Thursday, 11 February 2016

Inland North Minileagues - January 2016

The Inland North Minileagues are frankly bonkers with 28 folks in the comparative table and an astounding 50 in the points table it is going to be exciting for everyone, no matter the patch. The comparative table is especially exciting for David Franklin as his trio of Doncaster patches dominate with between 67-84% already. Top of the pile is Campsall CP. David has managed to get out an awful lot and he has 161 complete lists and over 2000 records for Birdtrack already. An astounding effort I'm sure you will agree. David added Mediterranean Gull at Askern, Green Sandpiper at Norton Common and Meally Redpoll at Campsall. Away from South Yorkshire and into the East Riding, Mike Pilsworth is best of the rest with his Swinefleet and Reedness patch where he patch ticked Bewick's Swan.

Chris Bradshaw holds the lead on his Wykeham Lakes patch after patch ticking Grey Plover and adding less than annuals in White-fronted and Bean Goose and Mealy Redpoll. Stalwart, Bill Aspin is in second with an 11 point lead over his long-term rival Mark Reeder. Bill's month at Brockholes featured 2 Bitterns and 3 Scaup with the former being the first multiple record since 1998. Duncan Bye at Wheldrake Ings holds third spot along with Mike Pilsworth. Duncan benefited from the monster gullfest that is going on at Rufforth with roosting Iceland and Yellow-legged Gulls.

The only bonus points in January go to Pete Antrobus who found a Green-winged Teal at Neumann's Flashes but that wasnt enough to keep him ahead of the young padawan, Findlay Wilde, who holds a one point advantage. Elsewhere there was a Smew at Killingworth for the patcher who goes by the handle of @lophophanes. Bill Aspin found Andy Bunting a Bewick's Swan whilst purchasing some new optics at Martin Mere, Gary Storey patch-ticked Willow Tit at Chopwell Woods as did Keith Dickinson at Roundhay Park and Stephen Westerberg added Kittiwake at Tindale Tarn due to one of many storms. Short-eared Owls were a feature of several patches with them being seen for the first time in several years in many places including five on Mark Doveston's Riddlesdon and Whetstone patch.

Wednesday, 10 February 2016

Patchwork Challenge Podcast Episode 1: February 2016

Announcing the new Patchwork Challenge Podcast

Welcome to the new Patchwork Challenge podcast. A voice to update you on the latest goings on in PWC and wider birding, the PWC Podcast is here to bring the gossamer tones of Mark Lewis, ably assisted by James Common, Niall Keogh and James Spencer, to your ears. Episode 1 features a round up of the Best finds from #PWC2015 and the leaders in #PWC2016. There is a conversation with Rob Adams from Spurn about migfest, the new Spurn Bird Observatory Trust building and the YWT visitor centre.

You can find PWC at ; our twitter is @patchbirding ; we are on facebook at

Spurn Bird Observatory is and the link to the YWT visitor centre planning application is here: Spurn Planning Application

To vote in the Forest Optics best find competition visit the Best Find Post - this will close at the end of February.

Finally please do visit the Forest Optics website to view their selection of scopes, binoculars and other gear as without them PWC wouldn't be the same

Patchwork Challenge podcast episode 1

The first podcast is ready to go, and available through iTunes here. Enjoy!

Tuesday, 9 February 2016

Islands Minileague - January 2016

Paul Higson makes his annual, White-billed Diver fuelled, grab for top spot before his self imposed torpor until spring. He outstrips IanT at Askernish by 4% to hit 59%. Ian himself started with a bang as both White-tailed Eagle and Grey Phalarope graced his patch with the latter a full-fat patch tick and the former now established as a patch regular. On Islay, David Wood made an excellent start on the Oa with 48% including a Little Auk which is a fair effort given the height of the cliffs on his patch! 

Paul also tops the points table with a whopping score of 120. Perennial Islands table-topper, John Bowler, sits in second spot with a Kumlien's Gull the only bonus points for him this time out (there will be more!) but a raft of 2 pointers put him in a decent position. Notably it was the same two patches lined up in reverse order this time last year and both are down on last years opening month (Paul scored 122 and John managed 126 in January 2015). IanT has made a better start than last year and is 12 points ahead meaning that whilst Barrie Hamill is also up on last year he is a place worse off.

