A long standing tradition of supporting young people.
Spurn Bird Observatory has a long standing tradition of supporting young people with a keen interest in birding, ringing, and all things ornithological. Over the years, many birders have spent time at the Obs in their younger days, where they have been encouraged to hone their skills and experience and develop a life-long passion for birds.
Many have continued to return year after year, becoming ‘regulars’ and ‘Friends of Spurn’, whose love of Spurn draws them back frequently to witness all that the amazing birding year has to offer. Others have moved away with careers and all that life brings, but still keep in touch and speak movingly of the place, people and birds that helped shape their early lives and provided such a strong foundation for their continuing love of birding - wherever they finds themselves in later life.
In recent years the widespread use of social media has enabled young birders to connect easily across the UK. It started with members of the Next Generation Birders (NGB) became frequent visitors to Spurn, holding their field meetings and fun-filled stays at the Observatory. One of NGBs formative members and organisers, Jonnie Fisk, came to volunteer and then work at the Observatory for five years!
Now each year different generations of young birders come to visit the Observatory, encouraged through grants from British Birds and the BTO as well as young birder walks that we host each year at Migfest.
The highly respected birder, ornithologist and author Martin Garner was a committee member at Spurn Bird Observatory until his untimely passing in 2016.
Martin was keen to support young birders with real potential and agreed to give his name to a competition to be organised each year to find Britain’s best young birder.
The MGSYB competition begins with a preliminary round starting in May each year, involving a questionnaire for completion by candidates. Up to 5 finalists are then selected for ‘the final’, which is held on the Saturday morning of ‘MigFest’, Spurn’s Migration Festival weekend held in early September. This event was the brainchild of Martin Garner and Andy Roadhouse, author of the acclaimed book, The Birds of Spurn.
Finalists are assessed in the field and asked to identify a number of birds in a variety of settings (estuary, sea, migrating overhead, and amongst the bushes), depending on the species present on the day. Full details of the competition can be found here (insert link). The assessors are very friendly and finalists also get lots of useful tips on bird identification and information on bird migration. To be eligible for the competition you need to be 16 or under on the Saturday of MigFest weekend.
All the finalists are ‘winners’ in our view, and receive great prizes and a rousing reception from the audience gathered for the Saturday evening headline event of MigFest.
There is of course an actual winner, who also gets to have their name inscribed on the MGSYB trophy which is kept at the Obs.
Spurn Bird Observatory has in recent years signed a “Friendship Agreement” with the bird observatories of Cape May (USA), Falsterbo (Sweden) and Long Point (Canada), all known for their internationally acclaimed high quality work . Information about the Friendship Agreement can be found here (insert link).
As part of the agreement, the observatories involved have agreed to instigate a ‘Young Professional Exchange’ scheme. For Spurn, this has meant being able to send young ornithologists to Cape May, Falsterbo and more recently Long Point for a few weeks. Spurn in turn has welcomed young people from our overseas partners.
The scheme offers quite incredible opportunities and experiences for those involved. Not only do they enjoy some great birding and make new friends but have a set of personal objectives designed to ensure that each exchangee comes away with an understanding of how things work at the other observatories – all beneficial to the future development of their host 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.