Sunday, 25 October 2015

Coastal North Minileague - September 2015

Change again at the top of the coastal north comparative league with NGB Ash Baines displacing former front-runner Stewart Sexton with the help of 10 species and 18 points gained during September. Both Ash and Stewart broke the coveted 100% barrier this month with the addition of some good birds at Starr Gate-Fairlawn Road and Howick respectively. Seumus Evans falls to third place this month with Chris Bradshaw still firmly rooted in fourth. Further down the table Patchwork's own James Spencer climbs from seventh to fifth though aside from this things remain largely unchanged towards the lower reaches of this extremely competitive minileague.

Some truly monstrous scores throughout the points minileague this month. More than enough to make this particular admin a tad nervous about joining this league next year! Mick Turton remains in first place and looks unstoppable as the years end draws ever nearer, a whopping 67 points ahead of his nearest rival. Martin Garner resides in second place at Flamborough Head followed by Nick Addey in third while elsewhere the line-up remains virtually unchanged from August, though this could all change during October..

A real smorgasbord of avian delights noted during the course of the month with Nick Addey's Fea's Petrel an obvious highlight at Long Nab followed by a Sabine's Gull for good measure. A Red-Footed Falcon on the Northumberland coast brought home the bacon for both Iain Robson and Jonathan Farooqi this month while Mick Turton was lucky enough to unearth a Blyth's Reed Warbler and Pete Marsh nabbed White-Winged Black Tern at Heysham & Middleton. These comprised perhaps the best birds this month though additional autumn scarcities were present in good numbers. Yellow-Browed Warblers occurred on no less than seven patches throughout September with three Barred Warblers also in evidence. Elsewhere other scarcities included Wryneck for Ash Baines as well as Pomarine Skua, Black Tern, Little Stint and plenty of Sooty Shearwaters elsewhere.

Red-Footed Falcon - Jonathan Farooqi

- James C (Patchwork Challenge)

Thursday, 22 October 2015

Wales Minileague - September 2015

Alison is still top at LlanfairTH although Henry Cook's Conwy patch is playing catch up on 113% and just 13% behind. Perhaps a good October can make the difference. His Little Orme patch also makes strides up the table, moving onto 108% thanks to Arctic Skua, Little Tern and best of all a Marsh Tit.

Barry Stewart added 21 points in September to move from third to first. This month he added Goshawk, Little Stint, Whinchat and of course a fine Mandarin. David Carrington managed a little more quality with a flock of Chough and a Cattle Egret on patch at Sker and Kenfig. Laurie Allnatt is still on the podium and has left his post Llanelli so will likely slide out of the top three pretty shortly. No bonus points this month although the first Black Tern since 1966 at Rudry Common was a decent bird for Trevor Fletcher.

Little Stint, Conwy RSPB - Henry Cook

Wednesday, 21 October 2015

Inland North Minileague - September 2015

Steven Ward's rein at the top of the Inland North Comparative minileague was short-lived as Nick Morgan takes over at the top thanks to his second patch record of Osprey. Nick Tonge manages to hold onto the podium despite no submission and Keith Dickinson also failed to make any progress.

Darren Starkey sees his lead at the top cut as he failed to add any points whilst Garry Taylor managed to jump into second after his first update in a couple of months. Andy Bunting manages to hold onto third despite adding just a single point. Best find this month goes to Paul Massey at Grindon Lough as an eclipse drake American Wigeon materialised amongst the moulting ducks. There was a Yellow-browed Warbler for Damian Money at Skelton-in-Cleveland. John Law managed to connect with the Pectoral Sandpiper at Adwick Wetlands. Pete Antrobus added Wood Sandpiper and patch ticked Spotted Fly at Neumann's Flashes. At Wykeham lakes Chris Bradshaw found a Caspian Gull and added Stonechat to his patchlist for a bot of #patchgold.

Wood Sandpiper - Mark Reeder

Welcome to the Team: Sacha Elliott

Being relatively new to Patchwork Challenge (#PWC2015 is my first!) I’m more than pleased to have been considered to join the current admin team.  As I’m joining the PWC team, I should probably quickly introduce myself: I’m Sacha, a general nature and wildlife enthusiast from County Durham. A passion for wildlife rules my life – I work in ecology and spend my spare time bird watching/ringing. While I’m slightly obsessed with most wild creatures, birds are my passion and are often the reason I’m outdoors exploring the local landscape.

