Sunday, 31 August 2014

The National Inland Top 20 July

Despite a relatively slack month Darren Starkey manages to extend his lead adding another 4 points (from 3 species) to the previous month and pulling 8 points clear of his nearest rival Wayne Gillatt, who gained just a point. The top six positions remain unchanged with a massive 21 points gap between 6th and 7th, Marcus Lawson and John Hopper swap places taking 7th and 8th place respectively. 

At the bottom of the table Tom Raven and Andy Mackay have sadly been replaced by Bill Aspin and Jonny Holliday - hopefully the former two will recover at the expense of the latter!

Early indications suggest that for some August hasn't been as great as anticipated, though as we enter the true autumn and with favorable conditions predicted for the first weekend of September it's time for the real exciting stuff to begin.

Mark R

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Inland East Anglia Minileague - July

One of the few minileagues in July to have a host of responses and there were even some good birds in there with Turtle Doves, Curlew Sandpipers and Long-tailed Ducks 'padding' out some lists much to the joy of those inland patchers who saw them. Jamie Wells only managed a brace of points in July while Ben Lewis managed ten. This has closed the gap significantly - one really good bird would manage to get Ben back in the big time. A 12 point month for Steve Swinney at Linford displaces Ed Keeble from the podium places. Richard Stace and Nick Moran jump a couple of places and Russell Neave has also made significant gains.

Birds of the month go to Steve Swinney with a GW Egret/Fulmar combo. I imagine the latter was more impressive than the former on an inland patch. Honourable mention must go to Ben Moyes who managed a July Ouzel. There cant be many of those about in the Brecks...

Thanks to his monster month Steve Swinney takes over at the top jumping two places and knocking last months numbers one and two down a notch. Ben Lewis has managed to climb three places to seventh as he heads towards the 90% mark. No more 100%'ers this month. Maybe in August?

Inland Scotland Minileague - July

Alastair Forsyth reinforces his place at the top of the Inland Scotland minileague with a self-found Red-footed Falcon. This increases the gap back to Rory Whytock at the Lake of Menteith to 35 points as Rory fails to add anything in July. It appears that Alastair has the minileague won but further down there is lets of competition. Graeme Garner draws a few points further away from Simon Pinder in fourth. Andy Cage manages to split the leading two Chris Pendlebury's and move up into 6th place. Alastair Irvine manages to climb a place into 12th at Whiteford thanks to a Spotted Flycatcher. The second best bird of the Inland Scotland month...

Positionally it is the same as for June here in the comparative league but scores have bunched up after Alastair Forsyth. A stray seabird or two in August could change the complexion of this very quickly.

Friday, 22 August 2014

London Minileague - July

Three returned scores in July suggests a quiet month in London and looking at the table it appears that this was the case. The only movement in the points table is Roger Hicks moving into 6th at KJ McManus's expense. Adam Bassestt at Little Marlow remains top and by 10 points. A good margin. Nicj Croft at Rainham is second whilst Marek Walford is in third. Best finds this month were a Spoonbill for Adam Bassett and a Yellow-legged Gull for Roger Hicks. 

Michael Terry remains the only patcher with 100% plus and Jason Reynolds fails to make any additions. The rest of the league remains static. Will autumn in the capital shake things up? With scores so close it could well do.

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Inland North Minileague - July

Ahhh, the most hotly contested and controversial mini-league! I'll steer clear of all the thin ice and simply report the cold, hard numbers. Darren Starkey continues to dominate with two of his patches in the top three, and pretty firmly so, being 43 points ahead of fourth place. It's nip and tuck in fourth and fifth between Andy Bunting and Tom Lowe. If we could award points for BirdTrack records then Andy would have it in the bag - but Tom does keep pulling out black storks and the like...

James Common is the first to surpass the 100% mark, but it's very gratifying to see two PWC team members in second and third. Good to see that admin is not getting in the way of the actual patch birding.

On a completely unrelated topic, it's great to see that BirdTrack use in this region is up to 50%  - considerably higher than the thirty odd% that seems to be the national norm in PWC.

Monday, 18 August 2014

Birdfair 2014

So there I was at 9am wandering through Marquee 5 when a tall Scotsman impeccably branded in PWC t-shirt gave an enthusiastic (half-hearted) wave. Hellos quickly done to Ryan and also to Charlotte, Arno and the team on the Marchwood Stand and I was at the Birdfair. Admittedly slightly hidden in one corner but that didn't stop us.

