Thursday, 28 January 2016

#PWC2015 Tim Farr - Sutton Bingham Reservoir

After enjoying my first year in the Patchwork Challenge last year I signed up for 2015 without even thinking about it. It turned out to be a pretty good year, with two patch ticks including a first for Sutton Bingham. Apologies in advance for the poor quality photos included herein, all are phone-scoped using my Samsung mobile!

A fairly quiet start to the year with nothing unusual found during the first couple of weeks, but a fellow birder did see three Egyptian Geese fly over one morning, there was no sign by the time I got to the reservoir after work! One evening visit produced sixteen Mediterranean Gulls in the roost and a Stonechat near West Pool was a nice find. Wigeon numbers just about tipped the one hundred mark, with Teal numbering slightly higher. Amazingly the 23 January produced a massive count of sixty-one Mediterranean Gulls, the highest single count ever recorded at the reservoir, in fact in the whole of Somerset! The end of the month produced three Barnacle Geese amongst the flock of Canada Geese, whilst hard to prove if these were genuine wild birds they didn’t hang around and were gone after a stay of just four days. 51 species of bird had been recorded by the months end.

Barnacle Geese – 28 January 15

A Little Egret early in the month was somewhat unseasonal and a fly-over Peregrine was seen on the same day. A pair of Reed Buntings were also new for the year and a Chiffchaff was seen near the Water Treatment Works. Another good count of Mediterranean Gulls mid-month with fifty birds being seen one evening and a count of one hundred and fifty Common Gulls was exceptional. A drake Gadwall was seen on West pool and was present for just a day. The reservoir year list had grown to 63 species by the month’s end.

A pair of Mandarin were present on 11 March and added a welcome splash of colour whilst Wigeon and Teal numbers started to drop off. A drake Shoveler was present for a couple of days, whilst a drake Gadwall and Tufted Duck were also brief visitors. Chiffchaffs were in song by the end of the month and my first Swallow of the year was seen on the 30 March, with the first Sand Martins a day later. The year list had risen to 69 species.

Mediterranean Gull – 1 March 15

The end of the first week of April saw a flock of twenty-one Tufted Duck off the Canoe Club, the highest total for a few years, a further four were also on West Pool. A real rarity on April 10 with a female Merlin seen whizzing through, only my third sighting at the reservoir. The first Common Sandpiper of the year was recorded on the same day. Little Egrets were noted all month, with the highest count being ten birds. A single Great Black-backed Gull was a good find. I missed a couple of Whimbrel that flew through but did find three Oystercatchers! April turned in to a very good month as on 22 April I found a Great White Egret in trees opposite the Canoe Club, and twenty-four hours later I located two Little Terns (a personal first for the reservoir). Unfortunately, the Little Terns simply flew through the and Great White Egret was only present for a day. Three Green Sandpipers were also noted and the commoner warblers returned to the site at the end of the month. A hybrid aythya duck produced a little interest, looking quite like a female Ferruginous Duck at a first glance, it soon became apparent that it had some Pochard or even Red-crested Pochard influence somewhere in its DNA! A busy and productive month with the total of species having risen to 83.

Great White Egret – 22 April 15

The month started on a bit of a high with a very smart Arctic Tern on 2 May. A little bit more excitement on 14 May with a Hobby causing a bit of a stir over West Pool, my first (and amazingly only) Swifts of the year were seen the same evening. All in all May turned out to be a rather quiet month with the total rising to 87 species.

Arctic Tern – 2 May 16

A real surprise on 4 June when I found a Knot feeding on the northern causeway, just my second record for the reservoir. Feeling rather pleased with this it paled in to insignificance two days later when an early morning stop on my way to work produced a Black-crowned Night Heron! Having missed a couple whilst on the Isles of Scilly a couple of weeks earlier this was a real unexpected find and the first record for Sutton Bingham to boot. The bird went AWOL all day before reappearing in the evening just before 9.00pm. The rest of the month was pretty quiet though two Lapwing passed overhead on 19 June. The month ended with two Common Terns off the dam and a Great Black-backed Gull at the Sailing Club. Steadily approaching the century, the year list was at 93 at the end of the month.

Knot – 4 June 15 and Great Black-backed Gull – 30 June 15

The Great Black-backed Gull present at the end of June was seen a few times in early July and juveniles of both Mediterranean Gull and Yellow-legged Gull were also seen early in the month. A couple of Redshank were seen on 9 July, an unexpected year tick, and then as the month drew to a close there was a spate of wader passage, somewhat surprising given the fact the water level was still pretty high. Common Sandpipers began passing through in varying numbers and then some quality in the form of three Little Ringed Plovers, another Redshank and a fly-over Greenshank. This little run of birds brought up the total to 96 species for the year.

