Africa comes to Rutland

Tuesday 16th August 2011

Simon King OBE will be at Birdfair

Wildlife celebrity spotting, minibeast safaris, watching African entertainment or browsing the worldwide wares of nearly 350 trade stands. These are just some of the activities that will be attracting thousands of visitors to this year’s British Birdwatching Fair, held at Rutland Water, between Peterborough and Leicester.

This year’s event (running from Friday 19 August through to Sunday 21 August) is the 23rd to be held at the site and the fair’s co-organisers are expecting this year’s BirdFair to be bigger and even better than previous years, as the three-day event is expected to attract 22,000 visitors and celebrities including Simon King OBE, Bill Oddie OBE, Nick Baker and the One Show’s naturalist, Mike Dilger.

This year, the money raised by the fair is going to help UK and European migratory birds in trouble, such as the cuckoo, turtle dove and spotted flycatcher.  These birds visit the UK in summer, including the East Midlands and East Anglia, and spend the winter in Africa.  But over the last few decades researchers have noted a massive decline in these and other species, propelling the disappearance of summer-visiting birds to become one of the most concerning conservation problems in the UK.

The RSPB’s Martin Davies, one of the co-founders of the event said:  “For some, cuckoos are the highlight of summer, providing a comforting vocal backdrop to picnics and village cricket games.  However, we are in danger of losing this sentinel of summer, as the bird’s population has slumped since the mid 1990s. This year’s BirdFair will be raising funds for threatened birds migrating between Europe and Africa.

“Birds do not recognize international boundaries and all the countries along their migration routes in Europe and Africa have a shared responsibility to look after these remarkable species.”

The fair has a long history of funding conservation projects. Over the years, it has raised well over £2 million and has funded a range of projects from albatrosses in the southern Ocean to the rainforests of Ecuador and Indonesia. Last year’s focus was the threatened birds of Ethiopia. The event raised £243,000 for vital conservation work for those birds confined to the south of the country.

Tim Appleton of the Leicestershire and Rutland Wildlife Trust is the fair’s co-founder and organiser.  He said: “Birdfair has grown enormously over its 23-year history, but it still manages to capture a great atmosphere of friendliness and relaxed enjoyment. In fact, it is a great day out for anyone interested in the countryside. For many exhibitors and visitors alike, it is firmly established as the international wildlife event of the year."

Tracing the journeys of thousands of migratory birds which commute between Africa and Europe, visitors and representatives from Ghana will be amongst the guests at this year’s British Birdwatching Fair and the event will be opened by His Excellency Professor Kwako Danso-Boafo, the Ghanian High Commissioner in London.

In a closely-related project, the RSPB and the British Trust for Ornithology are also working in partnership with local conservation groups in Ghana and other West African countries to study migrant birds which are shared between the two continents, with birds nesting in Europe and moving south each autumn to spend the winter in Africa.

The 23rd British Birdwatching Fair will be held at Egleton Nature Reserve Rutland Water from Friday 19 August to Sunday 21 August 2011 from 9am to 5.30pm. For further details visit: www.birdfair.org.uk