Friday, 21 February 2014

South Coast Minileague - January

Andy Johnson leads the way with 91 species and 111 points, 19 points clear of Adam Faiers in second place in Sandwich Bay. Mark Lawlor, on Guernsey rounds off the top three a further 15 points behind. A couple of patches have notched Glaucous Gull and Great Northern Diver but the highlight this month is Mark Lawlor's adult Kumlien's Gull, a cracker indeed.

With only four competitors this is one of the smaller comparative minileagues. Adam Faiers leads with 57.9% in January with Mark Lawlor in second on 53.8%. Andy Johnson's monster score for 2013 will make it tough to emulate in 2014 and at present he is on 36.6%.

Coastal Scotland Minileague - January

Two of the Coastal Scotland big hitters from 2013 head up the table for January with Paul Higson at Quoyangry holding a single point lead over last years winner John Bowler on Tiree on 105 and 104 points respectively. Another islander, Peter Donnelly on North Ronaldsay comes in third. The highest placed mainland patch is Dan Brown's at Dunnet Head in Caithness with 94 points in fourth. There were some decent birds in this Minileague with perhaps the highest quotient of scarce but without any real rarities. White-billed Diver on South Ronaldsay made it on to a couple of patch lists and a Green-winged Teal was on Tiree for John Bowler. 3 Glossy Ibis were at Balivanich for Stuart Taylor and there were a scattering of Little Auks for several patchers. Bits of patch gold included a Kingfisher in Caithness for Dan Brown - the third record in the last 20 years apparently and John Bowlers first winter record of Ruff at Balephuil.

Chris Hill at Burntisland leads the way in the comparative table but with 0.6% covering the podium places. Bryan Rains in South-west Mull is in second with Yvonne B at Askernish in third place. With plenty of entrants in the comparative table this is one that will be interesting throughout, especially when spring gets going and the big hitters start accruing some serious points.

Inland Scotland Minileague - January

Alastair Forsyth is top of the tree at Old Nisthouse and deservedly so after finding the best bird of January, a drake Blue-winged Teal. Chris Pendlebury has had an excellent start at Dunblane and is in second but a full twelve points back. Last years winner of the Inland Scotland minileague, Graeme Garner, is in third on his new patch, Cambus.  Aside from Alastair's Teal there was little else to shout about finds wise with species such as Woodcock, Jack Snipe and Merlin featuring in the highlights.

Everybody is in the same order in the combined table with Alastair top on 68.75%. Less than 2% back is Chris P and then Andy Dowse at Comrie in third with 56.8%.

Thursday, 20 February 2014

Coastal East Anglia Minileague - January

Tim Hodge not only leads the way in the coastal East Anglia mini league but is the national front runner too. Not only that he has an impressive BirdTrack record so far too! Its a close fight for second and third as north coast Norfolk ties with east coast Suffolk. Best find so far this month has to go to Tommy Corcoran when he stumbled across a Glossy Ibis in a park in Great Yarmouth, a very handy 12 points early in the year. Gary Elton also had a nice find in the shape of a Black Brant while skuas and grebes comprised of many of the other highlights in the region, while Richard Moores found an unseasonal Black Restart at Happisburgh.

Gary White, prize winner from PWC2013, leads the comparative league at this early stage as he approaches 50%. I'm sure this league will see many changes in the coming months, especially a fall from 2nd for Hemsby. A cold snap, or spring would be very welcome to most of us I'm sure you will all agree!

Wednesday, 19 February 2014

Inland East Anglia Minileague - January

The inland East Anglia mini league is led by two PWC2013 big hitters as Jamie Wells and Ben Lewis lead the way again, both breaking the 100 point barrier already. Jamie leads by 7 points, thanks in part to finding a Great White Egret, a very handy 6 points. Highlights had the usual wintery feel with wildfowl and divers mentioned on several patches and Mealy Redpolls a welcome find for Nick Moran and Nick Robinson. Ben Rackshaw may be a newcomer but he has had a great start to PWC with two patch ticks, Scaup and Water Rail.

Not so easy for Ben and Jamie in the comparative table as there great 2013 see's them playing catch up this year. Mark Nowers has had a great January and already past 70% with Steve Swinney and Nick Watmough not too far behind in the top 3. The next 9 patches are separated by less than 10% so I can see this being another league to keep a close eye on as the year marches on....

Tuesday, 18 February 2014

Midlands Minileague - January

The midlands mini league this year is hardly mini as an impressive 38 patches have been entered, 23 of which have entered scores for January. The top three positions are held by PWC newcomers, Ian Cowgill at Lound sets the pace as he clocked up 99 species and the only 100+ points score. Fellow new comers John Hopper and Andy Mackay aren't too far back.

Although there only 5 comparative competitors this year it looks like it will be a cracking league as 5 are seperated by less that 7%. The race for the top spot is currently held by Dave Roberts by a mere 0.05% from Nick Self. It should be a geat league to keep an eye on throughout the year.

London Minileague - January

Nick Croft at Rainham and Adam Bassett at Little Marlow head up the London minileague, tied on 89 points. Nick even manages to sneak third at Wanstead. Highlights around the capital were few and far between with Water Rail and Peregrine at the top of a small looking pile.

Jason Reynold's flying start has him top of the London comparative league with 67.7%. 1.9% seperates 2nd-5th with Tom Stevenson and Michael Terry falling in the top 3 in second and third respectively.

Ireland Minileague - January

Eamonn O'Donnell storms out front with a superb first month at Ninch and Laytown. Neal Warnocks new patch at Larne Lough sees him into second. New entrant Peter Phillips nabs third at Lurgangreen, 12 points behind the leaders. Best find of the month was Tim Murphy's Glossy Ibis with honourable mentions for Michael O'Donnell's Ring-billed Gull and Alan Lauder's Great Spotted Woodpecker.

It is an O'Donnell 1-2 with Eamonn (71%) leading Michael (66.7%). Alan Lauder holds third place at Carrick Mountain a further 10% back.

Monday, 17 February 2014

South West Minileague January

Kev Rylands reasserts his dominance of the South West minileague and was one of four competitors to break the 100 point barrier in just the first month. New entrant, Sean Foote, at Portland goes straight into second despite the Brunnich's Guillemot eluding him on January 1st. Dan Chaney at Falmouth completes the top three with an excellent first month. Best finds of the month were Marcus Lawson's Great White Egret at Swineham GPs and Tim Farr's double of Yellow-browed Warbler and Iceland Gull. A glut of Glaucous Gulls at Portland were also notable for Sean Foote and Joe Stockwell.

Dan Chaney has shot out of the blocks racking up 65.7% already down in Falmouth leaving him 10% clear of Marcus Lawson. Shaun Robson at Lytchett Bay is in third place.

Coastal North Minileague

Martin Garner's Northern Treecreeper sees him top of the Coastal Northern Minileague for January. This was by far the rarest bird of the month for the competitors with a couple of Red-necked Grebes and the longstanding Kumlien's Gull at Barmston plus a scattering of Black-throated Divers and Tundra Bean Geese. Also noteworthy was a Cetti's Warbler for Seumus Eaves at Fleetwood. Young upstart, Jack Bucknall holds down second place at St Mary's Island, Northumberland whilst your erstwhile author managed precisely zero visits to the same place - some serious ground to be caught up. Ian Mills, last years winner holds down third and with the strength of the competition he will have a tougher task winning the points league this year.

The competitive table is very close with the Top 5 all between 28.4-35.5%. Alan Tilmouth finds himself top in the shakedown and it is a Northumberland top 3 with Stewart Sexton at Howick and Iain Robson at Druridge completing the podium places.

Wales Minileague January 2014

Ben Porter takes full advantage of Steve Stansfield being absent from Bardsey to open up an early lead with 79 points. Darren Coombs, a new entrant at Kenfig manages a great debut month with 72 species and is only a point back on 78 whilst Henry Cook takes Conwy RSPB into the Top 3. The best finds were also from the Top 3 with Ben managing a Glaucous Gull and Henry a Firecrest.

Alison C takes an early lead at LlanfairTH with a 75% score achieved in the comparative table. Adam Tilt is in second with 58.5% and Henry Cook, this time at Little Orme is on 49.3%. 

Inland North Minileague January 2014

A great start in what promises to be a hugely competitive minileague this year with some famous names and avid patchers joining staunch competitors from last year. Darren Starkey's twin-pronged assault on the league table leaves his West Yorkshire twins of Fairburn and St Aiden's in first and second respectively. Another newbie, Bill Aspin, brings his beloved Brockholes to the party with third place and 89 points. Last years winner, Jonathan Holliday is in fifth at Pugneys whilst Andy Bunting at Martin Mere has managed a commendable 1333 Birdtrack records this month. There were plenty of two pointers including Tom Lowe's Lesser Spotted Woodpecker in Goole and plenty of scarce gulls but best of the month is probably Mr Holliday's Caspian Gull.

Some solid starts amongst last years leaders with Phil Woolen in first at Backford Cross on 57.8%. Peter Williams at Laycock is in second with 52.2% whilst Jonny Holliday edges out Mark Reeder to complete the top 3.

