By Barbara Heggen
Some of the planet’s mightiest little birds live in the wetlands of Melbourne’s western suburbs but unfortunately, they’re all endangered.
They’re migratory shorebirds which include the Red-kneed Dotterel, Curlew Sandpipers, and the tiny Red-necked Stint, which is about the size of a Tim Tam.
Every year these birds embark on a mammoth journey from Australia to their breeding grounds in Siberia and Alaska. These flights cover thousands of kilometres, with barely a rest stop, along what is known as the East Asian-Australian Flyway. And every year there are fewer of them due to habitat decline.
In 2017, to raise awareness of their plight, Melbourne artist Kate Gorringe-Smith began the Overwintering Project which invites artists to make these birds more visible. Recently the project held print workshops in the Wood Street Art Space and Altona Meadows Library where locals were encouraged to create print images of these birds. The images have now been incorporated into a Wall of Wings, being displayed in exhibitions around Australia, including a permanent display at Altona Meadows Library.
The Overwintering Project has not only raised awareness of these birds but it’s also helped launch the career of young Point Cook artist Fiona Taylor.
She’s been involved with the project since 2018 and as a result has built a body of work leading to her first ever solo exhibition held recently at the Box Hill Community Art Centre Gallery. The entire collection focussed on the importance of saving migratory shorebirds from extinction.
‘It has given me great joy and happiness to be a part of the Wall of Wings project and to see my birds amongst the hundreds of other birds received from around Australia and overseas flying across gallery walls in exhibitions for the Overwintering Project.’
‘To be a part of the permanent installation at the Altona Meadows Library is a great honour and I am very grateful to Kate Gorringe-Smith for this wonderful opportunity. I hope it brings new friends to the Project.’
These little birds need all the help they can get so be especially mindful and keep a look out for them while you’re strolling along the foreshores of Altona and surrounds, especially if you have dogs with you.