Tuesday, 25 March 2014

South Coast Minileague - February

A quiet month on the South Coast with only four submissions but some decent patch birds with Chris Dennis and Andy Johnson both recording White-fronted Geese and Andy managed a rather snazzy Black Brant. Joost Brandsma managed a Water Pipit at Lower Test with Mark Lawlor getting only his second Little Gull for his patch on Guernsey. In terms of positioning the Top three remain static with Andy Johnson continuing to score big in first place at Sandy Point. Adam Faiers retains second place at Sandwich Bay and Mark Lawlor just manages to fend off Joost to hold on to third. Joost had a great February adding 11 species and 15 points meaning he climbed above Harry Ramm into fourth. Andy Rhodes managed to overhaul Neil Burt and to rub salt in Chris Dennis's first submission puts him in above Neil as well.

This smallest of comparative minileagues changes with Mark now heading the league up with 58%. Adam's score remains the same whilst Andy Johnson does his best to close the gap which remains large thanks to his monster comparative score.

London Minileague - February

Adam Bassett at Little Marlow climbs above Nick Croft in February to lead the London Minileague. Marek Walford at Dinton manages to split Nick's Rainham and Wanstead patches. Tom Stevenson manages to climb three places to 10th at Ewelme Watercress Beds. Finds-wise it was a quiet month in and around the capital but Adam Bassett's pair of Garganey on the 28th were some seriously early migrants.

The comparative league is taking shape with Jason Reynolds at East Hyde retaining the lead with a rather astounding 73%. Tom Stevenson is in touching distance in second with 71%. The order remains the same top to bottom which means Michael Terry just holds on to third place on 62%.

Sunday, 23 March 2014

Ireland Minileague - February

Dave Suddaby is out in front in the Irish minileague, but only just! He's seven points ahead of Niall Keogh, but remarkably, he's 15 species behind him! There's obviously a lot of quality on offer at Blacksod as Dave's points per bird score is the highest in the whole competition at the moment! In fact, in terms of species seen, Dave's position in the league would be a much more lowly 5th - but that's what happens when you get king eiders, kumliens and ring-billed gulls, among other bonus scorers...
Eamon  O'Donnell lies in third place...

...but he lies top of the comparative points table, roughly 5 percentage points above Michael O'Donnell. I'm not sure if it's just a coincidence that there are two O'Donnells fighting it out in the comparative league - but lets hope we haven't instigated a family feud!

Inland Scotland Minileague - February

Alistair Forsyth's Orkney patch rules the Inland Scotland roost, thanks in some part to his blue-winged teal earlier in the year that bagged him 12 points. Thats enough to keep him ahead of Simon Pinder in spite of Simon's superior species count. The highest species count of all goes to Chris Pendlebury, who has notched up an impressive 76 species around Dunblane already this year. Chris is also leading the most patches entered league - but there are no prizes for that...

Alistair is also out in front in terms of comparative scores, although Chris P is really breathing down his neck in what must be one of the tightest leagues we've ever posted. There are only 4 hundredths of a percent between them - just one good bird could make the difference in this league, and if you were going to suggest where it would more likely turn up, you'd probably choose Orkney!

Coastal Scotland Minileague - February.

The Coastal Scotland minileague is popular and hotly contested this year! 'Old Hand' Paul Higson on South Ronaldsay is keeping 'New Boy' Dan Brown at Dunnet off the top by a mere two points. Peter Donelly on North Ron is firmly in contention too, being just six points behind Paul. Islands dominate the top ten, with seven out of the top ten island based - but that roughly reflects the proportions of island and mainland patches through the whole minileague, so ignore that...

Dave W is out in front in the comparative scores league, 5% ahead of Bryan Rains in second, who is 5% ahead of Chris Hill in third. Mark is losing out in the battle of Girdle ness though, despite being slightly 'ahead of schedule' compared to this time last year. Must try even harder...

Saturday, 22 March 2014

Midlands Minileague - February

The midlands is another increasingly popular area - there are 18 new contestants/patches in this area in 2014 and it's brilliant to see 23 scores being submitted from this region! Ian Cowgill looks like he will be tough to catch for a while, being 16 species and 19 points ahead of both John Hopper at Hoveringham and Andy Mackay at Eyebrook - not often we get tied scores in the PWC! Points wise, Nick Crouch is exactly one self found pied wheatear off the pace in fourth...

Nick is doing slightly better in the comparative league being third off the top, just 3% behing Richard Harbird at Morton Bagot, who in turn is about 6% behind Dave Roberts, top of the league at Marston STW. Another victory for quality over quantity here, with some bonus points for Dave helping him to the top.

Coastal East Anglia Minileague - February

The coastal East Anglia list is smaller in stature than it was last year, but it still packs a punch in terms of the scores. It certainly has the highest number of scores over 100 points, and in Tim Hodges whopping 125 species and 156 points, it has the highest score in the competition so far this year. Tim is a long way out in front of James Brown in second place, who in turn is a reasonable distance ahead of Gary Elton in third! 

