Sunday, 22 May 2016

Islands Minileague - April 2016

April was a fairly decent month for many of the Island patchers. A couple of true #patchgold entries were submitted (Great Tit for John Bowler at Balephuil and Canada Goose for IanT at Askernish) along with a few other patch firsts in the form of Iceland Gull for Mark Newell on the Isle of May and Great White Egret for IanT at Askernish. Probably the highlight of the month for Steve Minton at Scatness was a pod of Orca cruising by. Although not birds, they're freaking awesome and I'm sure many of us would love them as a patch tick!

Credit: Steve Minton

After 10 weeks away in Spain, IanT returned in style and topped pole position of the Islands Comparative Minileague. On his return to patch, he added twenty-seven species, including two patch firsts (Great White Egret and Canada Goose) leaving him on 98 species and 78.8% for April. All but one patcher have at least broken the 50% milestone and are steadily adding species, and with only a few percent separating the top 3, May could see a change at the top again. 

Moving on to the Island Points Minileague, while points have increased, there's no change for 1st, 2nd or 3rd place. John Bowler at Balephuil remains on the highest perch with some cracking birds added for the year (Corncrake, Manxie, Little Tern, Mealy Redpoll, and Lapland Bunting), while Paul Higson at Quoyangry clings on in 2nd despite not adding any species in April. Barrie Hamill at Burray is hot on Paul's heels in 3rd with finds including Hawfinch, Little Gull, and Black Redstart. As April ends, only one point separates 2nd and 3rd place.

Elsewhere, Bryan Rains had the first Iceland Gull for five year on patch at Pennyghael, Mull. Alastair Forsyth at Palace, Orkney also had Iceland Gull in addition to Carrion Crown (very uncommon) and Common Scoter which is less than an annual visitor to his patch. A drake Garganey graced Steve Minton's patch, while Bruce Taylor's highlights were Gropper at Brevig and White-billed Diver at Ardmhor.

Wednesday, 18 May 2016

Inland Ireland Minileague - April 2016

Des Higgins rockets into first place in the Inland Ireland Comparative Minileague with a mighty score of 94.7% from University College Dublin by the end of April after adding some of the expected spring migrants along with a one day stay Wheatear being the highlight. Not a bad species to see on this suburban Dublin campus! Des is catching up with his comparative score nicely now, which may have seemed a daunting task after the bonus points gleaned from a Ring-necked Duck in 2015. With several common but crucial #patchgold species added so far in 2016 it seems he is on track to break 100%.

Niall Keogh was away for most of the month so gets bumped down to second as a result while Darragh Sinnott moves into third place with 83% at Holy Cross and Carriganore.

Stock Dove and Woodcock were the latest additions to Andrew Power’s patch list at Kildavin taking him to 72 species and 79 points, remaining at the top of the Points Minileague. Brian Burke and Derek Charles are neck and neck in terms of points with 68 apiece from the inland lakes of Lough Ree and Lough Neagh but Brian's slightly higher points per bird score of 1.097 edges him forward into second place. 

Long-eared Owl and the first Swift of the year for Christian Osthoff were his monthly additions at Carrigmore. A Curlew at Bramblestown was Liam Lysaght’s first for the site while a pair of #patchgold Coot on the pond at Bushy Park constituted the first record there since 2003 for Mary Fitzgerald. Ian Stevenson got into the swing of spring at Grand Canal Way, adding Blackcap, Willow Warbler, Chiffchaff and Swallow along with Coal Tit (after much effort!) and Lesser Redpoll. 

male Hen Harrier, a garden bird in Upper Rathduff! © Michael John O’Mahony (patch Flickr page here)

Wales Minileague - April 2016

Spring was kind to the contestants of the Wales Minileague where we see good ground being made on the comparative table. No less than seven patch birders are now above 80%. Alastair Flannagan still leads the charge from his inland Swansea Vale to Fendrod Lake patch with 85.7% where Glaucous Gull was a patch tick plus his third patch record of Redstart provided added value. Close behind in second and third with 84% are Henry Cook and Julian Hughes, both patching from Conwy RSPB and both connecting with a male Blue-headed Wagtail and a colour-ringed Twite there. Henry edges just ahead on the table with a Spotted Redshank. 

colour-ringed Twite at Conwy RSPB © Henry Cook

Peter Howlett jumped from eight to fourth at his Green minileague Cardiff Bay patch, finishing on 83% by the months end thanks to 19 species added including Iceland Gull, Short-eared Owl, Yellow Wagtail and Whinchat. 

The same names crop up in the Wales Points Minileague during April. Richard Dobbins and Wendy James occupy first and second place again at the productive site of Teifi where a White Stork was a great find by Richard and also seen by Wendy. Barry Stewart increased his points total at Burry Inlet by 34 with Garganey, Little Gull, Yellow Wagtail and Razorbill taking him to 147 points and third place.

Thirteen patch birders are now above 100 points which is no surprise given the list of highlights reported to us at the end of April. Yellow Wagtails, Grasshopper Warblers and Whimbrel were popular along with Ring Ouzel at Little Orme (Henry Cook) and another Ring Ouzel, Osprey and Pied Flycatcher at Ogmore Estuary (Paul Roberts). Kentish Plover was a fine patch tick for David Carrington at Sker and Kenfig in addition to other highlights such as Garganey and Little Tern.

The PWC favourite #patchgold species, Coot, was a patch tick for Martin Bell at Parc Taf Bargoed and Coed Cefn Forest. Long live the Coot!

