Tuesday, 28 October 2014

National Inland. August and September

Apologies for the lack of an Inland post last month and the lateness of this one but here goes.

The Inland table is beginning to resemble the footballPremier League, with familiar faces dominating the top six and a rather large gulf seperating them from the nearest contenders. At the bottom of the table it's still all to play for with just 12 points seperating 10th from 20th.

The Birding Gods smiled favourably on Wayne Gillatt during August, who after removing those dodgy Ruddy Shelducks went on to amass a further 33 points with self-found Great White Egret and Pectoral Sandpiper netting 12 points along with some good 'two pointers' such as Little Stint and Curlew Sandpiper. August is a crucial month for waders and clearly Wayne's location helped as did Martin Elcoate's at Topsham. Those further inland struggled with an all too apparent wader drought.
At the bottom of the table we lost Tom Raven and Andy Mackay and welcomed Bill Aspin and Nick Croft.

Despite only gaining two points Wayne Gillatt remains firmly rooted at the top though things have really been happening below him. Steve Swinney raced into 7th place from 15th with an amazing day on the 11th where he added Guillemot, Arctic Skua, Spoonbill and best of all Sabine's Gull the latter not just a patch tick but a lifer. Chris Bradshaw, Nick Croft, Nick Crouch and Mark Reeder dropped out of the table replaced by Tom Raven, Mark Nowers, Patch Birding stalwart Jonny Holliday and Shaun Robson who has switched tables given his estuary location.

Best inland finds during September  were Steve Swinney with his aforementioned hat full, Jamie Wells with a Pectoral Sandpiper at Paxton and  Paul Massey (just outside the top 20) who found not one but three Pectoral Sandpipers at Grindon Lough (sadly just the 6 finders points though).

Monday, 27 October 2014

Bresser and Forest Optics Best Find - September 2014

The Bresser & Forest Optics Best Find Competition is the highlight of the Patchwork Challenge year. This is the best find of the whole patchbirding year as voted for by you, the competitors. 

For the winner of the competition, those fine folk at Bresser & Forest Optics are very generously furnishing the winner of this esteemed competition with a pair of Bresser Montana 8.5 x 45 Binoculars worth £665.00. Follow the link to check out this superb reward for one lucky contender.

Autumn migration is an exciting time for the birder. September and October end a summer birding drought as our breeding birds hit the exit doors for warmer climes and familiar winter species start to make the journey back. Amidst this changing of the guard, the birder scours lakes, bushes, skies and seas for the rarer birds that get caught up in these great movements.

Rare birds put in appearances all across our isles, along with a magnificent supporting cast predominantly from the east. Many patchers scored with classic autumn fare such as Yellow Browed Greenish and Barred Warbler, Red-Breasted Flycatcher, Wryneck , Richards Pipit and Little Bunting. A Rose-Coloured Starling was found at Durness in Scotland whilst Cheshire’s 3rd Marsh Warbler was located at Red Rocks on the 5th. All fine finds, but nothing to make the shortlist of the Bresser and Forest Optics Best Find Competition.

This was also a month of near misses, birds appeared on patches but another pair of binoculars got there first. Tim Jones hit big points this month, but had he been the first to lay eyes on the Masked Shrike that wowed the masses he would have perhaps already have had one hand on the prize. Similarly, Amy Robjohns scored with what is usually a Shetland speciality, a Pallas’s Grasshopper Warbler which had already graced the nets of a ringer at the southerly location of Titchfield Haven. Western Bonelli’s was a fine addition to Kieran Nixon’s patch list at Kelling. And in the month of the independence vote, Scotland was not to be forgotten with Gary Bell recording Myrtle Warbler and Red-Flanked Bluetail at Sumburgh whilst Mike Pennington enjoyed Pechora Pipit and Eastern Subalpine Warbler at Baltasound. Great birds but not finds.

There were however two patchers who found #patchgold and make the shortlist, with two very different birds from distinct locations.

On the 21st September, Iain Robson caught news of a Fea’s Petrel making its way north along the coast. The birders equivalent of lighting the beacons, the message went out from site to site along the coast, a fine example of the power of social media helping people score with this dark-rumped enigma. Iain was faced with a decision however, head to Newbiggin to enhance the chances of connecting or head to Druridge to add it to the patch list. Taking the gamble, he stationed himself on patch and listened to the reports as the bird headed further north. Preceded by a fine Sabine’s Gull, the Petrel finally came into view following behind a couple of Manxies, arcing into the sky before dipping out of sight into the waves to continue its northward journey.

Fea's type Whitburn 210914 M Newsome

Photos phone-scoped by Mark Newsome off Whitburn as the bird headed up the coast.
The second contender is an Olive-Backed Pipit. There were a few birds in classic locations during September where an OBP would be perhaps expected, but it was not the bird that Nick Croft would have expected as it flew low west over his Wanstead patch on the 26th September. The bird called twice as it flew towards Long Wood but could not be relocated. Having already scored with Blyth’s Reed Warbler earlier in the year, this is quite a double for this inland patch.

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This bird showed well at Roker in Sunderland in October. Photo courtesy of Mark Newsome.

Sunday, 26 October 2014

Inland North Minileagues - September

September proved largely disappointing for contenders in the Inland North, with few points added resulting in a table broadly similar to last month. Wayne Gillett and Darren Starkey make up the top 3 with Darren having some work to do in the last 3 months of the year to make top spot.

Highlights for the month were the impressive 3 Pectoral Sandpipers found together by Paul Massey at Grindon Lough, a Hawfinch at Alkborough, Caspian Gull at Goole Fields and Water Pipit at Pugneys.

