Migweek 2018 – nine fine days of birds and community!

Long-eared Owl, Top Scrub – one of the first birds caught by the Filey team at this year’s Migweek! (Mark Pearson)

Well, what a blast that was…. As this year’s Filey and Flamborough Ringing and Migration Week (Migweek) draws to a close, it’s fair to say it’s been the best one ever, and we’re all humbled by the successes and support we’ve had throughout the week. It’s actually been nine days, with our programme kicking off last Saturday (13th) and ending on Sunday (21st), and after a soggy, windy start, Migweek just got better and better.

Keith Clarkson talks vismig (Mark Pearson)

Thanks to the weather, those first couple of days were a bit of a write-off regarding outdoor activities, but luckily our busy talks programme meant we could focus our energies indoors, and who better to kick off the festival than Keith Clarkson. Keith is, among other things, a renowned expert on vismig – literally, the visible migration of birds that we can physically watch happening – and his base at Hunmanby Gap has become one of the meccas of the phenomenon in recent years.

Ring Ouzel – many arrived at both observatories during the week…. (Nigel Webster) 

Keith not only gave a captivating, inspiring talk to a packed house – another collboration with our friends at Scarborough Birders, a partnership we look forward to strengthening further – but was also there at dawn every morning throughout the week, sharing his knowledge and skills with the public during vismig drop-in sessions. These drop-ins proved a real hit, with many people experiencing migration first-hand and learning about the mysterious forces at play behind the phenomenon.

…. and some were good enough to grace the nets! (Dan Lombard)

Our talks programme was bigger and better than ever this year, with no fewer than nine spread throughout the festival, all of which were booked up well in advance. Sunday evening saw Will Scott and Craig Thomas share their local patch birding experiences with us at the Living Seas Centre, our main indoor hub for the week. Will is a great birder, ringer, communicator and migration junkie and at just 18 years old, is an inspiration to all, young and old. As Chairman of Flamborough Bird Observatory, Craig has done wonders to make FBO a more inclusive and dynamic group, and as a famously sharp-eyed birder, had many exciting stories to share. A memorable night and an inspiration for the rest of the week!

Meanwhile, outside the weather changed from our sworn enemy to our generous friend, and suddenly, it was raining birds! An opening in the conditions over the North Sea saw many, many thousands of migrants setting off from Scandinavia and arriving in constant, swirling squadrons here on the coast, with Filey and Flamborough showing just how important they are as focal points for this age-old, always enthralling wildlife extravaganza. Our ringing teams – too many to thank, but you know who you are! – did an amazing job of showing hundreds of visitors birds in the hand, and explaining why bird ringing is such a vital tool for gathering unique data and informing conservation decisions.

Birders on a walk led by Rich Baines celebrating Barred Warbler and Short-eared Owl a few seconds apart!

Many more people than ever before left the ringing demos with unforgettable experiences of these awe-inspring migrants up close and in the hand, augmented by the knowledge and enthusiasm imparted by our expert teams. Over the course of the week, as well as such beautiful migrants as Redwings, Fieldfares, Siskins, Redpolls and Bramblings, you might have been lucky enough to see tiny Yellow-browed Warblers from Siberia or even a Long-eared Owl, straight in from Scandinavia, just a few inches away!

Migweek recieved more media coverage than ever, helping to spread the word, encouarge more visitors, and gain even more new obs members!

Our guided walks proved to be a huge hit, as evidenced by the number of people attending each, all enjoying migration literally as it happened with our team of local experts – and anyone who was lucky enough to experience the mass arrival of incoming Redwings, Song Thrushes, Fieldfares, Skylarks, finches and more during the week is unlikely to forget it in a hurry!

Yellow-browed Warbler – one of many to star at Migweek (Mark Pearson)

Luckily this year, our timing was perfect, and we made the most of every minute. Again, our expert volunteers really pulled out the stops, and were able to show participants such quality birds as Short-eared Owls, Pomarine Skua, Hen Harrier, Barred Warblers, Slavonian Grebes,Yellow-browed Warblers, Great Northern Divers, Velvet Scoter and many, many more.

The Birding Basic workshop groups get to meet Scandinavian Bramblings (Mark Pearson)

Our keynote speaker for the Martin Garner Inspirational Talk – the closing event of Migweek – was the absurdly talented, engaging and understandably revered bird artist Darren Woodhead. Darren – like everyone involved in the week – gave his time and skills completely for free, travelling down from Scotland with his extended family in tow. Darren treated a packed house to a fantastic talk, followed by an amazing demonstration of how he creates his art, which had to be seen to be believed!

Darren ‘live-painting’ during his brilliant talk… (Mark Pearson)

Embodying the kind of commitment and generosity that has come to symbolise Migweek, Darren’s willingness to provide his services, skills and infectious enthusiasm for free means we can carry on organising a rich and varied choice of events and activities that are truly open to all, regardless of background – something we’re very proud to have committed to and maintained since our first Migweek three years ago.

…. and forcing the audience to smell his favourite paints! (Mark Pearson)

Brambling, Filey (MP)

A unique event in a series of unique events, all delivered by a fantastic team of passionate volunteers. There are too many people to thank, but mentions must go to all our ringers, speakers, walk leaders, hub volunteers and helpers, the YWT Living Seas Centre at Flamborough for providing our main talks venue and hub (completely free of charge), Tim and Scarborough Borough Council for logistical support at Filey, media contacts for helping with publicity (particularly BBC TV and radio and the national bird news services), and all those who helped spread the word far and wide.


Thanks too for all your support, before, during and after – as participants, whether from our local communities or many miles away, you’re part of what makes Migweek so special, and we sincerely hope you enjoyed it as much as we did. See you next year! 

Mark Pearson