One of the things about helping out with Patchwork Challenge is that whenever my motivation wains there is something to pick me up and re-enthuse me. Today started with stories of new breeding species for Northumberland and self-found Stilt Sandpiper by Iain Robson who patches Druridge Pools, Birdtracking from Andy Bunting and Zac Hinchcliffe to how Patchwork Challenge is the right sort of thing from Nick Moran at the other end of the day. In between there were plenty of other stories and new faces and even a drop of uisge beatha from David Wood.

We were selling badges and using this as an excuse to doorstep all and sundry round the fair and managed to raise £40 towards the BTO House Martin tracking project which is looking to find out where these charismatic little birds winter. 

Undoubted stars of the whole show were the Next Gen Birders who were omnipresent and dismissed the notion that birding is an ageing pastime. These guys also were the most ready to dig deep for the BTO and we should be proud that these people want to take up the mantle as part of our hobby and part of Patchwork Challenge. I heard about Espen's Bluethroat and Matt's near miss with a Sab's Gull as well as Josie bemoaning the lack of...well anything since the spring. It was great to meet you all. One of the rarest sights of the whole fair was Bardsey's own version of the castaway 2000 star Ben Fogle reincarnate as Ben Porter. Let's just hope Ben doesn't take to rowing the Atlantic in the buff with Andrew Kinghorn.

It was great to see everybody there and we hope that you got as much from it as we did. We were able to spread the word on the forthcoming new website/database/app combo which we hope will make PWC2015 a slicker and better experience. Also we still have over 100 badges left so if you want one get in touch. The suggested donation is £1. 

No shearwaters! Why bother seawatching?

It’s that time of year when many a birder heads off to their local headland or further afield to Cornwall or Ireland to take advantage of some superb seawatching, particularly shearwater passage. It even slightly amuses me when I read on twitter or on various blogs about a poor day seawatching at Pendeen as they only saw one Great Shearwater and a handful of Cory’s! Now, I used to live near Pendeen and know where they are coming from but perhaps a little bit of perspective is needed. I spent 8 ½ hours on Sunday seawatching in Hemsby and had an excellent day yet there wasn’t a shearwater of any shape or size in sight!

So why do I bother with it? In the last 2 years I have clocked up over 250 hours of proper seawatching, not including the occasional glances out I may have from my house, and recorded over 58,000 birds onto BirdTrack. In that time I have recorded 15 shearwaters and two petrels. Sooty Shearwaters are the most common shearwater I have had off Hemsby with a mighty total of 8 birds, although Manx Shearwater aren’t too far behind on 7. That equates to 0.03 birds per hour! Leach’s Petrel is the only petrel that I’ve seen off Hemsby and only one, the other petrel was too distant to ID although I had it as a probable Leachs. So 2 years, or 250 hours of seawatching is worse than ½ hour on a crap day at Pendeen.

Perhaps it’s the skuas, gulls and terns that keep me sane during the seawatches. Well, a quick glance does show that I have seen four species of skua, Arctic by far the most common with 156 followed by 33 Bonxies. My BirdTrack data shows that I have seen 11 Pomarine Skuas although I think that this is skewed slightly by one or two individuals hanging around the area for a few days and I would think that the actual figure is nearer 7 birds. Finally, and probably the rarest seabird I have seen so far are the two Long-tailed Skuas, an adult and a juvenile in 2013. Again, these are very low numbers, 0.03 and 0.007 birds per hour respectively for Poms and Long-tails.  I’m guessing, as I don’t have exact numbers, that the figures for skuas and shearwaters are a lot lower than other areas further north in Norfolk and I wonder if this is to do with the close proximity of the Scroby Sands Offshore Wind Farm and sand bank pushing birds further out to sea by the time they arrive at Hemsby?

Gulls are an ever present sight on a seawatch and I have had the fortune to add a few scarce species such as Glaucous Gull (2) and Yellow-legged Gull as well as some good movements of Little Gulls at times including 257 passing south on 19th January this year. However, in general it has been poor for gulls and I have yet to find the much anticipated Sabine’s Gull off Hemsby yet.
Thousands of terns pass by Hemsby throughtout the summer, whether it be foraging Little Terns in June and early July or large numbers of Common Terns and smaller numbers of Sandwich Terns moving south in late July and August. Over the 2 years I have recorded over 11,000 ‘comic’ terns moving south, the majority identified as Common Terns and only 23 Arctic Terns. Taking into account the number that I recorded as ‘comic’ terns the number of Arctic Terns still amounts to only 0.3% of the total of identified Common/Arctics! Seven Black Terns and a solitary Roseate Tern add a bit of uncommon/scarce feel to the tern records. So, all in all skuas, gulls and terns have mustered less than 20 ‘interesting’ records between them.

