Ashmore Reef Whales and Seabirds

To: inger vandyke <>
Subject: Ashmore Reef Whales and Seabirds
From: Penny Brockman <>
Date: Fri, 20 Jun 2008 10:48:27 +1000
Dear Inger

Well put.  I've been on many trips organised by members of Birding NSW
(Field Ornithologicsts Club of NSW - organised and led by club members,
some with Outback Track Tours) and George Swan's Ashmore Reef pelagic
(fantastic), and other pelagics and commercial trips to Cape York etc.
I couldn't care less if the organiser gets a free trip, in fact I would
expect that person to get some financial benefit. You appreciate that
with a commercial operation there is a profit in-built in the cost, and
surely you can't object to a non-commercial person at least getting
their expenses covered and something on top of that. During the trip,
they are hard at work and from my experience of the great people who led
Birding NSW trips, they put their hearts and souls into it (I have led
two). As you out line, there is a tremendous amount of work involved,
not to mention that you have to pacify, encourage, put up with, and
generally be nice to everyone all the time. Not like when you are a
passenger and can please yourself throughout the trip.

So, thanks to all trip organisers and trip leaders.  OK, you do it to
see some birds to add to your list (and many other reasons) but you also
do it to advance appreciation and knowledge of birds, support
organisations that are doing this, and encourage people to care for our
natural resources.  It's a great way to make your "hard-earned" go
towards keeping the birds in the air and have a good time at the same time.

Hi All,

I actually wasn’t going to contribute to
this thread but feel it is time that I should.

I have been in the position of organising,
leading and contributing to trips now for six years and I have to agree to
Simon’s viewpoint in this instance.

Not once, during six years of doing this
style of thing have I ever pulled out of a trip leaving the organiser to pay
for my seat.  I simply would never do
this.  Why?

I feel that at this point, I should attempt
to outline the amount of work that goes into organising pelagics and the level
of commitment involved to ensure that manifests are kept straight, monies and
taxes are collected and the vessel is prepared for sea.

While many of the participants of these
trips are sitting at home enjoying their dinners with family and friends, the
organisers and their families are the ones who are up late answering emails and
fielding phone calls, keeping records, assisting participants with finding
accommodation, making sure they can get to the boat, car pooling etc.  So there 
go our weekday nights.

On the day, when participants are queuing
up at the dock waiting to board at 7am,having woken up at 6am, had a leisurely
breakfast and sauntered down to the dock, I am the person who has been up since
4am mixing burley, hosing down the decks, making sure the boat has enough fuel
and that the kettle is on in time for you to arrive.  During the trip, I am 
making you coffee, making you comfortable
if you are seasick fetching biscuits and drinks and in the middle of all of it,
pointing out the difference between one albatross and another.  After you get 
off the boat at 3 or 4pm, I am
then the person who cleans out the burley bucket, hoses the decks down and
checks that everyone has their gear before they disembark as often participants
are tired after a day out there and forget their stuff.  While participants are 
enjoying hot showers, a nap before dinner, and looking through their photos, I am just 
finishing work at around 5 to 6 pm so it’s a
14 hour day for me.  Then when we get
home, we have trip reports to write up and emails to answer from participants
who are querying exact numbers of birds they saw and what type.

So if I go for free (which I often don’t),
this means that my salary of $100 of what you deem to be ‘gratis’ really pays
me less than $10 per hour to make sure everything runs smoothly and this figure
drops significantly if you factor in the amount of hours spent in front of the
computer and unpaid for telephone calls to participants which are not
on-charged.  I haven’t begun to factor
in the cost of burley and maintenance on boats on top of all that.

If you decide to take these trips on to a
whole new plateau and organise them to the Torres Strait, Christmas Island or
one of the offshore Territories the level of work increases exponentially as
participants fly in from all over the country and you have to advise them on
what to take, dietary requirements, the correct inoculations to get before they leave 
– well I could go on for a while about this.

Yes, these trips are expensive for birders
on a budget, but the offshore trips end up being very tight financially and the
fact that George Swann breaks even on his Ashmore Reef trips when the cost per
participant is $4,700+ did not surprise me at all.  I would assume this cost 
per participant only counts for the cost
of the boat.  What wage would George get
for being that person sitting up every night taking calls?

