About Us.

On September 1st 2010 retired school Principal, Gary Oliver set off on a 12 month Challenge to break the record for photographing the most Australian bird species in a single year. With his support team of one, (his wife, Glenda) they set off on a journey that would clock up over 55,000 kms and take them to every State in Australia.
The trip was not without incident; sticky swamps, unfriendly crocodiles, seasickness, hot and dusty deserts and devastating floods added to the difficulty of the task. Yet 12 months and six car tyres later they had established a staggering record of 518 different birds photographed.
On the way they met other quirky birding enthusiasts and photographers who helped with local knowledge and suggestions. Told with enthusiasm and a dry sense of humour, this book is the result of that 12 month adventure.
Join Gary and Glenda on their journey, meet some interesting characters, some delightful yet frustratingly unco-operative birds and most importantly, enjoy a trip around this great country from a different perspective, with an outrageous Challenge to ensure that the pace is kept right up to the end.

Contact us at gg.oliver@bigpond.com

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Bird Shoot Australia


The book is at the Printer and should be ready by the end of August! Its six weeks late but hopefully we can get it out there soon after. Stay tuned or email me on gg.oliver@bigpond.com

Week 1
Wednesday 1st September 2010

Carisbrook – Castlemaine - Werribee -Ballarat

I awoke just before 6 a.m. to the unwelcomed sound of rain. Rain! This has been the wettest year in 30 years around these parts and comes at the end of a 12 year drought. You’d think we’d be elated but the dancing in the street has finished and we’re just getting a bit tired of the steady downpours already.

My first day was supposed to be a really enthusiastic one, full of energy and the taking of the more mundane bird photos of the easily seen species. Wrong! Despite the rain I took the camera up the side road where a number of flame robins have spent the winter…up until today. Not a robin in sight! I settled on photographing a grey shrike thrush that hangs about the house most mornings but the steady rain and grey skies made for a very ordinary photo. I’ll post my ambitions for quality photographs later, suffice to say today’s shots were ordinary,

We drove to Castlemaine where I had hoped to catch a rose robin but the steady downpour increased to the point I admitted defeat. We had lunch with friends Ron and Sheila Teece-Millington before returning home with just three photographs. A total of 22 birds had been spotted but this trip is about photographing the blighters as opposed to just spotting them. Hopefully the blog site and the weather will improve and make this trip one that will stand out. It’s got great potential!

The next day was a trip to the Werribee Treatment Works, a Mecca for birds and internationally significant. I have been there many times but on this occasion the grey skies made it less than productive.

Rain and overcast conditions were the main features of today as I headed the 150 plus kilometres to Werribee. I left home by 6 a.m. and initially I thought I might have some luck weatherwise. The older gent at the Board of Works office was not sure of the protocols when a stranger fronts the office looking for a key to the farm. He gave me the typical queried look of one who thinks there’s something odd about anyone wanted to visit a sewage treatment area but on advice from a seasoned veteran who assured him I didn’t need to pay a deposit handed over the key. I drove quickly down to Point Wilson and through the gate to bird watchers’ heaven. Yes folks this area is world famous amongst birders and conservationist as it attracts not only a huge array of local birds but thousands of migrating waders from the northern hemisphere.

And it’s so well planned, maintained and effective that there is no tell tale smell from the effluent etc. Mind you, you can’t just drive and bird watch as the tracks are fairly narrow and today very wet and boggy. A distraction could find you in the shit (there I’ve said it).

I was disappointed as there were not the varieties I found last time, indeed, the place was comparatively empty compared to summer. I managed a few photographs despite the grey skies and hopefully Photoshop will both lighten the images and enlighten me on some of the raptor species that flew overhead. I still find some of the larger birds of prey not easy to identify.

I had some fun stalking pelicans which are like slow B52’s in the way they lumber into the air. Yet despite their elegance I chanced upon one youngster who epitomised how ridiculous this bird can look. I’ll publish a more eloquent shot sometime in the future so as not to offend them.

When rain started to fall heavily late morning I cut my losses and drove to Geelong to pick up our new kayak. At $3500 it has peddles, fishing rod holders, a fish finder capacity (no I didn’t succumb) and hopefully a new way of exploring the rivers, lakes and oceans. Time will tell if it’s worth the financial outlay.

