Wednesday, 25 November 2015

Inland East Anglia Minileague - October 2015

A further four species added to Ben Moyes Mid-North Gripping Valley patch sees him remain at the top of the comparative minileague. At UEA, Nick Robinson holds on to 2nd place without any further additions this month, however, with Ben Rackstraw gaining another three species for Downham Market and moving into 3rd place and Mike McCarthy at Taverham & Ringland not far behind, he may have some competition for the 2nd tier soon.

Steve Swinney massively advanced his score for October as he jumped from 13th to 7th position with an impressive twenty-nine species ticked at Linford Birding. If he carries on in this way, he'll soon break the 100% barrier! In addition, this month also saw Ben Lewis rise up the comparative ranks with a further fourteen species seen at his Mid Yare RSPB patch, earning him 12th position and leaving him 17% from the coveted patch score. Finally, Nick Moran hit the 100% mark this month with the addition of Cetti's Warlber at Thetford.

Yet again, pole position for the points minileague was a battle between Ben Lewis and Jamie Wells, however, with Ben gaining an extra 29 points at his Mid Yare RSPB patch with the help of bonus points for Great Grey Shrike, Jamie simply couldn't hold onto his title. However, with only 2 points separating them, it's still all to play for in November!

Further down the league table, Nick Moran lost his 3rd position and dropped down into 5th place as his only additional species for the month was Cetti's Warbler (lovely all the same!). Although, a five day quest to read a Cormorant's ring kept him busy and produced a nice record for only the 8th ever German-ringed in the UK.

German-ringed Cormorant, Thetford - Nick Moran

Taking Nick's place in 3rd, is Steve Swinney at Linnford Birding who managed to add 41 points to his score with the addition of the first Gannet in two years and the first patch record of Short-eared Owl, now giving him a full set of British owls for his patch.

Monday, 23 November 2015

Islands Minileague October 2015

October's comparative Islands minileague sees Alastair  Forsyth take the top spot with a 10% increase, knocking Bryan Rains down a peg after Pennyghael could only offer one addition for the month - Goldcrest.

While still in third position, Ian T broke the 100% barrier with three new patch ticks (Yellow-browed Warbler, Little Egret and a #patchgold Coot!) which bolstered his score by 9% and carried him over the threshold. David Wood at RSPB Oa, Islay also jumped the 100% target this month with the help of Yellow-browed Warbler. Heading closer is Stuart Taylor who sees a 4% increase with the addition of four new species added to his patch list, while John Bowler made a leap from 8th to 6th position this month with an impressive 13% improvement.

No change at the top of the points league as John Bowler firmly held his ground and remained in the lead with the addition of a further nine species and bonus points for Baird's Sandpiper, Lesser Yellowlegs  (only Tiree's second) American Wigeon  and Leach's Petrel which gave him 45 extra points. Quite a month for John!

With no further species added for October, Jason Moss lost his 2nd place to Steve Stanfield who had a cracking Bluetail on his Bardsey patch. However, Steve's move into 2nd place was no match for John's whopping 52 point lead. It seems John and his Isle of Tiree patch may be enjoying pole position for quite some time!

Friday, 20 November 2015

Coastal Scotland Minileague - October 2015

Stephen Welch stays top of the comparative minileague for Coastal Scotland and adds 3% in the process with Barnacle Geese and Whooper Swans the source of his points. Mark Lewis gets oh so near to the 100% benchmark as he stands on 99%. This month he got bonus points for Yellow-browed Warbler and Siberian Chiffchaff and backed that up with a brace of patch ticks in the form of Smew and Treecreeper. Andrew Whitehouse overhauls Jim Dickson to move into third place at Girdle Ness and Torry with 93.8% adding 7% this time out.

Mark Lewis continues at the top of the points league for Coastal Scotland with a 20 point cushion from Mike Hodgkin at Aberlady Bay. We have already heard how Mark got on but Mike also added plenty of points with 23 accrued in October. Mike got his first bonus points this month with a self found Surf Scoter as well as a patch American Golden Plover which whilst not a find was three more points on the total. Jim Dickson at Crinan Canal managed just three points and meant he fell to third this time out despite adding Short-eared Owl and Brambling.

