We chatted with Sue Taylor about being a published author.
Can you tell us about your latest book?
My latest book, ‘Birding Australia’s Islands,’ is about the wonderful adventures I’ve had watching birds on some of Australia’s most beautiful islands. Whether it’s White-breasted Waterhen on Cocos, King Penguins on Macquarie, or Lesser Noddies on the Abrolhos, the birds are usually breathtaking.
What motivated you to write this book?
In 1989 I set out to see as many Australian birds as possible. Now I’ve seen 823 species, and recently I realized that most of my new sightings were coming from islands. That’s partly because I’ve seen all the easy ones on the mainland, but also there are more and more rare vagrants being seen on islands. When I thought about it, I realized that well over 100 of my 823 species I’ve seen on islands. I’ve had so much fun on islands and, in my quest to see as many Australian birds as possible, I’ve visited some islands most people don’t get to. It seemed a great topic for a book.
What kind of research did you do?
Before I go birding anywhere new, I research the birds I am likely to see – what they look like, what they sound like, what habitat they inhabit and any special habits they have. So I’d done all my research before I visited each island. All I had to do was consult my notes about the trip.
What is your favourite Australian island for bird watching?
That’s difficult, like being asked to choose your favourite child. Each island is special in its own way. Having said that, I have a soft spot for Christmas Island. It’s very beautiful, the people are friendly, the red crabs are spectacular and there are lots of birds. What’s not to like?
Do you have any advice for beginner twitchers?
The best thing a beginner birdwatcher can do (apart from reading my book ‘Why Watch Birds?’) is to go birding. You don’t have to visit an island, just go to your local patch. Go there every day and learn all the birds, their calls, their habits, their jizz. Watch birds until your binoculars are part of your body. Join BirdlLife Australia and find a local group to go birding with. Start a life list with all the Australian birds you have seen, and where and when you first saw them. Then you’ll be hooked. You’ll need to fill in all the gaps. Beware, it will become an obsession.
What’s the most common myth about twitchers?
People believe that twitchers only want to see the next mega rarity and can’t appreciate our beautiful common birds. That is not true. My favourite bird is the Willie Wagtail, a very common species. But I only twitch (literally) when I see a species which is new to me.
Who or what inspires you?
Some of our great field naturalists and birders inspire me. When I was a child it was Jack Hyett, later Graham Pizzey. Nowadays it’s people like Rohan Clarke, Richard Baxter and Tania Ireton. All great birders who provide great inspiration.
How can people find out more about you?
Read my books. Go to my blog: http://atwitcherstale.blogspot.com/
About Birding Australia’s Islands
A thoroughly entertaining personal account of the author, Sue Taylors’, birding expeditions to some of Australia’s very special islands. She hasn’t attempted to include every one of the 8,371 islands of Australia but she has visited the country’s most extreme islands: the most southerly (Macquarie), the most northerly (Boigu, which just pips Christmas by one degree), the most westerly (Cocos) and the most easterly (Norfolk).
Her aim in selecting the islands was very simple: to include those where she’s had fun birding; where she has seen lots of birds, several ‘lifers’ (her own life list of birds encountered in the wild), islands with birds never seen before in Australia or somewhere she had special encounters with common birds.
Though Sue Taylor is herself a “twitcher”, Birding Australia’s Islands will appeal not only to intrepid birdwatchers who intend to follow in her footsteps, but also to those who are content to sit at home and read about the audacity of others who will fly across Australia’s vast continent in the hope that one individual bird will still be there waiting for them when they arrive.
Illustrated with beautiful close-up photographs of species and habitats, Sue Taylor describes her adventures on 22 of Australia’s islands with humour and irrepressible enthusiasm. There are detailed and locator maps of every Island featured In the book.
Birding Australia’s Islands, $39.99 RRP is available now at all good bookstores and online.