Hello New Friend - Welcome to Sydney Bird Club :)
Hello and welcome!
You might be a Sydneysider just becoming interested in the birds you see, or a tourist looking for a fun, local eco-experience. Maybe you're a pro (in that case, send us tips or your own story) or maybe you're just looking for a little fun in this big giant world of ours.
Regardless of how you wound up here, hello and welcome! We are truly grateful you found us. We're an inclusive social bird club in Sydney, Australia focused on having fun and exploring the natural world around us. We like to pair all our outings with a beer at the pub afterwards to talk about the birds we saw. Beginners are especially welcome.
Now, a little bit about us. I'm a native New Yorker, turned bird nut living in Sydney for over a year now with my Aussie partner. She's gone bird crazy too and we love living in a beautiful city chock full of amazing birds.
But it wasn't always that way. A few years ago I came down with bird fever. I don't mean an avian illness or a disease that crossed species, but, rather a total obsession for birds and bird watching.
It started with a simple seed planted by my late Aunt Millie about a group of green monk parrots living in Greenwood Cemetery in Brooklyn, New York. My aunt, who had lived there her entire life, shared with me the story she had heard years ago which was that pet owners released parrots into the cemetery in the 1950's where they managed to thrive against all odds.
I had already loved visiting Greenwood Cemetery since it's a huge green space full of history and Gothic architecture -- and since I lived just ten blocks from it, I decided to bring a camera and binoculars with a friend to investigate. The rest as they say is history. What was meant to be a fun afternoon of Brooklyn folklore turned into an obsession. I started noticing birds everywhere and began to try to identify them. I bought books and scrolled for hours online. I changed my equipment and found out that I not only love bird watching, but bird photography as well. I started a social bird watching club in Brooklyn with friends and then one in Sydney when we moved. It's become my go to for any walk or trip and I'm so very lucky because after a while Amy (my partner) became obsessed with it too. Bird watching is a little like those Magic Eye books from the 90's. Once you see it, it's nearly impossible to unsee. What I mean is that once you start to really see how magical birds are, it's as if a window has opened into what seems like a new, more exciting planet.
The funny thing is that I had loved and made art about animals for years and even devoted an entire art residency in Finland one Summer to learning about their birds and observing them in the wild. My nickname was even 'Bird Girl' at the residency. But it took me discovering something unexpected ten blocks from my apartment to get me to go from casual bird watcher to totally obsessed.
Fast forward three years from seeing those parrots that 'fell off a truck' and Amy and I now live in Sydney. Since Australia has one of the world's most unique ecosystems, I knew there would be a lot of opportunities for bird watching, but never in my wildest dreams did I think it would be so easy right in the middle of the city. There's not a day that goes by that I don't feel like Snow White reaching out my arms to have sulphur-crested cockatoos or rainbow lorikeets land.
To Sydney's credit, there's a lot of green space and public walking paths in prime locations along the harbour (with cafes dotted along the way to help refuel). With all this public space, there are lots of opportunities to spot birds, although I do feel it should be mentioned that even despite this, many of Australia's native birds are directly threatened due to loss of habitat.
Australia's birds are bright and beautiful, big birds with large personalities and loud calls. Some, like the variegated fairy wren below (blue head, top left) are small and hardly stay still for longer than a second or two. They are playful and shy and I've spent many hours in the forest tracking them down. Other birds like the sulphur crested cockatoos below are perfect bird models, happy to sit still and make taking pictures easier.
In short, Sydney is a magical place and Australia is a bird watchers paradise. The best part is that it's mostly an entirely free hobby, so anyone can try it out without any investment other than an afternoon. And if you do fall in love, the only equipment I would recommend is a pair of good binoculars and sneakers.
If you're interested in photography, there are a lot of options for cameras. And thanks to technology, you don't need a professional birders camera to get good shots these days. I use a Canon Powershot SX530, which is a point and shoot that I read about on a birding blog. I love it and it's compact enough for me to carry all day while walking in the bush. It has a 50x zoom which allows for clear shots from far away and the colors also come out nice and bright. If I use a tripod, which is rare since I like to move and shake, I use a gorilla tripod which I can attach to any surface.
If you happen to live in Sydney or are traveling to Sydney and want to join us on a bird watching afternoon, please give a holler - we'd love to have you on one of our walks to watch birds and have a little fun along the way with some beers afterwards.
And you have any good bird watching tips for Sydney or Australia, please reach out - especially if you might know where I can spot some rosellas without leaving the city!