Sunday, 5 September 2010

The 2010 Bardsey Autumn Birding Tournament
Week 5: Competition Review and Results

The starting line-up for the fifth week of the tournament was much the same as the week before: Ben Porter, Richard Else and last week’s winner Steve Stansfield were all present as usual, and Todd Chater arrived as a volunteer to work on the LSA hut roof, and hopefully to find a few birds too.

Saturday looked like it going to be a no-score day until late in the afternoon when Porter arrived at the obs and announced that he’d just had a Lapland Bunting at the north end of the island. A surprisingly good impersonation of the bird’s call was enough to convince the tournament official, and two points were duly awarded for this first of the autumn.

No scoring species were seen on the Sunday, but the following day was much more eventful. Else and Porter covered the South End from early in the morning, and it was Else who picked up the first point for a Little Egret as it flew overhead. A few minutes later a Lapland Bunting flew up from the gorse and, again, it was jammy Else who managed to call the identification a split second before Porter to claim the point for himself. Ben got his own back soon enough though: Else departed, declaring that he was going to go and find himself a point-scoring Whinchat on Pen Cristin, only for Porter to bump into one himself seconds later and gleefully broadcast the news over the radio.

More points were scored in the afternoon. Eagle-eyed Stansfield, on a bit of a roll having won both the previous two weeks, picked up a Hen Harrier (1 point) soaring high above the mountain, before Porter extended his lead with another point for three Little Egrets over the Narrows.

The next day, with a high probability of Lapland Buntings arriving, Stansfield took the initiative of being the first to check the north-west fields and, sure enough, a couple of birds obligingly flew up from the stubble to deliver him his second point of the week. Else, meanwhile, had a lucky break in the withies and had never been more delighted to see a Treecreeper (worth 2 points) in his life. Not that he was getting desperate to score some points or anything, but he had seriously tried to claim a point the previous week for a ‘field sighting’ of a Storm Petrel, even though it was still a chick; in a nest; that someone else had found back in July (‘it’s not been seen for well over a week, so it counts again, right?’).

Wednesday was the first day of September, and the competition entered its second month. Chater got the day off to a good start with an early-morning Redstart at Ty Nesaf earning him his first point of the week. Else, just returned from an unfruitful morning walk, nipped into the bushes behind Cristin to ‘water the plants’ and was surprised to come face to face with an inquisitive Firecrest – this stripy-headed peeping Tom gifting him another unexpected, but not unwelcome, point.

After four fairly woeful weeks of unproductive somnambulation around the island, Else was finally showing signs of waking up in the competition and followed up the Firecrest with the bird of the tournament so far – a Melodious Warbler in the back garden of the observatory. This, the highest scoring bird of the autumn yet, acquired the Shearwater Assistant a much-needed four points, plus an extra bonus point for it being a Welsh rarity.

Stansfield managed to catch up a couple of points the following morning with a Great Spotted Woodpecker and a flock of three Lapland Buntings doubling his tally for the week, but things rather petered out from then on. Friday was fairly uneventful, although Porter eventually scored the day’s only point for yet another Lapland Bunting on the Narrows in the afternoon.

This meant that it was Else who claimed victory for the week – ten points earning him his first win of the autumn so far. Porter’s five points took him to second place, with Stansfield close behind him on four.

The week’s events have not made a huge difference to the running scores of the regular entrants. Stansfield remains well in the lead on 22 points, while a few decent birds for Else have taken him into second place on 15 and Porter is now third on ten points. Richard Brown is due to make his return to the game next week and, although he will have a fair bit of ground to make up, if he can only find a couple of new species for the Western Palearctic he can be back in contention in no time.

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