Spurn Migration Festival

On Saturday I got up early and went to the Spurn Migration Festival. I checked in, asked to go on the first available ‘migration walk’ and was told to get into a Land Rover. This took me to a large elderberry bush at the roadside, surrounded by people with telescopes. They were looking for a Barred Warbler apparently. After 15 minutes without seeing a thing, I walked around the corner onto a coastal path where another group of birders were assembled. This time, even I could see the Wryneck perched on a rock – the first time I’d seen one. After failing to get a decent photo of it, I realised that the person standing next to me was Ben Hoare, the Features Editor of BBC Wildlife Magazine. I knew he was going to be at the festival, but was surprised to bump into him so soon. We walked back up the road to Westmere Farm, which had been my starting point, and had much needed bacon butties.

The elusive Wryneck

Next, we took another Land Rover to the bird observatory, where we saw a variety of birds being released after ringing. The Wheatear wouldn’t fly off at first and looked as though it was going to die of shock, but it eventually made its escape. The Lesser Redpoll and Meadow Pipit were quicker off the mark.

Wheatear
 
Ben photographing the Wheatear
 
Lesser Redpoll

Ben went off with some other acquaintances and I walked back up the road to Well Field, where there was a marquee with various trade stands. Another Wryneck appeared, making its way along the fence line behind a line of parked cars. Then I walked up the coastline to Beacon Ponds, a series of lagoons where Little Terns breed in the spring. I’d planned to cut across country back to Westmere Farm, but couldn’t find the path. Eventually, I returned the way I’d come and walked the long way round. I arrived at the farm half an hour late for the lecture I’d hoped to attend, only to find that it was running late and just about to start.

Paul Stancliffe from the BTO talked about tracking migrants to Africa, particularly the cuckoos that have been fitted with satellite tags. This has shown that English cuckoos take a westerly route through Spain and West Africa to reach wintering grounds in the Congo, while Scottish and Welsh birds take a more direct route across the Mediterranean and the Sahara. Mortality amongst the English cuckoos is much higher, as they depend on insects in Spanish cork oak forests, which are declining - we need to drink more wine.

Unimog

Finally, I managed to get on a ‘Unimog Safari’, travelling down the length of the peninsula, crossing the section of road that was swept away in last December’s tidal surge. Previously, you could drive your car down – now it’s a safari! We walked amongst the remains of buildings from the two World Wars, across sand dunes and along the beach. There were lots of birds along the shoreline – Dunlin, Sanderling, Oystercatcher, Curlew, Cormorant and a Bar-tailed Godwit.

Sea Aster in the saltmarsh

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