As we're getting into Swift season here at Spurn, we thought we'd highlight this passage that often gets missed off birders calendars. One the great Spurn experiences is to witness the spectacular passing of thousands of Swifts in early to mid-summer. Visitors cannot fail to notice small parties and large flocks as they wheel down the peninsula or pass low over the sea, with some screaming past just inches from the observer.
Spurn is widely acknowledged as being the swift capital of Britain — more species of swift have been recorded than at any other site in the country — so there is always a chance that a rarer species will be picked out amongst the hordes. And already in 2021 there has been a Pacific Swift seen in Northumberland which surely stands a good chance of coming through the Warren at some point in the coming weeks?! This north to south movement begins in mid June reaching a peak in the first half of July before petering away after the first week of August. This is probably Spurn’s most iconic bird and it has been the emblem of the Observatory for many years.
The best days for passage are usually between 20th June and 10th July with a fresh south-west to westerly wind and a series of squally showers moving through. Movements can continue all day, and this is when the highest counts have been achieved: 21,000 on 4th July 2010 is the most on record followed by 20,000 on each of 23rd June 1970 and 25th June 1989, 16,000 on 25th June 1993 and finally 15,000 on 7th August 1986 and 9th July 1991.
The fact that so many birds are passing at the height of the breeding season begs many questions. Are these feeding birds just moving around in front of depressions, or overshoots making their way back to the Continent, or perhaps non-breeding birds making an early start south back to their wintering grounds? Trapping has confirmed that most are first summer birds.
This truely is an experience like no other and one that if you time it well you'll never forget. We've got plenty of bed space avaliable at the Observatory for the rest of June and into July, so why not book a few days and experience the magic of Swift passage at Spurn? Drop Jonnie an email on accommodation.spurnbirdobs 'at' hotmail.comBack to news
Posted: 17 June 2021
Thanks to all the many photographers who allow us to use their images on this site, in particular Dave McAleavey, Martin Standley, Mike Watson, Richard Willison.