Friday, 14 February 2014

PWC 2013 Review - Thetford, Nick Moran

Nick Moran talks us through a year in the life of Thetford birding.....

Although I was 200 miles from patch on New Year’s Day, 2/1 provided a good start to the year with Shoveler (my first January record), Pochard and Goosander all present at the Nunnery Lakes. Relocating Thetford’s Black-bellied Dipper on 4/1 in a small tributary of the River Thet – where it went on to delight the crowds for the next 3 months – was a big relief, as was chancing on a Waxwing on 30/1. A cold snap mid-month produced a record movement of 35 Skylark and smaller numbers of Meadow Pipit, and a smart adult Yellow-legged Gull was on the iced-over floods on 20/1.
81 species (80 for Foot It), 84 points

Here’s the Big Dipper. Everyone’s seen a gazillion pics of Thetford’s one – you really don’t need to see another, do you? © The Internet

With January’s Foot It competition only just over, Bittern (5/2) and Jack Snipe (10/2) both appeared in early February to taunt me but were welcome 2-point additions for PWC! My earliest-ever returning Curlew arrived on 15/2, though it was 2 weeks before another was recorded. A Barnacle Goose on 11/2 was surely category C (at best!) but good to get out of the way early in the year.
85 species, 90 points

The month’s additions began with Great Crested Grebe – very scarce in Breckland in winter – and Goldeneye on 6/3, before Herring Gull was belatedly added 12/3. Prolonged freezing weather in the second half of the month may well have had a hand in two local megas, both on 24/3: an obliging female Lesser Spotted Woodpecker – my 150th species at the Nunnery Lakes – and an unprecedented flock of 15 Little Gull (flying over a housing estate)! A Stone-curlew hunkered down on the frozen ground on 26/3 looked even more grumpy than usual, while a Stonechat (30/3) probably wished it was elsewhere too.
93 species, 103 points

Shelduck and Red Kite started the month well on 2/4 but a fortnight in Spain mid-month meant it took until 23/4 before I recorded most of the returning summer migrants. A Nightingale – barely annual on patch now – piped up on 24/4 before going on to hold territory on our CES ringing site for the next 2 months. Other good migrants came in the form of Lesser Whitethroat (25/4), Whinchat (27/4) and Wheatear (29/4). Fellow patcher (though not PWCer – yet!) Neil Calbrade struck patch gold on 24/4 with Firecrest AND Long-eared Owl, both of which I was able to see. Sadly the latter appeared to have an injured leg, though that did render its choice of roost site unusually conspicuous.
113 species, 127 points

Long-eared Owl at the Nunnery Lakes 24/04/2013 © Nick Moran

May might be exciting on the coast but it marks the beginning of the summer doldrums inland. Little Ringed Plover (5/5) and Hobby (8/5) were the only additions though Siskin (1/5) and Snipe (2/5) were my latest-ever spring records. On the other hand, ‘May patch ticks’ of Herring Gull, Barn Owl and Sand Martin are as much a reflection on my lack of effort in previous Mays than anything else.
115 species, 129 points

Following on from where May left off, June was hard going. Still just about annual, Spotted Flycatcher (21/6) was a welcome new species for the year; less predictable and more welcome still was a cream-crown Marsh Harrier (25/6).
117 species, 132 points

The Nunnery Lakes offers little in the way of wader habitat but the floods were still wet enough to pull in Green Sandpiper and Greenshank (both 8/7). A pair of Turtle Dove – constituting a patch rarity these days – flew through on 14/7 and a family party of Common Tern, another less-than-annual species, hung around for a few days from 18/7. ‘July patch ticks’ featured such embarrassments as Great Spotted Woodpecker, Nuthatch and House Sparrow, showing how little effort I’ve put in during July in the past.
121 species, 136 points

The faint hope of more waders was just about realised via a Common Sandpiper (8/8), whilst a ‘summer’ Peregrine (14/8) was more of a surprise. Yellow Wagtail (23/8) was good, though a reserve record count of 5 around the feet of the cattle 6 days later was even better.
124 species, 140 points

As coastal patches began groaning under the weight of scarce and rare migrants from August Bank Holiday onwards, deep inland a birdless vacuum developed. The mood was not helped by me dipping an unseasonal Hawfinch found by a colleague, nor by ‘September patch ticking’ Wheatear. My one and only ‘dot month’.
124 species, 140 points

My PWC 2013 species accumulation via BirdTrack, showing just how poor early autumn can be inland!]

