Monday, 22 September 2014

Bresser and Forest Optics Best Find Competition

The Bresser & Forest Optics Best Find Competition is the piece de resistance for Patchwork Challenge. 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 that awaits one lucky patcher!

Whilst Hurricane Bertha did not really deliver up any tasty megas for patchworkers there were some really nice rares amongst the best finds reported during August.

The Stilt Sandpaper found by Ian Robson on his Druridge Pools patch in the North of England was a great bird but as a refind after the bird was initially discovered at Cresswell the chances of this winning the overall prize would seem slim.

Stilt Sandpiper (Ian Fisher)
 On the other hand the Booted Warbler found by Barrie Hamill on his Burra, Orkney patch will be on the shortlist. Both are birds I wouldn't mind turning up on my patch. A brace of Citrine Wagtails were found, one by our own Mark Lewis at Girdle Ness and the other by Paul Massey at Grindon Lough which was a site first and the eleventh county record.

Booted Warbler (Paul Higson)

 Looks like the North of the British Isles was the place to be last month.

Some of the scarcer birds during the month included a whole slew of Long-tailed Skuas from across the entire patchworking map, Joe Stockwell (Portland), James Brown ( Lowestoft),  James Spencer (Barmston) and Eammon O Donnell( Ninch/Laytown, Ireland) all found them, whilst Chris Bradshaw at Long Nab in Yorkshire managed to find 5 birds over 2 days, a good number indeed for that part of the country. Chris also scored with both Cory's and Great Shearwater during a single seawatch. Others finding the scarcer shears included Cory's for Joe at Portland and Julian Wylie (Baltimore), with Great Shearwaters being found by Tom Cadwallender (Alnmouth), Jack Bucknall (St Mary's Island) and Peter Donnelly (North Ronaldsay).

Moving on to the scarcer passerines found during the month, a couple of Common Rosefinches were found in Scotland, Ian T finding one on his Askernish patch, whilst the other was at Gary Bell's Sumburgh site. Chris Bradshaw scores again with an Ortolan Bunting at Long Nab and an Icterine Warbler for James Brown in Lowestoft earns him a second mention.

Some of the almost there birds include, a Franklin's gull seen by Tommy Corcoran at Gt Yarmouth and the Western Bonelli's warbler Joe Stockwell saw at Portland Bill, hard luck guys as it is best found, not seen.

Thursday, 18 September 2014

South West Minileague - August

Local leader Joe Stockwell adds the national lead to his crown and is closing on 300 points. 359 last year was enough to win it - can Joe do it? Kev Rylands may well be handing his SW crown over but he continues to fight on whilst Sean Foote who patches North Portland is challenging just 14 points back. Most of this months best finds are Joe's with Wryneck, Stone Curlew, Cory's Shearwater and Long-tailed Skua all garnering bonus points. Kev managed to see a Rose-coloured Starling but somebody else beat him to the punch. A Red-neck Phalarope for Paul Bowerman meant he held near namesake Paul Bowyer at bay. Plenty of points for Gordon Hodgson without any finds as two Cattle Egrets and a Marsh Sandpiper graced Saul Warth.

Paul Bowyer loses top spot as Dan Chaney hits 94% but its extremely close with 5% covering the top 6 places. Marcus Lawson is now in third but the comparative league is anyone's game and extremely competitive!

NGB Minileague - August

It’s as you were at the top of the NGB league with Joe Stockwell on Portland leading the way (as well as leading the national league). A very impressive 42 points accumulated during August included a 4-pointer Western Bonelli’s Warbler and a hatful of self-find bonuses including Long-tailed Skua, Cory’s Shearwater, Stone Curlew and Wryneck. Tim Jones remains in the hunt for the top spot however, finds of Icterine Warbler and Red-backed Shrike means he’s only a find of a mega away from catching up. Ben Porter didn’t submit a score for Bardsey for August but stays put to round off the podium positions.
Ben may well be feeling the heat slightly due to Jack Bucknall’s St Mary’s patch making gains in 4th position. 33 points added during August thanks to a heap of seabirds including self-found Great Shearwater means he is only 18 points away from the podium, a good autumn on the east coast could see him right up there. Further down the league and sees James Common breaking into the top 10 thanks to a raptor hat-trick of Hobby, Red Kite and Marsh Harrier.
With only 23 points covering 9 places from 5th-13th the next couple of months could see a dramatic shake up in this league, school and university may strike at just the wrong time for some competitors however!

