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Friday, 21 August 2015


Simon King and Me

I was quite excited, I had not been to the Rutland Bird Fair for two years! I arrived fairly early, but not as early as I would have liked. I would have been there by 9.15am, but the traffic was queueing to get into the Fair and it took nearly 45 minutes to get parked up. I've never seen queueing like that to the Bird Fair. I could see why later on, it must have been their highest day for visitors on a Friday, it was jam packed! I had a coffee and marmalade sandwich before I left the car park. It was slightly overcast to begin with, but the sun came out later.
I love Bill Oddie's expression when I asked if I could take a selfie!

'Ahh..... a selfie'

I started off in the optics marquee where I bumped into Chris and Jackie Mills, also saw Bill Oddie in here. Nipped into the Simon King marquee and got very, very lucky! There was Simon King at his stand, with no queue of people. He walked across to me and said 'lovely to see you again Penny' – how exciting was that!!! His sister and PA Debbie took a couple of pictures of us and after photo card signing, I continued my walk round the marquee's. Very unusually for me, I decided not to lug any cameras around and simply took pictures on the iphone for the day. Went to the RBA stand to discuss their new pager which they launched today – it looks very cool indeed and the panel of type is totally clear with black type on white background – Swiss made, 4 year guarantee, waterproof (good for me!!!), funky design etc etc, everyone will want this new pager!!!

I approached the Bird Fair very differently this year – I decided to walk round slowly, enjoying all the stands, meeting new people, catching up with people I knew etc and didn't rush round trying to go to any events. I don't expect anyone will believe me, when I tell you I didn't even go to Simon King's talk!!!!! Although I did watch the second half of Mark Carwardine's Whale talk at the back of the main Lecture marquee and then moved closer to the front at the end, for BB Photographer of the year presentation by Adam Rowlands and Simon King. As I walked out at the end, someone said to me 'why were your photos not there Penny?' Don't know who that was, but thanks! I only wish my photography was to that standard.

Bumped into Birdforum's Steve Kirk!!! I had forgotten how tall he was, charming as ever and made me laugh when he looked at the picture someone took of us both and said 'it's like a cartoon're about 4ft shorter than me! I'm not that short! He's just extremely tall – he looks scary, you wouldn't mess with him if you didn't know him, but he's a puppy dog underneath that hardcore look!!! He'll kill me for writing that....xx, oh well.
Steve Kirk (Birdforum) and me
Steve Kirk (Birdforum) with Mark Karn and ?

Tim and Irene were not on the Fair Isle stand this year – it didn't look the same without them, but I did bump into them later briefly, which was good. Also, it was nice to have a lovely chat with famous photographer David Tipling in the Art Marquee, who very kindly asked after my father, such a lovely man and a real gentleman. Julian Bhalerao joined me for part of his lunch slot as he is now working with Duncan MacDonald at Wildsounds. There were no bands or musicians playing during lunch, that I heard or saw anyway – I feel this makes a huge difference to the atmosphere, hopefully this will feature again next year.
Julian Bhalerao and me

Bird Fair has increased in size since I last came. I liked the addition of the local produce marquee, which sold everything from cakes, meats, honey/jams, cheeses, pies etc and new stands that sold socks, shoes and wellingtons, but still we don't have a range of cheaper clothes on offer for the birder/naturalist. Rohan, Paramo Clothing and Country Innovations sell some fabulous clothes, don't get me wrong, but they are not exactly cheap to buy. Most of my birding clothes are men's, my trousers nearly always are and any khaki green shirts I own are all men's. If you go into any outdoor wear shop to buy women's tops, they are never khaki green, nearly always brightly coloured, so us female birders have a very limited choice on offer. The Bird Fair stand had lots of new additional items to buy along with the usual mugs, pens, teashirts with Bird Fair logos on, including new polo shirts, zipped sweatshirts, new gilets, new hats, thinsulate hats, hoodies etc.

