RE: Bird Alert - Clearly something is not working....

To: "'Simon Mustoe'" <>, <>
Subject: RE: Bird Alert - Clearly something is not working....
From: "Steve Potter" <>
Date: Mon, 26 Jul 2010 09:46:09 +0930
Thanks Simon, 


My comment was more, light hearted than frustrated. I was just interested if
others had experienced this type of situation?? 


I had this situation earlier this year when I drove straight past the Bird
Billabong near the Mary River after fruitlessly spending 2 hours searching
around the flooded excavation pits for Gouldian Finch. On arriving at my
next destination I discovered on Birding-Aus that some one had seen them 3
days earlier there and had delayed posting it due to their travel.
Apparently they are still there 


I was delighted to get the Little Grebe in Darwin a few years back. But
again that info came from the lady (Dawn) at Darwin Water who told us on
arrival for the key that "a rare bird of some description has been seen
there over the last few days/week". No reports had come in until later. The
problem was now we were amped to find the "rare" bird but had no idea what
to look for? Fortunately a local birding couple were there also and was able
to let us know what it was!! We soon found it but if we had not known what
to look for, we would have totally missed it among the A. Grebes. 


Fun and games...



Steve Potter 
Blackwood, South Australia 



From: Simon Mustoe  
Sent: Monday, 26 July 2010 9:26 AM
To: ; 
Subject: Bird Alert - Clearly something is not working....



I have every sympathy with you and I think I can answer that question. 

Australian birders seem quite dependent on receiving information from the
web. It seems to be a general consensus that currently available systems for
alerting people about birds are fine as they are. If you go through the
archives of birding-aus, this sentiment comes up time and time again. The
problem is, all this is being provided for free, in people's spare time,
without any resourcing. We can only expect so much. The other big problem is
that it all critically DEPENDS ON OTHER BIRDERS REPORTING THINGS (as you

So the question is whether any birders knew about the penguins and didn't
think to tell anyone else who might be interested. I don't think there is
any deliberate attempt to cover up these sorts of situations, moreover we
just don't think to do it. In many cases, we're finding out about birds days
after they turn up. 

So for reasons you have identified here, birders might find that things can
be better. 

I was asked this question about Bird-O FirstAlert the other day (which I
might add, we are struggling to get Australian birders to buy into - see
below for what we're about to do). I was asked, "why would people want to
bother to sign up to receiving information by SMS and potentially pay for
this?" The answer is this:

In the last few months, I can cite several examples for myself, where I
would have saved money (and / or seen birds) had I known in time, that they
were present:

1. I booked rapid return flights to Perth for work and only after that,
found out about the Buff-breasted Sandpiper. The bird had been present for
days but I couldn't go to see it without changing my flights at great
2. News of the White-browed Crake broke late in northern NSW and would have
prohibited most birders seeing it in time, before it disappeared.
3. Let's use your example - now you might have to spend lots more money
traveling further or trying to see Fjordland Penguin on a pelagic. 
4. What about if you're out at the Western Treatment Plant and someone
refinds the Hudsonian Godwit and you haven't seen one. You have to return
from Melbourne a second time to see it. In petrol and vehicle wear and tear,
the cost would be over a hundred dollars. 
...I could go on. 

So here's an interesting question. How much money is it worth to birders, to
get bird news? I can certainly say that I would have saved hundreds of
dollars in the last twelve months if we had a better culture of reporting
and a way of getting quicker information out FAST. 

Bird-O FirstAlert (

In the next week, we are looking at reviewing the FirstAlert on Bird-O and
instead of having a complex regional-based system, just reporting (for the
time being), big rarities / difficult birds - with the purpose of getting
things out as quickly as possible. The price for this? Probably around $5 a
month. However, if this is going to work, we also need people reporting
things. That goes for Eremaea as well - all these sites serve a useful
function and aim for the same general results, though they serve different

So my take-home message is - IF WE WANT BETTER BIRD-ALERT SERVICES,
SIGHTINGS QUICKLY. The tools are there but not being used widely enough to
solve your problem.


Simon Mustoe.  


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