Little Ringed Plover – 29 July 15 and Redshank – 30 July 15

Another juvenile Mediterranean Gull was present at the start of the month and a notable flock of twenty-two Common Terns passed through on 8 August. A Dunlin was present a few days later, but I missed it! However, I did strike lucky mid-month as in heavy rain a flock of eleven Arctic Terns dropped in and were joined by a Black Tern before they all flew south. A Common Tern was present a day later. As the month progressed more Common Sandpipers passed through and with just a few days left in the month I found a Whinchat on the fence line near West Pool with another two present a few days later. More wader action in the form of five Black-tailed Godwits that were present for a short while on the northern causeway and a Spotted Flycatcher was also noted. A bit more bad luck as I missed two Ospreys and a Wheatear at the tail end of the month, the patch year list had now risen to 99 species.

Black-tailed Godwits – 27 August 15

After failing on several visits I finally connected with Marsh Tit early in the month at the southern end of the reservoir. A juvenile Hobby was seen and another five Whinchats plus a couple of Stonechats were also present during the month. A drake Shoveler was a brief visitor whilst a few Siskin and White Wagtails were noted around the site. Highlight of the month was a fly-through Honey Buzzard on 13 September. The first returning Wigeon of the winter arrived on 27 September, the same day as a very smart Yellow Wagtail was present. A few species were added over the month bringing the total up to 102.

Whinchat – 20 September 15 and Yellow Wagtail – 27 September 15

A Stonechat was present around West Pool mid-month and a drake Pochard dropped in mid-afternoon on 11 October, the only one of the year, and just the third in the last three years. A nice flock of thirty Linnets was nice to see and a couple of Mandarin were also noted during the month. The gull roost started to gain numbers as the month progressed, with the pick being an adult Yellow-legged Gull on 16 October. Wigeon numbers rose at the end of October and the first Fieldfares and Redwings of the winter arrived. Not a lot added and the list was up to 103.

Pochard – 11 October 15

A couple of Pintail were a good start to the month with a sub-adult male and a female off the dam one morning, they took flight and headed south and were not seen again! A total of three Stonechats were present throughout the month and a few Snipe were back at the reservoir for the winter. The biggest shock of the month, and arguably the year, was the corpse of an auk (most likely a Guillemot) found on the water’s edge on 15 November. With the head and feet missing it made identification of the species impossible, such a shame it was not seen alive as it would have been a first for the reservoir. A flock of twenty Lapwing passed through with a further three birds a couple of days later with three Skylarks also moving overhead. Wigeon numbers peaked at over a hundred birds. The year list ended up on 104 species, just one added during the month.

The final month of the year and it was pretty much like November. The month started well when I found a Scaup amongst the Wigeon off the dam on a very windy evening. This was to be the last addition to the 2015 year list. Another flock of Lapwing passed through, this time some thirty-one birds and a drake Pintail was present on 14 November. A single Barnacle Goose was at the southern end of the reservoir on 20 December before relocating to the dam a couple of days later. This was the last quality bird of what was a very productive year at Sutton Bingham.

The final patch year list was a respectable 105 species, three species short of the 2014 total but six points higher!

Tuesday, 26 January 2016

Inland East Anglia - December 2015

No change for the top three with Ben Moyes remaining seated in first position with 120 species and 136 points giving him a whopping 130.769% and a 15% lead over second place. Fantastic effort, Ben!  Sadly, for Alison Allen at Thorpe-next-Haddiscoe, the 100% was just out of reach. However, with only 3% off the target, it was still a grand effort and with a new year and birds ahead, it's all to play for again!

While the top three all added species and points this month, the final standing is still unchanged as Jamie Wells who despite finding a Great White Egret didn't the manage the extra points needed to claim first place.  Bagging a further sixteen points and leading the table by a respectable eleven points, Ben Lewis and his Mid Yare RSPB patch finished the year firmly in the lead with Snow Goose and Siberian Chiffchaff the best bits of December. Making a final mad dash up the leader board was Tabby P at North Potter Heigham who rocketed up to fifth with an impressive 20 point increase for December.

Sunday, 24 January 2016

Coastal East Anglia - December 2015

No further additions for Craig Fulcher in December but his 130% score was more than enough to seal the Coastal East Anglia comparative minileague. Ryan Irvine finished second after his purple patch in the autumn with 117%. His year was topped off with a Red-necked Grebe in December. Tommy Corcoran sealed third place from James Brown, finishing on 107% with Shag his only December addition.

On the points front there was only one winner as Nige Lound's exceptional year at Gibraltar Point finished with 339 points. As Nige failed to add any new birds in December the gap fell by two but the remaining 45 point cushion made it comfortable enough! Ryan finished 43 points ahead of his previous comparative score to end up in second spot. His December grebe was enough to outstrip James Brown as they finished November neck and neck. James unfortunately didn't find any new birds so finishes third on the podium. Gary White managed to secure 8th place and overtake Scott Mayson in December with wintering Bearded Tits at North Walsham and Trimingham.

