Hi all, the annual Tata bird fair is almost here - thousands of birders from all over central europe descending on the city of Tata, Hungary for a weekend of birding, goose watching, and general nonsense talking. Sorry, I meant to say: ... and lots of serious bird-related discussion.
As far as I can tell, this year's Tata fair will involve lectures/talks/workshops in the evenings with lots of cool and interesting things going on and piles of fascinating people to meet. The day time will, as you probably would have guessed, involve hours of looking through binoculars and telescopes. A bird race of small teams competing to see as many species as possible will probably be the focus of most people's day, but I dare say that there will also be a good number of people who take it a little more tranquilo and just follow the crazy-enthusiastic birders around, feeding off their buzz.
I just want to see a Lesser White-fronted Goose (Anser erythropus, Zwerggans). Talking about LWfG, the other day I found a really cool website on them by the Fennoscandian L White-fronted Goose Project and an awesome LWfG photo by the Italian photographer Juza, here. It seems like the Fennoscandian guys are really doing a huge amount to try to reestablish and save this species from extinction and they are faced with an incredibly complex task. As far as I can tell, sport hunting is their biggest threat. Not unexpect, hey? But the absurdity of the situation is that the species is threatened because it looks so similar to the White-fronted Goose - the most hunted waterfowl species in Europe (Anser albifrons, Blässgans). Evidently, sport hunters are generally unable to tell the difference between the two and unwhittingly blast the poor little endangered ones along with their more common congener. But I can't really blame them. That little yellow eyering and the difference in size may not be apparent if one is not actively looking for the features.
Here is another fascinating web site showing the migration paths of LWfG with satelite telemetry packs. These little guys migrated all the way from the the Putorana Plateau in Russia through Kazakhstan and down to Iraq. If you click on the map, it will take you to GIS-lab's website with a series of google map images that show the exact routes of the various geese.
The photo of the Lesser White-fronted Goose above is by Neil Phillips who writes a blog about UK Wildlife - worth checking out.
Okay, back to the Tata bird fair - their website is only in Hungarian (go figure), but, at the very least, it is worth checking it out for its pretty pictures. Just click on the flying goose logo above. If you understand German, then you could also check out a translation of the 2006 programme on bird.at here. And if you follow that last link, it will allow you to download the "English version 2005 online".
If you do decide to come, keep an eye out for Martin and I. We are easily recognisable. We will be wearing brownish clothing, brownish baseball caps, will have Swarovski binoculars dangling from our necks and never, ever more than an arm's length away, and great big ATS telescopes/digiscoping setups over our shoulders (or attached to one or other of our eyes). Well, come to think of it, I am not sure that we will stand out from the crowd if we look like that. Then again, I dont think it will be hard to track us down ;-)
Until then, happy birding