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Alternative Highlights from Bardsey

Hummingbird Hawkmoth
Summer is often a time when birding the patch can be a little bit dull. For the few quiet weeks from late June to the end of July, interesting discoveries can be made by looking at the smaller inhabitants of our patches. For me, studying moths and other insects is a very enjoyable part of the summer (and whole year for that matter), and placing moth traps out every night can often produce some interesting records. 

Cock'sfoot Moth
Pseudrgyrotoza conwagana 
This summer, particular highlights from the Lepidoptera side of things have been looking at Thrift Clearwings (Nationally Scarce B) on the coast of the island, watching the amazing migrant Hummingbird Hawkmoths feeding on Fuschia and Honeysuckle, and discovering new species of micro moths for Bardsey. Some interesting ones this summer have been Pseudargyrotoza conwagana, a yellowish tortrix moth which is fairly common in the UK; Tebenna micalis, which is a very scarce migrant from the south, with just one or two records in the whole of North Wales; and finding the larval case of the micro Psyche casta in a small rock crevice on the east side.

Rosy Footman
Tebenna micalis
Thrift Clearwing
Psyche casta
As well as the abundance of moths that appears during the summer, it has been nice to see several Emperor Dragonflies arriving on the island (quite scarce here), along with Bardsey’s first Black-tailed Skimmer and a Brimstone Butterfly (very rare here).

Emperor Dragonfly
 Aside from insects, a particular highlight of late summer every year comes from watching the various pods of Risso’s Dolphins, which can be seen off the island’s coast on calm days. This year, I was able to participate with the Whale and Dolphin Conservation team (WDC), and help taking pictures of their dorsal fins as part of their photo-ID project on this species. A Sunfish was seen on one trip out in the boat, but there have been no whales this year!

Risso's Dolphin

Ben Porter


Wales Minileague - August

Steve Stansfield's update didnt arrive until after the graphics had been done and with nothing from Ben or Barry either it is lower down where we concentrate. Matt Meehan added ten points to get within three of third place. Best finds away from the hotspots were meagre with Whinchat, Med Gull and Wood Warbler sharing the spoils. Peter Howlett at Cardiff Bay moves up a spot to divide and conquer Henry Cook and his Conwy RSPB patch which remains ahead of Julian Hughes at the same location. Mark Hipkin climbs the table with 24 points added and 3 places gained.

No advances from AlisonC but she holds firm locally as her national lead starts to erode. Henry Cook nor Adam Tilt fail to make progress but Matt moves to within 1% of third with a pack down to 8th position covered by not a huge percentage. 

London Minileague - August

A good turnout in this league with 8 of the 14 patches submitting scores for August. Some good little battles are cropping up all down the table, not least at the top where Adam Bassett retains the top spot thanks to self-found Honey Buzzard and Osprey. His lead has been cut to 5 points by Nick Croft at Rainham who was aided by a Spotted Crake during the month. Nick's Wanstead patch moves up to the last podium position although Marek is still within touching distance so it could all change yet.

Michael Terry remains in the lead of the comparison league and is joined by Adam Bassett in the 100% club. A good autumn for any of these competitors could change everything however.

Tuesday, 16 September 2014

Ireland Minileague - August

August brought with it some small but welcome increases in species and points for most contestants in the Irish Minileague yet Dave Suddaby at Blacksod remains in top spot with both the highest overall points and points per bird to date. Niall Keogh at Kilcoole still maintains his comfortable lead with regards numbers of species recorded but still only affording him 2nd place. Julian Wyllie at Baltimore looks to be a contender for one of the final top spots in the league slipping past Neal Warnock at Larne Lough by 5 points to take 3rd place. Other movers on the table include Tom Moore at Kilmore upping his game from 8th to 7th and Paul Walsh at Brownstown Head moving from 14th to 12th.

Positions on the percentage table remain the exact same as last month. The O'Donnells both hit their 100% target in August with Eamonn at Ninch/Laytown taking the lead with an impressive 107.2%

August was always going to throw up a few good seabirds for some of the coastal patchers as was the case with Julian in Baltimore where finds of both Cory's Shearwater and Sabine's Gull provided a welcome 12 points between them. Similarly, a rare spell of good East coast seawatching weather in late August resulted in a fine juvenile Long-tailed Skua for Eamonn from his perch on Ben Head, another 6 pointer. A showy Osprey at Lurgangreen found by Peter Phillips proved popular with local birders and photographers whilst confirmed breeding of Spotted Flycatchers at Holy Cross & Carriganore was the first such record on Darragh Sinnott's patch. The Little Tern colony at Niall's Kilcoole patch ended their breeding season with the most successful on record, 120 pairs raising 219 young to fledging.

For more news and pics from Irish local patches check out the Patch Birding Ireland blog.