Category Archives: Festivals

Have Your Say! Part one.

What the people say… one month to go.

.. as we approach the official launch of the autumn¬†ūüėČ at the Spurn Migration Festival. There are spectacular numbers of Dunlin currently on the Humber (mostly schinzii but with increasing numbers of nominate alpina), a juvenile¬†Black Stork flying over the Migfest team, A Whiskered¬†Tern on an evening seawatch and a longer staying¬†White-rumped Sandpiper. All in the last few days! I think it’s time to book! Some comments from those who have been before:

 

Nick carter“Really looking forward to what is fast becoming one of the highlights of my birding year, an opportunity to learn from some of the best in the field in one of the premier migration watchpoints in the country and all in a relaxed, friendly and welcoming environment. What’s not to like!¬†”¬†

Nick Carter

 

 

 

“SpurnMark Thomas Migration Festival has rapidly become a premiere fixture in the ornithological calendar, it‚Äôs at the best place for migration in Britain, is hosted by experts in the field and delivers brilliant birds! RSPB is delighted to be taking part once again!”

Mark Thomas (RSPB Senior Investigations Officer)

 

 

 

This year’s Programme:

More info and how to book also HERE

 

140707 Spurn Mig_ eventsposter_A4

 

 

More info and how to book HERE

 

Dusky House Martins

another hirundine tale

 

“Terry Townshend: So, in summary, the combination of a smallish white rump (sometimes flecked), dark underwing coverts, ‚Äėdirty‚Äô underparts contrasting with a clean white throat, a shorter, squarer tail and a darker ‚Äėface‚Äô are all characteristics associated with Asian House Martin. Maybe one will turn up at your migration watchpoint this autumn‚Ķ?”

The possibility of rarer taxa always get the juices flowing. I am not aware of a full credible record yet of the Asian House Martin (Delichon dasypus) in the Western Palearctic. There have been a few claims. We have featured the subject before as in Terry Townshend’s post HERE.

The thing is (and I am in this group) knowing what some juvenile House Martin’s could look like has been¬†largely ignored for many birders. As we approach the Spurn Migration Festival– House Martin is another species we will certainly see migrating south. Watching, studying and talking about! Migrating to winter in areas of sub-Saharan¬†Africa that have remained a mystery for most of my 40 years in birding. Just beginning to be revealed. Amazing!

Spurn and House Martins in Autumn

Andy Roadhouse (from his new book out later this year ‘The Birds of Spurn’.)

“Passage ranges from mid-August to mid-November, with the latest record on 28th November 1991. Peak passage is from early September to early October. A total of 316,544 flew south in the autumns between between 1952 and 2014 (313,026 since 1965) and the best autumns are 1989 (27,373), 2003 (18,264), 1980 (16,719), 2000 (14,417), and 2011 (14,011). 313, 026¬†¬† 3518

The highest day count was on the same day as the highest count for Swallows ‚ÄĒ 3rd September 2003 ‚ÄĒ when a minimum of 15,000 flew south. Other high counts include 12,550 on 22nd September 1989, 8000 on 12th September 2000, 7525 on 24th September 1980, 7000 on 8th September 2009, and 6000 on 16th September 1983.

Them funny darker House Martins

Yoav Perlman who will be bringing, no doubt and absolutely fascinating Saturday evening lecture at the Migration Festival, sent these photos of a House Martin whose plumage is a little less familiar:

This first winter bird below was ringed at Ngulia, E Kenya, in December 2008
Similar looking birds are seen in Israel in autumn. Check it out!

House Martin Ngulia 1208 YP profile House Martin Ngulia 1208 YP upper

House Martin Ngulia 1208 YP under

 

At Flamborough in late October

and to compare… ¬†I photographed this first winter House Martin, showing more typical upper and underparts, at Flamborough, outside what is now our home, on 30th October 2013.

Asan House Martin would be sooooo easy to overlook. Discerning the tell-tale more blackish underwing coverts of Asian dasypus can be extremely difficult in the field. The biggest stumbling block is that European bird flying above you have the underwing coverts mostly in shadow and they look (and photograph) blackish. I am pretty sure Andrea Corso and I have chatted about this- I look forward to his big hello!

