Missing the Birdfair, missing the birds

Last weekend should have been one of the highlights of our year, three whole days at the British Birdwatching Fair. Affectionately known as Birdfair, it’s an annual celebration of the natural world, not just birds but wildlife and conservation as a whole, in the UK and beyond. I blogged about it last year; you can read my post here. Birdfair is an important milestone in our calendar, marking the passing of another summer, and Mrs P and I were devastated – but not surprised – that Covid-19 played havoc with it in 2020.

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Instead, Birdfair went virtual, with a range of lectures, workshops and other stuff presented online. “Entry” was free, but we were pleased to make a significant donation to support this year’s BirdLife International conservation project, which is to protect Borneo’s spectacular Helmeted Hornbill from the ravages of the illegal wildlife trade.

The virtual Birdfair was a good try, but inevitably lacked some of the magic that happens when thousands of people passionate about wildlife and conservation are physically gathered together. And that vague sense of disappointment just about sums up our 2020 birding year, which – courtesy of Covid-19 – has been a bit short on excitement.

Middleton Hall

Inevitably, therefore, our thoughts have turned to happier, pre-Covid days. The RSPB’s Middleton Lakes reserve lies on the Staffordshire / Warwickshire border, just up the road from historic Middleton Hall, an impressive Grade II listed building dating – in part – from the medieval period.

The reserve is managed as a refuge for wintering wildfowl, breeding wetland birds and passage migrants. Formerly a flourishing hub of the gravel extraction industry, the site covers 160 hectares (395 acres). It was acquired by the RSPB in 2007, and the conservation charity has been working hard ever since to return the ravaged landscape to nature.

When we visited in May 2019 it was the common woodland birds that were most evident, attracted by strategically distributed piles of seeds, nuts and other goodies. Some of the adults were wearing their breeding finery, but others looked bedraggled, worn down by the rigours of parenthood.

Meanwhile scruffy juveniles were doing their best to blend into the background, and yet simultaneously demanding to be fed again and again. Typical fledgling behaviour, of course, and rather endearing unless you happen to be the poor, harassed parent of said fledgling!

At one point a sneaky Grey Squirrel, unobserved by the birds, slipped in and stole food that was intended just for them. He looked in peak condition, and not at all ashamed of his blatant thievery.

As well as the “usual suspects” we encountered a few surprises as we wandered the reserve. In particular we were delighted to hear a cuckoo – so rare these days – and to glimpse a Small Copper butterfly, which is a colourful species we rarely come across. They, and all the more familiar birds and animals we spotted, made the day memorable.

Small Copper

Reserves like Middleton Lakes raise the spirits, demonstrating that if it’s given a chance nature will fight back and reclaim land that has been wrecked by man. When the Covid-19 madness is finally done with we’ll certainly return to see what else it has to offer.


  1. nationalparkswitht · September 2, 2020

    2020, the year of ruined plans. Here too we are learning to appreciate our local parks.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Platypus Man · September 2, 2020

      Yes, one of the (very few) positive aspects of Covid-19 is that it’s encouraging us to discover good stuff near to home, stuff we’ve been totally ignorant of for 35+ years.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Yeah, Another Blogger · September 2, 2020

    Better days lie ahead. They better!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Platypus Man · September 2, 2020

      Agreed, 2021 can’t come soon enough, and surely must be an improvement on 2020.

      Liked by 2 people

      • Ann Mackay · September 2, 2020

        I sure hope so! I think we all need to be able to get out and spread our wings a bit! ๐Ÿ™‚ (Love the photo of the Small Copper – I haven’t seen one of those before.)

        Liked by 1 person

      • Platypus Man · September 3, 2020

        Yes, after nearly 6 months the restrictions – although necessary – are getting very wearing indeed. Fingers crossed for a better 2021 ๐Ÿคž.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. tanjabrittonwriter · September 2, 2020

    I’m sorry you missed the real deal. At times we have to re-live our memories, and at least we are lucky enough to have pleasant memories to re-live.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Platypus Man · September 3, 2020

      Very true, and perfectly expressed! Happy memories have been a welcome source of comfort and pleasure during the Covid crisis.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. T Ibara Photo · September 2, 2020

    Hello Mr P,
    I too am sorry you and Mrs P missed this year’s Birdfair. Although it is understandable (and a responsible decision) given the circumstances, it must have been a huge disappointment. As has already been said, the silver lining is that it gives a chance to “explore” much closer to home (we too, are discovering many hidden treasures in/near our nearby parks and reed fields), and also re-live some amazing memories.
    Wishing you both continued health and happiness. And our regards to Milky Bar too ๐Ÿ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

    • Platypus Man · September 3, 2020

      Hi Takami. Yes, there’s lots to explore near to home. Amazingly, we recently discovered a network of footpaths within a few hundred metres of our house, paths that we previously had no idea existed (which is shameful when you remember that we’ve lived here nearly 35 years!)
      Milky Bar thanks you for your best wishes. Yesterday he spent two hours snoozing in the garden, and then woke up to spend another 30 minutes grooming himself. He obviously wants to be looking his best when that delivery of sushi arrives ๐Ÿ™‚๐Ÿ˜ธ.
      With best wishes to you and your husband. Stay safe, please.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. krikitarts · September 3, 2020

    I am in full sympathy/empathy with the cancellation of this beloved event and thank you for the flashback to the previous year, with the casual proximity and long queues. And a cheeky grey squirrel made an appearance as well. I hadn’t realized until recently that they are now a part of you routine fauna. I was sorry, however, to learn that they are crowding out your native tufted-ear variety, although it doesn’t come as a surprise, as we know them well and fully appreciate how hardy they are, and how fruitful and able to multiply.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Platypus Man · September 3, 2020

      Although they have wreaked havoc amongst our native red squirrels it’s impossible not to (grudgingly) admire the greys for their resourcefulness and determination – undoubtedly a species that’s born to survive (and thrive).


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