Birding Frontiers – PWC Early & Mid Spring 2014
Here Ryan sums up and compares consecutive spring seasons:
As PWC marches on through its second year and patchers throughout the country are enjoying the very mild spring it’s good to look back at what was happening in 2013 during spring. Last year’s spring could not be more contrasting in the weather from this year as the whole country suffered from a cold stormy spring, not really warming up for most of us until mid-June. So, with the mild weather this spring you would think that the number of species recorded up to the end of March and April would have been significantly higher this year but no… Last year’s cumulative PWC total was approximately 200 species and this year we just pushed past that figure despite more patches submitting scores. The end of April showed similar results with the 2013 total running up to 235 species and this year’s approximately 240 species. A cold spring isn’t so bad after all perhaps…
However, looking beyond the figures as a whole you start to see that the mild spring was better for more patches than last year. The patches on the south coast would pick up most early spring migrants in March no matter how ‘late’ spring may be for the rest of us but this year did see a large increase in the number of patches recording spring migrants in March.
Do the average scores compare favourably this year? Well, in a word no! Looking at the average scores posted at the end of April you see that the two years are almost identical, with 2013 holding a meagre 0.87 point lead! I had thought the points per species average must be higher this year as April produced more high scoring birds this year but again 2013 came out on top, although only by 0.003 of a point.
Looking at the highlights posted by our fellow competitors and you soon see that the two years are closely linked, with PWC staples Caspian and Yellow-legged Gulls, Green-winged Teals, Great White Egrets and Glossy Ibis all making it onto several patches both years in March. The other March highlights may not be the same but follow as similar pattern, this year’s Boneparte’s Gull could be replaced by last year’s Ring-billed Gull, this year’s Dusky Warbler could be replaced by last year’s Siberian Stonechat. As you can imagine the April Highlights pick up and this is where the two year’s may differ the most. In 2013 we struggled as a Lesser Scaup at Pugney’s was the only new highlight, supported by Purple Herons, Montagu’s Harriers and Serins. This year though the rarities arrived in abundance as classic spring species such as Short-toed Larks, Red-rumped Swallows, Kentish Plovers, Tawny Pipit, Wrynecks and an incredible record of Herefordshires first Bluethroat provided joy to many a patcher. So, perhaps there is a wee bit of proof that the mild spring has benefited patchworkers this year?
And this one flew over the past the Tawny Pipit- also on the ‘Flamborough Patch’.
quick look at Hemsby, my patch, and it seems that the mild March has definitely benefited my scores. At the end of March in 2013 I had amassed 81 species, 95 points and for the same period in 2014 I was way ahead with 93 species, 115 points. In 2013 I had not recorded a single spring migrant in March so that must be it, I must have bagged a bundle of early migrants this year. Ermm.. well no, only two in fact, Blackcap and Black Redstart! Why the big lead this year? I have had a wee bit more time on patch but not a huge amount more. Looking at my lists I noticed that I have seen 20 species in 2014 that I had not seen in 2013 by the end of March, that’s over 20% of my list!!
I remember that in April 2013 I had an exceptional month catching up with the common migrants, including the first (reported) Spotted Flycatchers in the country, peaking in the two weeks between the 7th and 21st where I picked up 28 new species (36 pts). This year I was away for the most of the period and although I was on patch a similar amount of days in April as last year I had a pretty poor month finishing on 117 species, 146 points, a full 5 species and points behind last year’s total. Personally this mild spring has been disappointing and this is emphasised when I delve into BirdTrack and see that in 2013 I recorded 105 in April and only 86 this year. Mild spring, lots of easterlies = less species and points, perhaps I am thinking that the weather is a greater link to a good year than it really is.
And now we are well into the final weeks of spring, May is here and the month has already hit new heights, 15 pointers and 12 pointers already been found on patches across the country and many more to come I’m sure. Enjoy the spring while you can, the days will be getting shorter before you know it….
or one of these (we had a female this morning at Flamborough)