Birdfair – Day One

It has taken me a couple of days to come to terms with Birdfair. And by that, I mean the sheer amount of awesomeness packed into just three days. I’m going to attempt to describe my experience of Birdfair, but I really don’t think I’ll do it justice!

Day One

I travelled up from Cambridge with Matt and Tom, who had to put up with my growing excitement. Though they were partially to blame – both of them had been to Birdfair previously and were telling me what, and who, they had seen before. Following the signs directing us to the Fair, we found the queue to get in. As naturalists we used the opportunity to look out the car windows at surrounding wildlife (no photos I’m afraid).

We drove past the shiny new Volunteer Training Centre that had be opened by Sir David Attenborough last month for the Leicestershire and Rutland Wildlife Trust. Apparently “the centre will provide support and training for volunteers in conservation, countryside and heritage skills.” I shall keep an eye on what they get up to, it sounds interesting!

And then, it was Birdfair itself and all that comes with it! We were soon bumping into familiar faces and meeting some faces who were familiar from the internet but now appearing in the real world, and the planning which events to go to across the weekend.

11.15am – Bug Walk, Brian Eversham & Ryan Clark (the Wildlife Trusts)

Prior to even arriving at Birdfair, I absolutely knew I had to go on this Bug Walk. I often talk about insects and invertebrates with Brian on Twitter, and wanted to support Ryan as this was his first Birdfair event he had assisted with (I think?). Armed with sweep nets and pots, we headed out into a nearby meadow where Brian demonstrated how to use the net before letting us loose! It wasn’t the warmest of days, but there were plenty of invertebrates to be found – spiders, ladybirds, bees, beetles and more! I haven’t labelled the species on any of my photos as Ryan is putting together a bugs at Birdfair ID quiz for A Focus On Nature.

Post-bug walk provided an opportunity to do some wandering and the beginning of working out how to decide what to buy. There was SO MUCH – whole libraries’ worth of books, optical equipment, exquisite illustrations, clothing, stunning photographs, carvings, memberships, holidays, and more! Matt and I began with a couple of books – Inglorious and Behind the Binoculars, as Mark Avery and Keith Betton were both doing signings.

1.15pm – Moth Trapping – Live on the big screen, Phil Sterling & Richard Lewington

A glance at the time and it was time to head over to the Events Marquee as moths were in the limelight (well spotlight). Phil Sterling and Richard Lewington were opening a moth trap at the front, and they had some lovely species – Dusky Thorn (Ennomos fuscantaria), Canary-shouldered Thorn (one of my favourites! Ennomos alniaria), Eyed Hawk-Moth (stunning! Smerinthus ocellata), plus some escapees (particularly the Large Yellow Underwings (Noctua pronuba), surprise surprise!).

Exiting out the side of the tent, we found the craft beer, woohoo! I’ve come across From the Notebook on social media as various naturalists excitedly tweet about beer that has wildlife on it!!!! Sadly, I still don’t like beer, but I liked the designs, and both Matt and Pete liked the beer.

 

More wanderings, including via the Butterfly Conservation stand  of course – cue a good chat with Martin Warren, Tony Davies, Douglas Boyes, and Nick Baker! I was wearing my H&M moths shirt and Nick Baker was very impressed with it, which was rather awesome. Also at the BC stand, I picked up a copy of the latest Moths Count newsletter, in which I have an article!

I also went via the Art Mural (which was being added to across the weekend) and, of course, the Children’s Art Mural that A Focus On Nature run. Just before the last event of the day, I managed to meet up with Phil Sterling. We live just around the corner from each other in Dorset, but hadn’t managed to meet up yet this year, so it was good to catch-up. He had brought some cool caterpillars along, and my query to get better lighting on them (for taking photographs) led to a bit of a gathering just outside the marquee as passerbys noticed the caterpillars!

6pm – RSPB Birders Lecture in association with British Birds

Crikey, 6pm already! Time to run over to one of the lecture marquees in order to catch the RSPB Birders Lecture in association with British Birds! Introduced by Stuart Housden (Director of RSPB Scotland), four birders were competing for the title of ‘Best ever day’. We heard from the marvellous Bill Oddie, the ever-inspirational Lucy McRobert, the wonderful Adam Rowlands and the legendary Ian Wallace. I was slightly biased towards Lucy winning of course, but was blown away by Ian Wallace’s account. He had made it into a spectacular play, which he performed with flair and style. As to be expected, he won.

A drinks reception afterwards, hosted by RSPB, provided another opportunity to chatting with fellow A Focus On Nature members, and other Birdfair attendees. I even spoke to Bill Oddie without getting too starstruck! And so, the end of the first day, and I was exhausted, bewildered and overwhelmed. What would the second day bring?

