Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Spurn depicted even earlier than 1958 , 1950 in fact !!!

I found this reference yesterday whilst researching out some details on Spurn.  It's a film made in 1950, so almost seventy years ago, and less than a decade after the Spurn Bird Observatory was brought into being. I'd never seen it before and suggest it's essential viewing for anyone with an interest in Spurn, its birds or the Observatory.

Click on this link       Film on Spurn Bird Observatory

There are a number of remarkable things about the scenes depicted. Clearly it was de rigeur to wear a long macintosh,  a  flat cap , stout boots and carry a large stick when driving a Heligoland trap, oh , and be in a suit, preferably with waistcoat !!!  Plus too, note the sheer numbers of people involved in guiding the birds into the trap.

Early days, even to the extent of showing the preferred way of using a Dolland and Aitchison Target Major telescope ! It might all look rather amateurish, but it must be acknowledged that , from such efforts, grew the observatory network we see to day, including Spurn which grows from strength to strength.  Who would have thought that those early efforts by Ralph Chislett and his colleagues would result in the situation we see today where an award winning book on the birds of Spurn has been published, on land being owned and a new observatory building set up. Tribute indeed and one that leads to a confidence that other such initiatives are likely to follow in the future.  A great place, a great example and continuing great efforts in the cause of  bird migration studies. And remember, you can do your bit too by becoming a Friend of Spurn ( see the Observatory web site for details ) so that the necessary ideas of the future can move forward.

Spurn remembered 1958 !

Now I suspect this entry will cause some hilarity in some quarters, not without justification I guess !!  Even a glimpse at the reproduced diary entries below , the writing style, the layout, the simplicity and so on, points at humble beginnings. But that was how it was , folks !  It serves to show that enthusiasm was high and efforts just as focused even if the outcomes weren't perhaps as extensive as today.

In August, 1958 I was sixteen. I'd been to Spurn before on day trips but never stayed over for any period. A birding friend of mine at grammar school , Geoff Aynsley, and I decided to spend a holiday at the observatory during the last couple of weeks of August. This involved getting a train from Barnsley to Doncaster,   Doncaster to Hull  and then a bus to Spurn from Hull itself.  No M62 in those days !

There was no full time warden in those days, but one, Lt.Colonel H.G. Brownlow, was in residence at the Warren for the autumn of that year, supervising ringing and general arrangements and soon had us sorted out. We met up with other birders staying at the observatory ( Bill Curtis, Colin Pask, Ken Hardcastle , George Edwards and Charlie Winn ) and were soon into the swing of things.  The initial thing we were "recruited into" was a drive on the Heligoland trap. A "semi-long" in the parlance of our military advisor !  This started at the gate I believe, but his  "long version" started at the Blue Bell and involved disturbing each and every bush so hoping that any hapless birds made their way towards the Warren trap. In a way it was exciting stuff really ! After that we went seawatching for the remainder of the day, but were also given some "lucid" rejoinders from Charlie Winn as to what our responses should be to the almost incessant requests for long and semi-long heligoland drives.  Charlie became a close friend during the time I was in Yorkshire , an ace birder and , shall we say, an exceptional character !  His three wheel "van"  ( watch a similar version owned by the Trotter family in "Only Fools and Horses" ) guaranteed a near death experience  when negotiating Hull traffic and roundabouts !


Click to enlarge images.

I was to spend many days , if not weeks ,  at Spurn in the decade afterwards, and since returning from Scotland recentlyI can again take my fill of this wonderful place. This particular  holiday though still stands out vividly in my memory as do many other periods which followed "in the early days". A rite of passage in many ways and an intro to a lifetime's passion.  Things have changed , and continue to change at Spurn , but that essential magic is still present. For example, there were three fields to cross from the Warren to the coast in those days ; nowadays the rigours of coastal erosion  have ensured the sea is a very close neighbour of Warren Cottage itself.!