Despite my unassailable winning score last year I was somewhat less enthused by my new patch for 2015, moving away from Portland had cost me big time, probably in more ways that one if truth be told but firstly, we all know that birding along a coastal strip compared to a migration hotspot holds no comparison.
Cracking on with things in January it was hard to think why I entered with such trepidation, the year ticks came thick and fast and by the end of the first week I'd notched up 83 birds giving me a total of 102 points and a White-fronted Goose at Radipole towards the end of the month was a brilliant Weymouth tick! I finished up the month on 95 Species and 118 Points.
February was a tough month, it irritated me so much I was prepared to give up for the year A Siberian Chiffchaff graced my garden on the 7th but things dried up and I struggled to add more than a couple of birds, the month finished on a very sad 100 Species and 128 points
And then there was March, The afternoon of the 6th was spent socialising with my good friend Glenn in the Old Rooms in Weymouth, Glenn departed home mid afternoon and I appear to have forgotten what else happened afterwards... I woke the next day with an almighty headache and a sense that I was supposed to have gone to work, fortunately it wasn't an angry boss ringing me, people were alerting me to a Bonaparte's Gull at Ferrybridge! I had to be driven there due to the intoxicating aromas but I connected just in time! It showed really well in front of the visitor centre before departing. This has to be one of the best birds of the year for me, a real must have for Dorset! The rest of the month was rather more sedate (and Sober!) though the Likes of Sand Martin, Red Kite an Wheatear all put in an appearance 108 Species and 141 Points I was now firmly in the lead but surely it couldn't last...
April was truly mental and listing all the year ticks would just be boring! It was a phenomenal months birding with some really good falls of common migrants including some being noted arriving in-off the sea in a big arrival on the 21st. The undoubted highlight though was watching a Black Kite loom up over the top of Ferrybridge and head north over Wyke, it was so bloody exciting, for me and the local gull population! Other goodies included a Red-rumped Swallow at Radipole, 2 Cranes heading down the fleet and out over Portland - Ta to Steve Groves for that one! Pomarine Skua, Garganey and Curlew Sandpiper were also good additions, and of course all the usual migrants - sadly minus a Pied Flycatcher! This added a massive 65 points and I was flying with 150 Species and 204 points.
Continuing on through May, things were ever so slightly more sedate However a Bee-eater in off the sea on the 14th added a tasty 6 points, 3 visits to Lodmoor provided a Purple Heron and a nice Dorset tick too! 8 more birds at an average of 2 points per bird Sat me nicely on 158 Species and 220 points.
June was not a patch birding month, I stupidly missed out on a Common Rosefinch and then spent half of it in the Pyrenees getting myself engaged!
Avocet was becoming a thorn in my side, I did finally connect with one on the 17th though one should never be twitching an Avocet! A couple of Common Crossbill on the 30th brightened the month, as did a Wood Sandpiper later that evening. 161 Species and 225 points
August was an exceptionally wet month, Starting off very kindly though with a Juv Kentish Plover on the 3rd, I got wet watching that. A Balearic Shearwater was off the Chesil on the 5th, oppertunities for birding were limited then until the 16th when I booted a Wryneck from the bottom of Pirates cove, it clearly didn't like the area as it flew off towards Portland! My last points (5!) Were added on the 24th with Little Stint, Spotted Redshank and Grey Plover all in the gloom of dawn at Ferrybridge. 167 Species and 241 Points though my local Rival Sean was only a few points behind!
Another 5 point day on the 1st of September adding Great White Egret and Osprey, the latter was fishing in Portland Harbour! A Honey Buzzard South over Wyke were my only bonus points of the month but very welcome indeed, despite a lot of effort the Early autumn failed to produce a Pied Flycatcher so that goes down as one of the biggest misses of the year. 173 Species and 258 points
My last tick in September was on the 15th and it took until the 15th of October before I added anything new, a cracking run in the second half of the month saw 9 new birds added including a find of Hume's Leaf Warbler, though due to the complexity of this bird (I've had advice to submit to BBRC) this I have to be Honest was slightly overshadowed by the Olive-backed Pipit I found on my old patch earlier in the month! 184 Species and 285 points, I was getting ever closer to 300!
November was a tough month, wet again too! though another 10 points were slapped on, looking into December though I really couldn't see where the last couple of points were going to come from 187 Species and 295 Points
A fortuitous glance on a bird news service alerted me to a Scaup at Lodmoor on the 7th of December, a lovely Adult Drake to add another 2 points, And so it was to New Years Eve, A little harem of Little Gulls had built up off Chesil Cove in an absolute howler, never wanting to miss out of what should have been such an easy bird I attempted to find one off the Chesil, 30 minutes of being battered and soaked past without sighting and I was ready to pack in, a smallish Grey Wader flew by close in, I lost it for a moment and assumed it was an out of season Sanderling, that was until I picked it up again sat on the water not all that far out, Grey Phalarope! The one problem was I couldn't find it with the camera, no matter how hard I tried a little grey blurry blob showed up on one of my photos and I hoped that was it, December was coming to a close and I was going to have to settle for 189 Species and 299 Points. Another fantastic year of Patch birding and it wouldn't be possible without all the news from locals or the constant efforts of the Patchwork Challenge team, Thanks Guys! Here's to #PWC2016!