Monday, 22 February 2016

Forest Optics Best Find Competition 2016 - January Roundup

Following a superb competition in 2015,
Bresser and Forest Optics  have once again kindly agreed to sponsor the Best Find Competition this year. Whilst many of the rare birds appear on coastlines and islands, the last two years have seen winners from the estuarine Meare Heath and inland Pugney's Country Park, proving that the bird of the year can appear almost anywhere. A couple of the PWC admin team have predicted a UK first to be found on a patch this year, which if it happens I am sure will be a front-runner for PWC's most prestigious competition. Could it be you?

With such a prestigious competition comes an excellent prize. Last year Bresser and Forest Optics  donated a pair of Bresser Montana 8.5 x 45 binoculars worth a grand total of £665! This years prize is still tbc but will again be a pair of binoculars. An incredibly generous prize I am sure you will agree and we really appreciate their continuing support. Have a look at their website and see what they have to offer.

January is always an exciting month in Patchwork Challenge. Everything counts again, and even the one pointers are all ticks for the year! Bonus pointers can be hard to come by however and often come from scouring flocks of gulls, geese or wildfowl. Perhaps the most surprising find this month however was a Great Snipe at Wanstead Flats for Nick Croft. Flushed from scrub on the 3rd it gave close flight views before ditching down but could not be relocated again despite extensive searching. An amazing bird to find in the autumn in any part of the country, to turn one up in Greater London in January is a superb result, and already puts itself in contention from the off!

The first patch visit of the year for Derek Charles on New Years Day resulted in him finding a Black Guillemot on Lough Neagh, the first inland record for Northern Ireland since 1932! A great start to the year for any patch but even more incredible on an inland site. 

Black Guillemot at Ardmore, Lough Neagh c/o Derek Charles

On his first patch visit of the year, William Rutter located a pale redpoll in a flock at Birling Carrs. Fortunately it stuck around all month, providing the opportunity for many birders to pay a visit to this corner of Northumberland. Definitely one of the most popular birds of the month, there are many excellent photos and discussions on this stunning bird to be found online supporting the identification as Coue's Arctic Redpoll.

Arctic Redpoll at Birling Carrs (photo c/o Sacha Elliott)
Hardly a best find update goes by without John Bowler and Dave Suddaby getting a mention! This month they both scored bonus points for Kumlien's Gull, a second patch record for John, whilst Dave's find had the good manners to then add itself to his office list!

Third winter Kumlien's Gull at Blacksod (photo c/o Dave Suddaby)
American ducks are a feature of the winter with a few long stayers from last year providing points this year but no find bonuses. American Wigeon were found at Hesketh Out Marsh and Scarborough whilst a drake at Steart WWT for Joe Cockram was joined by a Green-winged Teal. Any patcher with a flock of Teal will spend the winter scouring them for their American cousin, and Pete Antrobus, Steve Nuttall and Ross Ahmed also got lucky when the vertical white stripe appeared in their scopes in January.

American Wigeon at Scalby Mills (photo c/o Nick Addey)
Ceri Jones and Peter Howlett bagged points for the same Lesser Scaup which commuted between Cosmeston and Cardiff Bay. There have been a few Surf Scoters on the east coast this winter, and Mike Hodgkin located one on the sea at Aberlady Bay in Scotland. 

In the last couple of years, a couple of the easier bonus pointers (if there is such a thing!) to link up with are Great White Egret and Yellow-browed Warblers. The latter has taken to wintering in a couple of locations in the south-west and Ilya Maclean unearthed a new bird at Lizard Point. New Great White Egrets were at Blagdon Lake and Hale and Pickering whilst a brace graced Conningbrook Lake. The influx of Cattle Egrets last year has left a few stragglers across the UK, but only one of those was a new bird in January with a  single at Topsham on the 3rd helping to boost Martin Elcoate's January points total. Meanwhile a flock of twenty Glossy Ibis at Tramore Backstrand in Ireland must have been quite a sight for Arlo Jacques who must be wishing their was a notable flock size bonus!

Cattle Egret at Topsham c/o Martin Elcoate
Scottish specialities White Billed Diver and White-Tailed Eagle put in appearances at Quoyangry and Balivanich respectively whilst the wintering Great Grey Shrike was relocated at Henlow Grange. Finally, Ben Rackstraw had his first bonus pointer in the form of a Serin on his last visit to his Downham Market patch before moving house!

Serin at Downham Market c/o Ben Rackstraw

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