Friday, 31 July 2015

Inland North Minileagues June

Nick Tonge takes advantage of a blank month for Keith Dickinson and James Common and takes the lead after adding 7 new species in June while Steven Ward joins the 100% club in 5th place. With less than 30% separating the top 15 it looks like a good autumn could well see anyone make a push for a podium place!

Darren Starkey maintains his healthy lead at the top of the points table with Andy Bunting still his closest challenger. Garry Taylor has finally made his move into the top 3 adding 17 points from his 'inland' patch at Hornsea. 4th place is jointly held by Mark Reeder, Tom Lowe and Jonny Holliday so its all to play for while their PWC2014 nemesis Bill Aspin slips out of the top 10 and surely out of contention!

Highlights were thin on the ground this month but Long-eared Owls featured in a few patches while Tome Lowe added a Quail to his Goole Fields score, Andy Bunting caught up with a Red-necked Phalarope and Paul Massey found the same species at his patch at Grindon Lough and Chris Bradshaw found a Honey Buzzard flying over his patch. Garry Taylor managed to twitch the American Wigeon at Hornsea and Pete Antrobus managed a patch life tick in the form of a flock of Crossbills at Neumann's. Perhaps find of the month though has to go to Jonny Holliday when he found a pound coin at Pugneys!

Inland South Minileagues June

Nothing new for Tom Raven this month (thats because he has seen everything already!). Tom Stevenson's battle with himself sees Battle Farm leading the way and busting through the 100% barrier at the same time thanks to three additional points. His Ewelme patch remains in third. Neil Burt added 8% in June to climb into 4th and putting pressure on the leaders.

Again Tom Raven is out front but his lead has been cut by Graham White at Rye Meads who added a brace with Ruff and Tawny Owl. Adam Bassett holds onto third place as he added two as well thanks to a pair of Garganey and some Black-tailed Godwits.

     This Knot was a nice inland find for Tim Farr at Sutton Bingham

There were a pair of very decent finds in June for our Inland South patchers. Nick Croft got a handy 6 points with a Black Kite over his Wanstead patch. Not perhaps as big-hitting as the Blyth's Reed Warbler of last year I bet this was a tad more impressive! At Sutton Bingham Reservoir Tim Farr managed to find a Night Heron for some bonus points as well. Good work chaps!

Wednesday, 29 July 2015

Inland Minileagues Halftime Review for 2015

It's the halfway point in the year and time for a look back over the first six months  for the Inland Mini-leagues. I'll not get bogged down with point scores etc as that is best left to the monthly reviews, this is more of a personal selection of the more interesting sightings submitted in the highlights box and rough tally of best find records.

Before I start, let's just recap on the prime purpose of the Challenge, which is to record the species over time in a small area and make those records available for others to use the data. So anyone who isn't logging their sightings on Birdtrack needs to start now and with the mobile app it is even possible to log sightings in the field.

2015 had been fairly quiet year for most patch-workers with a lack of true megas until April when Tom Raven noticed an odd looking godwit late in the day at his Shapwick Heath/ Ham Wall (South) patch. After swotting up overnight he managed to re-find the bird the following day and put out the gen. The first twitchable Hudsonian Godwit for a number of years and a bird that hung around for some time allowing a huge number of people to catch up with it. Sadly not me though.

Hudsonian Godwit - thanks to James Packer
Back to the (no offence!) more run of the mill birds. A flock of 16 Bean Geese was a good start to the year for Chris Bradshaw on his Wykeham Lakes patch (North), surprisingly no other Inland patch workers reported this species. Alistair Forsyth at Old Nisthouse (Scotland) definitely deserves a mention for his hat-trick of American ducks, Blue-winged and Green-winged Teal in January and American Wigeon in March. 

American Wigeon - thanks to Alistair Forsyth
In Yorkshire, Rob Worsfold was in the right place at the right time to score with a Velvet Scoter on his Tophill Low patch (N.) in January. Moving across to our only migratory duck there  was a definite Northern bias to the records for Garganey, with 3 patch-workers connecting during April in Inland North, whilst only Andy Stocker at Woolmer Forest managed to pick one up in Inland South. As the year progressed more were found and the total now for the Inland leagues is a dozen sites with Garganey.

