Sunday, 4 December 2016

Coastal North Minileague - October 2016

Damian Money moves to the top of the comparative minileague after the month of his dreams. He added 28% and crossed the 100% barrier and onward to 121% with one of the finds of the year - a fine Siberian Accentor. This was augmented with finds of Siberian Stonechat and Little Bunting as well as adding Pallas's and Radde's Warblers and a lovely Eastern Black Redstart. Quite the haul. Ash Baines remains closest to him thanks to a flock of 9 (nine) Great White Egrets and a trio of Yellow-browed Warblers. James Spencer marks his final stretch in the PWC hotseat by moving up into third position on 109% with his own Yellow-brow plus a Hooded Crow. Also moving over the 100% mark are Iain Robson with bonus points for Yellow-brow, Great White Egret, Siberian Chiffchaff and Pectoral Sandpiper. The final addition to the 100% club this month is Mick Turton who despite missing out on bonus points as the entire birding world descended on his patch but added Siberian Accentor, Siberian Stonechat, Isabelline Wheatear and Olive-backed Pipit amongst many others.

Siberian Accentor at Easington (Jim Welford)

Tim Jones updates and what a huge score he has amassed. He needs 9 points in the last two months to catch his score of 415 from 2014 and this time out found an Olive-backed Pipit as well as adding Pine Bunting, Siberian Stonechat, Brown Shrike and Red-flanked Bluetail as well as plenty of scarcities. Tim may already have 5 of the points in the bag as the identity of the 'siberian' Stonechat at the point (additional to the bird at Beacon Ponds) is thought to be Stejnegeri. Mick Turton at Easington is 22 points behind Tim and that is probably too many to overhaul without a mega find in the last two months. Rounding off the top three is Paul French who overlaps with both Mick and Tim in the Spurn area and he found OBP, Little Bunting, Richard's Pipit, Black Brant and Pallas's Warbler to go with a similar haul to the other two birders of non-found species.

To mention all the highlights in the minileague will probably take all week but a selection are included. Andy Hood had a Dusky Warbler in his garden and also connected with the Flamborough Paddyfield Warbler, Nick Addey managed to turn up a Pallas's Warbler in Scarborough and Nige Lound found a Richard's Pipit at Rimac. John Chapman found a Great Grey Shrike and a Pallas's Warbler at Whitburn whilst at Tynemouth Duncan Watson found Dusky and Pallas's Warbler plus Red-breasted Flycatcher. At the same site Martin Kerby found a Barred Warbler. Chris Small managed to connect with the Pied Wheatear on his Marske patch and at Hartlepool Headland Alan Crossley saw the Red-flanked Bluetail. And everybody found a Yellow-browed Warbler. More or less.

Tuesday, 29 November 2016

Inland East Anglia Minileague - October 2016

Although Adam Nicholls didn't add a point during October he is still out on top with what looks like an unassailable lead. Nick Moran is now his closest challenger thanks to his first Crossbills in 3 years on patch and a Ring Ouzel. James Emerson also added a Ring Ouzel this month, a cracking record for Whitlingham C.P. Ben Moyes probably had the best month out of everyone as his patch in the Gipping Valley played host to a Black-bellied Dipper and Great White Egret. His place in 4th is well and truly up for grabs though with a mere 0.66% seperating him and Jim Bradley in 6th!

No changes at the top in the points league as everyone finds it hard to add points late in the year so its looking good for Ben Lewis to finish on top this year, or will Luke or Jamie have a great final winter period? The highlight of month has to be the influx of Yellow-browed Warblers into the inland patches. It must be a bird on all inland patchers radar but it still must be a buzz to see one away from the coast and fortunately 5 East Anglia patches score one. Joe Harkness and Terry Stopher had the joy of finding one on patch (Joe also saw a Great Grey Shrike, an excellent inland duo!) and Irene Boston, Rob Pople and Ben Lewis also saw one on patch.

The second winter period is well under way and an excellent chance for inland patches to catch up with species they missed earlier in the year, there are still pints out there waiting to be found......hopefully!

Coastal East Anglia Minileague - October 2016

The top of the comparative table has a very familiar look as the top three remain the same, all adding 9-11% in October, James Brown in particular having a busy month, finding 2 Dusky Warbler and Great Grey Shrike, seeing another GGS plus Pallas's Warbler. Scott Mayson added some bonus points with Yellow-browed Warbler and Sabine's Gull but his highlight of the month was a Moorhen! Ryan Irvine was the biggest mover this month adding 28% and leaping up to 4th place adding 4 full fat patch ticks, Bearded Tit, Hawfinch, Sabine's Gull and Little Egret. Nigel Lound stays in 7th despite adding 11% with a 3rd ever patch Puffin outshining the Pallas's Warbler and Red-flanked Bluetail on his patch.

