Tuesday, 29 October 2013

Patch reaches the 'Heart of Darkness'

Patch is the BTO Out of Africa Cuckoo which we at Patchwork Challenge along with Meopta & Forest Optics have sponsored. We last heard from Patch here at the beginning of September when he had started moving south through Italy. Not long after we posted Patch crossed the Mediterranean and arrived in Libya on the 3rd September. Remarkably Patch then traversed the entire Sahara in 29 hours arriving in Niger by the 5th. This was a journey of 1,160 miles! By the 9th September Patch was at the traditional staging area of Lake Chad. This area was identified as important only through the Out of Africa project. Patch refuelled in this area until early October when he moved south into the rainforests of Cameroon, 600 miles further south. Patch's latest movement into what may be his wintering quarters was a 770 mile jaunt southwest into the Democratic Republic of Congo. He is now hanging out in the largest Ramsar site in the world, Lake Mai-Ndombe. So far so good for Patch and we hope that he continues to prosper now he is in central Africa.

You can read about Patch's journey in more detail on the BTO blog about him. If you wish to donate then please give directly of course. You can also help through the Patchwork Challenge/Meopta & Forest species list. For every species seen, Meopta & Forest Optics will donate £1 to the Out of Africa Cuckoo project.You can catch up how this is going on Bubo and feel free to update our list. The account is Patchwork Challenge and the password is Patching. To date we have 310 species recorded from the entire Patchwork Challenge network. Are there any missing?

Sunday, 27 October 2013

Coastal North minileagues

Ian Mills is way out in front in the points league, although Jane Turners productive October could well see that gap narrowed somewhat from the 43 points where it stands now. Iain Robson lies in third place and Alan Tilmouth is not a million miles behind in fourth. With scores to come in for one of the most productive months of the year, theres every chance for change here.

The top four in the percentages league are occupied by the same four, and things are much closer at the top here, with the top three separated by just under 8 percentage points. With some big finds, and the distinct possibility that all four have scored bonus points in October, who knows how things will lie at the end of the month! 

London minileagues

Crikey, it's close at the top in the London area! In the points league, there are just 14 points separating the top three, with Adam Bassett in first, Paul Whiteman in second and not to far behind at all, Marek Walford in third place. Rather neatly, if we were to have a league for the number of species, it would fall into the same order too.

Adam also leads the comparative league, with second and third places reversed from the points league - but in the comparative league things are even tighter! The top three are separated by less than three percentage points. If you're looking for an exciting finish then look no further than the London minileague! 

Midlands minileagues

Nick Crouch is in first place in the midlands points minileague, and in a seemingly comfortable position being 19 points in front. Things are much tighter between second and third though, with only 6 points between Matt Griffiths and Dave Roberts, and Richard Harbird could very easily spoil someones party as he lies just 8 points behind the top three. A stray yellow-browed warbler for someone would shake things up very nicely!

Alan Kydd leads in the comparative league, but is edging pretty close to 'uncomparative' comparative score territory! Dave Roberts is in second, and Richard Harbird lies just 8 points behind Dave in third place.

South West minileagues

I think that the SW points league is all but over, with Kev Rylands a cool 41 points ahead of Gavin Haig in second place. Paul Bowerman makes third place, and being 26 points ahead of fourth, who would bet against the top three finishing that way?

I think we might have to overlook Roger Musgroves comparative score! with this years score over 150% of the comparative score I think it's fair to say that it's not all that comparative! This is not a dig in any way - we understand that it's difficult to come up with a good representative score, and that the PWC might have encouraged folk to get out more and see more birds on patch. It does leave us in the position though where those who post more representative scores might be at a disadvantage - watch this space!

South Coast minileagues

As seems to be the case with many of the minileagues, the same few names dominate both the points league and the comparative league (which makes an awful lot of sense really, doesn't it!). No surprise then that the top three in both south coast leagues are the same, with just a little rejig in the order. In terms of points, Andy Johnson has an insurmountable lead, being over 50 points ahead, with Liam Curson and Ian Roberts occupying the next places, and with reasonable gaps between them, it looks like things might stay that way to the end.

Liam Curson occupies the top spot in the comparative league, and is a long way out in front of Andy, and then Ian. October could bring all sorts of changes though....

