A Carbon Neutral Twitchathon

Subject: A Carbon Neutral Twitchathon
From: "Peter Ekert" <>
Date: Thu, 12 Apr 2007 09:20:20 +1000
Michael Todd and Chris Sanderson's preliminary thoughts and ideas on 
improvements to the twitchathon are a breath of fresh air.

For a long time, I have considered the twitchathon a bit of a yawn really.  
It's an outdated concept.  Having a long-term involvement in acquiring money 
and undertaking conservation projects (in a past life with Birds Australia and 
currently with the Hunter-Central Rivers Catchment Management Authority), I 
don't deny that the twitchathon has an important role in raising money for 
conservation projects and birding groups.  In its current form, despite some 
media coverage in recent times, it really doesn't have a role in raising 
awareness in the local community.  Most Joe Public's haven't and people within 
the conservation/nature community haven't heard of the Twitchathon.  

But, surely there are better ways of raising money for conservation projects, 
not for profit organisations and/or fostering awareness of birds within the 
community then having a group of like-minded bird lovers driving fuel guzzling, 
greenhouse gas emitting 4WD's, loaded up with camping equipment and the like 
across parts of their respective state. It's a bit of a contradiction really. 
In recent times, particularly in this forum, the twitchathon has been more 
about bragging rights for teams than raising funds for conservation, education 
or awareness.

If the twitchathon is to continue in its current form, then the use of 
solar/electric powered vehicles, bicycles, and walking as forms of transport 
and the use of recycled materials for scribing and/or the use of recycled, 
environmentally friendly clothing or nudity (check laws in your own state) 
and/or the purchase of carbon credits and/or the preliminary assessment and 
inclusion of biodiversity offsets/compensatory habitat is recommended.  Another 
recommendation is that local businesses/community groups actively participate 
in the event, rather than just sponsoring.  Teams could approach local 
businesses or community groups to recruit/have on board a guest team member, 
one who is not a bird watcher per se but more a local business person/member of 
another community group.   Every team is required to have one of these people.  
These people report back to their business/community group of their twitchathon 
experience and overtime, this may ultimately raise the awareness of the event 
within the greater community.


Peter A. Ekert
Senior Threatened Species Officer
Department of Environment and Conservation (DEC)

Ph.  (02) 49384950  Fx.  (02) 49301013 

Hunter-Central Rivers Catchment Management Authority
Private Bag 2010

>>> Michael Todd <> 11/04/2007 8:32 pm >>>

Hello all,

Writing as a former Whacked-out Woodswallow I'll have to be careful how 
I respond to this one!

First of all, I congratulate the woodswallows for making an effort to 
alleviate the greenhouse impacts of the twitchathon (well, their part in 
it anyway). My hat (if I was wearing one) goes off to you.

Sure, the fundraising side of things is important and is the original 
idea for the competition. But I don't think there's any harm in some 
healthy competition and a bit fun as well. They can be compatible.

However, I kind of agree with Keith Brandwood on the competition side of 
things. In NSW at least (I can't speak for the other states), I think 
the twitchathon, as a competition has become a bit regimented. To be in 
with a competitive chance of winning, identifying the maximum number of 
species in the 24 hrs, and thus raising more money, there are very few 
possible routes that can be taken. And to get the count of ~230 species 
a lot of driving is required, thus chewing up considerable fuel, 
churning out greenhouse gases etc. You cannot get this high a count in 
NSW without visiting most of the major habitats in NSW, in particular 
covering inland wetlands, woodlands, coastal forests and wetlands etc. I 
believe that to be competitive there is only one approximate geographic 
route that can be taken.

I reckon that the twitchathon should be shaken up a bit by providing new 
rules and incentives to teams to twitch in different ways some of which 
could be more climate- change friendly. Just about all teams would end 
up with a Silver Gull on their list. However, not all teams would end up 
with Square-tailed Kite. What about a system where different bird 
species scored more highly than the abundant ones. What about a bonus 
system for getting the full swag of a particular suite of birds- say all 
the thornbills? With enough tinkering you could possibly get a system 
that would bring the states onto an even basis so that we could have a 
true Australian competition (I think Stuart Cooney might have looked at 
this with the last twitchathon).

If a score of 500 became the average winning total there might be 
numerous ways in which to get there and a myriad of different strategies 
would develop, some of which might not have to involve driving thousands 
of kilometres. The twitchathon could become more fun, more competitive, 
have a higher profile, attract more competitors and ultimately raise 
more funds!

Anyway, its just an idea!  Anyone have any other suggestions?


Mick Todd


Michael Todd
Wildlifing- Images of Nature-
Ranelagh, Tasmania
Latest Additions: Updated Australian Mammals Gallery
Mobile: o41o 123715

Carol Probets wrote:

> Hi all,
> I followed the recent thread on Twitchathons with interest, and my 
> intention here is not to start up the discussion again as most of the 
> points on both sides of the argument have already been made. I 
> refrained from posting at the time because I wanted to run an idea 
> past my team leader David Geering, who was away from contact over Easter.
> I've now done that and am able to say that this year, the Whacked-Out 
> Woodswallows will run a "carbon neutral race" by purchasing carbon 
> credits to offset our own travelling associated with the event, from 
> one of the organisations involved in genuine carbon-reducing projects 
> (not just sequestration). For a list of such organisations see: 
> We're fully aware that this does not exempt us from all blame nor 
> eliminate the emissions from our own travelling during the event. But 
> I do hope it will go some way towards a satisfactory compromise. On 
> the one hand it's the extreme nature of the Twitch that grabs people's 
> attention and makes this such a successful fund-raising event. It 
> provides enjoyment for many more than just the actual competitors. On 
> the other hand it's that same resource-hungry nature of the race which 
> eats at our consciences and leaves us open to the sort of criticism 
> brought up in the recent discussion.
> So this is only a small gesture but I hope it sets an example to other 
> teams, especially those like us who do what has been dubbed a "double 
> twitch" in order to be competitive and have a chance at the main prize.
> Hey, nobody's perfect, and this is a once-a-year event which raises a 
> substantial amount of funds for a good conservation cause. Let's all 
> do the best we can without abolishing our sense of fun.
> cheers,
> Carol Probets
> Whacked-Out Woodswallow
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