The flyover Black Grouse that Steven Ward was lucky enough to see was a patch first at Hawes & River Ure (N.) and he reckons it was driven down from the hills by the poor weather.

Black-necked Grebes were found on several patches and that is all we will say about them, as breeding was proven at a few sites and not publicised at the time. 

Black-necked Grebe - thanks to Joe Seymour

A Night Heron was located by Tim Farr on his Sutton Bingham Reservoir patch (South.). One of a few that were in the UK but he was the only patch-worker lucky enough to connect.

Raptors next and I'll not put locations unless at well known viewpoints. Osprey numbers were lower than expected with only 5 patches recording birds, however Scott O'Hara at Forrest Estate (Sc.) had a bird in March which was certainly early, oddly enough the most Southerly record was also the latest in May. Black Kite at Wanstead in London assured Nick Croft a mention, this is a bird I am sure is under recorded due to the relative difficulty of separating Red and Black Kites. Five patches recorded wintering Hen Harriers, 3 in Inland North, the others East Anglia, which is to be expected as the geography of those areas favours the bird, shame the same can't be said for their breeding areas. Surprisingly, given the numbers in the UK last winter, there was only one patch-worker reporting Rough-legged Buzzard during this winter. Well done Alison Allen at Thorpe-next-Haddiscoe (E. A.) for nailing the bird on her 5th attempt. The usual sites in Inland North and East Anglia ensured that Honey Buzzard made the list, whilst there were 7 patches that held Goshawk during the first half of the year, can't really say more than that.

Common Cranes were found by several patch-workers in East Anglia which is to be expected but mention should be made of a couple of flyover birds away from there, Paul Massey found a singleton at Grindon Lough in Northumberland, whilst Andy Walker really scored on the day he saw the bird at North Duffield (N.) as it was the only day he was on patch during the whole of May.

It was April before any waders of note were reported, the Whimbrel seen by James Common Stobswood / Widdrington (N.) was a patch first, five other patches also reported this species during April and May. The latter month was when Andy Bunting found a Temminck's Stint at Martin Mere WWT (N.), the following month Paul Massey (getting his second mention) found that most prized wader, a Red-necked Phalarope, on his patch.

January's Little Gull at Felmingham (E. A.) was an unexpected tick for Ashley McElwee, whilst in May Adam Bassett - Little Marlow (So.) had the first Little Gull record for 10 years. Mediterranean Gull were recorded on 10 patches, Iceland and Caspian on 4, while Yellow-legged were reported from only 2 patches. White-winged Black Tern were found by both Andy Bunting and Jamie Wells - Paxton Pits (E. A.).

Worryingly only 2 patches reported Turtle Dove, hopefully more will be found during the later part of the year. Cuckoos were first reported during April from 3 patches, with 3 more cropping up in May. Going all crepuscular, owls of one species or another were  reported in every month including proven breeding of long eared owl at Goole Fields (N.) - congratulations Tom Lowe. 

Turtle Dove - thanks to Jonny Rankin
February's Woodlark was an early record for Joe Harkness at Haveringland Hall (E.A.), the only other report for this species being from Andy Walker in March. Last year's star bird, Blyth's Pipit hung around long enough at Pugney's (N.) for Johnny Holliday and Hilary Milburn to add it to their 2015 patch lists, no finders bonus for Johnny this time though. April and the world went Ring Ouzel mad with 8 patches reporting them, including a staggering count of 32 for Lizzie Bruce at her Roydon Common NWT patch (E.A.), a sight I would have loved to have seen.

Warblers of one group or another were reported in every month including, a Siberian Chiffchaff for Adam Bassett and a Dusky found at Marton Mere LNR (N.) by David McGrath - both good January ticks. The Grasshopper Warbler found by Nick Tonge at Rodley(N.) was a patch tick, while Roger Hicks on his Henlow Grange patch (So.) found a bird that offers us a sobering lesson - a Whitethroat that had Lesser Whitethroat rattle in its song.

