International relationships

Turning a friendship agreement into a reality.

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Bird migration is of course a global phenomenon and in 2015 the committee of SBOT agreed that the observatory should look at the concept of ‘twinning’ with other observatories on an international basis. Contact was made with Cape May Bird Observatory (CMBO) in New Jersey, USA, and Falsterbo in southern Sweden, both world most famous bird observatories known for the high quality of their work, with a view to forming an international alliance.

A series of three-way ‘Skype’ meetings were then arranged between the chairman and directors of CMBO, Falsterbo and Spurn. This dialogue instantly revealed that there was a warm and common rapport, a shared sense of opportunity and a will to reach out and work together for the mutual benefit of the observatories. Ideas bounced around the ‘virtual’ meeting room and a bonhomie began which forms the essence of the new accord.

Our friendship agreement

All were equally keen to see the partnership concept take off and a written Friendship Agreement was drafted and signed off early in 2016 providing the framework for mutual cooperation between the three observatories. For SBOT this was a very proud moment, to be so closely aligned on a global scale with two of the most well known and highly respected bird observatories in the world. It was a first for any observatory in Britain.

View our friendship agreement

In the autumn of 2017, the 2nd International Bird Observatory Council (IBOC) meeting was held over three days at Cape May, New Jersey, USA. Nick Whitehouse represented Spurn. Stuart Mackenzie, migration programme director at Long Point Bird Observatory (LPBO), Ontario, Canada gave a series of presentations on the work of Canada’s premier bird observatory. It was clear there were very close similarities between SBO, CMBO, Falsterbo and LPBO. The networking there resulted in a mutual proposal for LPBO to join the Friendship Agreement, which was warmly welcomed by all concerned.

LPBO has programmes of work at the cutting edge of modern ornithological study, and there is much we can learn and share with each of our observatory partners.

The refreshed Friendship Agreement means that we now have major observatory partners in Canada, the USA and Europe, opening doors to new opportunities in the future.

The leaders of each observatory continue to liaise with regular Skype meetings to progress the shared agenda.

Turning the Friendship Agreement into a reality

It was agreed that as soon as practicable, we would visit each other and so in September 2016 Spurn welcomed David La Puma and Bjorn Malmhagen, directors of Cape May and Falsterbo bird observatories, to Spurn’s annual migration festival, “ MigFest”.

Turning the Friendship Agreement into a reality
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David and Bjorn filled the traditional Saturday evening prime presentation spot with a terrific talk on a “Tale of Two Peninsulas”, a look at the amazing bird movements which occur at Cape May and Falsterbo.

The packed audience loved it and appreciated the time they took to talk with everyone, particularly Spurn’s young birders throughout the weekend. David was joined by Michael Lanzone, a leading US expert on avian satellite tracking. David presented us with a glimpse of the future and how we will soon be able to track the movement of birds, even the smallest of species on their intercontinental journeys, just by logging in to our mobile phones – almost a sci-fi dream of course, at least this side of the Atlantic, but now something that is becoming within our reach.


No stay at Spurn would be complete without some socialising in the iconic Crown and Anchor pub and here more ideas and friendships were developed amongst the new partnership observatories and our MigFest partners, the BTO, over a pint or two of English beer!

In October 2017, Spurn and Falsterbo reciprocated with visits to the Cape May Bird Festival, North America’s biggest birding event. Nick Whitehouse from the Spurn committee and Bjorn from Falsterbo were given the honour of presenting the key note event on the Saturday evening of the festival and duly delivered with a joint talk covering bird migration here in western Europe and the Friendship Agreement.

Since then Long Point Bird Observatory in Ontario Canada has joined the partnership to further strengthen the relationship and share best practice around the world. This unique arrangement is guaranteed to make all of our organisations perform at the optimum level and deliver a world class service.

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Young Professional Exchange

Another idea stemming from the new Friendship Agreement is to have a ‘Young Professional  Exchange’ scheme.  For Spurn this would mean being able to send young ornithologists to CMBO, Falsterbo and now Long Point for a few weeks.  Spurn in turn would welcome young people from our partners.

The aim was to support younger birders who are strongly aligned to SBO by providing an amazing opportunity to:

  • develop their knowledge and experience of the work of overseas bird observatories
  • increase their awareness of key international bird migration and conservation studies
  • contribute to the work of the host observatory in a voluntary capacity
  • develop new networking opportunities to enhance the Friendship Agreement  
  • return to their home observatory with new ideas for possible implementation 
  • act as young birding ambassadors to promote international youth birding relations

Naturally, they would also be able to enjoy some superb migration and birding during their stays!. 
With generous support from the Friends of Spurn for which we are very grateful, funding has been raised to support and subsidise the exchanges. 

During the autumn of 2017, Spurn welcomed Tom Reed from Cape May and Andre Julinder from Falsterbo and in return two young birders from Spurn, Jonnie Fisk and Georgia Locock spent time at Cape May and Falsterbo respectively.  Incredible experiences for them in which they not only enjoyed some great birding and made new friends but had a set of personal objectives set so they would come away with an understanding of how things work at the other observatories – all beneficial to the future development of the observatory through the sharing of good practice.

SBOT believes in the potential of its younger generation of birders, wherever their future takes them. Imagine how exciting it must be for all of the young birders involved with the exchanges.

We are pleased that in the spring of 2018, Spurn will be sending another young birder on the exchange scheme.  Dan Branch will be spending two weeks at Long Point Bird Observatory in Canada. The ‘wood-warbler’ migration here is simply fantastic and we wish Dan well in his quest for learning whilst there.

Some benefits of the Friendship Agreement for Friends of Spurn

Should any Friends of Spurn intend visiting CMBO, Falsterbo or Long Point, then because of the Friendship Agreement, they are guaranteed that extra bit of special attention and support.  Equally if any members and supporters of CMBO, Falsterbo or Long Point wish to visit us at Spurn, we will ensure the warmest of welcomes and the best advice and information to make their visit as memorable as possible.  This ‘personal touch’ will inevitably make your overseas visit an even more enjoyable and productive experience.  There’s also some discounts that are available to Friends and members on certain products and services offered by the observatories.  Check with our International Relations contact Nick Whitehouse ( e-mail when planning any such visit.

Friends of Spurn can find out what birds have been seen and what’s happening at Cape May, Falsterbo and Long Point by visiting their websites ;

Cape May
Long Point

David La Puma has a quote alongside the signature to his e-mails, well worth repeating here:

“Make no little plans; they have no magic to stir men’s blood” (Daniel Hudson Burnham). 

The Third International Bird Observatory Council meeting will take place at Eilat in Israel in March 2019.  Cape May, Falsterbo, Long Point and Spurn will be there, alongside many other great bird observatories.

Nick Whitehouse, Spring 2018.

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