Sunday, 17 May 2015

May 17th Mannington Hall

Inside the main marquee at the Norfolk Bird Fair
Today, I am at the Norfolk Bird Fair at Mannington Hall with my parents. This is the second year that the event has been organized. The premise is that the event will become as big and popular as the Bird Fair at Rutland. I came to the first Norfolk Bird Fair last year. At that time, all the big wildlife organisations (like the RSPB, etc), local artists, holiday companies, etc, etc; they were all in or around this one marquee tent with another two marquees near the hall's moat for optics. There were talks in a cramped room and plenty of food stalls for something to eat. The problem was, it wasn't well advertised and few families came.

This year, the event lost a few companies that were here last year. I was also surprised that the RSPB, the biggest organisation for birds that there is, has not returned either! For a second year, it looks like a lack of advertising was an issue, but the event's organizers has a trump card to play. This year, they have brought in a celebrity to draw in some kind of a crowd. In the birding world, you can't get any bigger than Bill Oddie! He has a talk to do in the afternoon and then a book signing at the main marquee. He was the reason that I have come to this year's Bird Fair. Bill was a childhood hero of mine and I haven't seen him since he did a talk at the UEA in Norwich in the 1990's. I was only a boy when he was talking about his latest TV show back then and I have always wanted to meet him face to face ever since. Today was my chance.

Before Bill Oddie arrives for his talk, there was plenty of time for us to look around. The BTO (British Trust for Ornithology) were doing bird ringing demonstrations with a chiffchaff, a few bird of prey groups had their owls and other birds on display and the Butterfly Conservation were showing their moths from their latest moth trap session to the public. I listened to two other talks, one about wildflowers of Norfolk and the other about the BTO's tracking of cuckoo migrations, both were really interesting.

Bird ringing demonstration
Cockchafers from the moth trap
Poplar Hawkmoth
Little Owl
Peruvian Striped Owl
Ural Owl
Chainsaw sculpting
Bill Oddie
The talk about cuckoos was treated like a warm up act for the main event, Bill Oddie's talk. It was a strategy to stay on and keep your seat. As soon as the BTO wrapped up, the doors opened and people flooded in. It was a full house fit to bursting. And then, the man we all came to see entered the room. He talked about the vote for Britain's national bird, his beginnings of how he got into birds, from his regrettable egg stealing past to the days he became a bird ringer. He demonstrated using a toy puffin, his coat and a chair how he used to grab puffins out of their burrows on the Farne Islands to put rings on their legs.

How to ring a puffin
 He was entertaining and after Bill was done, I showed him my wildlife diary, which he then autographed. He was really impressed. During his talk, he told us the many ways people respond to him when they recognize him in public. I had the same feeling today when I was in the main marquee. At a stall about badger conservation, I had someone ask me if I had a blog. He had recognized me for this blog. Am I famous now?

1 comment:

  1. Sounds like you had a great day - Bill Oddie's autograph and fame! Weird that the RSPB didn't go!