I’ve always had a “patch” of some description, whether it was simply where I walked the dogs or where I worked, however, having discovered Burdon Moor and the surrounding area when I moved house, my interest in patch birding has changed. Birding locally on a patch for me has become more than just a pleasant way to spend the day but has evolved into a pastime filled with expectation and eagerness for what will drop in or flyover next. Further, keeping an actual proper list of birds seen on patch is a fairly new venture for me but what an addictive one it’s proving to be!

My current patch is roughly 4km directly west of the Angel of the North. Burdon Moor is one of the highest points in the area, showcasing panoramic views of both the Gateshead and Co. Durham countryside. Originally lowland heathland, this rare habitat was lost to agricultural “improvements” and opencast mining around 100 years ago. In an attempt to restore this location to its once glorious past, Gateshead Council instigated the ‘Bringing Back Burdon Moor Project’ to regenerate heather where it once grew. From birds to dragonflies to lizards, my local patch is a tantalising experience for any keen naturalist and offers truly wonderful wildlife encounters with often very little effort.  If you’re lucky, the distinctive ‘wet-my-lips’ call of a Quail and the ‘squeaky-gate’ call of young Long-eared Owls can be heard during summer, while influxes of Short-eared Owls dazzle and perform over the cold and barren winter months. Being a high point in the area, Burdon Moor is often used as a stopping point for birds, so species such as Wheatear, Whinchat, and Stonechat can be easily picked up before they move on to their breeding grounds. You have to be a bit luckier to catch Cuckoo or Ring Ouzel but put the time in and you’ll be rewarded!

Long-eared Owl, Burdon Moor - Sacha Elliott
For me PWC brings a new element to patch birding and allows like-minded people to share a bit of friendly competition.  I hope by joining the team that I can add my ever increasing enthusiasm for patch birding to the challenge and share ideas that will see it grow as an event and continue for years to come.

Tuesday, 20 October 2015

11 Days in the life of a patcher........

Despite being part of the PWC admin team I am useless when it comes to using Facebook but the last 11 days on patch have been some of the most enjoyable days I’ve had at Hemsby and it had finally given me the kick up the backside I needed to post on Facebook but I soon realised that it is too long for a FB post so here we are: 11 days in the life of a patcher!

It was on the 8th October when it all really started kicking off here, a pre-work walk round the Kings Loke (a small patch of trees, scrub and long grass near my house) was duly rewarded with some notable patch birds and this is what I wrote in my notebook:

“Great morning, finches constantly moving overhead including 4 Crossbills. 2 Yellow-browed Warbler near east entrance to Kings Loke and a Swift overhead. Another YBW and 2 Firecrest with a large tit/crest flock in the middle of the Loke. Also a Ring Ouzel on the hedgerow. Finally, a Black Redstart on the roof of house two doors down from my house and 4 Snow Buntings south over the dunes.”

A great 2 hours birding but no #PWC2015 ticks....

The 9th was very similar with good numbers of finches, larks and pipits moving north during a bit of vismigging. Other notable birds were a Great Spotted Woodpecker moving south over the dunes and a Tree Pipit heading south too. The Kings Loke was quite quiet but a Treecreeper was a #PWC2015 tick and only my second ever on patch and 2 Cranes overhead was only the second time I’ve seen them on patch.

The 10th started with me searching the Kings Loke as usual but there seemed to be a bit of a clear out and the only new bird I noted was a Lesser Whitethroat so I headed off to seawatch. The seawatch was full of birds but nothing rare, 500+ distant auks was a good count and Sooty Shearwater was the highlight. A search round the southern edge of my patch in the afternoon added two #PWC2015 ticks, 2 Egyptian Geese flying overhead and a Green Woodpecker taking a liking to fence posts.

