Thursday, 26 March 2015

The Bresser and Forest Optics Best Find - February 2015

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 prize tbc, hopefully next month we will be able to reveal all

February had been a somewhat mixed month weather-wise, starting off with colder than average temperatures before ending the month with them being slightly higher than average. This seems to have had a knock-on effect with the birding world.
The only rare of the month was the Bonaparte's Gull found at Llanelli WWT by Laurie Allnatt, well done that man! Not only finding the bird but getting a decent photo of it as well.

Bonaparte's Gull - Laurie Allnatt

 There were lots of scarce birds during the month, mainly multiple finds of a few species rather than loads of species. 

We'll start with Great White Egrets, or Great Egrets as we are supposed to call them now, 3 patchworkers found  them during the month; Anthony Bentley at his Frampton Marsh/ Frieston RSPB patch in Lincolnshire, also Drew Lyness at UEA in Norfolk and Dave Craven who had 3 birds on his Hale & Pickering Pasture patch in Cornwall. 

Next a couple of Ring-billed Gulls, oddly enough both in Ireland, one at Larne Lough found by Neil Warnock, the other on the Boyne Estuary picked up by Gerald Murray.   

Back to England for Great Grey Shrike, again a couple of birds, one on Benjamin Ward's patch at Aubourn in Lincolnshire and the other giving Matthew Dick the points on his patch in Darley Dale, Derbyshire.

The west of the PWC area had the next multiple sightings, Green-winged Teals for Balivanich in the Outer Hebrides, a nice one for Stuart Taylor and also for Eamonn O'Donnell at his Ninch/Laytown patch in Ireland. Keeping the Western trend going Pete Marsh had Cetti's Warbler on his Heysham and Middleton patch in Lancashire, the first winter record for his area. 
Green-winged Teal - Johnathan Farooqi
Moving across to the East of the map we have a couple of good birds found in Norfolk, starting with Crane for Gary White  at North Walsham/Trimingham and the only Rough-legged Buzzard on patch during February found by Tim Hodge at his Horsey Mill patch.

Mention should go to David McGrath who found a Dusky Warbler on his Marton Mere patch during January, a good winter record. David was late in registering on the challenge so we'll let him off this time. 

As I write March is half over and the first migrants are being picked up on the South coast, can't wait for next month's listings.

Tuesday, 17 March 2015

Estuarine - February 2015

A quiet month in the Estuarine league as everyone seems to be waiting for Spring to be sprung. Mark Nowers at Stutton leads the way in a comparative league which has some pretty impressive scoring, principally due to an excellent start in January. The Maldon due are close behind however with Russell Neave taking the honours in that patch battle.

Bird of the month goes to the Ring-Billed Gull which Paul Freestone finally caught up with at Hayle. There was some good seabird fare at Frampton / Freiston with Little Auk and Puffin putting in a showing along with a Velvet Scoter. Great White Egret was recorded on both east and west side of the country, whilst an Iceland Gull at Hale and Pickerings helped Dave Craven to pick up points.

In a strong scoring league, Frampton / Freiston dominate the top of the scoring charts with John Badley outpointing Anthony Bentley after two months. Dave Craven is representing the west in third place but a lot of runners and riders are waiting in the wings with many patches already scoring 100 points and 7 already over 100 species with the Spring just around the corner!

Sunday, 15 March 2015

Wales - February 2015

Despite a quiet month in Wales, both Alun John at Pennard Golf Course and Henry Cook at Conwy RSPB have reached the 70% mark in the comparative league already which is a great achievement. It is Alun who leads the way at the end of February with an impressive 73%.

There are a lot of new competitors in Wales in PWC2015, and it is one of these newcomers, Laurie Allnatt, who leads the points league. A self-found Bonaparte's Gull at Llanelli secures the top spot. Other highlights were few and far between, but a Great Northern Diver in Cardiff Bay, a Goshawk at Ogmore and a Yellow-Legged Gull were all notable. Interestingly, two patchers reported Pheasant as a highlight, emphasizing how every patch has its own individual #patchgold.

In the Welsh green league, Marc Hughes at Penrhyn Bay tops the list with Peter Howlett and Trevor Fletcher making up the top three. Many patchers are BirdTracking with some impressive numbers reported, Alistair Flannagan has already topped 100 lists which is a magnificent effort.

Islands - February 2015

Paul Higson at Quoyangry consolidates his lead at the top of the comparative league after an outstanding January. His highlights might not make outstanding reading for mainland birders, but Blue Tit and Great Spotted Woodpecker are far from easy points for the Scottish islands. David Wood on Islay is pushing Paul all the way however, as 5 birders have scored over 50% with the exciting spring season almost upon us.

In the points John Bowler has edged Paul Higson into second with just two points between them. Paul has by far more species, the only patcher in the islands league to exceed the 100 marker so far, but it is the impressive 1.465 points per bird on Tiree that helps John take top spot. Barrie Hamill makes up the top three.

