Brits do it Bigger

I recently returned from my first visit to the British Birdfair.  What a place!  In its 22 second year, the event has raised and donated the equivalent of about $3 million dollars to various bird conservation programs.  

Unlike the birding festivals with which we are familiar in the United States, the Birdfair does not focus on birding field trips and identification seminars.  Instead, the focus is on equipment and places to visit.  At this year's event, close to 20,000 people waded through often muddy grounds to visit 7 major tents and several smaller ones to see the latest gear and hear about the top birding locations in the world.  

The optics companies had a major presence at the event, including Bushnell, Leica, Swarovski, and Zeiss.

Tour companies and tourism groups made up a large percentage of the stands.  Countries with stands as large as 30-40 ft, in length including Spain, Australia, New Zealand, the Philipines, as well as countries from Africa, Central and South America, were present. It was interesting to see how many countries, and even regions within a country, were represented by their tourism organizations.  Also interesting was how few areas of  the U. S. were represented.  South Texas and the Cape May Bird Observatory  were the only regions to have stands, and I did not see any of the tour companies headquartered in the U.S.  It was very much a world stage for places to go birding and the U.S. was greatly under-represented.   

The American Birding Association did have a stand and was trying to pick up a few tips for their plans to have a U.S. Birdfair in 2012.

Stands selling bird feed and bird feeding products were a minority, but there were a few.  Natures Feast is one of the largest suppliers of bird food and feeders in England, and they had a very nice and very colorful stand. I saw products from a few U.S. manufacturers but not very many. As far as food choices go, mixed seed and suet balls of various kinds appeared to be the most popular.  Black-oil sunflower does not have the high standing in England that it enjoys in the United States.  

If you have a chance to make the trip sometime, it is worth it.  The event is held about 2 hours from London, in a location called Rutland Water.  There are numerous large ponds in the area, and the birding is excellent if you get overloaded by the number of exhibits.  Renting a car with satellite turn-by-turn navigation is the way to go.  The tricky part is getting in and out off all the round abouts while remaining on the correct, wrong side of the road.  

Thinking about taking a stand in next years event?  Better get your name in now, there was a waiting list of 300 companies trying to get into this year's event.

Thanks to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and Swarovski Optik for helping make the trip possible.

Sam Crowe
Web site editor


Before the grand opening.


The crowds soon arrived.





Emma Nicholson of Cranswick Pet Products



This stand promoted birding in New Zealand. There were at least two different stands promoting birding in Australia.