Re Interest in Birding {Long]

To: "birding-aus" <>
Subject: Re Interest in Birding {Long]
From: "John Walter" <>
Date: Sun, 19 Nov 2000 10:30:10 +1000
Frank O'Connor wrote:-
    "Perhaps it is useful in this discussion to find out how people became
interested in birding".
    This struck a cord with me. I was perhaps fortunate to grow up in a family with a mother and 3 Aunts who were all into "Nature Study" in particular Ground Orchids and 'Natives' generally, before growing native plants was fashionable back in the 40's. For several years of my childhood we lived at Sassafras in the Dandenong Ranges east of Melbourne. I spent my last Primary School years at the little 1 1/2 teacher school there. We always had 'Nature Study' for part of one day each week, it was not just book learning but hands on stuff in the scrub. It was the most looked for period of the week. Part of Nature Study was involvement with the Gould League of Bird Lovers. At that time they ran various competitions for children, one of which I remember well, my pastel drawing of a Dollarbird [Eastern Broad-billed Roller as it was then called] managed a small award. My bird watching activities really got under way during this time with access to the schools copy of Leach's bird book. This book was the first published popular work with some illustrations of Aus birds that I know of. My interest was further enhanced by a birthday gift of Cayley's 'What Bird is that' [the bible of all pre 1970 birdo's]. Our headmaster was Norman Hallebone an early RAOU member and uncle to Jeff Hallebone who played Shield cricket for Vic.[when it was a Shield and not a 'milk cup'!]
    Secondary school was something of a challenge from a little backwoodsy place like the Dandenongs in the late 40's, [hard to imagine now!!]. So I was packed off to Geelong to where my family roots were and to boarding school. The first person I became friendly with there was Stephen Temple Watts, when we shared a cigarette behind the butts at the small bore rifle range, which was in a remote corner of The College grounds, [also hard to imagine these days]. In succeeding years and into adulthood holidays were spent with the Temple Watts family. Stephen's mother Betty was at that time a budding wildlife artist. She went on of course to produce Australia's first pre and post decimal currency bird stamp series. She also did the illustrations for 'The Birds of the High Country' edited by Harry Frith which is still relevant to the area of the Snowy Mountains and Canberra today. My wife and I met one of her subjects, a male Gang Gang Cockatoo when we were on our honeymoon in 1959. An original copy of the plate from the book hangs proudly in our lounge room. Most of the plates for the book are in the National Library in Canberra. They occasionally see the light of day in exhibitions run by the library from time to time.
    12 years of 'subsistence farming and a young family slowed my birdwatching activity down. After a holiday where we went to Mt Skene Vic. in the spring, our eldest daughter became interested in flowers following in the family tradition, and we all became enthusiastic Field Naturalists. Shortly after this we were invited to come north to Qld. in a farming venture with Stephen Temple Watts. Once again being involved with Betty Temple Watts we were all exposed to bird watching and natural history on a daily basis. We joined the Toowooba Field Nats Club and Queensland Ornithological Society, [then in it's infancy]. I went on to become a long serving president of the Nats and a Country Vice-president of QOS in the late 70's. Aunt Betty, as we called her, gave me a birthday sub. to RAOU in 1972 and I have remained a member since. During this time our 2 daughters were in secondary school. They were both very keen birdo's but had a very hard time at school particularly the elder one. They were given a rough time because their parents were shock/horror BIRD WATCHERS, how queer!! However as adults both have retained their interest, the elder is in London with the British National Trust and part of her job involves the Trust's Nature Conservancy Dept. The younger is in Canberra and is involved with COG and the Atlas 2.
     During the late 70's and 80's my wife and I organised lots of campout for QOS, the Nats and also the RAOU Atlas for which I was a sub-regional organiser. We ran one camp for over 60 Atlasser's at the remote Davenport Downs Stn.on the Diamantina, in an Atlas grid that had not been covered prior to that point. Indirectly this led to the discovery of Yellow Chats in other areas away from the traditional No 2 bore on Cooraboolka Stn. and to the discovery and subsequent protection of the Bilbies. To be followed by NPWS and Diamantina Shires fauna and flora surveys and the eventual acquisition of Diamantina Lakes Stn. as a NP.
    In the 80's I was a committee member for the RAOU Congress and campout organiser at 'Bullamon Plains' Thallon SWQ.
    So to date, 60 years of bird watching has taken us 3 times around Aust. and to every area except far north Cape York and the Canning. It has taken us to Africa twice, Asia 3 times, UK twice, Canada, Alaska and Hawaii, all bird based tourism. [Although our daughter being in London was a drawcard to UK].
    If we were to total up the money and time that we as a family have spent over the years in bird related tourism it would be huge, but to get various people in the tourist industry to see the potential and to encourage other non-birders to try it is a problem. I have been very interested in all the recent threads on the subject of publicity on this list. We must all keep up the good work of promoting birding lifestyles. Word of mouth, as some one said, goes a very long way to convincing people that you are not so queer after all.
     We have now lived here for close to 30 years and not only are we becoming 'locals' but we are no longer seen as queer, in fact people come to us with all sorts of bird queries these days. It take a long time, but it does happen, so all you dedicated birdo's out there keep up the good work.
Apologies for the length of the post Russell.
John & Ruth Walter
Pittsworth SE Queensland

27*43'31"S 151*30'03"E
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