Caught by the River

The Bird Effect Diaries

Ceri Levy | 14th October 2009

The diary of the making of a film. and an on going fascination with birds and their accompanying cast of human characters. By Ceri Levy. Previous entries can be read by clicking here.

Saturday August 22nd

A more relaxing day as we wander the site meeting people and taking in lectures. Jackie enjoys the lectures we go to and by late afternoon it seems certain that we have to go to Tanzania, the Arctic Circle and Spitsbergen in particular, Kenya and Peru. That’s the power of the well-spoken word and a good slide show for you.

Jim introduces us to some of his colleagues including Martin Holm and Erik Hirschfeld. So many people I meet are working on interesting projects. Martin is putting together a record with various musicians about Music and Migration, which supports Birdlife’s Born to Travel campaign.

Erik is putting together a book about the relationship between city birds and city people in Malmo, Sweden. He has built a website which allows people to follow the production of the book and allows them to partake in helping create the book itself by sending in photos and stories about bird interaction. It’s a little similar to what I am doing with TBE and I hope if any of you reading this have any good bird effect stories then you will let me know.

Erik is also the editor of the Rare Birds Yearbook, which lists and gives details on all the critically endangered species throughout the world. It is a beautiful book that is really well produced and is well worth buying. Four pounds of each book sale goes towards Birdlife’s Preventing Extinctions Programme.

I also meet up with Rob Lambert, who gave a talk last night, entitled, “Ospreys – from persecution to sustainable tourism icon”. Some of the figures bandied about are quite remarkable. 300,000 people a year go to watch ospreys alone, and that generates somewhere in the region of £3.5m to the remote rural areas around the nest sites. Serious dosh. Rob believes this is a wildlife story that is not as well known as it should be, as it has great benefits for local economies, health and well-being, education, conservation, media and publicity. And it is not just ospreys that are getting the new crowds. There are many successful public watch-points now, for white-tailed sea eagles, golden orioles, peregrines in city centres atop churches and cathedrals, swan feeds, seabird colonies and capercaillie at Loch Garten in Scotland. These are just a few in a growing list. Rob genuinely believes that a powerful new relationship is being forged between the public and wild birds in this, the 21st century. For me the key word here is public. The public are engaging with birds. And in this new age this is the most important news for conservation, but this relationship has to be nurtured. The more I talk to people and learn things for myself, the more I begin to comprehend the absolute truth about conservation. It needs to break out of its normal arena, which is frequented by its core audience and supporters, and start finding a way to break into the world outside and spread their incredible knowledge and information to ordinary people. If there is a way of engaging people and persuade them to look skywards, hopefully there is then the possibility that they will become thrilled by the sight of the birds that they discover, and they will want to become new allies who support the cause of conservation. So many more people are needed to join the programme to provide a chance of saving the 192 critically endangered species that are struggling for their survival right now. Somehow, the public has to be placed in and feel part of, the greater picture, and if that can be done, then anything is possible.

I really need to learn more about eco-tourism and conservation and new ways of thinking. Rob is going to help me learn more. He is also going to be on Scilly this October so I am sure we will chew this over as we bird and possibly have a beer.

Jim also introduces me to Dick Ashford, Chairman of the Board of the American Birding Association and Robert Robinson, the President of the ABA. They are a very likeable pair and I will keep in touch with them should I go over to the States at any point for birds and the film. The ABA is the American equivalent of the RSPB.

Dinner with Deb and Jim Lawrence at the Finch’s Arms in Hambelton, an aptly named bird pub, which is where Tim Appleton and Martin Davies, the Birdfair organisers, came up with the idea for Birdfair over a few drinks. So I salute them over my next few pints and a big cheers to the fair. Beer and birds, is such a good combo.