Bruny Island might only be 362 square kilometres in area but in recent times it has laid claim to being the “birdwatching capital of Australia”.
Such a title might seem a little fanciful until it is realised north and south Bruny islands are home to all 12 of Tasmania’s endemic species. No other area of the same size in Australia can claim to have such a large number of birds found nowhere else on earth.
To promote not just the birds but the other scenic and wildlife wonders of the islands, the Bruny Island community four years ago launched the Bruny Bird Festival which runs every two years. The latest instalment is taking place from Friday, October 14 to the following Monday and it looks like being the biggest yet.
Included in the program centred on the Adventure Bay Hall on the south island are not just lectures and discussions about all things birds but outings and sea cruises. There is also an art exhibition to be opened by the festival’s special guest, renowned cartoonist and author Michael Leunig. Mr Leunig will also launch the second edition of Birdsong, a book of prose, poetry and artwork and photographs featuring Bruny’s birds.
The three festivals so far have certainly put Bruny on the map when it comes to birding, and it is not unusual these days to find birdwatchers visiting from not just Australia but from other parts of the world, particularly Britain and the United States.
Birding has become big business overseas and a look at some of the statistics associated with this niche tourist market in the US are truly staggering.
A survey by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service has revealed there are 47 million birders in the country and they are having a huge economic impact. The survey found trip and equipment-related expenditures associated with birding generated nearly $107 billion in total industry output each year, 666,000 jobs, and $13 billion in local, state, and federal tax revenue.
Some of this money is spent on overseas birding trips and this is where Bruny Island is hoping to cash in.
A leading Australian bird tour operator, Tonia Cochrane, is based on the island and her property, Inala at Cloudy Bay, boasts the very birds the tourists visiting Tasmania want to see – the 12 endemic species, including one of the rarest of all birds worldwide, the forty-spotted pardalote.
Dr Cochrane, along with the festival’s organiser, the Bruny Island Environmental Network (BIEN), have been instrumental in protecting the very habit which ensures rare birds survive, enabling the wildlife tourist industry to flourish.
BIEN had a success earlier this year when it persuaded Forestry Tasmania not to log vital swift parrot nesting habit. The organisation also gave the forty-spotted pardalote a boost by supplying more than 200 nesting boxes for these cavity-nesting birds. The sponsored next boxes, built by members of the Bruny Men’s Shed, can be seen in white gums across the islands and are a potent reminder that the people of Bruny mean business when it comes to protecting the islands’ other residents.