Ye Olde Brytish Byrd Faire
Ahh! The British Birdwatching Fair! The world's largest gathering of bird aficionados--kindred spirits to us all. Looking for something--anything--having to do with birds? It's probably here. Lots of neat new products, great books we'll never see in the U.S., clothing MADE FOR BIRDING! And the Bird Fair even has a beer tent. U.S. birding festivals please take note....
More than 20,000 bird watchers wend their way to north-central England each August for this unique event. I try to go as often as I can, but as travel to Europe has gotten more expensive, it's gotten tougher to make it to Rutland Water, an RSPB reserve that is the site of The British Birdwatching Fair.
The BirdFair is set up inside of several huge tents, called marquees. I think there were at least five different marquees, plus two optics marquees, and an art marquee. Even though I spent parts of three days there, map in hand, I never really felt I got the lay of the land. Everywhere I looked I saw something else interesting and someone I wanted to talk with about birds and birding.
Perhaps the most fabulous thing about the BirdFair is the set up for trying optics. In two different optics marquees perched on the shore of Rutland Water, all the major optics companies are set up, side-by-side. This allows attendees to sample the optics under actual field conditions, looking at actual wild birds! I'm not sure what the sales figures are, but I saw a steady stream of grinning bird watchers walking out of the optics marquees clutching new optics. I was sorely tempted to buy several binocs I tested. Thank the gods that the exchange rate made such purchases insanely expensive for me.
The optics marquees were jammed all day long with eager bird watchers sampling the world's finest binoculars and scopes.
The BirdFair always features a large number of bird and wildlife artists in the art marquee. Nearly all of the participating artists contribute their time and talents to creating a large mural
The BirdFair annually chooses a bird conservation cause to support. This year it was highlighting the world's most critically endangered birds and these species were painted onto the BirdFair mural by the participating artists.
I got to hang with my pals from Guatemala at the BirdFair. They were there telling people about all the wonderful birds that can be seen in their lovely country.
Dozens of other organizations were also at the BirdFair promoting birding tourism in their regions and countries. This booth is promoting birding in Uganda.
I got to see several dear friends at the BirdFair. Among them were (from left) Nicholas Hammond of The Wildlife Trusts, Lisa White from Houghton Mifflin, and David Quinn, bird artist extraordinaire.
While visiting with Mavourneen from Lawson's Birdwatching Tours (at left, back) I was surprised to see this very friendly Englishman wearing a T-shirt (from High Island in Texas) with one of Julie's designs on it. Had to snap a pic of that moment! It's a small world after all....