Thinking About Birds

My Australia & Territories bird list (IOC based): 743 species. Latest additions: Pycroft's Petrel (October 2019), Hooded Parrot (June '19), Masked Finch (June '19), Arafura Fantail (June '19), South Island Pied Oystercatcher (June '19).

My Australia mainland bird list (IOC based): 710 species. Latest additions: as above.

My Hunter Region bird list (BLA V2.1 based): 416 species. Latest additions: Soft-plumaged Petrel (September 2020), Roseate Tern (January 2020).

My tally of Birdata surveys (as of 26 September 2020): 3,704 surveys & 700 species (Hunter Region: 2,575 surveys & 396 species).

I am a keen birder with tertiary scientific training (PhD in chemistry) and a lengthy industrial R&D background. I gradually evolved into a self-trained ornithologist especially as my working life wound down and eventually finished. In 2020 I was awarded the J.N. Hobbs Memorial Medal by BirdLife Australia, for my contributions to Australian ornithology.

My interest in birds was first sparked in England where I lived spanning 1979-1981. Back then though, all I wanted to do was to put a name to the handful of birds that I encountered in my travels; I never went out searching for birds. In late 1981, I moved to Canberra where I spent two years and departed as a committed birdwatcher. Almost all of the birds in the ACT were new to me (i.e. not found in Perth where I grew up). I moved to Newcastle in late 1983 and soon discovered what a wonderful place I had found. More than 450 species have been recorded within a few hours travel of Newcastle. There are bush birds, rainforest birds, waterbirds, shorebirds, seabirds and pelagic birds all on our doorstep here. I knew hardly any of these birds when I moved to Newcastle, and for a long time my focus was on leisure birdwatching, just getting to know more about local birds and about the birds elsewhere in Australia. In the 1990s, I began to want to take a more scientific approach to what I did. In more recent years, with work and family constraints now less consuming of my time, I have been able to spend more time thinking about birds (as well as looking at them).

I joined Hunter Bird Observers Club (HBOC) in early 1984 (more than 36 years ago!). I would recommend anyone with an interest in birds to join a local bird club. You will meet people who can teach you lots of things about birds, you will find out where are the best local places to find birds (including getting access to private properties that normally would be inaccessible), you will get to socialise with people who share your interest in birds.

I have had senior roles with HBOC since 1987 when I became the Club’s Treasurer. I was President over 1998-2002, and have also had various stints as Vice-President and Management Committee Member. I also regularly pop up doing all sorts of initiatives for the Club. In 2007, I was elected to HBOC Life Membership. I think that HBOC is the premier regional bird club in Australia (and I'm not alone in thinking that) and I'm very proud to have contributed in some small way to its successes.

I am a long-standing member of BirdLife Australia (for about 25 years now) and a member of the Australasian Wader Studies Group for almost as long. BirdLife Australia provides national leadership and advocacy, which underpins HBOC's regional focus - I think this is the model which should be adopted Australia-wide.

My favourite bird is the Azure Kingfisher - partly because it is such a beautiful bird and partly because it is always found at tranquil and picturesque settings e.g. alongside quiet creek beds. The Scarlet-chested Parrot ranks highly for its beauty - I have only seen it on two occasions (but several birds) but it was #700 on my Australian bird list and that earns it a few bonus points! My thanks to Jim Smart who took the image that is the basis for the picture above, a copy of which sits framed on my mantelpiece.

I have a lot of time for the little Rufous Scrub-bird - I just love to hear them belt out their territorial calls - and every now and then I get to see one which is cream on the cake, really. and now I've even had some of them in the hand!