Wednesday, 26 August 2015

Birdfair 2015

Last weekend saw the 27th British Birdwatching Fair held at Rutland Water and as usual we were there!

Tim Appleton, co-founder of the event, reports another record attendance this year and almost certainly a record amount of money raised for conservation.

This year’s fundraising project was ‘Hope for migratory birds in the Eastern Mediterranean: action against illegal killing’. The aim of the project is to reduce the scale and impact of illegal killing of migratory birds, and to improve protection and laws throughout the region.

The recent publication by BirdLife International of a report on this issue has emphasised the need for some urgent action to be taken; it estimates that around 25 million birds are illegally killed annually in the Mediterranean area with Egypt, Italy, Syria, Lebanon, Cyprus, Greece and France topping the list of offending countries.

Patricia Zurita, CEO of BirdLife International

It is somewhat ironic that the first Birdfair in 1989 raised funds for the ‘Stop the Massacre’ campaign which focused on the killing of migrant birds in Malta. We don’t seem to have made much progress! Malta’s absence from the current list of worst offenders is simply a result of its small size.

What we all have to do!

We spent all three days on the Avian Adventures stand promoting the company’s programme of overseas birding and wildlife tours and also taking every opportunity to talk about the birds of the Algarve. It was great to meet so many people who have been birding with us in Portugal and elsewhere.

As well as being very enjoyable and tiring, being on a stand at the Birdfair can also be a frustrating experience. There are so many things to see, binoculars, telescopes and cameras to try out, books to browse, countless talks and presentations to go to, so many old friends to catch up with, celebrities to spot and there’s even a wonderful bird reserve! The problem is that we just don’t have enough free time to get around. The result is that we come away knowing that once again we have seen only a small fraction of who and what was there.

Chris Packham, Bill Oddie, Simon King, David Lindo, Nick Baker 
and Mike Dilger were among the celebs we identified

 We were in the same marquee as both Wildsounds and Subbuteo - very tempting!

 Marco and Paco from Cotinga Tours - they will be 
arranging our tour in Costa Rica next February

Our long-time friend Steve Cale was amongst the team of artists 
working on the traditional Birdfair mural

Guto Carvalho from Brazil was our new neighbour for three days in Marquee 3

One very obvious change this year from previous Birdfairs was the catering. A range of different outlets offered an excellent variety of foods and it was possible to get served rather quicker than previously. We heard some complaints about the prices and the lack of vegetarian options but most agreed that there was an overall improvement.

 Cook Street by MPM Catering

Beechdean Farmhouse Dairy Ice Cream - their 1953 Morris Commercial van started life as an ambulance

And so, we look forward to the next Birdfair - 19th to 21st August 2016. The dates are already in the diary and maybe we should plan to have half a day off the stand!

Saturday, 1 August 2015

Tanzania - Ngorongoro Crater

Our last three nights in Tanzania were spent at the Ngorongoro Sopa Lodge, situated on the eastern rim of the wonderful Ngorongoro Crater.  Here we were at 7,800 feet above sea level, high enough for a significant drop in the temperature and also high enough for occasional pauses for breath to be needed when walking uphill!  This was Avian Adventures' fourth time in Tanzania; we reported here about one of the previous visits to Ngorongoro.

 Looking down into the crater from the rim

Part of the Ngorongoro Sopa Lodge

Most of the mammal species that we had already seen elsewhere were down there on the vast expanse of the crater's grassland although Giraffes and Impalas were notable exceptions.  As well as Wildebeest and Zebras, Thomson's and Grant's Gazelles were very common and we also found a few Kongoni.  As might be expected with all these prey species present, it wasn’t long before we saw Lions and remarkable numbers of Spotted Hyaenas.  There were also Black-backed Jackals and we were lucky enough to see Serval Cats again.

A typical view in the crater with Zebras and Wildebeest

Lions - they are really impressive at close range

Black-backed Jackal - folklore has it that it received the 'burn' on its back as a punishment for its scavenging habits

Hippos - aggressive, unpredictable and surprisingly fast over a short distance!

Spotted Hyaenas - hunters and scavengers

Serval Cat - mostly nocturnal so we were fortunate to see them on three occasions during the tour

Kongoni - also called Coke's Hartebeest

There were also plenty of birds, ranging in size from Ostrich, Kori Bustard and Grey Crowned Crane down to Fischer's Sparrow-Lark and the tiny Pectoral-patch Cisticola.

Common Ostrich

Augur Buzzard - one of the mostly commonly seen raptors in Tanzania

Fischer's Sparrow-Lark - a very numerous species in the crater and elsewhere

 Ngoitokitok  - a popular picnic site in the crater

If you like the look of Ngorongoro Crater, Tarangire and the Serengeti, Avian Adventures have another tour to Northern Tanzania planned for April 2016.