Friday, 22 January 2016

Wales Minileague - December 2015

It was a 'photo finish' at the top of the leader board for the Wales Comparative Minileague. However, both Alison C and Alun John managed to added an extra species each to their tally for December, allowing Alison to hold onto the coveted pole position by the skin of her teeth. Nothing like leaving it to the last minute, Julian Hughes finally broke the 100% barrier at RSPB Conwy, finishing on a respectable 101.449% before the year was out.

David Carrington dug in and remained firmly planted at the top of the points league finishing on 155 species and 199 points. Lower down the leader board, with no new species to add to his Newport Wetlands patch, Mathew Meehan fell short and conceded his second place to Barry Stewart at Burry Inlet who managed a last minute flurry and bagged six new species. Nice work, Barry!

With some fantastic birds being produced over the course of 2015, Wales should be an exciting one to watch in 2016.

Estuarine Minileague - December 2015

Ed Keeble at Brantham adds Eider to secure the Estuarine minileague comparative table on 107%. No additions for Shaun Robson at Lytchett Bay or Gordon Hodgson at Frampton-on-Severn but they hold on to second and third places in the table. There were no other 100%ers with Russell and Emma upping sticks and decamping to Sanday they were stranded on their scores.

The top three places in the points minileague were all taken by the Lincs Wash Reserves with Paul Sullivan heading the triumvirate up with a mighty 305 points. Thats an addition of 8 points from November including a Grey Phalarope. 34 points back was John Badley on 271, 10 ahead of Anthony Bentley who finished in third place. Dave Craven was the highest placed no Frampton-ite as he registered 244 points, pipping Howard Vaughan at Rainham Marshes by two points. Dave finished with a Shag and a Water Pipit and rounds off his year on his blog. Howard added Little and Iceland Gull but narrowly missed out on the Glauc that would have seen him tie for 4th place.

Amercian Wigeon - Martin Elcoate
Away from the top of the table Toby Collett shared Paul Sullivan's Grey Phalarope to register his 35th (THIRTY-FIFTH) wader species at Frampton in 2015. This year Toby is keeping his seperate patches for the comparative table but is also entering them as a single entity to align with the other LWR patchers. Joost Brandsma finished off with a Firecrest in his garden in December which added a brace of points. Martin Elcoate managed to see a Short-eared Owl from his house in Topsham and also added the American Wigeon that has been gracing his patch. Peter Williams added Brambling on his Humber-based patch whilst Pete Antrobus added Water Rail and Hen Harrier at Tetney Lock in Lincolnshire.

Tuesday, 19 January 2016

Coastal Scotland Minileague - December 2015

Stephen Welch finished his #PWC2015 efforts at Gosford Bay with 142 species, his highest total in the past few years. This success earned him first place in the Coastal Scotland Comparative Minileague with 109.3%. Well deserved with some excellent BirdTrack-ing thrown in for good measure.

Close behind in second place is Mark Lewis at Girdle ness who added Glaucous Gull in December and finished on 102.7% with 156 species, his own highest total in recent years also. Solid patch effort (as shown by 10,000+ records and 210 complete lists submitted to BirdTrack) resulted in some great finds and getting past 200 species for his patch life list.

Glaucous Gull © Mark Lewis

Andrew Whitehouse remained on 97% and in third place while some New Year's Eve Little Auk passage bumped Chris Hill up to fourth place with 93% at Burntisland. 

Mark's final tally of 227 points at Girdle ness ensured his first place position in the points minileague while Mike Hodgkin ended his patch efforts for the year in November but managed to break past 200 points in the process and consolidate his second place position.

After a two month drought, Jonathan Clarke connected with three patch ticks on New Year's Eve (a good day to go birding it would seem!) at Whiteness Head. Tystie, Slavonian Grebe and 170 Little Auks saw him finish in sixth. 

Islands Minileague - December 2015

Despite gaining no points throughout December, the final month of the year finds Alastair Forsyth still firmly rooted in first place in the comparative minileague, claiming the crown with an impressive 117%. Congratulations! Ian T holds onto second place at Askernish with a similarly formidable score while Bryan Rains concludes the glorious triumvirate with 108% at Pennyghael, aided by a welcome two points courtesy of a stranded Little Auk that was promptly rested and released. David Wood concluded 2015 in fourth position on Islay while, in a final flourish, Paul Higson snatched fifth place from John Bowler. Further down the table things remained largely the same though with 2016 here at last and a clean slate for all competitors I wonder how the table will look come the end of January.

John Bowler claimed the top spot in the points minileague this month with a truly mighty 343 points at Balephuil on the Isle of Tiree. A well deserved victory if ever there was one. Steve Standsfield retained second place at Barsdey while Jason Moss also made to the podium following an impressive run on Skomer. Despite many patchers struggling to unearth any new species throughout December there were still a number of highlights throughout this extremely hit or miss league. Among these Logan Johnson's Mourning Dove stands head and heels above the rest. Looking past this however a White-Tailed Eagle for Yvonne at Askernish was equally welcome while elsewhere in the league John Headon notched both Merlin and Sparrowhawk and Logan added two good Shetland birds in the form of Goldfinch and Water Rail.