So why do we do all of this?  It’s because we love it.  We love sharing our 
knowledge of birds with
others and showing people the wonders of pelagic birding.  We meet some 
fantastic people involved in
the birding community who have both impressed and enthralled us with their own
stories and trips.  Our trip reports
contribute to the body of knowledge contained here and give people a real idea
about seasonality and movements of many birds.
Above all, we are totally committed to pelagics, the thrills they entail
and the level of enjoyment that each participant goes away with.  If we were any less 
committed, we wouldn’t organise

For me, the $ value is insignificant.  Whether someone pays hard cash for their
guide/organiser or not or even if this is declared beforehand does not worry me 
at all.  I know the work involved that the organiser puts in and they are
worth all of that, plus more.

It’s one of those odd sort of jobs where
everyone thinks it’s a ‘dream career’ but ask any guide who works in Antarctica
with people how they feel at the end of a season and most of them are
completely ‘over it’.  Believe me if you
think they are millionaires financially for the work they do?  I am sorry but I 
would disagree with you on
every level.

This mail is not meant to denigrate or
point the finger at any one on this board as I value the input of people here

I just thought I would give you an idea of
what it’s like to be behind the scenes on these trips when perhaps some of you
might not understand this.

Cheers,  Inger Vandyke

To: ; ; 
Subject: RE: [Birding-Aus] Ashmore Reef Whales and Seabirds
Date: Wed, 18 Jun 2008 19:23:08 +1000

As a general rule I would have no issue with someone that is organising the
trip having their portion subsidised or paid entirely, provided:

1. It was clearly stated up front that the organiser was not paying their
own way.

2. The amount of work put into organising the trip justifies that level of
subsidy (in other words, the other participants receive value for money).

I think the sticking point for is number 1 - I'm not sure how common it is
for organisers to have a subsidised trip, but I've never seen it mentioned
or disclosed.

Paul Dodd
Docklands, Melbourne

-----Original Message-----
 On Behalf Of Tony Russell
Sent: Wednesday, 18 June 2008 5:59 PM
To: 'peter crow'; 'Tim Dolby'
Subject: RE: [Birding-Aus] Ashmore Reef Whales and Seabirds

I'm with you on this one Peter. I don't mind anyone organising trips but
they should really pay their own way. I now only go on trips for which
the cost is shared evenly among ALL participants. If the cost is $20,000
and 10 people go then it's $2,000 each thank you.  None of this riding
on other people's backs.  That's just exploitation.


-----Original Message-----
 On Behalf Of peter crow
Sent: Wednesday, June 18, 2008 4:58 PM
To: Tim Dolby
Subject: Re: [Birding-Aus] Ashmore Reef Whales and Seabirds

Tim and Simon,

I have a major problem with people who organise trip for groups where everyone supposedly shares the cost but the one organising the trip
manages to get a free trip from the travel agent or whoever for
recruiting ten or what ever number of participants.

I have twice been slightly involved with this sort of event. The
first time I was caught. The second I found out in time and with
drew. Much to my satisfaction this left less than the prescribed
number and the "organiser" had to contribute.

I find it extremely unpleasant when some one sets them selves up as
organising a trip to benefit all but which is really to secretly
benefit only themselves.


On 18/06/2008, at 11:32 AM, Tim Dolby wrote:

Yes, excellent points Simon, well said, and thanks for your honest
reply. I couldn't agree more. As mentioned I have absolutely no
problem with the Ashmore Reef trips, or anybody who organises them,
or for that matter any other organised birding trips. Birding trips
are what birding is all about - and for whatever reason - whether
it's data collection or just pure birding fun.

This was not the reason I replied to your message. The reason I
replied was because you contextualised it in terms of 'commercial'
versus 'non-commercial' birding.

My problem is (and it's a bit of a personal gripe, apologies
everyone and Simon for the whinge) when birders try to get other
people to pay for their birding trips, whether in Australian waters
or to overseas destinations (such as South America), often under
the guise of trip sharing rather than commercialisation. You
mention that as long as people are honest and don't take the
proverbial there's no problem. I couldn't agree more. However what
about when people are taking the proverbial. From personal
experience birding is very addictive. It can also be a very very
expensive. As a result, like anything else, it is open to potential
bad practice. Although, as you pointed out, rather than being a
negative, there may be some merit in this?

Tig what wonderful discoveries they come back with.


Simon Mustoe.



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