Thursday, 25 June 2015

Coastal East Anglia - May

Craig Fultcher has extended his lead with an impressive May with bonus points for a stunning male Red-backed Shrike and Grey-headed Wagtail as well as a host of nice spring waders including a Broad-billed Sandpiper. Away from Southwold and EA was pretty quiet in May with bonus points hard to come by, a Rough-legged Buzzard at Hemsby and Crane over Great Yarmouth the best the rest could muster. Gibraltar Point perhaps the exception as Nige Lound found both Golden Oriole and Serin on patch.

Robert Smith has seen is lead cut despite a Black Stork over his patch. Nige Lound has leap-frogged into 2nd with his fine month while Tim Hodge drops down to 5th thanks to his poor month and Craig's excellent month. Our top two from last year, Tim and James both described May as 'dire' and declared their patches as 'bird free zones'! Roll on the autumn....

Craig Fulcher's Red-backed Shrike

Inland East Anglia - May

The Nick Robinson steam train keeps rolling as he maintains his lead at the top of the Inland EA minileague thanks to a patch Osprey at UEA. Ben Moyes has kept pace this month and becomes the second contender to break the 100% mark thanks to a nice variety of migrants including an inland Sandwich Tern. Ben Rackstraw remains in third but has closed the gap on second to just 2.5% with his highlight being a Wood Sandpiper at Downham Market. With another three players in the 90s perhaps a decent late spring could see someone shaking it up.

Jamie Wells has coming striding in from 7th to take over at the top with 166 points at Paxton Pits displacing his old rival, Ben Lewis who slips to second place. Ben Rackstraw is also climbing this month - up two places to third. The best find of the month goes to Stuart Reeves at Mutford showing reward for diligence on patch with a Golden Oriole. Aside from this the only three pointer was a none find - a White-winged Black Tern at Paxton Pits which Jamie Wells connected with. Other highlights included Turtle Doves for Jonny Rankin (appropriately) and Ben Moyes.

Turtle Dove courtesy of Jonny Rankin.

If you haven't donated to Dove Step 2 (and why not?) read about Jonny Rankin and co's epic adventure to try and raise money for Turtle Doves here:

A very worthy cause!

Coastal Scotland - May

A brace of Little Egrets propel Stephen Welch to the top of the comparative table in Coastal Scotland with 90%. He has a 6% buffer over Chris Hill at Burntisland after the pair were neck and neck in April. Jim Dickson holds third place whilst the black mark that continues to linger against Mark Lewis ensures he drops to 5th.

Record shot of the Gosford Bay Little Egrets

Jim Dickson at the Crinan Canal managed to add a Little Tern to his patch list and extends his lead in the points table by three. Mike Hodgkin continues in second while Stephen Welch displaces Chris Rodger and moves into the top three.

Ireland Minileague - May

A productive May saw the first PWC contestants to break the 100% mark on the Irish Comparative Minileague table with Eamonn O'Donnell and Niall Keogh holding on to first and second place at Ninch/Laytown and South Dublin Parks respectively. Short-eared Owl, Red-legged Partridge, Cuckoo and Spotted Flycatcher were all #fullfatpatchticks for Eamonn while Niall added Reed Warbler, Common Sandpiper and Fulmar to his local park patch list (the latter being most unexpected as it was seen 2km inland!).

Alan Lauder and Neal Warnock remain in third and fourth place (finding a breeding site for Whitethroat and a couple of migrant Little Gulls the best for Neal at Larne Lough) while Tom Moore reclaims fifth place at Kilmore Quay. Most contestants are now over 70% as we approach the half way point.

Little change in the Irish Points Minileague rankings. Dave Suddaby consolidates his impressive lead with a mighty 122 species, 190 points and 1.557 points per bird at Blacksod. The undoubted highlights from Dave being a #patchgold Alpine Swift (found while on the phone!) and a #patchbronze Bee-eater (found while on crutches!). The Bee-eater hung around for several days and inspired a twitch giving many the chance to catch up with this hard to connect with species in Ireland. 

Elsewhere on the table, Eamonn, Neal and Niall are battling it out for second, third and fourth place with just a species and a few points separating them. Richard Donaghey enters with his patch at the Bann Estuary and 100 species including Marsh Harrier. Half of the contestants on the table are now over 100 points with many reporting Reed Warbler, Grasshopper Warbler, Sanderling and Cuckoo added to their totals in May.

Mega patch tick of the month goes to Des Higgins for his very fine drake Ring-necked Duck which turned up on a recently created pond at University College Dublin. An excellent county record and a new species for the campus list! Well worthy of six points there.

