Thursday, 26 March 2015

The Bresser and Forest Optics Best Find - February 2015

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 prize tbc, hopefully next month we will be able to reveal all

February had been a somewhat mixed month weather-wise, starting off with colder than average temperatures before ending the month with them being slightly higher than average. This seems to have had a knock-on effect with the birding world.
The only rare of the month was the Bonaparte's Gull found at Llanelli WWT by Laurie Allnatt, well done that man! Not only finding the bird but getting a decent photo of it as well.

Bonaparte's Gull - Laurie Allnatt

 There were lots of scarce birds during the month, mainly multiple finds of a few species rather than loads of species. 

We'll start with Great White Egrets, or Great Egrets as we are supposed to call them now, 3 patchworkers found  them during the month; Anthony Bentley at his Frampton Marsh/ Frieston RSPB patch in Lincolnshire, also Drew Lyness at UEA in Norfolk and Dave Craven who had 3 birds on his Hale & Pickering Pasture patch in Cornwall. 

Next a couple of Ring-billed Gulls, oddly enough both in Ireland, one at Larne Lough found by Neil Warnock, the other on the Boyne Estuary picked up by Gerald Murray.   

Back to England for Great Grey Shrike, again a couple of birds, one on Benjamin Ward's patch at Aubourn in Lincolnshire and the other giving Matthew Dick the points on his patch in Darley Dale, Derbyshire.

The west of the PWC area had the next multiple sightings, Green-winged Teals for Balivanich in the Outer Hebrides, a nice one for Stuart Taylor and also for Eamonn O'Donnell at his Ninch/Laytown patch in Ireland. Keeping the Western trend going Pete Marsh had Cetti's Warbler on his Heysham and Middleton patch in Lancashire, the first winter record for his area. 
Green-winged Teal - Johnathan Farooqi
Moving across to the East of the map we have a couple of good birds found in Norfolk, starting with Crane for Gary White  at North Walsham/Trimingham and the only Rough-legged Buzzard on patch during February found by Tim Hodge at his Horsey Mill patch.

Mention should go to David McGrath who found a Dusky Warbler on his Marton Mere patch during January, a good winter record. David was late in registering on the challenge so we'll let him off this time. 

As I write March is half over and the first migrants are being picked up on the South coast, can't wait for next month's listings.

Tuesday, 17 March 2015

Estuarine - February 2015

A quiet month in the Estuarine league as everyone seems to be waiting for Spring to be sprung. Mark Nowers at Stutton leads the way in a comparative league which has some pretty impressive scoring, principally due to an excellent start in January. The Maldon due are close behind however with Russell Neave taking the honours in that patch battle.

Bird of the month goes to the Ring-Billed Gull which Paul Freestone finally caught up with at Hayle. There was some good seabird fare at Frampton / Freiston with Little Auk and Puffin putting in a showing along with a Velvet Scoter. Great White Egret was recorded on both east and west side of the country, whilst an Iceland Gull at Hale and Pickerings helped Dave Craven to pick up points.

In a strong scoring league, Frampton / Freiston dominate the top of the scoring charts with John Badley outpointing Anthony Bentley after two months. Dave Craven is representing the west in third place but a lot of runners and riders are waiting in the wings with many patches already scoring 100 points and 7 already over 100 species with the Spring just around the corner!

Sunday, 15 March 2015

Wales - February 2015

Despite a quiet month in Wales, both Alun John at Pennard Golf Course and Henry Cook at Conwy RSPB have reached the 70% mark in the comparative league already which is a great achievement. It is Alun who leads the way at the end of February with an impressive 73%.

There are a lot of new competitors in Wales in PWC2015, and it is one of these newcomers, Laurie Allnatt, who leads the points league. A self-found Bonaparte's Gull at Llanelli secures the top spot. Other highlights were few and far between, but a Great Northern Diver in Cardiff Bay, a Goshawk at Ogmore and a Yellow-Legged Gull were all notable. Interestingly, two patchers reported Pheasant as a highlight, emphasizing how every patch has its own individual #patchgold.

In the Welsh green league, Marc Hughes at Penrhyn Bay tops the list with Peter Howlett and Trevor Fletcher making up the top three. Many patchers are BirdTracking with some impressive numbers reported, Alistair Flannagan has already topped 100 lists which is a magnificent effort.

Islands - February 2015

Paul Higson at Quoyangry consolidates his lead at the top of the comparative league after an outstanding January. His highlights might not make outstanding reading for mainland birders, but Blue Tit and Great Spotted Woodpecker are far from easy points for the Scottish islands. David Wood on Islay is pushing Paul all the way however, as 5 birders have scored over 50% with the exciting spring season almost upon us.

