Tuesday, 28 October 2014

National Inland. August and September

Apologies for the lack of an Inland post last month and the lateness of this one but here goes.

The Inland table is beginning to resemble the footballPremier League, with familiar faces dominating the top six and a rather large gulf seperating them from the nearest contenders. At the bottom of the table it's still all to play for with just 12 points seperating 10th from 20th.

The Birding Gods smiled favourably on Wayne Gillatt during August, who after removing those dodgy Ruddy Shelducks went on to amass a further 33 points with self-found Great White Egret and Pectoral Sandpiper netting 12 points along with some good 'two pointers' such as Little Stint and Curlew Sandpiper. August is a crucial month for waders and clearly Wayne's location helped as did Martin Elcoate's at Topsham. Those further inland struggled with an all too apparent wader drought.
At the bottom of the table we lost Tom Raven and Andy Mackay and welcomed Bill Aspin and Nick Croft.

Despite only gaining two points Wayne Gillatt remains firmly rooted at the top though things have really been happening below him. Steve Swinney raced into 7th place from 15th with an amazing day on the 11th where he added Guillemot, Arctic Skua, Spoonbill and best of all Sabine's Gull the latter not just a patch tick but a lifer. Chris Bradshaw, Nick Croft, Nick Crouch and Mark Reeder dropped out of the table replaced by Tom Raven, Mark Nowers, Patch Birding stalwart Jonny Holliday and Shaun Robson who has switched tables given his estuary location.

Best inland finds during September  were Steve Swinney with his aforementioned hat full, Jamie Wells with a Pectoral Sandpiper at Paxton and  Paul Massey (just outside the top 20) who found not one but three Pectoral Sandpipers at Grindon Lough (sadly just the 6 finders points though).

Monday, 27 October 2014

Bresser and Forest Optics Best Find - September 2014

The Bresser & Forest Optics Best Find Competition is the highlight of the Patchwork Challenge year. 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 for one lucky contender.

Autumn migration is an exciting time for the birder. September and October end a summer birding drought as our breeding birds hit the exit doors for warmer climes and familiar winter species start to make the journey back. Amidst this changing of the guard, the birder scours lakes, bushes, skies and seas for the rarer birds that get caught up in these great movements.

Rare birds put in appearances all across our isles, along with a magnificent supporting cast predominantly from the east. Many patchers scored with classic autumn fare such as Yellow Browed Greenish and Barred Warbler, Red-Breasted Flycatcher, Wryneck , Richards Pipit and Little Bunting. A Rose-Coloured Starling was found at Durness in Scotland whilst Cheshire’s 3rd Marsh Warbler was located at Red Rocks on the 5th. All fine finds, but nothing to make the shortlist of the Bresser and Forest Optics Best Find Competition.

This was also a month of near misses, birds appeared on patches but another pair of binoculars got there first. Tim Jones hit big points this month, but had he been the first to lay eyes on the Masked Shrike that wowed the masses he would have perhaps already have had one hand on the prize. Similarly, Amy Robjohns scored with what is usually a Shetland speciality, a Pallas’s Grasshopper Warbler which had already graced the nets of a ringer at the southerly location of Titchfield Haven. Western Bonelli’s was a fine addition to Kieran Nixon’s patch list at Kelling. And in the month of the independence vote, Scotland was not to be forgotten with Gary Bell recording Myrtle Warbler and Red-Flanked Bluetail at Sumburgh whilst Mike Pennington enjoyed Pechora Pipit and Eastern Subalpine Warbler at Baltasound. Great birds but not finds.

There were however two patchers who found #patchgold and make the shortlist, with two very different birds from distinct locations.

On the 21st September, Iain Robson caught news of a Fea’s Petrel making its way north along the coast. The birders equivalent of lighting the beacons, the message went out from site to site along the coast, a fine example of the power of social media helping people score with this dark-rumped enigma. Iain was faced with a decision however, head to Newbiggin to enhance the chances of connecting or head to Druridge to add it to the patch list. Taking the gamble, he stationed himself on patch and listened to the reports as the bird headed further north. Preceded by a fine Sabine’s Gull, the Petrel finally came into view following behind a couple of Manxies, arcing into the sky before dipping out of sight into the waves to continue its northward journey.

