Written by Martin Sutherland, Birds Korea UK, September 2012:
Sixty years on from the establishment of a ringing station at Sandwich Bay on the east Kent coast in England, Sandwich Bay Bird Observatory celebrated the anniversary with a two-day Bird Fair over the 25th and 26th of August, 2012.
Two large marquees were erected outside the observatory and about 18 stalls were set up inside them.
We were in the first marquee with about eight other stalls. Presentations varied from pottery and bird art, through second-hand books to binocular and telescope sales. Other stalls included butterfly, bee, and reptiles and amphibian conservation groups.
A similarly varied mix of stalls was to be found in the adjoining marquee. These included the bird observatory’s own stall, a bird-watching tour company, the local bat group and another bird artist. Atropos, a company that deals in invertebrate identification books, spread their wares over two tables.
Outside the main entrance the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) had a stall which, among other things, provided information on the current development of a nearby wetland reserve.
The fair was quite successful with more than 1000 visitors during the two days but the vast majority of these people were casual visitors who were taking advantage of the free bus service from Sandwich to the bird fair.
Our stall drew attention to the birds of Korean peninsula and the Yellow Sea and attempted to raise awareness of some of the serious conservation issues in the region and the work of Birds Korea.
This was certainly rather different from the general themes of the bird fair and we were asked more than once what we were doing there and what we were selling?
As most of the visitors had, at best, only a passing interest in birds and wildlife it was, perhaps, unsurprising that not many were aware of the Yellow Sea crisis. Even among those who were interested in birds, few appeared to appreciate the seriousness of the situation in the Yellow Sea region.
So, with the help of many Birds Korea publications, we endeavoured to explain the crisis of the birds and people in the Saemangeum area in particular and the continuing threats to coastal wetlands elsewhere.
We also tried to raise awareness of how good a destination South Korea is for birding, in winter and during migration times.
In general, time ticked by rather uneventfully until, about two hours from end of play on the second day, some old friends from the Icklesham ringing group in East Sussex turned up with two members of the developing Bangladesh Bird Club: Samiul Mohsanin and Israt Jahan. They are involved in winter shorebird survey and monitoring, including Spoon-billed sandpipers, in the Sunderbans area of Bangladesh. The Icklesham group are involved in helping them set up a shorebird banding program.
Samiul was very pleased to receive a copy of the excellent ‘2006-2008 Saemangeum Shorebird Monitoring Program Report’ produced, of course, by Birds Korea.
Although slightly less startling, another surprise was in store an hour later when a gentleman turned up who had actually worked for the Ministry of Agriculture in South Korea in the 1970s! We had an interesting conversation for about 15 minutes.
So, although the bird fair was a rather low key affair and of mainly local focus, the rather surprising occurrences during the afternoon of the last day, for us, made the whole effort worthwhile.