Bird of the month fell to Stuart Taylor at Balivanich. An opportunistic scan of the Teal flock on the 7th produced a Green-Winged Teal (I have been following Stuart's methodology myself but not his success). Both Iceland and Glaucous Gulls put in appearances further north whilst John Headon found a Long-Tailed Duck on his Scilly patch.

A number of patchers on the islands are BirdTracking with Sean Morris leading the way on both of his Mull patches.

Next month the Bardsey duo will join the party having returned to the island in March but they will have some catching up to do.

Coastal North - February 2015

A great seawatch on the 1st February helps Stewart Sexton to the top of the comparative league. The day added 8 new patch ticks including Velvet Scoter, Long-Tailed Duck and Little Auk. Ash Baines is keeping the pressure on for the west coast with a Great White Egret and a Red-Throated Diver on the lake. Our own James Spencer makes up the top three places with Red-Necked Grebe his February highlight. The top three all have a score in excess of 50% after just two months of the year, impressive for coastal sites whose annual totals are undoubtedly boosted by spring and autumn.

In the points league, the Long Nab duo sandwich Martin Garner in a Yorkshire top three. Nick Addey is in top spot thanks to his first three pointer of the year, a Surf Scoter along with handy additions such as Little Auk and Waxwing. Meanwhile both Chris Bradshaw and Martin Garner had White-Fronted Goose. In fact Martin at Flamborough had both Eurasian and Greenland Whitefronts which controversially does not attract any additional points under PWC2015 rules. Even so it was certainly a month highlight for many birders and a great chance to observe them side by side.

On the west coast, Cetti's Warblers were proving popular, with a first winter record for Heysham for Pete Marsh and a bird at Fleetwood for Seamus Eaves. Still a good find in the north of the country in any season.

There are plenty of patchers submitting to BirdTrack with Tom Cadwallender submitting the most lists so far.

Midlands - February 2015

An American Wigeon at Holme Pierrepont helps Tom Shield take top spot in the comparative league at the end of February with a healthy 67%. The field is bunched close behind however with just 3.5% splitting the top 4.

February is always a hard month with most winter species falling in January and spring still waiting in the wings, so a Great Grey Shrike was a nice 6 point find for Benjamin Ward at Aubourn. A couple of patches recorded Bittern, whilst a Great White Egret was a welcome points boost at Eyebrook Reservoir. Carsington Water is always a good inland site in winter for Grebes or Divers, and a Great-Northern Diver was an excellent find for Matthew Dick who also scored two shades of grey at his Darley Dale patch with a male Hen Harrier and Great Grey Shrike.

Matthew Bruce at his patch affectionately named The Puddle scored with a double patch first of Raven and that ugly brute the Egyptian Goose. Meanwhile Caspian Gulls seem to be more frequently recorded and a bird at Earlswood was a lifer for Matt Griffiths.

A couple of patches located Lesser-Spotted Woodpeckers - a difficult bird to find. Meanwhile a Smew at Langford Lowlands helped Carl Cornish to a healthy 4th in his first year in the competition.

Ian Cowgill stretches his lead at the top of the points table with a superb 117 points after just two months, an excellent score for an inland site. Joining Ian on the 100+ points are John Hopper and Andy Mackay. As in 2014, Nottinghamshire is taking an early lead in the table, with only Eyebrook breaking up the monopoly at the top. Also notable is the points per bird score for John Hopper at Hoveringham who is outscoring all sites in the 'quality' score.

It's excellent to see so many patchers contributing to BirdTrack in the Midlands with many submitting records in the hundreds. Andy Sims at Boultham Mere leads the way with 53 lists covering 1941 records. For those Green patchers, Andy Sims at Boultham Mere is ahead with Benjamin Ward, Phil Espin and Sam Pitt Miller not far behind.

Inland North. February 2015

February was generally a quiet month for most patchers in the Inland North. Top additions for the month were American Wigeon for Jonny Fisk at Nosterfield - presumably the the bird that was at North Duffield in January. Putting the whole patch thing into perspective was the 2nd ever record of Moorhen at Stobswood for James Common.

Best finds included a trio of gulls (Iceland, Med' and Caspian) for Mark Reeder at Orgreave, a Scaup for Garry Taylor at Hornsea, a Nuthatch for Jonny at Pugneys and Med Gull and Long-eared Owl at Stobswood.

As is now the fashion the cumaltive league 1st.

Despite no visits during the month Keith Dickinson is still holding on to top spot, though Nick Tongue is desperately close.

The points

Yorkshire sites dominate the top ten with 8 sites, split only by the 2 Lancashire sites of Martin Mere and Brockholes. Darren Starkey sits comfortably at the top with an 18 point lead over Jonny Holliday. Mark Reeder and Garry Taylor are level on species with just quality separating them. With increased daylight and early migrants, the Inland North should now begin to hot up. Perhaps those sitting quietly lower down the league are playing the slow game will begin to rise up in the next few weeks?