Rael Bucther & Tim Jones (eds)


Review – Spurn Wildlife 2016 (26)

A stunning painting of a Siberian Accentor by Ian Lewington covers the front page of Spurn Wildlife 2016. Now that's a hell of an illustration to get you into reading a year report!

With plenty of wall paper quality photographs and illustrations, the eye candy is not restricted to the cover. The illustrations from Ray Scally, known from Martin Garner's Challenge Series, are amongst my favourites. There I said it. Spurn. 2016. Martin Garner. Martin was a Spurn regular, and the spiritual father of the MigFest held at the site (that is also covered in the introduction). A three page long heart warming obituary emphasizes that Martin is still missed by many (note that one of the authors, and another prominent Spurn birder Andy Roadhouse sadly passed away himself this year).

Autumn 2016 was nothing short of perfect and Spurn got more than its fair share. In 2016 a record breaking 270 species were recorded since the observatory was founded in 1945. No less than three species were new for the site: the accentor (at the time it was found the 2nd for the UK and the 1st for the mainland), Brown Shrike and, perhaps surprisingly, Pine Bunting. Two new subspecies were also added: Eastern Black Redstart and Stejneger's Stonechat. The latter was split in the UK in 2017, so technically the list even grew four species last year. But loads of other good birds and high numbers of particular migrants were seen during the year. Ten Dusky Warblers in two days time, or five Red-flanked Bluetails (including an adult male), that's just too much to grasp! The number of birds ringed (10,442) was also well above the average. And that's what the 26th year report radiates on every page: it was an exceptional year, even for the migrant trap Spurn is.

Spurn Wildlife 2016 contains all the chapters you expect in a decent year report. There's an overview of the highlights per month. All recorded species are treated in short, but informative accounts full of interesting facts that put the occurrence in 2016 in a long-term perspective. I enjoyed the 26 page long ringing report. I really like the high quality maps of the most interesting ringing recoveries. The report even includes a personal link: my own ringing site in Wassenaar is mentioned with a little bit of enthusiasm. I already knew that the British Blackcap we controlled in May 2016 was ringed in Spurn a month earlier, but little did I know that it was their first Blackcap recovery from The Netherlands!


The birder's tales on how rarities were found make always fun to read, as you can feel the excitement of a good find. Though I must say that I definitely prefer a Brown Shrike over a Black-crowned Night Heron! The accounts on other wildlife than birds are a nice bonus. Especially dragonflies, moths and butterflies receive quite some attention.

As said, Spurn Wildlife offers what you long for in a year report. It's informative and well-illustrated. If you ever wanna order one of their reports, this is a very good one to pick. Day dreams guaranteed.

Vincent van der Spek, November 2017