Thursday, 31 July 2014

The National Inland Top 20

This our first look at the nationwide top 20 inland patches and for those of us familiar with the Inland North category it will come as no surprise that the top three sites (two individuals) are sitting at the top of the Nationwide Inland League. Those of us residing near the bottom or indeed outside the table should take solace from the fact that as site manager (Is that the new name fro Reserve Warden?) for Fairburn and St Aidan’s it is perhaps not surprising that Darren Starkey sits in first and third place with his patches. Also with an advantage of a different sort, and currently second, is Wayne Gillat. Wayne’s patch at Alkborough is clearly better positioned for those all important wetland birds - particularly waders. Some may dispute Alkborough’s position as an inland patch given it’s location on the Humber estuary, though situated at the confluence of the Trent and Ouse (next to Blacktoft Sands) it is some 20km inland of Hull and geographically similar to other inland patches.

Closing on Darrel and Wayne and just a BB rarity find from the top spot is Jamie Wells with his Cambridgeshire patch Paxton Pits.

Scotland’s only representative, currently in the top 20, is Alastair Forsyth who will no doubt be keeping everything crossed for a bumper autumn on the Orkney Mainland.

Typically June and July can be testing times for the inland patch birder, though as I write this two ‘top drawer’ rarities are gracing inland sites in the Midlands and East Anglia. A Black-winged Pratincole on the Ouse Washes and a Pacific Golden Plover (below) at RSPB Middleton Lakes near Tamworth. The latter site surely one of the most inland sites in the UK.

Both photos with the kind permission of Steve Nuttall

August can be a real game changer with return migration for waders in full swing. Whilst July’s table will likely see little change from June’s, August’s will tell a whole new story and maybe even a change at the top with perhaps some relegation at the bottom.

Whilst patchers closer to the coast may already have added many key species the more land-locked locations will be looking to the weather charts hoping for favourable conditions to drop ‘patch gold’. For me August can be the best month of the year and based on previous years experience I could add as many as six or seven species - but given that in previous years I have been away for up to two weeks during the month, this year I’m hoping for at least ten!

This may be a case of telling your Granny how to suck eggs, but my tips for a successful August would be keep an eye of the weather and always, wherever possible, visit the patch during or immediately after rain. Those late summer downpours can and do come up trumps.

Thank you and good luck

Mark Reeder

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

The Bresser and Forest Optics Best Find Rarity Roundup - June 2014

The Bresser & Forest Optic Best Find Competition is the jewel in the crown for Patchwork Challenge. This is the best find of the whole patchbirding year as voted for by you, the competitors and a few more contenders threw their hats into the rarity ring this month.

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!

June is a quieter month for rarities than May, and for many this is reflected in their scores for the month. A large number of patchers reported a quiet month, but for some the rarity roll call of spring continued onto summer's doorstep.

The first contender for bird of the month was a superb find for Paul Bowyer at Sand Point on the morning of the 2nd June. Approaching the Trig Point, Paul immediately picked up on a singing Greenish Warbler. A first for Avon, the bird continued to sing but was skulking high in the tree canopy. Without the ability to pick the song, this bird could easily have been overlooked, but as it was Paul a number of other observers got to enjoy the bird as it fed amongst the hawthorns.

    Greenish Warbler (Paul Bowyer)

The second contender was a briefer bird which put in a flyby appearance for Joe Stockwell at Portland Bill. A Pallid Swift added a satisfying 8 points to Joe's total following a bumper May which included a smart Bee-Eater, perhaps the most beautiful of all birds.

In May Black Stork was the main heron of note, but in June it was Glossy Ibis which continued to put in appearances on a number of patches. Darren Starkey managed to bag this continental visitor on both of his patches in West Yorkshire whilst records from Martin Mere, Kelling and most surprising of all Cambus in Scotland added to the tally. A White Stork was reported from Bardsey and a fine record of Purple Heron from Tim Hodge helped to bolster his position at the top of the coastal East Anglia league. Great White Egret and Spoonbill put in appearances at Sker and Kenfig and Fairburn respectively.

