first started guiding professionally in 2018 before being offered my dream job
by Victor Emanuel the following year, alongside David James and veteran Dion
Hobcroft as one of VENT’s leaders “down under.”
Australia is where I spend most of my time, having recently found my 700th species for the island continent. Sydney has been my home for the majority of my life, and it always feels just such after returning from any trip away. The hiatus of travel over the last two years has renewed this sense of home for me, but has equally invigorated a desire to travel again. While essentially marooned on a far-flung island since March 2020 (my last tour to Southern India), I have been doing my best to appreciate the aspects of a more sedentary existence.
Changing circumstances, early in 2021, facilitated a “tree-change” for me from the suburban bustle of Sydney to the forested isolation of my grandparents’ property in rural western New South Wales—a roughly 5-hour drive from Sydney. Time here feels like a blessing. The new morning ritual of recording each species heard or seen while sipping the day's first coffee allows for a closer insight into the day-to-week changes of the local birds. I’ve come to realize the special feeling of living on the land and bearing witness to the changing of the seasons, albeit more subtle in temperate Australia than many other places in the world. During this time living "out bush," I witnessed what would be the last months of my grandfather's life. The significance of being present during this time was not lost on me.
When I was not on the property wiring fences, cutting wood, slashing fields, or losing myself in the forest that extends for over a hundred kilometers, I was working on projects for BirdLife Australia. I was fortunate to be heavily involved with two significant releases of captive-bred and critically endangered Regent Honeyeaters. These were the first two releases ever conducted in the state of New South Wales. My work involved tracking a proportion of the released birds, which had been fitted with radio transmitters. This allowed me and a small team to monitor their success over the weeks after their release from captivity. We had many firsts and failures over the two releases, but the future is now looking a little brighter for this enigmatic species, which numbers fewer than 400 individuals in the wild.
Another special project I was tasked with was investigating the presence of Thick-billed Grasswrens in far-west NSW. Grasswrens are an endemic family of Australian birds closely related to the gaudy and popular fairywrens, but they are their antithesis in many ways. Where fairywrens are typically bold and bright, grasswrens are the opposite. They inhabit remote and unforgiving terrain and actively avoid human habitation. To put this in context, the population of grasswren we were tasked with finding had only been rediscovered in 2008, and the population was estimated to be fewer than 20. Our work went well, and we managed to effectively double their population estimate within a week of searching.
It has been very rewarding to be a part of on the ground conservation efforts. It has given me a greater appreciation and respect for those who devote their lives to these efforts. As the insatiable global progress marches on, I see it as imperative that we all do our part to promote the significance of the natural world. Working for and traveling with VENT provides us all with an unrivaled opportunity to witness the beauty of our planet while playing an important role—sustaining and encouraging ecotourism and associated conservation efforts from Costa Rica to Papua New Guinea and everywhere in between.
Thank you for reading. I look forward to traveling with you in the future!