Auks are surprisingly thin on the ground here, a total of 534 recorded since August 2012 and the vast majority Guillemots with only 31 Razorbills, 3 Little Auks and 3 Puffins to show for my efforts. Divers and grebes show a similar trend although slightly more are recorded with over 8500 birds recorded of which 98.8% are Red-throated Divers. This winter there was a few days of amazing passage with 1481 past north in 1 ½ hours on 17th March and 1249 past north in an hour on 18th March. Great Crested Grebes are a regular sight in small numbers in winter with a few passing Hemsby most weeks. Great Northen Divers are pretty thin on the ground with only 7 recorded but nowhere near as hard to see as Black-throated Diver, my solitary record falling on the 1st January this year. I have managed to see two other species of grebe, Slavonian (2) and Red-necked (1) but again neither are an annual occurrence.

There are a few other seabirds that I haven’t mentioned that are commonly seen such as Gannet (the most common bird recorded with 9312), Fulmar (surprisingly low numbers, 90 birds) and Cormorants (8167 birds). Shags are not the easiest bird to see off east Norfolk I believe so I am relatively happy with picking out 16 so far.

After all this pointless waffling I have finally made it onto the main reason why I seawatch so much on patch. Of course I wish I could see more shearwaters etc but to protect what is left of my sanity I try to look at it practically. Setting the scene, my patch has no freshwater and no wader habitat so I have to rely almost entirely on my seawatching to see waders and wildfowl. I have recorded 22 species of wader and 20 species of wildfowl while seawatching and that equates to just under a quarter of my overall patch list! Although I haven’t seen any rare species of wader or wildfowl I have to admit a certain amount of joy at watching my first Grey Phalarope fly past, my one and only Avocet to date move south or the flock of 5 Scaup heading north. Obviously seaduck are relatively common, with Common Scoter, Eider and Shelduck a regular sight while small numbers of Red-breasted Merganser, Goldeneye and Velevet Scoter are normally recorded in winter. Long-tailed Duck and Goosander still have to make it onto my patch list, hopefully this winter. 

Dabbling ducks move past in varying numbers from the abundant Wigeon and Teal, to the regular but in small numbers, Mallard, Pintail and Shoveler to the genuine patch gold in the shape of Tufted Duck (5 birds) and Gadwall (2). I am quite possibly the only PWC contestant to air grab a Gadwall!
Other than Brent Geese, geese are thin on the ground although two patch ticks in the shape of a lone Egyptian Goose and two small flocks of Barnacle Geese add a slightly plastic feel to my seawatching....

The graph below shows the breakdown of waders recorded on a seawatch, no real surprises although the Black-tailed Godwit numbers are slightly skewed by one flock of 130 fying directly west straight over my head. Other than this record they are actually a very hard bird to get on patch.

I have now recorded 91 species on patch through seawatching and yes, I haven’t seen a large shearwater, many petrels, an albatross, a Feas type etc but on a patch level it’s been pretty good fun.  I can only dream of a day like the ones of Pendeen or Porthgwarra, heck I can only dream of some of the days that are had 25 miles away off Sheringham as well!!

South Coast Minileague - July

It's a close run thing at the top on the south coast, with only 4 points and 1 species separating 1st and 2nd place - Adam Faiers is 1 species behind but 4 points ahead of Andy Johnson - who of course last year won the Best find competition . After Andy theres a bit of a gap (a mere 46 points) to Harry Ramm in 3rd, who may well find himself being challenged for this position by Joost Brandsma.

Adam is also out in from in the comparative league, and being 28% ahead of Chris Powell in 2nd, so quite possibly an unassailable position already! Adam Johnson shows the downside of scoring mega's - great fun of course but they don't half make your comparative score difficult to live up to the next year. I wonder if now he would trade the immense thrill, kudos, and free binoculars for a slightly more achievable comparative score...;-)

Sunday, 17 August 2014

South West Minileague - July

Joe Stockwell leads the way here and no wonder, with black-browed albatross under his belt! He's a full 49 points ahead of fellow Portlander Sean Foote, With Kev Rylands the filling in the Portland sandwich. Paul Bowyer lies in fourth but is a full 30 points behind Sean. Is there time for him to make a comeback? The gaps are pretty substantial at the top in this league so perhaps aside from a few changes in the numbers, this is the way this league will look in December.

