Have a field guide day

SETTLING DOWN: A flock of the region-rare Plumed Whistling Ducks has decide to make Bungendore its home. Photo: G Dabb.
SETTLING DOWN: A flock of the region-rare Plumed Whistling Ducks has decide to make Bungendore its home. Photo: G Dabb.

For novice birdwatchers one bird sometimes looks just like the other. 

With just one photo, and maybe a sketch, traditional field guides often just add to the confusion.

‘A Photographic Field Guide to the Birds of the Australian High Country’ aims to combat that, introducing its reader to birds common to the region through a series of vivid photographs and some engaging information.

The book is a comprehensive guide to the 322 species found in the high country. Over 600 photographs have been supplied by bird watchers throughout the region.

Its author Neil Hermes has been a member of Canberra’s Bird Club since he was 15. Now 62, he’s written a number of works to share his passion for nature and accumulated knowledge.

The field guide came about because Mr Hermes wanted to help amateur bird watchers engage with the natural world.

A childhood of interest set Mr Hermes on the path towards bird watching, but as an adult he finds it satisfies his deep down human need to explore and discover the world.

“[Bird watching] sort of brings out hunting instincts if you like,” Mr Hermes said, “wanting to find things or locate things if you like, it builds into that sort of sense of adventure.”

In his time as a birdwatcher, Neil Hermes has seen a significant change in community attitudes to the natural world.

Over the past few years he’s been pleased to see individuals take steps to encourage birds and wildlife near their towns.

Natural features of the high country such as rolling hills, heathland and forested country have been enhanced in recent years with plantings around towns, in properties and along riverbeds.

“Decades ago people in rural areas where not as connected to wildlife, but there’s much more interest in having wildlife about, particularly birds,” Mr Hermes said.

“There’s a more generous view about wanting to include wildlife in our lives theses days… people are more sympathetic and interested.”