Monday, 24 November 2014

Bresser and Forest Optics Best Find - October 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.

October was great month with many good birds in the British Isles including Yellow-billed Cuckoo in Cornwall and Black-billed Cuckoo in North Ronaldsay.  However great these birds are, as they were not found by patchworkers, they don't qualify for the competition and have to be ignored. Another near miss for the competition was Pallid Harrier - one was found by Roger Musgrove but sadly not on patch, whilst Dick Best had one on patch but wasn't the finder, so close chaps but yet so far.

Arguably the best Patch Work Challenge find for October was the Brunnich's Guillemot seen by Martin Garner on his Flamborough Head North patch. This bird was a distant fly-by and although a couple of others got on to the bird briefly as is often the case with sea watching, the bird was gone in a matter of moments. This 15 pointer has got to be in with a chance in the competition for the binoculars. Shame it didn't hang around for a bit as there would have been a queue of Yorkshire birders to get the second bird for the county on their lists. However it makes me question how many may be missed due to observers not thoroughly 'grilling' the various auks that they see?

Another 15 point beauty was the red-flanked bluetail found by Dave Suddaby  on his Blacksod patch, the first record for county Mayo and only the fourth for Ireland. As this bird hung around for a bit a good many birders managed to connect with it. I really like Dave's back of the camera picture as it puts quite a few record shots to shame but John's portrait really brings out the beauty of the bird.

Red-flanked bluetail - Blacksod (Dave Suddaby)

Same bird (John N Murphy)

Ben Lewis at his Mid Yare RSPB patch managed to find a Penduline Tit, always a nice bird no matter where you are and Ben says it is possibly the highlight of his year.

There were several Rough-Legged Buzzards in the UK during October and a few patch workers managed to catch up with them, oddly enough all in East Anglia although birds were throughout the country. Gary Elton at Holme NOA, Tim Hodge at Horsey and Toby Collett at Frampton Marsh all scored handsomely with the species. 

Rough legged Buzzard - Frampton Marsh (Toby Collett)

Same Bird (Toby Collett)
Finally back to North Ronaldsay once more but this time for Peter Donnelly who managed to find both Olive-backed and Pechora Pipits during October, actually 3 of the first species, it almost makes up for dipping the cuckoo.

Tuesday, 18 November 2014

Coastal North Minileague - October

For those not jet-setting off to Shetland or Scilly, what better place to be in October than on your own patch in the Coastal North (should you be so lucky!), a minileague laden down with top notch rares.

With a species list of 218, a points score of 407 (yes, you read that right!) and a points per bird score of 1.86, Tim Jones at Spurn is truly untouchable in the Coastal North Minileague. This is what Tim had to say for himself in the highlights section of the monthly submission form... "Highlights: Too many to remember let alone list here! My best months birding ever with what felt like a constant stream of quality throughout the month! Second Pallid Swift of the year, biggest day total of Goldcrest ringed with 529, nearly breaking the Tree Sparrow record with 2285 flying south, smashing the Bonxie record when 335 flew south, 3x Leach's Petrel, Radde's Warbler, Sabine's Gull, grip back Hoopoe after missing spring bird, 2x Rough-legged Buzzard, Isabelline Shrike, mega sprint to see drake Surf Scoter fly south, 2 falls mid month and at the end with birds seemingly everywhere both times!"

...Magic stuff!

Martin Garner at Flamborough and Jane Turner at Red Rocks continued to add a nice list of species to their patches through October, holding on to second and third place respectively. Martin connecting with one of the overall PWC best finds of the year with a flyby Brunnich's Guillemot during a seawatch as well as adding Pallas's Warbler. Jane added Sabine's Gull and Leach's Petrel as expected along with patchgold in the form of her first Kingfisher since 1976 and her third patch Hawfinch. Chris Bradshaw at Long Nab moves past Iain Robson at Druridge Pools to take fourth. 

Many PWC contestants in this region commented on the heavy fall of winter thrushes at the end of the month as a highlight along with some always welcome Little Auks. Seawatching also produced a Black Guillemot for Jack Bucknall and a Surf Scoter for James Spencer, both at St. Mary's Island.

In the comparative league, Iain Robson remains in first as they only patchworker past the 100% mark (highlights including Shore Lark) while Jane Turner moves ever closer to her personal year listing targets, now in second with 99.29%.

