Saturday, 31 December 2016

Inland South Minileague - November 2016

Stephanie Brown is having an excellent year on her Twyford patch and is topping the listings at 120%. Thrushes were her highlight of the month, but no additions of note means that Tim Farr and Richard Scantlebury are putting on the pressure to take the comparative league title. Tim Farr added Goldeneye this month, just his second patch record whilst Richard Scantlebury added Merlin. A good December could mean all change in the top three.

It is not just the comparative league which is tight at the top! Inland South is providing a real race to the line this year, and leader at the end of November is Nigel Milbourne at Blagdon Lake. He has assumed top spot by bagging bonus points for a Ring-Necked Duck as well as adding points for a brace of Long-Tailed Duck, both excellent patch birds. The lead is very slender, just a single point to Tom Raven in second but a certain Pipit in December should put this race beyond doubt! Tom's update this month includes October and his participation in the Yellow-Browed invasion with two birds found on patch. Top three is made up by Brendan Sheils, although he will have to turn up something special to close the gap to top spot.

Other highlights this month pointed to the onset of winter. Goosander and Goldeneye were added at patches as were Jack Snipe and Merlin. A dark-bellied Brent Goose was an excellent find at Little Marlow by Adam Bassett, but no points as it was his second of the year despite being just the third ever for patch. Perhaps a somewhat less attractive member of the family, an Egyptian Goose added a point for James McCulloch and helped him to bring up the ton of species this month.

Dark-Bellied Brent Goose was a third record for Adam Bassett, but the second this year. (c/o Adam Bassett)
Martin Wood had a trio of Great White Egrets at Longham Lakes, GWE becoming such a regular feature of updates now across the country. A ringtail Hen Harrier hunting for two days at Neil Burt's Conningbrook Lakes patch was definitely a highlight and something many patchers would love to see. A Black Redstart was also a fine record for Tim Farr at his West Sherborne patch where every new two pointer will make for a challenging comparative score for 2017!

Egrets just never get dull for me - 3 Great White Egrets lit up November at Longham Lakes (c/o Martin Wood)

Finally, a dose of the distant summer, a late Sand Martin was perhaps the most surprising record of all in November for James McCulloch.

Under 25's - November 2016

Some fine efforts this year in the comparative league, Amy Robjohns continues at the top adding Black Redstart in the month. At 142% she looks unbeatable, that's going to make a mighty challenging target next year! In any other year, Ash Baines on 131% would be looking at top spot, it is a really impressive effort this year. A Desert Wheatear was a superb addition to his patch list plus Scaup and Twite amongst his other highlights. Three other patchers have joined then in the 100 club. Just a few more point would see Tim Jones beat his comparative which would be a superb effort given the challenging total he has to hit.

Not so surprising is Tim Jones in top spot and a clear 136 points above his nearest rival. It has been an amazing autumn at Spurn and he has topped 400 points despite not adding any new birds in November. So it is all about the south coast battle for second and Joe continues to have the edge. A 9 point gap is not insurmountable but it would take something notable to change the podium places now.

There were a few late autumn / early winter rares in the under 25 league this month. The Galway Bay Forster's Tern was a star bird for Cathal Forkan whilst a bit of viz-migging at Birkenhead Docks really paid off with a flyover Richard's Pipit for Elliot Montieth, unexpected and very useful bonus points. Will Scott and Hunmanby was not letting Elliot get away from him though in the table, with bonus points of his own in the form of a Sabine's Gull plus Pomarine Skua and Snow Bunting kept his impressive total ticking along.

Forster's Tern at Galway Bay (c/o Cathal Forkan)

Rhys Chivers was the latest to add Glossy Ibis to his patch list whilst Great-Northern Diver was a fine addition to Jacob Spinks's total at his inland Pitsford Reservoir patch. Luke Nash in North Norfolk reaped the benefits of November seawatching with Black-Throated Diver, Little Auk and Glaucous Gull all fine additions. He also added a Waxwing - a few of these were found along the east coast in November but I suspect many more patchers will have them in the highlights in December.

