I left Rich Mooney’s place in Woking on the morning of August 14, a Thursday. I took a train from Woking Station to Waterloo Station in central London. I caught ‘The Tube’ up to Queen’s Cross / St Pancs Station, and then caught another train all the way up to Oakham, which is the nearest town to Rutland. What happens at a place called Rutland Water in August? Well, only the biggest trade fair dedicated to birds, birders, birding and everything else that is even remotely related to the subject. Up to 30,000 people visit the fair over the course of the Friday, Saturday and Sunday, this year Aug 15-17.
I was greeted at Oakham Station by Chris and Barbara Kightley, owners of Limosa Holidays. Many of you know, I lead numerous trips for Limosa Holidays as well as my own operation, each year. I did my first tour for Limosa in April 2005, to Texas. Since then I have led close to 50 trips for Limosa all across Canada and US with locations such as Oregon, Texas, Arizona, California, Point Pelee, Vancouver Island, The Canadian Rockies and the Alberta Prairies are some of the tours on my portfolio with Limosa. This was the first time, however, that I had met Chris and Barbara. We headed straight for the grounds of the fair, an area of open fields, separated by hedges and lines of tall trees. There was plenty of water around as well, and in fact the massive optics viewing tent looked out onto a nice patch of water.
The above picture is a panorama taken with my Iphone, showing the tent in which the Limosa stand was situated. These tents are huge and there were at least 10 different one set up on the property. Multitudes of tour companies had stands, big names in birdfeeding had large stands as did nature book sellers. Artists had an entire tent to themselves. A large percentage of the countries in the world that have birding potential had representatives there, and I was quite discouraged to see that Canada had nobody present. The USA was barely in attendance as well.
Though I didn’t see too many feathered birds at the birdfair, it was great to see some Bullfinches much better than I had seen them previously. An adult male and some fledglings were calling away in the treetops outside our tent for two of the three days anyhow. The third day when my friend Rich Mooney showed up, there were no Bullfinches to be seen. It was also great to meet some of my fellow Limosa guides, such as Brian Small, well-known bird artist and illustrator of various field guides. It was great to see Arnoud van den Berg, a Dutch birder who I owe my job at Limosa to. In about 2003, Arnoud came through BC on the Limosa Rockies tour and I joined them for a day. Arnoud mentioned me to Chris Kightley and the next thing you know I was leading the entire tour myself, as well as several others for this rather large scale British tour company. In addition to seeing friends from Limosa, there were lots of other people around I knew. It was great to catch up with Carlos Bethancourt of Panama. He’s the fellow who helped Avocet Tours track down over 300 species in Panama in Feb 2014. Carlos works for the famous Canopy Tower Family.
I never knew so many ‘bird nerds’ could congregate in one area, but here they were. Many of them, who spent the day wandering through the tents, had their Wellies on, as well as their binoculars, cameras, scopes and tilley hats. There was a large food court area where there was also a beer gardens for the slightly more adventurous birders. There were rows of porta-potties set up on the grounds, but you still would have to stand in line for 5-10 minutes most of the time. Agents from big optics companies stopped you as you wandered around and let you try out their newest offerings. I got rather hooked on new offering by Zeiss! All in all, Birdfair was a great success and I found it very interesting.
Many people asked me if we had anything remotely similar in North America. We don’t! We have some birding festivals etc, that are more based around field trips out into the field. This large event has no field trips, just vendors showing and selling their wares. I have special intel that there is a birdfair set to have it’s inaugural year next year in Columbus, Ohio. Thanks again to Limosa Holidays for flying me over the UK.