Saturday, 25 September 2010

The 2010 Bardsey Autumn Birding Tournament
Week 8: Competition Review and Results

Regulars Richard Brown, Richard Else, Ben Porter and Steve Stansfield had stiff competition in week eight from two visitors with excellent rarity-finding track records: former assistant warden David Wright; and Steve ‘icky’ Hinde – so-named for his notorious propensity for finding Icterine Warblers, despite somehow never managing to see the closely-related, and somewhat commoner, Melodious Warbler.

In disappointing contrast with the previous two weeks, the competition began at a pace akin to that of a shell-bearing gastropod, with not a single point scored on the Saturday; or the Sunday; or the Monday morning. Thankfully a breakthrough eventually came on Monday afternoon, when Porter finally opened the scoring with two points for a Lapland Bunting on the summit of the mountain.

The next day brought an influx of further Lapland Buntings and, with just four more points available for that species, the race was on to find the first four birds. Wright was quick to get his name on the score sheet for finding the first one on the west coast (1 point), and Else soon followed with one flying over the obs (1 point). Hinde took the initiative of heading up the mountain first and scored his point for a group of three birds, before Brown also climbed the hill and discovered an extra bird with the earlier three to snatch the final Lapland Bunting point. Brown scored another point for a Redstart, and Hinde was awarded his second point of the day for a Whinchat. The bird of the day was still to come though, and it was the persevering David Wright who, on checking the South End gorse bushes for the umpteenth time that day, happened upon a hitherto-overlooked Quail to score three points and leap into the lead.

The 22nd was a quiet day, but Wright managed to extend his lead with a Mediterranean Gull (1 point) and a flock of Wigeons (1 point). The next morning seemed equally quiet until Else spotted a flock of Black Terns (2 points) flying past the west coast. He and Stansfield were soon on their way to the north end armed with telescopes, and within minutes had found more, and more, and more Black Terns feeding offshore; the result of which was another two points for Else and four points for Stansfield. The warden then gained a further point for some Crossbills, while Brown found a Reed Warbler (1 point) and Wright belatedly joined the Black Tern bandwagon with a single straggling bird (2 points).

Steve Hinde had now been on the island for a full five days and, remarkably, was yet to produce an Icterine Warbler. When he finally radioed in the afternoon to report, inevitably, a yellow Hippolais warbler skulking in Cristin garden, it was considered a foregone conclusion as to which of the two species it would be; but when it was eventually caught in the Heligoland trap and identified as a Melodious Warbler, ‘Icky Steve’ was delighted to have finally caught up with his bogey bird and, in the process, scored five competition points and had his epithet updated to the alliterative ‘Hippo Hinde’.

The final day of the week’s event was a cold and windy one, but Richard Brown managed to score two points early in the morning for a Hobby on the South End. Wright, Brown and Hinde then all happened to find some Greylag Geese independently of each other and, despite a clear case of copying each other’s Ansers, were awarded a point each to finish off the week.

All in all then, it was a low-scoring affair by comparison with the previous weeks, but it was a productive one for the visitors: David Wright got it right to emerge victorious on nine points, with Hippo Hinde close behind on eight. Richard Brown narrowly beat the other observatory staff to take third place with six points.

This has all had little effect on the overall standings of the regular competitors: Steve Stansfield is still well in the lead, followed by Else in second place. Brown has closed the gap on Porter, and they are now tying for third position.

 Linnet (c) Steve Stansfield
 Grey Heron (c) Steve Stansfield
 Robin (c) Steve Stansfield
Stonechat (c) Steve Stansfield
Goldfinch (c) Ben Porter
Reed Warbler (c) Ben Porter

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