Wednesday, 30 March 2016

Forest Optics Best Find Competition 2016 - February Roundup

Welcome to the February update for the Bresser and Forest Optics  Best Find Competition! This is the competition open to anyone who finds a fantastically rare bird on patch and as always its prestige is backed up by a truly 
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 to be confirmed but will again be a pair of binoculars. For the lucky winner, a prize definitely worth competing for so get yourself out there, you have to be in it to win it. In the meantime, for those looking to upgrade their optics, take a look a their website for the great products they have on offer.

After the 'everything counts again' bonanza of January, February can sometimes be a hard slog. Invariably the best find highlights are made up of wildfowl and gulls in the shortest month as everyone waits for spring. February 2016 was no different.

Bird of the month goes to Julian Wyllie at Baltimore in Ireland. From the other side of the pond, Black Duck is not going to have its own calendar anytime soon but what it lacks in looks it almost makes up for in rarity value! It is also a PWC first and another for our growing Bubo list.

Black Duck © Paul Connaughton (Shearwater Wildlife Tours)
In fact the theme of this write up is largely American orientated. Incredibly John Bowler on Tiree scored maximum points for the second year in a row for American Herring Gull, bagging a few good flight record shots at the same time. At times it shared the same location as a juvenile Kumlien's Gull. John's name is synonymous with this competition, and he added to his self-found rarity haul with a Green-Winged Teal.

Continuing the American theme, two bonus pointers that have been in the headlines frequently in the first two months are American Wigeon and Black Brant. Russell Neave on his new Sanday patch scores the extra points for the former whilst Irene Boston and Toby Collett successfully sifted out the latter from the Brent Flocks around The Wash at Brancaster and Frampton respectively.

American Wigeon, Sanday c/o @SandayRanger

Preceding Niall Keogh's Ring-Billed Gull prediction in the March podcast, Noel Keogh and Neal Warnock at South Dublin Bay and Lough Larne in Ireland scored bonus points for this cracker of a bird.

Ring-Billed Gull in the centre of this pic from Neal Warnock at Lough Larne

The long-staying Long-Billed Dowitcher at Cresswell in Northumberland went on a brief holiday to Iain Robson's Druridge Bay patch on the 7th February.  The final bird of this round up to have crossed the Atlantic was the diminutive Richardson's Cackling Goose which matched the wintering Barnacle flock for size.

Richardson's Goose, Oa c/o David Wood

Coming to birds from destinations closer to home, Common Crane is becoming a more regular bird in the UK. Indeed birds from breeding grounds would not make this round up, but a bird for Marc Lansdowne in the Trent Valley in Leicestershire was less expected.

That leaves us with two records, which whilst not on the same rarity scales as some of those above have added stories to their finds. The first is from Dave Suddaby who usually features in this roundup with his rarity laden garden. His golden touch seems to have moved to his office space as he added a Tundra Bean Goose to his office window list this month! Finally, Ben Rackstraw has moved house and thereby patches. In January he left behind Downham Market locating a Serin on one of his final visits. In February, he made his first visit to Wretton, his new patch and nailed a Great Grey Shrike. Quite some introduction!

Ben Rackstraw's incredible find on his first visit to patch.

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