Ten Bird Fair thoughts


  • the discussion about driven grouse shooting was completely packed (c500 people), the discussion about rewilding was completely packed, some of the usual diet of quizzes were not well attended – go figure, the Bird Fair audience is open to having some challenging debate and discussion about nature conservation as part of the mix
  • in one talk I gave I asked the audience whether any of them had spent £5000 at the Bird Fair – and a hand went up (a photographer who bought a lens) – this is an economic powerhouse far in excess of grouse shooting
  • the fish and chips were very good, and quite reasonably priced – an example of where the Bird Fair changed slowly but for the better
  • I met birding or conservation friends from Malta, Greece, Spain, France, Ireland, Hungary, Denmark and Germany and all regretted (and none could understand) our vote for Brexit
  • Grey Wagtail flying over was my best bird of the Bird Fair – I didn’t do much birding
  • a criminal barrister (you get all sorts at the Bird Fair) couldn’t understand why anyone would want to regulate grouse shooting when there was such a strong case for banning it
  • Jeff Knott bought me the beer he owed me for saying a particular word at Rainham Marshes and I failed to buy Viv the Setter a beer – but I will
  • I got a book of  a complete set of Audubon prints in the auction – I am pleased with it
  • Henry is the most loved Hen Harrier in the world – if he got shot before next year people would be sad and ask where he was…
  • there were lots of people with whom I would have liked to have more and longer conversations – maybe next year?




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25 Replies to “Ten Bird Fair thoughts”

  1. I also attended the session on wildlife crime with BAWC and Dominic Dyer. It was good to see so many folk there as well

  2. I'm with that criminal barrister. The debate was very polite and far too gentle on the shooting community. Killing birds for "sport" is barbaric and has no place in the 21st century. Let's work towards seeing it banned.

    1. Mark - as said before - if the GWCT or Moorland Association had fielded any of their staff or landowning members then things might have been different - but still polite I hope. The 'not daring' or 'not caring' shooting organisations should hang their heads. And their members should ask why they wouldn't show their faces.

      1. Yes it's sad when they hide in covert corners for fear of being challenged in a polite manner, but my observations suggest they work best behind the scenes not in an open and transparent arena. The sooner the media recognise that the better, but is the mainstream media part of the problem as well as being part of a potential solution?

        BAWC and Dominic are always good value. Again a case of evidence based case and a passion that engages the public. Simon King too with 'Enough', the biggest tool we all have at our disposal to bring about change is the pound in our pockets. When we all recognise the impact our spend has and change our habits then the natural environment stands a chance?

        I really hope the Birdfair organisers recognise that it was the 'debates' that filled marquees and they offer similar debates next year. Agri-industry support through the public purse and how it can be evaluated to ensure public benefit perhaps? Mark suggested attendance by a senior politician, bring it on! But, what odds on any accepting an invite? Same as the CA, MA, G[WC]T et. al.?

        Interesting that HOT had a stand but no sign of G[WC]T, foolish as they were once respected for their science and its reasonable to assume that not all attendees at the Birdfair are anti DGS? Lost opportunity to demonstrate a desire to engage with all stakeholders?

  3. Glad the Fish & Chips was reasonably priced (didn't get round there), £4 for a small water and £6 for a crepe left many of us still feeling the prices are above average earning people!

    Great Birdfair as always though (although I thought numbers were down on last year).

    1. Ashley - good to see you all at Birding for All. Numbers seemed very low today, Sunday. It can't have been because much of the meatier fare (apologies to vegetarians) was on Friday and Saturday could it?

  4. Very pleased to see the debates on campaign issues.such as banning driven grouse shooting, rewinding and supporting Birdlife Malta, were full to capacity. I think the Bird Fair needs to encourage these sorts of debates much more so that people can really see the latest situations and that things are happening on these fronts. I think then they will give even more support.

  5. Yes, the case to ban is very strong. Your point from the outset that only by this will there be any real movement for change is proving to be the driving force you anticipated. This is not the time to slacken off this line. There are those saying it will never happen, but eventually it will if we keep up the science, the logic and the moral argument. Let those who favour compromise put their case but the weight and momentum in this debate is surely for a ban. The shooting estates are the ones in the wrong; if there is any wisdom and leadership amongst them they need to find it and only that way maybe they could begin to sort themselves out.