Midlands Minileague - October

Both Ian Cowgill at Lound and John Hopper at Hoveringham continued to increase their species lists since September but remain in their allotted first and second places respectively in the Midlands Minileague points table. Ian has a good lead by 11 species and 21 points (including the first Grey Phalarope for Lound in 31 years), will this be enough to ensure first place come the end of the year? Seven new species including Hawfinch & Water Pipit for Andy Mackay at Eyebrook Reservoir sees him take third place from Nick Crouch at Collingham & Besthorpe whilst Matthew Bruce moves into fifth with thirteen new species (including Great Skua) at Draycote Water.

A Yellow-browed Warbler was a top find for Matt Griffiths at Earlswood and only the second record for Warwickshire, ensuring he crossed the 100% mark, staying in first place in the comparative league. Dave Roberts at Marston takes second place from Nick Crouch but only by a matter of 0.8%

Monday, 17 November 2014

Inland East Anglia Minileague - October

A self-found Penduline Tit for Ben Lewis at Mid Yare Valley RSPB helps him close the gap between second and first place, the latter currently held by Jamie Wells at Paxton Pits. Just three points separate the two. Steve Swinney at Linford remains in third but managed to add an impressive ten species since September including Eider, Little Tern and Short-eared Owl on consecutive days. Some great patch birding there! Whilst Jamie and Ben will certainly be battling it out for first place over the next two months it would be worth keeping on eye on Steve as he'll certainly cross the 200 points mark and given the excellent year he's having it will be interesting to see how it all settles come 31st December. 

Nick Moran at Thetford edges closer to the 10,000 records mark for BirdTrack. Great to see plenty of other patchworkers well into their thousands of records in this league also.

The highlight of the month for James Appleton at Ebridge Mill was half a yogurt topped flapjack in his coat pocket, not to be snuffed at!

Steve Swinney increases his comparative score at Linford to over 139%, leading the table by a long shot. Ben Lewis crosses the 100% mark, entering the top five taking fourth place from Jame Wells.

Coastal East Anglia Minileague - October

Tim Hodge is still leading the way as he approaches the 350 point mark for Horsey while James Brown looks comfortable in second at Lowestoft with a 19 point cushion to Gary White in third. The fight for the bronze medal looks like it will go to the wire with 14 points separating four patches! Best finds of the month were standard October fair with a few Richard's Pipits, YBWs, Pallas's Warbler and Lapland Buntings making it onto more than one patch in October. The region also benefited from the recent Rough-legged Buzzard influx with three patchers finding one this month.

Gary White maintains a healthy lead in the comparative scores with a 16% lead. Less than 1.4% separates the next three patches, with Craig Fultcher leading the way, so the other spots in the top three are all to play for with two months to go.

Sunday, 16 November 2014

National Inland. October

Wayne Gillatt continues to Maintain his 18 point lead at the top of the group. Both of  Darren Starkey's patches slipped this month, losing 2nd place to Jamie Wells and 4th to Ben Lewis and with just 5 points separating 2nd - 5th there' s still plenty of time for more change. 
Top find of the month goes to Ben Lewis with a Penduline Tit at Mid Yare Valley. Other notable finds were Yellow-browed Warblers for Marcus Lawson and Matt Griffiths (only the 2nd Warwickshire record), Hawfinch for Andy Mackay (who returned to the table in 17th place), and a Blue Tit (far rarer than Yellow-browed Warbler on Orkney) for Alastair Forsyth.

Inland North Minileague. October

The temptation of autumn rarities proved too much for several of the Inland North's birders this month, with some having very little time for patch choosing to spend much of October birding islands in the far north or drinking beer on the Scilly Isles.

Meanwhile, Wayne Gillatt continues his dominance at the top with an almost seemingly unattainable lead, adding Cetti's Warbler and Gannet during the month. The former species was also added by Tom Lowe, a new species at Thorne Moors. Surprisingly a Jack Snipe at Fairburn was the first of the year for Darren Starkey who also added a patch tick with Raven at St Aidan's.

The mid-table spat between Bill Aspin, Jonny Holliday and Mark Reeder continues. With all 3 away for much of  October there was little change, though Bill appears to be breaking away and moving onto his next targets Andy Bunting and Tom Lowe.

A few notable birds for James Common at Stobswood with Slavonian Grebe, Rough-legged Buzzard, Snow Bunting and his 1st patch Stonechat, keeping him safe at the top of the comparative table.