Wednesday, 28 May 2014

Alas poor Patch...

...we knew him well. It appears Patch's journey has come to an end. A few days ago we had a tweet from our friends at the BTO letting us know that Patch hadn't moved from a position in Spain since late April and that the fixes they were getting were poor quality consistant with a bird dead on the ground, especially as the temperature the tag was reading was fluctuating rather than constant. Patch's journey has been thrilling to follow for us here at PWC towers and hopefully for you guys who helped raise the £316 through your patch endeavours which is being donated by Meopta and Forest Optics. It is a shame that he came so far and just failed to get back to the UK but this highlights the issues Cuckoos face along their migration and the toll it takes on not just individuals but also potentially the population.

This year we are supporting the BTO in the same way - by raising money through a combined PWC2014 list. Again each species is worth £1 and this year it is being donated by our friends at Bresser and Forest Optics. We are raising money to support the Tracking House Martins project as so little is known about this species ecology when it travels beyond the Western Palearctic. How do you help? You can enter species in to our Bubo accounts which you have seen on patch this year whilst in the competition. Full details of how to do that are in THIS blogpost. So help us push those scientific boundaries on Patch's behalf after his thrilling journey to the 'Heart of Darkness' and almost back.

Tuesday, 27 May 2014

Bresser & Forest Optics Best Find Competition

This is the centrepiece of Patchwork Challenge, the competition that could be won by anybody lucky enough or hardworking enough to pull that mega from the bag. The Bresser & Forest Optic Best Find Competition. This is the best find of the whole patchbirding year as voted for by you, the competitors. Last year, Andy Johnson's Semipalmated Plover took the prize with an inland Pied Wheatear and a Mourning Dove running it close. The Sooty Tern which was found on The Isle of May didn't even make the podium. The kind people at Bresser & Forest Optics are very generously awarding the winner of the best find competition a pair of Bresser Montana 8.5 x 45 Binoculars worth £665.00. Not a prize to be sniffed at.

As winter made way to spring and as spring now starts to head towards summer we have a fine selection of birds with four candidates for the overall prize as well as hoardes of scarcities. Once esteemed rarities such as Glossy Ibis and Great White Egret are heading towards padder status and are barely worthy of a mention here whilst Serins and Bluethroats are upgraded in quality by every passing year. There have been a number of near misses as patchers have had great finds taken from under their feet (I am thinking Crag Martin and Yellow-rumped Warbler here). Here we take a look at the very best birds of 2014 thus far.

Up to the end of April there were four contenders although perhaps Alastair Forsyth's brace of drake Blue-winged Teal should be viewed as a single contender at Old Nisthouse on Orkney. Martin Garner flew the flag for the East Coast and also Birding Frontiers with his beautiful Northern Treecreeper in January. Possibly the strongest contender so far is Barry Stewart's Franklin's Gull at Burry Inlet in South Wales which is sure to be on the short list at the end of the year.

Franklin's Gull at Penclacwydd 24-Apr-14 from Barry Stewart on Vimeo.

January started strongly with the first Blue-winged Teal for Alastair Forsyth and the detection of the Northern Treecreeper at Flamborough. Underneath the headlines were a good selection of scarcities with four patches recording Glossy Ibis. Two of the Irish patches recorded Ring-billed Gull in January. Other twos were White-billed Diver and Great White Egret. There was a Black Brant for Gary Elton at Holme while John Bowler had a Green-winged Teal on Tiree. Hanging over from the autumn was a Yellow-browed Warbler for Tim Farr at Sutton Bingham whilst the first of the years PWC Kumlien's Gulls was found on Guernsey by Mark Lawlor.

Unsurprisingly February was slower than January but some typical winter scarce fare was discovered. The first Sabine's Gull and American Wigeon for this years competition were found on the Inner Hebrides while on the Outer Hebrides Brian Rabbitts had a Ring-necked Duck at Balranald. Andy Johnson continued his form from 2013 with a Black Brant at Sandy Point. Doubles were pairs of Ring-billed Gull, Green-winged Teal and Kumlien's Gull.

