The British Birdwatching Fair at Rutland Water brings together a gathering of 22,000 wildlife professionals and wildlife enthusiasts over 3 days of birdwatching, a wide programme of events, exhibitions and trade stands. It is jointly organised by Leicestershire & Rutland Wildlife Trust and the RSPB and has something for everyone. Above all, the Fair is a great place to catch up on news and meet up with friends.
As Global Sponsor of the BirdLife International Flyways Programme, Birdfair 2012 is raising funds to support conservation action in the East Asian/Australasian Flyway Programme helping conservation efforts to protect intertidal wetlands. Simon Stuart, Chair of the IUCN Species Survival Commission, formed part of the opening discussion panel and spoke about the issues facing migratory species. The Fair was opened by HE U Kyaw Myo Htut, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Myanmar.
Grasslands play a vital role in providing habitat and food for the world’s migratory species but are under threat on a global scale from agriculture, farming and the timber industry. Almost half of the UK’s migratory birds have experienced a severe decline in numbers in recent decades. By protecting grassland habitats, we can not only safeguard the increasingly endangered migratory birds, but also mitigate the effects of climate change though the conservation of grasslands that produce oxygen and act as carbon sinks.
I met up with Andrew Branson, Grasslands Trust Trustee and publisher of British Wildlife Magazine. He was delighted with our new Grasslands Trust Membership Pack. The stand was buzzing with people signing up for the journal and publications.
I caught up with Mark Avery at his book signing for his new publication Fighting for Birds. Mark was RSPB’s conservation director for 12 years and he is now writing professionally about nature conservation. In his talk in the afternoon, Mark highlighted three key issues that particularly concern him: the need to further secure protection of birds of prey, the dramatic decline of farmland birds, and the idea that conservation NGO’s could become more effective and influential by following more competitive business practises.
Kevin Cox became our newest member! I met him on the stand of the World Land Trust, for which we are both Council Members. WLT have a great team and it was good to visit the stand with the added bonus of free coffee! There is a lot to see with 6 marquees, 3 lecture tents and the Arts Tent as well as lots of smaller exhibits. The Fair is also a fantastic ecotourism event with knowledgeable and enthusiastic exhibitors.
A number of conservation organisations had stands and at BSBI stand (Botanical Society of the British Isles) it was good to discuss their upcoming Annual Exhibition Meeting in Cambridge later in the year where we will be exhibiting a poster on our work on protecting and restoring grasslands in the UK.
The BGCI Stand (Botanic Gardens Conservation International) looked great – well done to the team – Sara, Catherine and Chetna. It was also in a great location to meet people. Chatting with the Secretary General, Sara Oldfield, we caught up with another friend and colleague, Kathy MacKinnon, Vice Chair of the IUCN World Commission on Protected Areas. Kathy is shortly leaving for the 2012 IUCN Congress in Jeju, Korea where issues facing the world’s grasslands will be part of the programme of discussions.
The status of the world’s seabirds has deteriorated rapidly over recent decades and several species and populations are now perilously close to extinction. Hundreds of thousands of seabirds are accidentally snared by the long-line fishing vessels. Albatrosses especially, have become increasingly threatened at a faster rate than any other species. I ended a really super day with a visit to the Langford Press Stand to meet up with my friend Bruce Pearson, the wonderful wildlife artist who was exhibiting paintings for his new book and exhibition Troubled Waters. Last year, Bruce revisited South Georgia and the Southern Ocean after 35 years. Working with BirdLife International and the Albatross Task Force, he joined the crew of a long-line fishing boat and a trawler, off the coast of South Africa. Bruce weaves together his artist’s personal story about his journey, following the lives of the albatrosses.
The British Birdfair is fun, interesting and importantly, sets bird conservation in the context of the global ecosystems that support birdlife worldwide through the provision of habitat, food resources, and critical staging posts for the annual migration of billions of birds a year. Eco-tourism not only significantly contributes to the funds needed for conservation but also enables us to visit wonderful areas to see the wildlife and flora they support. Grasslands worldwide provide unique and special habitats that need protection and restoration. Here in the UK, the work is critical, if we are to save the remaining 3% of our ancient pastures and meadows. The dramatic decline of the British farmland birds, discussed by Mark Avery, in his talk is a case in point. We wish the IUCN Commission on Protected Areas and the IUCN Species Survival Commission every success in their meeting and deliberations in September at the World Conservation Congress and hope the outcomes help us all in our work to protect and preserve our landscapes, unique wildlife and flora and heritage.
Many thanks to the British Birdfair 2012 team and I look forward to visiting next year – British Birdfair 2013. See you on 16, 17 & 18 August 2013!
~ Elaine Shaughnessy, Director of Communications