Tuesday, 24 October 2017

The magic of Spurn, by Zach Haynes

The Autumn months are some of my favourite. There’s the wonderful colours of the trees turning, and there’s also the migrations. It starts to get cold, but that doesn’t stop some of us! There are lots of places for the hardy nature lover to go and see this wonderful spectacle, and, in my opinion, Yorkshire has one of the best places to see migration in action. I’m talking about Spurn Point and it’s one of my favourite places to go. It’s located in East Yorkshire, and is a long strip of land that stretches about 3 and a half miles into the Humber Estuary. One of the things I find quite amazing is that you can watch the sun rise and set over the sea!

Sunrise at Spurn by Zach Haynes
This place is one of the birding greats. It's a National Nature Reserve and 40,000 people flock here at all times of the year to see the amazing wildlife that turns up. For the past 5 years, there’s been a great little event called Migfest held at Spurn. This is a held in Autumn when migration is at its peak, and usually, something rare turns up!

At this time of year, the numbers of birds are astonishing, in two days, 4,000 meadow pipits were counted! There’s also the vast number of other birds, like goldfinch, redwing, gulls, tern, and all sorts of wader and sea birds, seen over the point, or over the sea. It's the prefect place for studying bird migration and the staff and volunteers of Spurn Bird Observatory have been doing just that for decades. The landscape is also absolutely beautiful, with the peninsula sticking right out into the North Sea, and an abandoned army outpost and lighthouse at the end, Spurn is an incredible landscape, and at this time of year, it’s amazing.

View from the lighthouse by Zach Haynes

If you’re a birder, Spurn has an amazing amount of birds, and also some great rarities if you get lucky. The rarest bird I’ve seen there is a Long-billed Dowitcher, but also things such as Kentish Plover and Pied Flycatcher. The reason for the huge numbers of birds is because of the placement of the land. Peninsulas seem to be some of the best places for this, this is because as the birds fly along the coastline, they try to keep the land in sight, so the birds will fly along and down the point as they can still see the land there. The Point acts as a sort of funnel to bring birds in vast numbers to one spot.

Birdwatchers watching a Long-billed Dowitcher at Spurn on September 2017, photo by Zach Haynes

Because of the incredibly fragile wildlife that lives here, there are a lot of ‘rules’ that the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust have had to put in place. Firstly, there are no dogs allowed on the reserve or point, Spurn has a huge variety of wildlife, including things like ground nesting birds and deer, so to protect these and their habitat, they’ve had to prohibit these, as well as vehicles. All access is strictly on foot or bike. The Trust also runs ‘Spurn Safaris’. These wonderful trips involve a couple of experts on the point taking you down on a specially equipped vehicle that they have. They take you right down to the end of the point to where the abandoned army outpost and the lighthouse are. These places are host to some amazing wildlife, birds especially. Being so far east and surrounded by water it’s a natural land fall point for birds migrating from the continent. Usually every year some sort of rare warbler or wader turns up and if it’s right down the end of the point that makes it fun for the birders taking a three-mile run down to see it!

On top of all the amazing wildlife, the people that are regular to Spurn are some of the nicest people you’ll meet. They are incredibly helpful to new birders, are open to any questions and they’ll always let you know where the latest amazing find has been seen. You’re usually tipped off to this quite well by lots of birders with backpacks and scopes running in the same direction yelling things like ‘Long-billed Dowitcher’ at you as they hurtle along.

In my opinion, Migfest is one of the best ways to learn about birds, and the wonderful landscape it’s held at. It’s a very friendly festival which is organised by Spurn Bird Observatory, everyone’s relaxed and you get great organisations like the BTO along. I had a great time meeting up with everyone again this year and can’t wait for next year’s, though I’m sure I’ll be back at Spurn before then! Maybe I'll bump into you there?

Zach, @nerboy386

Spurn Bird Observatory: http://www.spurnbirdobservatory.co.uk/
Migfest: http://www.spurnmigfest.com/

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