Fea's type Whitburn 210914 M Newsome

Photos phone-scoped by Mark Newsome off Whitburn as the bird headed up the coast.
The second contender is an Olive-Backed Pipit. There were a few birds in classic locations during September where an OBP would be perhaps expected, but it was not the bird that Nick Croft would have expected as it flew low west over his Wanstead patch on the 26th September. The bird called twice as it flew towards Long Wood but could not be relocated. Having already scored with Blyth’s Reed Warbler earlier in the year, this is quite a double for this inland patch.

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This bird showed well at Roker in Sunderland in October. Photo courtesy of Mark Newsome.

Sunday, 26 October 2014

Inland North Minileagues - September

September proved largely disappointing for contenders in the Inland North, with few points added resulting in a table broadly similar to last month. Wayne Gillett and Darren Starkey make up the top 3 with Darren having some work to do in the last 3 months of the year to make top spot.

Highlights for the month were the impressive 3 Pectoral Sandpipers found together by Paul Massey at Grindon Lough, a Hawfinch at Alkborough, Caspian Gull at Goole Fields and Water Pipit at Pugneys.

Andy Bunting and Pete Antrobus are battling it out for the most Birdtrack records submitted and both should top 10,000 by the end of the year. Andy Bunting currently leads the way. The Green league is headed up by James Common at Stobswood who will take some stopping

2 of the 7 contenders in the comparative league have topped 100% with James Common at Stobswood way out in front with a very healthy 116%. Peter Williams at Laycock stays on the 100% mark with both Phil Woollen and Mark Reeder closing in on last years score. It will take a miracle (or a self-found Willet) to knock James off top spot with just 3 months left to go.

Sunday, 19 October 2014

Wales Minileagues - September

In Wales, the islands lead the way. The Bardsey duo are in the clear and only have each other to beat for the top spot. This island piled on the points again in September with classic Autumn species such as Ortolan, Greenish, Yellow-Browed and Barred Warblers, Richard's Pipit, Red-Breasted Flycatcher and a Nightingale. Steve Stansfield has seen more species this year than Ben Porter, but a higher points per bird score for Ben sees him in top spot with 3 months left to run. Will Steve pay for the trip to Sweden that meant he dipped on the Western Bonelli's? Maybe Steve needs to arrange a trip to the mainland for Ben in October!

Final podium place is filled by Jason Moss on Skomer who has daylight between 3rd and 4th thanks to a healthy point per bird score, evidenced by an enviable list of rarities this year including Black-Headed Bunting, Lesser Yellowlegs and Melodious Warbler.

Zac Hinchcliffe continues to lead the way on the Birdtrack lists, the only Welsh contender into 5 figures.

In the all important comparative tables, 2 competitors are over the 100% mark. Alison and LlanfairTH is running away with the title with an impressive 127%. Ben Porter on Bardsey has an impressive 110%, eclipsing a tough target of 251 from last year with October still to come.

Inland Scotland Minileague - September

Despite a quite month all round, Alastair Forsyth at Old Nisthouse appears to have the Inland Scotland league sown up, with an impressive total of 160 points at an average of 1.41 points per bird. He also tops the green and birdtrack statistics too.

In the comparative league, Alastair has a comparative of 125%. Andy Cage and Chris Pendlebury are battling it out for 2nd and 3rd with just 1% between them.

Friday, 17 October 2014

The Big Vis - Filling in the Form

You may have noticed the appearance of the Big Vis form on the right hand sidebar. Due to the limitations of blogger and google forms it isnt quite as all singing and dancing as I would like BUT it will record the data effectively. In this post we will explain how to fill out the form for those that arent regular PWC competitors (and those that make a mess of it each month - Im looking at you Ryan).

There are two main things to note about submissions:

  1. They are broken down by hour. You should only submit an individual hour per form.
  2. There are only enough fields to submit ten records per form. Please fill in multiple forms if you get plenty of species or birds flying in various directions and need extra fields. This isnt ideal but it is the limitations of google forms I am afraid.

