Do you often find yourself looking up and wondering what that bird is? Like getting outdoors and appreciating the local environment? Then, the Coffs Coast Bird Observers may be the group for you. FOCUS met with Terry Evans on his balcony in the trees to get some tips on photographing birds and find out about the next bird observing expedition.
What is your connection to the Coffs Coast?
Back in the dim, distant past (the early 1980s), we owned a property on the Corindi range, but eventually sold it with the idea of returning later in life. So when I retired in 2000, that’s just what we did.
How long have you been observing birds?
When we first came back to Coffs, I think I knew what a Magpie looked like and what colour a Galah was, but that was about it. While building our home, I started to notice the local birds and more particularly the raptors (Sea Eagles, Goshawks etc.) and I realised how little I knew. That’s what started it all, and I guess it just grew from there.
Hearing a birdcall helps identify and locate a bird, but as I am a bit hard of hearing I went down the photography path. Now, I’m no expert and almost everyone I know is still learning, but the best part is that the birds don’t know that.
Can you tell us more about the Coffs Coast Bird Observers (CCBO)?
CCBO is a special interest group of about 40 like-minded individuals who meet on the fourth Friday of the month and go on outings to observe birds in the wild. They come from all walks of life and age groups and generally have an interest in the environment. Everyone is welcome.
CCBO is also an affiliate of the conservation group, BirdLife Australia.
What is the difference between Twitching and observing?
A Twitchathon is a competition where Twitchers try to sight and record the greatest number of species of birds in a set period of time. Some travel great distances to cover as many diverse habitats as possible to try to achieve the highest tally. On the other hand, Birders are more interested in what you might call “a walk with a purpose,” where they observe, photograph, record and identify birds in their natural habitat, cognisant of the changes in the seasons and their food sources.
Where are your favourite places to watch birds, and what species do you find there?
Australia has almost 800 recorded species of birds, both endemic and migratory. The Coffs Coast and hinterland has recorded more than 150 of them. They can be categorised broadly into sea birds, shore birds, waders, bush, grass, rainforest, and waterbirds.
The CCBO range anywhere between Grafton to Nambucca and inland to Dorrigo; it is quite common to see some of us on outings with Bellingen Birders and the Clarence Valley Birdos. We usually manage a couple of overnight trips a year, a few camp-outs and of course, the more adventurous of us frequently travel interstate and overseas.
You are leading a group CCBO excursion with your wife, Anne, this month. Where will you go, and what do you hope to find?
We usually do a reconnaissance trip just before an excursion, knowing that things can change, but we are proposing to go to Bruxner Park and then wander down the road towards Glenreagh and end up at Smiths Lake or Moonee Beach. Given that the winter months are upon us, visiting diverse habitats should provide a bit more variety. As to what we may see, that is the great unknown.
What are the considerations for a successful bird observing trip?
Seeing a few different birds, maybe something less common or more colourful, preferably from reasonably close but without disturbing them. Good company, morning tea and maybe lunch, and some nice Coffs weather always helps.
Do you need any special equipment?
Binoculars are pretty essential, but it’s important to know what suits you best. So if you are starting out, get some sound advice and try as many different pairs of binoculars as you can, before you splash out on a purchase. You will have them for a long time.
Bird photography is actually quite specialised and difficult and is extremely frustrating if you don’t have the right equipment. Again, get advice from someone familiar with the topic, so that you don’t buy something that doesn’t suit your needs.
Otherwise, all you need to get started is some comfortable walking shoes, a hat, sun screen and sometimes insect repellent.
What are your top tips for photographing birds?
There are accepted rules for bird photography, which are basically to ensure that you do not unduly disturb the bird. If it is agitated, holding food or seems reluctant to leave the area, it probably is trying to avoid disclosing its nest or young. So, just be aware.
A long lens is essential, but it reduces the available light. Light is always your biggest challenge. Birds live in foliage, and that creates shade, obstructs focus and dulls colour. Keep the sun on your back and don’t expect miracles on a grey day. Experts only expect about one in a hundred photos to be “good” by their standards.
Can anyone join the Coffs Coast Bird Observers, and how can they find out more?
The CCBO is an informal group and there are no fees or obligations; however, most people eventually join BirdLife Australia.
To get emails about future outings, send an email to email@example.com or phone or leave a message at: 6653 6948.
If you can’t come out with us but would like to see some more bird photos, try: