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04-09-2017 13:58 | Read 407 times

Looking out for the birds

Birders flocked to Rutland Water last weekend for the UK’s annual three-day international bonanza, Birdfair 2017, a showcase for wildlife TV presenters, authors and nature-lovers from 83 countries -- including North Cyprus. ANNE CANALP finds out more.

Looking out for the birds

THE TRNC's feathered wildlife and the problems it faces were brought to an international audience during the UK's annual three-day Birdfair.

North Cyprus Society for the Protection of Birds and Wildlife (Kuşkor) representatives Robin Snape, Damla Beton Snape and Olkan Ergüler camped out at the annual show from last Friday to Sunday to promote the country's nature conservation and tourism.

The trio manned a stand to promote their current campaigns for restricted bird hunting and monitoring and protecting Bonelli’s eagles, along with around 450 other exhibitors.

The event took place beside Rutland Water -- the largest manmade lake in Europe, covering 3,500 acres and with 26 miles of stunningly beautiful shoreline.

A welcome first-day visitor was well-known BBC wildlife presenter, naturalist, photographer and author Chris Packham, who stayed to chat about his own anti-grouse hunting activism and fight to protect the hen harrier, whose UK population has dwindled to just four breeding pairs.

His campaign had a particular resonance for Mr Snape and Dr Beton-Snape, as they have witnessed a similar decline in North Cyprus numbers of birds of prey and ravens, including the endangered Bonelli’s eagle.

The Kuşkor team also featured their contribution to Euring, the Europe-wide bird ringing and research project; the European Breeding Bird Atlas; moves to establish protective status; and management of seabird nesting colonies and other key habitats and habitat restoration.

The September opening of their first “birders’ hotspot”, the EU-funded Kukla Wetlands project and the development of birdwatching tourism were also featured.

Birdfair founder and co-organiser Tim Appleton commented: “Recent press articles have revealed what we knew all along: watching birds and wildlife is cool!

“We are welcoming new birders and nature fans of all ages to the biggest celebration of wildlife in the UK and quite possibly the world.”

Mr Snape said: “We had quite a bit of interest but people are put off by hunting and trapping and Greek Cypriot propaganda. They are also under the false impression that the country is in a state of unrest.”

The Kuşkor team put the record straight for some of the 20,000-plus visitors to the show, now in its 29th year, and stressed the importance of their annual presence which had also promoted birding opportunities in Turkey via information on their stall about Birdwatch Turkey.    

They also had a chance to catch up with colleagues from Cabs, the Campaign against Bird Slaughter whose activism in Cyprus helped to publicise  the annual slaughter of hundreds of thousands of migratory songbirds.

Mr Snape said: “Chris Packham has been very supportive of Cabs and trapping was high on the agenda.”

Kukla Wetlands Project aims to attract birders

LIKE Rutland Water, the Kukla Wetlands project aims to attract birders who will not only bring revenue and jobs, but whose observations will be invaluable for conservation strategies and as indicators of global climate change and environmental problems.

The flagship project near the Haspolat water treatment centre will open in mid-September to show that reservoirs and wetlands can be managed as recreational green spaces and be an asset to the local and national economy.

Birdfair raises over £4 million since 1989

WILDLIFE TV presenters entertained visitors with fascinating talks, quizzes and debates at Anglian Water’s Rutland Water which was awarded a “greenspace management and conservation” Green Flag in February this year.
The annual Birdfair has raised over £4 million since humble beginnings in 1989 to promote vital conservation work around the world.
Each year, proceeds from Birdfair’s ticket sales are donated to international conservation work through BirdLife International, and this year’s theme was Saving Paradise in the Pacific. 
Funds raised will help to save the endangered Rapa fruit dove and 11 species of seabirds threatened by a population of rats on the French Polynesian island of Rapa-Iti.
Last year’s Birdfair raised an incredible £350,000 for international conservation and will, since last year, also fund a leadership programme for young conservationists.
Eight trade marquees, a special marquee for wildlife art and an events marquee housed celebrities from first-timer Steve Backshall and his wild adventures, to Chris Packham and Mark Carwadine who debated whether wildlife film making should be more than just visually stunning armchair entertainment.
A view through the lens of Simon King, Arjan Dwarshuis’s 366-day birdspotting record of 6,851 species, and debates on the politics of British wildlife protection, Brexit and the environment were just some of the highlights.
Other celebrities included Mike Dilger, David Lindo, Martin Hughes Games and Nick Baker, alongside films, light-hearted gameshows like Bird Brain of Britain or A Question of Stork, and a programme of 20-minute talks in four lecture marquees. 
Hundreds of stalls promoted wildlife equipment, holidays, book signings, local food and a Rutland Water walk or cruise to watch majestic ospreys hunting fish. 
Sponsors included the world’s best optics companies and British wildlife magazines, highlighting the growing sector of nature photography through competitions. 
Birdfair is jointly organised by the Leicestershire and Rutland Wildlife Trust, the Wildlife Trusts and the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, with the help of volunteers. 
The annual show began as an idea in a Hambleton pub in 1989 and has hosted many famous names in the field, including Sir David Attenborough.

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