I returned to Ballarat and chanced on a little raven tearing the rubber lining from a parked car. I thought this was reserved for destructive parrots in New Zealand but I guess if it’s in your nature it doesn’t matter if your beak has limitations. Typically once I’d taken a couple of shots it realised it had been caught in the act and flew off.

A good night and my last one at Kendo made for a long day. I’ll certainly miss the friendships and camaraderie of this group. Three months of inactivity and happy hours might see the waist line broaden if I’m not careful. Hope I don’t start whingeing on this journal.

Week 1 Day 3
Friday Sept 3rd


A day dog sitting Ryan’s King Charles Cavalier kept me inside packing and outside cutting the grass one last time before we go. I spotted a nankeen kestrel but generally today was preparing for the trip and finishing off projects around the house.

I phoned Rohan Clarke at 7 p.m. knowing that the pelagic trip he was leading this Sunday would be cancelled. Bloody hell, the Weather Bureau is forecasting the wettest day in 12 years with the south west where we were supposed to go out and see albatross and the like expecting 5 meter swells. No, a surf board was not even considered. Hopefully I can get on a pelagic trip from Brisbane in November.

Week 1 Day 4
Saturday Sept 4th

Carisbrook – Ballarat

RAIN! The Bureau got it right big time! By the time John next door knocked us up around 8 a.m. the flood was lapping at the back door.

Twelve years ago our town was flooded and in a remarkable feeling of déjà vu we found ourselves in a precarious position. I managed one photo in defiance, a blackbird skulking about next door on a heap of compost. We drove around the town before heading to Ballarat to have lunch with Ryan and Cain but the road was flooded just past the reservoir turnoff.

The sight of small hills and creeks totally immersed in flood waters is amazing! We drove to Avoca and then on to Ballarat for a bento box lunch with the kids. Creswick and Clunes were totally flooded with a few evacuations.

The boys bought us two life jackets for the kayak and Ryan and Sarah bought me a nice diary pad for this journey. Damn! I’ll have to write legibly to do it justice.

On returning home we found our driveway impassable due to impromptu renovations by the town council with a grader that had unblocked the drains in front of our house. We parked the car at Bill and Betty’s next door and waded home. Can’t see the water subsiding enough before Monday when the trip north really starts. Here’s hoping.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010


Greetings all!
I hope this blog is interesting and ultimately worthwhile. Glenda and I have been planning this trip for about eight years, a time when the light of actually making it to retirement was beginning to shine at the end of the tunnel.
Basically we want to travel all over Australia in the next 12 months and try to photograph as many Australian bird species as we can to set or break a record for this undertaking. Until a month ago I didn't think there were any other eccentrics crazy enough to be interested in or who would even want to do this. I was reassured and at the same time a tad dismayed when I was referred to a website by Drew Fulton, an American bird watcher who "from July 2006 to July 2007, .. dedicated his life to traveling and photographing the endemic birds of Australia. This opportunity was made possible by the Thomas J. Watson Foundation and the foundation's annual fellowship."
Drew photographed 377 species during that year and has posted a great record of his trip at the following site:

With this "record" in mind it is my hope (Glenda is my sole support person! ...."soul" support person?) to photograph at least 378 birds and spot the magic "600" which was my dream when I got the twitching (bird watching) bug 30 years ago. Today there are over 800 species of bird that call Australia home but realistically I won't see anywhere near this number. Sean Dooley has the record for spotting the most birds in 12 months, achieving this in 2003 when he managed to see 703 different species. Sean's manic adventure saw him drive, fly and crisscross the continent in a fantastic series of adventures which he recorded in his book, "The Big Twitch".
I don't have the resources that Sean had on his epic race around the country, the legacy left by my parents enough to make us debt free and to have purchased a great caravan and a Nikkon D300 camera. We won't be flying to destinations by aeroplane on the advice of a friend but I'm sure we'll be flying by the seat of our pants at times to try and thoroughly explore the many places we intend to visit in our van.
This blog then may help keep us on task and hopefully some birdwatchers and like minded enthusiasts can contact us along the way and help us find the birds we're seeking. Local knowledge goes a long way. We've called the site, "the Bird Shoot" as a play on words for a photography session, not to be confused with shooting the poor blighters which is a practice I'm dead against (no pun intended). The outcome might be a bit like "The Big Twitch on Valium" but I'm pretty sure there'll be enough happening during this trip to make it interesting. Your feedback will be most welcome!