- James C (Patchwork Challenge)

Inland Scotland Minileagues - December 2015

The rankings on the Inland Scotland Comparative Minileague table remained the same through December as they were at the end of November and with that, Chris Pendlebury wins the comp league with his excellent 115.7% score from Stirling (Green patch too). 

No change for Alastair Forsyth at Old Nisthouse where he claims second place with 108.7% and Andy Cage adds a last minite Red-legged Partridge at Kilmany taking him to 101% in third. The rest of the comp league contestants finish with respectable 90% and 80% scores. 

David Douglas steals first place on the Inland Scotland Points Minileague table from Alastair by a matter of four points with a fine end to the year at Loch Leven which included both Green-winged Teal and American Wigeon! David ended up with 166 points and the highest species tally in the league with 137.

Good to see almost half the contestants scoring 100 points or more in the end. And a final shout out to Alastair for his excellent contribution to BirdTrack with over 7800 records and 293 complete lists submitted.

Midlands Minileague - December 2015

Despite Tom Shields not making any additions in December and just a point for Andy Mackay at Eyebrook there was nobody breaking from the pack so Tom wins the comparative minileague for 2016 with his Holme Pierrepoint patch. A Great Northern Diver did brighten his month up whilst for Andy the solitary point he garnered was thanks to a Red-breasted Merganser. Dave Roberts closed the gap on the top two and very nearly got in the mix thanks to a December Hen Harrier to cap his best ever year on patch. There were no new additions to the 100 club but both John Hopper and Matt Griffiths fell just a point short.

Lound finishes top of the tree as the podium places were filled by the same folk as 2014 in the points league. Ian Cowgill wins the minileague with one point added in December and Andy Mackay improves on 2014 with a jump to second and John Hopper finishes third. Rhys Dandy's tactical patch switch sees him climb to fourth although he has a 26 point gap to bridge to challenge the top three in the coming year.

The bird of the month in the Midlands was a Greenland White-fronted Goose for the Marston three. Trevor Lee also added Jack Snipe in the same place. At Clayhanger and Ryder's Mere there were a trio of Caspian Gulls and a Scaup for Kevin Clements. There was another Scaup for Sam Pitt-Miller at Priory Water. Espen Quito-Ashman patch ticked Treecreeper in deepest, darkest Wiltshire. A dead Short-eared Owl sadly didnt make it on to Espen's list. Matthew Dick at Darley Dale added Mealy Redpoll amongst a group of its commoner cousins. Benjamin Ward shared Marston's ringtail Hen Harrier as it sallied over to his Aubourn patch and he also got a big fat zero points for a rather smart Nordic Jackdaw. There was a Short-eared Owl for Mark Gash at Willington GPs. Andy Sims added Raven at Boultham Mere when a quartet overflew the site which was only the third patch record for him. Finally Nick Crouch added Jack Snipe at Collingham and Besthorpe.

Sunday, 17 January 2016

Inland North Minileague - December 2015

There was a fag paper between Nick Morgan who won the Inland North comparative minileague and Steven Ward who was leading heading into the final month. In the end Nick triumphed by 0.36% thanks to a patch tick Shoveler, second record of Gadwall and first winter record of Greenshank on his patch just outside Northallerton. Over at Hawes Steven managed to keep to the wildfowl theme with a less than annual Tufted Duck which kept him well clear of Nick Tonge in third who finished on 111% just clear of local rival Keith Dickinson.There were two new 100%ers this month with Paul Massey finishing on exactly that mark whilst Chris Bradshaw leapt into seventh with 101.8%. Tom Lowe came agonizingly close until an admin error was spotted and his target was increased by a couple of points.

Darren Starkey took the win in the Inland North points minileague, pipping Garry Taylor by 7 points. Darren, who patches Fairburn, added Short-eared Owl, Red-crested Pochard and Brambling over the last two months to break the 200 barrier whilst Garry's highlight is listed as believing at one stage he might catch Darren. Its the hope that kills you! Congratulations to Darren and commiserations to Garry. Andy Bunting finished in third place with a whopping 183 points - a serious score for an inland patch, especially one in Lancashire. The contest within a contest saw the white rose triumph as Mark Reeder defeated vocal rival and self-proclaimed #inlandnorthpolice Bill Aspin to finish fifth whilst Chris Bradshaw managed to split them and finished sixth.

A new installation at Orgreave. Bill did ask why it had five steps. Now we know.
There were no bonus points in Inland North for December but plenty of decent birds thanks to a seriously mild month. Aside from those birds already mentioned there were a brace of Bewick's Swans for Paul Massey at Grindon Lough which sealed his place in the top 10. A Great Northern Diver at Pugney's was a cracking inland find for Hilary Milburn. Adam Moan at RSPB Geltsdale added Tree Sparrow from the garden whilst Chris Bradshaw had Mealy Redpoll in December and Red Kite in November at Wykeham Lake and Potter Brompton Carr. Thanks to all who took part - Inland North is always an entertaining league with plenty of friendly competition.  