All photos below, 1st winter House Martin, Flamborough, 30th October, 2013, Check out appearance of underwings and quite extensive dark marks on flanks.

juvenile House Martin c Flamborough 30.10.13 juv i House Martin 30th oct 2013 flamb (1 of 1) juv j House Martin 30th oct 2013 flamb (1 of 1) and finally the underwing coverts revealed:juv f House Martin 30th oct 2013 flamb (1 of 1)

still really well marked flanks

juv c House Martin 30th oct 2013 flamb (1 of 1) juv d House Martin 30th oct 2013 flamb (1 of 1)

and managed just one shot from above

juv h House Martin 30th oct 2013 flamb (1 of 1)

 

Enjoy your hirundines and don’t miss out! Sign up for the field birding event of the year

Spurn Migration FestivalРbooking right here honey:  Click HERE

juv b House Martin 30th oct 2013 flamb (1 of 1)

eilata Sand Martins

The Little, Rare Ones

by Martin G.

There are…

two themes running through some present posts.  The glorious Spurn Migration Festival (YES РI really want you to be thereР(there is such high praise for the enjoyment so many folk get out of the migfest weekend). The second theme is on the Saturday evening talk at the Festival. Delivered by the hugely respected, and mega keen Yoav Perlman, it will be sure to open some eyes and be full of WOW factors.

One subject I¬†have explored with Yoav are some of the curious and bewildering hirundines which pass, on migration, through Israel. It’s timely because…. ¬†when you visit Spurn, early September¬†is the peak time for hirundine migration– Swallows and Martins.

Spurn and Sand Martins

As a warm-up here’s some stats from the (soon to be published) ‘The Birds of Spurn’ by Andy Roadhouse.

“Sand Martins generally have two broods, and this is shown with the autumn passage at Spurn. Two ‚Äėwaves‚Äô of passage occur, the first from late June to early August and the second from late August to mid-September. In the earlier days of the Observatory the first wave would have largely gone unrecorded due to the lack of observers in the summer months. The highest counts in the first wave are 2800 on 5th August 1984, 2000 on 17th July 1999 and 15th July 2008. There is one exceptional count of 12,000 on 22nd August 1996, otherwise high counts in the second wave are 3000 on 28th August 2000, 2500 on 3rd September 2003 and 2000 on 20th August 1996.”

Our Sand Martins (nominate riparia)

You’ll see Sand Martins migrating at the festival- For sure! Here a couple of nominate Sand Martins trapped and ringed at Spurn (by Adam Hutt). Before rushing forward to the enigmatic eilata, check out the throat, breast band and overall head pattern of our¬†Sand Martins. This is one has a tiny bit of streakiness on the throat sides.

sand martin spurn aah 1 (1 of 1) sand martin spurn aah 2 (1 of 1)

 

Enigmatic eilata –¬†‚ÄėLittle‚Äô Sand Martins in SPRING

The ringing station at Eilat provides one of the most thrilling migration encounters in the world. Hidden away under the wonderful colour and variety of bird species passing through the area is a ‚Äėlittle brown job‚Äô. Trapping hirundines coming into roost in the evening proved the best opportunity of seeing an ‚Äėeilata‚Äô Sand Martin. The taxon was first recorded by Hadoram Shirihai and written up in Shirihai & Colston, (1992). (Though I don’t think diluta ‘Pale Martin’ passes through Israel as suggested in the article- just part of the learning).

I was fortunate with a little effort to see several individuals of eilata in early spring 2012.

eilata Sand Martin. Tiny with many nominate birds in the catch. Wing of 94 mm. This adult has more limited throat spotting than some.

eilata Sand Martin. Tiny with many nominate birds in the catch. Wing of 94 mm. This adult has more limited throat spotting than some.

 

They are tiny! Compared with nominate riparia Sand Martins they are slightly colder and paler brown with a much shorter wing length (over 100mm in nominate riparia). The eilata featured here had a wing length of 94mm. Other features included¬†feathered tarsi¬†and slightly more contrastingly dark lores: ‚Äėsunglasses‚Äô.

Curiously neither the breeding nor wintering areas are known, nevertheless they represent up to 5% of the Sand Martins passing through Israel in spring.

