The biggest citizen science project to hit Australian shores, the Aussie Backyard Bird Count, is taking place from October 20-26 and Tasmanians are being urged to join in.
Thousands of people from across the country are heading into their backyards, local parks or their favourite open spaces to conduct a census of our birds.
The event is the first of its kind in the country and it draws its inspiration from the Big Garden Birdwatch in Britain, which each year has about 500,000 participants.
BirdLife Australia, the organiser of this country’s event coinciding with National Bird Week, cannot hope to match this turnout considering the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds in Britain has more than one million members, but it is still confident the results of the survey will provide vital information on the health of our birds.
Tasmania has 12 species of birds unique to this island and BirdLife Australia is keen to obtain an accurate picture of the status of local birds to go with the surveys from across the country.
The 8000-member organisation says that to get involved all is needed is 20 minutes of time, a “green patch” and some keen eyesight, or binoculars. And it doesn’t matter if participants are novices or experts, because BirdLife Australia will provide help along the way on its website, www.aussiebirdcount.org. This will provide not only a guide to bird identification but live statistics and information on how many people are taking part in areas across the country and the number of birds and species counted.
Meanwhile, Hobart Council’s Bush Adventures will be organising its own bird count at the Waterworks Reserve, on Tuesday, October 21. This will take place from 1.30-3pm and everyone is invited to attend.
BirdLife Australia already compiles the Atlas of Australian Birds periodically which over the years has provided a vital census of bird populations, aiding conservation strategies. Participants in the Atlas project, however, tend to be dedicated birdwatchers and the Aussie Backyard Bird Count is reaching out to the casual birdwatcher in an event that can involve the while family.
Importantly, it will publicise the importance of the garden environment and educate people on what they can do in their own backyard to protect bird species.
BirdLife Australia is hoping the event will inspire property owners especially to monitor their garden birds over the course of a year, or years.
From the time I moved into my own house in the Waterworks Valley more than a decade ago I have kept a record of the garden birds and when I look at it now I’m staggered by what I have seen.
Out of Tasmania’s 12 endemic species on my patch not three kilometres from Hobart’s post office clock, I have recorded eight of them. On top of this I have seen the elusive olive whistler – usually only found in dense wet forest – and beautiful firetails. I’ve even had a fantail build its elaborate nest, which is shaped like a wine glass suspended from a thin branch, in one of my ornamental acacias.
Birds in the garden are not only beautiful, and interesting to study. Recent research into home prices in the United States has found that a good garden birdlist can actually increase the value of a property.
The US is home to 25 million birders who value their surroundings and they will pay top dollar for a garden full of birds.
Michael Farmer, from the department of agricultural and applied economics at Texas Tech University in Lubbock who led the research, said houses in areas rich with birdlife sell for an average of $US32,000 more than those with fewer birds.