Port Macquarie twitchers, Port Petrel Heads to take on 2019 National Twitchathon

PORT PETREL HEADS: Hastings team comprised of Fran Smith, Tim and Alan Morris.
PORT PETREL HEADS: Hastings team comprised of Fran Smith, Tim and Alan Morris.

Competitive bird watching, it's real and it's happening across Australia in October.

Port Macquarie twitchers are among more than 65 teams competing in the 2019 National Twitchathon hosted by conservation body BirdLife Australia from October 26 to 27.

Quiet relaxing bush walks are forgotten as teams follow meticulous planning, travel more than 1000kms and race to see or hear as many bird species as possible in a set time of three, 12 or 30 hour divisions.

Port Petrel Heads, a Hastings team comprised of Fran Smith, Alan and Tim Morris will put their bird watching skills to the test in the challenge.

Alan Morris, who has previously won the competition in the 1990s and will this year be taking on the 12 hour 'Big Day' race, said Port Macquarie is as good as anywhere to start.

"There's probably been over 100 teams taking part over the last few years, around 40 are from NSW and the last few years there have been one or two from Port Macquarie," he said.

"It's non-stop, you start out west so that you can get all the western birds during the first day. Then you drive to the coast and wait over night to start from a rain forest somewhere in the morning.

"You finish the day in an estuary, coastal wetlands or the sea and that way you have all the habitats covered."

NATIONAL TWITCHATHON: Alan Morris will be on the lookout to win the 12 hour challenge.

NATIONAL TWITCHATHON: Alan Morris will be on the lookout to win the 12 hour challenge.

The 2019 competition has raised more than $19,743 so far for conservation and research projects from 242 donations.

The Petrel Heads will be facing off against other NSW teams such as Binocularks, Raven On, Midcoast Coucals and Migratory Unsurebirds.

A NSW team to watch are the Hunter Home Brewers, who are competing in their 21st twitchathon and hold the overall record of 264 different bird species over 30 hours in 2018.

"If you're doing the 30 hour race you've got no chance unless you get more than 200 species," said Mr Morris.

"In a 12 hour race you'd want to exceed at least 150 or 160 to have a chance. It's a lot to see in one day.

"You've got to be at your starting point in place and ready to go as soon as daylight breaks to make 150 species a reality. Around the Mid North Coast you have got to get those elusive species to get to the top of the list."

Members of the public can make their own contribution to wildlife conservation from October 22 to October 28 during the annual Aussie Backyard Bird Count.

During the count, participants use the specially designed app, Aussie Bird Count to identify local birds based on size, colour and location.

More than 610 species were recorded in 2018 with the Rainbow Lorikeet, Noisy Miner and Australian Magpie confirmed as Australia's most recorded species.

Fran Smith, who is taking on the Twitchathon challenge for the first time said birds are a priceless edition of the natural environment.

"I think most of our birds are really beautiful and this data collection is important for conservation. It's important we know what's going on in their habitats," she said.

"I've just wanted to do it for a while and they (Petrels) gave me the opportunity. I think it's a bit of a challenge and something interesting to do.

"It takes me back to my childhood where I would see lots of birds in our garden. I would look at where they were nesting and what they were doing. I haven't done much of it in the last 20 years but now I'm back into it."

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