In the points John Bowler has edged Paul Higson into second with just two points between them. Paul has by far more species, the only patcher in the islands league to exceed the 100 marker so far, but it is the impressive 1.465 points per bird on Tiree that helps John take top spot. Barrie Hamill makes up the top three.

Bird of the month fell to Stuart Taylor at Balivanich. An opportunistic scan of the Teal flock on the 7th produced a Green-Winged Teal (I have been following Stuart's methodology myself but not his success). Both Iceland and Glaucous Gulls put in appearances further north whilst John Headon found a Long-Tailed Duck on his Scilly patch.

A number of patchers on the islands are BirdTracking with Sean Morris leading the way on both of his Mull patches.

Next month the Bardsey duo will join the party having returned to the island in March but they will have some catching up to do.

Coastal North - February 2015

A great seawatch on the 1st February helps Stewart Sexton to the top of the comparative league. The day added 8 new patch ticks including Velvet Scoter, Long-Tailed Duck and Little Auk. Ash Baines is keeping the pressure on for the west coast with a Great White Egret and a Red-Throated Diver on the lake. Our own James Spencer makes up the top three places with Red-Necked Grebe his February highlight. The top three all have a score in excess of 50% after just two months of the year, impressive for coastal sites whose annual totals are undoubtedly boosted by spring and autumn.

In the points league, the Long Nab duo sandwich Martin Garner in a Yorkshire top three. Nick Addey is in top spot thanks to his first three pointer of the year, a Surf Scoter along with handy additions such as Little Auk and Waxwing. Meanwhile both Chris Bradshaw and Martin Garner had White-Fronted Goose. In fact Martin at Flamborough had both Eurasian and Greenland Whitefronts which controversially does not attract any additional points under PWC2015 rules. Even so it was certainly a month highlight for many birders and a great chance to observe them side by side.

On the west coast, Cetti's Warblers were proving popular, with a first winter record for Heysham for Pete Marsh and a bird at Fleetwood for Seamus Eaves. Still a good find in the north of the country in any season.

There are plenty of patchers submitting to BirdTrack with Tom Cadwallender submitting the most lists so far.

Midlands - February 2015

An American Wigeon at Holme Pierrepont helps Tom Shield take top spot in the comparative league at the end of February with a healthy 67%. The field is bunched close behind however with just 3.5% splitting the top 4.

February is always a hard month with most winter species falling in January and spring still waiting in the wings, so a Great Grey Shrike was a nice 6 point find for Benjamin Ward at Aubourn. A couple of patches recorded Bittern, whilst a Great White Egret was a welcome points boost at Eyebrook Reservoir. Carsington Water is always a good inland site in winter for Grebes or Divers, and a Great-Northern Diver was an excellent find for Matthew Dick who also scored two shades of grey at his Darley Dale patch with a male Hen Harrier and Great Grey Shrike.

Matthew Bruce at his patch affectionately named The Puddle scored with a double patch first of Raven and that ugly brute the Egyptian Goose. Meanwhile Caspian Gulls seem to be more frequently recorded and a bird at Earlswood was a lifer for Matt Griffiths.

A couple of patches located Lesser-Spotted Woodpeckers - a difficult bird to find. Meanwhile a Smew at Langford Lowlands helped Carl Cornish to a healthy 4th in his first year in the competition.

Ian Cowgill stretches his lead at the top of the points table with a superb 117 points after just two months, an excellent score for an inland site. Joining Ian on the 100+ points are John Hopper and Andy Mackay. As in 2014, Nottinghamshire is taking an early lead in the table, with only Eyebrook breaking up the monopoly at the top. Also notable is the points per bird score for John Hopper at Hoveringham who is outscoring all sites in the 'quality' score.

It's excellent to see so many patchers contributing to BirdTrack in the Midlands with many submitting records in the hundreds. Andy Sims at Boultham Mere leads the way with 53 lists covering 1941 records. For those Green patchers, Andy Sims at Boultham Mere is ahead with Benjamin Ward, Phil Espin and Sam Pitt Miller not far behind.

Inland North. February 2015

February was generally a quiet month for most patchers in the Inland North. Top additions for the month were American Wigeon for Jonny Fisk at Nosterfield - presumably the the bird that was at North Duffield in January. Putting the whole patch thing into perspective was the 2nd ever record of Moorhen at Stobswood for James Common.

Best finds included a trio of gulls (Iceland, Med' and Caspian) for Mark Reeder at Orgreave, a Scaup for Garry Taylor at Hornsea, a Nuthatch for Jonny at Pugneys and Med Gull and Long-eared Owl at Stobswood.

As is now the fashion the cumaltive league 1st.

Despite no visits during the month Keith Dickinson is still holding on to top spot, though Nick Tongue is desperately close.

