Woodcraft Folk hits Birdfair 2019!

Monday, 19 August 2019

 Birdfair goes by many names and this year it lived up to the Glastonbury for Birders!

Since it began in 1989, the event (celebrating it's 30th year!) has raised over 5 million pounds and awareness for conservation projects all around the world. Working with BirdLife International partners to reach the local communities that can have the biggest impact, this years funds will go to protecting wetland and forested areas on the Sekong River in Cambodia, home to five critically endangered bird species.

The International Birdwatching Fair really does have an international feel, with 8 marquees filled with stalls selling books, optics, outdoor equipment and holidays to everywhere on the planet! These are joined by wildlife charities and organisations that work across the UK and worldwide. This is all set in the wonderful Rutland Water Nature Reserve, offering plenty of opportunities for wildlife watching away from the crowds. Having attended for the past 4 years, Susan Jones (YIF Development Officer for groups across Norfolk and Suffolk) was keen to promote Woodcraft Folk to this new audience.

Woodcraft Folk had been given a stall in the WildZone, a special area of the event for families to get hands on with nature, with activities including pond dipping, bug hunting and willow weaving. We didn't attend on Friday, which did mean we missed the rain, but arriving on Saturday to a quagmire was interesting! Thankfully, the Wild Zone was next to the Anglian Birdwatching Centre this year, so we had a solid surface to set up on, and the sun was shining for most of the weekend, drawing in the crowds and visitors!

We were offering families the chance to make bug hotels and friendship bracelets, which went down really well, especially with the numerous families from other countries. The bug hotels used scraps of cardboard, bamboo and hay in an empty plastic bottle to make a cosy little home for spiders, woodlice and other creepy crawlies. We were conveniently located next to a larger bug mansion to give our visitors ideas should they wish to upgrade!

The main draw on our stall was our Mystery Box, filled with interesting items kids might pick up on a walk like feathers, sticks, shells and pinecones. This also proved popular with some of the residents of Rutland Water Nature Reserve, as the sun warmed the table it was visited by flirty flies, tiny beetles, hungry bumblebees, beautiful butterflies and this amazingly obliging male Common Darter! One young visitor was allowed to help release moths caught during a survey, and made friends with a Black Arches moth.

One downside to missing the Friday was that we missed a youth led climate strike. They had a great turn out of young people, parents and supporters (including celebs such as Chris Packham and Dominic Dyer). A few came over to our stall over the weekend, and shared their hopes for the government to listen to them! It was great speaking to these inspirational young people and hopefully they will continue to make a difference in the future!

Since her first visit in 2015, Susan has seen a marked increase in the number of young people and families attending Birdfair, and this year was no exception. A young friend now leads a popular Young Birders walk on the Saturday, which this year saw 28 under 20s join him visiting the hides around the reserve. They spotted Ospreys, Great White Egrets and a Black Tern as highlights, making new friends and connections along the way.

This increase has been aided by A Focus On Nature, a youth conservation movement to connect, support and inspire 16-30 year olds. This network allows young people to link up with others via social media and at organised events, workshops or conferences to share their passion and knowledge for nature and the environment. Many of those who were at Birdfair in the early days of AFON are now running or volunteering on stalls at the event, working for national and international conservation organisations, media outlets or are self employed in the field. Every Birdfair sees them get together to meet with online connections or followers, catch up with old friends and make plenty of new friends. And it's an opportunity to take the annual group photo!

Susan is hoping that by promoting Woodcraft Folk at Birdfair we will see new members joining existing groups and possibly new groups being created, filled with young people and families who are already interested in nature, the outdoors and the environment. She is already thinking of ideas for next year, and hopes that she will be joined by other Woodcraft Folk to promote the organisation at this annual event.

For more information about Birdfair:  https://www.birdfair.org.uk/
For more information about A Focus On Nature: https://www.afocusonnature.org/