Another glut of migrants on the coast (except the Scillies, where I was) and another dearth of decent birds inland. The one addition did come with a story though: whilst filming a piece about BirdTrack for BBC Countryfile 29/10, a distinctive chacking drew my attention and sure enough, a Ring Ouzel shot from one impenetrable hawthorn thicket to another!
125 species, 142 points

Ring Ouzel at the Nunnery Lakes 03/11/2013 © Graham Clarke

Suddenly autumn penetrated 45 miles inland! An adult Mediterranean Gull on 2/11 was simultaneously added to my house list AND patch list (courtesy of a quick leap of the Nunnery Lakes reserve boundary fence at the bottom of my garden!). Gull action went up another notch mid-month with a patch mega: Kittiwake (19/11); there’s only one previous record! The very next day, November 2013 cemented its place in personal patching history when, in the worst weather I braved all year (there’s a lesson here somewhere!), a drake Green-winged Teal appeared in front of me! By PWC scoring standards that was only my second 6-pointer in 4½ years of trying (the other being Crane, far more likely round here). The month’s other new bird was Little Owl (4/11), finally secured following the longest-running tip-off ever – I was told about it by a colleague on 27/2!
129 species, 153 points

There was still time for one more: Common Redpoll (1/12)! Despite maintaining near-daily visits for the rest of the month (and taking the cumulative hours-on-patch past the 400 mark for the year), I couldn’t eke out anything else. Still, 130 equalled my best-ever Nunnery Lakes year list (though 3 species – Little Owl, Dipper and Waxwing weren’t recorded on the reserve itself) and 155 beat my record points total by 8! Needless to say, a Hawfinch turned up on 1/1/2014…
130 species, 155 points
And finally, two more graphs to summarise the year’s patchworking:

My PWC 2013 species by month via BirdTrack; 80 or more species recorded in all bar 3 months, 95 species recorded in April

A fairly consistent level of effort was only punctuated by April and October holidays. I managed 409 hours on patch in 2013

Thursday, 6 February 2014

PWC 2014 prizes - the NGB MVP!

We were contacted recently by patch enthusiast and Bardsey warden, Steve Stansfield. Steve made the very generous offer of one weeks accommodation at the Bardsey obs, in the week of the winners choice as a prize (travel and food costs must be covered by the winner though). Steve originally wanted this prize to be offered to the winner of the NGB minileague - but BB have already very kindly donated a prize for that, so instead, we decided to award the prize to the 'Most Valuable Player' from the NGB contestants.

The winner will be decided by ourselves, in conjunction with Steve, and the decision will be based on 'all round performance' - so, overall scores will be taken into account, as will good finds, number of contributions to birdtrack, and whether the patch score is green (see details on the non-motorised league).

Other heroic acts will be considered too!

This is a fantastic prize and will offer the lucky Next Generation Birder a chance to experience observatory life, get involved in seabird conservation, and possibly pick up the odd migrant or two.

If you want to know a little more about birding on Bardsey, see here and here

We'd like to thank Steve for making this fantastic opportunity available! let's hope the winner of this prize doesn't deprive him of some self found points in 2015!

PWC 2014 prizes - the Best Find prize

This was a very popular and hotly contested errr...contest last year! Last years prize of a pair of Meopta and Forest Optic binoculars was awarded to Andy Johnson, well deserved for his Semipalmated plover, which beat an inland pied wheatear and a mourning dove into 2nd and 3rd places respectively.

This year we are delighted to announce that Forest Optic are involved again. The 2014 Best Find prize will be a pair of Bresser and Forest Optic binoculars - specifically the Bresser Montana 8.5 x 45s.

We'd like to take this opportunity to thank Bresser and Forest optic for their continued support of Patchwork Challenge - hopefully the running of another best find competition will go some way towards inspiring a shortlist of contenders as good as the one we drew up for the 2013 contest - a list that looked a lot rarer than we thought it would!

We are also delighted to announce that in addition to a prize for the best find, Bresser and Forest optic will also be donating £1 per species recorded in 2014 to the cause of our choice. Last year, this donation went to the BTO's out of africa appeal, and this year it will go to the BTO's new research project on house martins. Money well spent I'm sure you'll agree, and a very kind donation from those concerned.

You'll be able to keep tabs on what's going on with regards to the best finds by reading the monthly Bresser and Forest Optic best finds blogposts. Watch this space!

Wednesday, 5 February 2014

PWC 2014 prizes - the Green Birding league

It gives us great pleasure to announce that we will be able to award a prize to the winner of the green birding league (see the previous post for details). Those good people at The Sound Approach have donated a copy of their fascinating book Catching the Bug as the prize here. We don't think there could be a more suitable prize for the green birding league - woven into the books beautiful artwork, photos and recordings is an ode to a local patch, told with a true patchers love, but with an eye on the uncertainty of the future due to climate change. A must for the green patcher - if you don't win it, buy it!

