OREANDA-NEWS. June 14, 2012. The Joburg Zoo buzzed with excitement, as more than 5 000 enthusiasts attended the Sasol Birds and Birding Fair last weekend. The highlights of the weekend were the informative bird photography workshops and raptor identification course, which were pre-booked weeks in advance and oversubscribed.

A partnership between Sasol, BirdLife South Africa, Joburg Zoo and Africa – Birds & Birding magazine, the highly successful event presented two days of fun and learning for bird lovers and families. There were loads of free activities, guided bird walks on offer and the Centenary Lawn proved to be a popular spot to see bird demonstrations and listen to the live music by the Johannesburg Youth Orchestra.

In a bid to excite youth about birding conservation, a Sasol Birds and Birding Fair School Day was held where 425 learners from seven schools attended on Friday, 25 May. The students enjoyed a fun-filled excursion, where they learned about water pollution and the effect it has on birds; education on myths surrounding owls; owl demonstrations; stalls on birds were set-up and the Mondeor Primary marimba band entertained the learners.

This year’s Bird of the Year was the iconic wetland specialist, the African Fish-Eagle (Haliaeetus vocifer). Widespread throughout southern Africa, the African Fish-Eagle is probably the best known bird of prey and is most frequently seen sitting in a tall tree, from where they have a good view of their territory. The African Fish-Eagle is the ideal ambassador for all raptors, and its distinctive call is often referred to as ‘the call of Africa’

Richard Hughes, Sponsorship Manager at Sasol said, “The Sasol Birds and Birding Fair is an event that we look forward to every year and continues to grow in momentum. Through the fair, we raised awareness of conservation issues, showcased South Africa’s bird population and promoted birding as a past time, in a fun and educational way.”

The free lectures in the Old Elephant House were packed to capacity, with well-known author Geoff Lockwood presenting talks on Owls as well as the Raptors of Gauteng. Mark D. Anderson, CEO of BirdLife South Africa presented talks on the African Fish-Eagle and renowned climatologist, Simon Gear addressed the audience on techniques to become more environmentally-responsible.

Over 30 exhibitors in the marquees and gazebos on the Centenary Lawn ensured there was something for everyone, from bird books, binoculars, bird feeders, accommodation and birding tours to displays by several NGOs, including the Endangered Wildlife Trust, FreeMe Rehabilitation Centre and fair partners, BirdLife South Africa, and the Joburg Zoo.

According to Mark D. Anderson, Chief Executive Officer of BirdLife South Africa, the Sasol Birds and Birding Fair is an important annual event, as it raises awareness for the organisation and its many bird and bird habitat conservation programmes.

Activities for children included a jumping castle and BirdLife South Africa’s activity area, which included colouring-in templates, crosswords and word searches.

And to top it all, there were several fantastic prizes in the lucky draw. These included a Beginners Guide to Avian Photography for two people by Robbie Aspeling; a weekend away to Mopane Bush Lodge in Limpopo, for two people sharing; Nikon Sportstar EX 10x25 binoculars as well as subscriptions to Africa – Birds & Birding, Africa Geographic and BirdLife South Africa.