As might be expected in June, ducks were not a major feature of most people's patch list. A Scaup was an unseasonal find at Fairburn as was a Slavonian Grebe at St Aidan's. A late record from May was the highlight of Dan Chaney's seawatching career. Testament to the patience of those who watch the waves, a White-Billed Diver in full breeding plumage flew close in at Falmouth in the south west on May 8th. In just a few moments, those hours of seawatching can pay dividends.

Bardsey had another impressive month. In addition to the White Stork this Welsh gem turned up Marsh Warbler, Stone Curlew and Golden Oriole. It also joined the ever-growing number of patches this spring that have recorded Blyth's Reed Warbler and Citrine Wagtail. It has been a great spring for these two species and Peter Stronach at Balnakeil in the Highlands added another stunning Citrine Wagtail on the 18th-19th June.

    Blyth's Reed Warbler (Ben Porter)

   Citrine Wagtail (Peter Stronach)

Steve Minton also got in on the Blyth's Reed Warbler show, but was able to appreciate his from the kitchen window as he discovered it singing in the garden on Friday 13th June. Unlucky for some but not for Steve! Alistair Forsyth was another birder who managed to score points from an even more relaxing spot, listening to a Corncrake from the safety and warmth of bed in Orkney. The advantages of living on patch for both of these birders clearly emphasised in June.

   Blyth's Reed Warbler (Steve Minton)

July is always a good month for Terns and Gulls and I'm sure will feature in next months update, but there were records of Black, Roseate and Little Tern from patches this month. Kev Rylands followed the Topsham lead, with 2 Boneparte's Gulls at Dawlish Warren whilst Niall Keogh at Kilcoole in Ireland recorded a record high 115 pairs of Little Terns. No extra points but birding is all about successes such as these. Perhaps the success of the Little Terns helped to soothe the pain of dipping on a Laughing Gull after a few too many beers the night before!

Last but not least, I have been doing this update for just two months, but at this rate I suspect that John Bowler on Tiree will be getting his own paragraph most months! After his sensational bird list in May, John added another Rustic Bunting and a Red-Breasted Flycatcher in June to add to what was already being dubbed as Tiree's best ever spring.

  Red-Breasted Flycatcher (John Bowler)

    Rustic Bunting (John Bowler)

So onwards to July. Waders are returning already with Great Knot and both Collared and Black-Winged Pratincoles gracing our shores in recent days. The Bridled Tern and Short-Toed Eagle continue to reside in the UK but thus far avoid our patchers attentions. So eyes to the skies, you never know when that moment might come which puts you in contention for those Bresser Montana 8.5 x 45 Binoculars.

So what will the June scores show. We know June has not been short of quality birds with Short-Toed Eagle and Bridled Tern both commuting in UK airspace. Surely one of these will make a patchers day soon and will become a real contender for Bresser & Forest Optics wonderful prize.

Friday, 18 July 2014

New Patchwork team member - Ireland

Hi there. My name is Niall Keogh and I’ll be representing the Irish birding contingent through my involvement with the Patchwork Challenge as one of the newly appointed admin team members. Born and raised in Dublin yet I’ve always spent most of my time birding outside the county, often at meccas such as Tacumshin Lake or The Bridges of Ross. Whilst this has meant I’ve been treated to superb days with multiple species of yank wader or insane seabird passage, patch birding has always featured strongly for me and I’ve ‘worked’ several less frequently birded or seemingly less productive sites within striking distance from home through the years.

I guess the patch which I’d be most associated with is that of Kilcoole, Co. Wicklow. This is where I started birding as a kid on day trips by bus from home with my father, later developing into solo forays where I found some of my first good birds as a teenager and then spending four summers in a row living on site as a Little Tern warden at the colony there (which now hosts 100+ pairs in a good year).

A full detailed description of the patch and the list of birds seen there can be found here and here. For the purposes of this blog post I’ll give you a quick run through. Essentially the patch is comprised of a series of coastal marshes, lagoon, a small estuary, shingle beach, rough grazing, reedbeds, wet birchwood, alkaline fen etc. along a relatively straight stretch of coastline. With the UK sitting between Kilcoole and the continent, eastern migrants are often at a premium but it does well for species such as Hobby and Yellow Wagtail (at least in an Irish context, i.e. might see one of each a year!). Falls of passerines are certainly possible but hard to predict. I’ll be a happy chappy the day I see a Redstart! Scarce seabirds are, well, scarce and with a lack of large expanses of open, deep water and only a small estuary at hand means that birds like Pochard, Knot etc. often make a days birding here very much worthwhile when they do show up.