Andy Bunting and Pete Antrobus are battling it out for the most Birdtrack records submitted and both should top 10,000 by the end of the year. Andy Bunting currently leads the way. The Green league is headed up by James Common at Stobswood who will take some stopping

2 of the 7 contenders in the comparative league have topped 100% with James Common at Stobswood way out in front with a very healthy 116%. Peter Williams at Laycock stays on the 100% mark with both Phil Woollen and Mark Reeder closing in on last years score. It will take a miracle (or a self-found Willet) to knock James off top spot with just 3 months left to go.

Sunday, 19 October 2014

Wales Minileagues - September

In Wales, the islands lead the way. The Bardsey duo are in the clear and only have each other to beat for the top spot. This island piled on the points again in September with classic Autumn species such as Ortolan, Greenish, Yellow-Browed and Barred Warblers, Richard's Pipit, Red-Breasted Flycatcher and a Nightingale. Steve Stansfield has seen more species this year than Ben Porter, but a higher points per bird score for Ben sees him in top spot with 3 months left to run. Will Steve pay for the trip to Sweden that meant he dipped on the Western Bonelli's? Maybe Steve needs to arrange a trip to the mainland for Ben in October!

Final podium place is filled by Jason Moss on Skomer who has daylight between 3rd and 4th thanks to a healthy point per bird score, evidenced by an enviable list of rarities this year including Black-Headed Bunting, Lesser Yellowlegs and Melodious Warbler.

Zac Hinchcliffe continues to lead the way on the Birdtrack lists, the only Welsh contender into 5 figures.

In the all important comparative tables, 2 competitors are over the 100% mark. Alison and LlanfairTH is running away with the title with an impressive 127%. Ben Porter on Bardsey has an impressive 110%, eclipsing a tough target of 251 from last year with October still to come.

Inland Scotland Minileague - September

Despite a quite month all round, Alastair Forsyth at Old Nisthouse appears to have the Inland Scotland league sown up, with an impressive total of 160 points at an average of 1.41 points per bird. He also tops the green and birdtrack statistics too.

In the comparative league, Alastair has a comparative of 125%. Andy Cage and Chris Pendlebury are battling it out for 2nd and 3rd with just 1% between them.

Friday, 17 October 2014

The Big Vis - Filling in the Form

You may have noticed the appearance of the Big Vis form on the right hand sidebar. Due to the limitations of blogger and google forms it isnt quite as all singing and dancing as I would like BUT it will record the data effectively. In this post we will explain how to fill out the form for those that arent regular PWC competitors (and those that make a mess of it each month - Im looking at you Ryan).

There are two main things to note about submissions:

  1. They are broken down by hour. You should only submit an individual hour per form.
  2. There are only enough fields to submit ten records per form. Please fill in multiple forms if you get plenty of species or birds flying in various directions and need extra fields. This isnt ideal but it is the limitations of google forms I am afraid.

The first field is observer name. Who are you? As it is the weekend I will be Judy BUT my submission will be under my given name,

The second field is Location and here we need the name of where you are watching from and even more importantly the grid reference. You can find the grid reference using the link below:


The third field is date and that is simply going to be 18/10/2014 or 19/10/2014 dependent upon whether it is Saturday or Sunday when you take part.

Start time is the fourth field - this should be dawn which will be 7.40ish. To get the sunrise time for your location try this website:


For the weather field we want to know whether it is raining/snowing/sleeting/dry etc, the temperature in celcius, the cloud cover expressed in octets (8/8 for fully cloudy sky, 0/8 for no cloud), the wind direction and strength using the beaufort scale and the visibility in distance (>2km if vis is excellent, 500m-2km if a bit ganky and <500m any="" as="" be="" can="" changeable="" fog="" here.="" horrible="" if="" included="" notes="" other="" p="" showers="" such="" weather="">
Hour - we are asking you record for a minimum of two hours and we want an hourly breakdown for results so here you tick which hour you are submitting results for. If you are super lucky and get an awesome passage you may stay beyond 4 hours and this all goes in the 4+ hours tab.

The next three fields are for each record and are repeated 10 times on the form. First up we want the species of bird followed by the number and then finally the direction of flight. If you have a single species with multiple flight directions then each different direction should get its own 'record'.

If (when) you run out of space as you have had an awesome mornings migration add extra records on a new form after you submit the first one - there is no limit.

Which birds to count? Those that are moving through - so not the resident birds and not the flock of waders flying round in circles. Anything you think may be a migrant from the geese and ducks to the thrushes and Tree Sparrows. There are no hard fast rules so use your own judgement. If you have any questions get in touch on twitter using the hashtag #BigVis and tweet us @patchbirding and also @trektellen

Good birding!

Thursday, 16 October 2014

Coastal Scotland Minileague - September

Despite the best attempts of the chasing pack to close the gap, John Bowler continues to rack up great species on the patch and has now surpassed the 300 mark, adding 11 species and 39 points in September. This included American Golden Plover, Buff-Breasted and Pectoral Sandpipers as well as multiple Barred Warblers. A score was not registered for North Ronaldsay for September, so the gap could close next month.

Gary Bell at Sumburgh had a good month, with perhaps the best two birds recorded in the Coastal Scotland league in September, a Myrtle Warbler and Red-Flanked Bluetail. This has put him on an impressive 1.75 points per bird. The best find of the month went to Peter Stronach who located a Rose-Coloured Starling on his Durness patch.

Steve Minton at Scatness is leading the non-motorised league with an impressive 4th place in the overall standing. Our own Mark Lewis has submitted the most Birdtrack records and is on target to break the 10,000 records submitted by the end of the year.

Two birders have now broken the 100% barrier, with Stephen Welch pushing John Bowler into second place. Plenty of others are closing in, a good October should see more beating last years score next month.