Tuesday 17 November 2015

Wirral Wader Festival survives the storm!

Despite the weather forecasters' attempt to derail our weekend with stories of gloom and doom and amber warnings with 'don't leave home unless you have to' rhetoric, a good number of people ignored all attempts by the met office to scare the bejeebers out of them and ventured forth to the Wirral Wader Festival.

One of our banners proudly proclaiming the festival to all and sundry.
Both days started slowly but by lunchtime there were folk passing through, a slow but steady trickle. On the Saturday many were folk who were sheltering from the rain, but from our point of view, and with the stalwart assistance of regular Wader Quest volunteer John Davies and his friend Sue, we sold a good number of raffle tickets where the range of prizes was attractive to all not just birdwatchers. Sales of our other goods however were patchy except for the perennially popular wader pin badges. Allan Archer, a Wader Quest Trustee also helped out on Saturday. 

Wader Quest raffle at the Wirral Wader Festival
We enlisted the help of Elliot Montieth to act as festival photographer recording the event at the satellite venues which he bravely did on his bike! We hope to brig you some of his shots in a future blog.

Elliot before setting off to face the maelstrom with his camera in hand.

We enjoyed being situated next to Robert Parkin and artist and conservationist who was demonstrating some of his techniques. So inspired was I that I spent all last night working out what my next painting was going to be using the techniques I had learned over the weekend. 

A selection of Rob's work on display.
Rob gave us a print to sell for fundraising...

Rob presenting his beautiful owl print.

and Gail Picket arrived with two marvellous pencil drawings, one of a Common Snipe and the other of a Common Redshank which she also donated to us to raise funds.

Gail presenting her amazing pencil drawings.
Also in the main hall with us was old friend and supporter and fellow promoter of Wader Conservation November Matt Merritt of Birdwatching Magazine.

Matt Merritt with his Bird Watching Magazines.
There was also a fine display of mounted wader specimens brought along from the Liverpool Museum by Tony Parker who was also good enough to sign-up to Wader Quest. In addition we had a couple of specimens lent to us by the British Natural History Museum.

Some of the mounted specimens on display from the Liverpool Museum.
L-R Eurasian Golden Plover, Ruddy Turnstone, Bar-tailed Godwit, Black-tailed Godwit, Common Redshank, Eurasian Curlew, Common Ringed Plover.

I confess I was worried about the talks, but once the chairs were set up suddenly folk appeared out of the woodwork to fill them. Wader Quest opened the talks with an overview of Community Wader Conservation.

Wader Quest opening slide.
We were followed by a very entertaining talk by Matt Thomas one of the Wirral Country Park Rangers. His talk was about photographing waders and he talked about some of his field craft techniques and travels after waders. The photographs were stunning and we hope that one or two will adorn future Wader Quest publications and calendars.

Great name for Matt's blog (and talk) From the Muddy Banks of the Dee!
Here's a selection of Matt's photos that were on display.
The last talk of the day was by none other than Alan Davies and Ruth Miller talking about their Birdwatching Trips venture, showing us some of the amazing places they visit and the birds they see there. Mouthwatering stuff.

Alan Davies giving the Birdwatching Trips talk.
Sunday followed much the same pattern but the wind being the main problem instead of rain. However the talks were again all very interesting. The first was by local wader expert Allan Conlin who went through some of the key ID features of British waders to an captivated audience.

Allan Conlin and Oystercatcher.
This was followed by an equally enthralling talk about wader food, or Benthos to give it it's technical name from Dave Clare. Organisms that live under, in or on the sea bed. We learnt a lot about what lived where and how this affected their suitability as prey for waders and also what the effects of man's activities was upon them.

Dave Clare tells us about what waders find to eat in the mud at low tide.
Lastly we were treated to talk by Scott Reid who talked about why he loves digiscoping using his iphone. The most memorable sequence of footage was not of a wader though but that of a Wryneck catching ants in slow motion.

Scott Reid shows us the magic of digiscoping.
The entertainment at the Thurstaston centre included wader watching walks with Alan Davies and Ruth Miller which were enjoyed by those that participated despite the rotten weather, on the first day Alan tells me that one lady got two lifers. Another wader lover in the making.

Ruth Miller at the Birdwatching Trips stand.
View of the beach at Thurstaston, an absolute magnet for waders.
For the book collectors among us there were also two second hand book sellers.

The book sellers share a quiet moment.
There was an exhibition called Creatures in the Mud where some of the invertebrates that waders feed on were in a live display.

Creatures in the Mud exhibit.

The RSPB were much in evidence as were the Cheshire Wildlife Trust.

A good selection of pins were on sale at the event from the RSPB.
Cheshire Wildlife Trust stand with loads of goodies for sale.
A children's' painting competition was ably run by Sarah Spruce with some fantastic entries, the winners will be displayed at the Martin Mere Northwest Birdwatching Festival next weekend. The first prize in each age group on both days was a pair of Savanna binoculars kindly donated by Opticron.

Sarah bracing herself, the calm before the storm.
The exact numbers of attendees we will be able to divulge soon when the stickers (our crude way of assessing attendance) are counted. We will also try to get reports from the three satellite sites as to how their weekend went and pass this on as soon as we can.

Wirral Country Park Thurstaston Centre. Venue for the Wirral Wader Festival.
At the end of the second day, we asked Alan Davies to help us choose a winner for the Wader Conservation World Watch event Prize Draw. We asked him to choose a number between 1 and 178 (the number of contributors). The contributors had all been given a number randomly and Alan chose number 99, the number of Mike and Rose Clear, Founder Family Friends of Wader Quest from New South Wales in Australia.

Alan Davies having just chosen the winner of the Wader Conservation World Watch.

Whatever else can be said of the weekend, there was certainly no shortage of enthusiasm and hard work from the organisers particularly Karen Leeming and Sheila Ryde (Dee Estuary Voluntary Wardens DEVW), Lynne Greenstreet and Matt Thomas (Wirral Country Park Rangers), Sarah Bennett of Cheshire Wildlife Trust, Dan Trotman of the RSPB plus Sue Healey of Wader Quest and the many volunteers and exhibitors who turned out to support the event.

View over the river Dee to Wales from Thurstaston Country Park.
There were events happening at three other venues too where there were high tide roosts at West Kirby/Red Rocks, Hoylake and New Brighton Marina but they will be the subject of another blog to follow.

Whatever happens from now on, we can honestly say that Britain is now no longer devoid of wader festivals, and hopefully this will be the first of many. 

Thanks to everyone who made this festival happen and to the people who braved the elements to come and visit us.

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