Pintail... #patchgold
But no point dwelling upon what I don’t have. Everyone’s patch has something special and I’m lucky at Kilcoole to have a decent number of wintering wildfowl to look through (peaks of 1,000 Light-bellied Brent, 300 Icelandic Greylag, 750 Black-tailed Godwits etc.), a successful breeding colony of Little Terns and continuous variety with plenty of oddities moving North and South along the coast throughout the year resulting in an often surprisingly high species diversity. When it comes to Nearctic vagrants it does surprisingly well for an East coast site (but being in Ireland no doubt helps!). Twenty individual waders of six species, three species of duck and a gull all of North American origin have been seen through the years. No complaints there! Total patch list to date is 203 with 176 of these seen since 2011. Taking part in PWC in 2013 lead to my highest patch year list of 152 and I’d be certainly keen to try and break that again this year (but it will take some amount of effort and luck). Patch ticks I’d like to get in the coming months?... Red Kite, Woodcock, Iceland Gull and maybe a Black-throated Diver!

One of three Wilson's Phals seen on patch through the years... a bizzare run of records! 
Webb's field & lagoon, where the magic happens!

So all in all I’m very much looking forward to contributing to the development of the Patchwork Challenge as I see it as a very worthwhile exercise which more birders should take part in. I’m an avid BirdTracker too and hope to work on that aspect in an Irish context in particular. Get those records coming in! I’ll be knocking about on the various PWC social media outlets so be sure to say hi (or whisht!) if you read some of my babbling posts. And if you’re ever in Wicklow then feel free to get in touch and we can go in search of Tufted Duck at Kilcoole and ignore all the Roseate Terns passing by in the process!

Updates, news and pics from various Irish mini league participants can be found on the Patch Birding Ireland blog so be sure to give it a look from time to time and see how we're all getting on.

Thursday, 17 July 2014

South West Minileague - June

This month we end on a biggie! There are some terrific patches with huge scores in the South West - with 6 patches scoring higher than Topsham, in spite of it's multigull madness earlier in the year. Joe Stockwell is in first place at Portland, a massive 34 points (but only 4 species) ahead of Kev Rylands at Dawlish Warren. Joe's place at the top was consolidated this month by self found pallid swift, and bee-eater. Interestingly, Sean Foote, also patching Portland is only three species behind Joe, but with a gap of 44 points. I can believe that south portland might be better in terms of quality than north portland, but I never expected a gap of that magnitude. It can all change in an autumnal raise of the bins (or maybe a few, in this case) so lets see what Sean can pull out of the bag.

Paul Bowyer takes the top spot in the comparative league, with a gaggle of 5 in the peloton scoring between 80 and 90%. Just one good bird will take Paul past the 100% mark.  

London Minileague - June

Some great scores coming in from capital city so far this year. Adam Bassett and Nick Croft are in equal 1st place in terms of species seen, but Adam is well ahead in terms of points (well, by 6...). This is in spite if Nicks self found Blyth's reed back in may, reflecting the fact that Adams 120 spp must have a little more quality scattered through them than Nicks. Marek Walford is only just very slightly off the pace species wise, but his 8 species will need to be worth 19 points if he is to make up that ground properly.

Micheal Terry and Jason Reynolds are in the top two spots, with the big points hitters of Adam and Marek in third and fourth. All of these big scores (in terms of species, the top London patches were only just behind my coastal June tally) are definitely challenging my preconceptions that birding in the big smoke must be dull. Well done all round.

Wales Minileague - June

Steve Stansfield has managed to overtake Ben Porter as top of the pops in Wales. It seemed to have been coming as the gap narrowed month by month and with Ben putting up stern resistance with some great finds. Can Steve hold on? Four points isnt much of a lead. Their joint find of a Blyth's Reed Warbler is the Welsh highlight for June. Barry Stewart remains in third place. Best of the rest was a Great White Egret at Kenfig for Darren Coombs but this must be a repeated performance as he has only gained one point this month.

