>The thread going on this line is important. This is that it is up to us to
>push the fact out there in people's communities, that we are interested in
>birds and other natural history topics .
Hi Philip, Charlie et al,
Some good points are being raised on this topic. There is no point in
having bird tours if there are insufficient birdwatchers in the community
for operators to be viable.
The fact that Australian birdwatchers may have solitary habits is another
question again. (I have to confess that I am a bit like that, and just
about the only commercial bird tour I have been on was Chris Dahlberg's,
and it was truly superb.)
We do indeed need to get more people interested in the activity in order to
have a stronger voice for habitat protection. Then the scientists might
have some real clout to achieve their goals.
Charlie Andrews said: "I stand to be corrected on this but it appears to
me that our birding organisations and individual birders spend much time
and energy on research and conservation, which is terrific and of course
essential, but far less on sharing the joys of birding with the
I would say to Charlie, let the scientists get on with what they're good
at, and let the rest of us take up the challenge to educate the public
about birds and birdwatching.
I raise again the comment I made a couple of weeks ago when I said that I
was taking a group of uni students out to introduce them to the notion of
birdwatching. This might sound curious, but to a non-birder, birdwatching
is a weird, nebulous activity. I believe that what we achieved in three
hours was worth doing, and doing again. We didn't expect people to leave as
instant experts, but we brought to their attention the fact that they can
see for themselves how habitat changes as you move through a patch, and
thus one's expectations of what birds will be present. We spoke of the
various layers in the vegetation, and how birds have preferences for
specific layers, types of vegetation or for total exposure for better
viewing. Bob James showed them beautifully how birds give alarms of the
approach of predatory birds. These are just a few examples of things which
we birders take as given, but which need to be pointed out to novices.
Why do I mention this? Because these things are basic knowledge to many of
us on birding-aus, and some of us can go out into the community and, by
taking groups, demonstrate a whole new world to uninitiated people. We
don't all have personalities that are suited to such activities, but why
not some of us give it a try? Put an ad at your local community
noticeboard, and see what sort of response you get. Start a local group,
not to compete with the established groups, but to teach new people, people
who might not have the initiative to join a regular group, but who might be
attracted to the idea of "classes", and then draw them into the established
groups. There are many things that community birders can do, other ways of
coming at the issue. You don't have to be the fountain of knowledge
(heavens knows I'm not!), you just have to know more than the beginners.
The Queensland Wader Study Group, via the dedicated efforts of Linda and
Phil Cross and Shery and Arthur Keates, holds regular wader identification
days for anyone who wishes to come. One of the aims is to keep enough
experienced wader counters available for the monthly counts at the
ever-growing number of sites monitored in Queensland. That kind of activity
(not just for waders) can be conducted right across the country, if we have
the will to get out there and do it. You just have to create an atmosphere
in which beginners don't feel like idiots when they ask a basic question.
Sorry to be so long-winded. It must be the heat. The Sunshine Coast is
frying today. It goes to one's head.
Sunshine Coast, Qld
26º 51' 152º 56'