Long-eared Owl and Short-eared Owl at River Clwyd estuary © Chris Jones

Tuesday, 17 May 2016

Midlands Minileague - April 2016

Andy Sims has climbed to the top of the comparative tree for the Midlands minileague from his March position of third. This is testament to the time and effort Andy puts into his patch and a little bird tells me he may be across the 100% mark now... In April Andy had his first Little Ringed Plover in 33 years for the site. Rhys Chivers adds 17% to move into second place. He added Wood Warbler, Avocet and Yellow-legged Gull this time out. On the third step of the podium is Tom Shields at Holme Pierrepoint who moves up from ninth position. He adds his first site Grasshopper Warbler plus Avocet and Whimbrel.

Erik's lead at Rutland is cut to three points as Rod Baker makes up ground. Erik added Short-eared Owl, Redstart and Red-breasted Merganser. John Hopper remains in contact on 156 points at Hoveringham as he adds a first site record of Cetti's Warbler plus Brent Goose and Osprey. There were no bonus points this month but plenty of highlights were shared about.

Hen Harrier - Steve Nuttall at Belvide Reservoir
There was a Siberian Chiffchaff at Evesham for Edward Betteridge plus his second site Yellow Wagtail. Little Gulls were a feature on inland waters with birds noted at 5 sites. Some tern passage also occurred with Sandwich Terns at Upton Warren whilst Kate Thorpe had an Arctic Tern at Middleton Lakes RSPB. Ospreys passed through a number of sites including Tame Valley, Welby, Old Bollingbroke and Grimston. Steve Nuttall had the rather smart male Hen Harrier featured above. There were a brace of Black Redstarts for Matt Griffiths constituting his first record for Earlswood. Matt Hazelton managed to connect with Wood Sandpiper on both his patches and scarcer migrants abounded.

Inland East Anglia Minileague - April 2016

April was obviously a good month for the Norwich area as both Adam Nicholls and James Emerson break the 100% and take the top 2 spots, Adam helped by several patch ticks including Common Sandpiper and Grasshopper Warbler. Nick Moran remains in third place after another good month with 2nd patch records of Iceland Gull and Sandwich Tern, both excellent inland records. The other big mover of the month was Jim Bradley as he finally picked up a Crane at Surlingham.

The Nunneries Sandwich Tern!

The points league also has a new leader as Ben Lewis, thanks to a Firecrest (2nd patch record!), Green-winged Teal and many migrants, leaps from 4th to first. Luke Wake drops to second place despite adding 28 points during the month. Jamie Wells and his big hitting Paxton Pits patch moves into the top three as April gave him an unexpected seabird, an Arctic Skua.

Many patchers managed to find some patch ticks throughout the month, Rob Pople managed to find a Cetti's Warbler at Milton CP, Irene Boston lucked in on a fly over Raven (a great county bird!) at Dersingham Bog and Terry Stopher managed to find a Ring Ouzel at Livermere. There were also a few bits of pure patch gold as Rob Lucking had a Shelduck on his Colkirk patch, Stuart Reeves picked out a Wheatear at Mutford.

First heard in January at Mid Yare RSPB, Ben Lewis finally managed to photograph this Penduline Tit in April!

Sunday, 15 May 2016

Coastal East Anglia Minileague - April 2016

Rob Hall continues his dominance in the comparative league adding 10% to his end of March score. Craig Fulcher had an excellent month finding Crane and Great White Egret for some much needed bonus points while James Brown makes the top 3 thanks to finding Cranes as well as some ggod patch birds turning up such as Lesser Yellowlegs and Wood Warbler. Gary White also managed some bonus points with a cracking Great Grey Shrike, a very nice spring find!

Great Grey Shrike found by Gary White

James Brown has increased his lead at the top after another superb month while Craig Fulcher leap frogs Paul Eele into 2nd. Not much movement in terms of league placings but some cracking birds seen throughout the month as several patches catch up with an 'easy' 6 pointer Crane. Irene Boston lucked in on a short staying Little Ringed Plover in Brancaster and a Nightingale at Thornham, both patch ticks. Tommy Corcoran added several new species the highlight perhaps his Hawfinch, an excellent east coast record.

Sunday, 8 May 2016

Inland South Minileague - April 2016

 Stephanie Brown at Twyford and Richard Scantlebury at Fishponds in Bristol both breach 100%. Richard's highlights include Reed Warbler and Spotted Flycatcher whilst Stephanie adds Lesser Redpoll and Marsh Tit. Marek Walford is in third place.

With Lee Evans deciding to drop out of the competition the Inland South points league has a familiar feel with newly crowned Forest Optics Best Find 2016 winner Tom Raven now leading the line. Ian Bennell is in second place after a productive month which included patch ticks of Ring Ouzel and Short-eared Owl and the top three is rounded off by Nick Croft at Wanstead who added Osprey, Redstart and Ring Ouzel in the 'burbs of London.

Tree Pipit - Chris Bessant
Best find this month was undoubtedly by Rob Hill who turned up a Gannet at Linford NR. There were two Black-winged Stilts at for him at Manor Farm which Ashley Beolens also saw although it wasn't a find for either. Chris Bessant had a Tree Pipit at Maple Cross and other summer migrants were spread widely with many patchers getting Ring Ouzel and Redstart. Tom Stevenson had a Garganey at Dorchester Gravel Pits and a Merlin for Tim Farr at West Sherbourne.