Saturday, 21 August 2010

The sea remained the most likely source of interesting birding as flocks of seabirds spent most of the day feeding offshore. A couple of Balearic Shearwaters were the highlight, while the biggest movement of Kittiwakes of the year so far involved some 400 birds, plus 18 Sandwich Terns and 81 Common Terns. A couple of Kestrels and the Cuckoo were the only landbirds worth mentioning.

The 2010 Bardsey Autumn Birding Tournament
Week 3: Competition Review and Results

With Richard Brown still away on the mainland, regular competitors in this week’s competition were Ben Porter (hauling around a whopping new camera lens), Steve Stansfield (also proudly toting an enormous new shiny and obscenely expensive camera and lens), and Richard Else (who, still being a proper birder, does not approve of all this arty-farty photography malarkey). The only other entrant for the week was the Normand Clan, captained by Bob, who were staying at the Obs for their second week.

As with the previous week, the tournament got off to a cagey opening with nobody claiming any point-scoring species on the Saturday. The second day, however, proved to be the highest scoring day of the autumn so far, albeit only for one lucky competitor.

Stansfield, temporarily unleashed from the manacles of report writing, courageously ventured into the fresh air for long enough to find a Reed Warbler at Nant (1 point) and a Pied Flycatcher behind Cristin (another point). Emboldened by this success, the warden, to the astonishment of everyone on the island, took to the field AGAIN after lunch and had the outrageous serendipity to bump into a Greenshank on the Narrows (2 points), followed a short time later by another Greenshank (2 more points). Somewhat overwhelmed with this unexpected glut of points, and with the unfamiliar effects of being exposed to sunlight, Steve called it a day at this point and retreated back into the sanctuary of his burrow having built up an impressive six point lead over the other competitors.

Monday saw good numbers of shearwaters flocking off the west coast, and it was only a matter of time before someone managed to pick out a point-worthy species. Continuing his lucky streak from the previous day, it was the warden who, without straying further than the seawatching bench at the obs, was soon chalking up more points. A hat trick of Sooty Shearwaters added three points to his tally before Else finally managed to stem the Stansfield stampede and get his name on the week’s score sheet by finding the final Sooty of the day.

Tuesday continued what was becoming a wearisomely predictable pattern. Else and Porter, out at the crack of dawn to scour the island for new migrants, failed to find anything remotely interesting, while Stansfield sat indolently outside the observatory drinking coffee and found a Balearic Shearwater (1 point) and yet another Greenshank (2 points), taking his week’s total to a remarkable 12 points.

With five points having been awarded for each, no further points would be now be available for further Sooty or Balearic Shearwater sightings. Else and Normand frustratingly continued to find these species all week, but for no reward – thanks mainly to the warden’s earlier efforts, the shearwater ships had already sailed.

Noteworthy birds were rather thin on the ground during the next three days. Indeed, with not a single point-scoring species turning up in the latter half of the week, Stansfield’s formidable lead proved unassailable. Demonstrating that effort in the field is not necessarily essential to win this competition, he scored nearly all the week’s points despite only leaving the observatory on one day. Else came second with a miserable one point, while the other two competitors failed to score at all. It was a second completely blank week in succession for Porter who is fast becoming the scarecrow of Bardsey birding – spending hour after hour in the field, yet seeming only to repel the birds.

There is, of course, a long way still to go in the ongoing event, and the autumn migration has barely got going yet. It’s certainly much too early to be counting chickens – and you don’t score any points for those anyway.


  1. Excellent report! The funniest thing I have read for ages.

  2. Oh Ric, you do make me laugh!