Monday, 24 November 2014

Bresser and Forest Optics Best Find - October 2014

The Bresser & Forest Optics Best Find Competition is the highlight of the Patchwork Challenge year. This is the best find of the whole patchbirding year as voted for by you, the competitors. 

For the winner of the competition, those fine folk at Bresser & Forest Optics are very generously furnishing the winner of this esteemed competition with a pair of Bresser Montana 8.5 x 45 Binoculars worth £665.00. Follow the link to check out this superb reward for one lucky contender.

October was great month with many good birds in the British Isles including Yellow-billed Cuckoo in Cornwall and Black-billed Cuckoo in North Ronaldsay.  However great these birds are, as they were not found by patchworkers, they don't qualify for the competition and have to be ignored. Another near miss for the competition was Pallid Harrier - one was found by Roger Musgrove but sadly not on patch, whilst Dick Best had one on patch but wasn't the finder, so close chaps but yet so far.

Arguably the best Patch Work Challenge find for October was the Brunnich's Guillemot seen by Martin Garner on his Flamborough Head North patch. This bird was a distant fly-by and although a couple of others got on to the bird briefly as is often the case with sea watching, the bird was gone in a matter of moments. This 15 pointer has got to be in with a chance in the competition for the binoculars. Shame it didn't hang around for a bit as there would have been a queue of Yorkshire birders to get the second bird for the county on their lists. However it makes me question how many may be missed due to observers not thoroughly 'grilling' the various auks that they see?

Another 15 point beauty was the red-flanked bluetail found by Dave Suddaby  on his Blacksod patch, the first record for county Mayo and only the fourth for Ireland. As this bird hung around for a bit a good many birders managed to connect with it. I really like Dave's back of the camera picture as it puts quite a few record shots to shame but John's portrait really brings out the beauty of the bird.

Red-flanked bluetail - Blacksod (Dave Suddaby)

Same bird (John N Murphy)

Ben Lewis at his Mid Yare RSPB patch managed to find a Penduline Tit, always a nice bird no matter where you are and Ben says it is possibly the highlight of his year.

There were several Rough-Legged Buzzards in the UK during October and a few patch workers managed to catch up with them, oddly enough all in East Anglia although birds were throughout the country. Gary Elton at Holme NOA, Tim Hodge at Horsey and Toby Collett at Frampton Marsh all scored handsomely with the species. 

Rough legged Buzzard - Frampton Marsh (Toby Collett)

Same Bird (Toby Collett)
Finally back to North Ronaldsay once more but this time for Peter Donnelly who managed to find both Olive-backed and Pechora Pipits during October, actually 3 of the first species, it almost makes up for dipping the cuckoo.

Tuesday, 18 November 2014

Coastal North Minileague - October

For those not jet-setting off to Shetland or Scilly, what better place to be in October than on your own patch in the Coastal North (should you be so lucky!), a minileague laden down with top notch rares.

With a species list of 218, a points score of 407 (yes, you read that right!) and a points per bird score of 1.86, Tim Jones at Spurn is truly untouchable in the Coastal North Minileague. This is what Tim had to say for himself in the highlights section of the monthly submission form... "Highlights: Too many to remember let alone list here! My best months birding ever with what felt like a constant stream of quality throughout the month! Second Pallid Swift of the year, biggest day total of Goldcrest ringed with 529, nearly breaking the Tree Sparrow record with 2285 flying south, smashing the Bonxie record when 335 flew south, 3x Leach's Petrel, Radde's Warbler, Sabine's Gull, grip back Hoopoe after missing spring bird, 2x Rough-legged Buzzard, Isabelline Shrike, mega sprint to see drake Surf Scoter fly south, 2 falls mid month and at the end with birds seemingly everywhere both times!"

...Magic stuff!

Martin Garner at Flamborough and Jane Turner at Red Rocks continued to add a nice list of species to their patches through October, holding on to second and third place respectively. Martin connecting with one of the overall PWC best finds of the year with a flyby Brunnich's Guillemot during a seawatch as well as adding Pallas's Warbler. Jane added Sabine's Gull and Leach's Petrel as expected along with patchgold in the form of her first Kingfisher since 1976 and her third patch Hawfinch. Chris Bradshaw at Long Nab moves past Iain Robson at Druridge Pools to take fourth. 

Many PWC contestants in this region commented on the heavy fall of winter thrushes at the end of the month as a highlight along with some always welcome Little Auks. Seawatching also produced a Black Guillemot for Jack Bucknall and a Surf Scoter for James Spencer, both at St. Mary's Island.

