Saturday, 11 September 2010

The 2010 Bardsey Autumn Birding Tournament
Week 6: Competition Review and Results

The sixth week of competition proved to be much the best of the autumn so far with several high-scoring birds providing rich pickings for their lucky finders, numerous minor scarcities and not a single blank day. Entrants (reluctantly) sharing the spoils this week were regulars Richard Brown (making his return to the competition after three weeks absence), Richard Else, Ben Porter and Steve Stansfield; plus visitors Todd Chater (for his second week) and former BBC weatherman David Lee.

For the first time this autumn, the week really started off with a bang and several competitors were quickly off the mark on Saturday morning. Stansfield in particular was out of the blocks on the B of the bang – an unringed Melodious Warbler in the Heligoland trap getting him five points on the board before 8am. By 9am Else had caught up two points for a new Treecreeper and another single point for an Arctic Skua, and Brown, chomping at the bit to get back into the action, had found a Firecrest (1 point) and a Barn Owl (2 points). Lee also found the Barn Owl independently a few minutes later and was awarded two points, and soon increased his tally by another point with a Reed Warbler in the withies. Not to be left behind, Chater got himself a point on the scoreboard for a couple of Wigeons flying by at sea.

The afternoon was just as eventful as the morning, beginning with a one-point Reed Warbler for Brown on the South End. Richard Else, after some deliberation as to whether it was worth going back out into the field or just staying in with some tea and biscuits to do some paperwork, was glad he plumped for the first option when he stumbled upon an Ortolan Bunting (5 points, plus 1 point Welsh rarity bonus) almost immediately, and then flushed a Wryneck (3 points) on the Narrows while trying to relocate the bunting. Everyone was soon expectantly back in the field to see what else might be lurking out there, but the only further scoring bird was a Pied Flycatcher that earned Brown another single point.

Large numbers of birds arrived on the Sunday, and again it was Stansfield who was first off the mark with another new Melodious Warbler (5 points) at Cristin before on-fire-Else, continuing his sudden purple patch of rarity finding, struck back immediately with an Icterine Warbler at Nant (5 points). Masses of migrants continued to arrive all day, but the other only point-scoring species were a Lesser Whitethroat (1 point) for Stansfield and two Reed Warblers (scoring 1 point each) for Brown. While everyone else was enjoying the spectacle of landbird migration and searching for rarities amongst the hundreds of Willow Warblers and Chiffchaffs, David Lee made the idiosyncratic decision to go seawatching from the south hide – a decision that, nevertheless, resulted in him scoring a point for some Wigeons; followed by another point for some Wigeons; followed by another point for some Wigeons.

Monday saw a darker turn in the weather, but the intrepid seawatching weatherman saw a darker tern, and then another one a while later – two Black Terns scoring him four points from the seawatching hide. David then scored himself an extra point for yet more Wigeons, and Porter finally got his name on the week’s score sheet for – you could have guessed – some more Wigeons (1 point). The following day was fairly quiet, but Else and Chater both managed to find Black Terns and scored two points apiece.

Early morning seawatching paid off for Else and Porter on the 8th, with Else picking out another 2-point Black Tern and Porter cashing in on the ‘seven day rule’ to score a point for a Bonxie, and then finding the day’s Wigeon (1 point). Chater, meanwhile, was scrutinising the Treecreepers at the plantation and managed to find one that didn’t have a ring on its leg (2 points). He then doubled his day’s point tally with a superb Osprey flying south over the Narrows, before Stansfield scored the final point of the day for a Reed Warbler at Ty Pellaf in the afternoon.

The final couple of days were quiet, but time spent staring out to sea paid off for several people. Stansfield scored Thursday’s only points for a distant Black Tern (2 points), and the following morning it was Brown’s turn to do exactly the same (2 points). Chater bagged a single point for some more Wigeons, and Else picked out a couple of Balearic Shearwaters to round off an excellent week with a final two points.

And so we come to the week’s final scores. Richard Else’s diem mirabilis at the start of the week gave him a substantial lead that proved beyond the reach of the other competitors, and he finished the week on a record 23 points. It was a predominantly quiet week for Stansfield, but his brace of early Melodious Warblers set him on the road to second place on 14 points. Wigeons galore lifted David Lee into third with 11 points, followed by Richard Brown on nine and Todd Chater on eight. The beginning of the new school term perhaps put Porter at a bit of a disadvantage this week, but he still scored 3 points in his early morning seawatching sessions and, more importantly, learnt how to do simultaneous equations.

And what effect have the week’s events had on the overall standings of the regular contestants? Well, although nobody would have believed it at the start of the week, Stansfield’s formidable lead has been unexpectedly overtaken – a string of rarity finds for Else launching him past the warden and into first place on 38 points. Steve has 36 points, while Porter has fallen behind slightly on 14 and Brown is already looming over his shoulder on nine.


  1. Rich, forget birding, do comedy. You're great at it!!