Perhaps it is useful in this discussion to find out how people became
interested in birding.
I was interested in passing in what I saw when I was in primary school, but
we only had a very old copy of Cayley's What Bird is That? I never went
birding and I never had a pair of binoculars. In one year at primary
school (5th grade from memory) we formed a Gould League and I was assistant
secretary which meant nothing much. However I can only remember us looking
at what was around the school in suburban Applecross in Perth. I guess
that I could identify maybe 50 species.
Interest waned. At primary school I was more interested in playing cricket
and supporting Perth in the WAFL and collecting stamps. At secondary
school I played a bit of cricket and some tennis, but not much else except
maybe caddying for my father while he played golf. Studies overtook most
things. I took a year off after secondary school to work and my main
leisure activity was golf maybe once a week.
At University it was mainly study, parties, etc plus working in the
vacations. There was a strong group of friends formed during 3rd year and
honours. We began to go away for a week camping at Margaret River,
Mandurah, Rottnest, etc, etc. We also started orienteering.
I finished University and got a job there. The week to 10 day trip to
Rottnest Island became a yearly event where the group always got back
together. Then one year (December 1987 when I was 29) one of the group
brought over an old pair of binoculars and the book The Birdlife of
Rottnest by Perry de Rebeira and Denis Saunders. So we each set off to see
who could find the most species. I didn't have a clue previously that
there were birds at Rottnest such as Rainbow Bee-eater, Banded Lapwing,
Sacred Kingfisher, Red-capped Robin, Golden Whistler, Pheasant, Ospreys
nesting, Banded Stilt, Red-necked Avocet, Pied Oystercatchers, etc. I
remember not being to tell a Welcome Swallow from a Tree Martin, or some of
the terns, and especially some of the waders.
Back at University of WA, I used to regularly visit the bookshop. Shortly
after the Rottnest trip I saw a book on Metropolitan Birding Sites in Perth
edited by Ron van Delft. It listed a large number of birding sites mainly
in metropolitan Perth. Again, I never realised that such sites existed
right in Perth. So I bought the book and I also bought the WA field guide
by Storr and a $100 pair of binoculars, and I visited many of these sites.
Again there were problems such as is that a coot or a moorhen? Is that a
Grey Teal or a black duck? Is that a gerygone, or a thornbill, or a
weebill, or a ???? I chased calls and they all seemed to be Brown
Honeyeaters!!!! And I saw Australasian Bitterns everywhere (actually juv.
night herons). I can still remember my excitement at finding Golden
Whistler or Scarlet Robin or Splendid Fairy-wren or Red-capped Parrot or
.... Most of which I probably hardly look at much these days other than to
write them down :-(
In early to mid 1988 I joined the RAOU and attended a few meetings. I felt
a bit out of place but the meetings were interesting with the monthly
talks. I bought my first copy of Simpson & Day. I can't remember
attending any of the weekly outings.
In August 1988 I flew up to Kununurra in the north east of WA to travel
with my sister during her two weeks off from the Argyle Diamond Mine. We
went around Kununurra, visited Parry Lagoons near Wyndham, the Bungle
Bungles and flew to Darwin and went to Kakadu for two days including the
Yellow Waters Cruise, Nourlangie Rock, the rainforest walk on the East
Alligator River, several of the billabongs, etc. We visited the Argyle
Diamond Mine for the day. At this point my sister's 'back to back'
resigned, so I decided to apply for the job and got it.
The big decision was not whether I could do the job, but what would I do
with all the time off (26 weeks plus two weeks holidays - great job!). The
job is 14 days on / 14 days off. In the eight years that I had worked at
the University of WA, I hardly ever took holidays. When I left UWA I think
that I had 4 years worth of holidays paid out. So I sat down and made a
list of what I would do during my time off which included visiting
relatives over east, playing bridge, travelling, a few other things and
I went on my first tour in late 1989. It was a three day trip around the
south west (Dryandra, and Harvey / Peel area) with Kevin Coate. I still
had my large10x50 $100 Tasco binoculars. I saw the binoculars used by the
other people on the trip and decided I would get a better pair. So I
bought a very small pair of binoculars that fitted in my pocket for just
In May 1990 I did my first big tour. I went with Richard Jordan's Emu
Tours from Sydney to Cairns and across to Darwin. I think we saw about 300
species. It was very daunting as everything was new but I learnt a lot.
John Liddy from Brisbane was on the trip and we shared a tent, and I learnt
a lot from him and we have kept in touch since.
