Monday, 18 August 2008

Three days at Rutland

Pam and I spent three days in the Rutland area. Some of the time at the Birdfair and the rest having fun with Jack and Josh, two of our grandchildren and Pete and Nina. The Birdfair reached 20 years old this year. The first year raised £300o for conservation and last year £226,000, in total £1,940,000 and this doesn't include the monies that individual charities, like the local trusts and bird clubs made towards their conservation projects. Martin Davis and Tim Appleton are to be congratulated on organising such an amazing event, although they've not always done too well with the weather.

The Birdfair was just as good as ever, with a mixture of stands, some commercial and some for the many societies both local, national and international concerned with birds and other conservation. There were loads of book stands, and these as always were amongst the most popular with and enormous selection of books, from antique to the latest field guide available.

I spent some time visiting friends on the OSME stand, a society I was secretary of for a number of years. Like all the regional bird clubs they do great work in supporting and sponsoring research in their region, in this case the middle east. In the centre of the picture is Dr Dave Murdoch, a driving force in the development of our knowledge of the current state of the birds of Syria.
I stopped off to have a chat with David Featherbe, a local Lecturer and photographer of Nature and Landscape. He was, as usual in good form and seemed to be doing well at the fair.

On Saturday Pam and I spent a lot of time in the Art Marquee. Anyone interested in all forms of Natural History are should go. There is just so much fabulous art it is mind boggling. This year one stand that really caught the eye was Nicola Theaktson's Ceramic sculptures. They have a certain "brutal" reality that is sometimes sacrificed for a more cuddly impression by other artists. I really liked the African Wild Dog above, an animal I've not seen in the wild and is probably number two on my want list.

In the same way I loved the pose of this Polar Bear, it is so redolent of the Polar Bears we saw when we went to Spitsbergen.

Back at the campsite, where the younger part of the family were camping, Jack found a rather large Elephant Hawkmoth caterpillar, wandering along a path, looking for somewhere to pupate. Jack and Josh are both very observant and love all things natural, so this was a great find.

At the Birdfair we spent some time at the Butterfly Conservation stand, and above Jack and Howie Stones were checking out the Hawkmoth Caterpillars on show there.

Josh was checking the moths and was helped by Tony Davis of Butterfly Conservation, who runs the Pyralid Recording Scheme.

There was a lot to keep the children (and Nanny Pam) busy. Here the three of them are colouring and doing various tasks at the Wildlife Trusts stand.

Possibly the most exciting time for them was a Bug Safari with Nick Baker (of Television Fame). His enthusiasm really got the children involved and with various expert helpers they had fun and learnt a lot. Jack enjoyed using the sweep net, although this wasn't new to him, as at the ripe old age of nearly eight, he's already got his own net and a good knowledge of what's likely to be in it.

Nick Baker and Josh are examining the net to see what goodies are in it.

Having caught it, get it in the pooter and give it a thorough grilling to find out what it is. It's great to see such enthusiasm for wildlife being passed on the the young members of the group.

The fair was lucky to have a support from several well know faces, as well as Nick Baker, Simon King, Jonathan Scott, Bill Oddie, Mike Dilger, Janet Sumner and Chris Packham were all there to take part in various lectures and activities. The "star" visitor of the event was Sir David Attenborough. He visited to show on Saturday for a book signing and later gave the Celebrity lecture, "Alfred Russel Wallace and the birds of Paradise". Unfortunately this was sold out before I tried to get tickets.

There can be no doubt, in my mind any way, that Sir David is the greatest communicator about natural history we have had in this television age. His passion, clarity and the straightforwardness of his programmes have been instrumental in fostering the interest in natural history in many people. If you add to that, he seems a thoroughly nice person, then he has to be everybodies favourite personality. Here he is taken to the book signing, with Tim Appleton leading the way and two security men to keep him safe, well he is a national treasure!

Back at the campsite Jack came up with another good find, a Lesser Stag Beetle, a species I've not seen before.

On Sunday we visited Rutland Water Butterfly Farm and Aquatic Centre. This is a great place to visit, especially with children. This Owl Butterfly (Caligo eurilochus) was one of the many spectacular species there.

As well as Butterflies and fish there were also such beauties as this Tarantula.

Josh loved feeding the fish and he and Jack were trying to work out which was the largest fish as my lens fogged up.

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