What bird is that? A guide to twitching in the west


    By Carol Challis

    Has anyone heard the mournful cry of Kevin the Koel in the western suburbs?

    Kevin the Koel is a migratory bird who sometimes visits our western suburbs from far reaches of northern Australia. His loud call can be heard at great distances and sometimes generates annoyance. He certainly generates the question: What bird is that? 

    Like many of us I became more interested in bird watching during lockdown and I also noticed a huge amount of interest in our local social media groups as well. Everyone started sharing images of the local birds around them, including Kevin the Koel and the big flock of black cockatoos that screeched through our pine trees giving them a good prune! We noticed the arrival and departure of the migratory shorebirds. We noticed the unusual bird sightings which were probably not unusual, just that we were paying attention. I noticed one question kept being asked: What bird is that?

    But what other questions should we be asking? 

    • Are these birds local to the area? 
    • Have they travelled from somewhere?
    • Why have they chosen my backyard or local area?

    After observing bird behaviour on my walks, my questions included:

    • What on earth is that bird doing?
    • Is that normal behaviour?
    • Why haven’t I noticed this before?

    Does this sound familiar to you? You may have been bitten by the birding bug! Next, you’ll find yourself asking:

    • Where can I go to find birds?
    • When is the best time to find birds?
    • What equipment is right for me?
    • Are there resources specifically designed to help identify birds of the western suburbs?

    Now you’re thinking like a serious birder! But where can I find out more information?

    The Hobsons Bay Wetlands Centre is building a knowledge base of nature and bird-related information as well as conducting environmental workshops and educational activities. The Centre has the honour of being the KBA Guardian of our very own Ramsar-listed Cheetham Wetlands. Did you know that Ramsar is a town in Iran where the Ramsar Convention of Wetlands was signed? This means we have internationally significant habitats important for migratory shorebirds in our backyard.

    • So how does this help my birding knowledge?

    One of the Centre’s committee members, Kevin Wood, is one of Australia’s foremost authorities on avifauna conservation in Port Phillip Bay (no relation to Kevin the Koel!). He will be conducting a Masterclass in Birds of Altona’s Coastal Wetlands beginning in February. It’ll be ten weeks of super-charged birding knowledge that will cover how to confidently identify our local birdlife with binoculars and field guides, how to collect scientifically valid data on bird populations in the wetlands, understand the conservation status and the opportunity to make a difference for the birds and the habitat. The skills and knowledge you will gain from this masterclass will take your birding journey to the next level.

    So, if you’re curious to learn more about the birdlife that lives along our coastline, why not enroll. You’ll gain a deeper appreciation of the wonderful nature that exists locally and be able to answer that eternal question: What bird is that?

    Meanwhile, keep an ear out for Kevin the Koel who is due to arrive in summer! 

    Our content is a labour of love, crafted by dedicated volunteers who are passionate about the west. We encourage submissions from our community, particularly stories about your own experiences, family history, local issues, your suburb, community events, local history, human interest stories, food, the arts, and environmental matters. Below are articles created by community contributors. You can find their names in the bylines.

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