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Birdwatching with BirdLife

Published 29 Apr 2020 by Eliza Herbert

At Bush Heritage, we consider ourselves very fortunate to have long-standing relationships with many conservation organisations, including BirdLife Australia. Since 2009, BirdLife volunteers have frequently visited Bush Heritage reserves to monitor the plumy creatures and BirdLife’s seasonal surveys have contributed to a growing body of data about bird activity on some of our reserves. Data that is invaluable for us to better understand the lay of the land.

Why? Because birds can be fantastic indicators of healthy country. They are also incredibly enchanting.

Be it the flush and flurry of a Spotted Bowerbird taking a bath or the welcome chime of a Crested Bellbird echoing through the trees, the act of birdwatching brings joy to many people across the country and can be a great way to connect with other people and the environment – whatever your circumstances.

Like many budding birdwatchers, both BirdLife Australia’s President, John Barkla, and Bush Heritage’s Director, Chris Grubb, fell in love with birds as youngsters.

When John was a boy, his uncle took him walking along the Yarra River in Kew, Victoria, where he was quickly enraptured by the extraordinary nature of the birds he encountered; the White-plumed Honeyeaters, White-fronted Chats and Flame Robins. Since then, birdwatching has been an anchor for him, and he encourages people to brighten up every day by looking at “something from nature, something of exquisite beauty,” even when in isolation.

“We’ve been walking in the Fitzroy Gardens and looking for our birds,” he says. “We find it’s your usual culprits, Australian Wood Ducks, Pacific Black Ducks, Long-billed Corellas etc. Some days we’ll see up to 40 bird species, a good number for an inner-city park.”

Similarly, Chris got into birding in his youth when he had a small aviary full of Zebra Finches and Java Sparrows in his home. Through the act of breeding them, he became amazed at how birds survive some of the toughest conditions and it sparked a curiosity for the creatures.

“It is remarkable when you look at birds from different angles, depending how the sunlight shines on them, you get the most iridescent and spectacular colouring,” he says.

“I love hearing bird calls and I love seeing them preening themselves or bathing and really making the most of the outdoors in a sense. None of them live indoors, unlike us, so they're able to cope out there in the conditions that nature gives them. And when you see birds’ nests, particularly some of the smaller ones, it's just incredible how fragile they are and how they can survive, let alone bring up chicks.”

Now, they are both proud to know that their organisations are working together to protect these feathery friends.

“I admire BirdLife Australia,” Chris says. “Through Birds on Farms and Birds in Backyards, they involve the community as well as scientists and ecologists to try and understand more about birds; where they are, how they move around, how they feed and what we can do to ensure their survival.”

“So, we encourage BirdLife Australia and other organisations to continue to approach us about accessing the land that we manage, whether it’s our land or our partners, to get a better understanding of birds and their habitat.”

John and his partner Alison are long-term supporters of Bush Heritage and he believes the work of BirdLife Australia and Bush Heritage fit beautifully together.

“BirdLife Australia’s focus is on key biodiversity areas and the birds that inhabit those areas. By recognising that common birds are declining, we have to look at the broader environment, we have to work together, and we have to bring people along with us and cooperate.”

Come Spring, we’re optimistic we’ll get BirdLife Australia’s volunteers back on some of our reserves to conduct their annual surveys. Until then, while many people are cooped up in homes around the country it is a great time to get out in your backyard and into your local parks to connect with the birds around you.

And know that in the meantime, we’re keeping their habitat healthy across our reserves to ensure they can keep singing their glorious songs.

In 2019, a BirdLife Australia group began regular surveys at Bush Heritage’s Yourka Reserve in Queensland. They now conduct seasonal surveys at Pullen Pullen, Edgbaston, Ethabuka, Cravens Peak and Naree Station reserves.

Chestnut-breasted White-face by John Barkla Chestnut-breasted White-face by John Barkla
Flame Robin by John Barkla Flame Robin by John Barkla
Long-billed Corellas by John Barkla Long-billed Corellas by John Barkla
Zebra Finches by John Barkla Zebra Finches by John Barkla

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