Australia Birdwatchers race the clock to raise funds for conservation in annual Twitchathon

04:26  29 october  2020
04:26  29 october  2020 Source:   abc.net.au

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Teams of birdwatchers will race the clock to record as many species as possible in Birdlife Australia's annual Twitchathon . The money raised will help to save critically endangered species from extinction. (Supplied: Mick Roderick, BirdLife Australia). Funds to help critically endangered species.

birds have been raised in cages as pets, such as Hwamei Garrulax canorus, Japanese White-eye. Birdwatchers were also active in educating the public about birds and their conservation . Most birdwatching. societies can obtain funds by undertaking financially supported projects, from personal

a bird sitting on a branch: Mick Roderick once spotted a critically endangered regent honeyeater, above, during a Twitchathon. (Supplied: Bronwyn Ellis) © Provided by ABC NEWS Mick Roderick once spotted a critically endangered regent honeyeater, above, during a Twitchathon. (Supplied: Bronwyn Ellis)

Every year for more than two decades, avid birdwatcher Mick Roderick has competed in an annual Twitchathon — an event he prioritises over just about everything else.

"I wouldn't miss the Twitchathon for the world … I'm more flexible around Christmas than the Twitchathon," Mr Roderick said.

"I have returned from overseas travel twice to come back home and take part … you can call me a Twitchathon tragic, that's how fun this is."

The event involves teams of birdwatchers recording as many different species as possible, which they must see or hear during a set time, with the longest race being held over a 30-hour period.

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In recent years, Birdlife Australia has run a national Twitchathon, but that event is not going ahead this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

This weekend, however, Twitchathons are running in New South Wales, ACT, and Tasmania.

'You need to do your homework'

Mr Roderick, a member of the Hunter Bird Observers Club in NSW, said it would be his 22nd Twitchathon with his team — the Hunter Home Brewers.

He admits it's not a "birdy" name but says there is a story behind it, not that he's letting on.

He said most NSW teams would start in the west and make their way back to the coast.

"It's as close to 'sport' as you get in birding," he said.

"People like me travel 900 kilometres between different habitats around the state, finding as many different birds as possible.

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With careful planning and communication, you can be on your way to raise funds for your organization!

"You need to do your homework and know where you're likely to find things, especially nomadic birds that move around in response to things like rainfall.

"I personally start planning our route months before the weekend, checking online databases to see what birds are being seen where.

"I also plan our entire Sunday around tides, because Stockton Sandspit provides so many new birds to your list that you simply must be there at the right tide."

Teams also have to factor in short breaks.

"In the 30-hour race, there's a six-hour compulsory rest break in the middle when you get some sleep," Mr Roderick said.

Funds for fire recovery the priority

Peter West of the Hastings Birdwatchers group, based in Port Macquarie on the mid-north coast, is running the NSW and ACT Twitchathon.

He organised the event on behalf of the Bird Interest Group Network, BIGnet, a loose affiliation of birdwatching clubs and organisations.

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Mr West said the competition was always fun but also had a serious goal —this year to raise money to help conserve and study the distribution of bird species affected by the 2019 bushfires, which destroyed large areas of forest and heathland habitat.

The focus is on rockwarblers, rufous scrub-birds, eastern bristlebirds, and ground parrots.

"We wanted to support a project that would help the birds after the fires," Mr West said.

"The rockwarbler is the only bird endemic to NSW. It doesn't occur anywhere else in the world."

The rockwarbler is confined to areas on and around the Great Dividing Range, mainly within a 240-kilometre radius of Sydney, usually around rocky outcrops and steep gullies.

"So, up in the Blue Mountains and through the national parks there, where there was a lot of devastation, those birds were affected," Mr West said.

"The eastern bristlebird is another one that was affected. It lives in the heathlands that were affected in the fires, particularly on the NSW south coast."

In Tasmania, a state-based Twitchathon is also going ahead this weekend.

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It will be raising money for the endangered forty-spotted pardalote and the critically endangered swift parrot and orange-bellied parrot.

Dunbogan Drongos going for the win

Mr West will be out during the NSW Twitchathon and has his binoculars ready.

"I have to say I am a little bit competitive," he said, with a laugh.

"I will actually be out with my wife, Sue — we are called the Dunbogan Drongos, which we've been called for quite a while, [because] we live at Camden Head near Dunbogan.

"We also have a local competition in our region called The Quest, which is very nerdy.

"We try to see as many species of birds in our area in a year, and Sue and I are hoping to put one over everyone else."

Other teams in the Twitchathon will include the Dodgy Drongos, the Back O'Bourke Buzzards and the Binocularks.

Mr Roderick, who has recorded about 740 bird species in Australia alone, said spring was a great time for birdwatching.

"October is the peak month — we have birds active, breeding, and calling to each other, and also returning migrants are here and they are vocal," he said.

"The Twitchathon gets us back into the range of birds we don't normally spend much time with."

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usr: 1
This is interesting!