Monday, 14 June 2004

The Big Bird Race and its sequal

Back in the 1980s David Tomlinson (then an Editor of Country Life magazine) and I hatched the idea of The Big Bird Race. At the time I was the Secretary of the Fauna & Flora Preservation Society (now Fauna & Flora International) and we persuaded Sir Peter Scott to give us an adled Nene’s Egg to create a symbolic trophy – a sort of ashes of birdwatching. I was fortunate to be able to recruit Bill Oddie to our noble team, but despite having some of the best birding ears and eyes in the country – they failed to wrest the trophy from Tomlinson’s better prepared, and faster driving team.

A book – The Big Bird Race was published – an entertaining account, but sadly long out of print – and a TV film was broadcast – it made surprisingly good TV. And it all raised money for conservation.

All that was a long while ago, but over the years Bill Oddie has continued to help various conservation projects I and many others have been involved with. British TV has recently been showing a lot of Bill Oddie in action as a birder – and some of the best wildlife TV it is, showing wildlife as it really is – not reconstructed in an edit suite. I was therefore very pleased indeed, when I found out recently that Bill was going to Patagonia to film for his next TV series. And even more delighted when I heard that his team were keen to visit the Estancia La Esperanza. No birding records will be broken on the steppes of coastal Patagonia, – but I am sure we will be able to show Bill some life birds. The Patagonian steppes are a good example of how dangerous concentrating on so called Biodiversity hotspots can be – steppes, deserts, tundra are all very important habitats, but they are not species rich. So if we concentrate on biodiversity hotspots, they are liable to get ignored. Until the WLT and its partners acquired the Estancia La Esperanza, there were no reserves in the coastal stppe, despite its enormous size and importance.

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