James Brown's lead at the top of the points league has been cut to a miserly 35 pts as Ryan Irvines great October pushed him up to 2nd place. Nigel Lound stays in the podium positions, leap frogging Justin Zantboer. Justin must be one of the unluckiest PWC competitors as he drops two places despite seeing Stegneger's Stonechat and Blyth's Reed Warbler on his patch during October! Paul Eele makes up the top 5 with bird of the month at Titchwell, a Dusky Warbler, a reserve tick. Irene Boston also jumps a couple places, enjoying the Yellow-browed Warbler and Waxwings influxes on her patches. A final special mention to James Appleton who was the envy of everyone along teh coast when he picked up the Black-browed Albatross not long after it had been seen off Cley. Excellent work James!

Wednesday, 23 November 2016

Estuarine Minileague - October 2016

October was a busy month in the Estuarine Minileague with rafts of scarce birds featuring in the reported highlights by patch contestants. 

Ian Ballam continues at the top of the comparative league with one of a number of Yellow-browed Warblers reported in the Estuarine league this month, this one at his Lychett Bay patch. Other additions were patch firsts in the form of Golden Plover and Whooper Swan.

Paul Freestone is in second place, just over 2% behind Ian. Paul spent some of October on Scilly, so was relieved to find the Franklin's Gull at the Hayle Estuary had decided to hang around for his return! Shaun Robson who also birds Lytchett is in third with plenty of YBW action and a Ring Ouzel, less than annual at the site.

In total, ten patches have beaten the 100% mark, great news for them but making #PWC2017 a tougher prospect with a higher comparative to aim at.

In the points league, long term leader Dave Craven has finally been displaced by the Wash reserves who have been waiting in the wings all year. Paul Sullivan had an excellent month with Glossy Ibis getting bonus points and a quality supporting cast including Sooty Shearwater, Firecrest, Long-tailed Duck, Long-Billed Dowitcher, YBW, Grey Phalarope and Black-necked Grebe. A pretty decent haul which sees him on 272 points from 187 species.

It is harsh on Dave Craven to be displaced in a month where he was in fine form himself. Pectoral Sandpiper and YBW both brought bonus points to the west coast, the latter a patch tick involving more than ten birds to Hale and Pickerings Pasture including five on one day. Gannet and Guillemot provided a coastal flavor whilst Hawfinch and Cetti's Warbler were second and third records for Dave there.

Toby Collett moves into the top three pushing Howard Vaughan into fourth. Toby scored bonus points for a very showy Long-billed Dowitcher as well as enjoying many of the birds noted earlier. Howard himself had a fine month, although he had to visit on the days he wasn't working on patch to get Cattle Egret and Dusky Warbler, the latter on the second record for London. He also had a few two pointers including Woodlark and Hen Harrier.

Cattle Egret at Rainham Marshes (c) Howard Vaughan

Max Hellicar also got in on the Rainham action with the Dusky and Cattle Egret. Meanwhile Yellow-browed Warblers made the day of seven patchers after easterlies brought many of these stunning Sibes to UK. Yellow-browed Warbler and Great White Egret are two of the more likely bonus pointers, and two more patchers got in on the GWE action with birds at Sharpness and Saul Warth. A number of Long-tailed Ducks made appearances across the UK in the month, and the Estuarine league didn't miss out with birds at Frampton and Saltholme. Elliot Montieth at Birkenhead Docks scored a patch first Firecrest, but his main highlight was the fall of his target bird for the year, a Leach's Petrel which put in an appearance after strong north-westerlies.

Final mention has to go to Simon Brebner who had a superb month at Paull Holme Strays. After just one species added in a quiet September, he added eleven species in October including all four skuas on the same day. When the weather is right, seabirds will make their way up the Humber, but to get all four skuas including a patch first Long-tailed is great going.

Monday, 21 November 2016

Coastal Scotland Minileague - October 2016

For some, the rarities were flowing in the Coastal Scotland Minileague in October.

Geoff Morgan played a blinder, with bonus points bagged for Blyth's Reed Warbler and Great Grey Shrike at Barns Ness. Also on his patch this month were Dusky Warbler, Red-breasted Flycatcher and a fall of Pallas's Warblers! Despite dipping Olive-Backed Pipit and Radde's Warbler it still made for a sensational few weeks on the patch.

Bird of the month however graced Andrew Whitehouse's Girdle Ness patch where he caught up with a stunning Daurian Shrike! 

Daurian Shrike at Girdle Ness (c) Andrew Whitehouse

Chris Rodger's lead in the comparative minileague with 125.6% looks unassailable with just two months to go. The highlight at his Musselburgh patch was a Snow Bunting, a real sign that winter is on the way.

Meanwhile, Mike Hodgkin stole a march on Stephen Welch, putting a bit of distance between second and third with a patch first Shore Lark at Aberlady Bay plus a Tawny Owl, the first in the two years doing PWC.

Colin Davison's frustrations were reflected in his highlights, where despite bonus points for a Yellow-browed Warbler, the rares turning up elsewhere on the coast were not reflected on his Scoughall patch. Consequently Geoff Morgan takes the top spot in the points league with a healthy 12 point gap. Mike Hodgkin makes up the top three.

Now four contestant over 200 points here while we await an update from Mark Lewis who is bound to brake through into the big leagues.

