Alice Springs birding contacts and sewage ponds access

Subject: Alice Springs birding contacts and sewage ponds access
From: Christopher Watson <>
Date: Tue, 18 Jun 2013 17:44:50 +0930
G'day birders,

[Before I get into the rest of this post, for those keeping track, the
Forest Wagtail is still being seen although slightly less frequently.]

In the spirit of give and take, I'd like to offer you something at the same
time as making two small requests.

Firstly, with Adelaide birders recently losing access to some of their
premier shorebird sites (the salt works), it seems like a good time to ask
anyone visiting commercial or industrial sites such as salt works or sewage
treatment plants, to consider the local birding community that your
behaviour might impact upon.

A few recent events in Alice Springs, none involving local birders, have
strained the relationship between the local water authority and the birding
community. There seem to be some birders who possess an irrational sense of
entitlement to access at these sites.

Recently, one visiting birder took the incomprehensible step of approaching
the media and, in their own words, kicking up a fuss until access could be
arranged - The
most likely outcome of this approach is that management at the water
authority will decide that providing birding access is an unjustifiable
drain on resources, generates nothing but bad publicity and will lock
birders out for good. This would be a tragedy for local birders, future
visitors, and the regular shorebird monitoring that is conducted at the
ponds. You may not intend to visit Alice Springs again, but the bridges you
are burning here are other peoples', not your own.

Ideally, it'd be better to build the relationship with sewage facility
operators to the point that there is good publicity or recognition for
them, rather than having them see birders as only a source of difficulties
and negativity; this is how it stands now. These organisations are under no
obligation to permit birdwatching access, we're a drain on their resources,
we're a source of negative interactions with their staff, we're a potential
liability to their operations, and in many cases we provide nothing in
return. Birders are a burden and a liability for what is otherwise a fairly
straightforward industrial business - why would they persevere with this
relationship if all we do is make it harder for them?

It falls to us to show them appreciation rather than aggravation, and make
sure that they see maintaining a relationship with the birding community as
a worthwhile effort to commit resources to.

So my second request is this; when you visit a sewage treatment plant,
private wetland, salt works, mine-site or any other such spot for birding,
find out the manager(s) of the organisation responsible for its running,
and write them a letter of thanks. Write a letter, write an email, put a
nice message or photo on their Twitter feed or their Facebook page - if
possible do all of these things. Let them know how much you enjoyed your
visit, tell them about rare or interesting birds you saw, even if you think
they couldn't care less. Let their managers read* fan mail* instead of *hate
mail*. Tell them how much you value being able to visit such sites, and how
much potential their site has to contribute to science through shorebird
surveys and water bird monitoring. Make sure you acknowledge them in any
publications or newsletters you put together resulting from observations at
their facility. Whether it's your local patch, or whether you're visiting a
facility interstate, just take two minutes to thank the group that
maintains the birding access. If you're a traveler, you could have a
"thank-you" email template saved on your laptop ready to go whenever you
visit a new spot. It doesn't take much, but it makes a world of difference
to the people who run these places to have incoming kudos rather than a
daily barrage of disparaging quibbles about inductions, keys, vehicle
access restrictions, and safety requirements.

...and here's what I offer in return. Many members of the Alice Springs
birding community have kindly put their hands up to have their contact
details listed, should you ever visit Alice Springs and be interested in
accessing the ponds. The list that follows is not a list of guides, and
neither is it a list of people who can provide you with a key or access to
the ponds, but they can assist you in your dealings with Power and Water
Corporation, and may be able to provide a very simple answer to a question
that might take some time to find on the PWC website. You still need to
organise your induction *well in advance* of your visit, and you still need
to lodge your indemnity form before getting a key - but if you have any
difficulties or questions, if there are any hitches or delays, don't get
angry, keep your hair on, and ring or email one of us!

Print this out, stick it in your field guide or binocular case, bung it in
your glove box or tape it to your thermos. Email it to your mates, print it
in your newsletter, and spread it as far as you can. The Alice Springs
birding mob are a pretty friendly lot, and we're always happy to be
contacted by visitors who need advice on sewage ponds access especially if
it avoids any potential angst with Power & Water. We're just trying to hang
on to the access privileges as they stand.

Also, between us all, we know a thing or two about the local birds. So here
it is;

Alice Springs Field Naturalists Club - website
It's a good idea to check this site BEFORE you head up to Alice. A bunch of
active birders are members, and the website is being rebuilt to include
some up to date bird info. The club meets on the second Wednesday of each
month at 7pm on the campus of Charles Darwin University and visitors are
encouraged to come along.

Birds Central - website
This is my website and I have linked here to the page that deals
specifically with the sewage ponds. It took me a lot of time - please read
it... before you come. Don't discover that it exists after you arrive.

Desertlife - website
Mark Carter's website containing his contact details as well as bird and
other wildlife news.

Richard Waring's Birds of Australia - website
Despite the title, Richard is a local resident so much of his birding is
done around Central Australia. Richard updates his blog quite regularly and
he travels widely, so checking his site will give you a good idea of what's

Barb Gilfedder - Seasoned local birder and president of the Alice Springs
Field Naturalists Club
Email - 

Pete Nunn - brilliant photographer and a keen bird observer and researcher.
Email - 

Anthony Molyneux - Expert arid zone zoologist and desert expeditioner.
Email - 

Mark Carter - Doyen of desert birders and professional zoologist resident
(mostly) in Alice Springs.
Email - 

Chris Pavey - Senior scientist and walking Centralian birdpedia.
Mobile - 0435 878 320
Email - 

Richard Waring - Local bird photographer extraordinaire, and constantly
traveling wilbury.
Mobile - 0457 057 869
Email - 

Andrew Crouch - Local birder and active field nats member, Andrew is only
contactable on weekends.
Email - 

Will Cormack - Elder statesman of Alice Springs birding, keeper of the
longest running record of observations at the Alice Springs ponds, and
venerated custodian of "The" Forest Wagtail.
Email - 
Website -

Chris Watson - Ratbag, pompous git, can't tell a thornbill from a
Mobile - 0419 358 942
Email - 

So there you go, if you're having trouble working out how to plan your
birding at the Alice ponds and one of the above people or sites can't help
out, I'll eat my hat. If you're headed up our way, organise your induction
well in advance, and get in touch if you hit any snags.

Thanks and happy birding,

Chris Watson (in consultation with the above-named.)
*Central Australian birding resource*
*Guiding, tips, and site information **from Alice Springs*
*Mob - 0419 358 942*

To unsubscribe from this mailing list,
send the message:
(in the body of the message, with no Subject line)

<Prev in Thread] Current Thread [Next in Thread>

The University of NSW School of Computer and Engineering takes no responsibility for the contents of this archive. It is purely a compilation of material sent by many people to the birding-aus mailing list. It has not been checked for accuracy nor its content verified in any way. If you wish to get material removed from the archive or have other queries about the archive e-mail Andrew Taylor at this address: andrewt@cse.unsw.EDU.AU