Better news for Paul Bowyer in the comparative table, as he leads by a slender 3% from Dan Chaney's Falmouth patch. Sean Robson is merely an aquatic warblers rictal bristle behind Dan, with just 0.6% separating them, and then it's less than 5% to Marcus Lawson in fourth. It's really tight down south in terms of comp scores which means that we could be in store for a very exciting autumn. Bring it on!

Friday, 15 August 2014

Coastal Scotland Minileague - July

There are two patchers way out ahead of the rest in coastal Scotland - John Bowler and Peter Donnelly. Dan Brown lies 60 points behind Peter in third place, and is himself 23 points ahead of Steve Minton in 4th. Steve is a full 95 points behind the highest score. Being based in south Mainland Shetland you'd be unwise to bet against him racking up a fair number of points during the autumn - but is 3rd already the best he can hope for? A certain Mr Lewis lies just one point behind Steve, but as his patch is not on Shetland he doesn't stand a chance.

Great work from Chris Hill, being the first to reach 100% in this region, ahead of a chasing pack of Stephen Welch, Bryan Rains and Dave W, who are all in the 90s. It's pretty tight all the way down to 11th place so a couple of good finds could see everything change...

Wednesday, 13 August 2014

Coastal North Minileague - July

Tim Jones is 12 species up, but only three points ahead of Martin Garner in the Great Battle of the East Coast Headlands - with the points proximity no doubt due to Martin's Baltic gull - an excellent find, and one deemed worthy of 15 points by those in PWC towers.  Jane Turner is the Best of the West and is really mixing it up with the east coast boys. This is one minileague where a mistimed autumn holiday could spell disaster for someone...

Jane is also well placed in the comparative scores table, but it's good to see PWC Hero Alan Tilnmouth on top. With none of the comp scores anywhere near 100% in the coastal north, does this reflect the 'robustness' of the comp scores submitted, or a lack of effort this year? Without doubt the former!

Tuesday, 12 August 2014

Midlands Minileague - July

Ian Cowgill saw (but not found) the best bird of the month - a Blue-winged Teal at Lound and that means he maintains a 26 point lead going into the autumn. Only John Hopper at Hoveringham has much chance of catching him as it stands. Nick Crouch at Collingham is in third place a further 14 points back but he relegates Andy Mackay to fourth thanks to a haul of Yellow-legged Gull, Scaup and Common Scoter which are all species which grace other highlights columns in the area.

The small but perfectly formed competitive score minileague is super close and whilst Matt still leads at earlwood he is only 4% ahead of fourth place. Nick Crouch moves up a spot to second and Richard Harbird climbs to third with this months loser being Dave Roberts who drops from second to fourth.

Coastal East Anglia Minileague - July

Tim Hodge extends his lead to fifty points and I think we can safely say we know who is going to win this particular minileague on points. James Brown in second had a quiet month with only a single addition but the movement came further down with Gary Elton outstripping Gary White and moving into third place. Toby Collett's Lesser Yellowlegs at Frampton meant he moved into fifth ahead of Kieran Nixon despite Kieran's Woodchat Shrike. Tommy Corcoran managed to withstand a little pressure from Ryan with an ace in the pack in the form of the Breydon Great Knot. There were no other changes of position but Ted P's Long-tailed Skua on the beach at Winterton certainly warrants a mention.

The comparative league table is comparatively the same with no changes in postion leaving Nick Andrews top on 95.7%. Gary White is only 2% back before a big drop to Craig Fulcher on 79%.

Monday, 11 August 2014

The Bresser and Forest Optics Best Find Rarity Roundup - July 2014

The Bresser & Forest Optic Best Find Competition is the jewel in the crown for Patchwork Challenge. This is the best find of the whole patchbirding year as voted for by you, the competitors. 

For the winner of the competition, those fine folk at Bresser & Forest Optics are very generously furnishing the winner of this esteemed competition with a pair of Bresser Montana 8.5 x 45 Binoculars worth £665.00. Follow the link to check out this superb reward that awaits one lucky patcher!

July is traditionally one of the quietest months for rarities, and for many this is reflected in their scores for the month. A large majority of patchers reported a very slow month, but a few lucky people did manage to connect with quality birds.

The two stand-out birds of the month were a 2cy Baltic Gull and  a Lesser Yellowlegs.

The Baltic Gull was found by Martin Garner on his Flamborough patch and adds a very healthy 15 points to his total. This is Martin's second entry into the contenders list following his Northern Treecreeper earlier in the year.