Jim Dickson at Crinan Canal Corridor also had a Yellow-browed Warbler in the last year that this little sprite will attract the bonus points. White-tailed Eagle also featured in his list of highlights from Argyll.

Much to his relief, Jonathan Clarke finally got Black-tailed Godwit at Whiteness Head after a long wait!

Inland Scotland Minileague - October 2016

All but one patch contestant in the Inland Scotland Minileague are now in the 90% range for the year but none have hit 100% as yet. 

Yellow-browed Warbler at Old Nisthouse (c) Alastair Forsyth (check out his blog)

With two months to go, Chris Pendlebury's first place Blairdrummond patch is just a one pointer away from the ton, but no additions in October continues the frustration. Will it fall?

Graeme Garner at Cambus is in second with 95.6% and Chris P's Stirling patch makes up the top three just a fraction of a percent behind. It is tight through, just a single Waxwing could change everything!

Alastair has the advantage over David Douglas in the points minileague. Old Nisthouse had a good month with four different Yellow-browed Warblers and Siberian Chiffchaff all earning bonus points. Perhaps best of all though was a patch tick Mistle Thrush while a Siberian Accentor made for a delightful distraction (albeit a 35 min drive away from the patch).

No additions at Loch Leven this month mean that a seven point gap has opened up. Graeme Garner at Cambus completes the top three.

Chris had a European White-fronted Goose at Dunblane, just a second patch record. Meanwhile Andy Cage was drawing a blank in October until a last ditch Twite on the 30th meant he had points to add to the total. Mike Hodgkin managed to get both patch and garden tick with a Barnacle Goose providing a taste of winter whilst a patch tick Spotted Flycatcher was an adios to the summer at Stirling for Chris. 

Finally, Geoff Morgan added that most fantastic of ducks, Mandarin at Liberton and a Treecreeper was the highlight of the month for Jonathan Clarke at Croy.

Friday, 18 November 2016

Islands Minileague - October 2016

What a month! October is a superb time to be on the islands and this year they did not disappoint with some notable movement in the minileague table rankings as well as a host of rare and scarce highlights.

Steve Minton at Scatness took his comparative score to a crazy 140% with new birds added to his rarity roll-call including Pied Wheatear, Richard's Pipit, Olive-Backed Pipit, Bean Goose and Hawfinch. He now has his first place position in the league sealed it seems but there is plenty to play for in the podium spots which have seen a major change this month.

Sean Morris at Kilmory added Jack Snipe, Ring Ouzel and Waxwing for handy two pointers, putting himself in third  on 111% while Steve Stansfield rockets into second place (from fourteenth!) on 119% after an epic month on Bardsey (see below for details). 

Six patchers have beaten their comparative target now, with a number just shy of the mark who will be looking for a few late winter additions.

Pied Wheatear at Scatness (c) Steve Minton

October on Bardsey was mind-blowing! Aside from obvious highlight of Black-browed Albatross which was scoped from the Obs garden ('nuff said!), there was records of Radde's, Pallas's and Yellow-browed Warblers, Little Bunting and Sabine's Gull as well as finders points for Richard's Pipit and Red-breasted Flycatcher. This treasure trove of goodies puts Steve to the top of the table with 368 points (and with a PPB score of 2.19), moving John Bowler into second place, 36 points behind. 

Pallas's Warbler at Bardsey (c) Steve Stansfield

John had an excellent month himself. A Blyth's Reed Warbler gave him eight points plus six each for Red-breasted Flycatcher and American Golden Plover. He also had a bumper pack of eleven Yellow-browed's in a record autumn for them on Tiree.

Steve Minton completes the top three on 280 points. Have the leaders secured the top spots for the remainder of the year?

There were plenty of other highlights in the month too. Pallas's Warblers made for a nice upgrade on Yellow-browed Warbler for Jason Moss on Skomer. A Serin was also an excellent addition to his yearlist and Long-tailed Duck, Lapland Bunting and Sooty Shearwater were all handy two pointers. It is always a pleasure to nail your bogey bird, and after missing several over the last three years particular pleasure was gained in unblocking Little Egret for his island list.

The weather conditions have been ripe for bringing birds in from the east. Common Rosefinch was a welcome bonus pointer for Bruce Taylor at Brevig. Little Bunting was also a fine addition as he passed the double century for the year. Also a Waxwing here raises the hopes of a mega Waxwing year all round, it has been a while and these beauties really do cheer up any grey winter day!

Alastair Forsyth unearthed an Olive-backed Pipit at Birsay whilst the Eastern Yellow Wagtail at Balvanich was an absolute belter for Stuart Taylor even if not a find.

Finally... a bit of #patchgold. Always the quirk of islands, they can turn up the rares but sometimes the mundane on the mainland is equally exciting. A Blue Tit on Tiree was a highlight for John Bowler but this months #patchgold award goes to Alastair Forsyth for his patch lifer Dunnock at Birsay. In a month where its Siberian cousin has been making all of the headlines, it is great to see that our own version can still create its own excitement.