  6. You did a good job at Bird Fair Mark, thankyou, finishing off with a good discussion to a full audience at your author's event even in the grave yard slot at the end of this afternoon. The campaign broadens, deepens, widens. The size of the audiences and the discussion were testimony to that. Maybe it was too polite, that could change if we don't see some positive response from the Grouse industry.

  7. Mark - Your comment 'Henry is the most loved Hen Harrier in the world – if he got shot before next year people would be sad and ask where he was…' may be a hint or not, but either way - A bit of a PR gimmick perhaps, but I reckon it could easily be picked up by national media and draw public attention to the serious reality. Here's how I see it:

    Fit Harry with a beautiful new GPS collar, then set him free to wander, mimicking the known movements of one of the previously shot and lost hen harriers. He can stop off at communities on his travels and show off his lovely collar and tell people that they can watch his progress on your blog which shows us all where Harry has been recently, until one day he suddenly disappears, GPS signal lost in suspicious circumstances, funnily enough on a grouse moor. What follows is a search, we all gather together at his last known coordinates and start the search, combing over burned heather stumbling past stink pits, using grouse butts as lookouts until finally Harry is found, his bloodied wing caught in a pole trap. His collar was smashed as he tried to get free, but he has survived and is taken to a rehabilitation centre where he makes a full recovery (except for the triangular bandage he has to wear for the rest of his days, which gives him a great opportunity to regale his story).

    Just a thought, can't decide if it is too naff or if it could be a really neat way to get a serious message across to a new audience.

    1. It seems to me that if campaigners against grouse shooting arrange a stunt involving Henry's 'disappearance' on a grouse moor it could backfire by giving the other side an opportunity to wheel out their absurd claims that killings of real raptors are perpetrated by the RSPB or other conservationists (they have already made such claims). Much better to stick to the truth and leave fictions and falsehoods to the other side in my opinion.

  8. Mark,

    115,000 people signed a petition against wildlife crime in the uplands. The debate featured above had a packed audience listening to wildlife crime issues. BAWC had an event to discuss how to recognise and report wildlife crime. A lot of people were talking about the issue.

    This is just to let you know I have written to the police lead on wildlife crime expressing my personal disappointment that the police and NWCU weren't officially at the bird fair and involved in any of these discussions. You will know that writing such a letter did cause me a lot of mind searching.

  9. Best ever Birdfair. Loved the campaigning, DGS debate, rewilding event, Georgia Locock interviewing Chris Packham, hearing news from Birdlife Malta etc. Natalie Bennett, Dominic Dyer and Charlie Moores were very good. You and Chris were rushed off your feet doing fantastic work, as was Henry (I STILL haven't had a Henry hug). BAWC and LACS stands were very busy and there was a real sense than change is coming. People are determined to campaign hard and are united. I'd love to live in a village of Birdfair attendees! Great to see more female presenters and attendees. Food and drinks were very pricey though (cost £10 for 2 cokes and 4 small bags of crisps!). But have left feeling inspired, motivated and am looking forward to next year!

  10. If we want Police & Crime Commissioners to attend next year, ditto NWCU then get writing to BF Organisers?

    To add that maybe we should all thank them for the inspirational and motivational 'campaigning' aspects of the BF as well?

    The moral of the food story, bring your own but that doesn't help the trade stands who pay to attend, the revenue generated going to the BF 'cause'.

  11. Sing up, boys and girls!

    Until the philosophy which holds wildlife abusers superior, and Hen Harriers inferior,
    is finally, and permanently, discredited and abandoned, everywhere is war, war.
    And until there are no longer, poisons, traps and lead fragments littering the moors.
    Until Driven Grouse Shooting is of no more significance than a fag end in the gutter, War.
    And until the basic wildlife law is equally guaranteed to all, without regard to species, war!
    Yes until that day, the dream of healthy uplands, functioning ecosystems, and the rule of conservation morality, will remain but a fleeting illusion, to be pursued, but never atained. Now everywhere is war, war.
    And until the ignoble and unhappy regime that ruins our natural heritage in Bowland, the Dark Peak, the Cairngorms, Monadhliath mountains, has been toppled, utterly destroyed, everywhere is war, war!
    War in the East, war in the west, war up north, war down south! War, war, rumours of a war.
    And until that day, the British countryside will not know peace. Decent folk will fight, if we find it necessary. And we know we shall win, as we are confident in the victory of good over evil.

