Birds on Farms - Spring 2019

30 October 2019

This is one of those rarer posts where I combine my two interests - birdwatching and astronomy.
I've posted before about the surveys birders can help with. Birdlife Australia run a longitudinal survey called Birds on Farms (

The intention is to get a better understanding of how birds interact with various forms of agriculture, particularly on rural and private properties.

I like the citizen science aspect of these surveys. it's a way of making public use of my hobby. I'm not a top-level birder and can't reliably identify every one of the birds I hear. But you don't have to be an expert to get involved.

Hear? Yes, most of the time, in a forest, especially, you don't see the birds, but instead hear them. Birds have distinct calls, of course, and most people know a Kookaburra when they hear one, but they also have alarm calls, contact calls, territorial calls, and occasionally just make odd sounds, including mimicking other sounds.

I've spoken with other people about this, and the general consensus is that when you're adding to scientific data, complete information is obviously what you're aiming for, but partial information - where you include what you know and leave out what you're doubtful about - is a second-best.

The surveys themselves turned up more birds than other seasons, but in terms of number and diversity. We found a couple of active nests and saw birds carrying twigs. So spring has sprung!

As to the astronomy, that was more of a challenge. I set up on a steep hill and had problems getting polar alignment, so my guiding was poor.

In addition, I was after the Witch Head nebula, which is dim, and I got a bad internal reflection from a nearby bright star. I've attached what I got in Hydrogen alpha, and you can just start to see the nebula, but unfortunately it's a total write-off.

So my interests aren't so different. They both teach patience and persistence.