Birdfair 2017: Saving Paradise in the Pacific

‘Saving Paradise in the Pacific’ was this year’s aim for Birdfair. Raising vital funds for BirdLife International and partners to help the effort of get the south pacific island of Rapa Iti, found in French Polynesia, back to its former glory. The island and its nine islets are home to birds that cannot be found anywhere else in the world. A lot of the merchandise had the Rapa Fruit-dove on it, which is the icon for the effort. To raise awareness for this fantastic cause I stepped in this year and called on a friend to help me. So, on the weekend before Birdfair I travel to Andover to have a make-over. My friend Lauren is a professional photographer and make-up artist who kindly offered her services to publicise this effort by making me look like this iconic bird. The process took four hours and a lot of liquid latex but the result was one to remember. The video received a mixture of emotions. From great praise on the technical ability of Lauren as well as comments like, ‘What the …?’. When I showed the video to the Communications Officer of BirdLife he asked for me to re-tweet the post to BirdLife_News who would then re-tweet to their followers.

After doing this the post has grown as each day passes. Birdfair chose the Rapa Fruit-dove as there are only 270 left on the island. Rapa Iti is home to 10 other species of bird which need our help. One which still needs explaining to science, the Rapa Shearwater now described as the Newell’s Shearwater. The donations made to BirdLife will help get the people and equipment needed to help in the recovery and restoration of the island.

Birdfair as always has wonderful talks, exhibitors and people. There were the regulars like BTO, RSPB, and The Wildlife Trust, as well as some new organisations, Wildlife Worldwide, Balkan Tracks and The Catalan Tourist Board, to name but a few. This visit turned into a t-shirt collection experience. First on the list was getting one of the first prints of Birdlife Internationals Arctic Tern t-shirts. Of course, I then bought the official Birdfair t-shirts to add to last years. What I didn’t realise though, was that the blue Rapa Fruit-dove design shirt was actually a ladies. Never mind though as I have had it altered by my wonderful mother and turned it into a vest top. The male Birdfair shirt was dull with it having a dark blue colour and the scene of the Rapa Shearwaters. I would expect the shirts to celebrate wildlife at the project locations, so bright colours. Not sure why the organisers decided not to use the image of the project banner on both shirts. Oh well, maybe an idea for Mr Appleton for next year.

I got talking with some friends, old and new, which is always the beauty of an event like this. All the visitors come from all over the British Isles to rejoice in the wonder that is UK wildlife. I spoke to Fergus Beeley again about my progress with what I am now up to; joining local organisations aid in their effort on making the area better for wildlife. I also spoke to Shaun Hurrell, Communications Officer at BirdLife International. Surprisingly for me, other than Fergus, he was the only other person to recognise me from last year. I thought that was brilliant. It’s what I am wanting to do in time but didn’t think that would happen so fast. I didn’t get to talk with Mike Dilger this year, as always at Birdfair he’s rushed off his feet doing talks in the Events Marquee or interviews with other organisations. We did say ‘Hi’ in passing every so often. I got some more pictures with him after some of the talks. Remembering back, it was after my first lecture where I wanted to get a group picture of the panel. As they were all back stage in the ‘Green Room’, apart from Dr Mark Avery who I had to ask to join us as he left via the side door and not out back stage, Mike invited me in. After visiting the area quite regularly, I might have been the only visitor to step foot inside the cordoned off ‘Birdfair Guests Only’ area. It was a great privilege to be surrounded by the likes of Anneka Svenska, Dr Mark Avery, Mike Dilger, Dominic Dyer and Chris Luffingham as well as all their families and volunteers of Birdfair.

Birdfair has inspired me to improve myself. Giving back to the community by informing people about the care that we should have for our surroundings. During the week, I have pondered over many things. It dawned on me today though that everything is here for a reason in one form or another. Every animal has a predator. Apart from us. There is no animal above the Homo sapiens for us to fear other than each other and time. The question I asked myself was, what is our purpose? I could only come to one conclusion and that is to care. To be a guardian for everything else that shares this planet. We can learn scientifically what works best for every animal on this planet simply by observing it. At that point, we can make areas across the globe suitable for every animal to live in equilibrium. Yes, there will still predation between species but that is nature. It is that which continues to balance out the populations of different species. If you feel like you could be a guardian for animals on this planet. Then given them a voice within the governments of this world, I urge you to join a conservation organisation.

As I may have mentioned I am wanting to switch careers from IT as a Database Analyst to a Warden/Ranger. After speaking to the people in the local area from the Suffolk Wildlife Trust and others at Birdfair, what I am doing is right if I do not wish to take the University approach. Getting experience in all things nature, is the ideal situation getting as much knowledge and experience as physically possible. I have put together in my head a five-year plan. In no order, I intend on doing the following;

  • Join organisations that help fund their effort to improve wildlife awareness in the local area.
  • Volunteer with local organisations and groups improving the area for wildlife and encouraging locals to join in.
  • Build up a contact list of people already in the industry who can help me achieve.
  • Get training and licenses in things that require legal protection or advanced knowledge in how to care for certain species. I.e. Hazel Dormice handling and surveying license or BTO Bird Ringing Scheme.
  • Get the funds needed to go on a wildlife holiday helping do work in areas for organisations. Otherwise, go on an internship abroad to learn how wildlife conservation works in other countries. Seeing the problems they face and learning techniques on how to overcome them.
  • If I find another interest, learn more about it especially if it is a niche area such as Lichenology (the study of Lichens).
  • Finally, after building up my knowledge, look for the job that best suits what I enjoy doing most.

If it wasn’t for Birdfair and seeing just how many people care about the environment we live in, the animals we share it with, and the conservation efforts needed to sustain it. I would not have found my true calling. There cannot be enough emphasis made about just how much of a community feeling this event gives to people. Some are struggling in life physically, emotionally, mentally or have just always had a love for it. I would like to thank Mr Tim Appleton and Mr Martin Davies, who first came up with the idea of this event over a few pints in the local pub. However, also to Carole Allen who is the organiser of the event and makes sure everything runs smoothly. Finally, Birdfair would not happen if it wasn’t for the hundreds of volunteers. They return every year to help make it an enjoyable experience for everyone.

Thank you for reading, come and join us at Birdfair next year (17th-19th August 2018). Until then, keep twitching.

Ian

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