Away from the podium places there were highlights with a Firecrest for Peter Stronach at Durness and Balnakeil, a self-found Long-tailed Skua for Chris Rodger at Musselburgh which give half a dozen points to the finder who also added Lapland Bunting.

Thursday, 19 November 2015

Estuarine Minileague - October 2015

Another month draws to a close in the estuarine minileague and the comparative table looks largely the same, the top five comprising the same familiar names all be it in a slightly different order. Ed Keeble remains in poll position at Brantham followed by Shaun Robson at Lytchett Bay. Ed is still the only competitor to have reached the coveted 100% marker though November should see a few others passing this milestone. Gordon Hodgson jumps from fifth to third this month with an impressive gain of 19 points. Toby Collett drops to fourth position followed by Russell Neave at Maldon. Sixth place Emma Webb also patches Maldon it seems and it will be interesting to see if she can overtake Russell before the years end. With only 2% separating the two one good bird in November could see this happen.

Paul Sullivan heads up the points league this month with an impressive 188 species and 295 points respectively. Both Paul and second place John Bradley notched Pallid Harrier during October, bringing in welcome bonus points for both competitors. Paul also picked up an additional 9 points for the impressive combination of Black Brant, Yellow-Browed Warbler and Sabine's Gull. A good month in Lincs it seems! Further down the table, Howard Vaughan upset Dave Craven for third place following an impressive gain of 30 points at RSPB Rainham Marshes.

In terms of the birds seen this month the aforementioned Pallid Harrier in Lincs was surely bird of the month with a self-found Glossy Ibis for Howard Vaughan coming in a close second. The latter adding 9 points to Howards already impressive October score. With Black Brant, Sabine's and YBW already mentioned, other notable finds this month include a record count of Great White Egrets for Dave Craven and Dartford Warbler for Howard Vaughan. The latter his first in five years. #PatchGold was well represented this month with Dave Craven wracking up Spoonbill, Great Skua, Woodlark and Black Redstart among other new additions and Black Redstart also featuring for Ian Ballam. Red-Necked Grebe for Ed Keeble also warrants a mention while Shaun Robson's first Yellowhammer in five years was surely put a smile on his face.

- James C (Patchwork Challenge)

Wednesday, 18 November 2015

Midlands Minileague October 2015

Tom Shields holds on at the top but only by the thinnest of margins as Andy Mackay jumps from 4th to 2nd and becomes the fourth person to hit 100% and adding 10% in October. His highlights this month include bonus points for a Great White Egret (although only 3 points gained as he saw one in the first winter period). Other goodies included American Golden Plover, Spoonbill, Bewick's Swan and Jack Snipe - a very decent haul for inland even if Andy did miss out on the find for the AGP.

Azorean Gull - photo courtesy of Ben Ward
Dave Roberts also has a superb month jumping from 6th to 3rd and becoming the 5th 100%'er in the minileague. His best bit find was a monster - an Azorean Gull which he co-found and is certainly a contender for this years Forest Optics best find competition. We dont adjudicate on identification - we leave that to BBRC and the consensus is positive at the moment. It is up to the individual to decide on 'difficult' species/subspecies and what to include. Azorean Gull is a RIACT species and considered rare by Birdguides and is as such worth 12 points.

Andy Mackay closed Ian Cowgill's lead down to 11 points and moves above John Hopper in the points table. Ian managed three points but no notable species whilst Andy added 17 in October. John Hopper stays in touch adding four points with his October highlights an inland Rock Pipit and a Red-breasted Merganser.

Away from the top of the table there was a Rough-legged Buzzard for Kevin Clements and patch ticks in the form of Hawfinch and Cetti's Warbler for Matt Griffiths at Earlswood with the latter a new species for site and the former the first record in over 70 years. Sometimes it is the more mundane that brightens the day and for Matthew Dick this was certainly the case as he added Wigeon to his Darley Dale patch list with 6 flyovers.

Inland Scotland Minileague - October 2015

An extra two species including Redwing added and a 4% increase sees Chris Pendlebury's lead unchallenged again in the comparative table for his Stirling patch. Alastair Forsyth made similar gains with 5% added this month although he did manage three Yellow-browed Warblers (plus Chiffchaff and Goldcrest) for yet more bonus points. He also overtakes Andy Cage and becomes the third Inland Scotland patcher to reach the hallowed three figures. The aforementioned Mr Cage failed to make progress in October and as such slips to third.

As mentioned above it was another good month for Alastair Forsyth at Old Nisthouse and he retains top spot in the points league and increases his lead from 6 to 14 points as David Douglas didnt register a score this month. Pete Antrobus didnt make any gains at Lochmaben and so remains a way back in third but now under pressure from Graeme Garner who added 8 points in October at Cambus.

I could list all of Chris P's finds this month but sadly we know he wouldnt want to blow his own trumpet but suffice to say gains were made all round and a Little Egret at Dunblane is noteworthy. We await updates from the other contestants as we get to the sharp end of the year.

Sunday, 15 November 2015

Coastal North Minileague - October 2015

The top five remain unchanged in the coastal north comparative league this month despite gains by numerous competitors and a plethora of good birds strewn along the coast. Ash Baines remains rooted in first place with an additional seven species boosting him from 104.75 % to 109.58% with Snow Bunting and a patch first Goldeneye his highlights throughout October. Second place Stewart Sexton was also rewarded this month with his first Jack Snipe in seven years of observation at Howick, Northumberland. - #Patchgold!

Congratulations go to third place Seaumus Eaves for reaching the 100% marker this month following a good run at Fleetwood that saw the addition of 15 points derived from seven new species. Among these, tantalising goodies such as Marsh Warbler, Yellow-Brow and Long-Tailed Duck. Both Chris Bradshaw and James Spencer also look set to break the barrier in the coming months and November could easily see the top five comparative patchers nestled snugly on 100% and above. 

In the points league Mick Turton continued his impressive (to say the least) run at Easington with a smorgasbord of avian delights noted throughout the month. Among these; Pallas's Warbler, Lapland Bunting, American Golden Plover and Great Grey Shrike. Not one to bypass the more run of the mill species however Mick was also delighted to pick up three Bullfinch his garden.

Further down the table things remain largely unchanged yet again though many and more patchers clocked some #patchgold throughout October. Among these Hume's Leaf Warbler, Pallid Swift, Siberian Stonechat and Great Grey Shrike for Martin Garner at Flamborough Head, enough to make anyone's mouth water. A Great Grey Shrike also featured for Dave Aitken at RSPB Bempton Cliffs. Elsewhere in the league Chris Bradshaw unearthed not one but two Richard's Pipits at Long Nab, followed later by a Sabine's Gull. Yellow-Browed Warblers continued to be a prominent feature of the league throughout the month, notched on a total of five patches, sometimes in force, as was the case for both Stewart Sexton and Pete Marsh. Concluding the noteworthy offerings this month, a healthy dose of autumn migrants including Short-Eared Owl, Brambling, Ring Ouzel and more Jack Snipe added points for some patchers though a special, non-avian, mention has to go to the Basking Shark picked up by James Spencer at Barmston. Not bad at all!

Yellow-Browed Warbler - Stewart Sexton

Record shot of the month? - Ash Baines
- James C (Patchwork Challenge)

Thursday, 12 November 2015

Wales Minileague October 2015

While Alison is yet again sitting tight on the comparative top spot at LlanfairTH, Henry Cook is playing catch-up, and pushes his Little Orme patch into 2nd position giving him an increase of a whopping 11% since last month. In the battle for 5th position, Peter Howlett has pipped Adam Tilt with an increase of 6%, however, the competition is getting tighter with only a few percent currently separating the 5th, 6th & 7th spots.

Highlights including Firecrest and Yellow-browed Warbler have contributed to a fourteen point increase for David Carrington, allowing him to knock Barry Stewart down into 2nd place. As expected, Laurie Allnatt has slipped into 4th place with Paul Roberts stepping up onto the podium with 174 points and a tidy Dartford Warbler for the month.

With the help of a stonking self-found Alpine Swift, Henry Cook moved Little Orme into 5th position of the points league. Bonus points for Great White Egret and a Red-throated Diver saw Emma Cram move her Broughton and Llangennith patch up four places. Dan Rouse made an impressive jump from 13th to 8th position with a lovely selection of species - Cattle Egret, Marsh Harrier, Pectoral Sandpiper, Curlew Sandpiper, Little Stint and Yellow-browed Warbler - giving her thirty-five extra points this month.

Alpine Swift, Little Orme © Robin Sandham


Wednesday, 11 November 2015

Ireland Minileague - October 2015

No new species or points added during October for the Ireland Comparative Minileague leaders, Eamonn O'Donnell (Ninch/Laytown) or Niall Keogh (South Dublin Parks), as both were away for most of the month chasing migrants and seabirds around/off Southwest Ireland.

While they still remain in their allotted first and second place positions, a month of inactivity has allowed other contestants make some gains and to add to their scores.

Alan Lauder connects with the long-staying Yellow-legged Gull at Broad Lough and moves well past 100 species, 100% comp score and into a strong third place position (and within striking distance of second).

Despite having a plethora of rare and scarce species just out of reach of his patch boundary at Larne Lough, Neal Warnock finally gets an addition for his year list (Knot) after a long wait. Two months left for him to gain 7% and make it to the target score.

Neal's other patch at Rathlin Island produced Snow Bunting among four species added there seeing him move from eleventh to seventh place while Dave Suddaby jumps from thirteenth to sixth and past 90% (more on the reasons behind this below).

Five new species scoring seventeen new points for Dave Suddaby at Blacksod bolstered his first place position on the Ireland Points Minileague where the clear highlight (and strong contender for bird of the year) was a fantastic male Two-barred Crossbill which graced the conifers at the back of his garden among a movement of Common Crossbill. Not only a very fine looking species in its own right, Two-barred Crossbill is an absolute mega in Ireland and Dave's sighting represents the first county record for Mayo.

Additions of Carrion Crow, Greenland White-fronted Goose, Merlin and Short-eared Owl right at the months end allowed Niall Keogh to make some gains at Kilcoole. This helped him take second place from Eamonn O'Donnell with a four point lead and a total of 143 species.

Richard Donaghey mist-netted a Yellow-browed Warbler at his ringing site at the Bann Estuary, a very good bird for Northern Ireland and worthy of six points there for sure plus additions of Long-eared Owl and Barnacle Goose to boot.

Some October migrants registered on other patches include Whooper Swan for Derek Polley at West Bangor, Whinchat for Arlo Jacques at Tramore Backstrand and finally, Golden Plover, Lapwing, Skylark and Lesser Redpoll for Noel Keogh at South Dublin Bay.

We also welcome Michael John O'Mahony to the points table who has been busy patching away at Rathduff in Co. Cork. Hen Harrier, Long-eared Owl, Dipper, Spotted Flycatcher and Grasshopper Warbler are just some of the excellent local species present at his inland patch which ticks the 'Green' box, birded by foot only.

Tuesday, 10 November 2015

Coastal East Anglia Minileagues - October 2015

Craig Fulcher has added more than 16% in October to extend his lead with a quadruple hit of bonus points for finding Great Grey Shrike, Serin, Leach's Petrel and of course Yellow-browed Warbler. Ryan Irvine's mind bending run as documented on the blog meant he added 25% in one month including finding Red-flanked Bluetail and Olive-backed Pipit on one visit and a plethora of Great Grey Shrikes plus a Pallas's Warbler. Tommy Corcoran becomes the third patcher to cross the 100% barrier and whilst he dropped a spot this month his 11% gain is not to be sniffed at. His finds included Radde's Warbler, Great Grey Shrike and Yellow-brow whilst American Golden Plover and Lesser Yellowlegs were also handy additions.