My own copy of this book has been read from cover to cover, and is frequently referred to - as are the recordings - especially those of migrating passerines and waders. Written by birders for birders, and more importantly, by a patcher, this book is sure to strike a chord with whoever wins it.

Monday, 3 February 2014

Keeping it green: PWC 2014 goes non-motorised

Birding a local patch is rewarding for all sorts of reasons. It provides the means to discover the diversity of birds and other wildlife on your doorstep, including the occasional mega (whether that’s at the site, county or national level!). It creates a sense of ownership and belonging as you build up an intimate, year-round knowledge of the local avifauna and begin to track its ups and downs. And it offers a reference point for ‘off-patch’ observations, whether they’re your own records, friends’ sightings from elsewhere in the county/country or the national patterns of arrivals/departures and good/bad seasons for particular species being detected in any given year.
Local birding also has another oft-overlooked benefit: it’s better for the environment than long distance trips! Rather than just resting on these ‘green’ laurels, however, PWC 2014 has introduced a non-motorised element to the competition to proactively encourage people to leave the car at home when heading to the patch. The idea is VERY simple. On this year’s version of the scoring form on the blog there will be a ‘Non-motorised?’ box. Simply add ‘Yes’ if all your patch visits have been done without the aid of the combustion (or electrical) engine! Non-motorised patch scores will automatically feature in two additional leagues: ‘Coastal Non-motorised’ and ‘Inland Non-motorised’.


For a score to qualify as ‘non-motorised’:
No form of motorised transport can be used to travel to or from your home to your patch.
That’s it.

As we were a bit late out of the blocks with introducing this element of the competition, January scores can be counted towards non-motorised totals even if motorised transport was used during the month, providing that the car stays at home from 1 February onwards!  

If you still need convincing, here are the thoughts of one dedicated low-carbon patch birder: 
It [being a non-motorised patch birder] ought to be integral[to PWC], what with birders' concern for the environment. We hear a lot about Buzzards being shot and how horrendous it is, but climate change  and our role in it  gets little airtime relative to the scale of the medium and long-term effects it will have on local biodiversity, not to mention the global implications. People talk about the seeming inconsequence of any individual actions we may take but if we don't walk it like we talk it, we can't expect to be taken seriously or expect others to make changes.

PWC 2014 prizes - The BirdGuides collection

Once again we are delighted to announce that PWC 2014 will be supported by those lovely people at Birdguides! It was great to be able to publish our monthly summaries on the site last year, and its going to be great to be able to do the same again this year, along with the added bonus of publishing a few monthly  'patch diaries' from selected patches. Last year PWC certainly benefited from all of Birdguides support - lets hope that Birdguides readers benefited from our articles!

Not only have Birdguides kindly provided a platform for us to spread the good word of PWC, but they have also been generous enough to repeat their donation of 4 (four!) Bird News Extra subscriptions for the winners of the various top 20s - well worth the £40 they each retail at!

Bird News extra subscriptions will be awarded to the winners of:

  • The best comparative score league
  • The best non-comparative score league
  • The best inland score
  • The best points per bird score
Plenty to play for! It's worth mentioning here that PWC would not be the size and success it is today if it wasn't for the help of Birdguides in 2013. If you don't win a subscription, buy one! And please report any interesting sightings to them as well - Birdguides does it's very best to be as good as we allow it to be!

Saturday, 1 February 2014

January Scores Deadline

Just a quick heads up to say that you need to submit your scores by next Friday (7th February) to get included in the monthly roundup. Between now and then we have even more exciting news for everybody taking part so keep your eyes peeled.

PWC 2014 prizes - the BirdTrack Birdrace

You may have noticed that here at PWC we are big fans of what the BTO does! As such it's fantastic to be able to announce that, as BirdTrack partners, the BTO have very kindly donated a signed copy of the new Atlas as a prize to the winner of the BirdTrack Birdrace. Thanks!

Data submitted to BirdTrack is a key feature of the Atlas, and we think that the ethic of PWC (repeated monitoring of a perhaps less covered space) sits very comfortably with BirdTrack. The Atlas makes use of these data to provide a valuable snapshot - the state of every species of bird in Britain and Ireland - which will be an essential resource to birders and conservationists alike for years to come (at least till the next Atlas)!

On top of all that, it's a really beautiful, lavishly produced book that it's as pleasant to browse through as it is to reference. I'm sure the winner of the BirdTrack Birdrace will be delighted to add this to their (possibly in need of reinforcement) bookshelf.