Gary White lies in fourth in the scores but is way out in front in the comparative league. It's great to see our Ryan up there in second, as he's been putting the effort in from his sofa! Just next door to Ryan, TedP lies in third place at Winterton and he's not much less than a good find behind....  

Friday, 21 March 2014

Wales Minileague - February

There's very little crossover between the overall top scorers in Wales and those topping the comparative leagues - although Henry Cook manages to feature highly in both and so deserves special mention! Perhaps this means that there are lots on good new patches in Wales - but perhaps it might also reflect that the wardens haven't been too long back on Bardsey. The battle between the Bardsey patches, and Jason Moss who will be based on Skomer, will be one to keep a close eye on. Back in the here and now, Darren Coombes tops the table in terms of points and species, although he is only one point ahead of Ben Porter on Bardsey.

Alison C heads things up in the comparative league, but the scrap for second place looks like it could also be worth keeping an eye on as there is only 3% between Adam Tilt in second and Henry Cook in third. Watch Steve Stansfield rocket up this league in March!

Wednesday, 19 March 2014

Inland East Anglia Minileague - February

Inland East Anglia is another of our most hotly contested leagues, rivalling the midlands with 23 scores submitted for February! Great to see, and on in the eye for their friends on the East Anglian coast...

Jamie Wells and Ben Lewis have both posted scores comprising over 100 species, with the top 5 all achieving more than 100 points. Jamie takes top slot being 4 species and 8 points ahead of Ben, and Ed Keeble is very much in sight in third being only 11 points behind Ben. A good find could really shake things up here...

Mark Nowers, who will be looking very dandy wandering round Stutton in his new PWC tshirt, tops the table, but only by 2% from Steve Swinney at Linford. These guys are 10% ahead of Nick Watmough at UAE, so may well be difficult to knock off the top spots. Creditable mention to Nick Moran, the BirdTrack king, in fourth place. A less creditable mention to the Maldon Posse, who are very much bringing up the rear between them! Is something more fun happening in Maldon?

Tuesday, 18 March 2014

Coastal North Minileague - February

The coastal north league see's three PWC newcomers fill the podium with Martin Garner leading the way from Tom Cadwallender, although Tom pips him in the amount of species recorded. Tim Jones lurks not to far back at Spurn, I'm sure waiting for a spring to match last years (Rock thrush, sprosser, collared fly etc). Ian Mills and Iain Roberts fly the flag for PWC2013'ers in 4th and 5th and the only other patches to break the 100 points.

Alan Tilmouth leads the comparative table although its a close league with no one passing the 50% mark yet, I'm sure spring will shake it up but at the moment its anyones to win!

Friday, 14 March 2014

South West Minileague - February

Kev Rylands remains in his now familiar position, standing on top of the South West minileague with a decent lead already. Sean Foote at Portland remains in second place after an impressive debut month in January whilst Marcus Lawson at Swineham GPs manages to scramble over Dan Chaney into third.

In terms of best birds it was pretty much white-winged gulls all round with two patches getting Glaucous and one patch getting Iceland Gull. Best of all was a Kumlien's Gull for Joe Stockwell at Portland. A Yellow-browed Warbler was a three pointer for Martin Elcoate whilst a Long-tailed Duck at Sand Point gave Paul Bowyer's month a boost.

Dan Chaney remains top of the comparative league with Marcus Lawson holding on in second. Shaun Robson at Lytchett Bay has managed to keep the Top 3 as it was in January. Dick Bests first submission of the year has seen him jump straight into fourth.

Wednesday, 12 March 2014

Inland North Minileagues - February

Darren Starkey holds onto the top two places with his St Aidan's patch drawing level with Fairburn Ings. Andy Bunting at Martin Mere displaces Bill Aspin to move into third with Bill's beloved Brockholes patch dropping below the Gillatt's at Alkborough Flats as well. Last years winner, Jonathan Holliday, slips a place to sixth. 7th-9th are the same faces in a slightly different order and newboy Paul Massey at Grindon Lough rounds off the Top 10. Highlights were few and far between but Andy's Siberian Chiffchaff at Martin Mere is well worth a mention as was Darren Starkey's Cetti's Warbler at Fairburn Ings.

James Common moves into first place at Stobswood with 62.7% outstripping last months leader, Phil Woolen, by 0.6%. Peter Williams completes the Top 3 with a fine 57.6%. Jonathan Holliday drops out of the Top 3 despite being over 50% already on his winning score last year.

Saturday, 8 March 2014

Patch - BTO Cuckoo Update

We haven't had an update on here about Patch for a while as he has been spending his winter in DR Congo. Since we last updated in late October Patch wintered near the shores of Lake Mai until the 26th December. This was where we left patch last time out in an area of closed canopy rainforest within one of the largest designated sites in the world. By late December the sap must have been starting to rise as he moved 75km to the NW after two months in the same area.

Patch moved quickly from DR Congo to Congo in January with a movement of 304km on the 14th which was then reinforced with a further movement into Gabon on the 18th. In February Patch moved back through Congo and into Cameroon, making his first serious excursion north of his wintering area arriving to the east of the Boumba Bek National Park on the 24th February. He was still close to this location on the 6th March but some serious movement must be coming soon as the other Cuckoos start to head north.

We continue to support the BTO with their House Martin Project and remind you that we will be making a donation, kindly provided by Bresser & Forest Optic for 2014 equivalent in pounds to the combined number of species seen by contestants. At present we are at 189 species but this seems to have ground to a halt so a gentle nudge for people to log onto Bubo as Patchwork Challenge, password Patching (capital P as I just found out...) and enter species to the year list (and also the life list if required).

Eyebrook Reservoir

My first ever visit to Eyebrook Reservoir was on 27th October 1984, to see a Pomarine Skua (an adult with tail spoons, no less!) that had been there for several days. Nearly 30 years later, my Eyebrook list has grown to 201, the latest addition being the site's first Cetti's Warbler which I found in February this year.

 But despite many visits over the years I'd never thought of it as my 'patch' until recently. For a start it's not that close to home, being about 15 miles away, but perhaps more importantly the attractions of nearby Rutland Water are too great to ignore. If Rutland Water has a fault, though, it's that it's a bit too big to be considered as a patch. It's certainly much too big for the 3km2 limit of Patchwork Challenge! Eyebrook, on the other hand, is exactly the right size to fit into that area, with just enough left over to include some of the surrounding fields.

 Once I realised that, it became obvious that it is in fact a near perfect inland patch. It has a good variety of habitats, including open water, grassland, muddy edges which become a decent expanse of mud at the inflow when the water goes down, and mixed woodland in the form of 'the Plantation', all surrounded by mostly arable farmland, with more hedges and woods. The entire reservoir can be watched for free from the perimeter road, and, largely because of the aforementioned Rutland Water, it's surprisingly underwatched these days. Of course, plenty of birders do go to Eyebrook, but I'm convinced it hasn't had the coverage it deserves in the last few years.

 But it still manages to turn up good birds. In the last few years alone Eyebrook has had Ring-necked Duck, Velvet Scoter, Gannet, Manx Shearwater, Kentish Plover, Whiskered Tern and Yellow-browed Warbler. Past glories include Squacco Heron, Killdeer (both sadly long before my time!), Black-winged Pratincole, American Golden Plover, 2 Baird's Sandpipers, Spotted Sandpiper, 3 Caspian Terns, a spring male Citrine Wagtail, and bizarrely a Puffin for three days in June 1995! So the potential is obvious.

 Even without the occasional rarity there is always plenty to look at. Wildfowl and waders are the main attractions, of course, along with terns on passage and passerines in the Plantation and around the reservoir margins. At one time there was an excellent gull roost as well, with Iceland and Glaucous virtually guaranteed annually, but this has unfortunately declined recently as, for unknown reasons, gulls from the Corby tips now bypass Eyebrook and roost at Rutland Water instead. But Med Gulls are still reasonably regular, and white-wingers, Yellow-legged and Caspians are all still possible as daytime 'loafers'.

As long as the water level drops in spring and autumn to attract some waders, and I can keep up the enthusiasm, I think 150 species might be possible in a year. At the time of writing in late February I'm already up to 89, with several unexpected species including Merlin and Cetti's Warbler, so I've made a good start.

Andy Mackay

Saturday, 1 March 2014

Filling in the monthly forms

We haven't really explained how to fill the form in so here is a step by step with how to do it... Name and patch name should be self explanatory. Your Minileague is geographical in this instance. Whether you are inland or green or aged 11 isn't important here. Put down whichever league you were in for the January scores. If you disagree vehemently we are quite happy to move people about! Next up tick the box for NGB if you want to be considered under 25 years old. You also HAVE to be part of the NGB group - it's fine if you aren't at the moment, just join their Facebook group (open free membership for Under 25s). If we find a hairy arsed 45 year old coming to claim the week on Bardsey then you will be 're-allocated'. If you only travel to your patch/around your patch by foot or bike then you can tick the non-motorised box as well. Remember there was an amnesty if you went by car/aeroplane/motorised micro scooter in January provided you haven't since.

Now comes the tricky bits...species means how many species have you seen in total in 2014 on your patch. Not just during the month in question. The points are calculated by our spreadsheet for you. Enter the number it produces (plus Sibe Chiffchaff/non-yellow wag flava scores). This again is cumulative.

The best way to find out your Birdtrack numbers is to go to their website and explore my records filtering for your patch and 2014 and it will generate the number of records and the number of complete lists. This, like the points, is cumulative. 

The final part of the form is the only bit that is NOT cumulative. This is highlights and best finds fields. In here we want to hear about the best bits of that particular month. This info feeds into our Bresser & Forest Optic best find post and also the Birdguides monthly review.

We hope this clarifies it all for you!

Mark, Ryan & James