The hottest bird twitter thread of 2022 was luckily not overshadowed by a naughty little twitchers book, a tweet about the 2nd coming of Patchwork Challenge was far bigger than that and at the time of writing this sentence more than 400 patches had been registered for 2023. I’ve always been a huge fan of the competition and over the few years I took part in the mid 2010’s had some great battles with fellow birders for top spot! Originally my patch was Portland Bill, but a move to the mainland saw me adopt a new patch, Ferrybridge to Weymouth. Now if I’m completely honest, it was one of those strung out, not within the spirit of things patch, stretched to within every inch to include Radipole, Lodmoor, a good chunk of the Fleet, Ferrybridge and the Chesil for seawatching. My new patch for 2023 is far more refined, I can even walk from one end to the other in less than an hour!
January 1st saw me up and eating breakfast before first light, a wine induced haze and the tail end of a wicked man flu slowed proceedings but I was still out just before 8 heading for the first port of call, Ferrybridge. Along the way 2 Firecrest were coming out of roost near the sailing club. We're really lucky to have a rich pot of wintering goodies and these for me are no doubt one of the best in it, being just 400m from home makes them just that little bit more special. Ferrybridge was busy with many Dunlin, Ringed Plover, Mediterranean and Black-headed Gulls but also a couple of Bar-tailed Godwit, a Curlew and best of all a Sandwich Tern. An hour around the harbour from Smallmouth to Sandsfoot was always going to add a good number of species and it didn’t take long to add a veritable feast of two-pointers with Red and Black-necked Grebes, Great Northern Diver, Eider and Common Scoter the best on offer. Frances then rang with good news that both the kettle was on, she’s made me lunch and that at least one Blackcap had been visiting the feeders so I headed back for a break.
The second part of my patch tour saw me take in The Nothe, Weymouth Harbour and then on to Radipole, the latter I was hoping to bring me big points on the first day of the year. Sadly I hit an almost immediate problem, half the reserve was under water! Other than a few paths, access was almost impossible so reaching the north screen was out of the question, a planned banker for a few birds! Managing to cover most of the periphery I was able to add plenty of ducks to the list but best of all, a Treecreeper on the edge of Radipole Park Gardens, a full patch tick! I called it a day on 73 Species and headed to the pub. Over the course of week one I made plenty of visits to the Harbour, Ferrybridge and Radipole adding a further 14 birds to the list, pleased with my progress Myself, Glen and Slasher snuck off to Devon to twitch the Isabelline Wheatear at Seaton Wetlands which was most pleasant.
Week two was very slow, not helped by the weather which was pretty wild at times and very wet, just 3 more species were added in this period. Week three was an absolute bonanza however seeing the species total break the 100 barrier, the first time I’d achieved this in January on patch so things were looking promising with 10 more days left. A superbly confiding Grey Phalarope at Ferrybridge was the undoubted highlight of this week which included the likes of Velvet Scoter, Goosander, Peregrine and Slavonian Grebe. I had to wait until the 23rd to see another new bird for the year with Redshank at Ferrybridge but this was the start of a blistering week with Fulmar, Great Egret, Bittern, Pheasant, Siberian Chiffchaff and the first 3 point bird of the year, a wonderfully showy and vocal Richard’s Pipit at Pirates Cove!
January 31st total 108 birds for 137 points - that's a bit mad!
It’s been an incredible start to what is always a brilliant competition with massive thanks to those who make it happen. Bring on the rest of 2023 and hopefully a little more blogging!