Thursday, August 27, 2009

Scenes from the Bird Fair

Thursday, August 27, 2009
When you arrive at the British Birdwatching Fair, which is as close to a Woodstock for Birders as anything in the world, you are directed into one of several car parks. These fill up quickly, as shown above, just an hour after the gates opened on Friday. Two things amazed me about the car parks at the BirdFair (as it's called for short): One, I couldn't believe how MANY people attend this annual event—more than 25,000 this year! Two: I was astounded that all of these people know how to drive safely on THE WRONG SIDE OF THE ROAD!

Just outside the entrance gates, the seed trucks stand by, sides splitting with tons (or tonnes) of seed waiting to be loaded into cars. You can buy your seed inside at one of the seed-selling booths (or stalls), take your receipt out to the seed truck and the jolly seedman will load your purchase into your car.

Once inside the gates, you notice many large white tents (called marquees). Inside, the marquees are teeming with people, like a beehive of bird watchers.

Among the special offerings at the Bird Fair is a quiz-show-style competition called Bird Brain, where some of the UK's leading birders and personalities compete up on stage, like a game show. The Bird Brain tent was filled to capacity for each round.

Over along the water that gives Rutland Water its name is the Optics Marquee, home to displays of the worlds leading binoculars and spotting scopes for birders. This marquee has grown over the years, and spawned some babies: a special marquee for retailers, and another for cameras and digiscoping gear.

Seeing all the new optics was enjoyable, but my favorite thing was getting my Zeiss 8x Victories cleaned by an expert optics technician. These two guys sat there all weekend cleaning Zeiss after Zeiss, inside and out. They did things to binoculars that made me feel light-headed—like taking out the lenses and swabbing out the optical tubes. And they did this while people waited!

I'm thinking that the cleaning did me some good because just two days later I spotted a fairly rare bird—one that got the local rarity hotline jumping. More on that in a future post.

Across the central path from the main marquees is the food court, where everyone ends up sooner or later. In fact, each time I wanted to try to find someone in particular, I went to the food and beverage area and looked around. I usually found them or they found me. And if not, I just waited, like a spider waits for a fly, and before long, here came my friend or colleague.

Over at the food court you could buy a wide variety of food and foodlike things. Shown above is the Traditional English Breakfast: Fried egg, fried whole tomato, fried sausage, fried mushrooms, fried pieces of country-cured bacon, and baked beans (unfried). Next to it is a cup of coffee-like liquid used to wash down the Traditional English Breakfast. I found that this worked better for me than Traditional English Breakfast Tea.

Tomorrow: visiting the Philippines in England.


On August 27, 2009 at 7:46 PM Erik said...

No fried bread? Seems like every English breakfast I was served also came with fried bread. You know, just in case you didn't get enough grease and cholesterol.

I'm pretty sure the NIH provides Lipitor in little packs like we sell Tic Tac's.

On August 27, 2009 at 9:20 PM Julie Zickefoose said...

Mmm. Fried English food. Glad to be home?
This is as good a look at the Bird Fair anyone could ask for. 25,000 people. Really. What IS it with birding in America? Our birds are so cool! Maybe we just take them for granted.

On August 28, 2009 at 6:23 AM Bill of the Birds said...

I started to do a whole post on English food, but then thought that would be tasteless.

What was that line from that Norman Blake song: "Just give me something I'm used to..."?

On August 28, 2009 at 11:14 AM littleorangeguy said...

Bill, that's not a seed truck. That's a seed lorry.

As for (old school) English food -- why do you think English beer is so good?

On August 28, 2009 at 4:53 PM Rondeau Ric said...

I've herd of a swag man but not a seed man.

Have you seen my friend Harry Bickerstaff?

On August 29, 2009 at 1:54 PM Anonymous said...

Informative post about fellow birders in England. 25,000? Wow!
American birder, Gary Wayne

On August 29, 2009 at 7:28 PM Dave said...

So, when is BWD gonna organize the American Bird Fair?
I'll be there!