The first field is observer name. Who are you? As it is the weekend I will be Judy BUT my submission will be under my given name,

The second field is Location and here we need the name of where you are watching from and even more importantly the grid reference. You can find the grid reference using the link below:


The third field is date and that is simply going to be 18/10/2014 or 19/10/2014 dependent upon whether it is Saturday or Sunday when you take part.

Start time is the fourth field - this should be dawn which will be 7.40ish. To get the sunrise time for your location try this website:


For the weather field we want to know whether it is raining/snowing/sleeting/dry etc, the temperature in celcius, the cloud cover expressed in octets (8/8 for fully cloudy sky, 0/8 for no cloud), the wind direction and strength using the beaufort scale and the visibility in distance (>2km if vis is excellent, 500m-2km if a bit ganky and <500m any="" as="" be="" can="" changeable="" fog="" here.="" horrible="" if="" included="" notes="" other="" p="" showers="" such="" weather="">
Hour - we are asking you record for a minimum of two hours and we want an hourly breakdown for results so here you tick which hour you are submitting results for. If you are super lucky and get an awesome passage you may stay beyond 4 hours and this all goes in the 4+ hours tab.

The next three fields are for each record and are repeated 10 times on the form. First up we want the species of bird followed by the number and then finally the direction of flight. If you have a single species with multiple flight directions then each different direction should get its own 'record'.

If (when) you run out of space as you have had an awesome mornings migration add extra records on a new form after you submit the first one - there is no limit.

Which birds to count? Those that are moving through - so not the resident birds and not the flock of waders flying round in circles. Anything you think may be a migrant from the geese and ducks to the thrushes and Tree Sparrows. There are no hard fast rules so use your own judgement. If you have any questions get in touch on twitter using the hashtag #BigVis and tweet us @patchbirding and also @trektellen

Good birding!

Thursday, 16 October 2014

Coastal Scotland Minileague - September

Despite the best attempts of the chasing pack to close the gap, John Bowler continues to rack up great species on the patch and has now surpassed the 300 mark, adding 11 species and 39 points in September. This included American Golden Plover, Buff-Breasted and Pectoral Sandpipers as well as multiple Barred Warblers. A score was not registered for North Ronaldsay for September, so the gap could close next month.

Gary Bell at Sumburgh had a good month, with perhaps the best two birds recorded in the Coastal Scotland league in September, a Myrtle Warbler and Red-Flanked Bluetail. This has put him on an impressive 1.75 points per bird. The best find of the month went to Peter Stronach who located a Rose-Coloured Starling on his Durness patch.

Steve Minton at Scatness is leading the non-motorised league with an impressive 4th place in the overall standing. Our own Mark Lewis has submitted the most Birdtrack records and is on target to break the 10,000 records submitted by the end of the year.

Two birders have now broken the 100% barrier, with Stephen Welch pushing John Bowler into second place. Plenty of others are closing in, a good October should see more beating last years score next month.

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

Ireland Minileague - September

Irish patch birders got stuck into Autumn with some notable species and points increases from last month.

The addition of 12 species including three six pointers in September by Dave Suddaby at Blacksod ensures a comfortable lead with 219 points and an impressive 1.64 points per bird. Niall Keogh at Kilcoole remains in second but Julian Wylie at Baltimore is hot on his heels in third with 12 new species added leaving him just one point short of second place. Not much movement elsewhere on the table but worth mentioning Tom Moore at Kilmore who added nine new species, consolidating his 7th place position.

The O'Donnells continue their post 100% run in the Comparative League with Michael adding three new species whilst Eamonn adds one. Great to see the momentum going here although ultimately making a tougher challenge for them next year (but that's what it's all about!). Tom Moore, Alan Lauder (Carrick Mountain) and Niall Keogh all break into the 90% region taking up 3rd, 4th and 5th pace respectively. 

A Red Kite at Kilcoole was a long awaited patch tick for Niall, a Pectoral Sandpiper at Baltimore was a good find by Julian (especially in a year with few yank waders about) and both Cory's and Great Shearwaters at Brownstown Head were well worth the seawatching time put in by Paul Walsh. Dave Suddaby is on hot streak at Blacksod adding a fine suit of excellent patch birds including a Red-backed Shrike (1st patch record & 200th patch species), Wryneck (2nd patch record), Firecrest (2nd patch record) & Barred Warbler (3rd patch record). There's hope for us mere mortals yet as I have it on good authority that he still needs Pheasant!

