Wednesday, 3 September 2014

NGB Patch Bird Race 2014

The August bank holiday weekend was penciled in NGB members' diaries as the Patch Bird Race, an idea born and organised by James Common, who takes up the story:

Well first things first, a huge thanks to everyone who participated in last week’s patch bird race aimed at getting folk out and about enjoying the wildlife on their local turf. Considering the short notice a good number of people took part with 153 species seen over the bank holiday period including a good number of scarcities and the vast majority of our more common but similarly endearing residents. Big congratulations to Daniel Branch who, with a species count of 85, wins the prize for most species recorded, taking home a NGB t-shirt for the effort. Second place goes to Tim Jones who likewise birded Spurn obtaining an equally impressive score of 75 whilst third place goes to yours truly with a score of 74. As for the “best find” category a host of finds were submitted for deliberation ranging from local scarcities such as Green Sandpiper and Hobby to patch firsts including Redstart, Yellow Wagtail and Little Egret. After a vote on the Facebook page it appears my patch first Hobby (a scarcity here in Northumberland) is the winner and I’ll be taking home a copy of The Jewel Hunter by Chris Goodie. Thanks guys!

David Branch
Tim Jones
James Common
Stobswood & Surrounds
Amy Robjohns
Titchfield Haven NNR
Jack Bucknall
St. Marys
Craig Reed
Blackstone, Worcs
Cathal Forkan
Galway, Ireland
Tim White

Matthew Bruce
Joe Stockwell
Portland Bill
Ashley Bairns
Star-Gate-Grannys Bay
Craig Reed
Upton Warren
Espen Quinto Ashman
Wellington Gravel Pitts
Matthew Bruce
"The Puddle"
Ben Porter
Michael Murphy

Jake Gearty
Sheepcote Valley
Liam Curson
Cuckmere Haven
Cain Scrimgeour
Logan Johnson

Among the 153 species recorded over the course of the weekend one bird stood out above all others when it comes to the rarity stakes. This is of course the pair of Ringed-Billed Gulls tracked down by Cathal Forkan on Galway patch. Not exactly unheard of in Ireland but still the most notable find of the competition with some splendid images obtained by Cathal during his patch based wanderings. 
A healthy number of local, regional and national scarcities were also recorded over the three days, demonstrating the sheer diversity among our local patches here at NGB. 

Cathal Forkan's Ring-billed Gull
What was clear from the results is that one man’s rarity is another man’s regular with lengthy debate on the Facebook page testament to this. Among some of the best finds include the weekend's only Curlew Sandpiper, found by Cain Scrimgeour on his Holywell patch, Great White Egret located by Tim White, Black Grouse and Hen Harrier by Sam Viles on his substitute patch and Spotted Redshank and Spoonbill by Amy Robjohns at Titchfield. A couple of members also came up trumps on the seawatching front with Spurn boasting Little, Mediterranean and Yellow-Legged Gulls and Joe Stockwell adding Balearic Shearwater to the mix from his Portland patch. Elsewhere both Arctic and Great Skua, Gannet, Shag, Guillemot, Fulmar and Manx Shearwater featured widely. It is clear that even relatively common species can also bring a smile to the face of the discerning patcher with a few examples of this including Espen Quito-Ashman’s first patch Ruff and Redstart, Craig Reed’s patch first Little Egret and Liam Langley’s Skomer Green Sandpiper whilst the surprise addition of Willow Tit to my Stobswood patch list delighted to no end.

A more in depth look at the results shows a healthy amount of summer migrants with 10 warbler species recorded including the weekends only Cetti’s Warbler courtesy of Amy Robjohns. Whilst other migrants including Spotted Flycatcher, Redstart, Tree Pipit, Common Tern, Cuckoo and Yellow Wagtail also featured. Combine these with all the hirundine species, Swifts galore and the weekend's only Osprey put forth by Tim White and the results represent perfectly the migratory nature of the season. Though the omission Pied Flycatcher came as somewhat of a surprise. Waders were perhaps the best represented of all groupings with 23 species recorded amongst NBG members; incorporating the vast majority of widespread species and some real long-legged gems such as Whimbrel, Grey Plover, Avocet and Knot. It would be impossible to mention all the species noted during the course of the race but a few honourable mentions go to Ben Porter with the competition's only Alba Wagtails, Logan Johnston with his Shetland Wren and the other members who turned up a host of goodies ranging from Chough and Hooded Crows to Red kites and Little Owls.

What is worth saying is that patch birding is a hobby clearly enjoyed by many people and that “patch gold” can come in many guises ranging from the common to the scarce to the downright odd, yes I am referring to your Fulvous Whistling Duck, Amy! For me patching offers an escape from day to day life where I can lose myself in the seasons and track the progress of species from egg to adult, arrival to departure in some cases life to death providing the basis for an avian soap opera not often observed when visiting far flung locations or chasing rarities. It’s clear from the number committed patchers out there that a lot of people agree. So again thank you for taking part and who knows, with a bit more planning this could turn into a much bigger event in the near future as clearly we all relish a spot of friendly competition. 

-James Common
James is a 20 year old birder/conservation nut and wannabe naturalist based along the North-East coast near the reserves of NWT East Chevington and Druridge Bay.  The last few years he has spent studying BHs Animal Conservation Science at the university of Cumbria from which he has now graduated.

No comments:

Post a Comment