2015 sees the return of the Next Generation Birders minileague, a hotly contended league for those participants under the age of 25. It is great to see so many young birders experiencing the joys of patch birding and this year has already seen a 25% increase in patchers on 2014, with this set to increase further in February.
With last years winner (and overall PWC winner) Tim Jones no longer patching Spurn, 2nd place Joe Stockwell moving away from Portland Bird Obs, and 3rd place Ben Porter on Bardsey being out of country for the first couple of months of the year, this minileague is now wide open as we enter 2015. Joe may have left PBO, but his new patch around Ferrybridge is certainly living up to Portland standards and it places him firmly at the top of the table. PWC newcomer Anthony Bentley is sitting in second place with his Frampton/Frieston patch, living and working on patch certainly has it's advantages and Anthony has made the most of this opportunity by recording the most species out of anyone in the league during January. Anthony heads a host of new players in this league, positions 2-7 are all PWC newcomers and all with exciting patches; the battle between Laurie Allnatt and Dan Rouse who are both patching Llanelli WWT will be particularly intriguing as the year unfolds. Looking further down the league and familiar names to PWC begin to appear, James Common at Stobbswood is looking to repeat his successes of 2014, Espen will be hoping another county first will be a reward for the hours at his Wellington GP patch after last springs Bluethroat, whilst Matthew Bruce enters his beloved patch of 'The Puddle' alongside the more well known Draycote.
Jonathan Farooqi started his PWC debut with a bang on the 3rd when he found a Green-winged Teal on his Druridge patch, the only self-found 3-pointer in this league during January and earning him a deserved 3 bonus points. Winter specialities such as Iceland Gull, Jack Snipe, Long-tailed Duck and Water Pipit were finds for several participants and always welcome 2-pointers for the total. Although not a find, the Greater Yellowlegs at Titchfield Haven provided a very useful 5 points for Amy Robjohns, with a host of other scarcities on patches in this league including 2 Serin for Max Hellicar in Southend, 'several' Ring-billed Gulls for our Irish contender Cathal Forkan, and Shorelark for Harry Murphy at Hartlepool. Lee Fuller had his own surprising highlight at Needs Ore during the month, his first record of Egyptian Goose in over 10 years of watching the site, going to show that #patchgold can come in any form!