I remember finding out about Birdfair last year and thinking that it might be a pretty cool place to try and visit, not too far away, not hugely expensive, but I wasn’t sure if my family would be up for it and so I didn’t mention it.
This past year we’ve become so much more interested and involved with wildlife and so I thought again about going. A found a leaflet about it at Old Moor and so there was no hiding it from them then, I asked them if they fancied going and they jumped up and down at the thought of it. James seemed up for it too, although slightly hesitant, so I fired off an email to book us on to their campsite/field and thought no more about it.
August rolled up and we were all excited to be camping. We don’t often camp in the summer holidays due to it being busy and me being a bit of an anti social, um, person. I have to say though, that I was a litle bit apprehensive about the actual birdfair itself. I tried to find out as much information as I could about it, specifically with regards to camping there and what things the kids could do but all I could find out was that it was a ‘great day out’ and great for looking at optics and birding/wildlife holidays. There seemed to be some kids activities on, but my 2 being 9 and 11 are almost getting too old for cutting and colouring. I was a bit worried we’d all hate it and that we weren’t ‘birdy’ enough if you know what I mean. There was no getting out of it though, but I figured we could just do one day if not really our thing and if it was we’d do two.
We arrived on the Thursday evening to the camp field and set up up the tent no problem. The field obviously had sheep on it in the past as it was dotted around with plenty of poo, oh and lots of uneven bits, but the pitches were big enough for us and the car and the field was flat. There were 4 portaloos in the field, a CDP and a tap and I have to say it was kept immaculate in all the time we were there, didn’t run out of toilet roll or smell at all. Thumbs up 🙂
So Friday morning came and we made up sandwiches (I’m not sure if we could have gone back to the tent for lunch, I didn’t ask, we just took food with us) and joined the queue to get in. We wanted to have a look at the bird ringing demonstration so headed that way first, but all the time we were there there were no birds to see and when one was caught the crowd was too big to get a decent look and as we’d had a very up close encounter with bird ringing recently we didn’t go back. A bit of a shame as James hasn’t seen it done. We looked round the optics tents (A declared these boring after a bit), saw Simon King at his Wildlife Whisperers stand and looked at their tracks and signs display, and generally looked round some of the marquees.
We happened upon the Buglife stand at just the right time to go out on a mini beast hunt and did that. Found loads of ladybirds, spiders, shield bugs (my fave) and other things. Oh yes we found a newt under a log too! I forget that James doesn’t get to do these things with us and he enjoyed it lots.
It was pretty much lunch time after that so we found a shady spot and enjoyed some food. It was a very hot day, I’m glad we had lots of water! We then wandered over to the catering marquee to watch some musicians and have an ice cream.
There are lots of talks and lectures on which mostly didn’t interest us (lots are about birds and wildlife overseas which really I know nothing about!), but we quite fancied going to listen to Charlie Hamilton James as we all enjoyed his Halcyon River Diaries shows so we went to that. We also caught the end of a ‘call my ruff’ 😉 game which looked like it would have been fun to watch all the way through. I think the kids would have been bored sat for too long though. Really enjoyed the talk, shame it was hampered by technological failures, but I always enjoy listening to Charlie, love his sense of humour 🙂 It was about a project called 20:20 vision which looks very interesting (and which has reminded me to have a proper look at the website). Afterwards we decided to go and ask for his autograph and managed to get a pic with him (bloomin awful pic of me!). He’s so tall! But a thouroughly nice bloke 🙂
I think after this James went off to buy a tripod he had his eye on, which seemed to take forever! The heat was getting to us, so we then escaped to the Wildlife Trust tent where they had lots of crafts to do. A wanted to make a puffin mask as she wanted to be a puffin at an under the sea themed party and had lost a mask she’d acquired ages ago so this was perfect. M made an oystercatcher mask and James and I sat and rested our feet!
We then decided to call it a day and headed back to the tent for tea, playing and chilling. We all agreed it was a great day and wanted to go back on the Sunday.
Saturday was spent at a friends house for a fab party which will be blogged seperately 🙂
Sunday was tent packing up day. It had rained overnight and the canvas was still wet after we’d pretty much packed the other stuff so we left the tent to dry more and hoped it wouldn’t rain again! We had at least 3 huge marquees full of stands that we hadn’t looked round yet so we did that. In the first marquee the kids got a BTO wrist band and were ‘ringed’ as a certain bird and so had to visit the BTO stand somewhere else and find out all about the birds which they enjoyed. A was an osprey and M was a garden warbler 🙂
We were hoping to catch Nick Baker and purchase his new book which is all about bugs and get it signed. We must have timed it just right and managed to see him straight away. He is such a lovely bloke, had so much time for us all and was very chatty and lovely. Did I mention he was lovely? 😉 The book is excellent btw, I’ll have to do a proper review of it once we’ve had a good look through and done some of the activities in it.
Lots more looking round stands and chatting to people, the kids did some crafts at the RSPB stand and I happened to overhear that the afternoon pond dipping session was to be with Nick Baker so we duly signed ourselves up for that too. A seems to be having a bit of an aversion to pond dipping at the moment and wants nothing to do with it, but as M wanted to she had no choice! The RSPB stand also had bug hunting trips throughout the day too, all free!
There was a pretty fab giant osprey sculpture that the kids loved and we had our lunch near.
So, lunch, crafts, wander round, crafts, look at expensive binoculars, drool. get the picture? Lol!
I completely fell in love with some £800 binoculars, I am wondering if I am extra good if I will get some? Nah probably not! There was a really nice man at the Viking optical stand who was really nice and helpful with the kids helping them up to see through the scopes. I really love when people are like that and include the kids as much as us. We’d love to get a scope, lots of them are so expensive though. Not quite so expensive as those binoculars I liked so much though…
The kids spent ages again in the Wildlife Trust stand doing all the crafts and crosswords they didn’t do the last time.
Eventually it was pond dipping time. M and I have been doing lots of this lately as pond dipping is part of what I help out with at the rspb and M likes to help too (A always stays and does craft), but James has never done it in his life so he really enjoyed it!
Nick Baker came round everyone and had a look at what we’d found and was again just really nice, knowledgeable and enthusiastic. He showed us up close how a dragonfly larvae’s jaw works (it’s a bit like something out of an Alien film!) and we stumped him as we’d found a creature he couldn’t identify 🙂
Such a fab experience!
There were clouds gathering and we were mindful of needing to get our tent down so we headed back to the campsite quickly after pond dipping and took the tent down.
Overall, a fab weekend. The kids have come back with such a positive attitude to nature and wildlife which can never be a bad thing. We are already looking forward to next year and if you are planning on going with children and wondering whether it is a good idea or not then I say go for it!