Enigmatic eilata- ‘Little’¬†Sand Martins – in summer

This spring Francis Argyle was ringing Sand Martins in the Hula Valley. He trapped several ‘tiny Sand Martins’. A very small percentage among nearly 2000 nominate riparia. They were in juvenile plumage (age 3 for ringers). Francis writes:

“This spring, 20th March¬†to 24th May, I have ringed 1990 Sand Martins. I ring in 4-day sessions of which three per month.7th to 10th May, ¬†893 Sand Martins ringed of which only 1 tiny age 3 bird. 21st to 24th May just 1 tiny out of 379. 2nd to 5th¬†July¬†only 4 Sand Martins caught and all 4 were small age 3 birds although one had a wing length 105mm.

cheers, Francis”

These juveniles have much more patterning over the throat, sometimes looking¬†more like a Brown-throated Martin (paludicola). From the very small sample of apparent juvenile¬†eilata most of them had fringes to wing coverts closer to ‘silvery’ than ‘gingery-buff’. On passage birds at Spurn, gingery -buff os the normal type of juveniles with just occasional silvery ones. We blogged about there >>>HERE<<<.

Here’s what the apparent juvenile eilata look like. All photos by Francis Argyle.

juvenile Sand Martin eilata N. Israel, May 2015 F.SAM_2423SAM_2428SAM_2431SAM_2171SAM_2425SAM_2205

 

DNA

Francis collected a couple of feathers and with help from Yoav and the Prof (Martin Collinson) a very preliminary look said these were pretty bloomin’ well¬†closely related to other Sand Martins. There are still plenty of questions though…

Martin Collinson:

“I have some preliminary results on the small Riparia riparia feather from Hula Valley, 20/5/15 (X264997). I put it through with a batch of cytb sequencing – there is only 1 cytb sequence for this species in GenBank – a bird collected in S Africa and therefore of unknown subspecies. Your bird is 99.4% identical to that one, i.e. very closely related.

Looking in the literature, although eilata has not been sequenced, COI and ND2 data suggest very little genetic differentiation (0.6%) between Sand Martins across the range, in US/Canada, Europe, through to East Asia, suggesting gene flow until very recently, and your bird fits with that general pattern.

Best wishes

Martin C.”

Really , really hope to see you at the Migration Festival. You won’t regret it!

……………………….To book go >>>HERE<<<

 

Spurn Migration Festival one

Swallows and Enigmas

Where Migration is Defined

I am always drawn back to my first birding love. The Swallow. I have written about this before, but the (Barn) Swallow is, above all others, THE species which hooked me as a 10/11 year old into the magic world of birds.

So as we approach the 3rd Migration Festival at Spurn, the Swallow will once again take centre stage. The Festival is on 3rd-5th September and early September is THE peak time for swallow migration there. I hope we get a big one! I have been there for a 20,000 bird morning and the spectacle is simply breath-taking. I would personally love you to be there to encounter such wonders. Info on booking HERE.

Swallows will also get a mention in¬†the¬†talks. I am especially looking forward to Yoav Perlman’s talk on the Saturday evening at the Migration festival on ‘Where Migration is Defined‘. Featuring the Arava Valley, Israel and the Middle East which is a place of spectacular migration.

There are enigmas too.

I think of the four commoner hirundines, each one has its own intriguing, sometimes shadowy plumage type/ subspecies which passes through the Middle East and especially Israel. They are mysteries! I bet we can draw Yoav out to talk more about them. ūüôā

Ice-white Swallows with no breast bands.

I saw a few of these in the Nizzana region. There lots of¬†comparison. Tons of nominate Swallows, tons of orange-bodied semi-resident ‘transitiva’ Barn Swallows. Then there are these things with icy-white plumage below and strangely weak breast band- like one of the SE Asian taxa of Swallow. ?$%¬£?

Yoav has seen similar birds in east Africa. What are they?

Barn Swallow Nitzana, Israel 11th Nov 2013Barn Swallow 2 Nitzana, Israel 11th Nov 2013Above. First winter Ice-white Swallows with reduced blue breast bands. November 2013. Nizzana, Israel. Martin Garner.

To follow:

Sand Martins. Normal ones and the ‘Little’ Sand Martin that can almost look like a brown-throated Martin.

House Martins. Normal ones and the dusky Asian House Martin scares.