It may be a little spartan in terms of numbers of species at LlanfairTH but this isnt stopping AlisonC having a great year there and she is on nearly 128% and certainly a contender for the overall competitive prize. Henry Cook is in second with 94% thanks in part to May's Black Stork. It looks like he will be the second person past the 100% mark. Adam Tilt at Cefn Drum is in third.

Wednesday, 16 July 2014

Coastal Scotland Minileague - June

The Coastal Scotland points table is beginning to read like a 'where to go birding' guide, with some top notch rarity spots (and Girdle ness) filling the top half of the points table. John Bowler is only narrowly ahead of Peter Donnely in second place, who was no doubt aided by a nice little bundle of points in the form of a Scops owl. Dan Browns 24 hour patching at Dunnet puts him in third (and Dunnet firmly on the map). Steve Minton has made some headway up the table thanks to a Blyth's reed warbler in his garden (only on Shetland, eh? Or Bardsey, of course...)

Stephen Welch heads the way in the comparative league, but it's a real close run thing between him and Dave W at Burray, and also Bryan Rains on Mull who is in third.  

Coastal North Minileague - June

A very slow month for this league, a fact which made clear when only 7 of the 17 competitors submitted scores for June! The biggest gain was made by Iain Robson who, with highlights of Bonxie and Roseate Tern, added 11 points to leapfrog Alan Tilmouth into 5th position, the only change in places in the top 10.  Up top only Jane Turner increased her score, a Puffin sees her close the gap to Martin Garner in second to just 10 points. There were no 3-pointers in the highlights or best finds so it was down to the 2-pointers to provide some quality, the best being Cuckoo and Black Tern for Seamus Eaves at Fleetwood and Chris Bradshaw's Quail at Long Nab.

No change in terms of position in the comparative league but Alan Tilmouth retains a healthy lead at the top, just 13% away from reaching his score from last year. Behind him however the battle for second place is hotting up, less then 4% separates Jane Turner, Iain Robson and James Spencer, the latter gaining 8% to help close up on the chasing group.

Tuesday, 15 July 2014

NGB Minileague - June

No June update from Tim Jones at Spurn means that Joe Stockwell takes over the lead of the NGB league with his outstanding Portland patch. A 12-point haul for a self-found Pallid Swift and a bonus 3 points for finding a Bee-eater sees him increase his points total to 253, 7 points clear of second place although Tim does have the advantage in terms of species seen. Ben Porter is still off the pace of the two front runners however he did have a great month in June with self-found Citrine Wagtail and Blyth's Reed Warbler meaning he manages to pull back 12 points on the leaders, will he be able to catch them as Autumn looms on the horizon?

Lower down the table there were few gains during June and other than Ashley Baines jumping 2 places up to eighth, the rest of the top 10 is as you were at the end of May. Espen Quinto-Ashman listed his highlights at Wellinton GP simply as "None, very quiet!", whilst James Common showed what patch birding is all about at Stobswood by almost jumping with joy when a Coot showed up, his first record in 5 years birding at the site! An impressive inland record of Arctic Skua for the same observer sees him move up a few places twelfth. My own lowly Lancaster patch remains stuck to the lower levels of the league, only Canada Goose was added during June.

Coastal East Anglia Minileague - June

Stuck record time - Tim Hodge is still at the top and it's going to take a multi mega miracle to top him! James Brown is the only one with a chance of catching up, being a mere 45 points behind, but third place is Gary White who is 73 points off the pace. Thats only 5 self found firsts for Britain...

It might all be about the battle for third place in this minileague. At least there looks like there might be a bit of a fight...

Nick Andrews is out in front on the comparative league, with a small margin, nothing like the massive gaps above. He's about 7% ahead of Gary White, who in turn is 8% ahead of Craig Fulcher. Craig is doing the decent thing and keeping our Ryan out of the top three....but it could all change if someone has a good autumn.