The points

Yorkshire sites dominate the top ten with 8 sites, split only by the 2 Lancashire sites of Martin Mere and Brockholes. Darren Starkey sits comfortably at the top with an 18 point lead over Jonny Holliday. Mark Reeder and Garry Taylor are level on species with just quality separating them. With increased daylight and early migrants, the Inland North should now begin to hot up. Perhaps those sitting quietly lower down the league are playing the slow game will begin to rise up in the next few weeks?

Coastal South - February 2015

Last months leader in the comparative league, Dan Chaney, hasnt added any further score so he slips off the podium into fourth place. Taking over at the top if Paul Freestone at Gwithian, Cornwall with a healthy 68.5% - 12% clear of Andy Rhodes in second place. Peter Hazelwood is in third place at Oldbury Power Station. Peter has also racked up 45 complete lists and 2015 records already!

Joe Stockwell added 8 points in February which was enough to keep him clear on his Ferrybridge and Weymouth patch. Kev Rylands at Dawlish Warren is only 5 points behind with Ilya Maclean in third place on 108 points. Sean Foote on Portland tumbles to 7th after a quiet February adding only 2 points but this may be the lowest position he finds himself in.

Joe Stockwell added the only bonus points of the month and even then it was just the extra 2 for a Siberian Chiffchaff. There were plenty of two pointers with Red-necked Grebe, Long-tailed Duck, Spoonbill, Glaucous Gull and Goshawk all added to various patches. This is the minileague that will likely see the only glut of migrants in March so expect changes - especially if an Alpine Swift or three arrive.

Inland South - February 2015

Tom Stevenson has overtaken himself with Ewelme Watercress Beds moving into first place from third whilst his Battle Farm patch drops to second with a mere 1.5% between the two. Roger Hicks is the closest challenger with 67% in third with Neil Burt hot on his heels.

Adam Bassett moves up three spots into first at Little Marlow with 90 points while January's leader in the points table, Marek Walford slips to second a point back. Blagdon Lake's resident patcher, Nigel Milbourne, is in third on 88 points and with a posse of five further patches in the 80s it really is all to play for,

There were no bonus points added in March although I fully support Roger Hicks' suggestion that an Otter on patch must be worth something! In terms of highlights it was typical seasonal stuff with Scaup, Mediterranean Gull, Woodcock and Yellow-legged Gull featuring in dispatches.

Thursday, 12 March 2015

Coastal Scotland - February 2015

With just six patches in the Coastal Scotland Comparative Minileague, each contestant is sure to be keeping a close eye the others fortunes. This could become hotly contested!

Both Chris Hill and Stephen Welch added another 10% onto their comp scores from January and remain in first and second place respectively through February. Jim Dickson popped up this month to displace Mark Lewis from third, sending him down to sixth. Both of Andrew Whitehouse's patches remain as they were in fourth and fifth place.

On the points table its Jim Dickson at Crinan Canal Corridor that leads the way with an impressive 94 species and 115 points, aided by some quality species such as the 1st-winter Caspian Gull at Lochgilphead (mega in West Scotland) and White-tailed Eagle.

Chris Rodger at Musselburgh and Mike Hodgkin at Aberlady Bay are tied with 109 points each but Mike has the higher species total (92, including five species of auk in one day) while Chris has the higher points per bird score (1.225) thanks to the likes of Little Auk, Smew and Surf Scoter. 

Good to see four out of the top five above 100 points, with Chris Hill at Burntisland not far behind in fifth on 93 points (including Little Auk and Puffin).

Inland Scotland - February 2015

Alastair Forsyth rises back to top spot on the Inland Scotland Comparative Minileague table in February with an extra 12 species added at Old Nisthouse leaving him on 68.45% and over 100 points with an impressive points per bird score of 1.417. All in all not a bad comp score to be on by the end of the second month. The Blue-winged Teal on his patch continued to show throughout the month.

Andy Cage moves from first to second at Kilmany whilst Chris Pendlebury clears right through third to fifth in his attempt to swamp the league with as many of his patches as possible!

The top five rankings on the points table sees little change other than Andy Cage losing third place to Pete Antrobus at Lochmaben where a trio of Scaup was his best find of the month. Both Pete and David Douglas (Loch Leven) are newcomers to the league but ones to watch out for as they represent some excellent patch birding sites with great potential.

Ireland Minileague - February 2015

The majority of the Ireland Minileague stalwarts have reached 60% or higher on the comparative table by the end of February and as such are well placed to receive a flood of Spring migrants in the coming weeks.

Niall Keogh remains in first place at his South Dublin Parks patch while Eamonn O'Donnell and Alan Lauder claim second and third place with their Ninch/Laytown and Carrick Mountain patches respectively. Eamonn has had a fantastic run during the first part of 2015, adding 12 new species in February, now well ahead of himself compared to previous years. Will he score big this year? Tom Moore added an impressive 19 species at Kilmore Quay since last month taking him to 60%.