Ring-necked Duck at UCD © Pat Lonergan

Bee-eater at Blacksod © Brian Porter

Wednesday, 24 June 2015

Estuarine - May

Ed Keeble continues his domination of the Estuarine comparative minileague and creeps towards the 90% mark at Brantham. Gordon Hodgson continues in second and has closed the gap to 4% thanks to 6 points for a Hoopoe. Shaun Robson leapfrogs Emma Webb into third place and there will be ructions in Maldon as Russell Neave also manages to usurp Emma.

A now familiar feel to the points minileague as the Lincs Wash Reserves dominate. John Badley has taken back his lead thanks to no submission from Anthony Bentley. Paul Sullivan sneaks into second thanks to finders points for a Temminck's Stint. He also managed to connect with the White-rumped Sandpiper, Black-winged Stilts and Quail although he only intercepted the Black Stork offsite.

The Saul Warth Hoopoe courtesy of Gordon Hodgson

Both Howard Vaughan and Toby Collett found Temminck's Stints at Rainham and Frampton respectively. Toby also connected with the Black Stork and Black-winged Stilts although he missed finding the White-rumped Sand despite identifying it. Down in the South-west Martin Elcoate managed to see the Gull-billed Tern and Bonaparte's Gull at Bowling Green Marsh which is part of his Topsham patch. Out to the west and a Corncrake was a surprise for Dave Craven at Hale although no bonus points there sadly but a quality bird for the location.

Coastal North - May

Ash Baines ticked off a number of scarcer spring migrants including Tree Pipit and Gropper to retain top spot in the comparative league. Seumus Eaves makes it a west coast 1-2 with his Fleetwood patch scoring points for Pomarine Skua and a passing Marsh Harrier out at sea.

Stewart Sexton completes the top three with a Terntastic day on the 31st, bagging points for Little, Roseate and Arctic.

In the points league, the heavyweights have hit the top spots with the Yorkshire coast filling the top three spots. There is just one species difference between Mick Turton at Easington and Martin Garner at Flamborough, but Mick has a 13 point advantage, but there is plenty of time to go! Nick Addey completes the top three with a Temminck's Stint the best of the month at Long Nab.

Bird of the month goes to the Bee-eater which was also a garden tick for Martin Garner. This bird gets the bird of the month award purely on looks as this multi-coloured beauty has frequented a number of patches across the UK this month. Temminck's Stint is a classic May species, and a number of patches scored points for this diminutive visitor, but four together at Druridge found by Iain Robson and then appreciated by Jonathan Farooqi was impressive indeed.

Flamborough Bee-eater. Picture courtesy of Mark Pearson 
Chris Bradshaw's highlight at Long Nab was a Dotterel, leading to much chagrin that this falls short of hitting bonus points. Wood Sandpiper and another Temminck's helped Chris into fifth place. James Spencer finally connected with the Iceland Gull at St Mary's Island, somewhat unseasonal in May but welcome all the same.

Finally, mention to Tom Cadwallender at Alnmouth who scored with a cracking summer plumage Spotted Redshank, one of my personal favourite birds.

Islands - May

The story of May for those denizens of the off islands has been the misses. Squacco Heron on St. Mary's, Sabine's Gull on Tiree and Black Stork on Skomer. None the end of the world in the rarified air on our western seaboard but bonus points slipping away. 

Out on the Oa David Wood managed to add just four points but amongst those were a brace for a Dotterel passing through. Despite this Bryan Rains at Pennyghael managed to make headway closing the gap to 6%. Ian T at Askernish also made significant strides towards the top adding 11% in May including a patch first Long-tailed Skua. As is usual we await to see what the June mega season holds out here but we do know John B missed out again but the Bardsey boys got a second bite...

The Islands is where the big points come from. So far this year PWC stalwart John Bowler has been the only person to break 200 and he is already way past that mark thanks to May bonus points for White-tailed Eagle and Long-tailed Skua. The Sabine's was his but sadly away from patch while Jason Moss missed the Black Stork on Skomer but to make up for it he found at least 4 Golden Orioles and Great White Egret. Barrie Hamill and Ian T are neck and neck in third place.

Around the grounds and a Great White Egret was an Isle of May first for Mark Newell while Orcas were a non-point scoring bonus! John Headon missed the Squacco Heron at Lower Moors but added to his burgeoning patch heron list with a Little Bittern. Morgan Vaughan was the final scorer of scarcity points on Oronsay with a White-tailed Eagle.

Tuesday, 23 June 2015

Inland North May 2015

1st Black-necked Grebe chick at Fairburn Ings for 15 years - pic thanx to Joe Seymour

In the Comparative Mini-league and Keith Dickinson holds onto the top slot again despite adding only 1 species during the month. James Common is just behind with less than 0.5% point between them. We now have 4 patchers who have broken the 100% barrier and there's still just over half a year left, is this a sign of more dilligence or better birds on patch?
Here's to a productive June!

