Sunday, 30 August 2015

BIRDFAIR 2015

I love Birdfair! This year was my second time at the event, and I left on Saturday evening no less overwhelmed (in a good way) than I did last year. Birdfair is a truly incredible event, in which an astonishing amount of like-minded, passionate people from all over the UK meet up, to enjoy stalls and talks from the likes of Chris Packham, Simon King and Nick Baker. Rutland water is a lovely location to host the event, with stunning wildlife around the reserve, and lots of space for the various marquees, also being very convenient as it's only an hour away from my house! The event lasts three days but this year I could only attend the Friday and Saturday as I was off to the Cairngorms on the Sunday, which was a shame but who can complain when you're heading up to Scotland in search of even more wildlife?! So I was up early on Friday morning getting ready to set off for a very memorable two days…

White throat at the BTO ringing stand!
After arriving at Rutland waters I rushed to the art marquee, which is one of my favourite aspects of Birdfair, where artists like Richard Lewington and Darren Woodward display their work. I adore Darren’s work and very much enjoyed chatting to him for a while, however some of his work is a little out of my Birdfair budget! The thing I especially like about the art marquee is the sheer diversity of style, with some artist focusing on sculptures, watercolour or ceramics, whilst others do almost photographic drawings and identification illustrations. Even though I have recently done three art-based GCSEs I don’t class myself as a wildlife artist, but that’s something I want to change, and Birdfair is a great way to collect ideas and inspiration. After finishing a quick tour of the art marquee I went to meet up with Sorrel Lyall so that we could both go to a live moth trapping event in which the content of Thursday nights moth trap was released and ID’ed in front of a live audience. I am slowly becoming more and more interested in Lepidoptera after doing work experience at the Natural History Museum at the beginning of the summer, so it was nice to see some moths up-close and personal at Birdfair without them being dead in a box! 

The second event I went to was 'On the trail of a whale' by wildlife photographer and cameraman, Mark Carwardine (who has recently been working with the BBC on the wildlife series Big Blue Live). Whales are such majestic creatures and I can't understand how anyone could wish to directly harm them. Mark explained to us how new scientific studies have revealed a new way of accurately ageing an individual, using an amino acid found in the lens cap or teeth of the whale. Astonishingly, one of the whales tested (a Bowhead senior) was found to be 211 years old…surviving through the heyday of whaling, the industrial revolution and the sinking of the titanic. What an incredible fact, something that all modern day whalers should be told…they're not only ending a life, they are also destroying a living artefact. The penultimate talk which I attended towards the end of the day was 'Top tips for wildlife gardening' by Steve Lovell, which was very useful for both my wildlife garden and also the 'Urban Garden Project' (See 6th tab at top of page).

Sat down ready for the evening event to start.


On the Friday evening I went to watch the main event of the day, with a few others including Kate Macrae (AKA WildlifeKate), starring Chris Packham, Simon King and Nick Baker. The talk was compered by two young birders, Georgia Locock and Josie Hewitt, both of which I know from Twitter. All three speakers were hilarious, revealing personal anecdotes from over their many years in the wildlife-filmmaking industry. I was very pleased for both Georgia and Josie, especially when they received Zeiss binoculars as a thank you gift, even if I was slightly jealous! After the event I headed home to try to get a relatively good sleep so I was ready for the second day…

Various moths and dragonflies spotted around the reserve.


I arrived on the Saturday morning not quite realizing how hot it was going it be! With all the talks and events in greenhouse-like marquees it did get pretty stuffy…however not enough to dampen my spirit! Sorrel and I went to our second moth-focused talk of the weekend: a moth identification class by Tony Davis, which gave an insight into the most common moths of the UK and how you go about trapping and ID'ing them. After the talk I even went and bought myself a beginners moth identification book! The next talk was presented by the BTO and featured three young birders, Georgia, Josie and a photographer called Connor Coombes. All three were brilliant (but I would have liked to see more of Connor's photographs!), and after the event I met up with many other young birders who had also attended the talk (including Toby Carter, Ben Moyes, Evie Miller, Abbie Miller, Sam Pit Miller, Max Hellicar, Noah Walker, Sorrel Lyall and Zach. All of us went on a short walk around the reserve and visited various hides, spotting little egrets, wood sandpiper and Dunlin amongst many other species. 

I was very much looking forward to the final two talks of the day as both were by AFON (A focus on nature) committee members. The first was a summary of AFON's work and objectives by Beth Aucott, and the seconds was 'Wildlife in Trust: A Mammal-Watcher’s Guide' by Lucy McRobert, the creative director of AFON. The talk consisted of the UK's mammal species, their general information and sighting hotspots. After the talk there was an AFON and NGB (Next generation birders) meet up, where all members, both young and old, gathered to meet new like-minded people and catch up with familiar faces. 


Over the two days I managed to chat with a fair few people (mostly from Twitter), including Jack Perks, Ryan Clark, James Common, Megan Shersby, Matt Adam Williams, Susan Jones, Adam Canning, Peter Cooper, Tiffany Imogen and many MANY more (too many to list unfortunately!) If you missed this years Birdfair you really missed a treat…but there is always next year! I'm already looking forward to it…

THANK YOU BIRDFAIR!