Birdwatching has never been so popular as it is currently. This upsurge in interest can be attributed to the bushfires and the impact of Covid-19 isolation on people's lives.
Isolation restrictions have confined people to their backyard or local park and an awareness of birdlife not normally appreciated.
People were horrified at the devastating loss of lives and property last summer but also the realisation that billions of native animals and birds had died or relocated.
Conservation groups and birding organisations have been actively encouraging their members to participate in surveying their local area record the numbers of birds. Results are then uploaded to a database such as Birddata.
This "citizen science" activity, contributes to our knowledge of birds and their distribution and the information gained is used to make conservation decisions.
People watch birds for many reasons. It's a relaxing pastime that gets you outside and interacting with nature.
Some people enjoy the solitude or join a group for the benefits of social interaction with others who share their interest. Others love to do surveys, where the number of birds present in a defined area are regularly counted.
To some it is more than a hobby. It is the sense of excitement felt when a new or rare bird is "spotted" that drives their enthusiasm.
Most birders have lists, life lists, country lists, backyard lists in which all the birds seen are "ticked off" and often photographed, and many people "twitch" rare and vagrant birds to add to their list.
In the Hunter Valley, there have been some notable examples in the last few years.
In 2017, Aleutian Terns, never-before sighted in Australia, were discovered at Old Bar. A study published in the Journal of Ecotourism in 2019, said an estimated 375-581 birdwatchers travelled an average of 580kms to see the terns and contributed $200,000 to the local economy.
More recently a Lesser Yellowlegs, a medium-sized sandpiper and a rare vagrant to Australia was spotted on Ash Island, resulting in dozens of people visiting the site.
A South Island Pied Oystercatcher, a New Zealand bird, has taken up residence on Stockton Beach and is regularly recorded.
Grab a pair of binoculars and a field guide and get out there, you will be amazed.