Wednesday, 25 February 2015

Patches win Prizes

So the big question that remains is what are the prizes for Patchwork Challenge 2015. Here we can reveal most of them.

Firstly Bresser and Forest Optics continue to support the competition and will be renewing their sponsorship for 2015. This means they will providing a prize for the best find which at present is tbc and also sponsoring the Bubo combined species list which this year will be supporting the BTO's Long-eared Owl project with details to follow.

Over the last two years we have supported the Cuckoo tracking and House Martin Tracking projects and have enjoyed following these especially the dearly departed Patch's migration to Africa and almost back. The BTO have also got a goodie bag and a nest monitoring field guide for the winner of the Birdtrack Birdrace.

Birdguides are our second major sponsor and they continue to support the competition with regular articles and updates on their website and also Bird News Extra subscriptions for the leading Comparative, Non-comparative, Inland and Points per bird scores.

The Sound Approach are continuing to sponsor the Green Minileague - now known as The Green Minileague sponsored by The Sound Approach, We have to get these corporate names correct! The prize is as yet unannounced but rest assured it will be a goody. 

We are delighted to announce that British Birds are continuing their support of the Next Generation Birders Minileague and the winner of the Cameron Bespolka Prize receives a years subscription to the journal.

Steve Stansfield and Bardsey Bird Observatory continue to sponsor the NGB MVP for the birder Under 25 who contributes the most to the competition through a combination of dedication to the patch, interaction with the competition, good finds, usage of birdtrack and all the other intangibles that are less obvious. We will draw up a shortlist for Steve to judge on at the end of 2015.

Natural History Bookstore are continuing their support of the Comparative Score minileague which is now the NHBS Comparative Score Minileague. The winner recieves a £50 voucher and much kudos as this is the most important of the competitions in our eyes.

We are also delighted to announce our continued association with Birding Frontiers who have offered a prize or two to the competition dependent upon what goes to press. We will firm these up as the competition progresses.

Thanks to all our sponsors - without your continuing support the competition really would be lessened and we are delighted to be associated with such pillars of the birding and natural history community.

Tuesday, 24 February 2015

Bresser & Forest Optics Best Find Competition - Best Bird of 2014

Bresser and Forest Optics very generously donated a pair of Bresser Montana 8.5x45 binoculars as the prize for the best bird found by a patchworker during 2014, as voted for by all Patchwork Challenge participants. 

A total of 12 birds were in the ballot, in alphabetical order they were:

·        American Coot

·        Blyth's Pipit

·        Blyth's Reed Warbler

·        Broad-billed Sandpiper

·        Brunnich's Guillemot

·        Collared Flycatcher

·        Eastern Bonelli's Warbler

·        Franklin's Gull

·        Kentish Plover

·        Myrtle Warbler

·        Pechora Pipit

·        Red-flanked Bluetail. 

There was clear winner with over 60%  of the poll, the other 11 birds all scored almost equally and as such should consider themselves joint second. We think this was a pretty fair result.

Congratulations go to Jonny Holliday who found the Blyth's Pipit on his patch at Pugney's in Yorkshire at the end of the year, not the bird you would expect at a site so far inland. The bird hung around to delight the crowds at the end of 2014 and into early 2015. This will be a first for Yorkshire as the Flamborough bird from 1994 still hasn't been accepted, and is only the 23rd record for the UK.  We hope you enjoy the binoculars Jonny.

The fact that he found the bird at the end of the year should offer hope to everyone, just because someone else finds a good bird early in the year, never give up on your patch as you never know what may turn up.
Blyth's Pipit - Jim Welford

Commiserations to all the others in the poll, each of them worthy birds but I hope you agree that the best bird won.

Now we start on the quest for 2015's best find, there will be a prize for the bird voted the best at the end of the year, as yet we cannot tell you what the prize will be but be assured we'll let you know as soon as it is sorted.

January 2015 best finds

Sadly no megas were found on patch this month.  However a handful of rares did turn up during the month and Scotland was the place to be for most of them.