Patch birding is all about what is exciting on your patch, so a Marsh Harrier at Winsford Flash was a patch first for Findlay Wilde whilst for Joe Proudfoot two Tree Sparrow's were a complete shock at Booterstown plus a Jack Snipe was one of his birds of the year. Final notable records for November were a Raven at Old Bolingbroke and a very late Sand Martin at Hedgecourt NR.

Friday, 30 December 2016

Coastal South Minileague - November 2016

Joe Stockwell extends his lead in his long running battle with Amy 'Record shot' Robjohns at the top despite Amy adding Black Redstart in November. Paul Bowerman continues to hold on to 3rd thanks to a Bewick's Swan and Woodcok in November but its getting close behind him with Andy Johnson and Ilya Maclean are only 3 points behind. Joe Cockram had a good month finding a Red-throated Pipit, probably the last one to be a 3 pointer in PWC as it moves up to 4 in PWC2017. Chris Townend had a good October (late with the scores ;-)) finding Serin and YBW. On the other side of things Paul Freestone had a bad month, no new birds and missing both Spoonbill and Whooper Swan!

Amy looks to have wrapped up the comparartive league thanks to her obsessive (her words!) birding at Titchfield Haven this year. 141% is an incredible score!! Likewise Paul Freestone looks to have 2nd place in the bag despite all the dipping in November. The podium position up for grabs is third, currently held by Mark Lawlor but Dick Best and Paul Bowerman aren't far away. Everyone else looks to be struggling to reach teh 100% mark this year, not through want of trying and Andy Johnsons 3 GW Egrets in November give him a small chance if December treats him well. Kev Rylands may be languishing down the table this year but he had a good November including an excellent piece of #patchgold and full fat patch tick, Barn Owl.

Thursday, 29 December 2016

Estuarine Minileague - November 2016

The Estuarine Minileague is a powerhouse of patch birding enthusiasm and effort with no less than ten contestants on the comparative table having reached and well surpassed their 100% target by the end of November. Lots of tough acts to follow!

Paul Freestone had a productive month at Hayle Estuary with Green-winged Teal and Cattle Egret (although he missed Pintail!) and this brings his comp score up to an impressive 125.6%, enough to overtake Ian Ballam at Lytchett Bay and claim first place! A good find or a few additions during December could see Ian get back in the lead so it's by no means over here!

Much of the rest of the comp table stays the same save for Toby Collett at RSPB Frampton Marsh who nips ahead of Dave Craven at Hale & Pickerings Pasture by a fraction of a percent and into sixth place thanks to Bittern and White-fronted Goose.

The Lesser Yellowlegs continued its stay at Lytchett Bay throughout the month (c) Ian Ballam

A high scoring points table here in the Estuarine Minileague with a quarter of contestants over 200 points and Paul Sullivan still in first place with 272 points at Frampton/Freiston.

And now a few of the highlights during the month...

Graham Jones found the first site record of Cattle Egret at Hesketh Out Marsh. A viz-mig Richard's Pipit brought a very welcome bonus to Elliott Montieth's points tally at Birkenhead Docks. A flock of 23 Barnacle Geese dropped into Lytchett Bay where they were gratefully received by Shaun Robson. A good start to the month for Howard Vaughan at RSPB Rainham Marshes involved a Great Skua flying along the River Thames on the 1st and then a Black Redstart on the 3rd but little else after that.

Estuarine Minileague sites often boast some impressive gatherings of rare and scarce waterbirds, including this flock of eight Spoonbills at Lytchett Bay (c) Ian Ballam

Wednesday, 28 December 2016

Coastal North Minileague - November 2016

No doubt about the bird of the month in Coastal North league. Eastern Black Redstarts have been one of the features of this spectacular autumn and have already made appearances along the coast. This time it was Alan Crossley's turn, bagging all of the find points for his bird in Hartlepool.