The postings on this site are my own and don’t necessarily represent Dorset Wildlife Trust’s positions, strategies or opinions (or any other organisation or individuals for that matter).

Pain, but no gain (only partially true)

Strictly speaking, the title is not true. I’ve had very little pain this week, and a lot of gain, but you’ll see later why the title. As I write, I am in a sickeningly “I love life” mood. I want to take a moment to examine this mood. As a sufferer of both Seasonal Affective Disorder and, more recently, bouts of depression, spending time outdoors in the sunshine and talking to people (aka my job!) is bound to have a positive effect on me. People can often underestimate how much nature can help us, not least with our mental health. We are intricately connected with nature, even with today’s technological distractions. Taking a moment, even just a little one every now and then, to appreciate nature can benefit you.

Back to my week. It began with paint. An odd beginning to the week one might say, but I work in environmental education (/community engagement) and my tasks are varied! For the first couple of days this week, I was tasked with ensuring that a big roll of white fabric got covered in handprints! I relished the task, and got involved with an appropriate amount of enthusiasm (i.e. getting my hands covered in paint and encouraging others to do as as well). Soon enough, and with help from volunteers, centre visitors and even Taste* cafe staff, the sheet was covered. And my hands were blue no matter how much I scrubbed them! And the purpose of this? Well, that shall remain a surprise until the next blog post.

A midweek lunchtime stroll on Chesil Beach resulted (as usual) in a quick beach clean! I just hate seeing litter on the beach (and elsewhere!). So I am continuing well with that wildlife resolution!

We sailed off into the sunset, almost literally, when The Fleet Observer took some centre volunteers (and a couple of DWT staff) out on a trip. I know, I know, I went on a trip only a couple of weeks ago! But I do so love going out on the boat and we always see something fun. This time I even managed to get some good photos of the hares (Lepus europaeus), and some sunset photos too, so I was particularly pleased.

Inland to Lorton, and I was leading our Caterpillar Kids session on grasshoppers and crickets! What great fun it was, and we had some children that were absolutely brilliant at catching them! I have realised that there aren’t actually that many grasshoppers and crickets, so I didn’t feel too daunted in trying to identify a couple. I got them wrong mind, but I gave it a go and I shall continue to try, which is the important thing!

I must apologise here to the residents of Weymouth and the surrounding areas. The torrential rain on Friday was my fault. I had a day off you see. However, I wasn’t too put out as it provided me with a decent opportunity to sort through some photos and the like. The weekend dawned bright and clear, but Weymouth did soon cloud over (unlike Portland which stayed sunny all day, grr!). I was meant to be leading a reptile walk at Lorton, but the slight chill in the air made me dubious that we would find any. So I turned it into a general nature walk and we had a fantastic time! A good variety of wildlife was seen, including my first Wasp Spiders (Argiope bruennichi) which are incredibly awesome! I also picked up a bush-cricket and much to the amusement of everyone there, yelled in startlement when it bit me! The cheeky thing (though I don’t blame it)! I can’t say which species it was, as the unexpected pain caused me to throw it into the grass. Oops! Note to self – it isn’t just Great Green Bush Crickets (Tettigonia viridissima) that bite! The end of the walk ended on a reptile sighting, as we found two baby slow worms, but they slithered away before I got photos. I caught one the following day, prompting it to defecate on me – charming! – but again no photo I’m afraid.

A quick evening dash up to Portland Bird Observatory as Josie Hewitt was visiting and I wanted to say hi. I also got to see this lovely Painted Lady  (Vanessa cardui) which was very obliging with letting me take photos. I even persuaded it to sit on my finger, but naturally it flew off before I could actually take a photo of it doing so! I also saw a Hummingbird Hawk-Moth (Macroglossum stellatarum), but that was not at all obliging and disappeared before I could even grab my camera.

The weekend, and thus the week, drew to an end. With sunshine above, and no big plans for the evening, I just had to go for another wildlife wander in Lorton. I looked for the Wasp Spiders again, and found two, as well as some galls on oak (presumably caused by a parasitic wasp?).

A note on Wasp Spiders. It is actually only the female that has the stunning stripes. The male is smaller and brown, I think there is a male in one of the photos above. Apparently, the male has to wait until the female reaches her mature form, make the most of her soft jaws, and then go into mate with her. Even so, a number of them do get eaten still! As one of the orb-weaving spiders, you can see the white zig-zag in her web, which is called a stabilimentum. According to the Wildlife Trusts webpage on them, there is no known function to this stabilimentum.

Next week’s post is likely to be delayed as I shall be travelling back from BirdFair (which is going to be amazing!). Let me know if you’re going and would like to meet up!

The postings on this site are my own and don’t necessarily represent Dorset Wildlife Trust’s positions, strategies or opinions (or any other organisation or individuals for that matter).