Toby Collett  picked up 12 points with this Lesser Yellowlegs from Frampton Mars, he wishes the quality of the photo was better but you can't beat the quality of the bird. Well done that man.

Lesser Yellowlegs (Toby Collett)
Other birds of note found by patchworkers during the month were the Aquatic Warbler netted by Shaun Robson at Lychett Bay,  a Red-footed Falcon for Alastair Forsyth and his Old Nisthouse patch on Orkney patch and a first for patch Honey Buzzard by Des Roberts at Whitwell Quarry.

Now you wouldn't normally expect Reed Warbler to feature in this column but mention should be made of the bird Sean Morris found on his patch, the first record for the village since 1946. As his patch is Kinloch on the Isle of Rum it makes you wonder where the bird had come from.

Surely the best nearly bird was the Black-browed Albatross seen (but not found) by Joe Stockwell at Portland Bill, if only he'd found it that would have been a crippler and a sure fire contender. Other good birds that were seen but not actually found by patchworkers include Great Knot on Tommy Corcoran's Gt Yarmouth patch, Blue-winged Teal at Lound - Ian Cowgill's patch and a Pacific Golden Plover seen by Peter Donnelly on his North Ronaldsay patch

August should see the first of the returning waders coming through from the North, Hurricane Bertha is just reaching the UK as I write so who knows what will have been blown over with her. Hopefully more people will be catching up with good birds during the month. 

Ireland Minileague - July

July brought with it very little in the way of major changes to the Irish Mini League Points Table Top 10 bar the continued jostling for first place between Dave Suddaby & Niall Keogh. Whilst Niall's Kilcoole patch is a good 19 species ahead of Dave's, the shear magnetic power that Blacksod has for drawing in rarities resulted in a 7 point lead for the latter, duly helped by the finding of an adult American Golden Plover at the start of the month. Neal Warnock, Julian Wyllie & Eamonn O'Donnell remain in their currently allotted positions in the Points Table Top 5 whilst Tom Moore shifts up from 10th place to 8th. A mention must go out to Julian who is the only rival so far to Dave's lead in terms of Points Per Bird with a respectable 1.31 at Baltimore to 1.55 at Blacksod.

More in the way of civil unrest in the Percentage Table as Eamonn O'Donnell usurps Michael from top spot (but only just) as both of them edge ever closer to the magic 100%. Alan Lauder's Carrick patch takes 3rd place from Niall at Kilcoole and Tom at Kilmore sneaks past Neal on Rathlin for 5th place.

Aside from Dave's aforementioned AGP at Blacksod, patch scarce was the order of the day for other contestants with Sooty Shearwater & Glaucous Gull for Julian at Baltimore, a Short-eared Owl for Tom at Kilmore and Wood Sandpiper, Ruff & Great Skua for Niall at Kilcoole. All welcome signs that Autumn 'proper' is most certainly on its way.

Dave Suddaby's AGP at Blacksod (back of the camera pics are all the rage these days!) 

For more news and pics from Irish local patches check out the Patch Birding Ireland blog.

Wales Minileague - July

Another quiet month in Wales and with no updates from Bardsey it was all about the pack. Barry Stewart has added three points to close on Steve and Ben and move away from Matt Meehan in fourth. Can he bridge the gap to the islanders this autumn? The only movements in the table were Rob Jones and Paul Parsons both moving up a spot at Neath and Parc Slip respectively. As for finds? Well there werent any of note with Wood Warbler and Pied Flycatcher for Angie Jones and Barry Stewart perhaps indicating the start of passage as both patches are on the south coast. Marsh Harrier, Greenshank and Quail were the best of the rest. Now who will get the next 6 pointer here? I know that a Citrine Wagtail on Bardsey in early August has yielded precisely zero points so perhaps a Yankee wader on the South Coast?

There was only a single point scored by the competitive players in July - for Julian Hughes who closes in on Matt Meehan. Other than that its as you were.

Patchwork Challenge at the Bird Fair!

The one week countdown starts here!

The iconic bird fair is just one week away, and this year the Patchwork Challenge team will be in there to encourage a host of new faces to enter the 2015 competition, and to meet some of our 2014 competitors.

Our friends at Marchwood UK (Bresser and Forest Optics) have kindly welcomed the Patchwork Challenge Team to adopt a part of their stand for the full weekend. Make sure you go along and meet the team. James Spencer and Ryan Irvine will be handing out flyers, selling badges and being the social butterflies (or should that be plovers?) that they are, spreading the Patchwork word to all comers.

