I found Lawrie Conole's comments about the ageing population of
birdwatchers interesting. Having spent two years in Victoria during which I
spoke to many of the BOCA and Field Naturalist Clubs, as well as VicGroup, I
know exactly what he is talking about.
However, the situation in NSW seems to be a little different. I was
recently in Newcastle at the end of Twitchathon BBQ and there were young,
enthusiastic birdos at every turn of the path. Now, the Hunter Bird
Observers Club, of which I was a member for some time, have always
encouraged young members and this has apparently paid off. Similarly, the
Cumberland Bird Observers Club in Sydney have a "Nestlings" and, now,
"Fledglings" group. There is always a problem of kids being interested in
natural history moving away in their teen years (although some of us stuck
with it) but you often see these people going back to it later in life,
often when they have children themselves.
I am not sure what the answer to this potential dilemma is. I think it
comes back to having committed people driving the bird clubs and people that
are prepared to take on the responsibility of taking young members, or new
members regardless of age, under their wing. I recall someone commenting a
little while ago that a new member to an outing or club meeting was largely
ignored. If this is happening then that club will only end up with an
Although I was going to stay away from the Don Burke discussion I'll throw
my two bobs worth in while I'm at it. Regardless of what you think about
Don Burke, the man and his ideals, people watch the show. I was approached
by one of his researchers a couple of years ago about doing a segment on the
Regent Honeyeater. When it aired there were a couple of inaccuracies that
had me wincing (but I was probably one of only a very few people that would
have noticed) but it wasn't bad. What really mattered was that when I got
into work on Monday (the program aired Friday night) there were 110 messages
on my Freecall number. I kept receiving calls all that week. Most had
nothing to do with Regent Honeyeaters but were from people wanting
information about how to attract birds to their garden. These calls were
mainly from Brisbane and Sydney with some as far afield as Hobart and Perth.
This clearly indicates that there is a general interest out there, we just
need to reach people. You might not like Don Burke but his program does
reach people with a general interest in gardening and natural history
(however you might define that). John Dengate also does this on his regular
ABC radio program and irregular Burke's Backyard piece.
I don't think the vehicle is all that important, it's getting a clear
message across that is and this needs to be done on a regular basis.
Hugo's point that Birds Australia is promoting the cause using celebrities
didn't strike a chord with me. I must have missed all of this. If I missed
it then it's more likely that the general public, and they are the ones we
want to get a message to, also missed it.
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