What will 2015 Bring?
Looking back to the Spurn Migration Festival
last year gets my juices flowing. What will the 2015 Festival bring? I don’t want to miss out!
In some households…
or at least inside the heads of some birders, autumn has already begun. It really is the best season of the year. Why? Migration! Waders (aka shorebirds) have already begun their journeys and can be seen passing through NW Europe right now. That’s why some of us think autumn begins in mid-July. As we approach September this is the month when migration really enters full swing. Every year it’s hard to keep a lid on my excitement. Right now though somewhere around the corner, in the back of our minds- is the Spurn Migration Festival.
So to make sure I enter the spirit of it again and get myself ready I thought I would go back to the future. Here’s a quick reminder (from a ‘Birding Frontiers’ mindset) of last years’ #migfest.
Arriving at Westmere Farm on the Friday last year I can remember the buzz. Yes, of all the human activity of preparation but it’s also a spot where live migration is immediately visible. Swallows and Meadow Pipits moving south right past the farm, Willow Warblers in the hedges and the radio crackling with news of both Wryneck and Barred Warbler. Plus the gripping sighting of a Bittern ( a good one for Spurn) found by those NGB birders. Flippin young bloods!
THE Wryneck that stole the best show-off award at hr 2014 festival. Performing admirably among the rock along Humber shore- many birders, including me had never had such easy views. Another 2-3 Wryneck in the Spurn area over the #migfest just showed how bloomin’ marvellous the place is. Photo thanks to Richard Willison.
Hundreds of Meadow Pipits and a handful of Tree Pipits (pictured) provided the backcloth of migration action which never seems to stop at Spurn.
The Warren the buzz of people… and rare birds!
Sunday morning brought the rarest bird of the the weekend when a calling Pacific Golden Plover flew south over the Warren and appeared to drop onto the Humber foreshore. Seen in flight and more especially heard calling by many birders, most especially Dutch migration doyen PIm Wolf. PIm , who knows the subject well was unequivocal. It was a fulva (said with thick Dutch accent. I rushed down the join those searching but unfortunately the bird had evaporated over the vast mudflats. Soon after however a juvenile/ first winter Caspian Gull leisurely flapped its way along the Humber. Adam Hutt and I did a find/ ID double act quickly enough for everyone to get great views. A plumage or life tick for many present. The place is flippin’ awesome! Looking forward to the buzz of the people and the birds again.
Pacific Golden Plover flight call- have a listen to the call and be ready… click >>>HERE<<<
This 2nd calender year (moulting into 2nd winter) Caspian Gull was found a week later after a juvenile flew over big crowds at the Warren on #migfest Sunday (bird on the right. Photo thanks to Martin Standley.
Several observers including one of our guest speakers, Pim Wolf had mentioned to me a rather brown looking Lesser Whitethroat in the Crown and Anchor car park (the bushes here are warbler heaven). I finally got time to take a look. Having just published the first in the Challenge Series with a whole chapter devoted to the different Lesser Whitethroats, I was, as they say, ‘in the zone’. Excellent views and scrutinised photos revealed a rather straightforward looking Siberian Lesser Whitethroat- a blythi.- but on 7th September? That seems an outrageously early claim! The Migration Festival is a place where even the most experienced can learn. Two days later I found another candidate blythi back at Flamborugh.
What was going on?
Then the news came through of two Lesser Whitethroats trapped in late August, early September on the near continent. Both were suspected of being blythi. Both came back as confimed Siberian Lesser Whitethroats- part of the same ‘arrival’ as the bird at the Migration Festival. No-one ever thought they arrived this early. More learning for everyone!
Siberian Lesser Whitethroat – this one was waiting for me back at Flamborough on return from the 2014 Spurn Migration Festival. The Spurn bird gave me confidence- we could really be getting these- later confirmed by DNA. We can now expect blythi from mid August- WOW!
Great Crowd Pleasers
You can’t beat a show-off. Wrynecks and Barred Warbers kind of stole the show with several of each to see and for some lucky dudes even to find one. The BTO’s Nick Moran had his tent pitched at Westmere Farm and scored by finding a Barred Warbler in the hedge by his sleeping quarters- nice start to his day!
Find your Own. At least that’s what Nick Moran (Birdtrack/BTO) did when he picked up a Barred Warbler in the hedge near his tent at the Spurn Migration Festival last year.
A juvenile Baltic Gull candidate on Kilnsea Wetlands, The identification features of the juvenile Long-tailed Skua which flew north, enjoyed by many and the phenomenal variety of waders, wildfowl, seabirds and small birds all provided moments of lively discussion and learning. Live action in the field- you can’t beat it!
Juvenile Baltic Gull (at least it flipping looks like one!). A week after the 2014 Spurn Migration this was over my back fence. Discussion at #migfest while watching a bird on Kilnsea Wetlands had spurred me on the look harder and work out some characters. Thank you Spurn Migration Festival.
juvenile Long-tailed Skua- This individual flew north giving chance for number of folk to study the characteristics of this ID challenge. Photo thanks to David Constantine.
Mike Dilger’s talk last year was inspiring and thoroughly enjoyable. It made you want to get out and have even more adventures with birds and wildlife. Meanwhile so many other talks meant a constant stream of opportunities to be inspired by others- both at the formal bits and just casually over a cuppa or out on a guided walk.
Mike Dilger speaking to a packed house on Saturday night at the Migration Festival in sept. 2014. On a personal note I am grateful to Mike for being so encouraging. He’s coming back in 2015- not to speak but just because he loves the gig. Very cool!
Yes there was a bit of that . A ‘paint-off’ between Mike Dilger and meself organised by art extraordinaire Darren Woodhead between two hopeless cases with a paint brush- proved one of plenty of moments of hilarity and lightness- and not taking oursleves too seriously- sheesh!
OK now I’m a little more pumped.
Bring on the Autumn-
Bring on the Spurn Migration festival 2015!
are you coming?