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World's biggest nature celebration arrives in UK's smallest county

Last modified: 17 August 2015

Turtle dove foraging

Turtle dove

Image: Graham Catley

Birdfair 2015, a festival of birds and wildlife featuring Chris Packham and Simon King, raises money for nature conservation

This week, Birdfair, the UK’s annual three day wildlife extravaganza, is expected to draw over 20,000 nature enthusiasts from across the world to the shores of Rutland Water. Every year the event raises funds for important conservation work, and this year Birdfair will support projects combating illegal killing of birds in the eastern Mediterranean.

Birdfair 2015 takes place from Friday 21 to Sunday 23 August at the Rutland Water nature reserve. It will be packed with fascinating talks and fun events, plus hundreds of stands selling the latest wildlife watching gear, books, art, and eco-holidays. The event is run by a partnership bringing together the RSPB and The Wildlife Trusts, and tickets are now available at birdfair.org.uk

Tim Appleton, Birdfair Co-founder and organiser, said: “We’re looking forward to welcoming visitors to a really exciting Birdfair. This year’s talks include over 200 sessions with experts from across the world of nature conservation. The events and lecture theatres are the places to be if you want to hear conservation stories from around the world, pick up wildlife watching tips or be inspired to visit somewhere new!”

Tim continued: “Illegal killing of threatened wildlife is widespread in the eastern Mediterranean, including Cyprus and the Middle East, and we believe this is a major threat to many birds including blackcap, chaffinch, turtle dove and white stork. Hundreds of millions of birds pass through the Eastern Mediterranean between Eurasia and Africa on migration. These include more than 25 globally threatened birds, including Sociable Lapwing and Northern Bald Ibis. In addition, 64 of the 188 smaller migratory birds using this route are in decline, including European Roller and Red-backed Shrike.

“Because of the geography of the region, many birds must pass through a ‘bottleneck’ where they are particularly vulnerable to illegal killing. BirdLife partners and other conservation agencies across the region hope to raise awareness of the problem, make sure the law is enforced and work with responsible hunters to promote good practice. When you book your Birdfair tickets you’ll be helping us kickstart these vital projects.”

Birdfair features, for the first time, a music concert on Saturday evening sponsored by Viking Optical Ltd. Come and enjoy an evening with three world class musicians, Craig Ogden, Gary Ryan and Milos Milivojevic, performing music from Vivaldi right through the centuries to George Harrison. Tickets must be purchased in advance from birdfair.org.uk.

The talks programme includes Birdfair favourites: broadcasters Bill Oddie, Martin Hughes-Games and Mike Dilger, plus “The Urban Birder” David Lindo, and wildlife photographers Jonathan and Angela Scott who will captivate audiences with tales of their travels and nature watching experiences.

Author Richard Porter will discuss the power of the book in encouraging interest in conservation in the Middle East. Artist Ralph Steadman joins conservationist Ceri Levy to talk about ‘Nextinction’, their project to create a book of birds on the brink of extinction.

New technology is explored throughout Birdfair too: UK ladybird expert Dr Helen Roy will talk about the amazing legacy of recording information about nature and how you can help contribute to our understanding of the natural world by using smartphone apps, for example. In other sessions you can learn how to choose binoculars and telescopes, use a camera trap and shoot HD video.

There’s plenty for the next generation of nature lovers too. Chris Packham with the BTO will introduce three young and inspiring birdwatchers; A Focus on Nature, the youth conservation network, will be asking young birders to share their “Visions for Nature”, and well-known wildlife faces take to the stage on Sunday afternoon in a performance of Julia Donaldson’s The Gruffalo, starring Bill Oddie, as part of The Wildlife Trusts’ celebration of nature.

Nature will also be celebrated through art: some of the UK’s finest wildlife artists will be portraying some of the birds of the eastern Mediterranean such as blackcap, chaffinch, turtle dove and white stork.

Follow @TheBirdfair on Twitter and Like British Birdwatching Fair on Facebook for news and updates.

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