21 September 2013
Clive McKay is one of the country’s most enthusiastic ‘vis-miggers’ and the UK co-ordinator of the visible migration website Trektellen. He has been birding and vis-migging since the early 1970’s and here he shares his experience of the Spurn Migration Festival.
A great weekend was had by all at the Migration festival at Spurn. You never know at these things quite what you’re going to do, who you’re going to meet or what you’re going to see, but I for one had an excellent weekend. The weather wasn’t great for VisMig, with winds either too southerly or too light for heavy passage, but that didn’t spoil the festival feeling. To give a flavour of the weekend here’s a list of the stuff that I got up to:
• As well as meeting the Spurn VisMig stalwarts (Andy Roadhouse, Nathan Pickering, Dale Middleton, Adam Hutt etc.) met fellow vismiggers Keith ‘Hunmanby Gap’ Clarkson, Richard ‘Redmires’ Hill, Matthew ‘New Passage’ Hobbs and Andy ‘Barmston’ Hanby!
• Saw some great talks – Keith on VisMig, Martin Garner on bird ID around the world and Danae Sheehan on RSPB conservation work for migratory birds etc. Didn’t get to all the talks on offer because of the need for sleep after late nights and early starts. One I would really liked to have seen was Matthew Hobbs’ talk on bat migration. Oh well, maybe I’ll catch it next year…
• Whilst demonstrating Meadow Pipit ringing at the Wire Dump heligoland I had an interesting discussion about the colour “olive” with Clive Hallam – a former fly fisherman and expert fly-tier from Sheffield who knows more about the colour olive than you could ever imagine (many Mayflies being olive coloured). He’s promised me a colour chart which could help to solve the problem of trying to standardise the classification of brownish-olive once and for all! Clive has other strings to his bow as well – see his fine art work at clivehallam.com
• Met Martin Garner for the first time, and saw his simple set up for sound recording which scored him an August Lapland Bunting at Rod Moor on one of his first trips up there
• Met top bird artists Jack Ashton-Booth and Ray Scally, and saw their exhibitions in the lighthouse
• Climbed the 150’ to the top of the lighthouse which was open specially for the event – a great view!
• Saw Dave McAleavy demonstrate how to use Photoshop to get rid of the corruptions to your photos that digital cameras produce. He showed us how to get them “back” closer to the original image that you saw through your lens when you pressed the shutter release button, and demonstrated clearly that no cheating is involved
• Watched Rich Swales preparing specimen skins from two Dunlins that had hit wires on the peninsula. Simple to do, and a more convenient way to store than in the freezer.
• Met Samuel Perfect – a student birder from Exeter University visiting Spurn for 10 days with the help of a grant from the BTO. He helped me with Mipit ringing and seemed to enjoy it. Maybe we’ll get a few VisMig counts from the deepest South-west one of these days!
• Spent an hour at the radar “station” based at the Warren since last year looking at the live radar display of birds passing over the peninsula, and had a long chat about radar birding with the guys running this project – Lee Johnson and Mike Wallis – thanks for your time guys, and for giving up a weekend to demonstrate the kit to the festival guests.
• Birds weren’t a crucial part of the event for me, but the Mipits that I caught at the Wire Dump Heligoland included a few interesting individuals that fitted the Icelandic criteria (just as well as I also gave a talk on the latter!), and it was nice to see Marsh Harriers on the move over the sea and Black Terns passing overhead at the Narrows.
• I took my Swarovski bins that need an overhaul on the off chance that I might be able to pass them by hand to a Swarovski rep (rather than posting) if one was present – and sure enough there was Paul, their rep for Scotland and N England. Ironically it turned out he lives half an hour away from me near Perth and had made the same 8 hour drive to Spurn on the Friday!
And there was so much more to get involved in such as the Searching for Migrant walks, sea-watching, an evening bat walk, wader watching, history of Spurn, plant and insect walks etc. etc. Phew! What a great diversity of “stuff”, and the whole event was organised by Spurn and YWT volunteers – hog roasts, landrover transport up and down the peninsula, ringing, VisMig and bird ID demos etc. I can’t recommend the event highly enough. A big thank you to all the organisers.
Current plans are to do the same next year… see you there!