American Herring Gull - John Bowler
John Bowler, on the Isle of Tiree, found a 12 pointer on his Balephuil patch in the shape of a first winter American Herring Gull

Green-winged Teal - Jonathan Farooqi
Next up a trio of Green-winged Teal - seen right across the UK, firstly Paul Bowerman on his Severn Beach patch, Jonathan Farooqi also scored at Druridge Pools in Northumberland on his very first patchwork outing, and lastly Alastair Forsyth when visiting his Old Nisthouse patch on Orkney found not only Green-winged but also Blue-winged Teal during the course of one walk.

Alastair also had a Gyr Falcon on patch but as it was a dark phase bird and they are popular falconry birds, with many 'hacked' in Scotland, he has put this down as a highlight rather than a point scorer.

There were other raptors found on patch including Hen Harrier in two locations in the Inland North league and three White-tailed Eagles, where else but Western Scotland. 

Can I ask a favour - if you do find a good bird and manage to get photos please email them in to PWC so we can use them for the monthly review, it would save time when composing the reviews. 

The address to use is

Monday, 23 February 2015

NGB Minileague - January 2015

2015 sees the return of the Next Generation Birders minileague, a hotly contended league for those participants under the age of 25. It is great to see so many young birders experiencing the joys of patch birding and this year has already seen a 25% increase in patchers on 2014, with this set to increase further in February.
With last years winner (and overall PWC winner) Tim Jones no longer patching Spurn, 2nd place Joe Stockwell moving away from Portland Bird Obs, and 3rd place Ben Porter on Bardsey being out of country for the first couple of months of the year, this minileague is now wide open as we enter 2015. Joe may have left PBO, but his new patch around Ferrybridge is certainly living up to Portland standards and it places him firmly at the top of the table. PWC newcomer Anthony Bentley is sitting in second place with his Frampton/Frieston patch, living and working on patch certainly has it's advantages and Anthony has made the most of this opportunity by recording the most species out of anyone in the league during January. Anthony heads a host of new players in this league, positions 2-7 are all PWC newcomers and all with exciting patches; the battle between Laurie Allnatt and Dan Rouse who are both patching Llanelli WWT will be particularly intriguing as the year unfolds. Looking further down the league and familiar names to PWC begin to appear, James Common at Stobbswood is looking to repeat his successes of 2014, Espen will be hoping another county first will be a reward for the hours at his Wellington GP patch after last springs Bluethroat, whilst Matthew Bruce enters his beloved patch of 'The Puddle' alongside the more well known Draycote.
Jonathan Farooqi started his PWC debut with a bang on the 3rd when he found a Green-winged Teal on his Druridge patch, the only self-found 3-pointer in this league during January and earning him a deserved 3 bonus points. Winter specialities such as Iceland Gull, Jack Snipe, Long-tailed Duck and Water Pipit were finds for several participants and always welcome 2-pointers for the total. Although not a find, the Greater Yellowlegs at Titchfield Haven provided a very useful 5 points for Amy Robjohns, with a host of other scarcities on patches in this league including 2 Serin for Max Hellicar in Southend, 'several' Ring-billed Gulls for our Irish contender Cathal Forkan, and Shorelark for Harry Murphy at Hartlepool. Lee Fuller had his own surprising highlight at Needs Ore during the month, his first record of Egyptian Goose in over 10 years of watching the site, going to show that #patchgold can come in any form!

Wednesday, 18 February 2015

Ireland Minileague - January 2015

Great to see some new patches joining the ranks in the Ireland Comparative Score Minileague after having taken part for the first time during 2014. 

Leading the charge is Niall Keogh's local suburban parks patch in South Dublin which sits in first place with 72.05% after he clocked up 46 species in January comparing favourably to a final 2014 total of 64 species. But for how long can he hold on to the top spot? Comparative league stalwart Eamonn O'Donnell makes a fine entrance, straight into third place with 61.74% at Ninch/Laytown. Tufted Duck & Merlin both good species for him there during January.

It's also very encouraging to see lots of new names and patches gracing the Ireland Points Minileague table in January 2015 where it looks like some 'friendly' patch neighbour rivalry might be kindling...most interesting! Niall Keogh's Kilcoole patch heads the table (for now) and the first to break the 100 points barrier with 88 species including patch scarce such as Barnacle Goose and Pintail. Neal Warnock's Larne Lough patch is close behind on 84 species and 99 points. Over two thirds of contestants (including many of those who are new) have recorded over 50 species/60 points.