The first signs of migration in March failed to change the make-up of scarcities with no 'new' species recorded. Kumlien's Gull was the story of the month with four found boosting the total number recorded in PWC in 2014 to 8 birds. In second place were three Green-winged Teal as wildfowl movement became more obvious. Single records of Great White Egret, Black Brant and Glossy Ibis were also recorded.

April dawned and some diversity arrived amongst the scarcities with fourteen species recording 3 points or better found. The headliners were Barry Stewart's Franklin's Gull and a/the Blue-winged Teal on Orkney for Alastair Forsyth. Triples of Serin and Wryneck proved popular including Ian T's Serin which was the first for the Outer Hebrides. Another county first was Espen Quinto-Ashman's Bluethroat in Herefordshire. Another Kumlien's Gull and the second of the year at Larne Lough took the total to nine birds this year. Wildfowl movement helped with American Wigeon, Surf Scoter and Snow Goose all recorded. More summery fare included a Red-rumped Swallow at Flamborough and a White Stork on Bardsey. Holding on to winter was a Ring-billed Gull on Tiree. There were also a couple of Great White Egrets and a single Spotted Crake.

So there you have it PWC2014 to date. Well except the May scores aren't in but we already know of multiple Rustic Buntings, Citrine Wagtails amongst other goodies. What will your patch bring you? Who will find the one?

Sunday, 25 May 2014

South Coast Minileague - April

Andy Johnson holds a six point lead on the south coast over Adam Faiers. Adam in turn has overtaken Harry Ramm who is in third but now 30 points back. Quiet on the finds front with the best bits being an early Honey Buzzard for Joost Brandsma and a Wood Warbler for Andy Johnson. A Blue-winged Teal was a bonus for Adam at Sandwich Bay but no find points sadly.

Adam Faiers becomes one of the first patchers this year to clear the 100% barrier - congratulations to him. Mark Lawlor on Guernsey is 26% behind in secon whilst Andy Johnson is in third on 54%. It looks like a good autumn is needed at Sandy Point!

Saturday, 24 May 2014

South West Minileague - April

Sean Foote is clear at the top but only by a point from his fellow Portlander Joe Stockwell. In a shock development to long-term followers of this minileague not only is Kev Rylands no longer top but he has dropped to third place (although at 36 points ahead of fourth and 4 tops off the top he hasnt exactly been dropped). Marcus Lawson managed to draw a point clear of Paul Bowyer to go clear in fourth. The only six pointers of the month are Joe Stockwell's Serin at Portland and Kev Ryland's Surf Scoter at Dawlish Warren.

The comparative table has a familiar leader for this year as Marcus Lawson becomes the first person in the South West to go over 80% at Swineham GPs. Paul Bowyer moves up a place into second with 79% whilst Roger Musgrove makes great strides onto 74% in third moving up from sixth last month. Dan Chaney manages to fall from second to sixth with his Falmouth patch but throughout the table it is pretty close.

Thursday, 22 May 2014

Inland North Minileague - April

In what is a much anticipated minileague there is plenty of competition but a huge points spread. Quite how Darren Starkey holds both first and second place with such huge scores I dont know but congratulations to him. It is impressive how both reserves he watches have such an even spread of species and scores but kudos certainly deserved for the Black Terns, Ring Ouzels, Ospreys, Wood Sands et al which have boosted both his points and PPB scores through the roof. Despite his best find in April, a Great White Egret, being at Fairburn this patch has been usurped as the leader by St Aidan's which despite the flux over its administration continues to be highly productive.

Wayne & Clare Gillatt at Alkborough move into third place and remain the only patchers in touch with Darren. We have had a few queries as to joint patching and how that works and we will have a think as it is a touch unfair if it is a combined score. If all species are seen by both parties then perhaps that is fairer? Any feedback is gratefully received as it is not an issue which we had really considered. Bill Aspin drops from third to fourth this month. The only other six pointer this month was Pete Antrobus's Great White Egret at The Flashes. More six pointers in May? There must be a Temminck's or two out there!

James Common takes over at the top of the comparative league as his score broke 85% whilst last months leader, Peter Williams drops to third. Phil Woolen hangs onto second and becomes the second member of the 80% club in the minileague. Mark Reeder continues to hold off Jonny Holliday in Yorkshires most heated clash since the last steel city derby.

