Tuesday, 8 October 2013

The year on Bardsey so far, Steve Stansfield reveals all.

Patch birding for me is something of an occupational hazard as an Observatory warden living on an island. So when the Patchwork team got the blog up and running I was fired up for taking part.
January and February saw me on the mainland, so Ben Porter (Bardsey's youngest resident birder, aged 16 and still at 'school' on Bardsey) stormed in front.
When I returned to the island in March I began to claw a few bits back on Ben, but I realised that my professional position gave me little, if any, advantage. These days I have two assistants who do most of the census/fieldwork and I have become quite desk-bound dealing with the red-tape and bureaucracy that comes along with running a bird observatory on a NNR that is largely funded by a countryside agency - and Ben gets out in the field more than the average 16 year old!
April saw Ben way ahead and in the top three in the Welsh mini-league, whilst I struggled to get away from the bottom. May and early June were marginally better, with the likes of Rosefinch and Golden Oriole and two self found six pointers for me in Honey Buzzard and Marsh Warbler, but I dipped in good style on two different Subalpine Warblers and the first potential 12 point bird of the year in the form of Wales' fourth Paddyfield Warbler, amongst other things such as Turtled Dove, Grey Plover. Dipping rather than ticking appeared to be the way I was heading.
July saw me off the island for much of the month for a family holiday and meetings, picking up some good birds on other peoples patches, but not mine! By now Ben was tearing ahead leaving me second from bottom in the league.
August saw a lack of new birds too, with just a handful of one and two point birds being added, like Med Gull and Crossbill. Now I was beginning to get embarrassed. I was the only 'professional’ birder in the welsh league and fourth from bottom. Ben was in Second place in the league with 165 points from 123 species and I was on a pityful 80 points from a 63 species, just 29% of my comparative total!
However, September began and my admin jobs had been put aside, dealing only with the absolute necessary stuff that came along. My bins had been dusted and boots had been waxed! The chase was on. I began to get back some of the commoner migrants I had missed in spring, then more migrants began to appear. By mid month I had managed to get a score well into three figures with species like Knot, Curlew Sandpiper, Ruff , Greenshank and Green Sand. A Melodious Warbler added a further three points, but on my way to see that I bumped into a self found Common Rosefinch, adding three points for a self found one to the three points for one seen in May. Soon Seabirds were the order of the month, and with Long-tailed Skua (plus the 3 commoner ones), Black-throated Diver, Leach's Petrel, Sooty and Balearic Shearwaters all self finds my score was beginning to look something like respective. Then late one afternoon BANG my first mega bonus came flying by in the form of Bardsey's second ever Fea's Petrel, panic, shouting and a burst of birding turret's! 12 points in the bag. Unfortunately Ben missed the bird, so he was 12 points down there, he had however managed Sabine's Gull which I missed, but he had clawed back several of the other seabirds.
As the wind calmed there were several nice eastern migrants arriving. A male Red-breasted Flycatcher added three points on a rather wet and claggy Saturday evening. Shortly after running for a Wryneck to give another three points the following morning, I heard the autumn's first Yellow-browed Warbler calling- another six points. The following day, Ben and I went to see the Male RBF and both simultaneously found a first winter RBF mobbing a Wryneck!; more points. A radio message about a Turtle Dove then saw me running back down the island to see this now very rare dove. I was beginning to rack up the points but get exhausted too.
Over the next few days migrants continued to arrive and three more points came this time with a self found Wryneck, and then a late afternoon stroll with my wife and son to pick wild mushrooms saw us bump into yet another self found mega bonus and a 12 point Siberian Stonechat.
Siberian Stonechat, Bardsey
By the end of September I was well and truly off the bottom of the Welsh league, and had overtaken Ben who had been ordered back into his classroom after his six weeks holiday. Ben is still not too far behind and could quite easily sneak a few good bird points in the remaining three months of the year, but for now my two self found mega bonus (16 extra points) and 24 scarce bonus have helped add to my overall tally of 270 points from 153 species. I'm hoping that October will continue where September finished with plenty more points to come, with common species such as Brambling, Snow and Lapland bunting still to be had, the the regular scarcities like Richard's Pipit, Grey Phalarope and Sabine's Gull still to come.
STOP PRESS. Another 3 points for Sabine's Gull yesterday 7 October, but dipped on RB Merg and the first Richard's Pipit of the autumn! Comparative total now stands at 100.36% on the past two years! and still four weeks or more of migration to come.....

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