Coastal North Minileague - December 2015

Seumus Eaves didn't update in November and his combined two months to finish the year put him top of the comparative pile in the Coastal North minileague for 2015. He finishes on 113% with a 2% lead over Stewart Sexton who failed to add in December and finished in second place. Just a single point for Ash Baines means he holds on to third as James Spencer failed to add anything. Chris Bradshaw at Long Nab to Scalby Mills was the final member of the 100% club this year as he added 8 points in December.

Tom Cadwallender's Alnmouth patch with Coquet Island in the background.
Mick Turton's monster score sees him home in top spot in the points minileague with 381 points. No new additions in December but a winning margin of 76 points for Mick is most impressive. Also with no new additions are Nick Addey in second and Martin Garner who finishes third. Both birders managed the triple century which is a superb effort. Iain Robson managed to climb from 11th to 7th over the final month thanks largely to the Long-billed Dowitcher which visited Druridge Pools on the final day of the year after spending most of the month at Cresswell Pond, a mile down the coast. Jonathan Farooqi also added the Dowitcher on his patch which is a ribbon through Druridge Bay.There were also Water Pipits at both Druridge Pools and Whitburn and also at the latter were John Chapman's first South Tyneside Twite.

Friday, 15 January 2016

Ireland Minileague - December 2015

Those who were already over 100% in the Ireland Comparative Minileague at the end of November took a run at claiming first place during December yet it was a lean final month with not a whole lot on offer for those going for gold.

No new additions for Eamonn O'Donnell at Ninch/Laytown (a repeat Long-tailed Duck the best) or Alan Lauder at Broad Lough to Wicklow Head but Niall Keogh added a female Brambling at Kilbogget Park while Mark Shorten swooped in with a high ranking updated score from the Old Head of Kinsale, knocking some top five regulars down a few pegs in the process!

Eamonn's fantastic third year at Ninch/Laytown saw him lead the way for most of the past few months and with a final comparative score of 115%, he claims first place in the #PWC2015 Ireland Minileague. Well done!

Mark's update from the Old Head boasts a fine list of rare and scarce species seen through the year including Cory's Shearwater, Red-backed Shrike, Yellow-browed Warbler, multiple Hoopoe and good numbers of Whinchat. His second year of PWC efforts left him in second on 114%, just within sight of first place. Strong incentive to take the title next year?

A nice springtime duo from the Old Head of Kinsale © Mark Shorten

Niall and Alan ended up just a percent or two behind in third (113%) and fourth (111%) place respectively while a further seven patchers got into the 90% bracket which is a feat not to be snuffed at, especially as the years go by. Darragh Sinnott did very well at Holy Cross & Carriganore where a twitch for the first Great Spotted Woodpecker in modern times for Co. Waterford at the National Biodiversity Data Centre HQ spurred on some extra effort during December which produced several year ticks with Green Sandpiper and Stock Dove topping the bill. He ended up in fifth with 95%. 

With storm after storm battering the west coast for much of the winter so far, it is no surprise that Dave Suddaby added a couple of Little Auks as his final patch year tick at Blacksod along with a Grey Phalarope taking him to 241 points and a clear lead in the Ireland Points Minileague. With rarities galore, Dave's chances of doing well on the points table will always be strong but he did extremely well to end with a comparative score of close to 94% also.

Some good birds on Niall's Kilcoole patch in December included two Greenland White-fronted Geese, 7 Snow Bunting and a Bonxie yet none were new additions. Continuously dipping Brambling there left him with the first blank month of the year in terms of ticks and so finished in second on the points table with the same score at the end of November but with the highest overall species list in the minileague of 145.

No change in the rankings for Eamonn or Tim Murphy at St. John's Point, both remaining in third and fourth respectively while Cathal Forkan bangs in a superb find at his North Galway Bay patch...breeding plumage Sabine's Gull! What a bird for the time of year and one which boosts him up to a well earned fifth place. 

Sabine's Gull © Cathal Forkan

Noel Keogh's inaugural year in the competition ended with 110 species in South Dublin Bay (Little Auk, Black Redstart and Ring-billed Gull seen during the month there) while Michael John O'Mahony ended his first year in the compettion with 58 species at Upper Rathduff with Woodcock and Merlin added in December. Be sure to check out Michael's stunning set of patch images on Flickr. Otherwise not much else to report in terms of sightings from other contestants in December bar another Iceland Gull for Neal Warnock at Larne Lough, this time a fine adult. 

Tim Murphy boasted the highest scoring inland patch at Lough Beg with 77 species and 84 points. Julian Wyllie led the way in terms of non-motorised 'Green' patching at Baltimore with a very respectable 109 species and 135 points.

