This year, for only the second time, I visited the British Birdwatching Fair at Rutland Water. The fair took place over 3 days last weekend and is affectionately known as Birdfair. As on my first ever trip last year, I loved everything about it!
Despite my being on crutches on the day after a nasty ligament injury only a few days previously, I was able to hobble successfully to every stand imaginable. It has been described as The birdwatchers’ Glastonbury but for those of you who haven’t been (apart from the fact that I highly recommend you do!) I will try to explain what it is that makes it such a wonderful event:
1. The stands
Whatever your interest with wildlife may be there is a stand for you – although called the Birdfair, there are a great many other conservation organisations involved. These include, among others; Butterfly Conservation, Buglife, the British Arachnological Society, the British Dragonfly Society, and the Wildlife Trusts as well as those we might expect such as the BTO, RSPB, WWT, the Hawk and Owl Trust, Birdlife etc.
Along with these organisations there are a plethora of different conservation groups, wildlife tour companies, outdoor clothing specialists, booksellers and wildlife related product stockists selling things like bird food and feeders, nest boxes etc.
Talking of food, there is a good range of food suppliers for visitors too with everything from churros to cheese and bacon baps to burritos. What’s not to like!?
Of course as a photographer, one of the main attractions for me is the optics tents where I can drool over new and expensive pieces of kit, and try them out under the patient and ever watchful eye of the knowledgeable sales teams.
And then there is the Art Marquee…. where to even begin?! This is quite simply a marquee full of artists displaying their work but there is so much beauty in this one tent, it is quite breath-taking. I love to paint in my spare time (not that I get much opportunity) but I don’t know that I could ever produce an artwork with such detail as Richard Lewington, or the delicacy of Andrew Mackay. And then there was Darren Woodhead (whose wonderful watercolour artworks make me swoon), his stand never fails to impress… if only I had a few hundred thousand pounds to spare and an acre or two of wall space…but I digress.
2. The people
Going to the Birdfair, even on your own, is never really a lonely affair. There are always people to meet and talk to who are not only like-minded but chatty and welcoming, and who take a genuine interest in what you have to say.
There is also a growing contingent on social media, Twitter in particular, who want to meet up and put a face to the name they have been chatting with online. There are those too whom you met last year and haven’t seen since – Birdfair always provides a great opportunity for catching up.
Being still a relatively small event there is an opportunity to bump into some of your wildlife idols too – Chris Packham, Nick Baker, Bill Oddie, Simon King to name but a few. There are also book signings by a wide variety of authors on all 3 days.
3. The talks
This is the trickiest bit logistically for me. For each of the 3 days there are talks at half hour intervals across 5 lecture venues. They are all wonderful and I find it incredibly difficult to choose which to attend! This year my favourite talk was about the Wildfowl and Wetland Trust who are celebrating 70 years since they were founded by the great Sir Peter Scott. It was fascinating, informative, inspirational and amusing in places too.
As it is hosted at Rutland Water, there are often organised activities too such as guided walks around parts of the reserve or boat trips out to see the Ospreys.
So that is my summary of the fantastic event that is Birdfair, a great day out and with something for everyone. The best bit of all though is that by attending you are supporting global conservation projects – it’s surely a no-brainer… If you haven’t been already then you should definitely give it a go next year!