Sunday the 11th started with a 3 hour seawatch and it soon became clear there was a lot of bird moving out to sea with hundreds of Brent Geese, Red-thoated Divers, Gannets and auks all going south. A Hobby flew south over the surf shortly followed by 6 Snow Bunting over the beach and then a Short-eared Owl came in off the sea.  I then received a text that a Balearic Shearwater was heading my way and after about a half hour wait I was watching it fly south, full fat patch tick #201! A few Sooties followed south not long after and another 3 SEOs all came in off the sea, including one carrying food! A female Velvet Scoter finished off the seawatch with another #PWC2015 tick. I then headed for the Kings Loke hoping that some migrants had been pushed in with the NE winds. It soon became clear that a lot had dropped in. Finches, crests and thrushes were everywhere and a Ring Ouzel, Whinchat and Firecrest were the highlights at the Loke.  In the afternoon I headed to the south end of the patch, flushed my 5th SEO of the day out of some long grass! Thrushes started to drop in during the afternoon with 77 Song Thrush, 46 Redwings and 14 Fieldfares in one hedgerow. Brambling numbers also increased today.  Day estimates for the patch were 200+ Goldcrests, 175+ Song Thrush and 30+ Brambling.

The 12th and 13th saw me seawatching before work, a few interesting birds including 5 Sooties on the 13th but otherwise quiet. After work on the 13th I had a quick check of the Loke and flushed a Jack Snipe off the path! Pure patch gold and only my second on the patch.

The 14th started with another seawatch and although numbers of the common seabirds had dropped off a lone juvenile Pomarine Skua drifting south gave me another #PWC2015 tick. Added to this were a few Sooties, Arctic Skuas, Bonxies, a Manx Shearwater and another SEO in off the sea. I left work early to get an hour or so birding in and was soon rewarded with a Great Grey Shrike sitting on top of a hedgerow near the Kings Loke, a patch tick (#202) and finally some bonus points. The same hedgerow held hundreds of thrushes including 2 Ring Ouzels. It was a very impressive fall with birds still arriving as the light failed with many thrushes and Bramblings sitting on the road exhausted!

Waking up on the 15th and a quick look round the patch produced lots of common migrants, crests, finches and everywhere, another SEO in off and two pieces of #patchgold, a Rock Pipit (#PWC2015 tick) and Mistle Thrush (only my 2nd of the year).

It was at this point I was going to write about the great birding autumn brings even if the rarities don’t come, 9 ticks 19 points and a great weeks birding. However, this was just the beginning.....

The 16th Dawned wet and miserable, a quick seawatch produced very little so I headed off to the Kings Loke. It was soon evident that there lots of birds about, thrushes flying out the hedgerows and trees, crests busily feeding and finches overhead, a Woodcock flushed from under my feet but the rain made it hard to find much else. While sheltering under a tree the warblers started to show, a few Chiffchaffs, a Blackcap and then in amongst a flock of 20+ crests a Pallas’s Warbler flitted past, feeding in the tree in front of me for about a minute and then gone, moving through the trees with the flock. Amazing, the third one in four autumns on the patch!

Saturday the 17th was relatively quiet, bird numbers were down on the previous days but still a good mix of common migrants, the only new species of note was a Redstart. A glimpse of a interesting bird in the undergrowth in the late evening got me wondering..........

The 18th October 2015 will probably go down as the best day ever on my Hemsby patch. I was joined by a friend and we headed straight for the Kings Loke, plenty of birds about in the gloom, a Ring Ouzel chacking away, Redwings, Fieldfares and finches passing overhead regularly and a Grey Wagtail heading north. A Green Woodpecker started calling followed soon by a Great Spotted Woodpecker, an unusual duet for the patch! And then the heart-stopping moment! As a flock of tits passed us a small bird flitted amongst the undergrowth, bright orange flanks standing out instantly. It started flitting closer to us giving us great views for about 30-40 seconds before darting off to the right. A 1st winter RED-FLANKED BLUETAIL!! Although a lot more common nowadays still a dream find for us. We tried to relocate it but with no success, although we did rustle up another Treecreeper. We decided to have a break and put news out so climbed out of the undergrowth to the grassy edge of the Loke when we flushed a pipit. It called a bit like a Tripit but not exactly. It had us intrigued. We played a game of hide and seek with it over the next hour or so and then it finally landed in view and it looked good, photos were taken and we were soon realising we were looking at an OLIVE-BACKED PIPIT just 50 yards from the bluetail!! Wow! We hadn’t seen the back properly so slowly waited for it to reappear and after another hour or so we had documented the bird well enough to make the call. It felt strange writing a tweet that contained both RFB and OBP for Hemsby!

