, Dave Roberts by 2%. Nick Crouch is in third with 69%.

Monday, 21 April 2014

Coastal Scotland Minileague - March

Last months leader, Paul Higson, has been usurped by two other island outposts with another experienced PWC'er taking over at the top. John Bowler on Tiree is on a creditable 136 points after just three months and making headway into his seriously decent score from 2013 with Chough and Kumlien's Gull the highlights. Second and joint third places are Brian Rabbitts at Balranald and Peter Donnelly on North Ron. Further down and Dan Brown has slipped to fifth up at Dunnet but leads the way for the mainland. The Coastal Scotland is super competitive with so many entrants and much shuffling has happened in March. Long may it continue as the migrants start pitching up.

Slightly more stable than the points league but still with a new leader the Comparative league is also highly competitve. Congratulations therefore to March's leader Bryan Rains at Pennyghael on Mull. Dave W on Burray and Chris Hill at Burntisland are hot on Bryan's heels and these guys make up the podium going into the spring. Sean Morris moves up a couple of places into fourth. The battle of Girdleness takes a turn to the darkside as our own Mark Lewis moves above Andrew Whitehouse. For the time being.

Inland Scotland Minileague - March

Despite a quiet month up in Orkney with only four point accrued the Old Nisthouse patch still sees Alastair Forsyth to the top of the Inland Scotland minileague. A Golden Eagle for Rory Whytock at Lake of Menteith sees him debut in second. Nothing additonal for Simon Pinder but he stays in the top three. The Dunblane Chris Pendlebury is top of the Chris Pendlebury minileague despite slipping to fourth (and can have the bragging rights over Stirling Chris Pendlebury who is last in the aforementioned minileague).

The top two hold their places with only 2% seperating Alastair and Chris. Andy Cage at Kilmany manages to move into third with the previous incumbent, Andy Dowse, slipping to sixth.

Friday, 18 April 2014

Ireland Minileague - March

Dave Suddaby's excellent late winter returns keep him top despite no additions this month. Niall Keogh holds on to second with only two additional points. Neal Warnock moves up one place to third thanks to this months best Irish find, a Kumlien's Gull at Larne Lough. Eamonn O'Donnell loses out despite a relatively productive month. Peter Phillips slips to 6th despite a Todd's Canada Goose on patch with new entrant Julian Wylie goes straight into 5th with his Baltimore patch. 

It's still as you were with the Top 3 in the Comparative League but Tom Moore manages to usurp Niall Keogh to move into 4th. Eamonn O'Donnell is the first of the Irish competitors to breach the 80% mark and stands 9% clear in first.

Tuesday, 15 April 2014

London Minileague - March

Adam Bassett remains out front at Little Marlow with his Kittiwake very much find of the month for the London minileague. Nick Croft holds both lower rungs of the podium with his Wanstead patch usurping Marek Walford at Dinton. Jason Reynolds manages to climb one place to 5th.

Jason Reynolds holds on to top spot in the comparative table for London with a stunning 84%. 9% back is Tom Stevenson with Michael Terry rounding off the top three which now has a familiar feel to it. Lower down and Adam Bassett has managed to overhaul Roger Hicks and claim fourth place.

County Firsts!

Congratulations to Espen Quinto-Ashman and Yvonne Benting on their respective county firsts found this week. Espen found a rather fine female Bluethroat at Wellington GPs, Herefordshire whilst Yvonne found a rather smart Serin at Askernish which is a first for the Outer Hebrides. Thanks to both for letting us use their images.

Sunday, 13 April 2014

South Coast Minileagues - March

Andy Johnson holds onto top spot at Sandy Point but has some serious competition from Harry Ramm who managed to connect with a Hoopoe on his patch at Climping. After an initial miscount Adam Faiers manages to hold on to third place whilst Mark Lawlor drops to fifth with Joost Brandsma splitting the difference. Amy Robjohns debuts in sixth place with Neil Burt overtaking Chris Dennis and Andy Rhodes. The best find of the month scored no points as a mixed singing Chiffchaff at Sandy Point suggested hybrid ancestry.

Adam Faiers leaps to the top of the comparative league with a heady 74% giving him a 9% lead over Mark Lawlor on Guernsey. Mr Crakes himself has a 21% cushion over Andy Johnson thanks to Andy's monster score last year.

