Thursday, 27 November 2014

Bespolka Trust Patch Bird Race.. Take Part.

On Tuesday I took part in a patch bird race organised in unison between the good folks at NGB and those in charge of the Patchwork Challenge. This was extremely early, given that the official dates of the race run between Friday the 28th (Tomorrow) and Sunday the 30th of November. The reason I took part early was due to commitments at work but with the patch race tomorrow I feel I should try my best to drum up some support and encourage as many of you discerning patchers to take part as possible. The event is open both Patchwork participants and all members of NGB and aims to raise awareness for the Bespolka Trust, a charity set up by the parents of Cameron Bespolka following his tragic death last year. Cameron was an avid patcher, and many this felt was an perfect way of honoring his memory whilst hopefully raising awareness for the trust, an organisation aiming to support young birders from less prosperous backgrounds. A truly great cause people and more than enough reason to get out on your patch and bird like crazy over the coming days. Of course from a competitive aspect awards will be given for the most species seen and for the most species points, following the PWC guidelines of course. There is also a little added competition between members of NGB and those at the PWC, both of whom will tally up a total species list for both sides to see once and for all just who has the most productive local patches. If like me you're a member of both groups you will play for NGB, we need all hands on deck if we're going to top the big guns at the PWC.

For more information on the race visit: and for more information on the Bespolka Trust and to make any donations please see: Happy Birding! 

Thursday, 20 November 2014

The Definition of "Patch Gold"

Not overly long since my last post but I feel somewhat compelled to blabber on a bit following an uncharacteristically productive few days on the patch. As all you discerning patchers out there know, our chosen pass time can often be a tedious affair. With our persistent selves often facing a whole manner of atrocious weather conditions to be rewarded with little other than a miserable looking Blue Tit, Woodpigeon or Mallard. Thankfully, there are also the good days. The last few days have indeed been some of my best to date on the patch with both scarcities and common residents putting on a delightful show over the course of the last 48 hours. Couple this with the addition of two new 'patch ticks' and it appears I could well finish November on an all time high!

Starting out as usual with Stobswood village and it's woody fringes and the usual cast of woodland critters have been showing particularly well of late with both Great Spotted Woodpecker and Nuthatch noted on numerous occasions. Blackbirds are everywhere at the minute, no doubt due to the influx of continental birds though it is the other Thrush species that have done the most to hold my attention. A good number of Mistle Thrush are now present around the village whilst Song Thrush numbers are likewise on the up. Winter thrush appear to show a differing trend however, much to my dismay with only a handful of Fieldfare and Redwing still in evidence following last weeks migratory explosion. The residents continue to delight however with Robin, Goldcrest, Chaffinch and Long-Tailed Tit too numerous to count and both Jay and Treecreeper adding a touch of glamour to my morning wanderings. By far the bird here was a cracking Marsh Tit, unearthed next to the railway lines as I trudged home from the pools this evening. Comprising the first of my "new birds", Marsh Tit is a species I had always expected to find at Stobswood though one I had always missed, until now. Perhaps I've been misidentifying some of the many Willow Tits noted of late. Today's bird left no doubt whatsoever to its identity however showing immaculately and calling the whole time. Hooray!
Determined not to overlook the humble Blackbird..

Moving on to the "old tip" and things have been equally as thrilling with the highlight here 12 Bullfinch. A monstrous count of what I thought was a relatively scarce and declining species? A Green Woodpecker was also heard again here for the second consecutive week with a second bird (or perhaps the same one) heard five minutes later, this time much closer to my location. I have made it my mission to clap eyes on at least one of these exotic looking birds before Christmas but until now have failed miserably. Patience is avert you James, good things come to those who wait and all that. Also around the tip were a few Reed Bunting, Greenfinch and Goldfinch whilst a Kestrel hunted the Alder Carr and a pair of cock Pheasants scrapped nosily in one of the surrounding fields.

Widdrington Moor Lake continues it's excellent spell of late with not one but three Peregrines now in residence. Two of which appear to readily interact, a fact which when combined with the clear difference in size between the birds leads me to assume they're a pair? If indeed Peregrine pairs do winter together, if not then please enlighten me. Anyways, watching the pair bathing together in the shallows made for excellent viewing yesterday until an "odd looking raptor" took flight and eclipsed them entirely. Wandering along the road to the west of the lake I inadvertently disturbed a large bird of prey from a nearby post. It wasn't until the thing lifted that it revealed a stonking white tail band! Rough-Legged Buzzard! Or so I thought, given the records of such a bird at the site a few weeks past. Happy to say I was wrong however and as I zoned in on the bird it soon revealed itself to be something else entirely, a female Hen Harrier! Not exactly unheard of in my part of Northumberland but likewise far from common and not something I was expecting when I left the house that morning. Anyways, said bird showed for a good ten minutes, at times mobbed by both a Kestrel and a Buzzard giving a perfect demonstration of scale but as my concentration lapsed and I set about reporting the sighting that the blasted thing disappeared over a hedge, never to be seen again. Oh well, a patch skydancer, how wonderful. Elsewhere the lake held good numbers of Wigeon, Goldeneye and Coot alongside the injured Pink-Footed Goose and a handful of Cormorant. 
"Whose a pretty boy then"

Finally, today found me venturing to perhaps my favourite corner of the patch, Stobswood Pools. Taking the usual route around the opencast I was more than a little dismayed to find a newly erected fence blocking my path. I had thought the alterations to the site complete when the last lot of sheep paddocks and "future woodland" were created but nope, appears I was wrong and whoever is responsible for the site still has a few alterations in mind. Anyways, a hop, skip and a jump later and I was back on track flushing a couple of Snipe from a ditch as I made my way across the site. A female Stonechat here was a nice find, marking my first record for this particular part of the site whilst at least 50 Lapwing flew overhead and both Kestrel and Buzzard could be seen quartering the grassland. A large flock of some 210 Canada Geese grazed nearby but failed to turn up anything other than 2 Greylags and a lone Pinkie. The pools themselves as usual were bustling with life with Teal, Mallard, Wigeon and Tufted Duck numbering well into Redshank feeding on what remains of the mud. 9 Mute Swans and a single Goldeneye were also noted here whereas the return journey turned up a nice flock of 8 Grey Partridge, a few Skylark and perhaps 20 Meadow Pipit. There you have it, not exactly a bad few days patch birding! Shame I'm pretty much stuck in work between now and Christmas, the joys of holding down a medial bar job. Even if I don't manage any new additions before the new year my current Patchwork challenge score stands at a personal best of 140 points, topping last years score by some 30%! I do however fancie one final flourish before the year draws to an end, perhaps a Bean Goose or the years second Green-Winged Teal? Only time will tell.

double digits and 3