Saturday, 28 August 2010

The 2010 Bardsey Autumn Birding Tournament
Week 4: Competition Review and Results

Just the three regular contestants from last week took part in week four of the tournament: Ben  – ‘I’m really not bothered about this competition, it doesn’t matter to me at all. Oh, by the way, how many points do I get for Pied Flycatcher?’ – Porter; Steve – suddenly a bit too bothered about the competition now that he can’t stop finding birds – Stansfield; and Richard – already wondering why on earth he thought it would be a good idea to start this flipping tournament in the first place – Else.

The week started very slowly, without a single point-scoring species being found during the first three days. On Tuesday the ‘one-week rule’ came into play: some birds for which only the first sighting of the autumn scores points can come back into play after a seven day period in which the species has not been seen by anybody. A full week having now elapsed since anyone saw an Arctic Skua, and with propitious westerly winds having been forecast, Else began a tactical seawatch at the crack of dawn and was soon rewarded with his target bird and one point.

Stansfield, upset at having been beaten to the available Arctic Skua point, responded by commencing seawatching immediately and proceeding to stare out to sea through his telescope for the next ten hours straight! This determined effort eventually resulted in him taking the lead with a Pomarine Skua (worth 1 point) and a Little Tern (three points), as well as more than a touch of bog-eyed blurred vision and some difficulty standing up straight.

Wednesday was a completely blank day for everyone: the island was well-covered, but, amazingly, even Stansfield failed to find anything despite spending most of his time in the field.

The following day was a bit more productive. Early-bird Porter received a point for a Pied Flycatcher on the South End, and a short time later Else struck back with a point for a Hen Harrier over the Narrows (only one measly, miserly, stingy point for a Hen Harrier! What was I thinking?). Arguably the best bird of the week though, arrived late in the afternoon and it was Porter who – without binoculars and riding a quad bike at the time – nevertheless bagged the two points for spotting an Osprey over the mountain ridge. In a welcome reversal of fortune, Stansfield, the King Midas of last week’s event, spent a second consecutive day doggedly thrashing the island without finding anything of any note, and was left disconsolately bemoaning the apparent desertion of his golden touch.

The last day of the week, however, proved entirely unfruitful and Stansfield’s four points from his marathon seawatch proved just enough to win him his second week in a row. Porter came a close second with three points, while Else finished the week on just two having been hoist once more by the petard of his own inconsistent scoring system.

The ongoing, whole-autumn tournament is not such a close affair after four weeks of competition. As it stands, it is Stansfield who stands fields ahead of the field on an almost unbelievable 18 points, while the other entrants are nowhere in sight. The leader board looks like this:

Name            points
Stansfield            18
Porter                   6
Else                      5
Brown                   0

Finally, some stats from the tournament so far:

A total of 36 points have been scored so far, of which the Obs staff have scored 23, other island residents have scored 5, and visitors to the island have scored 8.

Seawatching has been the most productive tactic, accounting for 18 (exactly half) of the points so far. 10 points have been scored on the Narrows, while the remaining points have been spread quite evenly over the rest of the island.


The first Yellow Wagtail of the autumn was found on the South End early in the morning, along with a group of four Grey Wagtails on the Narrows, a couple of Spotted Flycatchers at Nant and a single Goldcrest. A sizeable movement of terns took place off the west coast of the island for most of the day, with 550 Common Terns and a dozen Sandwich Terns being logged heading south. A single Great Skua and seven Common Scoters were the only other notable seabirds seen. A Grasshopper Warbler was found later in the afternoon, as was the best sighting of the day  a Lapland Bunting at the north end of the island. This is the earliest ever autumn Lapland Bunting on Bardsey by about three weeks. 

The Storm Petrel nest that was found earlier in the year was revisited yesterday for its tiny, downy occupant to be ringed. (c) Richard Else

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