On this thread a couple of people have mentioned how kids have a natural
curiosity for all things natural, birds included and then tend to drop off
in their teenage years when they become very conscious of trying to appear
I know in my case I was inspired to get into birdwatching in primary school
at around the age of ten by an amazing teacher. There was quite a gang of us
who were into birding. But by the end of high school I was the only one
still at it.
I can only put this down to one reason, (apart from the fact that maybe I
was a bit weirder than my friends) and that is that at that crucial age when
I was likely to drift away to follow other pursuits, I lucked on to bumping
into Mike Carter down at the local swamp who introduced me to the world of
Now for all the possible downsides to twitching, to a teenager, the idea of
dashing off around the country chasing after rarities was the sort of Jack
Kerouac adventure that fuelled my teenage imagination. I survived the
ribbing I got from my high school mates about being a bird-nerd because in
my eyes birding was cool. On a Monday morning, how many of them could say
that they had spent the weekend on a road trip to South Australia to catch a
boat out to the continental shelf, or to drive half way across Victoria to
charge around the bush spotlighting for owls?
I was doubly lucky in that I also met a bunch of birders around my age with
whom to share the experience. This was through the Melbourne BOCA branch
Young Member's Group which for once, wasn't run by a bunch of crusty old
codgers, but by a few guys only a couple of years older than myself, which
crucially meant that they could drive! It worked brilliantly because for
these guys were into the guerrilla style birding that is twitching, and
would change itineraries at a moment's notice to chase up the latest rarity.
"We're meant to go to Hattah Lakes but there is a wreck of Kerguelen Petrels
near Wilson's Prom, let's go there!" Our parents weren't necessarily happy,
but we loved it and it kept me birding through those crucial years.
I wonder these days, are there any similar groups operating for anyone under
twenty? I get the feeling that if I was a young birder starting out now, I
would probably think I was the only one until at I at least got to uni, when
I would be a better chance of finding some like minded friends.
Are there still any young member programmes out there? And if they are, are
they still run by the oldies, or do the kids get to set the agenda as we
used to? I suspect in these litigious times, perhaps not.
I’d be interested to know of any young birders programmes/groups out there.
PS I have just been reading Stephen Moss's "A Bird in the Bush" and can’t
recommend it highly enough. Nothing on Aussie birding in there, but his
writing about the birdwatchers in the First World War contain some of the
most moving passages I've ever read about the Great War.
On Behalf Of Tom and Mandy Wilson
Sent: Saturday, 3 March 2007 1:21 PM
Subject: Number of birdwatchers in Australia
I've been following this thread for a while - I've actually found in my work
place that, once my colleagues get over their initial surprise and I hear
all the old jokes again, I am then approached fairly regularly by several
asking about for ID on birds that they have seen. The work force as my
employer is, on the whole, young.
The latent interest is there, even if it is only sparked sporadically.
On a wider point, a lot of the commentary about the growth of birding in the
UK and US has been covered in "A Bird in the Bush" by Stephen Moss, which
(believe it or not) is actually a book about the social history of bird
watching from Gilbert White in Selborne onwards.
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