Birding from Mingela to Clare

On Sunday I enjoyed a longer-than-usual BirdLife expedition, a round trip from Townsville to Ravenswood via Mingela, returning via Clare and Cromarty for a total of nearly 300km. One of the reasons I accepted the invitation so enthusiastically was that I had never been over the ranges from Ravenswood to Clare and, as I said when I first wrote about the Wildlife Qld excursions, it’s great to be introduced to new places off the beaten track.

Continue reading “Birding from Mingela to Clare”

Counting birds

screenshot-birdcount-sThe Aussie Backyard Bird Count is underway as I write and still has a few days to run, so there’s still time to get involved. It’s an annual event but this is the first time I have been organised enough to take part.

The procedure is simple enough, so long as you have a smartphone:

  • Download the (free) app from the homepage or your usual Android or Apple app store.
  • Sign in.
  • Mark your location on its map. You can do it manually if the app can’t find your location. (This happened to me a couple of times and was only resolved when I went to ‘Settings’ and enabled high-accuracy location services.)
  • Hit ‘Next’ and your 20-minute counting session begins. When you see a bird, type in the species; if you see another, just hit + on the list you’re building up.
  • When the timer has counted down to zero, you will be asked to submit your count.
  • If you’re like me, you will then wonder whether you should have counted the bird you heard but didn’t see, or the one you weren’t quite sure about, and will consult the FAQs hiding behind the ? at the top of the home screen.
  • Then do as many more counts as you like, in any locations you like.

The Bird Count is a project of Birdlife Australia and Birds in Backyards. Visit its own homepage to get started or find answers to any other questions about it. It’s a great citizen-science project and the bird identification section of the app will be useful for year to come – unless you’re one of those super-keen birders who already has such a thing on your phone.

If you are one of those people, you may well be interested in the National Twitchathon at the end of this month:

Every year, hundreds of passionate birdwatchers race around the great Australian bush competing in a unique sporting event called a Twitchathon. The aim? To see or hear as many bird species as possible, and in the process help protect our birdlife for years to come.

In 2016, the BirdLife Australia National Twitchathon is back, bigger and better than ever. Whether it’s your first time spotting or you’re a fully-fledged twitcher, the Twitchathon is now a nationwide competition that caters for all birders. …

This year there are three different event options to choose from. Choose an event, form a team, and start planning a route and fundraising strategy!

As always, the 24-hour race will be a marathon of maximum habitat coverage, yielding massive species totals – winning teams regularly see over a quarter of all Australia’s birds, driving hundreds of kilometres and stopping only to twitch. This year, a system for calculating the national winning team has been created using statistical analysis of BirdLife Atlas data found in our new Birdata web portal.

For those with less time, the 12-hour ‘Champagne’ race gives teams half a day to spot as many birds as they can. This more relaxed event avoids the need for teams to drive overnight, and even includes an optional lunch break.

The ‘Birdathon’ targets everyone, young and old, experienced and novice. Each team has three 1-hour blocks to birdwatch over the course of the day, which they can choose to use at any time, and in any place. …

Good luck – and have fun! – at whatever level suits you.

Field trips for Townsville wildlife enthusiasts

people on dam wall
The beginning of the Birdlife Townsville walk at Ross Dam

The period between Christmas and Australia Day is a quiet one for many organisations but everyone seems to be gearing up again now.

Birdlife Townsville (formerly, I think, the Townsville Region Bird Observers Club, which was cumbersome but accurately reflected their focus) didn’t slow down at all for January: their calendar lists nine events for that month, which is close to average. They are a keen lot!

I was invited to their “Ross Dam Survey” on January 17th and enjoyed it. A dozen of us met at the Dam carpark, drove along the Kelso side of the dam as far as we could and then walked, first along the dam wall and then down beside the creek which enters the head of the dam. There were, of course, lots of water birds – ibis, spoonbills, egrets, cormorants, pelicans, etc – but many other species were sighted and counted in the two and a half hours. I learned a lot, not least that my bird-spotting skills could improve with more practice like this!

Wildlife Queensland has begun announcing its monthly walks. The first is to Paluma Dam (a lot further away than Ross Dam but very beautiful) on February 21st.

Both of these associations welcome non-members as participants in at least some of their events, but encourage membership. And why not, when the clubs do so much for conservation?