Thursday, 24 September 2015

Best Finds August 2015

The Bresser & Forest Optics Best Find Competition marks the pinnacle of the Patchwork  year. 
This prestigious award goes to the lucky patcher who turns up the years best bird. A bird that causes other discerning patch birders to turn green at the gills with envy. The fine people at Bresser & Forest Optics have once again demonstrated monumental generosity and have donated a pair of Bresser Montana 8.5 x 45 binoculars worth a grand total of £665.00. A fine prize that will be awarded to the winner come years end when the results are collated and the votes cast. 

To many birders, August marks the start of Autumn. Gone are the Summer doldrums, the days spent observing butterflies and the warm yet somewhat tedious days of July. August provides a much needed jolt of invigoration to many birders as the first scarce migrants begin to trickle through and a myriad of marvellous seabirds grace our coastal watchpoints. To many, August means shearwaters, skuas and shrikes. Returning waders and wayward warblers. This is reflected perfectly in the results from last month with a whole manner of early Autumn scarcities adorning patches from the north of Scotland to the very south of England. Although no true megas were unearthed during this period the species that were noted were more than enough to keep many patchers enthralled and entertained during the month.

Starting with the glaring rarities and Black Storks proved to be a real flavour of the month, occurring on not one but four patches throughout August. Three out of four patchers recieved bonus points for this species with Sean Foote at North Portland, John Hopper at Hoveringham and Mick Turton at Easington all benefitting from this years influx of this awe inspiring species. Mick was also lucky enough to pick up a superb Red-Footed Falcon on at Easington and surely must have concluded August with a large smile upon his face. Elsewhere a Melodious Warbler for Ian Ballam at Lychett marked a first site record with the same site also throwing up a Bluethroat for good measure. Dave Craven at Hale & Pickering Pastures was likewise ecstatic to pin down a White-rumped Sandpiper whilst exploring his local high tide roost. Finally over to the Inland North league where Bill Aspin's perseverance paid off as he picked up a Lesser Yellowlegs at Brockholes Nature Reserve. In addition to the aforementioned rarities perhaps the most unusual find of the month goes to Ian Thompson who turned up a Magpie on his Askernish patch in the Islands minileague. Magpies are far from common in the Outer Hebrides with only two records to date. This just goes to show that even "common" British birds can set the heart to pumping when they turn up in unusual places! Nice find Ian.
Magpie at Askernish - Ian Thompson

Lesser Yellowlegs - Bill Aspin

Moving on to your more typical but no less endearing early Autumn scarcities and Icterine Warblers featured on no less that 10 patches during August. One of these seems to have brought David Aitken a great deal of happiness comprising his first bonus point scoring species at Bempton Cliffs. Congratulations David! Likewise Wrynecks featured prominently this month occurring on six patches whilst Barred Warblers were located at two sites though only one of these was self found courtesy of Chris Bradshaw at Long Nab. Sticking to the theme of typical Autumn fare and a Red-backed Shrike was unearthed by Barrie Hamill at Burray who also found his second Common Rosefinch of the year. 

Wryneck - Nick Croft
As ever August provided an opportunity for those with coastal patches to indulge in a spot of seawatching, a trend highlighted by the prevalence of scarce seabirds in this months results. Balearic Shearwaters brought in points for Kev Rylands, Eamonn O'Donnell and Craig Fulcher, the latter a county tick for Craig no less. Sooty Shearwaters were similarly well represented whilst Black Terns were observed on eight patches. Damian Money at Saltburn in the Coastal North minileague was lucky enough to catch up with a Leach's Petrel whilst Long-tailed Skuas were notched at three sites and a Pomarine Skua brought in yet more points for Eamonn O'Donnell at Ninch, Ireland. Concluding the coastal offerings an unseasonal Iceland Gull was noted by Alastair Forsyth at Palace, Birsay.

As ever in late summer, waders featured fairly heavily in August with the highlight undoubtedly the Pectoral Sandpiper picked out by Eamonn O'Donnell at Ninch/Laytown. The bird in question showed very well at times and is sure to have bolstered Eamonn's score nicely. Elsewhere the late summer influx of Wood Sandpipers was reflected nicely in the results with birds recorded on 11 patches throughout August.

Wood Sandpiper - Ian Ballam
Pectoral Sandpiper at Ninch/Laytown © Jim Bowman

No clear contenders for "Best Find" this month but with autumn migration heating up it will be interesting to see just what is unearthed in September by Patchwork's diligent competitors. September has the potential to truly shake up the leader boards and I for one look forward to seeing what the coming month will bring.

- James C (Patchwork Challenge)

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