In addition, take advantage of the shared stand and try out a few of the optics and accessories on show. There will be plenty to try out, including this year best find prize. If you are already on the best find shortlist, or are hopeful for the autumn, then come and try them out and see whether you and the binoculars are a perfect fit! One thing is for sure the stand will have something for everyone.

So if you are already in the challenge, come and say hello and have a chat. There are plenty of new developments on the horizon for next years challenge, new systems and website are set to be unleashed. Feel free to share your PWC thoughts and experiences.

If you know people who should be in the competition, spread the word that PWC is coming to Rutland!

And if you are new to Patchwork Challenge find out about us and join in for 2015!

You can find us at stand 36/37 in marquee 5. You can also follow us on Twitter (@Patchbirding) for updates during the day.

We look forward to seeing you there!

The Patchwork Challenge Team

Sunday, 10 August 2014

Ruddy Hell.

As with all aspects of bird listing sooner or later the ‘escape’ issue will rear it’s ugly head. If you believe some ‘experts’ recently there has been an apparent influx of Ruddy Shelduck into the country - presumably from feral populations in Holland. However this may not be the case. Some PWC birders have noted the presence of this species on their patch this year including Andy Mackay who had a pair present at Eyebrook, Leicestershire, for five months - this pair could feasibly be the same as those seen recently in Lincolnshire and Northants. To his credit Andy did not count these in his total. In addition birds have a been present at several sites in South and West Yorkshire and Cheshire.

Ruddy Shelduck Hayle Estuary, Cornwall 2009. Paul Freestone

The official BOU categorisation of Ruddy Shelduck is BDE* which translated means you cannot include it on your official British list unless you saw it before 1949. Following discussion among the PWC team it was agreed that Ruddy Shelduck should NOT be included on any patch list. So if you awarded yourself a conscious pricking 3 or even 6 points it’s time to make amends and cleanse your list.

Obviously this could go further. There are an awful lot of questionable birds (mostly wildfowl) out there trying to pass themselves off as the real thing. Aside from the numerous ducks and geese there are the annual wandering White Storks and to add to the confusion this year several fence hopping Black-winged Stilts. At times it can be difficult to assess the origins of a suspect bird, particularly when the tell tale signs aren't there, such as rings or the inability to fly, but in most cases it is a case of common sense and timings. For example a Barnacle Goose on my patch in June would raise an eyebrow where a couple in April would have better credentials, providing they didn't hang around too long. I guess at the end of the day it all comes down to local knowledge and an individual's honesty and as the Patchwork Challenge has birders of the highest integrity this should never become an issue - should it?

Mark Reeder

Tuesday, 5 August 2014

Quiet Season - The Alternative Highlight Theory

Summer is always a strange time. The sun is shining, this year we are basking in warm temperatures and our gardens are being reintroduced to the barbecue. We should revel in this and in many ways we do, but there is always something missing. The birds are breeding, if lucky your gardens might be home to new families, but it is somehow not as fulfilling as the other seasons.

The only explanation is the removal of unpredictability. Human nature likes surprise and anticipation. In mid-summer we visit our patches and somehow we know what we'll see. There are exceptions and a satisfaction that we know where birds breed on our patch. But nothing quite replaces that migration season feeling, where anything is possible and however small your patch, you could hit gold and put yourself in contention for a nice new pair of Forest and Bresser Optics bins.

So how do we replace that in the summer. Some will turn to the jobs list in garden and house to earn points and time off in the autumn. But here's the quirk, a lot of people diversify their interests so that there is something unusual to find year round. And birders almost always pick things with wings! Moths, butterflies and dragonflies litter the blogs of birders that don't have exciting avian finds to write about. What is it with flying that so captivates the birder?

I have started to pick up the moth bug (no pun intended) again this year for the first time in years. It fills the gap and ensures that I don't wish away the summer in pursuit of autumn scarcities. I find that my search for the new is fulfilled and I can simply soak up the joy of nesting Robins and Nuthatch in the garden without wishing it was something altogether more Siberian!

Poplar Hawk-moth... not a bird
With your July submission, feel free to put an alternative highlight if your birding month has been quiet and I will do a round up each month on the blog. Perhaps not personal highlights, let's keep it clean after all, but any aspect of the natural world that has lit up your July.

Spending the summer wishing it was autumn is a common birder affliction I think, and we all need to find our own remedy. What is yours?

Pyramidal Orchid... not a bird
Harbour Porpoise... not a bird
Four-spotted Chaser... not a bird