Red-backed Shrike as seen from Dave Suddaby's toilet!

Monday, 13 October 2014

Midlands Minileague - September

John Hopper closed the gap on Ian Cowgill at the top of the table but the Lound site still leads the way in the Midlands league. John's Hoveringham patch had additions in the month more reminiscent of a coastal site, with Great Skua, Rock Pipit and Grey Plover among his finds. Nick Crouch had a patch tick and grip back Great White Egret in the month to edge into 3rd ahead of Andy Mackay at Eyebrook.

In the non-comparative league, the 100% mark is in sight for most. A final push in the last 3 months
should see them bettering last years target. Dave Roberts has managed to climb a place into third leaving Richard Harbird a massive 0.3% back. This is going to be a very tight minileague!

The Big Vis - with Trektellen

Visible migration is one of the thrills of patch birding as squadrons of finches and larks surge overhead and hirundines snake past. We have been asked by Toby Collett and Trektellen to help support this weekends #BigVis - the inaugural visible migration event for birders in the UK and we want you to join in. What better way to get that elusive Lapland Bunting on your patchlist than by joining in?

If you are unfamiliar with Vismigging then it is simply getting to a suitable watchpoint at dawn and watching the diurnal migrants move through. From the 'seep' of the first Meadow Pipits and the twitterings of Goldfinches into the chacking Fieldfare and listening for the 'glip' of a band of crossbills. It is the spectacle of hundreds of birds on the move, with a purpose and with whom you get to share just a few seconds of their existance as the bound ever onward. It makes the common exciting and the commonplace essential as you appreciate Woodpigeons moving en masse or Tree Sparrows going from rural denizens to full-scale migrants. 

Clive Mckay has written a number of articles for our sponsors Birdguides on the subject and they illustrate in a way that I cant what is so special about Vis Mig. Check out here, here and here for the best bits! There are also a couple of articles by Clive in recent Birdwatch magazines which may prove helpful.

So where do you or in fact we come in? Well the count is going to be undertaken by anyone who wants to take part. All you need to do is from dawn until mid-morning when movement has stopped either next Saturday (18th October) or Sunday (19th) count and identify the birds moving over your patch or Vismig point. You need to work in hourly slots from sunrise and note the weather conditions (wind direction and strength, cloud cover, precipitation, visibility and temperature) and keep tallies of each species seen and which direction they were heading e.g. 120 Meadow Pipits S, 16 Meadow Pipits N. Record all this info in a notebook and then our part comes in - we are going to record the data in the same way we do the monthly submissions via a sheet on the right sidebar. Enter the data asked for and you are done! Trektellen will be collating the data and we will hopefully be able to get Mark to produce some pretty pie charts and bar graphs to illustarte what people find. Everyone can take part be they PWC contestants or not so get involved and help further knowledge of bird movements in your neck of the woods!

For those of you on twitter get involved with @trektellen and @patchbirding and the hashtag #BigVis which should keep you up to date with what people are seeing. We suggest that the formal count runs two hours from dawn unless the birds are still moving in which case keep going! Sunrise is 07:44 on Saturday and 07:46 on the Sunday so give yourself plenty of time and settle in to what will hopefully be a great weekends bird movement. 

Sunday, 12 October 2014

London Minileague - September

No changes in positions in this league during September however it was well represented once again with 8 out of the 14 patches having scores submitted. The stand out highlight of the month was Nick Croft's flyover Olive-backed Pipit on his Wanstead patch amongst a host of commoner autumn migrants, a brilliant find and one that means a hatful of bonus points. His rival for the lead Adam Bassett retains the top spot thanks to some autumn migrants including Firecrest and Redstart. It was slower going lower down the league, the best find being a Garganey for Marek at Dinton Pastures.

Michael Terry stays top and has now crossed the 110% barrier. A great year down at Hosehill. Adam Bassett stays in second and Jason Reynolds is still to cross the 100% barrier giving Marek and Tom a chance to sneak into the top 3. 