Willow Tit were recorded on 4 patches during June -which as those records are logged in to Birdtrack means that the information will be contributing to the conservation program. 

Golden Oriole - thanks to Sean Foote

Andy Stocker gets his second mention for the only Great Grey Shrike reported so far this year,  while Stuart Reeves - Mutford (E.A.)  has the only Golden Oriole, a heard only record though as these are decidedly tricky birds to see, so a big thanks to Sean  for allowing me to use his photo.

A bird of note was Pete Antrobus's Tree Sparrow on his Lachmaben patch (Sc.) - the first record for 31 years! Mike Pilsworth - Swinefleet & Reedness (N.) had good counts of both Linnets (600) and Corn Buntings (47) during February, whilst Steven Ward managed a patch mega during the same month with a Yellowhammer, proving that it doesn't have to be nationally rare to be a mega on your patch.

Well I've worked my way through the species list and I hope it has been an interesting read for you. Can't wait to see what the next 6 months brings for Patchwork Challenge.

Tuesday, 28 July 2015

Coastal South Minileagues June

A wader double act for Ian Pitts was the highlight of an otherwise quiet month in the Coastal South league. Not satisfied with a superb Hudsonian Whimbrel, a fine Terek Sandpiper also paid a visit. Both were enjoyed by many observers, and for Ian they represent a couple of superb patch ticks and a load of points which lift Ian to 8th in the points table.

Meanwhile the long staying Greater Yellowlegs at Titchfield Haven continued to draw admirers, but for Amy Robjohns whose local patch it has chosen to take up residence, it is that little bit more special.

Greater Yellowlegs : Titchfield Haven c/o Amy Robjohns

Despite no additions in the month, Paul Freestone at Gwithian retains the lead in the comparative league. Peter Hazlewood has taken advantage of the opportunity to close the gap, with Nuthatch and Coal Tit being tough patch ticks at Oldbury Power Station.

In the points league, Paul Bowerman bags points for a Storm Petrel and Crossbill at his Severn Beach patch to help consolidate third place behind runaway duo Joe Stockwell and Sean Foote.

Coastal North June Minileagues

An american gull left Mick Turton laughing at his Easington patch in June.

West continues to dominate east in the comparative league, with Ash Baines retaining top spot despite no additions in June and Seumus Eaves sharing second with Stewart Sexton. As is the trend for coastal sites, the autumn is a high point scoring period, so 89% is a very respectable score at the half year point.

In the points league, a superb May sent Mick Turton at Easington into top spot, and a couple of superb additions in June extend his lead. It will be quite a turnaround for the chasing pack to close the gap now. Perhaps they will be hoping that Mick has a two month holiday booked in September and October!
The highlight of the month was a cracking Laughing Gull, located by the aforementioned Mick Turton at Beacon Ponds. A first for the Spurn area, he also found a Bee-Eater as he stepped out onto his doorstep and enjoyed Spurn's first American Wigeon in addition to a long staying Red-Necked Phalarope. Who said June was quiet!

   Laughing Gull, Beacon Ponds c/o Tim Jones

          Bee-Eater c/o Tim Jones

John Chapman finds most of his patch birds himself, and reaps the bonus points. However, he had to be content with enjoying someone else's Common Rosefinch as it sang by the Whitburn Obs on the 7th June. Surf Scoters are also making the lists of quite a few Coastal North patchers, and a bird flying north with Common Scoters was an unexpected bonus for Chris Bradshaw at Long Nab as was a #patchgold Little Tern - a long overdue patch first.

Monday, 27 July 2015

Coastal East Anglia June Minileagues

Craig Fulcher's fantastic year continues at Southwold with Manx Shearwater and Wood Sandpiper helping to extend his lead at the top. 91% at the half year is a superb score and with the autumn just around the corner the 100% marker must surely fall soon. A Red-footed Falcon for Ryan Irvine helped him leap frog Tommy Corcoran who saw what was undoubtedly the Coastal East Anglia bird of the month - a gleaming Pacific Golden Plover at the east end of Breydon which arrived on the 27th June.

No locusts required in Hemsby!