Wednesday, 21 May 2014

Midlands Minileague - April

Ian Cowgill maintains his lead in the Midlands with a total of 168 points whilst 23 points back in second is John Hopper at Hoveringham. Nick Crouch drops from second in March to third in April whilst Andy Mackay keeps the pressure on in fourth. Find of the month was undoubtedly Espen Quinto-Ashman's Bluethroat which is a first record for Herefordshire. Seabirds are always notable on inland patches so a Kittiwake at Hoveringham and Sandwich Terns at Lound and Eyebrook were notable. Will May produce some bonus points in the Midlands? Regardless it will definitely produce plenty of migrants. 

Dave Roberts takes over at the top in the comparative league with a big shake up as last month's leader, Nick Self finds himself in last (or fifth depending upon how you look at it). Despite this there is a mere 7% separating all the players. Matt Griffiths is 0.7% off the top in second with Nick Crouch another 2.4% back in third.

Tuesday, 20 May 2014

Inland Scotland Minileague - April

Alastair Forsyth managed the two best finds of April but he managed a miserly six points for them as his second Blue-winged Teal of the year earned him precisely nothing. Despite this he holds onto first place thanks to a Great Grey Shrike. Simon Pinder is in second with a five point advantage over Rory Whytock at Lake of Menteith. Mark Hammonds Long-tailed Duck on the River Dee is newsworthy this month as good patch fare such as Garganey, Osprey and Tree Pipit found there way into various monthly highlights boxes. The Stirling part of our favourite schizophrenic patcher is bottom of the table with the Dunblane incarnation leading the Chris Pendlebury minileague.

The comparative podium remains static in places but Alastair Forsyths finds have given him an excellent 94.5%. Will he be first to 100% in Inland Scotland? Second remains Chris P's Dunblane patch with 80% whilst Andy Cage is in third place.

Monday, 19 May 2014

Coastal Scotland Minileague - April

John Bowler remains in the ascendency in Coastal Scotland with 192 points. A substantial lead of 22 points considering his patch has not been the most diverse. That hour falls to Dunnet and Dan Brown who lies in third place. Splitting the two is Peter Donnelly on North Ronaldsay who unsurprisingly is also doing pretty well. Brian Rabbitts, second last month falls to sixth due to no submission so he may well be in the shake up. Some good birds this month with the first Serin for the Outer Hebrides for Ian T whilst Yvonne B found a crane in the Askernish dust off. There were lots of bonus points for on Tiree for John Bowler with self-found Ring-billed Gull, American Wigeon, Sea Eagle and Snow Goose whilst on the Isle of May a Wryneck brought home the bacon for Mark Newell.

Stephen Welch takes control of the comparative table with 87%, 1.3% ahead of Bryan Rains whilst Yvonne B is in this on 78%. Chris Hill and Dave W drop out of the top 3 and into 5th and 6th highlighting how competitive it is on the coast in Scotland.

Sunday, 18 May 2014

Ireland Minileague - April

Despite claiming it was slow going at Blacksod, Dave Suddaby extends his lead to thirteen points in the Irish Minileague and is 34 points up on this time last year. He is also four points ahead of where Owen Foley, then table topper, was last April. Niall Keogh is still in second and it ten points clear of third. Niall is also 11 points up on 2013 so he is on for a new high score. Neal Warnock manages to hold onto third with his new patch at Larne Lough and best finds of the month go to him with a brace of Kumlien's Gulls.

In the comparative league Eamonn O'Donnell continues to lead Michael O'Donnell. Eamonn currently has 95% and Michael is 6% back on 89%. A brace of very good scores. Neal Warnock on Rathlin, aided by a Golden Eagle this month makes third place on 77% displacing Alan Lauder who falls all the way to 7th with his Carrick Mountain patch.

Saturday, 17 May 2014

Coastal East Anglia Minileague - April

The Coastal East Anglia minileague hasnt had its best April in terms of quality but quantity of points certainly havent been in short supply and Tim Hodge blazes a trail at the top of the points table as both the regional and national leader. His Hoopoe was the only three pointer of the month with a dearth of anything more profitable across the table. Various patches recorded classic spring two pointers such as Firecrest, Garganey and Ring Ouzel. James Brown added thirty points in April but remains a further 31 adrift of Tim. A decent find or two would significantly cut the gap though. Gary White remains in third as he heads up the bunch with five patches within 10 points.

Nick Andrews who is transferring minileagues comes straight in with 90%, a fantastic score for a coastal patch this early in procedings. Gary White drops to second further back on 71% with Craig Fulcher dropping one place to third with 63%. Ryan Irvine drops out of the top three to fourth with 59%.

Thursday, 15 May 2014

Inland East Anglia Minleague - April

With Jamie Wells adding 54 points in April he retains tops spot but Ben Lewis has jumped from the pack into second place on 166 points. There is daylight back to Ed Keeble's patch at Brantham who retains third place with 142 points. Mark Nowers at Stutton drops to fourth. It was pretty quiet in terms of finds this month with Ben Lewis's three Cranes, Jamie Wells' Goshawk and Birdtracks own Nick Moran finding a Ring Ouzel. Good patch birds all but not the hoped for high points of an East Anglian spring...

Mark Nowers at Stutton has hit 100% and has an 11% lead in the comparative table. Jim Bradley moves up a place into second with 90% and Mike M moves onto the podium with 87% at Taverham & Ringland. With so many scores in the 70-90% range there has been plenty of movement and it is Steve Swinney who has lost places dropping from second to seventh despite a very creditable 79%. Very much all to play for here!

Sunday, 11 May 2014

Coastal North Minileague - April

With a self found Red-rumped Swallow plus Crag Martin and Tawny Pipit on patch, Martin Garner's April was very impressive with a heady 52 points added. Jane Turner shoots up the table in to second with an even more productive month scoring 81 points thanks to self found Wryneck and Spotted Crake in addition to on patch Green-winged Teal and Tawny Pipit. Tim Jones holds onto third at Spurn with 50 points in April. His best find was a Serin whilst he also added Crane, Ring Ouzel and most crucially Red-legged Partridge. Tom Cadwallender slips from second to fourth this month despite 25 points added. Ring Ouzels featured heavily in submissions from around the region but the best of the rest was Jack Bucknall's Wryneck.

Alan Tilmouth is the first past the 70% mark in the coastal north minileague and he holds a 7% lead from Jane Turner. Iain Robson at Druridge displaces James Spencer from the Top 3. A productive May could change this table about quite quickly.

Saturday, 10 May 2014

Wales Minileague - April

Barry Stewart at Burry Inlet has had a monster month adding 43 points thanks in part to a Franklin's Gull - this months best find in not just Wales but nationwide and surely a contender for the Best Find shortlist. Ben Porter's White Stork, Stone Curlew combo sees him move into second. Matt Meehan drops a spot to third despite a productive month. Bardsey's twin pronged attempt on the league hotted up this month as Steve Stansfield got his effort off to a decent start coming straight into fourth. There was a smattering of decent patch finds with Osprey, Goshawk, Glaucous Gull and Cetti's Warbler all being recorded in April.

No additions for Alison at LlanfairTH but she remains top by 7%. Graham Powell at Ogmore moves into second whilst Henry Cook's Little Orme patch drops to third. There is only 5.7% between second and fifth so all to play for in May. Not that extra encouragement is needed in the most diverse of months.

Thursday, 8 May 2014

London Minileague - April

Adam Bassett maintains his grip on the London minileague from Little Marlow extending his lead to ten points. Nick Croft keeps second with Rainham Marshes but his Wanstead patch loses third to Marek Walford who is only an additional four points back. Jason Reynolds' March march up the table was reversed in April sliding back to eighth with KJ Mcmanus benefitting. Best finds this month were a couple of Ospreys at Wanstead and Hosehill with a Garganey for Ian Bennell.

Despite losing ground in the points league, Jason Reynolds holds on at the top by 0.15% with a corking 93.5% thus far. Michael Terry moves into second with Marek Walford leaping from 6th to third. Roger Hicks at Henlow slips into 7th - big effort in May Roger!