New venue announced for Scotland’s Big Nature Festival 2015

After large amounts of flack from raptor workers and birders generally,  the RSPB have finally left the Hopetoun Estate locating their bird fair to a new venue in Southern Scotland next year. It is thought many more people will now choose to visit the new venue at the beautiful Levenhall Links alongside the Firth of Forth and famous racecourse at Musselburgh, just east of Edinburgh.

Hopetoun Estate are the owners of a Red Grouse moor in Dumfries and Galloway where a large number of birds of prey were alledgedly killed by the shooting syndicate renting the moor from the Hopetoun estate. The estate claimed it was not their doing and did little to change things on the moor. It just so happened the lease of the moor came up in 2014 and a new syndicate now runs the shoot. The future of birds of prey will be monitored this winter especially as there is a rare rough legged buzzard wintering on the moor.


Buzzard found trapped on land owned by the Hopetoun Estate

The two day event, now in its fourth year, is expected to draw in some 6,000 wildlife lovers from across the UK and beyond when it is held on Saturday 23 and Sunday 24 May.

Organised by RSPB Scotland, the festival boasts over 100 exhibitors with everything from bush crafts and bird ID to artisan foods, wildlife walks and nature talks on offer. The event is extremely popular with families, with lots of specialist content for enthusiasts.

The nearby Musselburgh lagoons are a haven for wildlife and migratory birds, and are located in a well known area which is already popular with birdwatchers and nature lovers. The site has been sensitively restored from ash lagoons from Cockenzie Power Station, and was landscaped and returned to East Lothian Council to create a SSSI quality nature reserve, which now occupies 331 acres of land.

The shallow pools are home to wading birds like bar-tailed godwit, dunlin, redshank and lapwing, while duck nest on the grassy banks and the meadows attract butterflies and brown hares. The grassland is a great open space enjoyed by the local community, cyclists and people following the John Muir Way.

Any proceeds raised by the event over the weekend will go towards conserving and protecting Scottish wildlife.

RSPB Scotland Director, Stuart Housden, said: “Scotland’s Big Nature Festival is an exciting celebration of Scotland’s wonderful wildlife, where people can learn more about our natural world and how to protect it. We’re holding the event in a great new location next year which not only provides the ideal opportunity for a family day away from city life, in a wildlife rich green space that is home to a host of creatures, but the site is also its own conservation success story having been transformed from pulverised fuel ash waste from a power station to a vibrant nature reserve. With all the funds raised at the event going towards conservation efforts, you can’t need many more reasons to join in the fun.”

Ian Thomson, from RSPB Scotland, added: “Musselburgh is one of south-east Scotland’s best birding sites. Visitors to the Big Nature Festival will, as well as visiting all the exhibitors and catching up with friends, have the chance to see a wide selection of bird species, from waders and terns to ducks and warblers. This site has also attracted a number of rare species like marsh sandpiper and citrine wagtail in spring over the years, and you just never know…!”

Councillor John McMillan, East Lothian Council’s spokesperson for Economic Development and Tourism, said: “We are very excited that the Big Nature Festival is coming to East Lothian. It’s shaping up to be a great event for all ages and it will be wonderful to see crowds of visitors enjoying the event and learning more about nature conservation and the wonderful natural environment we have in this county. It’s also a great opportunity for local businesses to get involved as it’s an opportunity to showcase all that East Lothian has to offer visitors.”

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