Coastal East Anglia Minileague - September

Opposing fortunes for the top 2 saw Tim Hodge extend the gap and continue his surge over the 300 point mark at a highly commendable 1.61 points per bird. Tim added a number of classic autumn species including Greenish, Barred and Yellow-Browed Warblers whilst James had a frustrating month, despite many hours on patch just a Caspian Gull was added to the year list.

The classic conditions in September helped a number of birders add Barred and Yellow-Browed Warblers as well as Red-Backed Shrike and our own Ryan Irvine added Red-Breasted Flycatcher to his total to move into the top 5. Bird of the month however goes to Kieran Nixon at Kelling / Salthouse, for whom a Western Bonelli's helped him move up the table.

Ryan Irvine heads the two contenders in the non-motorised league whilst Tim Hodge has racked up a fantatsic 11,891 birdtrack records.

Congratulations to the Nick Andrews and Gary White who have topped 100% by the end of September. There is a birds wing between them for top spot, so even a one pointer could make the difference. Meanwhile Craig Fulcher and Ryan Irvine will be hoping for a good points haul in October to push on for the 100% target. 

Inland East Anglia Minileague - September

Jamie Wells at Paxton is edging out Ben Lewis at the end of September with both adding good points in September. Ben scored with a Honey Buzzard and both patches added Pectoral Sandpiper. Nick Moran at Thetford had a good month, with Woodlark and Goshawk added but it is Steve Swinney at Linford who had the highlight of the month. Following easterlies on the 11th September, his inland patch scored with Sabine's Gull.

Nick Moran at Thetford leads the birdtrack record submissions by a distance, but his lead in the green league from Ben Rackstraw and Alison Allen is much narrower with all still to play for.

Steve Swinney's fine year at Linford means that he leads the comparative league with an impressive 127.3%. Joining him in beating last years total are Mark Nowers at Stutton and Jim Bradley at Surlingham. Meanwhile another 5 patchers top 90%, with Jamie Wells and Ben Lewis closing in fast on that all important mark with three months of the year still to go.

South Coast Minileagues - September

Adam Faiers at Sandwich Bay leads the way at the end of September but is locked in battle for the number 1 spot with Andy Johnson at Sandy Point who unblocked a long awaited patch tick with a Red-Backed Shrike in the month. Adam added Wood Warbler, Dotterel and Great White Egret to keep his nose in front.

Bird of the month goes to the Pallas's Grasshopper Warbler in early September, a fantastic bird for Amy Robjohns which is more likely in Shetland than the southerly location of Titchfield Haven.

In the comparative league, Adam Faiers is in a league of his own with a mammoth 134% compared to last years points score. Mark Lawlor and Chris Powell will be looking for a good October to put pressure on the 100% mark.

South West Minileagues - September

Joe Stockwell at Portland Bill is in a league of his own in the south west. Topping 300 points and with an impressive 1.83 points per bird, it seems unlikely that Joe will be caught.

Overall a quiet month in the south west, Joe Stockwell extended his lead with Icterine Warbler, Ortolan and Richard's Pipit whilst both Joe and Sean Foote added Yellow-Browed Warbler to their points scores. A Honey Buzzard was also a welcome addition for Sean at North Portland.

Peter Hazlewood at Oldbury Power Station is way out in front in the Birdtrack records stakes, topping 5000 submissions for the year. Martin Elcoate at Topsham in 5th place in the league is both the highest placed inland and green birder in the south west.

In the all important comparative league, a Wryneck for Roger Musgrove at Wall Common has helped him to top the 100% mark, the only birder to do so in the south west. Hot on his tale are a further 5 birders with over 90%, all of whom will be hoping that October will bring in much needed points to beat their 2013 targets.

Coastal North Minileagues - September

With favourable conditions in the east of the country, the coastal north league saw some big movers in September, with some fantastic species added to patch lists. The best bird of the month must go to the Masked Shrike which graced Spurn for a couple of weeks. If Tim Jones had found the bird, he surely would have had one hand on the best find prize for 2014. The Shrike plus an enviable supporting cast including Pallid Harrier and Olive-Backed Pipit is enough to give Tim top spot at the end of September however. Pushing him hard, Martin Garner is the other member of the 300 club, adding Fea's Petrel and wishing that Baltic Gull, Grey-Headed Wagtail and Siberian Lesser Whitethroat qualified as full species!

