RSPB Scotland's Birdfair 2014
Hopetoun House May 10th and 11th 2014
What a weekend! I was one of a team of photographers covering the RSPB Scotland's Birdfair at Hopetoun House. I had never been to this event before but I have a feeling it's going to become an annual event from now on! Indeed, Scotland's big nature festival had a truly staggering list of events on offer including talks, workshops, activities, tours, live music, fabulous food to eat and buy, bird ringing demonstrations, survival tips, pond-dipping, willow weaving, puppet theatre, bee conservation tips, photography masterclasses and expert equipment to try- to name but a few! Although an avid wildlife enthusiast already, I was a newcomer to the world of Birding as such. I was overwhelmed at just how positive, friendly, humble, engaging and fun Birdwatchers - or "Twitchers" - are! Not that I expected otherwise from people who adore the outdoors and the plethora of different winged creatures on this earth - but it was a lovely welcome into their world.
Anyway, RSPB Scotland certainly impressed me not only with their organisation and line-up of fascinating guest speakers, but additionally with their seemingly endless supply of chirpy (no pun intended!), dedicated and hard-working staff who made it all happen behind the scenes. I had agreed a remit of certain talks, workshops and speakers to cover as well as just wandering happily around documenting people of all ages having a whale of a time in the sunshine (I know- tough job eh?) and so I headed off to various presentations over the two days. Firstly, I listened to a great talk about the Aigas Field Centre by Alicia Leow-Dyke and more specifically the Beaver and Scottish Wildcat breeding programmes they are running to boost these animals' numbers in Scotland. Alicia gave a great talk and now the Aigas Field Centre is clearly somewhere else I need to put on my list to visit! Next up was Photographer Peter Cairns of 2020 Vision - the UK’s biggest nature photography project. Twenty of the country’s top photographers worked over twenty months to tell the story of why wild nature matters. To all of us. Peter presented the final inspiring images and stories that were created along the way.
The next speaker to cover was Stephen Moss whose talk "Tweet of the Day" was about his hugely popular Radio 4 program that helps people to discover British birds through their songs and calls. Each Tweet of the Day begins with a call or song, followed by a fascinating story. In a series of wonderful videos, Stephen's famous Bird-man friend Bill Oddie explained the importance of rhythm, pitch and tone in birdsong - but in true Oddie style he peppered his "lesson" with witty, zany asides.
Stephen and his friend Brett Westwood have brought out an accompanying book to the series and there was a veritable (although polite) stampede to the shop tent straight after his talk... which I must admit I joined! I got the second to last copy and Stephen was kind enough to sign it and even remember me from the day before when I'd taken a picture of him and his lovely daughter Daisy. So there you go - my happy descent into Twitcher-ville has begun!
Another expert I saw speak was Jo McIntyre (a personal heroine of mine!) the multi award-winning and self-taught wildlife photographer. Jo talked about her own path into the field and shared some funny and valuable tips from equipment to camera know-how. Jo's was a very popular workshop and I found myself cross-legged on the floor furiously scribbling down all the knowledge Jo shared - right down to where a fellow curvy lady photographer is best off getting trousers that will at least fit if not flatter!
Activities-wise I watched happy children brandishing nets then scouring the picture guides to identify what they'd caught whilst pond-dipping.
I saw countless painted little faces and watched many baskets weaved, shelters built, fires started (legitimately!), birds released and of course ice-creams scoffed!
There was a huge Tipi with a puffin puppet theatre in it, lots of soft toy bees, colourful windmills, woven birds, handmade mashmallow fudge and sweets to buy.
There was a session on "things that go bump in the night" in the Biodiversity garden and even a workshop on how to turn into a bat run by The Bat conservation Trust.
The setting for the Birdfair was Hopetoun House which of course I have menioned in a previous post.. but this time the grounds stole the show rather than just the house interior. Although always impressive, the sheer number of people and the Birdfair itself seemed to make them shine.
There were many dogs that had come along too and it was great to see all sizes and shapes represented - both working and just family pets. A mischievous but lovely beaver was also wandering around, making hundreds of new friends and even trying to get some ice-cream!
All in all a thoroughly enjoyable weekend of "work" for me. I made lots of new friends, discovered an incredible curry business The Chilli Papas whose innovative and amazingly authentic mixes are just heavenly - and even had the best pizza I've had outside of Italy courtesy of these guys at Scozzese Woodfired Pizza!
Can't wait till next year's birdfair! But until then... here's a link to the full gallery of images from the weekend: