The NGB minileague was a roaring success in 2015 and with more and more young birders registering patches 2016 will surely be no different. First of all I would like to thank all 2015 competitors for making this league both fun and competitive over the past twelve months, the scores, species counts and number of Birdtrack records testament to the sheer dedication of NGB members. As you may well be aware having read the Birdguides summary of 2015 (here) Joe Stockwell claimed the top spot in 2015 after narrowly missing out during the previous year. With 189 species notched and a monster points total of 299 the one year British Birds subscription heading Joe's way is extremely well deserved, as is the week long stay on Bardsey Island awarded to Josie Hewitt after claiming the coveted "NGB most valuable player" prize.
Looking first at the comparative league and Amy Robjohns reigns supreme at Titchfield Haven, rightfully claiming the top spot with an impressive 130% followed closely by Josie in second. Ash Baines claims third place following an impressive run at Starr Gate followed by James Common who likewise surpassed his score from the previous year. Jonathan Scragg also warrants a mention for exactly replicating his 2014 score. Looking quickly at the points league, Anthony Bentley and Jonathan Farooqi secured second and third positions with impressive scores at of 261 and 249 obtained respectively.
Some impressive rarities unearthed throughout December meant things were far from dull in the league this month. There were however two examples of #patchgold that stood out above all else with Logan Johnson concluding the year in spectacular fashion with a Mourning Dove on his Shetland patch and Northumberland's wintering Long-Billed Dowitcher finally dropping in to Druridge Pools, much to the delight of Jonathan Farooqi. A breeding plumage Sabine's Gull for Cathal Forkan at Galway Bay was also most welcome and no doubt helped considerably bolster Cathal's final score. Elsewhere other highlights of the league this month included a cracking Grey Pharalope for Joe Stockwell, Siberian Chiffchaff for Amy Robjohns and not one but three Water Pipits for Jonathan Farooqi. Jonathan's good run later continued with the addition of Iceland Gull while some other tantalizing tidbits include Scaup for both Joe Stockwell and Sam Pitt Miller, Black Redstart for Dan Rouse and Josie Hewitt's first ever patch Crossbills. Similarly, Short-Eared Owl would have been a welcome patch tick at Wellington GPs had the individual found by Espen Quinto-Ashman not keeled over prior to his visit.
A great year all around for the committed patchers of NGB with fingers now firmly crossed for the coming year. Will Joe retain his crown? Who will root out the leagues next major rarity? Who will be crowned most valuable player? Only time will tell but whether you are revisiting an old haunt during 2016 or, like myself, moving on to pastures new, the Patchwork team wish you all the best in the coming months and look forward to hearing about your patch based experiences. With this minileague soon developing to take on young birders from outside NGB, 2016 looks set to be one of the most competitive and wholly enjoyable years to date.
- James C (Patchwork Challenge)