Autumn Migration at Spurn – Beth Clyne

Spurn is a magical place thriving with life, situated on the south east corner of the Yorkshire coast, its everchanging coastline narrowing between the Humber estuary and the North sea makes it a gleaming hotspot for many migrants. Immense numbers of wildlife migrate to and through here during the year, the main attraction are birds passing through or even finishing their biannual migration journey to/from around the globe including places such as; the Arctic, Siberia and Africa.  Impressively, insects such as Butterflies, Moths, Dragonflies, Hoverflies and others make the same long, tiresome journey.

Autumn in particular can be a season full of wonder and excitement. There’s so much going on, in any sort of weather. In Easterly winds, you can have good falls of passerines like Goldcrests, Robins, Thrushes and finches which can occur from mid September to late October. Northerly winds can still have good arrivals of birds, but the seawatching improves with an offshore passage of Shearwaters, Skuas and Divers, with scarcer things like Leach’s Petrel, Little Auk and Sabine’s Gull. Winds from the south and west are better for visible migration, with amazing passages of thousands of Meadow Pipits, Hirundines and finches all passing through the ‘vismig’ watchpoint heading south.

Many big arrivals of birds can also occur, winds can push birds from Asia and Europe onto the east coast of Britain, many migrants including rarer vagrants at times can land here to rest and feed while waiting to be found. Stumbling onto a scarce or rare bird can be exhilarating for many people, to even watch one, to me is a very special privilege, after all what that one little bird has travelled and conquered it is truly astonishing. Goldcrests, on the right winds can flood into the Spurn area, creating a carpet effect where they litter the gardens and hedgerows in search of their insect food. It’s baffling how a tiny bird that weighs the same as a 20p coin (5g) can make it all this way. Thrushes also arrive on mass, they spend the day feeding and resting until dusk before they all gather in the nearby gardens to spiral up together to travel North West following the river Humber inland to spend their winter around Britain and the Mediterranean.

My personal favourite experience of witnessing migration at Spurn is watching birds come in off the North Sea after travelling hundreds of miles, over long distances of water. During the last week of October in 2018, big northerly winds pushed down the north sea, giving way to fantastic seawatching with hundreds of Pomarine Skuas going south being the seawatching highlight with a supporting cast of Leach’s Petrel, Little Auks and Grey Phalarope. However the real stand out event was the thousands of birds arriving in off the sea, mostly Starlings but good numbers of Fieldfares, Redwings, Blackbirds, Short-eared Owls and Woodcocks. The Owls and Woodcocks always put on a fantastic show as they are coming in, both sticking really low to the waves and produce spectacular scenes as they battle in over the breakers, low past the bedazzled observers and ditching in the first bit of cover.

All in all, Spurn in autumn is full of fantastic opportunities to witness migration in its raw form in any sort of weather, which is what makes the Spurn peninsular so special.


Want to witness the magic of autumn at Spurn for yourself? You can join us on a small group guided tour to Spurn!

Upcoming dates:
1-5th October 2021