A selection of the 700 Twite on the Oa - David Wood
Five patches recorded Little Auks in January which is to be expected for these forntiers men and women at this time. Other standard two point fare included white-winged gulls and Slavionian Grebes. There was a Kumlien's Gull at Scatness for Steve Minton in the half hours daylight up there. On Scilly, John Headon was left frustrated by a Surf Scoter that wouldnt make itself visible from his patch whilst at Askernish, YvonneB consoled herself on Ian's fast start by finding a Water Rail which he failed to connect with. As Barra makes its debut this year there were White-tailed Eagles on both patches for Bruce Taylor. More Western Isles White-tailed Eagle action was at Balivanich for Stuart Taylor who also added a patch tick in the form of Guillemot. On the Isle of May, Mark Newell went owl crazy with 22 (twenty two) Short-eared Owls and a patch tick Barn Owl. Nice!

Monday, 8 February 2016

NGB and AFON Under 25 Minileague - January 2016

The newly amended "under 25's" minileague kicked off in explosive fashion this month with birders from both NGB & AFON scouring their respective patches in search of winter rarities. Something which seems to have paid dividends with great birds such as Long-Billed Dowitcher, Penduline Tit, Green-Winged Teal and Ring-Billed Gull featuring in this months round-up. With more competitors than ever taking part and many PWC stalwarts opting for a change of scenery this year; this league looks set to reach new heights over the course of 2016.

Green-Winged Teal - Tim White

Looking first at the comparative league and Amy Robjohn's seizes the top spot with an impressive 63% of her former score at Titchfield Haven, no doubt aided by the addition of Penduline Tit to her patchwork total. Sam Pitt Miller comes it at second at Priory Water, wracking up a similarly impressive 58% while Espen Quinto-Ashman lands himself in third place with 54%. Further down the table things appear neck and neck between other familiar names such as Josie Hewitt, Joe Stockwell, Rhys Chivers and Ash Baines. 

Jonathan Farooqi heads up the points league this month with a whopping 127 points at Hadston to Hemscott Hill, adding Long-Billed Dowitcher among a host of other goodies. Joe Stockwell lands himself in both second and third place, taking both runners up positions with scores of 121 and 117 respectively at Ferrybridge and RSPB Arne. Just how much time do you spent in the field Joe? It's certainly paying off. Next; Amy Robjohn's finds herself in fourth position followed by James Common in fifth and Joe Proudfoot in sixth place. What will February hold I wonder?

LATE EDIT: Anthony Bentley submitted his score late but now tops the points minileague. Cain Scrimgeour also added to the league.

LATE LATE EDIT: Elliot Montieth added after late score.

Moving on to the birds notched throughout January and other glaring rarities sighted this month include a Green-Winged Teal for newcomer Sarah Woods at Rising Sun Country Park and Ring-Billed Gulls for Cathal Forkan and Joe Proudfoot. A wintering Yellow-Browed Warbler was similarly a nice touch for Sam Wall at Lilstock. Elsewhere in the league; Espen Quinto-Ashman managed Red-Crested Pochard at Wellington while James Common caught up with a small flock of Waxwings at Blyth. On the subject of Waxwings, other typical winter scarcities were abundant in the league this month, among them; two Iceland Gulls, two Spotted Redshank and a hearty helping of Jack Snipe. Wildfowl featured as highlights for many competitors; White-Fronted Geese and Whooper Swans noted on a number of patches alongside the odd Scaup while seawatching clearly paid off for some with Little Gull, Little Auk and Red-Necked Grebe featuring prominently. Elsewhere other January highlights included; Snow Bunting for Sam Wall, Black Redstart for both Ollie Thomas and Joe Proudfoot and both Long-Eared Owl and Bittern for James McCulloch at Hedgecourt Lake. Concluding; former "most valuable player" Josie Hewitt also nabbed some #patchgold in the form of only her second ever Crossbills at Blackbushe Airfield. 

Red- Crested Pochard - Espen Quinto-Ashman
Water Pipit - Jonathan Farooqi

- James C (Patchwork Challenge)

Sunday, 7 February 2016

Coastal North Minileagues - January 2016

Finally it comes time to delve into the January scores for one of Patchwork's most competitive and action-packed minileagues, the Coastal North. What a month it was in the North coast with more people taking part than ever before and a smorgasbord of great birds on offer, including some decent rarities and plenty of #patchgold.