Best find of the month goes to Iain Robson at Druridge. A social media driven twitch along the east coast (started by Martin Garner at Flamborough!), lead to Iain having a decision to make. Head to Newbiggin for the best chance to see the Petrel, or risk missing out for the chance to bag points for the patch. The gamble paid off and Iain climbs into 4th, putting the pressure on Jane Turner at Red Rocks, who added a county third Marsh Warbler herself,  for a podium spot.

Tom Cadwallender at Alnmouth has sumitted the most  Birdtrack records to date with Jane Turner not far behind.

In the comparative league, Iain Robson in top spot has hit the 100% mark. Other contenders need a great October to beat last years target.

Tuesday, 7 October 2014

An Urban/Suburban Patch

This is my first post on urban patching in North Leeds, or what the townie can do to enhance his birding. I took up the PWC gauntlet for the first time this year after spending a fair bit of time last year sussing out the location of an area to call 'my patch'. By canny use of the mapping tool on the PWC website I was able to get the bulk of Eccup Reservoir and a couple of decent stands of oldish woodland (Adel Dam and Breary Marsh) into my 3 square kilometers, it also included one of the more popular parks (Golden Acre) but that couldn't be helped.

Adel Dam looking towards the lake

Eccup Reservoir looking West from dam wall

 So far I've made less than 2 dozen visits due to circumstances beyond my control but have managed to get to 67 species for a princely 69 points, considering I'd got a list of 58 species over 30 years of occasionally visiting the same area prior to the challenge I think that is a fairly positive result. Most of my visits have been early morning to avoid conflict with dog-walkers but this has paid off in that I have found a couple of Shelduck on Golden Acre Park lake at 06.30 on a March Sunday morning that had flown by 07.00 never to be seen again, a site first. At Eccup I found a small group of Ringed Plover before 09.00 that again had flown when I passed on the way back to the car, I was hissed at by a partially fledged Tawny Owl chick. At Adel Dams I've been lucky enough to see a male Sparrowhawk catching it's breakfast, male Great Tit if you are interested, a pair of Treecreeper investigating loose bark for nest sites and best of all watched a Stoat scurrying across an open glade.

There are a few species I expected to see but haven't, most noticeably, Green Woodpecker and Pochard, a species I didn't expect to see was the Grey Wagtail that overwintered by the foulest bit of mud and water at Adel Dam.

Wagtail heaven.
Eccup reservoir has been a bit of a let down due to the visibility of the water being very limited due partly to the maintenance work on the supply pipes lowering the water level dramatically but more to the vegetation that has been allowed to spring up inside the boundary fence, this making it inaccessible to 'pruning'. Most of the records for the site this year have been of birds seen through gaps in an almost complete wall of trees and shrubs, which has been a bit frustrating sometimes. 

What you are up against at Eccup
However last Sunday, having an hour spare at the end of the afternoon I did my usual route along the South edge of the reservoir. I was bemoaning the lack of visibility as per normal on the way out but on the way back to the car the vegetation inside the fence was brilliant, as a flock of mixed passerines worked their way through it, giving me a site record in Treecreeper and loads of Blue, Great and Long-tailed Tits, Chaffinches, a Chiffchaff and at least 3 Wrens.

What has been an eye-opener for me has been the sheer abundance of birds that I normally associate with the countryside, breeding Curlew within the Leeds boundary along with Oystercatcher and Buzzards (at least 3 birds on occasions).

I know I'm probably never going to get a bird that will be in with a chance of the Bresser and Forest Optics Best Find prize but I can live in hope.

