Number of birdwatchers in Australia

To: <>
Subject: Number of birdwatchers in Australia
From: "John & Ruth Walter" <>
Date: Wed, 7 Mar 2007 09:20:27 +1000
G'day all,

I can relate to a lot that has been said in recent posts to birding-aus about the reasons people become interested in birds. As a primary school child 1n the 1940's I grew up in the Dandenong Ranges east of Melbourne and we had Lyrebirds in our back yard. My father was a farmer, who like most farmers of his era was very aware of nature around him, my mother came from a family of gardeners, both my parents encouraged my sister and I to be interested in nature from an early age. One of my Aunts was a well known Australian Landscape Architect who was responsible for the Landscape planning of Belconnen and Lake Ginninderra in Canberra. At the Sassafras state school I had a teacher Norman Hallebone who was a member of the RAOU. I remember he took us for Nature Study on walks through the scrub. Nature Study was a regular part of the primary school curriculum in those days. We were encouraged to enter a competion run by the Gould League for a pastel drawing. I remember my drawing was of a then to me a very 'exotic and interesting' bird the Eastern Broad-billed Roller as it was called (Dollarbird).

When I went away to boarding school at Geelong College my particular friend was Stephen Temple Watts. Stephen's mother was the well known wildlife artist Betty Temple Watts who painted the pre decimal and then decimal Australian bird stamps, and illustrated Birds of the High Country etc.. At about age 14 I joined the B.O.C. and started going on outings. Stephen and I also got to have access to the 'bowels' of the Victorian Museum and did volunteer work for Warren Hitchcock who was the then curator of birds.

After leaving school other interests took over, work, females and then marriage. As our children reached primary age they became interested in native flowers in the Victorian high country and my wife Ruth and I got back into keeping lists of birds. In 1972 we moved to Queensland to a farm on the Darling Downs in association with Stephen Temple Watts. Betty Temple Watts was widowed by this time and living with her son. Being in close contact with her gave us the extra impetus to become more involved. We became members of QOS and I was a Country V.P. for a time. Betty also gave me a sub to RAOU which I have maintained to this day. In the 70's and 80' I served a record number of times as president of the Darling Downs Field Naturalist Club.

Our girls attended the local high school here and were actively ostracised by other children because their parents dared to be 'different', they were bird watchers, and they went on camping trips to strange places like western Qld. instead of the Gold Coast!. The first Atlas was great for our kids when we were on trips because they were kept busty observing and recording. no one got bored on long trips - they were all too busy. They basically dropped out of the scene when they left school, but like me retained an interest and in their late 20's came back to active bird watching, one in Canberra and one in UK. Since retiring in the early 90's, Ruth and I have travelled around Australia 4 times - overseas to UK, Africa, Asia and N. America/Alaska - always primarily birdwatching.

I think there is a common theme here in what most people have experienced in life and that is that if you get children interested at a young age, they may drift away, but usually will come back to it again as they get older and want to introduce their own kids to the joys of nature and birdwatching.

John and Ruth Walter
Pittsworth SEQ

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