Sunday, 24 October 2010

The 2010 Bardsey Autumn Birding Tournament
Week 12: Competition Review and Results

As the tournament entered its twelfth week, October was still yet to produce a rarity and hope was beginning to dwindle, but perhaps the first eight-pointer was due to finally make an appearance. Richard Brown, Richard Else, Ben Porter and Steve Stanfield were all involved as usual, while visitors making it onto the score sheet this week were Mark ‘Igor’ Eldridge, Paul Doherty and Alicia Normand. Bob Normand was also present but, still indignantly reeling from the outrage of not scoring any points for his Rook last week, was unable regain enough composure to find any decent birds.

The first three days were a bit slow going. The 16th was very nearly a blank day, but Doherty managed to take the week’s first point for a Whooper Swan just before dusk. Two points were awarded to Brown for a fly-over Snow Bunting on the 17th, before Porter took the lead with a three-point House Sparrow in his back garden. Doherty spotted a distant Little Egret (1 point) from Cristin, while Eldridge found a Bullfinch (1 point) and the first Wigeon (1 point) of the week. Else scored the following day’s only point for a Bonxie off the north end.

The Tuesday was a considerable improvement in quality and a number of scarce birds were seen. Brown found the first Woodcock of the autumn (1 point) by the lighthouse before scoring another point for a Great Northern Diver over the South End. Else had a Hooded Crow (1 point) on the mountainside, and then he and Eldridge scored two points each for simultaneously stumbling upon a pair of Snow Buntings near the north hide, and Eldridge found another Great Northern Diver (1 point). Doherty and Porter both independently found a Pomarine Skua in the afternoon and scored a point each, before Ben continued a productive afternoon’s birding with a Leach’s Petrel (2 points) and some Gannets that, on closer inspection, turned out to be Whooper Swans (1 point). Stansfield meanwhile, after stating specifically that he was going to find himself a Sooty Shearwater, looked out to sea and promptly found one (1 point). He followed up this success with by far the best sighting of the day, and was perceptibly miffed to learn that his flock of Velvet Scoters was only worth three points.

Wednesday was another reasonable day. Richard Brown, who is still sticking to a resolution not to have a shave until he finds a five-point bird, happened upon some Snow Buntings (2 points) and a Twite (4 points) on the Narrows – a good find, but not quite good enough to reacquaint him with his chin. Paul Doherty had a lucrative morning seawatching session from the hide, with a Pomarine Skua (1 point), a White-fronted Goose (1 point) and a flock of Scaup (3 points), while Porter continued to tap into his rich vein of form to find a Little Gull (1 point), a Wigeon (1 point) and a Hen Harrier (1 point). Else, determined not to miss out on the rush of wildfowl points, eventually found a Red-breasted Merganser in Henllwyn for one point. Alicia Normand, to the chagrin of her husband, scored the day’s final three points for a House Sparrow in the observatory garden.

The next day, an early morning Pomarine Skua point for Brown took him into the lead for the week, and it looked very much as though it was going to be a tight photo finish between him and Porter. Stansfield though, still had his ace up his sleeve and the leader-board was about to be blown apart by the highest scoring bird of the autumn. Seawatching from his favourite bench, the warden dropped an eight-point Bonaparte’s Gull bombshell to take a gigantic leap into the lead, overtaking Brown and clinching victory for the week.

After its big finale, week twelve ended with Stansfield on 12 points, Brown in second place on 11 and Porter close behind on ten. Paul Doherty scored a good total of eight points before escaping back to the more familiar, and less eccentric, atmosphere of Spurn Bird Observatory. Igor Eldridge returns to his master’s sinister laboratory having tied with Richard Else on five points, and Alicia was easily the week’s highest scoring Normand with three points.

With just two weeks remaining in the long tournament, Stansfield is now more than 30 points clear at the top of the table; his Philadelphian coupe de grace surely putting him out of reach of the other competitors. Barring some sort of miracle, Else looks set to finish in second place, but the battle for third position is still a close-run struggle between Brown and Porter.

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