Once I’d pushed my belongings through the campsite in a wheelbarrow, I began the head-scratching task of setting up my tent. I didn’t have much camping experience, but after a practice in the garden earlier in the week I was feeling confident. There was a brief tussle with a stiff breeze, but soon I had everything pegged down and in location. I was in business.
I straightened up to admire my handiwork and locked eyes with a cow twenty feet away, separated from me by a wire-thin fence. I wasn’t entirely thrilled with my neighbour for the weekend and eyed her suspiciously. I’d always been a little wary around cows – a few years ago I’d been crossing a field full of them, which had unfortunately been unavoidable, and when I was halfway across the herd started lumbering towards me at full speed. They say you shouldn’t run from cows, but I had vaulted over that fence with the steely determination of a long jumper. Luckily, this one didn’t seem like she had it in for me, and only stopped long enough to urinate before plodding back towards the herd.
Once everything was in order, I sat in my camping chair and admired the view. The setting sun cast a pink blush over Rutland Water. Although this campsite was slightly further away from Birdfair than the main site, this one had far superior views, not to mention it was blissfully quiet. House martins were out in force, plucking insects from the air and plunging in graceful loops. A little further away a kestrel was hunting, body suspended motionless between two rapidly beating wings. In the stillness, a gaggle of chattering geese passed overhead, but they were too far up for me to recognise the species.
I couldn’t wait for Birdfair to begin. This year would be my third, and I loved being a part of such a prestigious and important event in the wildlife calendar. It’s wonderfully indulgent for bird nerds like me – an impressive gathering of thousands of naturalists, conservationists, photographers and more, not to mention a dizzying range of things to see and do.
Once the sun had set, leaving behind an evening chill, I retreated to the warmth of my tent, snuggling up in my sleeping bag to get a good night’s shut eye in preparation for the first day of the fair.