In the comparative league, Iain Robson remains in first as they only patchworker past the 100% mark (highlights including Shore Lark) while Jane Turner moves ever closer to her personal year listing targets, now in second with 99.29%.

Midlands Minileague - October

Both Ian Cowgill at Lound and John Hopper at Hoveringham continued to increase their species lists since September but remain in their allotted first and second places respectively in the Midlands Minileague points table. Ian has a good lead by 11 species and 21 points (including the first Grey Phalarope for Lound in 31 years), will this be enough to ensure first place come the end of the year? Seven new species including Hawfinch & Water Pipit for Andy Mackay at Eyebrook Reservoir sees him take third place from Nick Crouch at Collingham & Besthorpe whilst Matthew Bruce moves into fifth with thirteen new species (including Great Skua) at Draycote Water.

A Yellow-browed Warbler was a top find for Matt Griffiths at Earlswood and only the second record for Warwickshire, ensuring he crossed the 100% mark, staying in first place in the comparative league. Dave Roberts at Marston takes second place from Nick Crouch but only by a matter of 0.8%

Monday, 17 November 2014

Inland East Anglia Minileague - October

A self-found Penduline Tit for Ben Lewis at Mid Yare Valley RSPB helps him close the gap between second and first place, the latter currently held by Jamie Wells at Paxton Pits. Just three points separate the two. Steve Swinney at Linford remains in third but managed to add an impressive ten species since September including Eider, Little Tern and Short-eared Owl on consecutive days. Some great patch birding there! Whilst Jamie and Ben will certainly be battling it out for first place over the next two months it would be worth keeping on eye on Steve as he'll certainly cross the 200 points mark and given the excellent year he's having it will be interesting to see how it all settles come 31st December. 

Nick Moran at Thetford edges closer to the 10,000 records mark for BirdTrack. Great to see plenty of other patchworkers well into their thousands of records in this league also.

The highlight of the month for James Appleton at Ebridge Mill was half a yogurt topped flapjack in his coat pocket, not to be snuffed at!

Steve Swinney increases his comparative score at Linford to over 139%, leading the table by a long shot. Ben Lewis crosses the 100% mark, entering the top five taking fourth place from Jame Wells.

Coastal East Anglia Minileague - October

Tim Hodge is still leading the way as he approaches the 350 point mark for Horsey while James Brown looks comfortable in second at Lowestoft with a 19 point cushion to Gary White in third. The fight for the bronze medal looks like it will go to the wire with 14 points separating four patches! Best finds of the month were standard October fair with a few Richard's Pipits, YBWs, Pallas's Warbler and Lapland Buntings making it onto more than one patch in October. The region also benefited from the recent Rough-legged Buzzard influx with three patchers finding one this month.

Gary White maintains a healthy lead in the comparative scores with a 16% lead. Less than 1.4% separates the next three patches, with Craig Fultcher leading the way, so the other spots in the top three are all to play for with two months to go.

Sunday, 16 November 2014

National Inland. October

Wayne Gillatt continues to Maintain his 18 point lead at the top of the group. Both of  Darren Starkey's patches slipped this month, losing 2nd place to Jamie Wells and 4th to Ben Lewis and with just 5 points separating 2nd - 5th there' s still plenty of time for more change. 
Top find of the month goes to Ben Lewis with a Penduline Tit at Mid Yare Valley. Other notable finds were Yellow-browed Warblers for Marcus Lawson and Matt Griffiths (only the 2nd Warwickshire record), Hawfinch for Andy Mackay (who returned to the table in 17th place), and a Blue Tit (far rarer than Yellow-browed Warbler on Orkney) for Alastair Forsyth.

Inland North Minileague. October

The temptation of autumn rarities proved too much for several of the Inland North's birders this month, with some having very little time for patch choosing to spend much of October birding islands in the far north or drinking beer on the Scilly Isles.

Meanwhile, Wayne Gillatt continues his dominance at the top with an almost seemingly unattainable lead, adding Cetti's Warbler and Gannet during the month. The former species was also added by Tom Lowe, a new species at Thorne Moors. Surprisingly a Jack Snipe at Fairburn was the first of the year for Darren Starkey who also added a patch tick with Raven at St Aidan's.

The mid-table spat between Bill Aspin, Jonny Holliday and Mark Reeder continues. With all 3 away for much of  October there was little change, though Bill appears to be breaking away and moving onto his next targets Andy Bunting and Tom Lowe.

