After more than three years, the last weekly data have now been
collected for the Caloundra Sandbanks Project.
My team of volunteers has been incredibly loyal, more than I could ever
have foreseen. It's one thing to be the leader, the one with the dreams,
but quite another to be a team volunteer. To come out every week for
hours and hours, getting wet in searing heat or freezing cold, and
keeping up the interest and the motivation. They just amazed me.
About four years ago I went to Barbara Dickson, whom I barely knew then,
and put to her my ideas for a tern monitoring project for one year, and
asked her, if I trained her, would she be "my buddy" in the project.
After I had talked non-stop for about twenty minutes, and she had said
nothing, I was thinking that she was getting ready to say no. When I did
stop talking, all she said, rather humbly was, "Would you really be
prepared to train me? I don't even know what a tern is." That was the
beginning of a beautiful friendship and working relationship. As time
passed, she became so aware of what needed to be done, that I could just
immerse myself in the survey at hand,and she would always move me on
when time was running against us.Others joined us; some stayed and some
moved on. But always we were able to send them on with some solid
knowledge about terns.
On Thursday, the day of our last survey, the morning was horribly windy;
vile conditions for standing in the open trying to stabilise a tripod. I
put out some bait to a couple of the team: we might just see the first
returned Eastern Curlew today. They decided to come, though they knew we
didn't need the extra help in these quiet times.
And there we were on the sandbanks.The wind had dropped, and it was now
a perfect day, clear and sunny. The sandbanks looked rather bare of
birds. I said, "There's a prize for the first person to see a flock of
Eastern Curlew." It had to be a flock, because we had had the odd one,
two, even four, during the winter. Barb swung the scope over the sand,
and came up with, "Does eight win the prize?", and a huge beam of
excitement on her face.
In fact there were 13 newly arrived Eastern Curlew, like clockwork in
the timing of their migration. Of course we can't know whether these 13
have bred, or whether they perhaps spent the winter (Arctic summer) in
south Asia. I would love to know, but nonetheless, the flock was
certainly a migration flock.
Of course we'll go out there again, but in the future we won't be tied
to the weekly demands that we have had in the past. I have plans for
next summer, but for the time being I just want a break from boats, wet
trousers and tally counters. In the morning I'm off bush birding for a
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