While we're here, Andy Johnsons find of a semipalmated plover at Hayling island deserves special mention. A true birders bird and a great find. Unfortunately, it wasn't on patch but I'm sure Andy won't be too bothered about that!

Saturday, 26 October 2013

Inland North minileagues

Jonathan Holiday still leads but Pete Antrobus has managed to split the previous leaders overtaking Mark Reeder on both points and species. The patch first Caspian Gull proving the difference here. Phil Woolens updated score sees him streak up the table into 5th and also join the 100 club. The remainder of the pack slip down one but stay in the same order.

There are now five centurians in the comparative table with Phil Woolen now leading the way at Backford Cross. George Watola is hot on his heels with 114% and with a lower comparative score he only needs a handful of species to catch up. Pete Antrobus is close behind but his higher comparative score makes bridging the gap extremely tough.

Thursday, 24 October 2013

Ireland minileagues

Owen Foley heads the points league in Ireland - and then some! He's a whole 65 (sixty five!) points ahead of the next place, Niall Keogh. In terms of points I think its safe to say its game over....

However, in terms of percentage points its a much closer run thing. Just 4 percentage points separate Alan Lauder on the top spot, and Owen in third, and there are just 15 percentage points separating the top 5. This means of course that a good October for any of them could see a change at the top. Exciting times to have such a close run thing!

Tuesday, 22 October 2013

Wales minileagues

Steve S on Bardsey has had an exceptional autumn and has rocketed up to the top spot leaving Matt Meehan in his wake. The rest of the top three is up for grabs with just 11 points seperating 2nd and 4th place!
Marc Hughes has passed the 150% in the comparative league but Henry Cook isn't too far off in second while 3rd and 4th place are seprated by 0.21%, Graham Powell edging Henrys second patch.


Inland Scotland minileagues

The battle for Upper Forth is the highlight of the Inland Scotland minileague, with Chris P and Graeme G almost neck and neck in terms of points - However, a recent house move on Graeme's part might leave the competition wide open for Chris, whose next competitor (Sean Morris) is 22 species and 17 points behind.

Sean finds himself streets ahead in the comparative league though - although with a score of 142% it could be suggested that the comparative score posted was a bit under - no finger pointing here or suggestion of foul play - but something we'll need to think about here in Patchwork towers when we're looking to make things as watertight as possible for next year.

Monday, 21 October 2013

Coastal Scotland minileagues

John Bowler is out in front in terms of points - both as a result of a high number of species seen, and the fact that plenty of them are good birds! Rob Fray is merely one good find behind though, and if you'd bet on that happening anywhere, you may well bet on a late goody on Shetland. It's a island top 5 as well, with 4 out of these 5 being from the Northern Isles.

Barry Hamill is out in front in the comparative league - no doubt aided by a few september goodies on his Burray patch. The less said about second place the better I think...It seems I posted a not particularly representative comparative score...

Friday, 18 October 2013

Coastal East Anglia minileagues

Moss Taylor is top dog on the East Anglian coast, being first in terms of both species and points, and second in the comparative league. It's Gary White who's spoiling the party for him there, being a potentially insurmountable 27 percentage points ahead. A very honourable mention must also go to our very own Ryan Irvine who has run a steady pace and is now slowly but surely climbing the rankings. Lets see what his very productive October could do for him...

Thursday, 17 October 2013

Inland East Anglia minileagues

Jamie Wells takes top spot in both the comparative league and the overall point league - and in terms of points he's a full self found mega in front! Ben Lewis seems to be the only one with a chance of catching him as well, being a full 33 points ahead of Ed Keeble in third place.

It looks like a similar situation at the top of the comparative league, with the top two way out in front. Can anyone catch them?

Top 20 points league - September

The end of September has seen the top 20 points league hot up with only 1 point seperating the top 2, Moss edging out John for the top spot with Rob Fray one good find away from them both in 3rd place! Its not all dominated by the Scottish coast or East Anglia coast though with patches from Wales, north England , the south west and Ireland all making it into the top 10.

Monday, 14 October 2013

Meopta & Forest Best Find Competition - September

Autumn proper arrived in September with the memories of a glorious/birdless summer drifting away on a migrant filled wind. Scudding lows provided interest at all points of the compass with yanks, sibes and european species all well represented in the finders goodie bag for the Meopta & Forest Optic Best Find Competition. It seems the big one eluded the PWC this September but still seven BB rarities were recorded with any number of scarcities. Two PWC'ers even managed to double up. As is to be expected, those at the extremities of our archipelago seemed to do best.

