Birdfair: Birdwatching and Conservation

Kingfisher bird
Kingfisher. Source: Flicker by Sheffield Tiger

The British Birdwatching Fair is an annual ornithological event held at Rutland Water. Rutland water is a large reservoir and nature reserve located about 20 miles east of Leicester.

There are regularly in excess of 20,000 waterfowl at Rutland water making it one of the most important wildfowl sanctuaries in Great Britain. It is also a site of special scientific interest. Therefore it is an ideal venue for Birdfair.

What is BirdFair?

British Birdwatching Birdfairs have been held annually since 1989. The aim of Birdfair is:

to get birdwatchers together to celebrate birds, to develop a commercial fair for the birdwatching industry and to support international conservation projects.

Birdfair is held at Rutland Water.
Birdfair is held at Rutland Water. Source: Flickr by JasonRogersFooDogGiraffeBee

Birdfair 2009 will be held on 21, 22 & 23 August. There will be a host of stands selling products and gear for bird watchers and wildlife enthusiasts, lectures, quizzes – including “Bird Brain of Britain“, book launches and an auction. There will also be a celebrity lecture by popular writer and broadcaster Simon Barnes.

Birdfair is organised by Tim Appleton & Martin Davies, with the help of The Leicestershire and Rutland Wildlife Trust, The RSPB and over 170 volunteers. Tickets cost £10 for 1 day, £18 for 2 days or £24 for 3 days. Every penny of the entrance fee goes towards international bird conservation projects. For more information see the Birdfair website.

This is the event of the year if you’re into birds and wildlife.

Critically Endangered Birds

The waved Albatross is a critically endangered species of bird.
The waved Albatross is a critically endangered species of bird. Source: Flickr by sly06.

A major part of Birdfair is its support for international conservation projects. The current project, which is of extreme importance, is Saving Critically Endangered birds. Worldwide there are currently 192 bird species that are identified as critically endangered birds. Most of these species live in parts of the world where there are not many ornithologists, so not much is known about them. In many cases these species have severely restricted ranges and tiny global populations below 50 individuals. The countries of Brazil and Indonesia both have a high number of bird species on the critically endangered species list. Therefore the conservation work is of utmost importance to prevent extinction of these rare species of birds. The 2008 Birdfair raised a record £265,000 for this project.

To date Birdfair has raised £2,000,000 which has been used to help fund many worldwide bird conservation projects.

These bird conservation projects include:

Saving the Pacific’s Parrots

Bird species are becoming extinct rapidly on pacific islands largely due to invasion from non-native species such as black rats and cats. Non-native plant species and disease also decrease island bird populations. The main focuses of the project is to control rats, create of Important Bird Areas (IBAs) and also to move some of the Rimatara Lorikeets to another rat free island.

Saving Gurney’s Pittas

Gurney’s Pittas live in forests in Thailand and Myanmar. Much of their habitat has been destroyed to deforestation to make way for palm oil plantations. Money from Birdfair is being used to help set up National Parks that will prevent the forest from being destroyed. This will not only help protect Gurney’s Pittas but also the Asian tapir, tiger, Asian elephant.

Save the Albatross Campaign

Many sea birds, including Albatross, are killed by long-line fishing. The fishing lines can be many miles long, with baited hooks that not only catch fish but catch birds too. The birds become caught on the hooks, they get dragged under the water and drown. The Keeping the World’s Seabirds off the Hook Campaign has led to international legislation and tough fishing regulations around Australia and New Zealand.

Albatrosses are extremely long-lived, slow-reproducing birds, and their populations cannot withstand the sorts of losses that the global long-line fishing industry has created.

Thanks to the money raised at Birdfair and subsequent conservation work the number of seabirds killed by long-line fishing has been reduced, but there is still a lot to be done to reduce this further.

BirdLife International

The conservation projects that Birdfair contributes towards are managed through the BirdLife International partnership.

BirdLife International is a global Partnership of conservation organisations that strives to conserve birds, their habitats and global biodiversity, working with people towards sustainability in the use of natural resources.

Birds face many threats such as loss and reduction of their habitats, unsustainable hunting / fishing, disturbance during the breeding period, collisions with wind turbines, electrocution by power lines, deliberate persecution, poisoning and pollution.

Birdlife International’s conservation programmes are helping to protect bird species by conserving sites of global, regional and national importance to birds. They are also networking people who value wild birds and integrating bird conservation needs into wider natural resource management for the benefit of both people and biodiversity.

Not Just Birds…Mammals too!

Also at Birdfair will be the People’s Trust for Endangered Species. PTES was founded in 1977 with the aim of conserving endangered species throughout the world. They have a special focus on native mammals of the UK. Their conservation work is based around scientific evidence including scientific studies of animal populations which are carried out in a large part by volunteers and the general public.

Red Squirrels are one of the most at risk species of mammals in the UK.
Red Squirrels are one of the most at risk species of mammals in the UK. Source: Flickr by Gilles Gonthier.

There are sixty-six mammal species that can be found in Britain. As with birds, mammal populations suffer from decline due to habitat loss and populations becoming isolated, unsustainable hunting / fishing, deliberate persecution, poisoning and pollution. UK Mammal species currently most at risk are:

  • water voles
  • red squirrels
  • wildcats
  • pine martens
  • greater horseshoe bats
  • Barbastelle bats
  • Bechstein’s bats
  • bottle-nose dolphins
  • harbour porpoises
  • northern right whales

Pop Along to Birdfair!

Birdfair attracts people from far and wide. If you are near Rutland Water at the weekend why not pop along to Birdfair! It will be fun and informative, and at the same time you will be helping conserve our critically endangered species.


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