With potentially record attendance figures and legions of new faces in evidence, this year’s Birdfair felt more like the start of a movement than the continuation of an event.
We were told on Sunday by one of the events’ army of lovely volunteers that the combined visitor total for Friday and Saturday was up by 2000 on previous years. With the usual attendance at around 20,000 that’s an increase of 10% in just the first two days! (Anyone heard the final figures yet..?)
So who are these new disciples flocking to ‘Birders’ Glastonbury’? It seems to us there’s been a seismic shift in the past year or two in the mass appeal of birding. As well as the legendary folk who’ve been making the pilgrimage for many years, there’s a new following in town. And far from being the influx of shallow hipsters that the mainstream media had us all expecting, these are genuine bird-curious nature-lovers who are looking for a new place to connect.
Of the folk we chatted to on our stand, many were old friends and personal heroes of ours. But many were new to birding and Birdfair. Nowadays folk are as likely to be sporting jeans and a hoodie as the fabled twitcher’s jerkin, as likely to be female as male, and are representative of diverse age groups, nationalities, and cultures. With this sort of inclusivity of attendance on the rise, Birdfair is becoming ever more deserving of its title of the ‘Birders’ Glastonbury’.
People were loving our relaxed, but professional approach to birding and wildlife tours and #FlywayBirding, our approachability, and the way we and others like us offer a non-patronising way to learn, to reach whatever level of expertise is desired, or just to appreciate the beauty of a wildlife spectacle like migration. No doubt the free Sangria on our stand also helped!
Although many people stay the full weekend, and no doubt celebrate together in the evenings (the long-standing ‘Birds and Beers’ event being a prime example), we loved the feeling of an emerging of what Niki dubbed the ‘Birdfair Fringe’. Our friends Amity and Mark of Morning Bride rocked an intimate folk gig at the Crown in Uppingham, and the Champions of the Flyway event grew ever bigger, with wine, music and uplifting project updates from previous years’ beneficiaries.
The birders we know are lovely folk – what a great feeling that there seem to be more and more of them!
More people connecting with the message from organisations and individuals like Mark Avery, Chris Packham, Birders Against Wildlife Crime and rspb, this year focussed heavily on ending wildlife crime and the murder of Hen Harriers and other raptors our uplands – which should be managed for the many, not the few.
More people becoming aware of the struggles our wildlife faces against invasive non-native species, like the breeding colonies of endemic birds on Pacific islands, decimated by rats, whose future generations will benefit from this year’s Birdfair dosh. It’ll be a while before we know the full total that was raised this year, but last year it was £350,000, up from the previous year’s £320,000, up from £270,000 the year before that, so it won’t be negligible!
More people engaging with causes like Champions of the Flyway, committed to ending the illegal hunting of birds across so many flyways (this year’s cause will see funds go to a collaborative project between Bosnia and Croatia– that’s the kind of cross-border amazingness we’re talking about!).
And yes, we can’t lie about it – for us, it means more friends!! YES!!
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