Last year's overall points table winner, Dave Suddaby at Blacksod, has had a good first month but with a long way to go to catch up on what was a record score during 2014 for him...

Rarity of the month goes to a Glossy Ibis at Tramore Backstrand for Arlo Jacques, making for a great start to his PWC introduction. 'White-wingers' showed well with both Glaucous and Iceland Gulls at a total of four patches between them. Julian Wyllie had a Yellow-legged Gull at Baltimore whilst Cathal Forkan added a handful of overwintering Ring-billed Gulls and a Sandwich Tern at North Galway Bay...looking forward to see how that patch progresses through the year. An excellent winter Great Skua record off Kilcoole for Niall was most welcome as was an overwintering Marsh Harrier from 2014 and a brace of Red Kites. Best passerine of the month relates to a Siberian Chiffchaff which Julian found at his new suburban patch at Skibbereen. 

Iceland Gull at Larne Lough © Neal Warnock

Tuesday, 17 February 2015

Inland Scotland Minileague - January 2015

The inland Scotland league was a runaway victory last year for Alastair Forsyth at Old Nisthouse but his impressive score last year might be a tough one to beat with Andy Cage at Kilmany and Chris Pendlebury at Blairdrummond pushing him into third after the first month of the year.

60% is a very impressive comparative this early and with the top 3 over 50% it bodes well for the year ahead.

It was however Old Nisthouse that  turned out a real pair of teals - with Green and Blue-Winged Teals putting in appearances within an hour of each other. Most patchers would be ecstatic with either of these American visitors so both on the same patch same day is quite something. Add to that a dark phase Gyr and if Alastair is going to beat his score then he has started the right way.

Other patchers also turned in some good local birds including a Pochard at Lochmaben which was something of a local rarity for Pete Antrobus. A Smew was also a nice seasonal find at Blairdrummond.

The Teal combo sets Alastair on his way at the top. Quantity is similar in the top four but quality opens up the 22 point gap. It is an exceptionally tight league however with just seven species splitting the top six patches. All to play for an a good start all round.

Coastal Scotland - January 2015

The coastal Scotland league sees a reduction in the number of competitors in PWC2015 as the islands depart for their own island league to compete alongside the likes of Bardsey. So there are five patchers that feature in the comparative league, with two already seeing their way past the 50% mark. Chris Hill tops the bill with an impressive 59% with Stephen Welch just behind on 53%. There is a long way to go yet!

The best bird on patch in January was unquestionably the Harlequin Duck which is becoming quite a celebrity on the River Don and found itself on Andrew Whitehouse's patch. Quite a start to the year! Chris Hill at Burntisland found summer coming early with a Sandwich Tern, alongside his other highlight of Little Auk a rather odd and unseasonal match! Little Auk's also put in appearances at Gosford Bay and Girdle Ness. Perhaps indicative of the quirks of birding coastal Scotland were highlights including Collared Dove and Blue Tit - everyone's #patchgold is different!

In the points league, new entrant to PWC2015 Mike Hodgkin leads the way, falling just short of the 100 point mark but an admirable effort in January which can be hard work (if birding an be called hard work?). Stephen Welch and Chris Hill fill the early top three spots but there are a lot of birds still to be seen this year. It's good to see birdtracking taking place. In the less covered corners of the UK, these records become all the more important.

Monday, 16 February 2015

Inland South Minileague - January 2015

Tom Stevenson has also got off to a great start but it can be an attritional collection of points at Battle Farm so getting off the blocks quickly is essential. Roger Hicks is in second place on 65% with Tom also in third with his Ewelme patch.

Marek Walford has taken an early lead at Dinton Pastures on 85 points with Nigel Milbourne at Blagdon only a point back. Mareks new second patch at Sonning Eye is in third on 80 points. Tom Stevenson and Andy Stocker have both got off to a great birdtracking start with 13 and 9 complete lists respectively.

Andy Stocker's Great Grey Shrike at Woolmer Forest is probably the bird of the month securing 6 points while a Yellow-browed Warbler for Dan Chaney at College and Argal was well received. Other notable birds included a Sibe Chiffchaffs for  Gareth Blockley and Adam Bassett (which does get 2 bonus points Adam!), Scaup at Tring for Ian Benell, Med Gull, Jack Snipe and Great White Egret. All superb birds to brighten up a winter day.