Inland North

 Darren Starkey retains his monopoly on the top steps of the podium but this month Fairburn supplants St Aidan's for an RSPB 1-2. Bill Aspin has forced his way back into the reckoning moving up two places to third with Andy Bunting making way. New entrant, Chris Bradshaw comes straight into 7th place splitting Yorkshire rivals Jonny Holliday and Mark Reader. Tom Lowe and Steven Ward both make strides with Tom getting his Goole Fields patch into the Top 10.

Best finds this month were Chris Bradshaw's Green-winged Teal at Wykeham Lakes and Jonny Holliday's singing Siberian Chiffchaff at Pugney's. Also worth an honorable mention was the Gillatt's Spoonbill at Alkborough.

Its the same Top three in the comparative table but Peter Williams leaps two places to first with 74% at Laycock. Phil Woolen holds onto second whilst James Common falls two places into third. Out side the Top three and Mark Reeder has overtaken Jonny Holliday which is sure to spark a fightback at Pugney's.

Wednesday, 2 April 2014

Where are all the Cormorants?

As many of you may know, if you follow me on twitter, I like to seawatch, partly because I can from my sofa and partly because I lived in Cornwall for 4 years which saw me cave in to the dark arts of seawatching! However, seawatching at Hemsby is a far cry from Pendeen or Porthgwarra! No longer am I counting shearwaters in their hundreds or thousands, seeing flocks of petrels etc. In fact I’ve only recorded 11 shearwaters and 2 petrels in the last 20 months off Hemsby. Autumn can still be good here with nice skua passages and wildfowl and waders passing through but for most of the year it is the common, the mundane birds that keep me going with the hope of a nice patch year tick along the way with 2014 delighting me with Red-necked Grebe, Black-throated Diver and some unseasonal skuas.
So to the common birds, it was in the early part of 2013 that I started taking a real interest in Cormorants. In January and February I was recording some really high numbers of Cormorants moving south with maximum counts of 913, 893 and 696, culminating in a total of 3398 being recorded up to 18th March 2013. In the same period this year I have only recorded 374! Why?
Was my effort higher in 2013? No, in 2013 I had seawatched a total of 25 hours 45 minutes up to this date, in 2014 it was up to 40 hours 30 minutes. I then started to think of the other more common species that I record while seawatching, it seemed like it has been a bad year for Brent Geese and Common Scoter (wildfowl in general really) but did the figures match up to what I was thinking?

Looking at the raw numbers does indeed show that it has been a poor year for Brent Geese, Wigeon and indeed wildfowl in general, passing Hemsby. But it also appears at first glance that it hasn’t been a bad year but in fact a better year for Common Scoter than 2013, unlike what I had thought. The table also shows it has been a great year for Gannets and Red-throated Divers (more on the divers later). This, however, does not paint a true picture. As I said before I have been seawatching more in 2014, 14 hours 15 minutes more (57% more) than in 2013 so to get a more accurate picture I decided to look the number of birds per hour.

This table still shows that Brent Goose and Wigeon numbers are far lower than last year as I had thought and that there was in fact very little difference between 2013 and 2014 for Common Scoter and Gannet numbers. Is it due to the mild winter we have had down here? It does highlight the dramatic difference in the two years for Cormorants. It would interesting to know if other areas of the Norfolk coast have suffered similar drops in numbers or the reverse and the cormorants I was recording last year are somewhere further along the coast somewhere?

And so I go onto the Red-throated Divers. Both the above tables suggest that it has been a great year for RTDs so far with over 3000 more recorded and over 64 per hour more than 2013. If I had written this post over the weekend (as I had intended to do) it would have been a different story. On the 17th and 18th March 2014 I had a crazy passage of RTDs, in total over those two mornings (2 ½ hours of seawatching) I recorded 2730 divers mainly going north. So, if I had written this at the weekend the RTD figures would have looked like this:

I could have been writing about all but Gannets being recorded in lower numbers and about how poor seawatching has been this winter but instead I can now rave about the huge numbers of RTDs compared to last year etc but perhaps it just illustrates that you need to catch the right days to seawatch, not go offshore working when the peak days happen etc and that nothing has changed from the two years

Fortunately I’ve put all this seawatch data into BirdTrack so I’m sure if anything can be gleened from this data the real scientists will have a far more scientific and useful approach to analysing it!

If nothing else I have created some colourful graphs to keep Mark happy!