Birdfair 2014

Birdfair ~ 15th-17th August 2014 ~

Birdfair: the Glastonbury of birdwatching, as it is affectionately known, is the biggest fair of its kind anywhere in the world and takes place annually in August at Rutland Water in Leicestershire. Bird lovers from all over the world are drawn to the event and this year was no exception!

Unlike previous years when I have only managed to attend for one or two days, this year I managed to make all three days of the event and boy were those three days hectic! When I have been before I haven't known anyone, okay maybe one or two people, nor do I recall ever having seen other young people there who look genuinely interested in birds and not like they've been dragged along on a family day out.

A more active presence on social media in the past year or so, plus me joining NGB and AFON meant that this year was a completely different experience and almost everywhere I looked over the three days was someone I recognised or someone who seemed to recognise me! It was amazing - I had members of NGB and AFON coming up to me and introducing themselves and I also had people saying they recognised me off Twitter/Facebook...admittedly it was a bit weird but at the same time it was awesome because it shows how powerful social media can be!

Over the three days I attended quite a few talks, including Mark Avery and Tristan Reid's one about how the Passenger Pigeon went extinct 100 years ago and what that means for nature conservation in the 21st century. It was fascinating, but slightly scary because it highlighted the fact that despite the vast amount of knowledge we have gained in the last 100 years, species around today are still facing the same threats that the Passenger Pigeon did a century ago, the main ones being habitat destruction and hunting...sounds familiar *cough* Turtle Dove *cough* ?!

Another talk that stood out to me was presented by Chris Packham on Saturday which was all about the annual massacre of birds that takes place in Malta. It followed on from the self-funded trip he did earlier in the year in an attempt to highlight the sheer scale of the hunting that takes place. (If you missed his daily videos from his trip, you can find them here.) Both Chris Packham and Nimrod Mifsud, a young maltese native, spoke incredibly passionately about important it is to raise awareness of this annual massacre and it was heartbreaking to listen to Nimrod recall how the first Osprey, Montagu's Harrier, White Stork, Black Stork etc... that he'd ever seen in his life he then had to watch plummet to the ground having been hit by a hunter's bullet.

That got me. And to be honest I think it got almost the entire audience because by the end of the talk most people had soggy eyes. How on earth can it be that in the 21st century when we see ourselves as such a developed and advanced species that people still find 'fun' in blasting thousands of other living creatures out of the sky basically because they can?! The mind boggles but it is an issue that needs international attention because it is not just in Malta that birds are hunted - it goes on in Spain, Italy and France, just to name a few. If these birds were being shot for food, then I think I could be a little more understanding, because a person's got to eat haven't they?! The problem is they're not. The large majority of these birds are being shot for fun in countries where there is no need and that is just wrong.

What can I do?

This is a question you may be asking yourselves right now...I know I am and there are a number of things that you and I can do.

1. Write about it. Whether this is highlighting the issue with facts and figures or sharing with people how it makes you feel. You have a voice, use it.

2. Write to your MEP. Ask them to use their position in the EU to find out what is being done. Question them.

3. Volunteer. This is a more practical way of helping. Birdlife Malta do a fantastic job, but it is one that would be impossible if it weren't for their passionate and dedicated volunteers. If hunting in Malta is still an issue by the time I am old enough to volunteer (which I sincerely hope it is not) then you know where I'll be... Birdlife Malta's Spring Watch

Congratulations if you have made it this far!

To sum up, Birdfair is awesome and I hope to see many more of you there next year!

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