Lesser Yellowlegs - Rob Fray

Starting in the far north, Rob Fray with his Virkie patch managed a fine Lesser Yellowlegs. Pictured above this bird continues Robs run from Augusts Citrine Wagtail. Moving into Orkney and Barrie Hamill managed a Bonelli's Warbler presumably the Western Bonelli's which is still present on Burray. Paul Higson of the superbly named Quoyangry added an Arctic Warbler to procedings. The doubles come from Jane Turner at Red Rocks, Cheshire and Steve Stansfield on Bardsey. Jane managed a Semipalmated Sandpiper and a Blyth's Reed Warbler while Steve pulled out a Fea's Petrel and a Siberian Stonechat. Excellent work all round but I fear again these may not be the winners of the prize although this is of course for you, the readers and competitors to decide. One bird that could have picked up the prize, nay would have picked up the prize is John Bowler's Cedar Waxwing which was sadly off his patch. Found in an elderly woman's garden this bird was unavailable to the masses so not only was John unable to put the news out but he was unable to revel in the points. Next time?

White-winged Black Tern - Poole Harbour (Peter Moore)

Oodles of scarcities came from all directions and were made up of a scattering of passerines, seabirds and waders. A widespread fall of Yellow-browed Warblers on the east coast penetrated much of the UK by months end and birds were found on at least eight patches in PWC. Other popular scarcities this month were Long-tailed Skua (five patches), Wryneck (4), Grey Phalarope (3) and Pectoral Sandpiper (3). The onset of winter isn't too far away with perhaps a month left of the autumn but hints of it were noted with a couple of patchers resorting to finding Caspian Gulls. Other two patch birds included Leach's Petrel, Great White Egret, Buff-breasted Sandpiper, Red-backed Shrike and Spoonbill. A single Honey Buzzard was found in September with singles of other 6 pointers including Golden Oriole, Short-toed Lark, Bluethroat, White-winged Black Tern, Glossy Ibis, Ortolan, Crane, American Golden Plover, Barred Warbler, Rosefinch and Richard's Pipit. Quite a haul I'm sure you will agree.
American Golden Plover - St Mary's Island (James Spencer)
Finally here's one that I found on my Newcastle patch at St Mary's Island, Whitley Bay.

Tuesday, 8 October 2013

The year on Bardsey so far, Steve Stansfield reveals all.