Neal Warnock at Larne Lough takes poll position on the points table with Eamonn now in second knocking Niall Keogh at Kilcoole back down to third (yet he still claims the highest species total of 94). Gerard Murray at the Boyne Estuary made a dramatic jump from 16th to 4th place thanks to some excellent effort and a few good species during February. All four have well and truly crossed the 100 points barrier with Dave Suddaby at Blacksod in fifth place on 98 points.

Cathal Forkan moves from 10th to 6th place as a result of adding 25 species/31 points at his North Galway Bay patch. Lots of new names and patches cropping up on the points table through February thanks to new submissions.

Rarity find of the month goes to Julian Wyllie for his excellent record of a winter Lesser Yellowlegs on the river at his new patch in Skibbereen. Well worthy of the twelve points awarded for that one. Continuing on the Nearctic vagrant theme, a Green-winged Teal found at Laytown by Eamonn O'Donnell represents just the 2nd or 3rd county record for Meath plus self-found Ring-billed Gulls were picked up by Neal Warnock at Larne Lough and Gerard Murray at the Boyne Estuary. Each of those securing six points for their respective finders.

Cathal Forkan connected with the (in)famous Forster's Tern at Nimmo's Pier during a BirdWatch Ireland Galway Branch outing there early in the month. Whilst not constituting a 'find' as such it still dishes out a hefty four points which anybody would be glad of for one single species. Great to get it on the overall PWC species list too!

Forster's Tern © Cathal Forkan

Arlo Jacques found a juvenile Spoonbill at his Tramore Backstrand patch, complimenting his Glossy Ibis there nicely whilst Eleanor Keane was able to add Red-necked Grebe to the list of PWC Irish rares as she saw the regular wintering bird at Dun Laoghaire Harbour within her patch boundaries back in January.

As for patch scarce, a Spotted Redshank was no doubt a great species to get at Mutton Island for Cathal Forkan (plus Iceland Gull there too), Alan Lauder's Great Spotted Woodpecker at Carrick Mountain began drumming during the month, a Slavonian Grebe & two Iceland Gulls were at Larne Lough for Neal Warnock, a Scaup at Lurgangreen was a patch tick for Peter Philips, a small flock of Tree Sparrows & a Red-breasted Merganser were both good species to get for Niall Keogh at Kilcoole and Tom Moore picked up a hoped for Black-throated Diver at Kilmore Quay.

Iceland Gull © Cathal Forkan

Wednesday, 11 March 2015

NGB Minileague - February 2015

A new month in the Next Generation Birders minileague reveals a new leader; Anthony Bentley has pulled out a big gap at the top adding a massive 36 points during February including bonus points for finding Frampton’s 6th Great White Egret. Anthony’s point-filled month means our January leader Joe Stockwell is pushed down to second at Ferrybridge whilst the top 3 is rounded off with Laurie Allnatt at Llanelli. In addition to his podium position, Laurie landed what will possibly prove to be the best NGB PWC find of the year with Carmarthenshire’s first ever Bonaparte’s Gull on the 3rd! A brilliant find that shows what dedication to a patch can bring, will someone else get a similar reward in the coming months?
Jonathan Farooqi may be out of the medals but he is hot on the heels of Laurie with only 1 point separating the 2 patchers. Lee Fuller remains in 5th, 1 ahead of Cathal Forkan who jumped up 6 places at Galway Bay, receiving a very handy 4 points along the way when the long-staying Forster’s Tern showed up during the month. A PWC newcomer rounds off the top 10, Drew Lyness at UEA jumps straight in at the deep end and like our leader was rewarded with a self-found Great White Egret.
The highlight section provide some classic #patchgold moments. James Common was delighted with his 2nd ever record of Moorhen at Stobswood, Sammy Pengelly added a female Pheasant which are scarce on her Llanelli patch, and Matthew Bruce saw his first Egyptian Goose and Ravens at ‘The Puddle’.

Tuesday, 10 March 2015

Coastal East Anglia - February 2015

The comparative scores in the Coastal EA mini league so far indicate that its going to a close run thing with 8.5% separating the top 6. Craig Fulcher remains at the top despite not adding anything to his January scores with Tommy Corcoran and Gary White leap frogging James Brown into 2nd and 3rd respectively. With spring on its way in March I can see more significant moves in the table by the end of month.

With James Brown having a quiet month in Lowetoft it has enabled Robert Smith at Holme and last years big hitter, Tim Hodge at Horsey to overtake him, although there are only 5 points separating them all. No real rarities to speak of this month as the patchers mopped up the needed winter birds such as Glaucous Gulls, Bean Geese, Jack Snipe and Black-throated Divers. Tim still leads the way with BirdTracking effort, surpassing 2000 records already!