The biggest problem with twitchathons has been advertising them effectively
to the wider community. They've been around for years now, yet most of the
general public still wouldn't have a clue what a Twitchathon is, nor its
purpose. A colleague thought I said Twitterthon and naturally asked how
twittering fitted into my fund-raising efforts! I then went on to explain
all about twitching.
I participate in the Queensland (QOS) Twitchathon most years, but if I
wasn't involved with a bird club or on Birding-Aus, doubt I'd even hear
about it. The same goes for the national event. There needs to be much
better promotion to the general community, including the business community,
so that the onus is not just on the same few participants each year to chase
the funds, as well as the birds!
This may be wishful thinking, but I think the whole fund-raising effort for
Australian wildlife conservation and research, whether it be for birds,
frogs, plants or snails, would be far better achieved as a co-ordinated,
unified effort, and promoted to the hilt each year like Clean Up Australia
Day (or a referendum!). Something like a National Wildlife Awareness
Weekend or Week, where the Twitchathon would be just one of several events
to raise awareness of endangered wildlife, and attract public donations. I
would hope such an arrangement would largely replace the plethora of annual
requests for donations from the various wildlife and conservation
If we take last weekend's national twitchathon, how much more participation
and fund-raising could have been achieved if it had been organised and
advertised nationally on the scale of Red Nose Day (for S.I.D.S.) or Clean
Up Australia Day, and the public knew this was the one time each year they
would be asked to donate to Australian bird/wildlife conservation?
The Twitchathon is a great concept, but for the likes of me with a young
family, is currently little more than a once-a-year, thoroughly enjoyable
self-indulgence, that I have some difficulty justifying given its low-key
status. (The fact that the QOS and national one are held so close together
doesn't give me any scope for a double dose anyway!) And while I'd love to
raise lots of money, like others, I'm not good at asking for donations for
anything, let alone for an obscure event that the vast majority of the
population haven't even heard of. I invariably end up forking out of my own
pocket. However, yesterday I heeded the suggestion to email details of the
event with a bit of background information to the staff here at work and
have had several pledges/donations already. It wasn't that hard, so if
you're in that situation, why not give it a go?
Still, I'd rather see the WHOLE community made aware of the event and given
the opportunity to sponsor, donate &/or participate without me having to
I firmly believe the Twitchathon concept has loads of untapped potential and
useful spinoffs, and with some interstate and inter-organisational
cooperation and clever promotion (and all politics aside), could be made a
much more successful event. Birds have broad appeal, being the most
conspicuous group of fauna, and the majority of the public can identify at
least a few species. The raising of funds for conservation of endangered or
threatened species (or "extinction prevention", "dodo-busting" or some other
emotive catchphrase if you want to avoid a tired phrase) is an attractive
cause. (I realise a twitchathon would not work as well with other
categories of wildlife, but maybe some sort of derivative could - need some
lateral thinkers on the job here.)
So why wouldn't twitchathons be well-supported by the wider community if
Here's some more food for thought and discussion. I'm sure there are more
fertile minds than mine out there, so please chip in.
Failing direct donations, you need some sort of promotion gimmick for the
general public to purchase as an indirect donation. Something like a fridge
magnet, badge or bumper sticker with a catchy phrase that both kids and
adults can identify with. If we follow a dodo theme, e.g. "Don't Make a
Dodo out of Me" or "No Dodo Day" or "Don't do a Dodo (on me)", with a GOOD
picture of an endangered species, perhaps the target species for the year.
If it's an appealing design - and there's absolutely no reason it can't be -
you could extend it to a limited edition T-shirt etc. They could become
Various categories could be implemented so that other groups such as
schools, etc can get involved, and win an award, perhaps for the most funds
raised or the most number of species recorded in their respective school
For future promotional purposes, the information could also be gathered by
participating teams optionally filling in a pro-forma outlining their 24 hr
trip, the sites they go to for specific species, with specific directions
where necessary. Eventually, this information could be published as a book
or website with a working name such such as "(Tw)Itching to see Australian
Birds". There's no harm in disclosing most sites and route details for the
benefit of others. The worst thing that could happen is you get a bit more
competition, with more people better armed to rack up a good tally and
hopefully doing their bit to raise funds! Isn't that the whole idea?
Detailed local knowledge, and identification skills, particularly calls,
will always sort out the young players from the pros on the day. Since
species composition changes during ther season you may also like to
icontribute info for the other seasons. This could be a beneficial offshoot
of having extra Twitchathons just for fun.
How about emailing twitch data in a concise, informative format suited to
easy access through Birding-Aus archives? All that priceless local
knowledge that teams draw upon for the twitchathon is not available in any
reference books, but could ultimately be made available to intending
visitors to your area through a simple query/request. It would also save
time handling requests for info on birds in specific areas if you could just
direct them to the appropriate publication or archive search.
All this would serve to promote the twitchathon, and birdwatching in
general, and hopefully we'll be raising more money for conservation purposes
through ongoing sales of twitch-related publications etc.
Someone last year suggested an Australian Story episode that follows a
twitch team. I think that would be very entertaining and enlightening, and
a great promotional tool as well.
Finally, the toughie - is there anyone prepared to tackle this? A
full-time job I suspect to do properly.
Toowoomba Q 4350
ph (07) 46 881 318
fax (07) 46 881 192
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