Inland East Anglia Minileague - June

Another minileague and another desert for bonus points with Ben Moyes' Ring Ouzel at Needham Market an unseasonal treat and the highlight for June. The top three managed one point between them with Ed Keeble closing the gap by a fraction to Ben Lewis in second. Despite his blank month Jamie Wells stays out front. Hobby and Spotted Flycatcher graced a handful of patches but weren't the patch gold that many would have hoped for. Steve Swinney managed to climb into 4th with five points this month pushing Mark Nowers into fifth.

Despite dropping a place in the points league Mark Nowers at Stutton stays top of the comparative league with 106%. Jim Bradley remains in second place and Steve Swinney becomes the third member of the hundred club. Congratulations to all three contestants on getting there so quickly. Will Mike M be next?

Monday, 14 July 2014

Ireland Minileague - June

The half time, mid-summer lull has resulted in no major shake-up in the Irish mini-league bar a change at the top of the points table where Niall Keogh’s Kilcoole patch overtakes Dave Suddaby’s Blacksod patch for first place by a matter of five points (but with a notable difference of 26 species between the two… a direct result of a higher number of rarities found out West, epitomised by Dave’s highest points per bird score in the Irish mini-league with 1.56 ppb ensuring a comfortable lead in that respect).

The O’Donnell brothers maintain their lead on the percentage tables, both of which are now well into the 90% bracket. Michael added eight new species since May, moving up one place on the points table but more significantly taking Eamonn’s first place title on the percentage table. 

The lack of rarities found by Irish PWC participants came as no great surprise give that June was relatively quiet across the country. The addition of Roseate Tern to several lists was evident, most notably at Julian Wylie’s Baltimore patch in Cork where it is no doubt a very good local and county bird. Other good local patch finds included Neal Warnock’s 2nd record of Pochard at Larne Lough and Niall Keogh’s 3rd record of Osprey at Kilcoole. 

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

Midlands Minileague - June

As might be expected, June proved a quiet month with most migrants having now arrived and additions few and far between. This was perhaps reflected by fewer submissions at the month end, and thereby a number of scores that have not moved in the month.

Ian Cowgill at Lound still heads the way, breaking the 150 species barrier this month and racking up an impressive 184 points. A Red-Necked Phalarope for Andy Mackay at Eyebrook keeps him in third, spoiling the Nottinghamshire party at the top of the table as John Hopper and Nick Crouch on their respective patches make up an impressive top 4.

14 patchers are now totalling over 100 species for the year. An honorary mention has to go to the 5 birders who have topped 1000 bird track records, in particular Andy Sims who has topped 5000 records including his first Little Tern in 31 years! Great going Andy!

With autumn migration about to start, our 5 patchers with a comparative score are all looking to beat last years totals. Matt Griffiths at Earlswood leads the way, but he can't rest on his laurels as the rest of the pack are bunching up close behind.


Inland North Minileague - June

At the end of June, the league is looking like a three horse race (albeit with two horses?!). Wayne Gillett continues to battle with the Darren Starkey double, but loses his top spot to Darren's Fairburn Ings patch. Contrary to the experience of many patchers, these three sites brought in some good birds in June with Fairburn and St Aidan's hosting a very popular Glossy Ibis, a Pectoral Sandpiper at St Aidan's and 2 Ruddy Shelduck added a splash of colour to Wayne's Alkborough patch. All three of these patches are now over the 150 species mark.

Whilst Tom Lowe has fewer species at his Goole Fields patch than the leaders, his point per bird of 1.375 leads the way, indicating an exceptional year at the site.

Andy Bunting at Martin Mere joined the growing number of patchers in the month to add Glossy Ibis to their totals. James Common meanwhile exemplified what patching is all about, with highlights of an inland Arctic Skua sitting on almost equal footing with a patch first Coot. Patch gold takes many forms!

Many patchers are now using the birdtrack app to record their sightings. Andy Bunting has racked up a phenomenal 8909 species on 318 complete lists whilst Steven Ward has topped 5000  records at the halfway point in the year.

In the comparative league, two patchers are topping the 90% mark. Mark Reeder drops to 4th place as James Common takes top spot, but it's a close competition with plenty of time to run. The second half of the year is where additions get harder and just a couple of great patch moments could make all the difference as autumn wader passage gets underway.