Moving across to the points league, Darren Starkey at Fairburn Ings has maintained his firm grip on the top slot, his 193 points from 149 species is pretty impressive. His best bird of the month was a Great White Egret, but he had also had Spoonbill, Osprey and Hen Harrier. There is at least one patchworker who works less than 2 miles from Darren's patch who is green with envy but sadly his patch is nowhere near  Darren's in the league.
Jonny Holliday and Garry Taylor have paid the price for not adding any new birds during May, they have both slipped down the rankings, allowing Andy Bunting, Mark Reeder and Tom Lowe to creep up on the top spot.  Andy is 18 species behind Darren with the 33 points difference being a point less than last month, mighty oaks etc.! Temminck's Stint was a quality bird for him, a few more of those are needed to get you the top spot Andy. 

Inland Scotland - May

Chris Pendlebury maintains his lead in the comparative league for Inland Scotland on his Stirling patch and in doing so hits 100% with 7 months still to go. Sadly a two pointer seems a stretch too far for Chris but there is plenty of time to extend that lead! Alastair Forsyth remains in second thanks to a brace of patch seconds in the form of Hawfinch and Garganey. Andy Cage is hot on Alastairs heels with his monthly highlight the appearance of some Dipper chicks.

Alastair Forsyth has an advantage of 32 points and this may prove decisive even at this early stage. David Douglas failed to advance his score and both 3rd and fourth managed 4 points a piece so there is no movement there as Graeme Garner holds the advantage.

Monday, 22 June 2015

Coastal South Minileague Update - May 2015

Three patch ticks in the form of Sanderling, Arctic and Great Skuas have helped Andy Rhodes reach the 100% mark and put a bit of pressure on current leader Paul Freestone. A Little Tern at Oldbury Power Station (picked out in a storm) consolidates Peter Hazlewood's position in third.
In the points league, Joe Stockwell who patches the stretch between Ferrybridge and Weymouth is the clear leader with a gap of ten points to Sean Foote at Portland. Given Joe's purple patch of late, it is entirely appropriate that a Purple Heron made it onto his county list, whilst he also added bonus points for a Bee-eater which flew in off the sea on the 14th. Sean meanwhile added a number of May specialities including Golden Oriole and Blue-Headed Wagtail whilst a Bonaparte's Gull added very welcome bonus points. Paul Bowerman makes up the top three with Montagus Harrier and Spoonbill amongst his highlights.

Golden Oriole at Portland c/o Sean Foote

There were a number of other highlights of note in May on the south coast. A Serin was an excellent find for Andy Johnson at Sandy Point as was a Red-Rumped Swallow at Wall Common for Roger Musgrove. Kentish Plover is a harder bird to connect with these days, so one at Steart for Dick Best was certainly his May highlight. Finally a Night Heron at Loe Pool provided bonus points for Ilya Maclean.

Inland South - May

Tom Raven had another good month in May and he remains the only patch to have hit the 100% mark to date, although Tom Stevenson who fills second and third is closing in on the target rapidly and should surpass the mark in June.  

Tom's position at the top currently looks pretty secure but the battle for the podium spots looks pretty fierce with just four points between second and fourth. A Garganey and Greenshank in the month help Graham White at Rye Meads into second pushing Adam Basset who missed a Spoonbill on patch in the month into third by just a single point. There was compensation for Adam however, with just his second record of Little Gull on the 17th and Whimbrel and Mandarin on the 5th.

Lee Evans at Tring added an inland Turnstone in the month to keep in touch with the leading trio.

Other highlights in the month in the inland south league were a Little Tern for Gareth Blockley at Grimsbury Reservoir which takes him to the 100 species mark, a Firecrest at Southampton Common for Joost Brandsma and an Osprey passing through for Roger Murfitt at Moor Green Lakes.

Turnstone at Wilstone Reservoir. Photo c/o Lee G R Evans

Midlands - May

Tom Shields retains his lead in the Midlands comparative league despite just adding a Sanderling in May. It leaves him just short of the 100% mark. The top three remain unchanged, but a good month for Andy Sims at Boultham Mere means the he closes the gap. Andy's highlight was just his third record of Barn Owl in eight years on the 9th as it hunted over the main drain.

Ian Cowgill extends his lead at the top of the table at Lound, adding self found Pectoral Sandpiper and Temmincks Stint in May. John Hopper stays in second, with two Common Cranes his monthly highlight at Hoveringham. The Nottinghamshire domination of the points table is interrupted by Andy Mackay's third place for Eyebrook Reservoir.

One of a few inland Sanderlings in the month, this one at Langford Lowfields c/o Carl Cornish.

Wales Minileague Update - May 2015

A Red Kite helps Alison to retain first position in the comparative league at LlanfairTH. A Cuckoo at Cefn Drum for Adam Tilt also helped him to retain a gap to the rest of the field in third.


