The Martin Garner Spurn Young Birder of the Year

14 Dec 2021 | No. 2021-60

Fifteen year-old Corin Woodhead, from Scotland, was named Martin Garner Spurn Young Birder of the Year in the senior category and ten year old Levi Gravett in the junior category, at the 2021 Spurn Migration Festival, ahead of four other young finalists (two in each category) and 15 young birders who entered this year's competition.

Working together, MigFest partners, the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) and Spurn Bird Observatory, opened the contest to young birders from across the UK, with a preliminary round which took place earlier in the summer. This comprised an on-line questionnaire covering the entrants’ birding experience, confidence in identifying closely related species, local patch work, record keeping and commitment to the world of birding. Those eligible had to be 16 years or under on the day of the final. 

Some 15 entries were received from across the UK, and the BTO and Spurn joint assessment team faced the difficult task of choosing the finalists. Those selected were contacted and given a short introductory chat by Skype, as much to reassure them and their parents that they would receive great support, and that the event on ‘final day’ would be fun as well as providing a great opportunity for learning and meeting like-minded young birders.  

The morning of Saturday 11 September saw the finalists and their parents assembled at Spurn for a briefing from chief judge Sarah Harris, a member of the Spurn Bird Observatory committee and part of the BTO staff team helping to deliver MigFest. Next it was straight out into the field, each contestant accompanied by an assessor, rotating around various stages. These included a sea-watch, an estuary watch, looking for migrant birds in the bushes and identifying species migrating overhead. During each field stage the finalists had to identify three species selected by the assessor, as well as answering several supplementary questions and this was accompanied by a ‘lab assessment’ where bird population change, calls and songs, migration and bird topography were discussed.

Sarah HarrisChief Judge of MGSYB competition, said, "It was fantastic to meet the six Martin Garner Spurn Young Birder finalists this year and to experience their extraordinary bird knowledge and identification skills. All five judges were blown away by their depth of knowledge, at such a young age, during the Saturday morning's birding. A very well done to Corin and Levi for being crowned the overall winners of the MGSYB21 competition. The whole MigFest organisational team look forward to seeing the finalists out in the field, birding, sometime soon!"

“All the finalists can feel justly proud of their achievements, and we hope they will keep returning to Spurn where we want young birders to enjoy some great birding and fun and friendship in a welcoming and supportive environment here at the observatory”, said , Rob Adams, Chairman of Spurn Bird Observatory, adding “a big thank you to the contestants, and all who helped make the contest such a success."

The six finalists were Corin Woodhead, Levi Gravett, Josiah Evans, Felix Urwin, Jenny Allen and Conor Boakes. The finalists were aged between 8 and 16 and were divided into two groups of three - seniors 14-16 and juniors 8-13.

The observatory decided to honour their former committee member, Migfest co-founder and internationally renowned ornithologist, the late Martin Garner, by naming the contest the 'Martin Garner Award for Spurn Young Birder of the Year'. The main trophy remains proudly displayed in the observatory. At the Saturday evening lecture session, the finalists were all invited up on to the stage where they received rapturous applause from the large audience, who clearly appreciated their courage in taking part and their birding skills. The presentations were made by Ornithologist and Bird Artist, Killian Mullarney and Spurn Bird Observatory Chairman Rob Adams, with the senior winner receiving a brand new pair of binoculars kindly donated by Swarovski and the junior winner receiving a brand new pair of binoculars kindly donated by Opticron. All finalists received other prizes including inscribed trophies and a year's membership of the Friends of Spurn and the BTO, signed copies of the Collins Bird Guide courtesy of Killian Mullarney, as well as subscriptions from Rare Bird Alert and the Oriental Bird Club. 

So it’s onwards to MigFest 2022, when the quest will return to find a future Martin Garner Award winners.

Contact Details
Paul Stancliffe
 (BTO Media Manager)
Mobile: 07585 440910
Email: press [at] (subject: News%20release%20enquiry)

Mike Toms (Head of Communications)
Mobile 07850 500791
Email: press [at] (subject: News%20release%20enquiry)

Images are available for use alongside this News Release. These can be downloaded from this link for which you will need to enter the password MGSYB202160 alternatively, please contact press [at] quoting reference 2021-60

Notes for editors

Migfest 2021
 was the eighth annual migration festival to be held at the Spurn Bird Observatory.

BTO is the UK's leading bird research charity. A growing membership and up to 60,000 volunteer birdwatchers contribute to BTO's surveys, collecting information that underpins conservation action in the UK. BTO maintains a staff of 100 at its offices in Thetford, Stirling, Bangor (Wales) and Belfast (Northern Ireland), who analyse and publicise the results of surveys and projects. BTO's work is funded by BTO supporters, government, trusts, industry and conservation organisations.

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