Nige Lound leads the point table at Gibraltar Point NNR, his location on the Lincolnshire side of the wash pushing the Norfolk and Suffolk sites down the table! He added a further six year ticks in the month, including a Montagu's Harrier. Robert Smith at Holme Dunes NNR keeps second despite no additions in the month but his gap to third is closing due to a Hen Harrier for James Brown.

Gary White at North Walsham scored bonus points with a self-found Bee-Eater. In true patching style however, a Tufted Duck also makes his highlights list. #Patchgold comes in all forms!

There is still plenty of time in this league, and looking at some of the sites in the chasing pack it will be an interesting autumn!

Great Yarmouths star attraction in June.

Sunday, 26 July 2015

Estuarine Minileagues June

A patch find Crane at Brantham keeps Ed Keeble in top spot for the month. Meanwhile Gordon Hodgson edges the battle for second with Shaun Robson just 0.7% behind. No-one has hit the 100% mark yet - but with an autumn of potential wader highlights on the horizon there should be some game-changing points scoring to come!

The heavily watched Frampton / Freiston reserves dominate the top places with Dave Craven and Howard Vaughan breaking the whitewash. With so many watching the same site, the points table is extremely tight. So finding a rare bird on patch is going to make all the difference, and so it proved as a self-found Broad-Billed Sandpiper sends Paul Sullivan into top spot. Frampton also got in on this spring's Red-Necked Phalarope influx.

Dave Craven is in an excellent fourth spot, with three patchlifers in the month in the form of a Sandwich Tern, Hawfinch and Pied Flycatcher. 

#Patchgold - Pied Flycatcher at Hale & Pickerings Pasture c/o Dave Craven

Howard Vaughan also added points for a Quail whilst Ian Ballam had #patchgold with a Nightjar at Lytchett Bay.

Coastal Scotland June Minileagues

On the Scottish coast, Stephen Welch at Gosford Bay retains his lead in the comparative league. There is still some work to do to hit the 100% mark, but Stephen is only 12 points form the marker with the autumn months still to come.

Chris Hill and Jim Dickson make up the top three with the remaining pack having plenty of work to do in the second half of the year to match the scoring of previous years.

In the points league, it is a very close battle with Jim Dickson leading Mike Hodgkin by just one species and one point! There are also plenty of other patchers within striking distance, so the points competition should be an exciting one to watch over the coming months.

Bird of the month in the Coastal Scotland league was an unseasonal Velvet Scoter for Jonathan Clarke at Whiteness Head who also added Razorbill to his year list.

Inland Scotland Minileagues June

The 100% barrier has finally fallen in the Inland Scotland league, with a two pointer Osprey pushing Chris Pendlebury's Stirling patch past the all important comparative marker.

Alastair Forsyth nudges that little bit closer to the marker with a #patchgold flyover Crossbill, just a second patch record. Meanwhile Andy Cage in third added roding Woodcock and Tufted Duck, the latter not so easy at his Kilmany site.

The flyover Crossbill helps Alastair to retain his lead at the top of the points league. David Douglas is keeping him on his toes, just 15 points adrift with plenty of time to go. David is the only competitor to top 100 species, but the American duck bonanza earlier in the year is paying dividends at Old Nisthouse with an impressive 1.412 points per bird.

NGB Minileagues June

A very quiet month in the NGB league thanks to a mixture of people forgetting to submit their scores and many patchers being away from patches at their universities. There's no change in the top 3 in the comparative league with the top 2 both being away from patch for the entire month.

The main change in the points league sees Jonathan Farooqui move up into second place on his Druridge Bay patch, a Cuckoo being a highlight there. Cathal Forkan had the best month in the league at Galway Bay where he managed to rack up 16 points and move up into the top 10 with seabirds dominating including Balearic Shearwater, Storm Petrel, Little Tern and Little Gull.

July sees migration starting up again so expect a few higher scores coming in this league in the next couple of months.

Friday, 24 July 2015

Inland East Anglia Minileagues June

Ben Moyes takes over with his mighty Gipping Valley patch crashing in with 111.5%. His climb to number one in the comparative league was helped by a self-found Honey Buzzard. Sweet work squire! Nick Robinson failed to make any additions but his 111% is still good enough for second as is the equally static Ben Rackstraw in third place.

