Sunday, 3 October 2010

The 2010 Bardsey Autumn Birding Tournament
Week 9: Competition Review and Results

With many scarce species having turned up at this time of year in the past, late September has much birding potential on Bardsey and a high-scoring, rarity-crammed week of fast-paced competition might have been justifiably anticipated. This year, however, a complete dearth of noteworthy birds made it one of the least exciting weeks of the autumn yet, and it is only thanks to a handful of very minor one-point scarcities that there is anything to write about here at all. Sharing in the week’s anticlimactic disappointment were the regular quartet of Richard Brown, Richard Else, Ben Porter and Steve Stansfield; Steve Hinde competing for his second week; and visitors Keith Belson and Colin Smith.

The Saturday morning was actually fairly reasonable. Brown kicked things off well with a Short-eared Owl on the South End (1 point), before Else found a Firecrest (1 point) and a Yellowhammer (1 point) at Nant. Stansfield discovered another Firecrest (1 point) in the withies and Porter soon joined in the action with a Reed Warbler (1 point) and a Great Spotted Woodpecker (1 point). Three more Great Spotted Woodpeckers arrived the following morning and it was Brown who took full advantage of this major influx and somehow managed to find all of them (1 point for each), before extending his lead with a Reed Warbler (1 point). Steve Hinde got his first point of the week for another Reed Warbler, and Porter scored another single point for the first Redwing of the autumn.

It’s been a very good year for Treecreepers on Bardsey, and another new one early on Monday morning earned Stansfield two points, before Else caught back one point for yet another Reed Warbler. Hinde scored a point for some Crossbills flying overhead the next day, and Stansfield managed to cash in on the next of an unusually long line of Reed Warblers to score one point as well.

The 29th was a very quiet day until Porter happened upon a spectacular leucistic Wheatear on Pen Cristin. As this was by far the most exciting bird of the week, the magnanimous decision was made to award Ben a point for this limited edition Oenanthe – even though neither he, nor anybody else for that matter, was able to say with confidence what species of wheatear it actually was. Colin and Keith got onto the score sheet in the afternoon with a point for a Wigeon; before quickly finding some more Wigeons to double their tally.

The next day began well, with Stansfield finding a Barn owl (2 points), some Crossbills (1 point) and the autumn’s first Brambling (1 point) before breakfast, but day ran out of steam at this point and nothing else of any interest was found for the rest of the day. The 1st of October was a fairly woeful and birdless affair, before bad weather then delayed the changeover of visitors and added a day to the week’s contest, providing a windy opportunity for some last-gasp seabird points. Porter found a little gull (1 point) and an Arctic Skua (1 point), Brown found a Bonxie (1 point) and Hinde bagged the final point of the week for a Wigeon.

So with no proper scarce birds at all, the week’s event was ultimately decided by who could find the most ‘one-point dross’, and it was Stansfield who inched to victory with a grand total of eight points. Brown and Porter both scored six to tie for second place, and nobody else’s scores are really worth mentioning.

This means that Stansfield has further increased his lead in the long event and is now on 79 points – 23 clear of Else in second place. It remains neck and neck between Brown and Porter, who are still level in joint third (or last, depending how you prefer to look at it) place on 26.

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