Rutland may be England’s smallest county but this weekend it was the centre of the birding world. 22,000 people from over 70 different countries met up for the 25th Birdfair. Over the course of a quarter of a century this incredible event has raised in excess of £3 million for conservation projects worldwide and, if this last weekend is anything to go by, it is going from strength to strength.
It is not just Birdfair that has grown over the past 25 years. By the late 1980’s the Osprey population in the UK was on the increase but it still numbered less than 60 breeding pairs, with the population largely confined to North-east Scotland. Fast forward to 2013 and things have completely changed. There are now almost 300 pairs in the UK with Ospreys breeding at at least five different locations south of the border, including, of course, in Rutland. With 2013 being our most successful year to date, we have plenty to celebrate. And that’s exactly what we did on Sunday afternoon.
There is no one in the UK who has done more for Osprey conservation than Roy Dennis and so it was a privilege to have him at the fair this year. On Friday evening Roy and I led a very enjoyable evening cruise on the Rutland Belle and on Sunday afternoon we got together again for A Celebration of Ospreys in the events marquee. We wanted the event to be a real celebration of all that has been achieved with Ospreys over the past 25 years – not only in the UK, but also elsewhere in Europe and, more recently thanks to our education work, in Africa too.
Melton-based world music choir, Global Harmony opened the show with a superb rendition of 10,000 miles; a song which they cleverly adapted to fit with Osprey migration by changing the words to 3000 miles! Roy and I then discussed the population expansion of Ospreys in the UK, and specifically, how we have got to know certain individual birds very well. Thanks to the colour-ringing scheme that Roy has co-ordinated since the 1960s and, more recently, our satellite-tracking studies, there are certain Ospreys – Green J, Logie and 03(97) to name three – that have become very well-known to people all around the world. Some of them have even helped to build links with conservationists and communities elsewhere on the migration flyway. For instance during her stop-over at the Urdabai estuary in the Basque Country in 2008 Logie initiated contact between Roy and Basque conservationist, Aitor Galarza. They have since become good friends and this year Roy translocated 12 young Scottish Ospreys to Urdabai in an effort to restore a breeding population to the northern part of Spain.
Another Osprey that needs no introduction, is Lady. This Osprey – who is now well into her twenties – has hatched 50 chicks at the Scottish Wildlife Trust’s Loch of the Lowes reserve in Northern Scotland. She’s been the subject of a book and, more recently, inspired Scottish broadcaster and singer Fiona Kennedy, to write a song about her. We were delighted to be joined by Fiona and Ruairidh McDonald who performed the song – and several other – with their guitarist, Jenn Butterworth. If you haven’t seen it, here’s the video…
Having talked about Osprey migration Roy and I then discussed the importance of linking with communities in West Africa. Let’s face it, Ospreys spend as much time in Africa as they do in the UK and so it is essential that conservation effort is focused there too. That’s exactly what we’re trying to do with our Osprey Flyways Project; by providing wildlife education in Gambian schools we hope to inspire the next generation of African conservationists and, in doing so, help to protect our migratory birds, Ospreys included.
Having talked about Africa it seemed only appropriate to finish with an African song – which Global Harmony performed superbly. Celebration was the word!
A huge thanks to Global Harmony, Fiona, Ruairidh and Jenn for performing and to everyone who came along – we hope you enjoyed it as much as we did. If you would like to buy Fly Lady Fly – and in doing so help Osprey conservation (Fiona and Ruairidh are kindly donating a percentage of the proceeds to Scottish Wildlife Trust and the Rutland Osprey Project) you can download it from iTunes.