Sunday, 13 July 2014

Inland Scotland Minileague - June

A slightly livelier month when compared with the South Coast but still pretty steady. Despite this there were bonus points for Graeme Garner as he found a Glossy Ibis at Cambus. Even better for Graeme is this moved him ahead of Simon Pinder and into the top three. The top two remain the same with Alastair heading it up at Old Nisthouse with a 37 point lead with this months highlight, a calling Corncrake, ticked whilst he was recumbent in bed. The leading Chris Pendlebury remains the Dunblane CP. The other CP's need to work a bit harder to be honest.

As well as heading up the points league Alastair's great year is confirmed by his 111% score in the comparative league which heads the table. Chris is still in second at Dunblane and Andy Cage has managed to overtake Mr Shuttleworth and climb into third.

Saturday, 12 July 2014

South Coast Minileague - June

To say it was quiet on the South Coast in June would be to understate the case. Five scores were submitted and only four of these actually advanced anybodies scores. Andy Rhodes had the best update adding 43 points since his last update and moving up from 10th to 5th. There was no movement at the top and best finds were Red Kite for Neil Burt, Quail for Adam Faiers and Hobby for Mark Lawlor. Bad news when it is all two pointers! Still - its autumn now.

No change at all here with Adam and Mark adding 1% each and we move on...

Wednesday, 2 July 2014

The Bresser and Forest Optics Best Find Rarity Roundup - May 2014

This is the May update for Patchwork Challenge’s blue riband event The Bresser & Forest Optic Best Find Competition. This is the best find of the whole patchbirding year as voted for by you, the competitors. Anyone could win this prize, and whilst those in rarity hotspots may have an advantage, it should serve as reminder to everyone else that an inland Pied Wheatear ran the competition to the wire last year.

For the winner of the competition, 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. Now that is a prize worth winning!

As the Spring hit full swing and the migrants arrived en-masse, the ever exciting month of May resulted in a raft of rarities for determined patchworkers. It is a month that always helps to boost that all-important list, and each outing has the potential for great rewards.

Our good friends at Bresser & Forest Optics have kindly sponsored this centrepiece of Patchwork Challenge, the best find competition, and the quality of birds in May has not disappointed with two in particular being real contenders for the big prize.

The first was a Eastern Bonelli’s Warbler at Newbiggin in Northumberland. For Alan Tilmouth, the 3rd May had started as a quiet morning with few birds on the move, but a strange call from a Phylloscopus warbler changed all of that. Initially identified as a Western Bonelli’s Warbler, the story of the find is a demonstration of the process required to split some of our more difficult species. A combination of sonograms, photos, videos and European expertise helped to change this identification to the rarer orientalis. This was all a testament to Alan’s persistence in the identification process aided by the extensive data recording whilst the bird was present. Points well-earned indeed.

  Eastern Bonelli's Warbler, Alan Tilmouth

The second contender required a less extensive process to clinch the identification but was arguably a more beautiful looker. John Bowler had accumulated a mouth-watering list in May (not to mention a hefty points total) including American Wigeon, Common Rosefinch, Marsh Warbler, Red-Backed Shrike, Red-Rumped Swallow and Rustic Bunting. So when on 27th May a glorious male Collared Flycatcher decided to grace his patch at Balephuil on Tiree, it capped off what had been the best ever May for the island. Almost half of the British records have been found in May, so it was the right time and for John the right place to notch up this first for the county of Argyll.

      Collared Flycatcher (John Bowler)

As per usual in May, there were a number of Heron overshoots from the continent. Glossy Ibis and Great White Egret are becoming a regular feature and could be following in the footsteps of Little Egret with increased colonisation of our shores. Cattle Egret is however still a bird to draw a crowd, so a bird at Little Marlow GP was a welcome find indeed for Adam Basset, who also added a first patch record of Spoonbill to his May points tally.

