Sunday, 19 September 2010

The 2010 Bardsey Autumn Birding Tournament
Week 7: Competition Review and Results

The seventh week of the tournament was dominated by strong westerly winds, and some excellent days of seabird passage resulted in points galore being scored from the seawatching hide. Competing against the usual four competitors (Messrs Brown, Else, Porter and Stansfield) this week were the Porthmadog Osprey Posse – a team of regular visitors to the observatory.

Ben Porter was first off the mark this week with a couple of Balearic Shearwaters early on the Saturday morning earning him two points. Now just one more point remained available for Balearic Shearwater and, determined to claim it for himself, it was Else who stared out to sea long enough to find the next one, before bagging two more points for the first Leach’s petrel of the year. The following morning Else and Stansfield both found Black Terns (scoring 2 points each), and Porter picked out the first Little Gull of the autumn (1 point).

Moving into his new dwellings on the South End paid off for Richard Brown early on Monday morning when he walked out of the door to find a Leach’s Petrel (1 point) sitting on the ground at the bottom of the lighthouse. Rain more or less stopped play for most of the day, but Else took advantage of a brief dry spell to score a single point for a Sooty Shearwater flying along the west coast.

The next day seemed very quiet for birds until Stansfield decided to sit down on the observatory bench for a quick look at what was passing by at sea. In no time at all he had seen four Sooty Shearwaters fly past, and scored a point for each of them. This meant that all the available points for that particular species had now gone – barring Else’s bird the previous day, it was a clean sweep of the Sooties for Steve. A Leach’s Petrel (1 point) and a Black Tern (2 points) then took Stansfield into the lead for the week. The Porthmadog Posse, after splitting up to cover as much of the island as possible, regrouped and returned to the observatory having found one of the Sooty Shearwaters independently (1 point) and also the first Wigeons of the week (1 point).

The 15th proved to be easily the highest scoring day of the tournament so far, with north-westerly winds pushing seabirds within view of the island all day. Else and Stansfield were in the north hide from 7am, while Brown viewed the passing birds from the comfort of his new abode. All three found  Long-tailed Skuas (scoring 3 points each); Else picked out a couple of Black-tailed Godwits (1 point); and Stansfield got on a bit of a roll with a Sabine’s Gull (3 points), a Black Tern (2 points) and two Leach’s Petrels (1 point each). A surprise Tufted Duck also flew in front of the hide, and it was Stansfield again who took two points for shouting it out first, although he and Else were lucky that they couldn’t lose points for having both originally identified it as an Oystercatcher.

By mid-day the temptation of a lovely cup of tea and some lunch became too much for weak-willed Else, and he chose to return to the obs rather than continue doggedly scanning through the incessant flocks of terns passing in front of the hide. Stansfield, however, was clearly made of Sterna stuff, and remained stubbornly embedded in his sponge-padded seat to score a further three points for another Sabine’s Gull. Else arrived back a couple of hours later and soon managed to pick out a few point-scoring birds: another Black Tern (2 points), a Pomarine Skua (1 point), a Grey Phalarope (a rather stingy 1 point) and two infinitesimally tiny dots on the horizon that definitely were Wigeons (1 point). Stansfield, who had hardly stirred an inch in twelve hours, found some more Black Terns (2 points) to finish an epic seawatching session, before finally rediscovering the power of movement and, with some difficulty, extracting himself from his corner of the hide to head home for some overdue sustenance.

While most eyes had been distracted by seabirds, the Porthmadog Posse had turned their attention to the land and Elfyn and Dewi found the highest scoring species of the day – a Rosefinch lurking in the chapel garden (4 points, plus a bonus 1 welsh rarity point). Ieuan added to his team’s total shortly before midnight when a timely episode of insomnia resulted in an encounter with a Barn Owl that scored them two more points.

A rush for seats in the hide the following morning left Else and Porter uncomfortably perched outside on the rocks and exposed to the elements, but they both started the day well with Else finding three Pomarine Skuas (1 point each) and Porter finding another one (1 point). Snugly holed up inside the hide though, the warden was ensconced once more in his packing-foam throne and was soon scoring like Casanova again: a Pomarine Skua (1 point) and a Black Tern (2 points) were followed later on by two Sabine’s Gulls (3 points), and then yet another Sabine’s Gull (3 points). Brown, seawatching again from the toasty, soft-furnished luxury of his South End pad, managed to find a Pomarine Skua that everyone else seemed to have missed, earning himself a single point. When sea passage quietened down in the afternoon, Porter gained a point for finding a Firecrest at Cristin and Stansfield, seemingly unable to stop finding birds, went to check the levels in the water tanks behind the observatory and happened upon a Ring Ouzel (1 point).

The Friday was disappointing after the events of the previous days, but a single point was finally scored in the afternoon when Porthmadog Posse member Alan discovered a Crossbill near the farm.

An eventful week then, all in all, and a spectacularly productive one for Steve Stansfield who, demonstrating remarkable levels of endurance hunched over his telescope in the north hide for hour after hour, raced to victory with a record-breaking 38 points – a reward well-worth the impending spinal problems. Else notched up a fairly respectable 18 points to claim distant second place, while the Porthmadog Osprey Posse’s team effort took them into third on ten points.

Having been overtaken last week, Stansfield has now forged a considerable lead in the autumn-long tournament, and has amassed an impressive 74 points. Else has been knocked into second place on 56, and Porter and Brown are lagging behind a bit on 18 and 14 points respectively.

1 comment:

  1. Rich, we swore never to mention the Oysetcatcher incident...still it was not as bad as the Barn Egret Owl incident at the lighthouse!!