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© Delta Birding Festival
© Delta Birding Festival
© Delta Birding Festival
© Delta Birding Festival
© Fox 2000 Pictures
© Delta Birding Festival
© Delta Birding Festival

DeltaBirding Festival

The Delta Birding Festival strikes back

Setting high standards has some drawbacks because you are obliged to beat them year after year. This is probably the feeling that we, the organizers of the DBF 2016, have at this time. In our first meeting to prepare this year' third edition -by the way, only two weeks right after DBF 2015- we had to plan for a set of special guests and an offer of activities that needed to be at least as attractive as those of previous years and we were in the need to consolidate and improve them as much as possible. Somebody at the meeting asked "who can be the most world-wide known birder we can get?" and the answer was unanimous. The name of Lars Svensson came out from everybody's mouth.

Who's coming in 2016?

Lars Svensson is known by all European bird ringers for his Guide to the Identification of European Passerines, a book -often referred to as the ringer's Bible- that deals the identification of birds in the hand. Ringers capture birds with non-harmful traps, place a numbered metal ring on the bird's leg and take a lot of information from the plumage and body condition of the animal; then they release it back into nature. Svensson wrote this comprehensive guide to help ringers identify birds in the handback in 1970. This was a monumental work that has been updated several times over the years and it's the only comprehensive guide of these characteristics so far. But a restless mind like his could not stop here and by the end of the 1990s he teamed up with bird artist Killian Mullarney to publish the Bird Guide, which is the field guide of bird identification that every dedicated birder uses.

So, Lars is coming to the DBF 2016 to present his new work, to be published soon after the Festival, which will be another monumental work that that this time encompasses all the birds of the Western Paleartic. Who needs to retire if you have such a whole lot of energy? For God's sake, he is 75 years old! Svensson will be honoured as a Member of Honour of the Catalan Ornithological Institute in recognition of his contribution to ornithology in a small ceremony at the DBF. As one can guess, the expectation of his attendance to the Festival is high among the birder community.

Other first-class ornithologist that will give lectures and will show up in DBF 2016 will be Per Alström, HadoramShirihai, Yossi Leshen, Vincent Bretagnolle and around 20 more, which makes the list too long to introduce them all but let's mention a couple of them. Shirihai will present his quest to photograph all the birds of the world, a real challenge that has taken him to the most remote places on Earth. He's already got pictures of more than 6.000 different species! Alström will give a talk with the suggestive title What is a species?, a hot issue in the 21st century, when animal species are being reclassified and reordered in surprising groups as a result of DNA tests.

Planes are not birds but they fly and sometimes they both meet in the air with disastrous results for both the bird and the plane (and the humans on it). Yossi Leshem, will talk on how his work cut down bird collisions by 76% in Israel and how he has used birdwatching to gather Israelian, Palestinian and Jordan schools in common projects to smooth the conflictive relations between historically opposed communities.

What about the beginners?

All this may sound too technical for the casual birdwatcher or the beginner who is wondering how to start birding or how to get some advice to improve his/her birding skills. Don't worry, the DBF will be full of activities for aficionados of all levels and degrees of interest in birds. If you are a first timer, just don't miss out on the Emprèn el vol guided tours (Take flight tours). You'll just get exactly what you need: a skilled birder teaching you how to hold up your bins, look at the bird and use the guide to identify it, plus any explanation you need. Guides are enthusiastic volunteers of the Catalan Ornithological Institute who love birds and the Delta and will be more than happy to share their passion with whoever wants to listen to them. Prick up your ears! You can learn a lot!

Do you know what a pellet is? Just attend the Workshop on pellets and you'll see how owls, herons and other hunters pack their preys' fur, bones and other hard parts in a ball called pellet that scientists (and you and your kids) can dissect to unveil the feeding habits of those predators. If you like sailing or seabirds you just can't miss out on the boat trips along the river Ebro and the trip to high seas. The Delta's continental platform teems with small crustaceans, fishes and other creatures that are a delicacy for seagulls, terns, shearwaters and other seabirds that feast on them. The DBF organizes tours to this seabird restaurant to watch them closely and take pictures of a kind of birds that you only see very far away from the sea shore. We will throw rotten fish (yes, birds like that...) to help attract them as close as possible to the objective of your camera.

Seventh art lovers can enjoy a cinema session at the Museu de les Terres de l'Ebre in Amposta. Don't expect a documentary on bird biology or about the sexual behaviour of the Dunnock -an interesting promiscuous bird, by the way-. We are going to enjoy a Hollywood comedy starring Steve Martin, Owen Wilson and Jack Black in which three birders struggle to be the one who has seen more bird species in a year. The Big Year is a film that portrays the nerdiest face of birding -when you see Jack Black's character you'll agree with this!- but keeping a surprising fidelity to real facts. Why not laugh at ourselves for a while?

Two enhanced sections of DBF 2016 in comparison to previous editions will be photography and art. There will be large commercial exhibitors of photo equipment, an exhibition of the Catalan Society of Nature Photographers featuring pictures from around the globe, bird paintings from international artists and several workshops with experts that will teach you tricks and tips on how to take better wildlife shots by luring animals right to the front of you telephoto lens.

DBF 2016 will take place at MonNatura Delta on 23rd, 24th and 25th September, when autumn migration starts its peak in the Delta. Birds will migrate by the tens of thousands during those days, ducks will quack in restlessness, feeling the cry of the wild, gulls will be patrolling the seas in search of fish pods on the move and flamingos will be resting in groups of thousands at a mere 200 metres from the festival grounds. And you? Are you going to flock to the Delta too? We hope you join us and the birds.

Abel Julien
Unitat de Divulgació - Institut Català d'Ornitologia -