It is not very often that more patches report Black Stork than its white cousin. However, this was the case in May as birds appeared at 3 sites spread right across England, with birds at Goole Fields, Little Orme and Dawlish Warren.
There were not many seabirds of note during the month, with a couple of patches reporting Long-Tailed Skua and Storm Petrel amongst their highlights. Perhaps the most notable seabird came from Wall Common with Somerset’s first Blue Fulmar proving to be quite a coup for Roger Musgrove. A Gannet seen at the inland location of Saul Warth was also an unexpected bonus for Gordon Hodgson.

As you might expect in May, ducks took something of a back seat in the rarity charts, but a Ring-Necked Duck found by Pete Antrobus at Neumann’s Flashes was a patch first for that Cheshire location. An American Wigeon was found on Tiree whilst a number of patches reported Garganey amongst their highlights in May. Dunnet in Scotland saw both White-Billed Diver and Surf Scoter put in appearances for Dan Brown, but perhaps the most spectacular sighting of Dan’s month was worth no points at all, as a pod of 6 Orcas cruised slowly south past Skirza Duncansby.

May is usually a good month for waders with many sites reporting Wood Sandpipers amongst their highlights and 3 patchers adding self-found Temminck’s Stints to their point totals. A Stone Curlew was a noteable find on Bardsey Island. The best wader found on patch this month however goes to the stunning Broad-Billed Sandpiper located by Wayne Gillatt after a report of an odd looking Dunlin at Alkborough Flats. A long walk to get closer to the bird in question paid off as the identification was clinched before the bird flew off high over the Humber.

Whilst no rare terns were found by patchers in May, Martin Elcoate at Topsham enjoyed a gull bonanza. A Ross’s Gull had already added 4 points to the Topsham total when it was joined by a stunning Bonaparte’s Gull in the same group. Matching the 4 points for the Ross’s, this is then doubled to reward this great patch find. Add to that a further Bonaparte’s and Little and Mediterranean Gulls, this was the place to be in the UK for gull watchers in May.

Top : Bonaparte's Gull (Keith Mitchell)
Bottom : Ross's Gull (Martin Elcoate)

As might be expected in spring, Hobby’s featured prominently in the highlights, perhaps for the impact that this dynamic summer visitor bird has on our birding imaginations. Martin Garner recorded a Honey Buzzard at Flamborough, and a Black Kite put in an appearance at North Lowestoft whilst a Montagu’s Harrier lit up Adam Faiers day at Sandwich. The latter is the subject of the RSPB hotline initiative this year to encourage the reporting of all sightings of this all too scarce summer visitor.

Bee-eater added a splash of colour at Flamborough in the month, whilst other classic Spring fair included a scattering of Common Rosefinch, Golden Oriole, Red-Backed Shrike, Savi’s Warblers and Red-Breasted Flycatcher. An impressive 5 different patchers reported self-found Marsh Warblers. Icterine Warbler and Red-Rumped Swallow on the Isle of May and Tiree respectively were also typical fare for the season and welcome double pointers.

Blyth’s Reed Warblers put in a good showing, with three patchers demonstrating fine ID skills by finding their own birds. One of these was located at Wanstead Flats for what is surely the inland bird of the month whilst Andrew Whitehouse found the bird below at Girdleness in Aberdeen.

Yellow-Browed Warbler will feature on many lists by the end of October, but a Spring bird is more unusual sight, so a bird at Holme NOA was an earlier than expected addition to the year list for Gary Elton.

For three patches, this May proved to be a Citrine special, with this little gem putting in appearances at Portland Bill, Bardsey Island (a joint find for both of the Bardsey patchers) and Red Rocks where Jane Turner managed to rattle off the same number of camera shots as expletives in order to produce the shot below. In addition, the Bardsey patch added a Blue-Headed Wagtail to their year list.

      Citrine Wagtail - Jane Turner

Another find on Tiree was a Rustic Bunting which was yet another addition to John Bowler’s spring rarity list. Peter Donnelly on North Ronaldsay found a Short-Toed Lark on his patch while having to settle for just the 5 points for the Yellow-Rumped Warbler which put in an appearance on the 6th May before moving on to Unst the following day.

So what will the June scores show. We know June has not been short of quality birds with Short-Toed Eagle and Bridled Tern both commuting in UK airspace. Surely one of these will make a patchers day soon and will become a real contender for Bresser & Forest Optics wonderful prize.