I don't have time to write a full account of this year's fair, but suffice to say that it was a hugely enjoyable and entertaining time, filled with enthusiastic birders and young conservationists, interesting talks, a plethora of cool stands and plenty of wildlife too! I will give you a brief summary of the events from my point of view...
You could easily spend the whole of the three days wandering around the fair simply looking and browsing through the plethora of different stands on offer. Many of the stands outlined birding destinations from all around the World, from the Falklands to the depths of Taiwan. It was great fun to have a look and see what the possibilities were for worldwide travel, but dangerous at the same time! Some of the more interesting stalls (for me) were that of organisations like Butterfly Conservation (sporting a box full of cool moths); Birdlife International (dishing out the recent facts of the number of birds shot in the Med each year: 'The Killing'); Biotope (where NGBs James O'Neill and Jonnie Fisk created some fantastic and unique wildlife artwork to improvise for lost posters); League Against Cruel Sports (where one could learn more about the current travesties under way in the UK); and The British Arachnological Society (where you could browse through Kent Raft Spider specimens and learn more about the recording of this fascinating genus). Some of my favourite stands were located in the Art Marque: looking at the outstanding work of artists like Ian and Richard Lewington, Keith Brockie, Darren Woodhead and Carry Akroyd, whilst admiring the photography of inspiring photographers like David Tipling, Chris Gomersall and Oliver Smart.
With five lecture marquees at this year's Birdfair, there were a huge number of interesting and informative talks scheduled for the weekend. I sat in on a great range of talks, ranging from trip reports to Kazakhstan and Madagascar to watching Richard and Ian Lewington examine the contents of a Skinner Moth trap set overnight. I really enjoyed the talks I managed to get to...here are some of them: Dan Brown and camera trapping for BiOME consulting, Nick Acheson on the wildlife of Madagascar, hope for birds in the Eastern Mediterranean by Claire Thompson, Wildlife wonders of Cornwall by Jack Perks, Wildlife Trusts - a mammal watcher's guide by Lucy McRobert, Kazakhstan- birding the mountains and deserts by Dan Free, and Bird Brain of Britain chaired by Bill Oddie. Those are just a handful of the talks I visited and throroughly enjoyed.
It would have been great to get to more talks, but time just seems to fly by when you're at the Birdfair, and it is so hard to choose which talks to see!
For me, one of the best things of Birdfair is meeting friends and fellow young birders amongst the gathering of like-minded people that results from such an event. It is fantastic to meet so many birders, photographers and conservationists that I know only through social media- putting faces to names is great fun, and something I don't get to do that often living on an isolated island off North Wales! Bumping into friends from all over the UK and further afield is also great fun, in particular the members of the groups 'Next Generation Birders', and 'A Focus On Nature' (AFON). These groups are places where any young person interested in the environment and wildlife can connect with other like-minded people through social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter. Every now and then there will be a large gathering of members at events such as Birdfair. This year was brilliant, with so many new members to meet and talk to, plus catching up with others that I have met just once or twice.
The only thing with so many familiar faces is that it can take over an hour just walk through one of the marquees!
The future of conservation and birding in the UK - some of the members of AFON and Next Generation Birders (C) Katie Nethercoat
It isn't just the event that produces interest- the wildlife that can be found around the Rutland Water Nature Reserve and lake is brilliant. The large reserve is home to many hides, several lagoons, large reed beds and areas of bush and woodland. The reserve attracts some great species, which included a Great White Egret, several Black Terns and a Wood Sandpiper over the Birdfair weekend, whilst the breeding Ospreys could also be seen at intervals over the lake. Birding from the hides produces waders such as Lapwings, Green Sandpipers and Little Ringed Plovers, whilst it was great to see good numbers of Swallows, House Martins and Sand Martins flying southward bound for their wintering grounds. . In the calm and pleasant sunny conditions on Saturday, it was cool to see species like Brown Hawkers, Common Blue Damselflies and plenty of other odonata species. A Marsh Tit amongst a feeding flock of Long-tailed Tits, Whitethroats, Blackcaps, Willow Warblers and Great Tits along the lakeshore was a very jammy new species for my Biritsh List!
So all in all it was yet another superb Birdfair, and I hope that the target of raising £300,000 for Birdlife International was met. Until next year...