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Spurn Wildlife 2016 Review

  • Tue 20th Jun, 2017

Spurn has a special place in my birding heart. In the 1980’s I used to travel down with my father and camp at Sandy Beaches, I pitched my tent in a spot which is now literally a sandy beach. I remember seeing my first Wryneck there when I was 14 and 37 years later a Siberian Accentor!  Many things have changed in that time, the birding scene is now far more inclusive and the annual report is a wonderful showcase for the work of Spurn Bird Observatory Trust.

The 2016 edition, published only a few months into 2017 landed on my doorstep with a 230 page thud. And then another impact hit me on opening the package, a beautiful painting of last year’s Accentor by Ian Lewington adorns the cover. This iconic image creates a statement of intent which is then reflected on the inner cover; a watercolour of the new Observatory building opened last year.  

The new Observatory Building The new Observatory Building  

Setting the scene on what is described as one of the most historic years in the Observatory’s history is dedicated to twelve very readable articles before the systematic list starts. What comes through in these articles is the great welcome and family feeling now so much a part of the Observatories work. From the sixteen smiling committee members to the global friendship agreement now set up with two other famous Observatories; Cape May in North America and Falsterbo in Sweden.  

A tender and very well written tribute is made to Martin Garner by Andy Roadhouse who himself has now sadly passed away. With two of Spurn’s most influential and biggest characters no longer with us, it falls to everyone associated with Spurn to carry on the inspirational way these two men carried themselves. With great enthusiasm, dignity and dedication they were always approachable and ready to encourage new and older members the same way. Their positive vision is an inspiration for all of us.

Section two Section two

The annual review written by Andy is a now traditional look at the highlights of each month, number of species recorded, birds ringed and species for the year so far. Not surprisingly October is top of list with a very impressive 210 species followed by September with 182 and May tally 181. This is a great review for those birders wishing to calculate which month or weeks to visit and book the Observatory accomodation well in advance!

The systematic list, once the bulk of any bird report now takes up less than a third of the ‘book’. Often the driest part of the report the reader is tempted to skirt over the list hunting for mouth-watering rarities or looking for their initials.  The addition of 22 pieces of original artwork by nationally renowned artists breathes life into the list, each one with its own distinctive Spurn feel. My favourites are the Woodlark by Tim Wooton almost hidden amongst the weedy tumble of the upper shoreline and the Mandarin by Zac Hinchcliffe a bizarre brilliant mix of oriental design against the grey Industrial Humber.  

The bird gallery has 47 beautiful photos of rare and scarce birds and common ones too. No matter how amazing the rare birds are, the Water Rail by Debby Saunders is a cracker, a very rare view of the underwing in perfect light. Rare encounters are a favourite section of any report because I love a good story. There are many varied ones in this report but only John Hewitt starts with a proper intro “Wednesday 8th June 2016 began for me with a cup of tea”.

Section 6 Section 6

Section 6 Ringing and Recovery is a very readable account including a fascinating table showing the doubling of birds ringed between 1976 and 2016 but interestingly a similar number recovered in both years. The Flora and Fauna section is an important chapter but a little light considering how important Spurn is for many species especially moths and other migratory insects. However it’s great to read of the intention to increase this section in future reports.

The Spurn Wildlife 2016 Report is a fabulous document very well designed and a wonderful read. If you want one dont just buy the report become a member of Friends of Spurn, you will not only receive a free copy of the report but many other benefits not least knowing your money is going towards the work of SBO and the protection of this iconic place for wildlife

Richard Baines 

YCN