Then in July 1990 I went to the Broome Bird Observatory for their week
"course" which was basically birding everywhere around Broome. What a
magical place and I have been there about 16 or more times now. Gail and
Brice Wells were the wardens and they are two of the best people I have
ever met and I guess that is when I knew that I was hooked on birding. So
I became interested in waders and of course you need a scope to see waders.
So I bought a $400 Carton 20 to 45 zoom scope.
Gail and Brice gave me the inspiration to maintain my bird list for the
Argyle Diamond Mine. I now have 11 years of observations.
So since then I have been on many trips. I plan my annual holidays on a
birding trip somewhere, plus I go away sometimes during my two weeks off.
So I probably travel about 11 weeks or so a year visiting most parts of
Australia and recently a couple of trips to southern Africa. Why else
would anyone go to Gibb River Road, Birdsville Track, Cape York, Canning
Stock Route, Nullarbor Plain, Tasmania, Lord Howe Island, Norfolk Island,
Christmas Island (twice), Kimberley coast, Ashmore Reef (twice), Monte
Bellos, Abrolhos, Cape Crawford, etc, etc, etc and every sewage pond that I
could find where I went!!!!! Imagine a book on "Sewage Ponds That I Have
Visited"!!! There was always one or two people from each trip that I would
keep in touch with, and I would visit them if I happened to be over there,
or I would show them around Perth or the south west when they came over
>From Broome I became interested in the waders, and so I have participated
in two Australian Wader Study Group wader banding expeditions to the north
west. Camping on the edge of the Port Hedland salt works near the salt
marsh in 40 degree heat with clouds of mosquitos is something I wouldn't
wish on anyone! But it was memorable. And camping on 80 Mile Beach at
Anna Plains Station is magical.
Seabirds were always a worry. It is amazing what species you can see at a
distance of 1,000 metres!!! The same bird becomes a shearwater, then a
Great-winged Petrel, then a ...... I started to learn seabirds with Phil
Maher on a trip to Tassie. That unforgettable pelagic from Port Arthur in
4 to 5 metre swell!! And then the first magical trip to Ashmore Reef with
what seemed like the who's who of Australian birding. How do they identify
those black dots? and what is an Oceanodroma? I had already decided to
start organising a few seabird trips each year from Perth so this gave me
more ideas. It is much easier to identify a shearwater at 10 metres than
1,000 metres!!! Fortunately I don't get seasick too easily.
I now have 5 copies of Simpson & Day, one Slater, one Pizzey & Knight, one
Morcambe, HANZAB, most of the National Photographic Index series, etc. I
have a decent pair of Leica binoculars and a good Kowa scope.
The WA group of Birds Australia have checklists that you hand in for each
national park or shire that you visit. So I started keeping lists on these
cards for sites that I regularly visited and WA as a total. I would always
know my WA total. It was ages before I checked my Australian total (just
after Christidis & Boles was released in late 1994? or 1995?) when I found
that I had seen about 580 species. However I can't remember what my 600th
or 650th species was. From memory I was at Cape York when I reached 600.
The Atlas is also an excellent project. I have always been very poor at
keeping records, so the Atlas has made me keep much better records of where
I have been and what I have seen. I know that a lot of the WA members of
Birds Australia joined during the first Atlas. So hopefully the second
Atlas will have a similar outcome. Filling out an URRF is another
discipline that I have had to learn .....
I joined the internet in 1997. One of the first things that I found was
that Tony Palliser had a spare place on his trip to Ashmore Reef. And then
I subscribed to birding-aus. I remember the time when there were about 6
messages a day. Then people asked me about birding in WA and I would send
them information back. And I was asked by Alan Jones in the WA group of
Birds Australia to write the country birding brochures for Kununurra and
Wyndham in the Kimberley. It reached the point where I had a lot of
information available. So I decided to start my web site. The beginning
was easy as all I had to do was transfer the mail messages, Word documents,
etc into web pages. It gets a bit harder over time as you have to write
everything from scratch. There are many times that I have a very bad case
of writers block and nothing happens, and then other times when it seems
easy and I finally get that information included.
I am not as interested in them as birds, but I now keep a record of mammals
and reptiles that I see. But plants are still a nightmare and I haven't
taken much interest in them.
So in summary what made me become a birder? First Rottnest Island and the
book by Saunders & de Rebeira. Then the book by van Delft. Then having
the time to become interested. Then the trip with Kevin Coate (I have been
on about 7 trips with Kevin and how could you not become interested if you
go on a trip with Kevin?). Then the Broome Bird Observatory (a must on
every birders places to visit many times) and Gail & Brice Wells. It
doesn't happen overnight. It needs the right people and the right events
at the right time.
So enjoy your birding
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