Overall, Irish patch birders added 12,000 BirdTrack records and 250 complete lists to the database during 2015. Fair play all who got involved!

Iceland Gull © Neal Warnock

NGB Minileague - December 2015

The NGB minileague was a roaring success in 2015 and with more and more young birders registering patches 2016 will surely be no different. First of all I would like to thank all 2015 competitors for making this league both fun and competitive over the past twelve months, the scores, species counts and number of Birdtrack records testament to the sheer dedication of NGB members. As you may well be aware having read the Birdguides summary of 2015 (here) Joe Stockwell claimed the top spot in 2015 after narrowly missing out during the previous year. With 189 species notched and a monster points total of 299 the one year British Birds subscription heading Joe's way is extremely well deserved, as is the week long stay on Bardsey Island awarded to Josie Hewitt after claiming the coveted "NGB most valuable player" prize.

Looking first at the comparative league and Amy Robjohns reigns supreme at Titchfield Haven, rightfully claiming the top spot with an impressive 130% followed closely by Josie in second. Ash Baines claims third place following an impressive run at Starr Gate followed by James Common who likewise surpassed his score from the previous year. Jonathan Scragg also warrants a mention for exactly replicating his 2014 score. Looking quickly at the points league, Anthony Bentley and Jonathan Farooqi secured second and third positions with impressive scores at of 261 and 249 obtained respectively. 

Some impressive rarities unearthed throughout December meant things were far from dull in the league this month. There were however two examples of #patchgold that stood out above all else with Logan Johnson concluding the year in spectacular fashion with a Mourning Dove on his Shetland patch and Northumberland's wintering Long-Billed Dowitcher finally dropping in to Druridge Pools, much to the delight of Jonathan Farooqi. A breeding plumage Sabine's Gull for Cathal Forkan at Galway Bay was also most welcome and no doubt helped considerably bolster Cathal's final score. Elsewhere other highlights of the league this month included a cracking Grey Pharalope for Joe Stockwell, Siberian Chiffchaff for Amy Robjohns and not one but three Water Pipits for Jonathan Farooqi. Jonathan's good run later continued with the addition of Iceland Gull while some other tantalizing tidbits include Scaup for both Joe Stockwell and Sam Pitt Miller, Black Redstart for Dan Rouse and Josie Hewitt's first ever patch Crossbills. Similarly, Short-Eared Owl would have been a welcome patch tick at Wellington GPs had the individual found by Espen Quinto-Ashman not keeled over prior to his visit.

A great year all around for the committed patchers of NGB with fingers now firmly crossed for the coming year. Will Joe retain his crown? Who will root out the leagues next major rarity? Who will be crowned most valuable player? Only time will tell but whether you are revisiting an old haunt during 2016 or, like myself, moving on to pastures new, the Patchwork team wish you all the best in the coming months and look forward to hearing about your patch based experiences. With this minileague soon developing to take on young birders from outside NGB, 2016 looks set to be one of the most competitive and wholly enjoyable years to date.

- James C (Patchwork Challenge)

Thursday, 14 January 2016

Inland South Minileague - December 2015

Tom Raven wins the Inland South Comparative Minileague by a handsome margin. A self-found Dusky Warbler in December gives him a 9% margin and a final score of 136%. Josie Hewitt had an excellent finish to her year jumping from fourth to second with 9 Crossbills from November her recent highlight. Long-term second place patcher, Tom Stevenson, fell into third in the final month thanks to a blank month but he shattered his PB at Ewelme. There were no new members of the 100% club in December but with 8 out of 13 patchers managing it there has been a fair amount of success in the south,

Tom Raven had the points minileague won long ago but the 44 point margin is outstanding and as well as his Dusky Warbler he also added Firecrest and Siberian Chiffchaff in December. Nigel Milbourne added four points to his November score to secure second spot at Blagdon Lake. Lee Evans had a similar month with 4 points added but he bemoans the Bonxie which Ian Bennell was fortunate enough to see.

Tom Raven's Dusky Warbler. What a year for Tom
Other highlights from around the patches include a Firecrest for Graham White at Rye Meads who finished in fifth position. Neil Burt managed a brace of Brambling at Conningbrook which held onto tenth place for him. On Wanstead Flats, Nick Croft had a quintuplet of Firecrests and a Caspian Gull but gained only a couple of points to stay seventh. There was a Scaup at Sutton Bingham Reservoir in Somerset for Tim Farr which meant he secured twelfth. Points all over the place but very little movement in the league table. Finally there was a Bittern at the seventh attempt for Ian Bennell at Tring Reservoirs.

Coastal South Minileagues - December 2015

Nothing new for Paul Freestone but he managed to hang on to top spot in the Coastal South comparative minileague despite a very strong finish from Amy Robjohns. Paul finished on 132% thanks to a December Jack Snipe whilst Amy added 9% to finish on 130%. Amy managed bonus points for finding a Siberian Chiffchaff and also saw the trio of Penduline Tits which arrived at Titchfield late in the month. Andy Rhodes added 3% and dropped a place into third despite an outstanding year where he scored 127%. His perserverance paid off with last gasp Shag and Kittiwake. Roger Musgrove was the seventh and final 100%er in the Coastal South minileague.