Red-rumped Swallows. Do super streaky ones pass through as well as the regular type?

 

Book for migfest while your planning your start to autumn ūüôā

Be great to see you there. More info/ booking etc. HERE.

 

 

 

Back to the Future #migfest

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…

Spurn Migration Festival oneor 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

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.

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.

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.

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.

Learning Together

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!

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.

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.

 Lively discussion

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 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.

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.

 

 

Inspiration!

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!

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!

Larking about

Yes there was a bit of that ūüôā . 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?

 

 

 

 

Happy Days! It’s coming soon!

The Spurn Migration Festival.This unique event enters its third year. Now is the time to book in and launch your autumn birding season in the best possible style. At #migfest 2015.
 

Spurn Migration Festival 2015


Tickets have now gone on sale for this bespoke festival celebrating the great bird migration spectacle that passes through Spurn in East Yorkshire every year.

The Spurn Migration Festival is a weekend-long celebration of the autumn migration of birds and includes an extensive programme of walks, talks and demonstrations that will be delivered by the Migration Festival Team.

The festival runs from the 4th ‚Äď 6th September 2015 and takes place across Spurn, Kilnsea and Easington. Lectures, exhibitions and food are hosted by Sue and Andrew Wells at Westmere Farm in Kilnsea together with the now famous Saturday evening Hog Roast and lecture. This years talk is being given by Yoav Perlman and titled ‚ÄėIsrael ‚Äď Where migration is defined.‚Äô

 Across last years festival 124 species of bird were recorded together with other wildlife and the highlight for many was the stunningly close up views of that enigmatic bird called a Wryneck. Up to 3 of these birds were on full view throughout the weekend before continuing their migration to Africa, south of the Sahara.

wryneck-spurn-12-8-11-c

 

Tickets!

Tickets can now be purchased from the Spurn Migration Festival dedicated website www.spurnmigfest.com or by telephoning 01904 659570

Hope to see ya there!

 

Spurn Migration Festival one

Best Sites and Best Telly – this weekend!

The Long Good Friday

The spotlight falls on RSPB Bempton Cliffs and its neighbours this Easter, reflecting a quiet revolution of birder-led team efforts up here on the Yorkshire coast

Mark James Pearson (Northern Rustic)

After plenty of hard work and much anticipation, the all-new lip-smackin’ RSPB Bempton Cliffs re-opens this week, on Good Friday, 3rd April.

Coinciding with the relaunch of this most magical of reserves is a BBC Springwatch at Easter special, airing on the very same evening (at 9pm, with a repeat on Easter Sunday at 7pm, both on BBC2).

No doubt the BBC will do a fine job of transmitting the unique sensory overload of Bempton’s seabird city into the nation’s living rooms, resulting in that rarest of rares, an hour well spent in front of the TV

Sunset over Bempton by George Stoyle http://www.georgestoyle.com

Sunset over Bempton by George Stoyle http://www.georgestoyle.com

But what may not be so obvious to those tuning in over the Easter weekend is that the people, groups and projects featured on the show are part of a collective sea change along our beloved stretch of Yorkshire coast of late. Springwatch at Easter is set to showcase not only the drama of Bempton (justifiably taking centre stage) but crucially also the wider area, including both Filey and Flamborough¬†Bird Observatories, as well as Yorkshire Wildlife Trust’s Living Seas Centre.¬†Thus the show reflects what is, increasingly, very much a team effort these days, with a burgeoning connectivity between our respective manors.

It’s also worth bearing in mind that those involved in the projects highlighted by the programme are genuine, locally-sourced, dyed-in-the-wool conservationists; better still, you’ll be pleased (and maybe surprised) to learn that, perhaps first and foremost, many are straight-up obsessive birders, trying their stuttering best to communicate their passions to wider audiences. No fear, then, of bland script regurgitations and feigned careerist enthusiasm; style over substance is resolutely off the agenda, and (while not wanting to draw attention to any on-screen fashion crimes) I’m happy to report it’s very much the other way round.

