Patchwork Challenge

15 March 2017 | Posted in Barry Yates , Rye Harbour
Patchwork Challenge
Red-breasted Merganser

PWC is a friendly competition between patch birders which has been running since 2013. The idea is to log as many species as possible during the year, each scoring between 1 and 5 points according to rarity. As an incentive to ‘finding your own’, bonus points are scored if 3, 4 or 5-pointers are self-found. Website here.

You may already be thinking it rather meaningless to compare scores from different locations, and so in second and subsequent years the comparative leagues also become available, whereby your score is expressed as a percentage of your average previous scores, thus levelling the playing field to a degree.

Anyhow, rather rashly I registered to take part in 2017 using Rye Harbour Nature Reserve as my patch.

The year began briskly, but of course the trouble with clearing up all the easy species too quickly is that it rapidly becomes much harder to add to your score!

The long-staying Red-Breasted Merganser (above) and Black-Necked Grebe (below) were of course useful, and on January 11th I was lucky enough to witness a very brief visit from a Glaucous Gull, presumably a token spill-over from the Laridfest being enjoyed at Dungeness this winter. On the 22nd a party of 9 Goosander paid an equally brief visit to the Long Pit.

On most visits I spend some time sea-watching (yes I know, but needs must!) but aside from a couple of Velvet Scoter on January 25th this has yielded precious little so far.

As for February, the best bird so far has probably been a male Hen Harrier, drifting slowly inland over Camber Castle on the 15th. The first Mediterranean Gulls on the 19th were nice, and a welcome hint that spring isn’t too far away.

As I write in late February, all my blunderings around the Reserve thus far leave me on 108 species for 127 points, good enough for 5th spot in the Coastal South league and 20th (out of 464) in the National standings. I would hope to maintain things at something like this level - I can’t compete with some of the east coast spots but Rye Harbour does of course offer an excellent variety of birds over the various habitats. Where the top guys tend to pull away is on the self-found rarity front, and this is where I need to try to make some impact. That Blyth’s Reed Warbler last June is beginning to seem like a long time ago!

Mike Russell (not the SWT one!)