In the points league, Laurie Allnatt stays top of the crop adding Pectoral Sandpiper and Pomarine Skua in the month amongst others. It is tight as at the top as a self-found Bonaparte's Gull at Burry Inlet on the 11th gave Barry Stewart some very helpful bonus points resulting in a gap of just 4 points. Mathew Meehan had a quieter month at Newport Wetlands but retains third place.

Running the Bonaparte's close for bird of the month was a brief Black Stork which flew east over Paul Parson's flat at Nantyffyllon at 1.55 on May 26th.

Black Stork at Nantyffyllon. Sketch and description c/o Paul Parsons

A stunning bird and a that taste of the unexpected that can make birding so exciting. Ceri Jones had a Garganey at Cosmeston and a Hobby was a patch first for Tony Swann at Brynna Woods. Finally - winter is still keeping a fingertip on the welsh league with an unseasonal Glaucous Gull at Crymlym Burrows.

Saturday, 20 June 2015

NGB Minileague - May

James Common remains in pole position in the NGB comparative league thanks to a May clearing up on the later returning migrants at Stobswood including Wood Sandpiper and Garden Warbler. He is the first person in the league to break the 100% barrier, a great effort considering more than half the year is left! My own Lancaster patch isn't too far behind in second position, with May seeing a first for patch Little Ringed Plover take up residence at the reservoir. Several competitors in this league are now away from patch for the summer so there will be less movement over the coming months.

With Anthony Bentley leaving his Frampton patch for the time being and thus not registering any new species, Joe Stockwell has extended his lead at the top of the NGB points. Following his mega April he showed no signs of slowing down on his Weymouth patch adding a Purple Heron at Lodmoor (a Dorset tick to boot) and his second self-found Bee-eater of the year! Anthony being out of the running has allowed Jonathan Farooqi to close the gap to second place to just 1 point. A productive May at Druridge included 4 Temminck's Stint, a Spoonbill and a patch lifer in the form of a Black Redstart. A whole host of late summer migrants made up the highlights from the rest of the league, species such as Spotted Flycatcher, Whinchat, Grasshopper Warbler and Little Stint making several appearances.

June has seen some mega species turning up across the country with at least 1 appearing on a patch in this league, so expect some big scores at the end of this month!

Monday, 15 June 2015

Forest Optics Best Find April
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. 

Hudsonian Godwit - thanks to James Packer
April and at last we have a mega found on patch, step forward Tom Raven with a Hudsonian Godwit on his Meare Heath patch. A cracking bird and a worthy addition to the best find of 2015 list, this is the first record since 1988 and a testament to Tom's perseverance after failing to initially clinch it on the Friday night. Will Tom win the binoculars? That's up to you at the end of the year when we hold the vote but its looking like a real contender.

Hudsonian Godwit - thanks to Howard Vaughan
Another superb bird in terms of both rarity and looks was a Snowy Owl found and photographed by Dave Suddaby at Blacksod in Ireland. This is a bit of a patch speciality for Dave, it being neither his first or even his second on patch! He also managed to find a Hoopoe on patch in April so he's on a bit of a roll which is reflected in his standing in the points per bird league this month.

Snowy Owl - thanks to  Dave Suddaby

Only one Rough-legged Buzzard was found in April, so it looks like winter is finally loosing it's grip. Well done Chris Bradshaw at Long Nab with this patch tick and welcome six points. 

Alastair Forsyth gains his third Yankee quacker this year in the shape of an American Wigeon at his Old Nisthouse patch on Orkney. 

American Wigeon - Alistair Forsyth

A further transatlantic duck was John Bowlers' Green-winged Teal at his patch on Tiree. Moving south to Skomer, where  Jason Moss located an off course Wryneck, one of my favourite birds.  Even further south to Weymouth for a Black Kite which Joe Stockwell added to his patch list, always a good bird on anyone's patch.

East Anglia next and couple of scarce birds. Firstly Serin, found by our very own Ryan Irvine on his Hemsby patch. The second bird was Common Crane, two being seen on the coast at Southwold by Craig Fulcher, strangely enough across the other side of the country at Sker Farm in Wales, David Carrington also scored with two unringed Cranes.

There seems to have been a glut of Blue-headed Wagtails in the UK during April, no less than 6 patchworkers reported finding birds. Jason Moss gets his second mention for the bird he found on Skomer, Garry Taylor at Hornsea in Yorkshire was the most northerly, Steve Lyons and Carl Cornish both found birds on their patches in the Midlands, to the east and Holme Dunes NR where Robert Smith scored and last of all the south-west at Gwithian where Paul Freestone also connected. A putative Ashy-headed Wagtail also bagged the extra non-flavissima points for Toby Collett

May is well under way and as usual I am looking for photos of any good birds you find during the month for the round-up, email them to

Last but not least how about a spot the godwit competition?
Hudsonian Godwit - thanks to Nick Robinson