Northern Ireland

I visited Northern Ireland yesterday to speak at a BTO conference there.  It was a long day (alarm went off at 0430, got home again 2220) but a very enjoyable one.

The welcome is always very warm in Ireland, whichever side of the border you are on, and that was true yesterday with a mixture of birders from many parts of the island of Ireland.

I always think I don’t know many people in Ireland but it’s not really true! There were former RSPB colleagues, former RSPB Council members, attendees at Hen Harrier Day events, people I knew through work on Roseate Terns years ago, People I’ve met at the Bird Fair, people who have bought my books and a bunch of birders who I just know.

And I met Brenda too. Brenda picked me up from the airport in the pouring rain, and dropped me back again on a lovely evening. Talking to Brenda in the car provided two of the best bits of a good day.

And I had a chat with Andy Clements too – who gave an excellent talk on the work of the BTO.

The conference was at the Lough Neagh Discovery Centre and as the rain cleared this became a more and more attractive setting for our day.  I’m always a bit preoccupied until I have given my talk at an event like this so I’m more likely to listen carefully to the talks after mine than the ones before it!  However many talks one gives, each one is special and one wants to do a good job both for oneself and the people who are sitting out there in the audience. And the room was packed.

It was very nice to get really good feedback on the day in the room and from social media:

@JL_nature no notes, no slides, great speaker & entertainer @MarkAvery #BTONIconf
@Johnq_zak  @MarkAvery confirming my opinions about how ridiculous #grouseshooting really is! #wellsaidmark ! #BTONIconf
@Andy Clements Whatever your view of his views @MarkAvery is a hugely engaging speaker #BTONIconf#inglorious

The EasyJet flight home was an unexpected delight: it was a clear night and as we covered the ground between Liverpool and Luton I looked down on fireworks displays in many of the towns and cities over which we passed. I wished I could have had a better idea of exactly where I was seeing.  From 34,000 feet or so, there were sparkles of moving red and white lights down there. This will probably sound corny, but the fact that across the country people were gathering together to enjoy themselves (under the excuse of a historial event not greatly understood or appreciated) in a similar way and at the same time seemed a real example of a common culture and British cultural identity. Below me, people, often families, were going ‘Ooooh!’ as a spectacular and beautiful firework exploded in the air, at the same time for the same reasons across the country. I liked that.


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