Bird of the month: Eastern Black Redstart, Hartlepool (c/o Alan Crossley)
In the comparative league Ash Baines is holding the flag for the west coast, with a spectacular 131%. Damian Money has had an immense autumn, but 10% adrift, it looks like quite a gap to close and would take quite some Christmas present to do it! The man formerly known as Mr PWC, James Spencer, has continued a good run at Barmston with late autumn/winter specialities like Glaucous Gull,  Little Auk, Great Northern and Black-throated Diver...a podium spot looks to be sealed! Six patches are now over the 100% marker and there is still time for those in the nineties.

In the points league, the Spurn/Easington trio are now dominating the top spots. Only Paul French added in November though, putting pressure on those top spots. Highlights and low light for Paul was a Pallid Harrier - superb bird but appalling views made all the more galling by the fact that it flew over his house when away with work. Still a good month in all with eight species added including Cattle Egret and bonus points for Long-tailed Skua.

Away from Spurn, Nick Addey further north at Long Nab had second Short-toed Lark of the year, but this time with the added sweetener of bonus points. He also added Black Guillemot which is not an easy bird on the east coast. This year looks like it will be a Waxwing year, so a garden tick for Andy Hood at Flamborough was a welcome addition to his patch list. Shorelarks are harder to come by these days it seems, so sightings at Whitburn South and Crook Bank of this beautiful bird were certainly amongst the months highlights for John Chapman and Nige Lound. Less spectacular but a bonus pointer none-the-less, a Richard's Pipit a dose of extra points for Jonathan Farooqi at Hadston Cars. A Black-necked Grebe at Whitburn was an unexpected patch tick for Mark Harper.

But as you might expect in November, seawatching was the name of the game and in addition to those mentioned above - others noted Glaucous Gulls, Little Auk, late skuas and divers and perhaps best of all a redhead Smew at Newbiggin-By-The-Sea for Gary Storey. A Sabine's Gull for Will Scott at Hunmanby Gap game him extra points in the month - who will win in the Hunmanby/Barmston battle!

Islands Minileague - November 2016

After a hectic October, relative calm returned to the Islands Minileague during November, but not without a few good birds being seen here and there.

Despite not adding anything new, Steve Minton still leads the charge in first place on the comparative table with 140% at Scatness. His title looks secure between now and the end of the year.

Steve Stansfield left Bardsey on the 8th November and with that comes to an end his amazing year of #PWC2016 there where he finsihed on 186 species, 368 points and 119.48%!!! Top stuff. We look forward to updates from this magic spot again during #PWC2017.

David Wood and Mark Newell both increased their comp scores sufficiently to cause a stir in the top five rankings. Red Kite and Long-tailed Duck were new for David at RSPB The Oa, taking him from sixth to third place on 116% there, while a serious Isle of May #patchgold double whammy of Coal Tit and Long-tailed Tit took Mark from ninth to fourth on 113%.

One of the top finds during November on the Islands Minileague... a Little Bunting on Barra (c) Bruce Taylor

In the points minileague, Steve's hefty score on Bardsey might just do well enough to keep him in the lead there until the years end, that is unless John Bowler can pull something out of the bag during December. John's second place score from Tiree is now up to 341 points thanks to Pomarine Skua, Jackdaw and bonus points from a Ring-necked Duck find. White-tailed Eagle and Green-winged Teal also showed up at Balephuil but were not new for the year. 

Species which get several mentions as new additions for the month across many island patches included Iceland Gull, Waxwing, Common Scoter, Woodcock and Water Rail. Additional White-tailed Eagles were seen at Askernish by Yvonne B and Barra by Bruce Taylor (who also connected with Siberian Chiffchaff plus the Little Bunting pictured above).

Glaucous Gull and Little Auk brought a wintry feel to Alastair Forsyth's patch at Palace, Birsay but it was a Grey Plover which was the most welcome addition there. Not the easiest species to see around those parts. 

