Dubbed the Glastonbury of birdwatching, Birdfair promises a weekend of wildlife fun

Filled with quizzes, weird nature sounds and wildlife cruises, Birdfair, which takes place from August 16 to 18, is one of the world's most important birdwatching events.

This weekend is one of the hottest dates in Britain’s birdwatching calendar. That’s because Birdfair — dubbed the birdwatcher’s Glastonbury — takes place at the Rutland Water Nature Reserve from Friday, August 16 to Sunday, August 18.

Now in its 31st year, this is the biggest event of its kind in the world, according to founder Tim Appleton. One of the weekend’s highlights is the wildlife cruise, an evening boat trip during which TV presenters and naturalists Nigel Marven, Simon King and Mike Dilger accompany visitors around Rutland Water to spot the ospreys and other animals that call the reservoir their home.

Other key moments of the fair include a debate on the ‘State of the Earth’ and a lecture to help identify birds coming from the East (both on Friday, August 16); the Bird Photographer of the Year Awards and behind-the-scenes stories from Mr Marven’s new TV series “Wild Central America” (on Saturday, August 17); and TV zoologist Mark Carwardine’s cavalcade through unusual sounds from nature on Sunday, August 18 — did you know that a whale can sing two songs at once? Or that there’s a bird that sounds like ‘Pink Floyd studio outtakes’?

Between Mr Carwardine’s talk, a Lion King panto, birdwatching quizzes and Birdfair’s own take on Pointless (Birdless Point Brain, in which teams try to score as few points as possible by ‘giving the least obvious correct answers to wildlife themed questions’), there’s enough fodder to fill dinner-party conversations for months.

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‘Birdfair is an amazing celebration of nature and always a fun day out — or three,’ says Jamie Wyver of the RSPB, which is supporting the event alongside the Wildlife Trusts, whose Leicestershire and Rutland branch looks after Rutland Water. ‘You get to go to fascinating talks, browse hundreds of stalls selling wildlife-related goodies and watch debates and quizzes with a range of TV personalities and experts. And the money raised from your entry ticket goes towards vital conservation projects around the world!’

Since its inception in 1989, the fair has generated more than £5 million, which have gone towards a wide range of conservation efforts. In 2018 alone, it raised a massive £322,000 to support the creation of a flamingo haven on Mar Chiquita, the biggest salt-lake in Argentina and the fifth largest in the world.

This year, the designated project is ‘Conserving Cambodia’s Big Five’, an initiative by BirdLife International to protect the habitats and wildlife of Western Siem Pang. Crossed by the Sekong River, this forested area, which links Cambodia’s Virachey National Park to the Xe Pian National Protected Area in Laos, is home to five critically endangered birds: the white-shouldered ibis, the giant ibis and three vulture species, the white-rumped, the slender-billed and the red-headed vulture.

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How do you protect five Critically Endangered bird species in one place? By lifting local people out of poverty, so they don't need to hunt wildlife. Western Siem Pang wildlife sanctuary is home to 70% of Cambodia’s vultures and two of the world’s rarest ibises, as well as other birds that are vulnerable to extinction, like this Sarus Crane. They's why we helped to set up @ibisrice – a wildlife-friendly farming initiative that offers farmers a premium price for their produce in return for following the sanctuary's rules and not expanding their land into the forest. The great thing is that they no longer need to: Ibis Rice has already boosted local incomes by 20%. This year, all proceeds from #Birdfair2019 will go towards protecting this precious site further. Find out more on our website. #LinkInBio #birds #birding #birdwatching #nature #conservation #environment #BirdLife #BirdPhotography #WildlifePhotography #IbisRice #Birdfair #Cambodia [Photo: Jonathan Eames]

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Tickets are £15 for a day and £40 for the entire weekend. Entry for children under 18 is free and concessions apply to students and RSPB and Wildlife Trusts’ members. Wildlife cruises are priced at 25 (£15 for children aged 16 and under). Please note that only guide and assistance dogs are allowed at Birdfair, because Rutland Water Nature Reserve is a Site of Special Scientific Interest and a Special Protection Area. For more information. visit the Birdfair website.

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