Radde's Warbler - Tommy Corcoran

Nige Lound managed 22 bonus points this month and added 54 points in another excellent month at Gibraltar Point. His undoubted highlight was a self-found Pallid Harrier and he also managed to dig out Richard's Pipit, Great Grey Shrike, Dusky Warbler and Rough-legged Buzzard this month. James Brown remains in second place although he has now lost touch with Nige in first. James added 28 points in October including bonus points for Pallas's Warbler and Leach's Petrel. Ryan added 62 points to move from 6th to 3rd place.

Tim Hodge also had a productive October with three Rough-legged Buzzards, three Great Grey Shrikes and a Richard's Pipit amongst the 73(!) points he accumulated in October. A spectacular effort indeed. Scott Mayson also got in on the act with a Great White Egret at Thorpeness. At Holme it was a familar story with Robert Smith accumulating Rough-legged Buzzard, Pallas's Warbler, Great Grey Shrike and Yellow-brow.

Monday, 9 November 2015

Inland South Minileague - October 2015

Tom Raven's amazing year just keeps going as he adds another 5% in October including yet more bonus points for a self-found Pectoral Sandpiper. Chuck in a Black-necked Grebe and that is a decent haul. Tom Stevenson moved into second and added 8% as he goes onto 115% at Ewelme Watercress Beds. Whilst Tom doesnt match his namesake for diversity he has made 105 visits this year and has deservedly improved on his comparative with a drake Mandarin providing the gloss. Josie Hewitt drops to third as she didnt get a score in. Roger Hicks' patch, Henlow Grange, is the seventh to hit the magic three figures with Short-eared Owl and Brambling this months gains whilst Tim Farr is making gains albeit slowly. Just. one. more. point...

Ring-necked Duck (Tring Reservoirs) - Ian Bennell

Tom Raven continues to hold a handsome points lead and extends it this month as Lee Evans holds on to second place thanks to a drake Ring-necked Duck on Tring Reservoirs which Ian Bennell also connected with. Alas no bonus points for either this time. Nigel Milbourne who patches Blagdon is in a very close third as the Lesser Scaup ventured back to Blagdon and he added a self-found Great White Egret. Adam Bassett is just a point off the top three and he made hay with a male Hen Harrier and Short-eared Owl.

Coastal South Minileague - October 2015

Paul Freestone stays top of the comparative minileague as he marches on to a superb 123.8%. He needed to pull out the stops as Andy Rhodes added 7% this month. Paul was one of many patchers to add Yellow-browed Warbler whilst Andy's best bits included a self-found Wryneck and a patch tick Spoonbill. Amy Robjohns holds onto third spot with 111%, 10% adrift of the top 2 but 5% clear of fouth. Her highlight was a reserve first Great Grey Shrike at Titchfield. In fourth position Peter Hazelwood added the 1 point he needed to get to 100% and indeed went considerably further with a Great White Egret which was a new bird for Oldbury Power Station.

Black Brant - Sean Foote

Joe Stockwells move north this year hasnt hindered his dominance of the Coastal South minileague and his local rivalry with Sean Foote continues to burn brightly as he added 38 points in September and October and increasing his cushion to 7 points. Joe's highlights were self-found Honey Buzzard in September and a Yellow-brow 200m from home in October. Sean found his own Yellow-brow and also saw Black Brant and Red-backed Shrike this month. Kev Rylands added 19 points to hold firm in third but the top 2 are well clear. Kev also found a Yellow-brow and added his first Great Grey Shrike for Dawlish Warren. 