The only thing I wasn't impressed with, was the food on offer for us vegetarians. I was very disappointed when I reached the food marquee's main area, to find the usual servery with waiters and waitresses wasn't there! I couldn't believe it. I loved this choice of foods they offered and for several years had my regular pasta dish, with new potatoes and their fantastic choice of salad dishes. I looked around and found a hogroast, fish n chips, jacket potato van, but nothing specifically exciting for me. The queues for each van/vendor were massive, which was my fault, as it was about 1.45pm. A jacket potato didn't inspire me to queue behind 50 other people. I walked back to the optics marquee area and found a crepe van, where I bought a cheese and spinach crepe, this cost £5.30 and although very tasty, disappeared in a few mouthfuls, there was nothing to it! I eat more on Slimming World! Because I was still hungry, I purchased a danish pastry and cup of tea from a neighbouring van and had an ice-cream (small at £2.50) later on – bang goes the diet today! There was a pink champagne bar here too, pity I was driving, love champagne.
David Lindo with me
David Lindo's 'National Bird Car'

I did spend a few pennies, purchased a fluffy, furry North Island Brown Kiwi from the New Zealand stand to team up with my Kiwi I purchased from the same stand two years ago (can't remember which species of Kiwi the other one was now). Also treated myself to a Neoprene Lens Protection Cover for my camera lens from the Outdoor Photography Gear stand. My home made one was pretty good, but the cotton material was constantly slipping around the lens, which could be very irritating! Also purchased a vibrant, lime green bag from the Birding in Portugal stand! Spent £5.00 on raffle tickets to win an Antarctica Cruise - will keep my fingers crossed!

Had a lovely long chat with Norfolk bird recorders Dave and Jacquie Bridges and also bumped into BTO lady, Dawn Balmer and also Lucy McRobert. Also had hugs and photos with Andy W., Ruth and Alan Miller and David Lindo. Also managed to catch Bill Oddie for a selfie, whilst he was signing books at Wildsounds!
Photographer David Tipling

People I saw and photographed/chatted to today were: David Lindo, Bill Oddie, Simon King, Mark Carwardine, Cery Levy,  Steve Kirk, Dawn Balmer, Julian Bhalerao, Mark Avery, Stephen Moss, Dominic Couzens, Sir Ian Wallace, David Tipling, Dave and Jacquie Bridges, Tim and Irene Loseby, Lucy McRobert, Alan and Ruth Miller, Justin and Chris Lansdell, Andy Wilkinson, Charlie Hamilton James, Jonathan and Angie Scott, Pat and Geoff Douglas and their daughter, Bo Beolens (Fatbirder website), Keith Betton, RBA Team, Toby Carter, Jake Gearty and LOTS of my blog readers – nice to meet you all! Disappointingly I didn't bump into Tim Appleton, Nick Baker (boo hoo) or LGRE in his traditional Bird Fair suit and tie!

I managed to whizz round the Art Marquee at the end, then headed back to my car. Vehicles were queuing to get out, so I settled into my deckchair, had a coffee and my tea in the glorious evening sunshine. I had fully intended on going to Lyndon Reserve to view the Ospreys, but I felt exhausted and knew I had to save any energy left, to drive home safely. An hour later the queues had dispersed and I left to go home. I was going back again on Sunday, but changed my mind when I saw the SE winds and rain forecast – birds to see, hopefully!

Charlie Hamilton James gives a talk on the Canon Stand
Dave and Jacquie Bridges – Norfolk Bird Recorders

Dave and Jacquie Bridges with me

Simon King presents the awards
The British Birds Photography Winners

 Me with Ruth and Alan Miller

Ruth and Alan Miller
Outdoor Photography Gear
Dawn Balmer and me
Sir Ian Wallace


Norfolk birders: Andy Wilkinson, brothers Justin & Chris Lansdell

All photos taken with Apple iphone 6,
but wish I had used my Canon SLR,

oh well, there's always next year!


  1. Cool read penny

  2. Great read. My thoughts on the "cook street" mirrored yours, glad we found the local food tent...excellent. The cost of food on cook street was eye watering. We noted the lack of the usual "alcoholics bar" had changed...£4.20 a pint.

    Great weekend. Friday was manic Sat and Sun less so. Very steamy on Sat had people leaving early. Got away with the rain until 15:30 on Sunday.

    Look forward to the pictures.

    1. Thanks Stephen. Hope you enjoyed the pictures.

  3. Dear penny as always a super read. Boy you really put so much thought and effort into your write ups. For someone like me who has never been to the bird fair I really got an idea of what it's like there and a real flavour of what's on offer. Can't believe how many interesting people you met including the celebs. Lovely lovely pics by the way.Happy birding David.