A few notable birds for James Common at Stobswood with Slavonian Grebe, Rough-legged Buzzard, Snow Bunting and his 1st patch Stonechat, keeping him safe at the top of the comparative table.

Saturday, 15 November 2014

Inland Scotland Minileague - October

A quiet October for the Inland Scotland points league, with three new species added by Alastair Forsyth at Old Nisthouse ensuring his lead remains unchallenged (a Siberian Chiffchaff and a patch tick Blue Tit the highlights for him). Just rewards for a non-motorised and active BirdTrack contributing patchworker.

The only real change on the rest of the points league table concerns Graeme Garner at Cambus who crossed the 100 species mark taking him from third to second place.

No change the comparative league rankings whatsoever with Alastair now rocking a fine 129.7%. Andy Cage at Kilmany increased his second place score slightly. Will Chris Pendlebury at Dunblane take his spot by the end of the year?

Coastal Scotland Minileague - October

A league full of large species lists, points totals and points per bird scores, Coastal Scotland features some of the biggest hitters in PWC with an enviable array of mouth watering rarities accumulated between them and October was always going to be the month for it.

Peter Donnelly on North Ronaldsay moves into first place thanks to finds of no less than three Olive-backed and a Pechora Pipit plus connecting with an American Wigeon. He may have dipped on the Black-billed Cuckoo and Grey-cheeked Thrush but picked up on some crucial island rarities in the form of a Corncrake (found on his birthday) and a Blue Tit! John Bowler at Balephuil, Tiree slips into second place but only by a matter of nine points so the top rankings are in no way set with two months still to go. He added nine new species in October including Lesser Scaup, two Ring-necked Ducks and a Rose-coloured Starling bringing his points per bird score up to a very fine 1.978 (a score of 2.0+ is certainly on the cards). Rare subspecies for John included the first record of sinensis Cormorant for Argyll, a blythi Lesser Whitethroat and a rostrata Redpoll.

No change for Gary Bell at Sumburgh or Steve Minton at Scatness, who both remain in third and fourth place respectively but Mike Pennington at Baltasound moved up one place, into fifth thanks to additions of Treecreeper, Firecrest, Bluethroat, Great Grey Shrike, Blue Tit & Grasshopper Warbler. Not much movement elsewhere on the table save for Peter Stronach at Durness who shifts from fourteenth to tenth place with good local additions of Hawfinch, Yellow Wagtail & European White-fronted Goose.

Some real patchgold in the form of a Shore Lark found at Askernish by Ian T has raised a few eyebrows with the possibility of it being a 'Horned Lark' from across the pond.

A big change up in the comparative league where John Bowler takes first place with 113.9%, followed by Andrew Whitehouse at Girdle Ness moving into second knocking Stephen Welch at Gosford Bay (formerly top of the table) into third. All of the top five are now above 100% with Dave W at Burray and Mark Lewis at Girdle Ness now taking fourth and fifth place respectively.

Friday, 14 November 2014

South Coast Minileagues - October

Andy Johnson at Sandy Point reckons he's heading for his worst patch year ever yet six new species added in October sees him within reach of first place, currently held by Adam Faiers at Sandwich Bay. Just two species and seven points separate them. A productive November could see some shake up there either way.

After Septembers Pallas's Grasshopper Warbler, Amy Robjohns connected with another fantastic eastern passerine at Titchfield Haven in October, this time a Siberian Stonechat. What a great Autumn at that site! Amy stays in third place whilst Mark Lawlor on Guernsey and Andy Rhodes at Calshot both move up into the top five, taking fourth and fifth place respectively.

Adam Faiers continues to top the comparative league table with a mighty 141.51%! An extra three species (including Ring Ouzel) sees Mark Lawlor within striking distance of breaking even on last year.

South West Minileague - October

"Worst October on Portland ever!" exclaimed Joe Stockwell! The leader of the points table added just the one species in October, albeit a Rose-coloured Starling. Thankfully for him this hasn't affected his comfortable points lead.

Despite being a dreadful month on Portland(!), Sean Foote still managed to add six new species, staying in third place and a further eight new species for Kev Rylands at Dawlish Warren sees him keep hold of second, extra points gained there from a Bonaparte's Gull. Otherwise, six new species for Roger Musgrove at Wall Common sees him jump from eight to fifth place, with Dick Best at Steart not far behind moving from ninth to sixth, both patch workers connecting with the same cracking juvenile Pallid Harrier. 