Ilya Maclean found this months highlight - a seven-striped sprite (or Pallas's Warbler if you prefer) on his Loe Pool patch on the Lizard. Paul Bowerman's trip to Shetland nearly cost him but thankfully he got back in time to see the Red-throated Pipit that was unearthed on his Severn Beach patch. Andy Johnson got in on the patch-ticking theme this month with a Great White Egret at Sandy Point. These guys seem to be everywhere this autumn and Im sure there will be plenty more patches adding them before the year is out. Roger Musgrove got his half dozen points for a Yellow-brow but a small passage of Hawfinches was considerably rarer on Wall Common. A good month all round and the wins are still up for grabs.

Sunday, 8 November 2015

Inland North Minileague - October 2015

Ainderby Steeple continues to lead the way in the comparative minileague with Pink-footed Goose and Peregrine this months additions. Nick's lead grows as Steven Ward is marooned on 111% - nothing new for him since his garden Merlin. Nick Tonge and Keith Dickinson also failed to make any progress in a very static top of the table. New joinees of the 100% club this month are Mark Reeder and Jonathan Scragg who both sit squarely on the 100% mark thanks to Short-eared Owl and Crossbill respectively.

There was nothing new for Darren at Fairburn Ings this month and we havent heard from Garry Taylor so it is up to Andy Bunting to provide the impetus up front as he adds 6 points including Bewick's Swan at Martin Mere. Mark Langston is up three spots into 6th with Andy Walker sinking down to 8th. Paul Massey climbs four places from 13th into 9th largely thanks to a self-found Pectoral Sandpiper which is definitely the highlight this month. Several patches recorded the first Bramblings of the autumn with birds seen at Whitwell Quarry, Wheldrake Ings and Wykeham Lakes. Mike Pilsworth's fortunes improved at Swinefleet with a brace of Spoonbills and 9000 Pink-feet and patch-ticking Ring-necked Parakeet.

Short-eared Owl - Mark Reeder

Saturday, 7 November 2015

NGB Minileague - October 2015

As autumn advanced October found the NGB comparative league shaken up once again as Amy Robjohns overtook last months front-runner Josie Hewitt to claim the top spot, notching three species and five points points in the process including a rather nice Great Grey Shrike. Josie dropped into second place this month followed by Ash Baines who continued his recent spell of success edging yours truly out of the top three with seven new species noted at Starr Gate-Fairlawn Road. Further down the table the line-up remains unchanged many competitors off-patch for the duration of the month.

Great Grey Shrike - Amy Robjohns

Joe Stockwell maintained his stranglehold on the points league throughout October, a whopping 50 points ahead of his nearest rival, Jonathan Farooqi in second. Joe is definitely on track for a well deserved victory this year absent a miracle further down the table. Anthony Bentley remained firmly rooted in third place throughout the month though further down the table there was little to report on, excluding Amy Robjohns creeping up to occupy fourth place and Ian Pitts seemingly miraculous appearance in fifth.. Has the NGB option been clicked inadvertently? ;-)

In terms of the birds seen this month, autumn migration appeared to fizzle out somewhat with only two records of Yellow-Browed Warbler this month. The first submitted by Dan Rouse at WWT Llanelli and the second for Joe Stockwell. A few other interesting migrants were noted this month however with a Snow Bunting for Ash Baines and both Short-Eared Owl and Jack Snipe for Jonathan Farooqi, coupled of course with Amy's shrike. Dan Rouse showcased a rather impressive run of birds this month with the aforementioned YBW joined by both Cattle Egret and Pectoral Sandpiper as well as Marsh Harrier, Curlew Sandpiper and Little Stint. The former two would surely have increased Dan's standing if they had been self found. Concluding proceedings, a drake Mandarin came as a surprise for Samuel Pitt Miller while Drew Lyness noted both Ring-Necked Parakeet and Brambling  at UEA and Crossbill and Med Gull were new for the year for Jonathan Scragg.

Still all to play for in the comparative league in November and despite Joe's monumental lead in points table a few good birds could upset the standings further down. What winter migrants will crop up next month I wonder?

- James C (Patchwork Challenge)