Although it is a month since the UK Birdfair weekend, in many ways it seems like it was only yesterday! The Birdfair is one of the most important dates in the birdwatching calendar with conservation organisations, NGOs, and companies selling everything from books to optics to holidays, all converging on Rutland Water for the 3-day birders equivalent of Glastonbury.
The Birdfair is important to OSME for many reasons. It is a fantastic opportunity to catch up with our many members and supporters and discuss conservation and birdwatching across the OSME region. Many of our members collected their copy of our journal Sandgrouse which saved us several hundred pounds in postage, meaning more money to support conservation projects through our Conservation and Research Fund. It was great to hear the positive feedback about our major fundraising initiative to support the development and publication of an updated Arabic version of the Birds of the Middle East field guide. OSME is a membership based organisation and the vast majority of our income comes from membership fees, so it is a pleasure to welcome 17 new members who joined us to support our conservation work across the region.
Many people who visited the stand expressed their concerns about illegal bird killing across many parts of the OSME region. The theme of the Birdfair this year was 'protecting migratory birds in the eastern Mediterranean.' During the course of the last 9-months OSME have been supporting BirdLife International to collate data on the extent of illegal bird killing in countries such as Syria, Egypt and Lebanon. Many OSME members contributed to this review which has led to the excellent publication summarising the extent of bird killing across the Mediterranean. Further details can be found on the BirdLife International website.
OSME have worked closely with BirdLife International and BirdLife partners in recent years. We are currently working very closely with the BirdLife Middle East office on the publication of the Arabic field guide, and will be supporting an extension of the review of illegal bird killing to include other countries across the OSME region. To recognise this close working relationship, OSME and BirdLife International have recently developed a Memorandum of Understanding, and took the opportunity to sign this at the Birdfair. It was a pleasure to welcome Patricia Zurita, the CEO of BirdLife International, to the OSME stand, who alongside Rob Sheldon, OSME Chairman, formally signed the MoU. Many of the conservation challenges that we face across the OSME region can only be solved through effective collaboration between organisations such as BirdLife and OSME.
A highlight of the Birdfair for many people is the Bird Brain quiz, for which each of the Regional Bird Clubs field a representative, to compete for the illustrious prize (as well as to be humiliated by the one and only Bill Oddie). A huge thank you to Tom McKinney for representing OSME, who answered questions on his specialist subject of 'birds in the music of Olivier Messiaen' - I didn't get a single question right!! Tom came a credible second place behind Stuart Elsom, securing £500 towards OSMEs Conservation and Research Fund.
Attendance at the Birdfair is undoubtedly a highlight in the OSME calendar, but a huge amount of hard work, over many months, goes into arranging our presence. I'd like to thank all OSME Council for the contributions they made in the run up to the Birdfair, especially Sal Cooke, Mike Blair, John and Effie Warr. Numerous Council and OSME members helped man the stand over the course of the three days, and I'd especially like to thank Mike Jennings for committing so much time to helping out. Special thanks to Opticron, for printing a new series of posters that we used on our stand, and also to Jenny Bell for helping with the final design.
It is only 326 days until Birdfair 2016 - see you there!!