    Great to talk to you today, Mark. Thanks for signing my Inglorious. 🙂

    1. This is a fight that we must win, that's for sure, and win it we will. But never forget that the pen is mightier than the sword.
      We're just gonna need one hell of a lot of pens!

      From the look of the petition figures, people have already relaxed and stopped talking about it. Don't. Keep talking. Keep spreading the word.
      116,000 know about this. That's 60,000,000 that don't.
      Not talking will cost lives.

      1. Don't worry, Paul. I'm not about to visit the nearest grouse moor armed to the teeth! I just thought I'd try and raise a smile among "the ranks" by paraphrasing this famous song.
        That said, this is a war. And we're fighting an extremely powerful enemy, who will stop at nothing to maintain their stranglehold on our countryside. So, to quote the man once more....

        "Get up, stand up!" 😉

  12. I missed the stroke of midnight by a few minutes but, with no obvious bot attacks today, the following should be roundabout correct;

    The day finished on: 115,965

    Today's signatures: 465

    So (by my best estimate), the lowest day total (and first sub 500 signature day) since before Hen Harrier Saturday (6th August), but all signatures are very welcome, and we have 30 days left to add plenty more.

    A note for Richard Ebbs; palindromes are not something I've taken an interest in before but, after happening to catch 115,511 in the early hours, I'm starting to appreciate the aesthetics. Cheers Richard!

    1. Yes I was a little disappointed not to get to 116,000 by midnight, but the numbers coming in are still bloody good. A few weeks ago I was thinking that another petition might have to be started if this one didn't hit 100,000 and maybe petition fatigue would start kicking in. No fear!! Considering the last petition was 33,000 plus and this one is past 115,000 and we still have more than four weeks before it finishes this has been a remarkable 'journey', very serious purpose but fun too - not often you can say that. Possibly more important than any debate in parliament will be the way the petition has put grouse moors on the agenda for a hell of a lot more of the public - and considering they cover 3.5 million acres of the country about bloody time - and hopefully give the conservation sector enough bottle to stop kow towing to the estates at least to the degree they won't sit back and allow the unchallenged assertions that the moors are great for wildlife. They are actually very, very bad for most of it and public education as to why shouldn't be put on the back burner because that would sour relations with the shooting lobby, it's just honesty which the public deserves.

  13. My first time at the Bird Fair, we went on Saturday and it seemed pretty busy to me. I brought along my slightly unwilling husband and fairly willing (especially with the promise of Nigel Marvin and Chris Packham) daughter. We all had a thoroughly good time. My 18 year old daughter found it all particularly inspiring and encouraging. Fish and chips were great, but most of all we loved the talks, with Chris, Nigel, Simon King and Jonathon Scott offering us 'real' inspiration in various forms. I was thrilled, if not a bit awe struck, to meet Nigel and Chris and have books signed etc. I really don't know how CP kept up the good work all day he must be one of the hardest working environmental campaigners. I guess it was the same for you Mark as we kept missing you. Sad not to shake your hand Mark, or Henry's, but perhaps another time. To make up for it we sent some friends of ours to you on the Sunday and they were delighted to chat with you, buy some books, sign the petition and generally be inspired. I didn't bother with the quizzes, not my bag, so maybe more people feel that way, let's have more debates and more inspirational talks. Last but not least it was brilliant watching the petition increasing by the hour. Great work, fantastic day all round. Well done to all involved and I can't wait for next year. I might even camp next time, so much to see!!!

  14. Just a quick note to point out that the Bird Fair quizzes (at least Bird Brain of Britain, not sure about the others?) are a valuable source of additional revenue for the Oriental Bird Club (OBC), OSME, NBC and ABC charities. OBC (with which I am involved) is entirely volunteer-staffed, so winning the BBoB potentially nets us £1,000 ALL of which goes directly to fund conservation projects. This year's Bird Brain of Britain was the best ever IMO, with a new host (Stephen Moss) and a fight-to-the-death, nerve-jangling ending!

  15. The BBoB was a tie between Yoav Perlman of OSME and Ashley Banwell of OBC. The pricemoney was split between them.

    1. Janneke - thank you very much. Well done to both of them. I don't think David Lindo has forgiven me for beating him the year I won.


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