The Bresser & Forest Optics Best Find Competition is the highlight of the Patchwork Challenge year. This is for the best find of the whole patch birding year as voted for by you, the competitors. Those fine people at Bresser & Forest Optics are very generously furnishing the winner of the competition with a pair of Bresser Montana 8.5 x 45 binoculars worth £665.00.
June and July are traditionally the quieter months in the birdwatchers calendar when thoughts often turn to dragonflies and butterflies and the fun to be had trying to get to grips with them, as activity with the avian population settles down a bit. This year however whilst there hasn't been a mega during the period there have been a generous scattering of rarities, along with double figures of scarce birds found by patchworkers.
Working our way from North to South with the rare birds we start with Gull-billed Tern for Alastair Forstyth at Palace, Birsay on Orkney. A great bird for the Northern Isles one of a number wandering the country in the early summer period. Dropping down to Easington in the Coastal North minileague and we have Mick Turton racking up the points with a site first - Laughing Gull. Mick picked this bird up on Kilnsea Wetlands before it flew south never to be seen again. Next up Paul Sullivan found a Broad-billed Sandpiper on his Frampton/Freiston patch which is in the Estuarine minileague. Several patchers managed to connect with this bird and some were bemoaning Paul's fortune as the finder. July was as expected quieter but the return of the moulting drake Lesser Scaup at Blagdon Lake meant a dozen points for the finder, Nigel Milbourne.
The numbers of scarce birds found in June & July reached double figures with a strong coastal bias, which is to be expected at this point of the year. Starting with the Islands minileague, and then again moving roughly North to South through the rest.
June in the Islands league was a most productive month for scarce birds. There were 3 Common Rosefinches records, two of them in Scotland with the other in Wales , Mark Newell logging two bird on the Isle of May whilst over on Burray, Barrie Hammill proved the worth of having a patch which includes home when he found one without leaving his living room and finally down on Skomer in Wales Jason Moss makes up the trio. The other birds found during June were all from the same patch, Mike Pennington's Baltasound to be exact. He managed to find both Red-backed Shrike and Marsh Warbler but was beaten to the punch with King Eider, Icterine and Great Reed Warblers which also graced his patch.
Moving to Scotland now and unlike the Islands it was June that was the quiet month with the best birds coming in July. Coastal Scotland and Whiteness Head, the patch that Jonathan Clarke works, was where he managed to find a Great White Egret giving him a handy 6 points. The Crinan Canal Corridor is where we find Jim Dickson, who logged a Ring-billed Gull taking his points total to 173.
Now the Northern minileagues. June saw Chris Bradshaw take advantage of a tip off that a Honey Buzzard was heading in his direction in order to add it to his patch list for the year. During July on the same patch Wykeham Lake & Potter Brompton Carr, he logged two Common Cranes whilst on his other patch Long Nab to Scalby Mills, Coastal North, Chris was lucky enough to pick out a Long-tailed Skua. Tom Cadwallender also found Common Crane in July on his Alnmouth patch. Another patchworker to score in both months was Mick Turton on his Easington patch. In June it was a Bee-eater as he came out of his front door whilst he found a White-rumped Sandpiper appropriately enough on the 4th July. A second Bee-eater was found in July by Phil Woollen at Backford Cross whilst he was out shopping.
Let us now move South and East to East Anglia, where further Bee-eaters were found by Gary White, North Walsham & Trimingham, in June and in July by Rob Hall, Halesworth to Dunwich, both in the coastal league. Rob had also scored bonus points in June with a Common Rosefinch on his patch. Another good June bird found in the coastal league was the Montagu's Harrier found by Nigel Lound at Gibraltar Point NNR, whilst in July James Brown found a Marsh Warbler at North Lowestoft. In the Estuarine league we find Ed Keeble at Brantham who was another patchworker to register Common Crane in June.
Finally we reach the South - coastal and inland, again the areas splitting according to the month. Inland featured in June with a Night Heron being found by Tim Farr at Sutton Bingham Reservoir and Black Kite seen by Nick Croft at Wanstead. The sole Coastal South entry was the Cory's Shearwater seen by Ilya Maclean from his Loe Pool patch on the Lizard.
So we come to the end of this report, sadly we didn't see any megas but you have to agree that there were some very good birds logged by patchworkers. Here's looking forward to the next few months when we should get the migrants coming through, I hope you get a good one on your patch.