This year it was decided to create a new minileague for the islands. It was felt that their performance in their respective leagues would make a very good showdown in itself. It reads like a birding destinations wishlist - and should make for a very exciting league this year.
That said, by comparison to some areas it has been a modest start with no site hitting the magic 100 species in January. The comparative scores too are probably harder to attain than in other leagues, as the big scores are still to come in migration season. Perhaps that makes the 61% comparative at the end of January for Paul Higson at Quoyangry all the more impressive. Others are in his wake for now but there is a long way to go. The competition will take higher turn too when the Bardsey duo and North Ronaldsay weigh in with their scores at the end of February.
January is always an exciting month in the challenge as everything is new and the slate is clean for a new start. It was John Bowler on Tiree who threw the first 12 pointer into PWC2015 with an American Herring Gull, a cracking find to start the year. The first winter Ring-Necked Duck also stayed on giving some extra points, but John currently sits 9th in the comparative league, a sign of the challenge he has ahead his year. A White-Billed Diver was a very welcome find for Paul Higson at Quoyangry helping establish his healthy comparative score. Three of the Scottish patches scored and soared with our largest bird of prey, with White-Tailed Eagle putting in a good showing.
White wingers put in a showing further north, with the most impressive being 7 Glaucous on a single seawatch for Alistair Forsyth at Birsay. Locally good finds were a patch first Slavonian Grebe for both patchers in Askernish and the joy of patchworking is no better exemplified than the Dunnock for Stuart Taylor on Balivanich. A one pointer (and brown at that) - this was a bird that eluded Stuart in 2014 showing that patchgold can come in all forms!
In the points league John Bowler has taken his customary position. This year he will be up against some big players so it will be a titanic battle. Paul Higson's good start puts him just behind in second with the others having a little work to do to catch up as we head towards Spring.