Afterwards I decided to have a well deserved rest but no sooner had I sat down when a friend rang to say a Great Grey Shrike was on the dunes no more than 750m from my house. So the best day on my patch end with me watching a GGS eating a Goldcrest all on my own! This is why I do patch birding.

11 days, 114 species, 4 patch ticks, 12 #PWC2015 ticks, 52 points, 1 patch!


You may or may not have seen us mention on Twitter and Facebook that on the weekend of Saturday 7th / Sunday 8th November some #PWC2015 activities will be taking place. Well let us explain this in more detail now! It has a double edged sword to it, a last hurrah for the autumn and a push to keep everyone enthused in PWC with the winter coming up and the new year fast approaching (yes, #PWC2016 isn’t far off!).

Some late autumn bonus points could still be waiting on your patch.....

So what does it involve? Visit your patch and do some birding and keep a list for the day, tweet about it as much as possible with the hashtags #PWC2015 and #patchday and encourage others to join in that haven’t taken part in PWC before, the more the merrier!

And just in case you need some enticement we have a wee competition for the day and a prize to be won. We mentioned earlier to keep a list for your patch on the day as the person with the highest percentage of species seen out of their overall #PWC2015 list on that day (e.g. if I was to see 65 species that day, that would be 39% of the 166 species that I have seen so far in PWC2015) will win this nice prize:

You can spend as long or little as you want on the patch for the day just make sure you Tweet about it, post about it on our PWC Facebook group page (or even send us some content for the blog), spread the PWC word, see lots of species and enjoy yourselves.......

Monday, 19 October 2015

Midlands Minileague - September 2015

Tom Shields again finds himself at the top of the Midlands comparative league this month while Andy Sims jumps from fourth to second and Steve Lyon slides down to third. Both Andy and Steve surpassed the coveted 100% marker this month, aided by some nice scarcities at Boultham Mere and Marston respectively and testament to their hard work and dedication. Further down the table Andy Mackay loses ground and drops into fourth and John Hopper remains firmly rooted in fifth place with Andy certainly within touching distance of the 100% barrier. Sam Pitt Miller gains some ground in September, advancing from twelfth to ninth while Mark Gash leaps ahead of NGB's Matthew Bruce and Espen Quinto-Ashman, both of whom have been off patch for some time due to commitments elsewhere. There is still all to play for in the comparative league during October with only a few points separating the highest ranked competitors. It will be interesting to see how things develop in the weeks to come.

To the points table now and August's top three remain unchallenged with Ian Cowgill still ruling the roost, 16 points ahead of John Hopper who in his own words, had a rather disappointing month at Hoveringham. Andy Mackay remains comfortable in third place for another month adding Black Tern and Knot at Eyebrook Reservoir. Elsewhere Rhys Dandy displaces Nick Crouch to gain fourth place while further down the table a series of other small gains were made by various other participants.

When it comes to the best finds, Redstarts were definitely flavor of the month with a Black Redstart for Steve Lyon and Common's for both Andy Sims and Tom Shields at Holme Pierrepoint. Instances of "patch gold" abounded throughout September with three patch firsts to be had over the course of the month. Among these a juvenile Osprey for Matthew Dick at Darley Dale and both Redshank and Raven notched by Steven Lewis and Phil Hyde in turn. Great White Egret was an additional good find on behalf of Andy Sims, as was a Bittern for Mark Gash at Willington GP though these comprised arguably the most grandiose finds over what was, for the large part, a rather quiet month in the Midlands. Garganey for both Rhys Dandy and Dave Roberts do warrant a mention however, as does the Little Stint nabbed by Rhys Chivers at Soar Valley Pits.

- James C (Patchwork Challenge)

Inland South Minileagues - September 2015

At the end of August, a total of three PWC contestants in the Inland South Minileague had reached or surpassed their 100% comp score targets. By the end of September we see this total rise to six.

Tom Raven stays in first place at Shapwick Heath/Ham Wall, with five new species including Glossy Ibis and a self-found Cattle Egret boosting him from 112% to 121.65%. With an impressive list of waterbirds, this site is starting to look more and more like the Camargue!

