Saturday, 13 February 2016

Coastal Ireland Minileague - January 2016

The rankings on newly formed Coastal Ireland Comparative Minileague table at the end of January 2016 perfectly demonstrate the different ways in which patch contestants begin to achieve their scores in a given year. 

For some patch birders, a large proportion of their expected species can be found with some solid effort in the first month but with the result of often leaving long gaps between further year ticks. For other patches we see a steady accumulation of species added as the months go by. 

As a prime example of this, at the end of January 2016 Noel Keogh leads by a huge margin at South Dublin Bay with 81.7% while some patch stalwarts like Dave Suddaby and Neal Warnock can currently be found towards the bottom of the table in the 30-40% bracket. A case of the tortoise and the hare? We've a long way yet to go to see who will come out on top!

Noel's impressive first month comp score can be attributed to (a) it being his second year of taking part in PWC which often comes with an increase in effort and enthusiasm and (b) it genuinely having been a great month on the patch! He added some nice species such as Red-necked Grebe, Ring-billed Gull, Arctic Skua, Snow Bunting, Black Redstart and a wintering Sandwich Tern but most importantly, a trio of #patchgold Shoveler!

Derek Polley is also in his first comp scoring year at West Bangor with Great Northern Diver and a garden Jay helping him claim second place with 67%. Both Eamonn O'Donnell and Neal Warnock got stuck in during January and came up with 65% and 62% from their long running patches at Ninch/Laytown and Larne Lough respectively. Slavonian Grebe and Brambling were highlights for Eamonn (in third place) while Neal put together a fine medley of GoosanderJack Snipe, wintering Sandwich Tern and best of all, a 2cy Kumlien's Gull which sees him in fourth at the end of the first month. 

Tramore Backstrand just keeps on producing the goods for Arlo Jacques who connected with not one but 20 (TWENTY!) Glossy Ibis, 3 Grey Phalarope and a drake American Wigeon at his Co. Waterford patch. What a way to start the year! He currently holds fifth place with 57.3%.

Red-necked Grebe at Dun Laoghaire © Joe Proudfoot

A productive start for some the comp patchers means we see many of them at the top of the points table also where Noel Keogh is in first place again with 92 species / 112 points at South Dublin Bay. Joe Proudfoot's patch between Sandymount and Dun Laoghaire overlaps with much of Noel's and as such he also saw many of the same highlights like the returning Red-necked Grebe and Ring-billed Gull plus Black Redstart, Snow Bunting, the Arctic Skua but most importantly, a #fullfatpatchtick male Goldeneye. Joe is in the under 25's league and straight into third place with 84 species / 103 points. 

A 4cy Kumlien's Gull was a good office tick for Dave Suddaby at Blacksod where 99 points sees him in fourth. Our other under 25's league contestant, Cathal Forkan, is birding in North Galway Bay where Niall Keogh's new west coast patch of Galway City overlaps around the Nimmo's Pier area. Both of them secured some good gulls as expected where up to 3 Iceland Gulls and 5 Ring-billed Gulls have been hanging out! 

Larids proved popular at other sites with Glaucous, Iceland and Yellow-legged Gulls at Baltimore (Julian Wyllie), Iceland and Yellow-legged Gulls at Kilmore Quay (Tom Moore) and yet more Iceland and Glaucous Gulls at Dunhill ecopark/Annestown/Boatstrand (Keith Adams...who also got Grey Phalarope there).

Just as popular as gulls in mid-winter are ducks! Long-tailed Duck was a nice local bird for Graham Johnston at Rinville, Neal Warnock got his second patch record of Gadwall at Rathlin Island and Christopher O'Sullivan made sure to get the Green-winged Teal found in December at White's Marsh for his Clonakilty/Inchydoney patch (with Black-throated Diver offshore too). 

Iceland Gull at Nimmo's Pier © Cathal Forkan (click for blog link)

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