Wednesday, 1 October 2014

PWC Alternative Highlights

‘Purist’ birders will often scoff at those notion of setting a moth trap, throwing a few quadrats around a meadow or seawatching on a flat calm day without the intent of seeing some seabirds. Boredom? Distraction? Attempted upskilling? Some of the derogatory taglines they cast upon the efforts carried out by those of us who indulge in these ‘extra circular activities'. But the simple fact is, many of us have an inherent appreciation (and/or obsession!) of all aspects of natural history, not just birds. As such, it is no surprise then that this manifests itself during a days birding, often peaking during the summer months due to a relatively 'quiet' period for birds but also coinciding with high time for insects, plants, bats etc.

Patch birding results an in-depth knowledge of the birds which can be found on ones patch and this lends naturally to all other flora and fauna. With that, we asked PWC contestants shout from the rooftops about their love of moths, cetaceans etc. and let us know what non-avian highlights they came across during Spring, Summer and early Autumn before they got distracted with chasing around after feathered rarities in October!

Gareth Stamp and Jonny Rankin caught in the act of indulging in some botany! (c) Jonathan Holliday

Moths! Ah yes, the dark side of birding… literally! Plenty of early morning rises to check through the traps ensured that moths featured heavily in the Alt-highlights submission forms. Who can deny the awesomeness of hawkmoths?! Our own Ryan Irvine recorded a Bedstraw Hawkmoth at Hemsby on 4th August whilst Adam Bassett found a Lime Hawkmoth larva at Little Marlow GP in London. Dedicated trapping produced lots of patch rarities such as Rob Frays Bulrush Wainscot on 4th September in his garden which was a first for Shetland. John Bowler is a vertible rare magnet, not just with birds but also with Lepidoptera, recording 39 new moth species (18 macros) for Tiree during 2014 including Ling Pug and Rusty-dot Pearl in August. Ryans Hemsby mothing also revealed Tree-lichen Beauty on both 28th July and 2nd August of which there were less than 10 Norfolk records of that species at the time.

Bedstraw Hawkmoth at Hemsby (c) Ryan Irvine

Bulrush Wainscot at Virkie (c) Rob Fray

Tree-lichen Beauty at Hemsby (c) Ryan Irvine

For the daytime lepidopterists, yellow is most certainly the new black this year. It has been a great couple of months for Clouded Yellows with plenty of them to be found at coastal patches in the South and East in particular (although perhaps not quite at the extent of the ‘invasion’ style numbers seen in the mid to late 1990’s). Three PWC contestants reported finding new colonies of Brown Argus on their patches this year and in addition, Darren Starkey also recorded Marbled White at Fairburn Ings RSPB and White-letter Hairstreak at St. Aidan’s RSPB (plus his survey pen which he lost in the wet grasslands!).

Clouded Yellow at Brockholes Nature Reserve LWT (c) Bill Aspin

Brown Argus at Wellington Gravel Pits (c) Espen Quinto-Ashman

Brown Argus at Draycote (c) Matthew Bruce

Local Odonata of note included Mike Terry’s Golden-ringed Dragonfly at Hosehill which was well ‘twitched’ during its lengthy stay and Niall Keogh’s first record of Common Hawker at Kilcoole. Craig Fulcher found a Willow Emerald Damselfly at Southwold on 13th September. Their foothold in the UK continues to gain strength. Orchids are hard to pass by and Bee Orchids are no exception with three patch birders noting them as firsts on their respective sites. Reports were relatively quite on the marine end of things with the only cetaceans of note being two Minke Whales seen from Sumburgh by Gary Bell and a ‘stranding’ event reported by Niall Keogh of 50+ Barrel Jellyfish in the small estuary at Kilcoole in June.

To cap things off, Toby Collett also witnessed the awesome might of two Lancaster Bombers and a Vulcan over Frampton Marsh! 

Golden-ringed Dragonfly at Hosehill (c) Mike Terry

Common Hawker at Kilcoole (c) Clare Murray

Bee Orchid at Draycote (c) Matthew Bruce

Bee Orchid at Hosehill (c) Mike Terry

Bee Orchid at Goole fields (c) Tom Lowe

Barrel Jellyfish at Kilcoole (c) Anne-Lise Gerard

For any PWC contestants who manage not to get distracted by all the lovely Sibes and Yanks this October, please feel free to let us know of your continued 'Alternative Highlights'. A deer rut? A bat roost? Fungi forays? What has Autumn got in store?...