Sunday, 22 December 2013

Hyvää Joulua - Merry Christmas from Suomi

Well that is it for me. Patching done and dusted. I gave a last effort just before I left in the hopes of a last year tick, but it was not to be.

What a year it has been. The first year that I have ever put in such a concentrated effort to BallyC and the result was the addition of a host of new species, particularly among the passerine migrants.

So a quick review is in order, (very quick, as the Christmas preparations are in full swing here in Finland...and there are owls to see!)

First up, the most notable absentees from the year list.

Number 1 has to be Short eared owl. It has been a poor year for the species in general I have found. I have only seen one, in October at Ballymacrown. And whilst there HAS been one at Ballycotton, frequenting the back bog this winter, it has failed to show for me. Usually you would connect with 2 or 3 at Ballycotton, often with birds popping up even in spring and summer. A lot of cold evenings were spent at the back bog gate in vain.

Number 2 spot goes to Marsh Harrier. I would usually manage a bird in spring at the back bog. This year I saw no Marsh Harriers anywhere in Ireland, so that eases the conscience a little.

Number 3 was the one and only Long Tailed Duck back in February. This was a sitter, which I missed because of some filthy twitching in Wexford. Lesson Learned.

Working BallyC so much was bound to add a range of new species for me. At the end of the day, despite the loss of the lake in the 90's, it remains one of Ireland's premier birding sites (though at times it can feel otherwise).

The rake of new species accumulated has a bundle of species that should be no surprise, (Redsart, Yellow browed warbler etc etc.), but there were some genuinely enjoyable species to find which did come as a surprise.

Number 1 spot goes to the most recent. Glossy Ibis. As I said, this to me was an evocative, quintessential Ballycotton species, and adding it to my list as a find was a great Christmas present.

Number 2 - Slavonian Grebe. 2 of them no less. Grebes are gold dust in Ballycotton. You rarely get more than two Great Crested, so having 2 little black and white gems feeding in the kelp wracks was a real treat.

Number 3 - Fea's Petrel - The species people think of for any seawatch. Nailed down on a day with ferocious wind, always a delight to see.

Number 4 - Spotted Crake - This was actually a lifer! A species that has managed to elude me on frequent trips abroad, despite the other crakes falling easily.

Number 5 - Dotterel - Just cos it's a Dotterel-

Number 6 - Surf Scoter - A Drake on a seawatch was very surprising, but the year that was in it produced a second Surfer in the bay.

Ones that got away? Well that Radde's will haunt me until I find one proper. But that Yelkouan...hmmm...remains to be seen what happens with those. Could be a retrospect candidate for best patch find? Problem is they are out there, probably commoner than we think.

The main things learned from the patch challenge is, if you want a good score...pick a top site. If you want a good comparative score, pick a top site that you have put a little effort into before..but not enough to limit your comparative score to the 90 percent mark.

Statistics are fun.

So Hyvää Joulua from Finland. A Merry Christmas to all patchers, and a best of luck for the rest of the year. It's never too late! A desert or pied wheatear could make all the difference!

My final scores rest at-

Species: 177
Score: 343
Comparative: 144.32%

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