Jamie Wells adds a single point in June to extend his lead to nine points - this is going to be tough for Ben Lewis to haul back. In fact Jamie's point is the only one in the top three as Ben Rackstraw holds third but for how long? Ashley McElwee is now only a solitary point behind.

Aside from the aforementioned Honey Bunny there was precious little from the various outposts with a brace of Quail for Ashley McElwee at Felmingham and Spotted Flycatchers for David Gomer and Jonny Rankin. Mr Rankin also records his final score for Needham Market next month as he is shifting jobs and patches so he has supplied us with a blog post about the anxieties of changing patch which will be up in early August. Finally a flyover Great White Egret was seen by Ben Lewis briefly but also captured in magnificent hi-fidelity photography.

#recordshot  by Ben Lewis

Islands Minileague June

The top of the comparative league remains static in terms of position and David Wood failed to make any additions but Bryan Rains and Ian T made significant inroads into David's lead with them both in and around the 90% mark.

John Bowler continues to make additions as if they are going out of fashion and has accrued a mighty haul of 247 points including the elusive Sabine's Gull that evaded him in May leaving him out of sight to Mike Pennington in second place at Baltasound, Unst. Jason Moss is in third place on Skomer a mere five points behind Mike thanks to a self-found Rosefinch plus a Greenish Warbler.

One species that failed to make it this month was Cedar Waxwing which avoided John Bowler on Tiree! There were further Rosefinches on the Isle of May and for Barrie Hamill on Burray. Find of the month goes to Alastair Forsyth with a Gull-billed Tern briefly on his Birsay patch.

Tuesday, 21 July 2015

Midlands Minileague June

A brace of points for Tom Shields in June takes him to the brink of 100% after he finds a Black Tern at Holme Pierrepoint.  Rob Williams is just over 5% back but with no additions this month the gap widens. Steve Lyon also failed to add anything whilst Andy Sims surges over 90% with half the year gone still to go thanks to a patch tick Red-crested Pochard.

Little Tern, Eyebrook - Andy Mackay

The top two managed just two points between them but unfortunately for John Hopper they both went to Ian Cowgill at Lound making the gap a whopping 35 points. Is this too much to bridge already? In third Andy Mackay had a better month at Eyebrook reservoir as he added five points with Bar-tailed Godwit and Little Tern both making an appearance.

There is a bit of a drop back to the peloton but plenty of competition as you would expect in a league with 39 contestants. Relatively few scores were received for June, indicative perhaps of the doldrums but Carl Cornish added some quality with Red-necked Phalarope and Wood Sandpiper at Langford Lowfields. Rhys Dandy added a Little Stint at Cropston and Swithland and an inland Sanderling for Rhys Chivers made for some good wader records.Richard Harbird got in on the Crossbill eruption and this months #patchgold was a Kingfisher for Matthew Dick at Darley Dale.

Wales Minileagues June

Alison keeps her excellent year at Llanfair TH going with her first Cuckoo in years and her excellent comparative score highlights this as she clocks in at 126.8% - a fabulous achievement on a patch which doesnt have the diversity of some. Adam Tilt failed to add in June but remains in second place already well over the 100% barrier. Henry Cook doubled up and is now in joint third place with himself thanks to hitting both 145 points and 100% at both Great Orme and Conwy RSPB as Alun John fails to make the addition to reach the magic mark.

Red-necked Phalarope, Newport Wetlands - Mathew Meehan

A single point for Laurie Allnatt was enough to consolidate his lead at Llanelli WWT as Barry Stewart failed to add anything at Burry Inlet. Mathew Meehan at Newport Wetlands closed on the top two with 5 points in June including a female Red-necked Phalarope and brings himself into striking range for the autumn.

