Tuesday, 17 September 2019

Migfest 2019

After a a great and successful Migfest last year, I had, once again, been looking forward to another one. Once again, I had made it through to the finals of this year's 'Young Birder of the Year Competition', which was great, as last year's competition was so enjoyable.

After arriving on the afternoon of the Friday, we briefly visited our accommodation in Welwick, before heading down to Spurn. The first stop was Kilnsea Wetlands, where it didn't take long to see the long-staying White-Rumped Sandpiper showing distantly, but clearly. Always awesome to start the trip with a lifer!

There were loads of other waders here as well, including Knot, Dunlin and Redshank. Others birds of interest were Mediterranean Gulls and quite a lot of Pintails, which surprised me for this time of year.

Next, although there wasn't much time left, I had a brief walk around the Triangle to see what was around, which was rewarded with close-up Whinchats and a few flyover Yellow Wagtails. I met David Walsh at the end, who informed me of a potential Hobby he had seen fly through.

This was pretty much the end of the day, although I did attend the talk by David Lindo about Urban Birding in foreign countries, an interesting talk, accompanied by an introduction to this year's Migfest. I travelled back to the pub I was staying at, preparing for the next day, not knowing what to expect in this year's Migfest young birders competition.

I got up early the next day, and made my way down to the seawatching hut. Once again, David Walsh was there, with a few other finalists, as well as Jack, one of the people who had won the competition last year. I arrived to the news that I had missed a couple of Pomarine Skuas, which would have been new for me, but there was compensation in the form of Great and Arctic Skuas, a Manx Shearwater and a Red-Throated Diver. A Merlin was also a great bird to see as it whizzed past.

As I was walking away, however, I soon became aware of a mass of birders following, all having come from the seawatching hut. One of them walked past quickly and informed me there had been a Marsh Warbler caught in the nets at the observatory, and that it would be shown in a few minutes.

Kindly, this birder offered me a lift, which I accepted (one of the great things about Spurn, people often offer lifts to other birders). If no-one had given me a lift, I would have missed the bird as well, so it was lucky, and generous, that they did.

We arrived to see a gathered crowd of birders waiting for the bird to be shown. Then the Marsh Warbler was brought out and shown, with all the key features being seen clearly. The bird was released quickly, and flew in to the surrounding bushes.

Marsh Warbler
I arrived at the observatory, joining the other young birders in the competition. We had some time birding from the Spurn viewing platform before going on our first assessment.

The competition involved things like identifying bird calls, as well as showing our understanding of bird conservation, answering question and birding in the field. It was also good to get close up views of Spotted Flycatcher during this.

The whole thing was, once again, enjoyable, and was won by James King in my category, and Corin Woodhead in the younger one. We had lunch at the observatory, with the winner being officially announced at the evening talk.

Once again, I would like to thank the volunteers, organisers and sponsors for putting this amazing competition together, and keeping it running from year to year.

After the competition, I watched a Peregrine over the observatory, then stopped at Kilnsea Wetlands, seeing the same species as I had done the day before, but again, getting views of the White-Rumped Sandpiper, and better views of Yellow Wagtail.

White-Rumped Sandpiper 
I met David Walsh and some other young birders - Oscar, Fraser and Josh, to attempt some seawatching, although there weren't many birds; a few more Arctic and Great Skuas and another Red-Throated Diver. I decided to go and try to find some flycatchers that were seen earlier, and was directed to a field with a thick hedgerow filled with berries.

Amazingly, this one hedgerow probably contained more migrant passerine species in one place than I had seen all weekend. There were a couple of Lesser Whitethroats, a Common Whitethroat, Goldcrests, Blackcaps and, best of all, Spotted(3 or 4!) and a Pied Flycatcher sitting next to each other, with good views of both.

Pied Flycatcher
After this was the hog roast and talk, which was by Per Alstrom. It was a fascinating talk about species differentiation and migration, which he clearly put a lot of work in to. The awards ceremony also took place for the young birders.

After this, I went back to the accommodation, thinking of how to make the most of my last day at Spurn.

Once again, I got up early the next day, although clearly not early enough, as I found out I had missed a Long-Tailed Skua past the seawatching hut!

Most of the day was spent doing a bird race, but a Mandarin Duck was seen at the seawatching hut while we were nearby, so we went for it and luckily saw it in flight. I also went in to the canal scrape hide, seeing Reed Warbler, Snipe and an amazingly close and showy Kingfisher.

Another highlight of this bird race was getting great views of 3 Curlew Sandpipers on the Humber, one of which was colour-ringed. There was some expectation when a report of a Honey Buzzard further up the coast, heading south, was thought to be on its way to Spurn, but it never did turn up.

Unfortunately, we had to head back pretty soon after this, after eating lunch. Even more unfortunately, as always happens in birding, a Barred Warbler was caught and ringed at the Warren, probably while I was eating lunch in the Crown and Anchor, and I had no idea until about 8 hours later!

There is always something I miss, but it didn't really matter, as the quality of birds over the course of the weekend had compensated for this.

Another awesome Migfest and even more encouragement to go again next year. I might as well try the Young Birder competition application again as well, as even if you don't win, it is a highly enjoyable competition that tests your bird knowledge.

Thank you to everyone who organised and volunteered at he Migfest, I found it even better than last year and I hope the next one will be just as, if not even more, enjoyable!