Roger  Musgrove continues to top the comparative league table increasing his score to an impressive 113.45% with Shaun Robson at Lychett Bay and Dick Best now joining him in the post 100% positions, taking second and third respectively. Shaun finally unblocked Pectoral Sandpiper at his patch, 22 years after the last record there! Marcus Lawson at Swineham GPs is a close fourth with 99.45% moving up from sixth to fourth after connecting with a White-winged Black Tern. 

Thursday, 13 November 2014

London Minileagues - October

Adam Bassett continues his steady run in first place on the London points table at Little Marlow GP despite no change since September. Nick Croft's Wanstead patch moves up to second place thanks to a flyover Lapland Bunting and an impressive four tick day with Lapwing, Golden Plover, Dunlin and Brambling all greatly recieved. No additions for Nick's Rainham RSPB patch which now drops to third, Mark Walford stays in fourth at Dinton Pastures as does Michael Terry in fifth.

Little change in the comparative league table, but a great local record of Great Northern Diver at Hosehill Lake LNR sees Michael Terry stay in first on 112.26% whilst Roger Hicks at Henlow Grange moves from sixth to fifth place.

Ireland Minileague - October

October brought no change to the top five rankings in the Irish Minileague Points table with Dave Suddaby at Blacksod still at the helm, a purple patch resulting in an additional 14 species and 47 points since last month culminating in a mighty 1.80 points per bird score. Niall Keogh at Kilcoole clings on to second with the addition of two new species and Neal Warnock at Larne Lough stays steady in fourth despite adding seven new species in October. No change for Julian Wyllie at Baltimore or Eamonn O'Donnell at Ninch/Laytown in third and fifth place respectively. 

The big change in the Comparative League comes as Dave's bonus finds shoot him up to first place with a lofty 108.5%, usurping the O'Donnells from their first/second place tussle of recent months. Each of the top three percentages scores are above 100% followed by four above 90% and two above 80%. Neal Warnock makes it to fifth place here after a good month on Rathlin Island.

The undoubted find of the month came in the form of that jewel of the east, a Red-flanked Bluetail found by Dave Suddaby near his Blacksod garden. The first county record for Mayo and the fourth Irish record overall. Well worthy of 15 points. This bird did the honourable thing and hung around long enough for many to make the journey to twitch it. Niall Keogh also scored an eastern passerine with a vocal Siberian Chiffchaff at Newcastle resulting in a couple of extra rare subspecies points (SPLIT! I hear you shout?)...

Four patch ticks on Rathlin Island for Neal Warnock came in the form of Tree Pipit (a great record for Northern Ireland), Sooty Shearwater, Mediterranean Gull and Little Gull. Neal's Garden Warbler on Rathlin is also worthy of mention, as every scarce passerine found there is a hard won victory. Other scarcities coming in on the score submission forms include a Spotted Redshank at Broad Lough for Alan Lauder and a Balearic Shearwater at Brownstown Head for Paul Walsh. Despite already being over 100%, I'm sure Michael O'Donnell was releaved to finally add Skylark in October at Kilmichael!

Back of the camera pic of the Blacksod Red-flanked Bluetail. Highlight of the Autumn for many Irish birders © Dave Suddaby

Monday, 10 November 2014

Wales Minileague - October

 It had to happen and with Ben Porter heading off island Steve Stansfield takes over at the top in October. Jason Moss threatens to bisect the Bardsey duo but news reaches us that Jason has just finished his stint on Skomer - so close. Matt Meehan is the best of the mainlanders and Barry Stewart remains fifth.

In terms of best birds this month a hatful of Barred Warblers on Bardsey were split with three to Ben and one to Steve. Steve also managed Leach's Petrel, Long-tailed Skua and Sabine's Gull. Jason scored with similar species adding his own Barred Warbler, Sabines and Long-tailed Skua but with additional Balearic Shearwaters, Yellow-browed Warbler and Melodious Warbler. He also managed a bit of Patch Gold in the form of a Mute Swan.

There was a Yellow-brow at Kenfig which was found by Darren Coombs although David Carrington managed to see it as well. A duo of Firecrests at Crymlyn Burrows and Newport Wetlands were the other scarcities on offer. Find of the month is undoubtedly Mark Hipkin's Kentish Plover.

Alison remains top and in the comparative league Ben remains ahead of Steve in second place. Steve actually managed to jump four places as he tops 100%. Adam Tilt at Cefn Drum is this months other big mover as he climbs two spots. 100% is certainly attainable for most of the other competitors. Good luck in the final couple of months of PWC 2014.