The addition of 13 new species in September for Josie Hewitt sees her Blackbushe Airfield patch leap from seventh to second place with a comp score of 110%. Pied Flycatcher, Spotted Flycatcher, Redstart and Wheatear were all welcome migrants for Josie, the sole representative of NGB in the Inland South minileague. Currently on 93 species and 102 points, will she make it to 100 species by the end of the year?

Tom Stevenson does well to hold on to third place at Ewelme Watercress Beds where a #fullfatpatchtick Spotted Flycatcher was among four new species added in September, bringing him to 107.5%. Neil Burt closes the gap and edges in at fourth place, just behind Tom. Neil had a great month at Conningbrook Lakes where a Pectoral Sandpiper was a top find indeed.

Both Roger Hicks and Tim Farr are on the brink of reaching 100% at their Henlow Grange and Sutton Bingham Reservoir patches. Merlin and Otter were highlights for Roger while Tim connected with a superb Honey Buzzard and Yellow Wagtail.

Cattle Egret at Ham Wall © Tom Raven

No less than fifteen contestants on the Inland South Points Minileague table have species lists of over 100 and a total of sixteen people are above 100 points. The top six show similar species lists, in the high 120's. Tom Raven's bounty of self-found bonus point scorers through the year has ensured he's well ahead in first place on 191 points. It would be great to see him break the 200 point barrier before the end of the year.

Both Lee Evans and Nigel Milbourne have moved up the table and are just a point away from each other with Lee holding second place at Tring Reservoirs and Nigel in third at Blagdon Lake. 

Ospreys, Black-tailed Godwits, Ruff, Whinchats, Lesser Redpolls and Siskin proved popular for Inland South patch birders in September. Blackwit was a #fullfatpatchtick for Gareth Blockley at Grimsbury Reservoir

The sterling BirdTrack effort made by contestants in this league continues with Roger Hicks at Henlow Grange leading the way on nearly 8000 records and over 300 lists.

Coastal South Minileagues - September 2015

Having not been on patch for two months, Paul Freestone racked up nine year ticks in the space of two days at Gwithian during September. Whinchat was among the list of species which helped Paul break the 100 species barrier and reach a comp score of 118%, placing him firmly in first place on the Coastal South Comparative Minileague table. 

Andy Rhodes and Amy Robjohns are now neck and neck in terms of species seen at their respective patches (Calshot and Titchfield Haven) and while Amy has scored more points overall, it is Andy's comp score of 114% which puts him ahead in second. Andy added no score for Sept while Amy reported highlights in the form of Razorbill, Roseate Tern and Cattle Egret. 

Roseate Tern with Common Terns at Titchfield Haven © Amy Robjohns

Not to be overlooked are those climbing the ranks further down the table. The battle to occupy podium positions in the Coastal South Comparative Minileague looks set to be an interesting one as we enter the final quarter of PWC2015.

No update from Joe Stockwell yet he holds on to first place on the points table in September at Ferrybridge to Weymouth but only by a matter of one point! His neighbouring patch contestant, Sean Foote, is threatening Joe's title after reaching 161 species and 240 points at North Portland where Grey Phalarope and Lapland Bunting awaited him in September. 

Kev Rylands also gains some traction, scoring 20 points from seven species at Dawlish Warren which include the returning Bonaparte's Gull, Pectoral Sandpiper, Grey Phalarope, Mistle Thrush (good patch bird) and finds of Barred Warbler and Wryneck.

While Kev still works hard to occupy third place, Paul Bowerman is doing well climbing up from fifth to fourth and passing the 200 points mark with Leach's Storm-petrels and Black Terns for him at Severn Beach.

Dick Best is also quietly making headway at Steart, Somerset. Great things to come from that patch in future no doubt. Another notable rare for a Coastal South contestant during September was a fine Rose-coloured Starling seen by Mark Lawlor on Guernsey. 

Sunday, 18 October 2015

Islands Minileagues - September 2015

No change for Bryan Rains who remains in first place on the Islands Comparative Minileague table at Mull with 107%. Bolstering his second place score is Alastair Forsyth at Palace, Birsay where five Sooty Shearwaters (but still no Manx!) helped increase his post-milestone score to 104%.

Gains are being made elsewhere on the table with those in third, fourth and fifth place now well in striking distance of their 100% target. 

After his mega patch Magpie back in August, IanT added somewhat more expected but welcome species such as Pied Flycatcher and Turtle Dove to his Askernish list in September plus a #patchgold Whinchat, taking him to third place. David Wood has been knocked down from third to fourth on the Oa (a Pied Fly for him) while Stuart Taylor rises to fifth at Balivanich with a Grey Phalarope and his first ever Kestrel for the patch.

Paul Higson increases his comp score from 76% to 91.9% at Quoyangry where two Pectoral Sandpipers together no doubt made for a classic September patch birding moment.

In the points minileague, John Bowler continues his reign in first place with 8 new species (27 points) and 3 self-found scarcities at Balephuil, Tiree which included Barred Warbler, 5 Yellow-browed Warblers, Buff-breasted Sandpiper and Balearic Shearwater. A fine Baird's Sandpiper remained just off-patch for John. While 282 points is an enviable score, he still has some way to go before his comp score of 343 is reached. 

Jason Moss lands in with an update from Skomer, seeing him take second place and move past 200 points with the following list of mouthwatering patch birds: 2 Wood Sandpipers and Firecrest in August and a busy September which boasted a self-found Spotted Crake, Goshawk, 3 Yellow-browed Warblers, Long-tailed Skua and 2 Balearic Shearwaters as well as a sweep of Blue, Great and Coal Tits (island megas).

Barrie Hamill moves down to third place at Burray but joins the Yellow-browed Warbler fanclub with one there during September. How many island patches will host this fantastic Sibe by the end of the autumn? Most of them with any luck!

Island contestants are now poised for what can be the most exciting month of the year. Between viz-mig and the chance of a mega, we look forward to seeing what the October installment of the islands minileague blog posts has in store.

Barred Warbler, Long-eared Owl and Yellow-browed Warbler at Balephuil, Tiree © John Bowler

Saturday, 17 October 2015

Estuarine Minileagues - September 2015

Ed Keeble continued his reign at the top of the Estuarine Minileague throughout September, adding a further two species and creeping ever closer to the coveted 100% milestone while Shaun Robson lurks closely behind, remaining firmly rooted in second place at his Lytchett Bay patch. Toby Collett made a rather impressive leap up the rankings this month, advancing from sixth to third and defining the term "patch gold" by unearthing a superb Wilson's Pharalope at RSPB Frampton Marsh. With less than a 4% difference between fourth and sixth positions a good showing in October will be sure to shake up the rankings once again and only time will tell if Toby can hold onto his place in the comparative triumvirate. Further down Martin Elcoate overtakes Joost Brandsma for seventh place, adding 11 species and 18 points since his last submission with highlights of Curlew Sandpiper, Black Tern and Spoonbill. 

To the points minileague now and Paul Sullivan continues his stint at the top with an impressive 175 species and 255 points at Lincs Wash Reserves. Likewise both John Badley and Dave Craven are non-movers in second and third place respectively, Dave nabbing Common Crane among a host of other winged goodies. Toby Collett's recent gains mean that he edges out Anthony Bentley for fifth place while looking down the table things remain largely the same for the vast number of contestants. Ian Ballam continues to show us how it is done when it comes to his impressive use of Birdtrack, wracking up a monstrous 11,839 records and 326 complete lists, all of which will contribute to the knowledge base regarding the bird-life of his Lytchett Bay patch. Well done Ian! 

Toby's Pharalope was by far the most exciting find during September, the other birds on offer paling in comparison to this delightful American vagrant, at least in the rarity stakes. The additional offerings this month were however more than enough to bring a smile to faces of the various birders represented in this league. Ian Ballam was delighted to land both Little Tern and Lesser Spotted Woodpecker on patch, the former the first since 2008 and the latter the first in a decade. Likewise, Howard Vaughan had a great run at Rainham this month, mopping up a few overdue ticks in the form of Firecrest, Osprey and Pied Flycatcher. He did however miss both Guillemot and Razorbill on patch with both auks observed further up river having crept past undetected. In addition these, other highlights this month include more  3 Common Cranes, this time for Toby Collett and a Great White Egret for points league front-runner Paul Sullivan. What will October bring I wonder? 

