Birds a subject of a lifetime
HAVING just completed a major update and reprint of his book on Wet Tropics birds, Mt Molloy ornithologist Lloyd Nielsen wants nothing more than to get outdoors again, tracking a few outstanding species he has on his mind.
For one thing about being a bird man is that you sometimes spend lengthy periods indoors, with books, your photos and sketches, and computer, doing everything that goes with writing about birds.
Books and files about birds are everywhere in Lloyd’s Mt Molloy home, with a couple of tonnes of books in boxes representing print runs of more than 10 titles including the latest. The walls are lined with reference books, as you’d expect of an expert whose passion for birds took wing when an aunty gave him a classic bird book – Neville Cayley’s seminal “What Bird is That” – for his sixth birthday, back in 1947.
In those times, Lloyd re- calls, there weren’t many books on birds, nor bird experts for that matter. Today that’s all changed “and that’s a good thing.”
“I think it’s terribly important,” says Lloyd. “Us older blokes have a lot of experience and if you can put it all down for a younger generation coming on, that’s the way to go. That’s what I’m doing.”
In the past couple of decades a mainstream interest in birds has exploded. As part of the more broad respect for en- vironmental and animal issues generally among the public, perhaps thanks to people like sir David Attenborough and his naturalist media offspring, and technology like digital cameras, birds are enjoying a more elevated public regard.
Not to mention bird books too. Cayley’s ground breaking book went from a humble start to becoming a popular classic, most recently reprinted in 2011. The author made it deliberately useable and accessible for the novice bird watcher.
In the same tradition, Lloyd Nielsen’s book on the birds of the Wet Tropics, updated last year, is a masterly organised and presented guide to make bird identification much easier. He has included small paintings of each species, offering more than one view of the same bird. Bird habitats and regional locations are also grouped to help the reader, along with handy notes about birds that are easily confused with others.
Ornithology is an endless science – there’s always something out there to chase. In Lloyd’s case it is the elusive and shy buff-breasted quail, which has never been photographed. Perhaps it will be there, finally, in the next update.
Birds of the Wet Tropics of Qld and Great Barrier Reef and Where to Find Them is available at Mossman Gorge Centre and Whileaway Bookshop. Or go to Lloyd Nielsen’s Birding Australia: www.birdingaustralia.com .au
Ornithologist Lloyd Nielsen in his Mt Molloy studio