The unmistakable looming shape of a perched White-tailed Eagle (c) John Bowler

Monday, 26 December 2016

Inland Scotland Minileague - November 2016

Inland Scotland must be one of the most competitive comparative leagues with just over 7% separating the entire league. A good December could see anyone claim the top spot.

Onto the highlights for November, David Douglas may be languishing in 7th spot but he added 12% (20 points) with the highlight a Common Scoter at Loch Leven. Graeme Garner (Crambus) and Chris Pendlebury joined the Waxwing fun at Dunblane and Chris also added Raven and Goosander at Kinneil.

David Douglas's 20 points see's him leap frog Alastair Forsyth at the top and gain a commanding 13 point lead this late in the year. Alastair was another lucky patcher to see Waxwing (and another Siberian Chiffchaff) while Graeme Garner managed a cracking duo for an inland patch, Scaup and Mediterranean Gull. Mike Hodgkin also added Waxwing this month as well as White-fronted Goose. The wintery feel was rounded off with a Lesser Redpoll at Kilmany for Andy Cage. 

Like the comparative league a good December could see a bit of a shuffle...

White-fronted Goose always a target late in the year for patchers

Coastal Scotland Minileague - November 2016

A familiar look at the top of the comparative league as the top 5 remains the same with little added over November. Waxwings were the bird of the month, recorded in at least 5 of the patches including the table toppers Chris Rodgers at Musselburgh, Stephen Welch at Gosford and Andrew Whitehouse at Girdle Ness. Other than that it was a quiet month for the coastal Scotland stalwarts, here's hoping December brings more joy.

Star bird for November on the Scottish coast
A similar story in the points league as the top 5 remain the same and very few points added throughout the league. The biggest winner in November was Colin Davison as a great seawatch closed the gap to the top spot by adding Little Auk, Grey Phalarope and Slavonian Grebe, a terrific trio! A good December could see him snatch top spot from Geoff Morgan. It is also a tight contest for 3rd place with only 4 points separating Mike Hodgkin and Chris Rodger, who will claim the bronze medal with a good December?

Saturday, 24 December 2016

Inland East Anglia - November 2016

During November it became apparent that it was going to be a 'Waxwing Year' and I'm sure it had every patcher looking and listening for them on every berry tree. It seems fitting that it was to be Adam Nicholls first tick since July and a full fat patch tick as well. He also added Stonechat but dipped both Velvet Scoter and Brent Goose. With a 22% lead you can't be too greedy.......
Nick Moran seems to have secured 2nd place with a dream month, helping ID a Little Bunting, finding Siberian Chiffchaff as well as adding Hawfinch! Has Thetford moved to the coast! All this means that the #beatNick competition has miserably failed (pending the results of a drug test) so rather than dwell on it we will leave Jonny to drink his blues away (although i hear the #PWC2017 hashtag will be #beatenbyNick). Ben Moyes was another Waxwing'er this month and moves ahead of his 106% rivals while Ben Lewis finally passes the 100% mark, mainly thanks to missing 10 species off by mistake but also adding Waxwing and Bewick's Swan. With a few patchers close to 100% will a DEcember surge see more pass the milestone?

tic tic - BOOM! Little Bunting at Thetford

Ben Lewis has extended his lead at the top thanks to his shoddy book keeping earlier in the year and Jamie Wells is now his closest challenger thanks to a wildfowl wonderland, Ring-necked Duck, Scaup and Whooper Swan all putting in an appearance at Paxton Pits. Luke Wake remains in the top 3 but Nick Moran and Nige Lound are closing the gap and it will be a close run thing come the end of the year. Nige Lound had the bonus of finding a Green-winged Teal in November, always good to get a 6 pointer late in the year. Terry Stopher also had a good month at Livermere with the highlight coming from the 2nd ever record of Bean Goose for him there. The Inland East Anglia league also passed a milestone this month, 50,000 Birdtrack records for the year! Excellent work everyone!

