1 Watch the bird-ringing
There are a host of activities to get involved in, such as pond dipping and moth-trapping, but the BTO’s bird-ringing events are particularly popular. Try to catch an earlier session, because these tend to see a larger number of birds in the mist nets. You can then watch them being ringed and hear why this is such an important way of collecting data.
2 Travel the world
Dedicate at least half a day to visiting the various tourist board and travel operator stands. These represent destinations worldwide and usually have a local birding expert on hand to tell you about the species and habitats unique to their country. It’s a fantastic way for independent travellers to find inspiration.
3 Get a front-row seat
This year’s Birdfair has a plethora of excellent speakers covering a diverse range of subjects, including BBC Wildlife writer Patrick Barkham on the conservation of the British coastline; Oliver Yates on saving the albatross; Aigas’s Warwick Lister-Kaye on Yellowstone; and Elizabeth Ball on the hazards facing migratory birds around the Mediterranean.
4 Try out the optics
Birdfair is an amazing opportunity to get your hands on a range of optics. “Quality is so good these days that there’s not a lot separating some of the major manufacturers,” says BBC Wildlife’s Ben Hoare. “So your decision will often come down to personal preference, such as the size of your hands, whether you wear glasses and if you need close focus for watching insects.” With all of the big names represented, this is the perfect opportunity to test their products out.
5 Spot the pros
One of our young Local Patch Reporters made it his mission to meet as many celebs as possible at last year’s Birdfair, returning with photos of himself posing beside the country’s top birdwatchers. People are very approachable here, so see how many stars you can spot over the weekend. Play ‘Birdwatch Celebrity Bingo’ and award yourself extra points for Bill Oddie, Simon King, BBC Wildlife’s Chris Packham, ‘Urban Birder’ David Lindo and Iolo Williams.
6 See the ospreys
Rutland Water is a reservoir and nature wetland reserve that is famous for its breeding ospreys. During the festival you can book special osprey boat tours hosted by Simon King, David Lindo, Mike Dilger and Nick Baker via the Birdfair website. Or by adding a day onto your visit you can hire bikes on the shores of Rutland Water at Normanton or Whitwell, and use them to explore the reservoir’s wonderful hides.
7 Meet BBC Wildlife
We will be at the festival all weekend with some excellent subscriptions offers, and we also want to hear what you think of the magazine. This is a great opportunity for you to tell us what you want to read about in the future, and find out just how we put each issue together. Visit us at Marquee 6, Stand 1–2!