Looking first at the comparative league and Stewart Sexton takes first place achieving 55% of his former total at Howick, followed closely by Jonathan Farooqi at Hadston to Hemscott hill. John Chapman concludes the triumvirate with 46% at Whitburn South while further down the table similarly impressive scores were obtained everywhere from Saltburn to Starr Gate-Fairlawn Road. A cracking start to the year for many PWC stalwarts it seems.

To the points league next and PWC newcomer Ross Ahmed claims the top spot with an impressive 111 species and 140 points on his South Tyneside patch, no doubt aided by a refind Green-Winged Teal. Jonathan Farooqi sits comfortably in second place in this league also, the lingering Long-Billed Dowitcher providing some welcome points as it paid a visit to Hemscott Hill.  Nick Addey concludes the top three with 125 points at Long Nab to Scarborough, a self-found American Wigeon the unbridled highlight of the month here.

Looking past the points to the birds themselves and January threw up no end of delights in the glorious North. Having already mentioned the glaring rarities of American Wigeon, Dowitcher and Green-Winged Teal; other notable birds this month included Cou's Arctic Redpoll for John Rutter and Richard's Pipit for Seamus Eaves at Fleetwood. Elsewhere winter seawatching paid off for many competitors; Little Auks featuring on many patches alongside good numbers of Little Gulls while an unseasonal Arctic Skua was a highlight for Gary Storey at Newbiggin. Ross Ahmed's good run continued with a flurry of gulls at South Tyneside, among these Caspian, Glaucous and Iceland while Kumlien's Gull featured for James Spencer. Other typical winter gems noted this month included a number of Slavonian Grebes; for Alan Crossley, James Smith and Cain Scrimgeour; Red-Necked Grebe again for Alan Crossley and a scattering of Velvet Scoter up the coast. Water Pipit were prominent this month, noted on three patches while both Damian Money and James Common were lucky enough to encounter Jack Snipe. James's Blyth patch also holding a party of seven Waxwings. Elsewhere this month, the best of the rest consisted of an influx of White-Fronted Geese across the North East, Snow Buntings for Chris Small and a #PatchGold Coot for Duncan Watson at Tynemouth.

Water Pipit - Jonathan Farooqi

Waxwing - James Common

Inland South Minileagues - January 2016

There were some fast starts and big scores in the Inland South Minileague and none were quicker than Ian Bennell as he rattled up over 78.6% of his comparative score. Four points were courtesy of the Bonaparte's Gull which was a mega for Hertfordshire. Lee Evans also connected with this bird leaving both patchers very happy. Ian also managed to patch tick Marsh Tit and add his second patch Slavonian Grebe. Richard Scantlebury is in second place in the comparative table after a flying start on his Fishponds patch in Bristol with Firecrest and Peregrine his January highlights. Third place goes to Tom Stevenson who is also over the 70% mark already and sitting pretty on 72.2%.

Nick Croft tops the Inland South minileague after a record breaking start to the year at Wanstead. He also managed to uncover the rarest bird of the month and possibly a contender for the Forest Optic Best Find competition after turning up an unseasonal Great Snipe on the 3rd Jan. Head over to Nick's blog for the full story Wanstead Birding. He finished the month with 97 points, just a point ahead of Ian Bennell and a further two infront of Lee Evans, both at Tring Reservoirs.

Bonaparte's Gull - Ian Bennell
Away from the top three there was plenty of interest in January with Great White Egrets present on a number of patches including bonus points for Nigel Milbourne and Neil Burt. There were more bonus points in the form of a Great Grey Shrike for Roger Hicks at Henlow Grange. Nigel Harris, who watches his London garden, managed a Firecrest to get him started. Last years winner, Tom Raven, cleared up on the rare and scarce birds that still grace his Avalon Marshes patch with Dusky Warbler, Glossy Ibis and Great White Egret all under the belt. Roger Murfitt had a superb New Year's Day when he found a male Smew at Moor Green Lakes. Paul Freestone has added his home patch to the challenge this year and got a surprise garden tick in the form of a Merlin from the lounge window. There was a glut of two-pointers for James McCulloch as he got off to a flyer in his first attempt at the challenge with Bittern, Scaup, Mealy Redpoll, Caspian Gull and more all recorded on his Surrey patch. Finally Josie Hewitt managed her second patch record of Crossbill with half a dozen at Blackbushe.