Away from the top of the table there were signs of the changing of seasons with a juvenile Purple Heron on David Carrington's Sker and Kenfig patch although he doesn't get the finders points. Paul Roberts managed to usher in the summer of seawatching with additions of Pomarine Skua and Storm Petrel whilst the annual arrival of summer Yellow-legged Gulls in the UK was represented on the Clwyd Estuary for Chris Jones to bag some points. Finally the UK wide eruption of Crossbills meant that Henry Cook managed to make additions at Conwy RSPB.

Thursday, 9 July 2015

Forest Optics Best Find - May 2015

May 2015 Best Find

There were no less than 22 bonus point scoring species found by PWC’ers in May with multiples in many cases. There was no outstanding rarity find but some solid stuff with the highlights being a Black Stork for Paul Parsons at Nantyfyllon and a brace of Bonaparte’s Gulls with one each for Sean Foote on Portland and Barry Stewart at Burry Inlet (that’s Burry Barry not Burray Barrie who is totally different!). Whilst none of these finds are going to trouble the Forest Optic Best Find competition when held up against the hudwit, Im sure they made the finder’s plenty happy!

Black Stork - Paul Parsons
Aside from these there were stacks of scarce as expected in May but only limited numbers of typical drift migrants (no Wrynecks, Marsh Warblers, Ortolans, Icterine Warblers Bluethroats etc) with overshoots and wetland birds the order of the day. Wildfowl in May aren’t usually of much interest but a fine drake Ring-necked Duck floating about on campus at University College Dublin was a great find for Des Higgins and was twitched by our Irish correspondent I believe. Later in the month there were some superb passages of skuas in places and a trio of Scottish patches managed to log the most elegant of the bunch with Long-tailed Skuas at Askernish for Ian T, Whiteness Head for Jonathan Clarke and on Tiree for John Bowler.

Ring-necked Duck - Niall Keogh
There were plenty of interesting waterbirds in May with a brace of Night Herons at Loe Pool for Ilya Maclean while three patchers managed to notch Great White Egrets including a first for the Isle of May courtesy of Mark Newell. Three patches scored bonus points for overflying Cranes with two over Grindon Lough for Paul Massey and singles at both Great Yarmouth for Tommy Corcoran and North Duffield Carrs on Andy Walkers only visit in May.

There was a healthy showing for raptors in May with bonus points accrued at Severn Beach for Paul Bowerman as a Montagu’s Harrier drifted past. Down at Hemsby, Ryan Irvine had a late and no doubt departing Rough-legged Buzzard whilst in the Hebrides wandering White-tailed Eagles pitched up on Oronsay and Tiree for Morgan Vaughan and John Bowler respectively.

Pectoral Sandpiper - Neil Duggan
Unless you were after a Temminck’s Stint which were found by six patchers then it was slim pickings on the wader front with two spring Pectoral Sandpipers at Lound (Ian Cowgill) and Salford Priors (Neil Duggan) being the only finds of note. A rather snazzy White-winged Black Tern was Andy Bunting’s reward at Martin Mere and helped him load up on points this month.

White-winged Black Tern - Andy Bunting
The recent run of overshooting Bee-eater which began in late May was reflected with two patchers finding them this month. Joe Stockwell managed to find a bird freshly arrived as it came in off on his Weymouth to Ferrybridge patch while up at Blacksod, Dave Suddaby was recuperating with a Bee-eater in his garden while an Alpine Swift added to the Mediterranean feel (and with a Hoopoe earlier in the year he must be due a Roller and a Wryneck). No less than five patchers got in on the glut of Golden Orioles that arrived in May with birds for Sean Foote (Portland), Jason Moss (Skomer), Mike Pennington (Baltasound), Nigel Lound (Gibraltar Point) and an inland bird that Stuart Reeves found singing at Mutford.

Bee-eater - Joe Stockwell
There were plenty of southern passerines to keep people interested. A Red-backed Shrike at Southwold was the only one of the month and Craig Fulcher doubled up with a Grey-headed Wagtail. More flava-based points were scored by Sean Foote for a Blue-headed Wagtail at Portland. There was a Serin apiece for Andy Johnson at Sandy Point and Nigel Lound at Gibraltar Point. The final bird of note this month was a flyby Red-rumped Swallow for Roger Musgrove on his Wall Common patch.