Patch birding for me is something of an occupational hazard as an Observatory warden living on an island. So when the Patchwork team got the blog up and running I was fired up for taking part.
January and February saw me on the mainland, so Ben Porter (Bardsey's youngest resident birder, aged 16 and still at 'school' on Bardsey) stormed in front.
When I returned to the island in March I began to claw a few bits back on Ben, but I realised that my professional position gave me little, if any, advantage. These days I have two assistants who do most of the census/fieldwork and I have become quite desk-bound dealing with the red-tape and bureaucracy that comes along with running a bird observatory on a NNR that is largely funded by a countryside agency - and Ben gets out in the field more than the average 16 year old!
April saw Ben way ahead and in the top three in the Welsh mini-league, whilst I struggled to get away from the bottom. May and early June were marginally better, with the likes of Rosefinch and Golden Oriole and two self found six pointers for me in Honey Buzzard and Marsh Warbler, but I dipped in good style on two different Subalpine Warblers and the first potential 12 point bird of the year in the form of Wales' fourth Paddyfield Warbler, amongst other things such as Turtled Dove, Grey Plover. Dipping rather than ticking appeared to be the way I was heading.
July saw me off the island for much of the month for a family holiday and meetings, picking up some good birds on other peoples patches, but not mine! By now Ben was tearing ahead leaving me second from bottom in the league.
August saw a lack of new birds too, with just a handful of one and two point birds being added, like Med Gull and Crossbill. Now I was beginning to get embarrassed. I was the only 'professional’ birder in the welsh league and fourth from bottom. Ben was in Second place in the league with 165 points from 123 species and I was on a pityful 80 points from a 63 species, just 29% of my comparative total!
However, September began and my admin jobs had been put aside, dealing only with the absolute necessary stuff that came along. My bins had been dusted and boots had been waxed! The chase was on. I began to get back some of the commoner migrants I had missed in spring, then more migrants began to appear. By mid month I had managed to get a score well into three figures with species like Knot, Curlew Sandpiper, Ruff , Greenshank and Green Sand. A Melodious Warbler added a further three points, but on my way to see that I bumped into a self found Common Rosefinch, adding three points for a self found one to the three points for one seen in May. Soon Seabirds were the order of the month, and with Long-tailed Skua (plus the 3 commoner ones), Black-throated Diver, Leach's Petrel, Sooty and Balearic Shearwaters all self finds my score was beginning to look something like respective. Then late one afternoon BANG my first mega bonus came flying by in the form of Bardsey's second ever Fea's Petrel, panic, shouting and a burst of birding turret's! 12 points in the bag. Unfortunately Ben missed the bird, so he was 12 points down there, he had however managed Sabine's Gull which I missed, but he had clawed back several of the other seabirds.
As the wind calmed there were several nice eastern migrants arriving. A male Red-breasted Flycatcher added three points on a rather wet and claggy Saturday evening. Shortly after running for a Wryneck to give another three points the following morning, I heard the autumn's first Yellow-browed Warbler calling- another six points. The following day, Ben and I went to see the Male RBF and both simultaneously found a first winter RBF mobbing a Wryneck!; more points. A radio message about a Turtle Dove then saw me running back down the island to see this now very rare dove. I was beginning to rack up the points but get exhausted too.
Over the next few days migrants continued to arrive and three more points came this time with a self found Wryneck, and then a late afternoon stroll with my wife and son to pick wild mushrooms saw us bump into yet another self found mega bonus and a 12 point Siberian Stonechat.
Siberian Stonechat, Bardsey
By the end of September I was well and truly off the bottom of the Welsh league, and had overtaken Ben who had been ordered back into his classroom after his six weeks holiday. Ben is still not too far behind and could quite easily sneak a few good bird points in the remaining three months of the year, but for now my two self found mega bonus (16 extra points) and 24 scarce bonus have helped add to my overall tally of 270 points from 153 species. I'm hoping that October will continue where September finished with plenty more points to come, with common species such as Brambling, Snow and Lapland bunting still to be had, the the regular scarcities like Richard's Pipit, Grey Phalarope and Sabine's Gull still to come.
STOP PRESS. Another 3 points for Sabine's Gull yesterday 7 October, but dipped on RB Merg and the first Richard's Pipit of the autumn! Comparative total now stands at 100.36% on the past two years! and still four weeks or more of migration to come.....

Wednesday, 2 October 2013

August in the Midlands - Mini Leagues rebooted

After a great Excel spreadsheet failure in the sky there was a backlash (well mild irritation) amongst Midlands patchers that we had failed to update their scores for August. Please accept our apologies and here we right those wrongs with a reboot of the table.

We only received a handful of responses for August in the Midlands but the top 3 all made additions with Dave Roberts overhauling Richard Harbird. With just one species and six point between them this tussle could last until the year end. Nick Crouch extends his lead at the top with 15 species and points clear air between him and Dave.

Both Dave Roberts and Richard Harbird hit 100% in August in the comparative table but Alan Kydd stays outfront despite no additions during this period.

Wales Mini League - August

Mathew Meehan at Newport Wetlands is running away with the Welsh points league with 151 species and an inspiring 200 points. Mathew's huge lead apart there is fierce competition for the other placings with Ben Porter holding second place at present. In the battle of RSPB Conwy, Henry Cook leads Julian Hughes by 20 species and 33 points - is the autumn going to level this playing field or has Henry's lead already stretched too far?

Four of the Welsh patchers are over 100% with Henry Cook leading the way in the comparative stakes. 144% is quite some tally and Henry will have to work much harder next year to maintain his position.

Ireland Mini Leagues - August

Some good scoring in the Irish points table but with the Autumn still to play and plenty of American and eastern goodies bound to boost the scores, especially for those inveterate self-finders on the frontiers this league is likely to be wide open. Heading up the table, Owen Foley, has 139 species and 201 points with Niall T. Keogh and Dave Suddaby in pursuit. How this shapes up? Ask us in three months.

Only two of the comparitive patches have topped 100% with Alan managing 110% at Carrick Mountain so far - a true show of the value of the comparative tables. Neal Warnock at Rathlin Island is not far behind on 107%.