Siberian Chiffchaff at Thetford by Neil Calbrade

Coastal East Anglia - November 2016

There was a familiar theme with sightings this month for coastal East Anglia patchers, seaduck, geese, seawatching and waxwings. Rob Hall added 8% to his already very impressive year with the additions of Long-tailed Duck, Snow Bunting, White-fronted Geese and Bewick's Swans. All classic winter birds in East Anglia but always a delight to see on patch. Ryan Irvine was the big mover this month, jumping to 2nd from 4th as he also added 8% including two bonus pointers, Leach's Petrel and the 3rd record ever of Crane for him at Hemsby. Highlight of the month was a Water Rail found in the dunes, a full fat patch tick! James Brown and Scott Mayson drop a place each despite James adding Little Auk, Long-tailed Duck and Snow Bunting. The only other mover in the comparative league was Nige Lound as he creeps into the top 5 thanks to a patch tick Green-winged Teal and two Storm-petrels, only the 4th and 5th records for Gibraltar Point NNR.

Excellent month for geese throughout the region

James Brown continues to run away with the points league although his lead has been cut to a meagre 21pts! Paul Eele is highest mover, jumping ahead of Justin Zantboer after a good month with Bean Geese, 60+ Waxwings, Purple Sandpiper and a shed load of seaduck and divers off the coast of Titchwell. The north coast of Norfolk was the place to be in November for seawatching. Irene Boston shared in the seaduck extravaganza at Brancaster and also had the nice addition of Shore Lark. James Appleton also managed to find a Shore Lark at Happisburgh and also added Little Auk during a seawatch as well as the highly elusive and rare Lapwing! Luke Nash was another to enjoy some seawatching, Black-throated Diver, Little Auk and Glaucous Gull amongst the highlights, rounded off with some Shore Larks on the coast.

Seaduck a highlight for many during November

An excellent month for many with some high quality winter birds, what does December have in store for us?

Inland North Minileague - November 2016

It was with great sadness during November that we learned of the untimely and very sudden death of Pete Antrobus (POD). Pete was a familiar face in UK birding and a stalwart of the Cheshire birding scene, particularly his beloved Neumann's Flashes.  He will be missed by friends and birders far and wide, our thoughts and condolences go out to his friends and family particularly his wife Debbie. 

No change at the top of the Inland North comparative minileague as David Franklin sits tight despite adding just one species - his first Tawny Owl in two years. John Law added White-fronted Goose, Merlin and (finally) Treecreeper to close the gap, a similar points haul in December could see him nick it from David. Out of nowhere Bill Aspin leaps to 3rd place - more of that nonsense later! David Franklin failed to add anything to his Askern patch which slips to fourth. Nick Morgan drops out of the top five and is replaced by NIck Tonge.

Bittern - Brockholes - Bill Aspin

As previously mentioned, in the comparative minileague Bill Aspin (it hurts to even type that name) leapt from 8th to 3rd, which can only mean one thing he cheated had a very good month! All joking aside Bill had an amazing month, where he added a gut wrenching 23 points, giving him what must at this late stage be an unassailable lead. Key species for Bill during the month were Cetti's Warbler(5th record), Brockholes' 1st Great Grey Shrike, 2 Smew (3rd record), Great White Egret (5th record) and the 1st site Siberian Chiffchaff. Never one to give up a fight, Mark Reeder hit back with a meagre 8 points that in a normal November would have been an excellent haul. Mark added Scaup, Jack Snipe, Long-eared Owl (a patch 1st) and 2 Mealy Redpolls, consolation enough to put daylight between him and John Law who dropped to 3rd. Duncan Bye slipped to fourth with 3 Knot a new patch bird, keeping him above Andy Bunting by a whisker.

