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Some thoughts about Birdfair 2014

Egyptian Geese

Birdfair, a bit like Eygptian Geese, can divide opinion!

We always look forward to our annual pilgrimage to Birdfair at Rutland Water, so many people to catch up with and so much to see and do. As usual we travelled down on the Thursday to help set up the Leica and Tropical Birding stands. All was well over at Leica in the optics marquee with a very smart new stand already looking good. A few finishing touches were added including a lovely photo of a breeding plumaged Spoon-billed Sandpiper, a super photo of Black-headed Gulls, very arty and a solid silver sculpture of an Arctic Tern. Back at Tropical Birding no sign of the guys or girls, oh heck!

Into nearby Oakham for a great meal, but not many birders in sight, where were they all? Then down to Uppingham and the Lake Isle Hotel for a good nights sleep before three very busy days at the fair. Our nights sleep was disturbed by a banging on our door - which we ignored thinking it was a lost drunk - then by Ruth's mobile ringing! It turned out to be Sam, from Tropical Birding who had just arrived! All was not well, bad enough to be delayed but worse news, Sam's bag was missing containing all the Tropical Birding stuff for the fair. But more bad news was to come, Desiree from the Ecuador office was lost in transit! With no news from Desiree we tried to get back to sleep.

At breakfast Sam was on good form despite his lack of luggage but still no word from Desiree, where was she? Off to Birdfair and more bad news! We had hoped to quickly set up the Tropical Birding stand but a problem, no floor on the stand! Sam set off to find one and soon returned with two of the Birdfair volunteers who had bad news, no flooring left. However they did find some carpet and put that down just in time. Still no word from poor Desiree! Where was she?

One thing that was very noticable this year - Hen Harriers. It was great to see many "Hen Harrier Day" T-shirts being worn with pride and a very large "Harry the Harrier" standing by the Wildlife Crime unit, and many people taking selfies with the model - one of the very few Hen Harriers left in England due to persecution on grouse moors. Mark Avery was at Birdfair, of course, and it was great to hear so many people saying what brilliant work Mark had done with Hen Harrier Day, and rightly so! We had breakfast with Mark on Saturday and it was great to talk harriers and more.

Talking of our breakfast with Mr Avery it was a breakfast organised by Fair to Nature, thank you Simon Tonkin for the invite. Fair to Nature are working for a rich and vibrant countryside teeming with wildlife, by working with farmers. By working with conservation bodies, farmers, food companies and supermarkets the aim is to deliver a farmland good for all. Over breakfast Mike Dilger presented awards for best practice to three great farmers, not often I type those words! Charles Porter and Ian Crabtree picked up highly commended awards and this years winner was Graham Birch, well done all for helping wildlife while running succesful farms - it can be done!

To find out much more please take a look here...

Asian Pied Starling 1

Asian Pied Starling taken in Thailand, just one of the locations in our talk.

There was an amazing array of talks running throughout Birdfair and it would be quite possible to spend all three days going from one talk to another! Our talk on "Birdfair to Birdfair" went down well even if it did not quite pull in the 700 plus people Chris Packham attracted, he was talking at the same time as us, not good timing for us!

It was very useful to catch up with many of the people that help us with our tours so we visited the Estonia and Costa Rica stands to talk about our forthcoming trips, very excited! So many other amazing destinations to dream about so watch this space for more new ideas. Some people feel there are to many holiday companies at Birdfair but surely if they are not doing enough buisness they would not come, so there must be demand for the companies to attend? If you don't like them don't visit them, simple.

We spent half of each day on the Leica Sports Optics stand at the far end of the Optics Marquee. This is a great place to be as not only do we get to use superb optics and meet lovely people but we can see birds too! We were able to watch wildfowl, waders and more from this great view point. An Osprey showed off hovering over the lake and a flashy male Yellow Wagtail made an ideal subject to best the new Leica adaptor that boosts the scope magnification to a whooping 90 times!

One thing that would be good to improve at Birdfair would be the food, not great quality and over-priced. It would be wonderful to see the same choice of food as holiday destinations!

Rutland Water has great birding right next to the Birdfair and it is a pity more people don't look at the birds! Or maybe there is just so much to see and do in the fair that most people don't have time to enjoy the birds here?

Should Birdfair keep getting bigger? Should Birdfair be longer? I am undecided on this, every Sunday late afternoon I wish Birdfair was longer, the list of people we did not catch up with was much longer than usual this year. We did not see much of the event so that suggests it should not be bigger but then bigger could attract more visitors and possibly inspire more people to love and then conserve birds? Could the costs come down? A good few people this year, more than any other year, were voicing their disatisfaction with the price of entry and the costs of food and drink. Would a drop in price draw more people in? Not sure but it might stop the moaning!

It was brilliant to see some really keen young birders at the event, but we need more of them! How can we encourage more young birders? More events for younger people? A Birdfair Bird Race with celebrity team captains might be fun and would get people out birding during the three days. Make it two hours so it doesn't stop the enjoyment of the fair? Might work. Talks for young birders only? Maybe not, we want them to be part of the whole birding community not a seperate body?

Oh, by the way Desiree arrived 24 hours late after her flight was delayed, Sam's bag was found but never made it as far as Birdfair!

Can't wait for Birdfair 2015 hope to see you there!

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