Common Cranes (Frampton Marsh) - John Badley

 - James C (Patchwork Challenge)

Coastal Scotland Minileagues - September 2015

Stephen Welch is the first to reach the 100% milestone in the Coastal Scotland Comparative Minileague after a fine September at Gosford Bay where a male Surf Scoter, Black-throated Diver and his second patch Merlin in 11 years brought him to 134 species and 161 points.

Mark Lewis finally got around to submitting his scores! With a comp score of 93.6%, he is catapulted all the way from last place to second, a feat greatly assisted by some excellent patch finds at Girdle ness (detailed below).

Also at Girdle ness (and Torry), Andrew Whitehouse added 8 new species and 8% to his comp score, helping him keep his hold on fourth place. Bullfinch was a good patch find for him there.

An epic September of patch birding at Girdle ness for Mark Lewis started with a cracking Red-footed Falcon (which showed extremely well) and was quickly followed up a couple of days later by his long awaited 200th patch tick in the form of a Sabine's Gull. It's product flurries like that which patch birders savour most. Mark also connected with all round good patch birds like Pochard, Grey Plover and Yellow Wagtail.

The result of all this? Mark now sits firmly on top of the points minileague table with a very respectable 147 species, 207 points and 1.4 PBB.

Jonathan Clarke had a good month at Whiteness Head where Great Skua, Great Northern Diver, 7 Grey Plover and a Jay were all top patch birds for him. The Grey Plover count was his highest to date and the Jay a recent colonist to the area.

Over half of the contestants on the table are now clear of 150 points. With October ahead of them, we're likely to see several gains for contestants in the Coastal Scotland minileague.

Red-footed Falcon © Mark Lewis

Inland Scotland Minileagues - September 2015

Chris Pendlebury tops the table again this month with 110% at Stirling yet it is small additions which make important changes to the rankings elsewhere in the Inland Scotland Comparative Minileague.

Andy Cage added four species 
to his Kilmany patch: Kingfisher and Lesser Redpoll plus migrating Golden Plover and Pink-footed Geese. This puts him bang on 100 points, 100% comp score and straight into second place. Alastair Forsyth is knocked back into third place at Old Nisthouse but by less than 1%! Redstart was a #fullfatpatchtick for Alastair. 

In the points league we see no change in the rankings except Chris Pendlebury's Kinneil patch which moves from ninth to seventh with a Wood Sandpiper a great bird for him there.

Five patches now boast over 90 species and 100 points. Alastair Forsyth is still leading the charge in terms of BirdTrack submissions, with over 6,200 records and 220 lists added to date. Top marks for effort there!

Thursday, 15 October 2015

NGB Minileagues - September 2015

As ever during early autumn migrants both rare and regular adorned the patches of various NGB members throughout September. From awe-inspiring continental raptors to gripping garden rarities, September produced some top birds throughout this extremely competitive league though yet again there was little change in the results tables, with a few notable exceptions. 

Looking first at the comparative league and things remain largely the same excluding Josie Hewitt's monumental leap from 4th to 1st, edging Amy Robjohns out of the top spot and pushing former front runner James Common further down the rankings. Josie's rise to the top was aided and abetted by a host of familiar migrants including a long overdue Wheatear as well as Redstart and both Spotted and Pied Flycatchers. The latter of which notched while ringing. Whether or not Josie will keep the top spot is open to speculation with the following three competitors well within striking distance should their luck pick up during October. Further down the table Ash Baines jumps a place from 5th to 4th at his Starr Gate-Fairlawn Road patch and former front runner Jonathan Scragg falls to fifth place.

Pied Flycatcher - Josie Hewitt

In the NGB points mini league the top ten remains exactly as it was in August with the exception of Drew Lyness and James Common changing places at ninth and tenth. Joe Stockwell appears unstoppable at the top of the table with Jonathan Farooqi and Anthony Bentley firmly lodged in second and third place respectively. Lower down the table things are less clear cut and a few good finds could shake up the rankings somewhat over the coming month. 