Great Grey Shrike - Brockholes - Bill Aspin
Cetti's Warbler - Brockholes - Bill Aspin
Siberian Chiffchaff - Brockholes - Bill Aspin

In addition to the aforementioned patch firsts, other patchers firsts were a Tree Sparrow for Hilary Milburn at Pugneys, Brent Goose for Nick Tonge at Rodley and Marsh Harrier at Winsford Flash for Findlay Wilde.

Long-eared Owl - Orgreave Area  - Mark Reeder

Friday, 23 December 2016

Midlands Minileague - November 2016

It’s as you were in the top 5 of this month’s Midlands comparative minileague table. Just a ½ percent separates Tom Shields and Nick Crouch, with Nick adding Bewick’s Swan and Raven during the month, the latter being a new patch bird.  Despite being out of the country for two weeks Phil Hyde managed to move up to 6th place stealing it from an equally disadvantaged Andy Simms whose Tanzania trip saw him slip to 7th place. Mike Wakeman was the only joiner of the 100% club this month, though John Hopper is tantalizingly close and will surely make it by the year end.

All change at the top of the points minileague as Steve Nuttall rises to the top after adding another 8 points with Whooper Swan, Smew, Great Northern Diver and Slavonian Grebe. Rod Baker moves to 2nd place with his Rutland Water rival Erik Ansell dropping to 3rd place.

Bewick's Swan (c) Neil Duggan

A Hen Harrier was a patch tick for all three Upton Warren participants. Other patchers recording firsts were; Pete Fontana with 3 Pintail and Matthew Hazleton with a duo of Bearded Tit and Woodcock.  Rhys Chivers unfortunately missed out on finder's points for the Glossy Ibis at Soar Valley – though 4 points this late in the year shouldn’t be sniffed at.

Wednesday, 21 December 2016

Wales Minileague - November 2016

November brings little change to the Wales Comparative Minileague table rankings but the contestants were still busy adding to their tallies and ensuring it will be a high scoring year with no less than eight patch birders boasting comp scores well over their 100% target.

At the head of this is Mike Cram, still in first place at Broughton and Llangennith where a Woodcock was flushed near his caravan, becoming the 104th species in a fantastic year which sees him get to an amazing 143.8% and a month still to go.

Henry Cook was away in Gambia during November, allowing Julian Hughes enough time to break away and make some gains on his fellow RSPB Conwy patch birder. Bonus points for Julian came in the form of a Siberian Chiffchaff which was a much anticipated first for the site and a nice find (especially since it was singing!). Julian now has a good lead on Henry with 123% in second place.

Needless to say, the Long-tailed Duck at Cardiff Bay showed well! (c) Peter Howlett

Richard Dobbins updates his score from Teifi for the first time in a while, with Whooper Swan added in November. He now has a respectable ten point lead in first place on the Wales Points Minileague table and is the first contestant to break past 200. 

Paul Roberts had a good run at Ogmore Estuary this year and additions of Merlin, Black Redstart and Red-throated Diver over the past few weeks see him move into second place, on 195 points from 150 species. This knocks Barry Stewart at Burry Inlet down to third. 

Some of the other highlights during the month included a Hawfinch at Rudry Common for Trevor Fletcher, a triple highlight day at Rhyl for Alex Jones with Lapland Bunting, Scaup and two Black Redstarts, another Scaup at Cardiff Bay for Peter Howlett (plus the showy Long-tailed Duck) and Henry Cook added Little Auk and Pomarine Skua at Little Orme plus a Brambling at RSPB Conwy.

Mike Cram also patches at Portcawl to Rest Bay where in addition to Razorbill, Greylag Goose and Black-throated Diver, he got Chough new for the year during November, Furthermore, the Chough was colour-ringed and it transpires that it fledged at a nest site in Anglesey this year, representing the longest distance moved by any Anglesey born Chough to date. Nice record! 

The ever impressive BirdTrack stats in the Wales Minileague now stand at 75,326 records from 3,558 complete lists.