At the helm of the Springwatch coverage is RSPB Bempton Cliffs Site Manager Keith Clarkson. Responsible not only for the relaunch of the reserve but also for pulling together the disperate threads that made the programme happen, Keith is also a dedicated lifelong birder and pioneer in the dark art of visible migration. When not overseeing arguably the greatest show in Yorkshire, you’ll find him obsessively vismigging at Hunmanby Gap (in the south of the Filey recording area); if you do, be prepared to discuss the migration strategies of Meadow Pipits as enthusiastically as you would the virtues of toy Puffins in the reserve shop.

Puffins at Bempton by Steve Race http://www.yorkshirecoastnature.co.uk

Puffins at Bempton by Steve Race http://www.yorkshirecoastnature.co.uk

Most of the other key personnel (perhaps wisely) remained on the more flattering side of the camera. Out on the boat with Keith and Chris Packham was Steve Race, award-winning wildlife photographer, RSPB Bempton Cliff’s Education Officer, and co-director of Yorkshire Coast Nature, a local nature tourism company proudly putting its money where its mouth is by giving back to the places it celebrates – hence the bankrolling of local conservation projects, the sponsoring of the Filey, Flamborough and Yorkshire Bird Reports and plenty more besides.

Behind the scenes of the clifftop spectacle is Bempton’s warden, Dave Aitken; ever-helpful, highly-skilled, obsessively twitchy on the one hand and yet devoted to his adopted patch on the other. Just down the road is Rich Baines, finally seeing the rewards of years of patient toil in the face of indifference and hostility (modestly sharing such mind-blowing rares as Brown Flycatcher along the way); Rich’s dedication to conservation and a more open, welcoming culture at Flamborough are the foundations upon which the Observatory’s recent renaissance are based. Add the infectious enthusiasm of a certain Mr Garner and a growing team of forward-thinking, passionate birders to the mix, and it’s rosier than ever on the Great White Cape.

Breil Nook at Flamborough by George Stoyle http://www.georgestoyle.com

Breil Nook at Flamborough by George Stoyle http://www.georgestoyle.com

Here at Filey, meanwhile, a dynamic and multi-skilled team is ensuring the Observatory is in rude health. Membership is rising steadily (with a faithful hardcore augmented by many new members, including an encouraging percentage of younger people), our network of reserves are in fine fettle, community involvement is now an integral part of our work, and the overhauling and relaunch of our annual report happily received much acclaim recently. We’ve been working closely with RSPB Bempton (monitoring our breeding seabirds, hosting events) and Yorkshire Wildlife Trust (at Filey Dams reserve), and we share plenty of skills and knowledge (and more in the near future) with our comrades across the bay at Flamborough Bird Observatory.

The great work being carried out by Kat, Ant and their colleagues at the YWT Living Seas Centre at South Landing, Flamborough is another example of localised collaboration working well. In addition to their day-to-day marine-themed endeavours, they host regular evening talks by special expert guests, maintain an up-to-date wildlife sightings board, and work closely not only with RSPB Bempton, but also with Flamborough Bird Observatory; to this end, they’ll soon be sharing their impressive new premises with FBO’s ringing team – the Observatory’s first ever physical presence, and a testament to the hard work of all parties.

Gannets at Bempton by Steve Race http://www.yorkshirecoastnature.co.uk

Gannets at Bempton by Steve Race http://www.yorkshirecoastnature.co.uk

Back at Bempton, and the opening of the new Seabird Centre is set to provide a new and much-needed hub for local groups, birding-themed events and activities, hosting talks, workshops and much more (as well as a catering for the more mainstream requirements of a flagship reserve) ‚Äď a reflection of the focus and intent to keep the birding community very much in the mix at the relaunched reserve. There are many others who deserve a mention here, but space prevents a longer roll of credits.

All of which is worth celebrating; there’s a lot going on, and crucially, it’s all interconnected. Would any of this have happened twenty, ten, or even five years ago? Not likely. Being involved with much of the above, I’ll make no apology for shamelessly cheerleading here; it’s the prevailing mood of collaboration and cross-pollination that makes the groups and projects involved much more than the sum of their parts these days.

So when you tune in to Springwatch at Easter over this coming weekend, hopefully you’ll enjoy the spectacle and get inspired to visit this most awe-inspiring (and easily reached) of Britain’s natural wonders; but it’s also worth bearing in mind that, thanks to the efforts and vision of a dynamic bunch of birder-conservationists, we’ve never had it so good around here.

Come on in, the water’s lovely.