I was lucky enough to begin my birding “career” at the Champions of the Flyway event in Eilat earlier this year. I have since been birding a little in the Lower Rhine area and a lot in my backyard. And in August I got to visit yet another birders’ highlight – the British Birdfair! Obviously a big thing, if you are a birder. Jeff Bouton from Leica Sportoptics Nature Observation in the U.S. put it this way: “British Birdfair: hanging out with ~20,000 of my closest Birding friends! Yay!” Well, he wasn’t exaggerating.
The Leica stand in the Optics marquee was the ideal place to start the fair – with a little birdwatching using all the different scopes and binoculars Leica has to offer. I spotted three snipes and a little egret with a Noctivid 10×42 and watched a Western marsh harrier on a fencepost through an APO Televid 65 (to my disappointment, the bird seemed quite bored and just sat there, doing nothing). I compared the Trinovids and Ultravids, having lapwings, little grebes and common moorhens in full sight.
Then I was all set to go out on a Birdfair expedition. First I bumped into Urban Birder and Leica Ambassador David Lindo who has just published his book “How to be an Urban Birder” with Princeton University Press and who invited the team for a little get-together later that day. The next hours (at least it felt like that) I spent at the BTO stand to watch the birdringing. I was amazed by how relaxed the birds seemed in the hands of the BTO staff, although they turned them up and down, back and forth, spread their wings to count the feathers, blew on their bellies – only to tell the visitors exactly how old the bird was and what it had been doing the last couple of days. When asked who would like to release the bird again, I tried not to knock over a bunch of kids when I raised my arm at once to volunteer for that. The BTO birder put the tiny animal into my palm, I lifted my hands and the bird fluttered away into the next tree.
Now I was in the true birding spirit and decided to let myself get even more inspired by attending “Best ever days – The World Series” in the Events Marquee. Keith Betton (African Bird Club), John Gregory (Oriental Bird Club), David Fisher (Neotropical Bird Club) and Nick Moran (Ornithological Society of the Middle East, the Caucasus and Central Asia) presented their best ever day’s birding in their favourite part of the world. The audience got to decide via “clap-o-meter” which sounds best. Since I instantly wanted to go birding in Kenya, Venezuela, Nepal and Yemen, I clapped as hard as I could for all of them.
Meanwhile at the Leica stand: A long queue has formed. A lot of people seized the free-of-charge cleaning and (minor) repairs service for their binoculars and scopes. That made for many sightings of true (mostly Trinovid-) treasures. You could literally see how much their owners love them – and already have for obviously quite some time.
Wildlife presenter and birding ambassador Iolo Williams came by the stand to sign books and chat with visitors as did Leica ambassadors Alan Davies and Ruth Miller from the Biggest Twitch. Their credo is “We always take our time to enjoy every bird we see and we never get tired of watching birds, whether they’re common or rare.” And also: “It doesn’t matter if you are a birdwatching beginner or a birding expert.” So I felt very much at ease when we stood together on the little platform watching the birds. “Look, an osprey!” Iolo Williams suddenly said and I tried to follow the direction to which he pointed with my Noctivids. To no avail. So Iolo simply turned me around by my shoulders, pushed the bins a little higher and there it was! While I admired it, he fixed up the scope so everybody could watch the osprey.
Jeff summed up Birdfair like this: “… any old friends seen, new ones made, and a nice assortment of birds from the Leica stand! Hobby multiple times daily, Sparrowhawks, Eurasian Kestrels, Little Gull mixing with Black-headeds, Common Sand, Green Sands, Black-tailed Godwits, Snipe, Ruff…” I have got nothing to add, except: See you all next year!
The proceeds of this year’s Birdfair will support the creation of Argentina’s largest national park, in the process providing a refuge for nearly a million flamingos and shorebirds. Titled ‘Mar Chiquita: a haven for Argentina’s flamingos’, this year’s cause is a suitably ambitious way to mark 30 years of Birdfair supporting international conservation projects. Since 1989, Birdfair has raised funds, through sponsorship, exhibitor fees and entrances fees, for a conservation project suggested and managed by BirdLife International.
Text: Annette Feldmann