It's the halfway point in the year and time for a look back over the first six months for the Inland Mini-leagues. I'll not get bogged down with point scores etc as that is best left to the monthly reviews, this is more of a personal selection of the more interesting sightings submitted in the highlights box and rough tally of best find records.
Before I start, let's just recap on the prime purpose of the Challenge, which is to record the species over time in a small area and make those records available for others to use the data. So anyone who isn't logging their sightings on Birdtrack needs to start now and with the mobile app it is even possible to log sightings in the field.
2015 had been fairly quiet year for most patch-workers with a lack of true megas until April when Tom Raven noticed an odd looking godwit late in the day at his Shapwick Heath/ Ham Wall (South) patch. After swotting up overnight he managed to re-find the bird the following day and put out the gen. The first twitchable Hudsonian Godwit for a number of years and a bird that hung around for some time allowing a huge number of people to catch up with it. Sadly not me though.
|Hudsonian Godwit - thanks to James Packer|
Back to the (no offence!) more run of the mill birds. A flock of 16 Bean Geese was a good start to the year for Chris Bradshaw on his Wykeham Lakes patch (North), surprisingly no other Inland patch workers reported this species. Alistair Forsyth at Old Nisthouse (Scotland) definitely deserves a mention for his hat-trick of American ducks, Blue-winged and Green-winged Teal in January and American Wigeon in March.
|American Wigeon - thanks to Alistair Forsyth|
In Yorkshire, Rob Worsfold was in the right place at the right time to score with a Velvet Scoter on his Tophill Low patch (N.) in January. Moving across to our only migratory duck there was a definite Northern bias to the records for Garganey, with 3 patch-workers connecting during April in Inland North, whilst only Andy Stocker at Woolmer Forest managed to pick one up in Inland South. As the year progressed more were found and the total now for the Inland leagues is a dozen sites with Garganey.
The flyover Black Grouse that Steven Ward was lucky enough to see was a patch first at Hawes & River Ure (N.) and he reckons it was driven down from the hills by the poor weather.
Black-necked Grebes were found on several patches and that is all we will say about them, as breeding was proven at a few sites and not publicised at the time.
|Black-necked Grebe - thanks to Joe Seymour|
A Night Heron was located by Tim Farr on his Sutton Bingham Reservoir patch (South.). One of a few that were in the UK but he was the only patch-worker lucky enough to connect.
Raptors next and I'll not put locations unless at well known viewpoints. Osprey numbers were lower than expected with only 5 patches recording birds, however Scott O'Hara at Forrest Estate (Sc.) had a bird in March which was certainly early, oddly enough the most Southerly record was also the latest in May. Black Kite at Wanstead in London assured Nick Croft a mention, this is a bird I am sure is under recorded due to the relative difficulty of separating Red and Black Kites. Five patches recorded wintering Hen Harriers, 3 in Inland North, the others East Anglia, which is to be expected as the geography of those areas favours the bird, shame the same can't be said for their breeding areas. Surprisingly, given the numbers in the UK last winter, there was only one patch-worker reporting Rough-legged Buzzard during this winter. Well done Alison Allen at Thorpe-next-Haddiscoe (E. A.) for nailing the bird on her 5th attempt. The usual sites in Inland North and East Anglia ensured that Honey Buzzard made the list, whilst there were 7 patches that held Goshawk during the first half of the year, can't really say more than that.
Common Cranes were found by several patch-workers in East Anglia which is to be expected but mention should be made of a couple of flyover birds away from there, Paul Massey found a singleton at Grindon Lough in Northumberland, whilst Andy Walker really scored on the day he saw the bird at North Duffield (N.) as it was the only day he was on patch during the whole of May.
It was April before any waders of note were reported, the Whimbrel seen by James Common Stobswood / Widdrington (N.) was a patch first, five other patches also reported this species during April and May. The latter month was when Andy Bunting found a Temminck's Stint at Martin Mere WWT (N.), the following month Paul Massey (getting his second mention) found that most prized wader, a Red-necked Phalarope, on his patch.
January's Little Gull at Felmingham (E. A.) was an unexpected tick for Ashley McElwee, whilst in May Adam Bassett - Little Marlow (So.) had the first Little Gull record for 10 years. Mediterranean Gull were recorded on 10 patches, Iceland and Caspian on 4, while Yellow-legged were reported from only 2 patches. White-winged Black Tern were found by both Andy Bunting and Jamie Wells - Paxton Pits (E. A.).
Worryingly only 2 patches reported Turtle Dove, hopefully more will be found during the later part of the year. Cuckoos were first reported during April from 3 patches, with 3 more cropping up in May. Going all crepuscular, owls of one species or another were reported in every month including proven breeding of long eared owl at Goole Fields (N.) - congratulations Tom Lowe.
|Turtle Dove - thanks to Jonny Rankin|
February's Woodlark was an early record for Joe Harkness at Haveringland Hall (E.A.), the only other report for this species being from Andy Walker in March. Last year's star bird, Blyth's Pipit hung around long enough at Pugney's (N.) for Johnny Holliday and Hilary Milburn to add it to their 2015 patch lists, no finders bonus for Johnny this time though. April and the world went Ring Ouzel mad with 8 patches reporting them, including a staggering count of 32 for Lizzie Bruce at her Roydon Common NWT patch (E.A.), a sight I would have loved to have seen.
Warblers of one group or another were reported in every month including, a Siberian Chiffchaff for Adam Bassett and a Dusky found at Marton Mere LNR (N.) by David McGrath - both good January ticks. The Grasshopper Warbler found by Nick Tonge at Rodley(N.) was a patch tick, while Roger Hicks on his Henlow Grange patch (So.) found a bird that offers us a sobering lesson - a Whitethroat that had Lesser Whitethroat rattle in its song.
Willow Tit were recorded on 4 patches during June -which as those records are logged in to Birdtrack means that the information will be contributing to the conservation program.
|Golden Oriole - thanks to Sean Foote|
Andy Stocker gets his second mention for the only Great Grey Shrike reported so far this year, while Stuart Reeves - Mutford (E.A.) has the only Golden Oriole, a heard only record though as these are decidedly tricky birds to see, so a big thanks to Sean for allowing me to use his photo.
A bird of note was Pete Antrobus's Tree Sparrow on his Lachmaben patch (Sc.) - the first record for 31 years! Mike Pilsworth - Swinefleet & Reedness (N.) had good counts of both Linnets (600) and Corn Buntings (47) during February, whilst Steven Ward managed a patch mega during the same month with a Yellowhammer, proving that it doesn't have to be nationally rare to be a mega on your patch.
Well I've worked my way through the species list and I hope it has been an interesting read for you. Can't wait to see what the next 6 months brings for Patchwork Challenge.