Another standout moment was standing in the still, rose- coloured dawn in the Negev Desert with Martin, Itai Shanni (Alaemon Birding) and Laura Kammermeier (Nature Travel Network) scanning the sands for Hoopoe Lark. Itai showed us a trail of fresh lark footprints, but we didn’t see any actual birds. Usually, my ‘glass-half- empty’ attitude would have made me disappointed to have dipped, but Martin’s ‘glassalways-full’ showed me that sometimes it is the experience and company that is important. The thing I took most from my time in Israel with Martin was his never-ending questioning! “Oooh, those Sand Martins look small, don’t they Neil?” “Have you looked at these Swifts, Neil? I think they could be pekinensis”. “HEY NEIL! Look at that interesting Collared Pratincole! It could be a new subspecies for the Western Palearctic!” And that sums up Martin Garner in a nutshell: always asking questions; always inclusive; always encouraging; always discovering and enticing others to go with him on that journey of discovery. A year later, I received a phone call out of the blue. “Hi Neil, it’s Martin Garner. I’m in a meeting in the Rose and Crown at Kilnsea and we have decided to organize Britain’s first Migration Festival. We need someone to write an article to publicise it and I thought of you! Where are you now?” And here’s the thing: Martin Garner’s life has been punctuated by happy coincidences, being in the right place at the right time for good things to happen. He put this firmly down to divine intervention – and it just so happened that I was stepping out of the car at Spurn to see a vagrant Rock Thrush. I literally had to walk a hundred yards to meet the excited, smiling face of Mr G! People talk about leaving a legacy. Martin Garner has left many legacies to many differing people in his all-too-short life, but The Spurn Migration Festival surely stands as a testament to all he stood for. The ‘Mig Fest’, as it is fondly known, welcomes birders of all ages and abilities and instils in them a sense of wonder at the miracle of bird migration. My final memory of MG I’d like to share came at Mig Fest. Martin had found a potential blythi Lesser Whitethroat in the pub car park. When I arrived, he was explaining to a small crowd why he thought it was one. In that crowd was a keen teenage birdwatcher. After the bird had shown again and photos had been taken, I introduced the young birder to Martin. I left them poring over photos they had taken, discussing the ID: always asking questions, always inclusive, always encouraging, always on a journey. So a fond farewell, my friend; you have left a huge Martin Garner-shaped hole in the birding world and, like the phantom Hoopoe Lark that left footprints in the Negev sands, you left an indelible footprint on the birding landscape. You will be missed. Martin leaves behind a loving wife, Sharon, and two daughters, Abi and Emily. Martin was a driving force behind the festival that celebrates Spurn’s amazing migration spectacles Martin celebrates another birding find Martin meeting the winners of the first Young Birder of the Year competition at Spurn Migration Festival, 2015
Martin was always asking questions; always inclusive; always encouraging; always discovering
MIG FEST BOOM!