Joe Stockwell debuted a new patch for 2015 working the Weymouth reserves and Ferrybridge in Dorset. He finished the year just one point short of 300 and beat local rival Sean Foote by 19 points. Joe added Scaup and Grey Phalarope and briefly thought the phalarope took him over the triple century mark but alas its a two pointer. Sean added just a single point but it was his first patch record of Pheasant! Kev Rylands finished off a relatively poor year at Dawlish Warren with two points which gave him a five point cushion over Paul Bowerman at Severn Beach.

Amy Robjohns' trio of Penduline Tits at Tichfield Haven
On Guernsey there was a Short-eared Owl for our logo-man himself, Mark Lawlor. Worse for him was the Little Swift which was present on the 31st December just off patch and there is a rather fine photo he took of the bird with his patch in the background. So close. Ilya Maclean managed to find a Siberian Chiffchaff in his garden to ensure a good end to his debut year. Peter Hazelwood got a full fat patch tick with a Marsh Harrier at Oldbury Power Station. Despite Kev Rylands only adding Jack Snipe in December it certainly wasnt a quiet month with Slav grebe, Siberian Chiffchaff, Bonaparte's Gull and Yellow-browed Warbler also featuring scorelessly. Andy Johnson managed to beat his 2014 score but also accrued his lowest ever number of patch species so a mixed year although a late Iceland Gull provided a highlight.

Wednesday, 13 January 2016

PWC2015 Steven Ward - Hawes

Patchwork Challenge 2015 Review – Hawes; Steven Ward


Fortunately, and as per usual for the beginning of the year, the 1st of January saw areas of floodwater adorning the floodplain around the River Ure. This helps draw in certain species which wouldn't normally be present on Patch without floods. Teal, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Kestrel, Redwing & Fieldfare were the modest opening day highlights. Biblical amounts of rain over the course of New Year's Day turned virtually the whole valley bottom into one giant lake for the next 24 hours.
On the 3rd, Wigeon, Goosander, Tawny Owl & Grey Wagtail were added. My BirdTrack complete list had to be abandoned on this day however, as a mournful squealing sound on the river bank led to an Otter cub, no doubt separated from its family following the previous days' extensive flooding. Scooping the poor creature up, it ended up with the nearest RSPCA via my house and the local vet.
An unfortunate highlight perhaps.
The 4th was a good day. Waking up to frosts and ice cover, I logged a Patch 2nd Little Egret down by the river. The first 2 pointer of the year and a good record for the upland location. Hopefully given the freezing conditions, it had the sense to move on to warmer climes. Other goodies on the list were Pink-footed Goose, Sparrowhawk, Kingfisher, Goldcrest & Nuthatch.
Other good birds logged in the ensuing days were Dipper & Brambling on 5th, Shoveler & Stock Dove on 6th, and Little Grebe on 7th. Kestrel first showed on 10th.
What turned out to be my only Patch Peregrine of the year blasted low over the garden (tick) on 11th, scattering the local corvids in all directions.
13th brought a pair of Bullfinch to berries in a friend's garden. Scarce here, what must have been the same pair turned up in my garden a few days later, providing a welcome grden tick.
Buzzard & Snipe showed on 14th, with Shelduck coming on 16th.
The 17th delighted with a completely unexpected “Top 3” moment. Walking the riverbank, I glanced to the left to see a gamebird flying quite high over Hawes town. Amazing! The distinctive flight of a female Black Grouse. Heavy snowfall had occurred the previous night, and this lone greyhen was probably forced off the nearby fells to forage elsewhere. Despite birds being present in the nearby hills, this was probably the most unexpected Patch tick of the year. Buzzing! Full-fat Patch tick.
Raven (3 over East) on 19th was welcome, though they were scarce on Patch this year, with just 5 records. Previous years have seen flocks of up to 15 birds, and are sometimes seen on multiple consecutive days.
Golden Plover & Treecreeper on 24th rounded off an excellent month.

Score: 66/69


February's first good bird was Siskin, pretty much bread 'n' butter here, but nice all the same, on 3rd.
The first returning Curlew of the year dropped in on 17th, always nice to have these iconic birds back in the dales.
The 25th brought in a Patch MEGA, a full-fat Patch tick of a single Yellowhammer, well outside its normal winter range here in the heart of the Yorkshire Dales. I saw presumably the same bird a couple of days later.
#Patchsilver of Dunlin found their way onto the list on 28th thanks to still present floodwater.

Score: 72/75


A slow month, with returning breeding Redshank on 8th, and Whooper Swan (5 over W) the only birds of any real note, though a week in Dumfries & Galloway may have seen me miss something good?!