Moving on to the finds and highlights this month and the prestigious title of "NGB bird of the month" almost certainly goes to the superb Red-Footed Falcon unearthed by Jonathan Farooqi on his coastal north patch (a photo of which can be seen below). Jonathan also managed a Yellow-Browed Warbler while Ash Baines noted a Wryneck in addition to two separate Barred Warblers, also notching some real patch gold in the form of two Kingfishers, a real rarity on site. Other notable cases of patch gold throughout September include both Black Tern and Little Stint for Rhys Chivers and a patch first Reed Warbler for James Common at Stobswood. The first in almost a decade no less. In addition to his earlier triumphs Ash Baines also nabbed Black-Necked Grebe on patch and David Gomer was lucky enough to turn up a Lesser Spotted Woodpecker in his East Anglian garden, a sight that would turn many birders (particularly us northerners) green at the gills with envy. Well done David!

Red-Footed Falcon - Jonathan Farooqi

- James C (Patchwork Challenge)

Wednesday, 14 October 2015

Ireland Minileagues - September 2015

It seems that nobody wants to budge from their top five ranking positions in the Ireland Comparative Minileague! Eamonn O'Donnell adds another 2% to his first place comp score with Siskin and Lesser Redpoll at Ninch/Laytown during an excellent viz-mig September for those species. Additions of Kingfisher and Stock Dove at Broad Lough for Alan Lauder sees him hang on the edge of 100% for his patch there in fourth place.

While Niall Keogh failed to add any new species to his second place South Dublin Parks patch in September, some good local sightings there included an impressive flock of 72 Mediterranean Gulls, a juvenile Tufted Duck and 5 Ravens at Kilbogget Park.

The main mover on the table is Tim Murphy, who now occupies sixth place at St. John's Point where an adult American Golden Plover was the minileague top find of the month at Killough Harbour.

Neal Warnock got stuck in at Rathlin Island, adding seven new species with highlights including Sooty Shearwater, Great Skua and a flock of 72 Knot (beating his previous island record count of 1 bird!).

The majority of contestants in the Ireland comp league are over 80% so with October yet to go we could some major changes before the years end.

September saw Dave Suddaby break through the 200 point barrier and past 1.6 PPB at his Blacksod patch with a bounty of migrants in or around his garden including Wryneck, Yellow-browed Warbler, Pied Flycatcher and Coal Tit! While sitting firmly in first place on the Ireland Points Minileague table, Dave has some way yet to go before equaling his comp score.

Niall Keogh holds on to the largest species list title in the league but aided only by one new species (Arctic Skua) during a slow month at Kilcoole. Tim's AGP at Killough boosts him up to fourth place. 

Highlights for other contestants included two juvenile Curlew Sandpipers for Noel Keogh in South Dublin Bay, Merlin and Bullfinch for Cathal Forkan at North Galway Bay, a migrant Sedge Warbler for Eleanor Keane at The 40 foot near Dun Laoghaire, a well earned fall of three Grasshopper Warblers at Rinville for Graham Johnston and three Garganey at Lough Beg for Tim Murphy. 

A trio of typical Blacksod garden birds! © Dave Suddaby

Tuesday, 13 October 2015

Inland East Anglia Minileagues - September 2015

Ben Moyes continues to advance his score and in doing so grows his lead to 5% over Nick Robinson thanks a brace of two pointers with Tree Pipit and Yellow-legged Gull doing the business this month. Nick's score has also increased a little after adding Yellow Wagtail on his UEA patch. Mike McCarthy failed to make any additions but keeps the third rung on the podium as Ben Rackstraw made just the smallest of gains. A very decent month for Alison Allen sees her surge to 96% - up 10% from August with pride of place taken by a Ring-necked Parakeet.

Whinchat, Thetford - Nick Moran

Jamie Wells lands the knockout blow in the trade off with Ben Lewis as he gains 12 points whilst his opponent failed to make any headway while Ashley McElwee also stuttered. Jamie's score was bolstered by an inland Yellow-browed Warbler (the first of many to feature this autumn I suggest) which whilst not a find was a handy three points and a superb bird inland.

Nick Moran managed to add Whinchat at Thetford to keep hold of fourth and his second Osprey of both the year and ever on his patch will have been warmly received despite the lack of points. Finally David Gomer managed a much envied patch and garden tick with a Lesser Spotted Woodpecker at Terling.