These little guys offer more retweets than Steven Fry and Kim Kardashian combined! And as their presence is so much more meaningful, here’s how you can help protect them
By Samantha Vine, BirdLife Australia
For the love of nature
A love of nature and the great outdoors is a driving passion for many of us. Whether it is spending a year or maybe one’s retirement on the road, an annual camping trip with the kids, or spending time in the backyard on the weekend.
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Simply stepping outside, you will notice that birds feature prominently in the Australian landscape; from the magpies’ morning song in the local park, to the majestic wedge-tailed eagle souring high in an open desert sky. Australia has an incredible diversity of bird species and they constantly awe us with their vibrant colours, striking patterns, unique shapes and grace in motion. Most Australians see birds almost every day and are not only much-loved natural icons, they are also the voice of nature. For some people this love for birds and the outdoors has motivated not just an appreciation of nature, but a deep sense of responsibility for it.
Below are the stories of some of BirdLife Australia’s Citizen Scientist volunteers, who, by monitoring birds while they are out bush, have created one of Australia’s largest biological datasets. Since 1998 these bird-lovers have amassed over 14 million records. Analysis of this data allows BirdLife Australia’s scientists to map the health of our bird populations. This allows us to understand which bird species are in trouble, in which regions of Australia, and in turn helping put in place plans to reverse these declines and understand more about our natural world.
You can make an important contribution by getting involved; from the fun, simple and family friendly Aussie Backyard Bird Count each October, to helping restore habitat for endangered species or visiting one of Australia’s Key Biodiversity Areas, these are global hotspots for birds and nature and chances are there is one closer than you think.
Location: Newcastle, NSW
Volunteer for: 16 years
“My interest in birds was ignited when I moved to the east coast in 1981 – initially I just wanted to put the correct names to the flora and fauna in my new neighbourhood. But once you start looking closely at birds, you get hooked.
At a personal level, monitoring helps grow my understanding about the birds at specific sites. At a big-picture level, I enjoy contributing to better knowledge about Australian native birds and how to look after them.
When I’m not watching the Sydney Swans or with my head in a book, I’m usually thinking about birds. I write poems about them, produce crosswords about them, and write papers about them.”
The place you love: Cattai Wetlands, north of Taree, NSW
“Because it is such a pretty spot, usually very peaceful, easy for me to get to and
I have found well over 100 different species there during my regular visits. In particular, I love the comb-crested jacanas, which breed at Cattai and are probably the southernmost pair in Australia nowadays”
Location: Alice Springs, Northern Territory
Volunteer for: 17 years
“I left the UK to go to Kenya to work in 1968. From the first day I could not believe the beauty and variety of the birds there, and have been passionate about them ever since.
I now live on five acres in the Red Centre with my husband. We have native vegetation all around and the birdlife is quite amazing.
What I enjoy most about bird monitoring is that it takes me to new places to explore, gives me time to actually watch what birds are doing, makes me remember what I see, and make note of birds wherever I am.”
The place you love: Arid Zone
“My favourite birding spots are among the sand dunes and ranges of central Australia, because there are always so many surprises. However, often I go out in the bush here, I always see something new”
Location: Mount Gambier, South Australia
Volunteer for: 15 years
“I grew up camping and spending time in the outdoors with my parents, who loved birds. I renewed my interest in birds and the environment after my father passed away and I inherited his bird books.
What I enjoy most about monitoring is the feeling of contributing to our knowledge of our wonderful birds – not just watching them but putting that data and learned knowledge to good use.
When I’m not surveying birds, I enjoy spending time with my family, listening to good music and enjoying a good red wine, reading books, and exploring a new found interest in photography.”
The place you love: Pick Swamp, South Australia
“It’s great to see the results of a restoration in progress and with over 180 species recorded on site in only 230ha it’s guaranteed to be good birding”
Location: Crows Nest, Queensland
Volunteer for: 35 years
“My earliest memories as a child are of “yellow-bellies” on the lawn, turtle doves calling from electricity wires, and feeding canaries with shivery grass.
I joined the Royal Australasian Ornithological Union (now BirdLife Australia) in 1980 to take part in a surveying trip to the Barkly Tableland and afterwards attended the Congress in Katherine and many more since. Bird monitoring and finding plants is something my husband Grahame and I can do together, so it is the focus of many of our road trips away.
I enjoy handcrafts, volunteering at the Hampton Information Centre, gardening
(with the birds), and writing.”
The place you love: Applegum Walk, Crows Nest, Queensland
“This is an easy short loop along the banks of Crows Nest Creek and Bald Hills Creek. There’s always a chance to see some of our three local fairy-wrens – the red-backed, the variegated and the superb – as well as the occasional azure kingfisher or speckled warbler. And there are lots of the other little bush birds – even the yellow thornbill and spotted doves that I remember from my childhood”
Location: Marlo, Victoria
Volunteer for: 11 years
“My interest in birds began in primary school as a member of the Gould League of Bird Lovers, then Scout camps, holidays on the family farm and meeting Ian McCann and Cliff Beauglehole when teaching in Stawell.
Taking part in BirdLife Australia’s structured monitoring has allowed me to use my knowledge as a geographer to work with like minded people on a range of regional and national initiatives, including the Beach-nesting Birds program and Shorebirds 2020. It also
has the bonus of keeping me socially and physically active.
I enjoy travelling anywhere in Australia that involves bushwalking, camping and fishing together with a developing interest in bird and orchid photography.”
The place you love: Grampians/Gariwerd NP
“The area is nationally recognised for its distinctive flora and fauna. Its unique landforms complemented by a well defined series of walking trails and roads allow visitors to experience a range of leisure activities. Tourist information surrounding the variety of accommodation in Halls Gap simply adds to the enduring popularity of this area”