Score: 76/80


13 bird species added in this promising month, mainly due to incoming summer migrants.
A drake Mandarin was the April Fool on the 1st, an expected 2 point species now, with birds breeding. Agonisingly, I missed a poss./prob? Goshawk on the day as well. Sadly, I just didn't (don't!) have the necessary experience to nail this bird (rare in Yorkshire Dales) on such a brief, fleeting view in poor light. A Patch tick gone a' begging? Maybe the date was trying to tell me something!
Breeding Lesser Redpoll belatedly showed up on 7th, with #Patchsilver Coot a surprise on 8th.
Other notable summer migrant breeders were Common Sandpiper (earliest ever) & Redstart (both on 13th), and Sedge Warbler on 23rd.
Notable passage migrants this month were Jay on 13th (rare 'tick' spring bird, with the species normally only showing in autumn) and Wheatear finally touching down on 22nd (birds normally appear in late March). Best of all was a full-fat Patch tick male Ring Ouzel feeding with Blackbirds on meadowland. The commoner thrushes soon tired of their different-looking relative, and succeeded in driving him off into tree cover. Like the Black Grouse, this species is present in the surrounding hills, but unlike the grouse, I'm surprised the Ring Ouzel has taken so long to make the Patch list.

Score: 90/96


The 9th heralded a Red Kite mobbed by a Curlew on the edge of town, just about annual these days.
Spotted Flycatcher was an earliest ever arrival on 13th, whilst a Grasshopper Warbler (heard only) stayed for just a day on 14th. A great 2 pointer for me, and the 1st record for 4 years on Patch.

Score:  94/102


A long wait followed for the next new bird, a roosting Long-eared Owl right next to the footpath, in the exact same location as the only 2 previous records. This proved to be the only new species of the month, but again, may have missed some with a week off Patch on the Yorkshire coast & The Lakes.

Score: 95/104


A brilliant month! I saw 4 owls, including another Long-eared, this time perched out in the open in the pouring rain.
The 2nd and 10th added Little Owl & Barn Owl respectively. The former was missed last year, though I've hopefully found a reliable location now. The latter species is beginning to make its presence known again in the dales, and is now expected on the year list, with local folk reporting ever more sightings, of this once almost unknown local bird.
A juvenile Stonechat was a 2nd ever record.
Best of all was saved for the last day of the month, when a cream-crown Marsh Harrier quartered the pastures on the North side of the Ure, looking a little out of place amongst Swaledale sheep, drystone walls, and steep fells. Decent viewing confirmed it as a juvenile, which struck as an extremely early record for a fledged young bird wandering well away from any nesting areas.

Score: 99/109


Here at Hawes, August always comes up trumps in terms of the highest number of species recorded (April a close 2nd). This month followed suit, with the Marsh Harrier being seen a week later.
Passage migrants such as Tree Pipit, Whitethroat, Whinchat & a single Green Sandpiper (#Patchgold) dropped by on the 16th, 17th, 23rd & 28th. Sadly, the lone Whinchat was the sole Patch record. In previous years, up to 4 birds are seen almost daily throughout this month.
“Top 3” moment number 2 occurred on 31st. As dusk approached, I popped out the front door to lock up, and my gaze was drawn to a near neighbours TV aerial, where a small raptor perched. Expecting a local Sparrowhawk, I grabbed the bins, and was astonished to be greeted with the sight of a juvenile Merlin (2nd ever on Patch). Amazing! Perched up so brazenly in the middle of our small market town! I crept inside for the bridge camera, only for the bird to take-off as I reappeared, blasting over my own house. Damn, what a record shot that could have been! Still, great garden tick.

Score: 104/115


As the final 4 months of play kicked-off, my mid-season slump kicked-in, with NO new species added in what can always be 2 slow months in inland, upland Yorkshire Dales.

Score: 104/115


November stormed (literally, weather-wise) back with a bang. Goldeneye (far from guaranteed annually) and Gadwall (#Patchgold, only 2nd ever) were brought in by the massive flooding.
Number 3 “Top 3” came by on 23rd with a stonking ring-tail Hen Harrier flushing Snipe here and there out of the flooded pastures. A 3rd record of this magnificent raptor which many birders rightfully love, and definitely one of my faves.
A rare Patch Great Black-backed Gull fly-through kept the ball rolling nicely.

Score: 108/120


In what is often the slowest Patch month, mainly due to sheer lack of birding time, Pintail & Tufted Duck came to the rescue, 2 decent Patch birds, particularly the latter, which failed to make an appearance last year. The Hen Harrier showed again on 2nd, though this time with only a fleeting view.

Score: 110/122

That wrapped things up then. A brilliant year of Local Patch birding, with only 4 species missed from last year's comparatively paltry 99 species & 103 points (Water Rail, Yellow-legged Gull, Garden Warbler & Woodcock), despite broadly similar levels of effort.
Thanks all! Looking forward to this year!

BirdTrack: 346 complete lists, 14257 records