Curtis Hayne story and gallery

Curtis Hayne is a young photographer and passionate bird-watcher in the Gwydir valley. At just 16 years of age, he is on a mission to raise awareness of Australia’s native birds and capture their beauty on film. Curtis has joined the ranks of Office of Environment and Heritage (OEH) volunteers doing his bit to conserve local birdlife and encourage others to do the same. If you’re interested in bird-watching and/or photography, Curtis shares his best advice in the Q&A below. Thanks Curtis!

Curtis Hayne’s photographic skill and enthusiasm for all things environmental have impressed Senior Wetlands Conservation Officer Daryl Albertson.

‘It’s not very often that someone as young as Curtis shows such drive and a passion for birds,’ Mr Albertson said.

‘His photographs show that he knows his quarry and can positon himself in the right place to take some really great shots.

‘Curtis is a real bird hunter and his webpage photographs are a testament to his skills and knowledge.

‘With his level of drive and enthusiasm we can expect him to continue to follow his passion along the path into the ornithology field of science.

‘His future volunteer work with OEH can only help him along this path, providing regular opportunities to pursue his passion, in and around the waters of the Gwydir Wetlands,’ Mr Albertson said.

Curtis shares his passion for bird-watching

When did you first become interested in bird watching and photography?

I began birding at the age of nine when I got in touch with another passionate local bird-watcher. We have gone birding regularly ever since. I have also expanded my knowledge through research.

I wanted to capture the detail and beauty of Australian birds and started with a simple point and shoot camera, then upgraded to a Canon EOS 600D which produces better quality photographs.

What do you enjoy about bird-watching?

Birds are beautiful, interesting and inspiring. They have beautiful calls and songs.

It’s a great hobby. It gets me outdoors and it can be very challenging to identify the different species of birds. I meet lovely people along the way and my contribution is helping some of these species to survive.

Birds are a highly visible, no-cost indicator of ecosystem health. Changes in bird species or numbers can signal issues in the environment.

Where do you go to see the birds?

My main monitoring sites are all around the Moree region on cotton farms, the pecan nut farm, the Gwydir/Gingham Wetlands, Combadello Weir, Whittaker’s Lagoon, Ruth Leitch Bridge, the Moree Common and Terry Hie Hie.

What is special about your region that attracts birds and produces such good photographic opportunities?

The Moree Plains Shire offers avid bird-watchers and field naturalists a chance to view an interesting array of seasonal and migratory birds. It is unique in the fact that the birds from the east meet the birds from the west (and birds of the north meet the birds of the south) which gives such a vast variety of species in the one area.

Do you have a favourite bird-watching destination?

I probably enjoy the Gwydir Wetlands the most. They provide breeding and feeding habitat for large numbers of colonial and migratory waterbirds, some of which are protected under international agreement between Australia and the other countries that the birds visit. The wetlands also support rare, endangered and vulnerable species. It’s always an enjoyable and long day out and there are always a number of vulnerable species to be found.

However, irrigation dams on cotton farms are also a favourite. They have a large variety and abundance of waterbirds. At Terry Hie Hie you’ll find a large variety of bush birds.

You recently became an official OEH volunteer. What does that involve?

I have helped to install solar powered, internet-enabled cameras in the Gwydir Wetlands State Conservation Area, but my main role is conducting wetland bird surveys at all the properties and sites within the Gwydir Wetlands.

As part of OEH waterbird surveys, we access remote sites and wade into wetlands through knee-deep water to count numbers of nesting waterbirds.

I was also a volunteer guide when the Gwydir Wetlands State Conservation Area recently was opened to public access for the first time.

As part of my volunteering, I have been assembling an album of photographs from the remote cameras in the Gwydir wetlands for OEH.

How do you put your bird watching skills to use?

I am a major contributor to the ‘NSW Birdline’ and to ‘Eremaea eBird’ submitting thorough observation and survey lists for observation sites and extensive, detailed reports regarding rare and unusual sightings. These eBird lists can then be used by researchers, academics and conservation biologists to answer questions about bird behaviour and distribution.

I also compile cotton farm irrigation dam survey lists in the hope that one day they will be used towards the 'Waterbirds on Cotton Farms' project (at UNE, Armidale) which investigates waterbird communities on cotton storages in the Gwydir valley.

I have also guided several birders and ecologists from throughout NSW and southern Queensland. My Local Bird Guide flyers are available from the OEH office and the North West LLS office in Moree.

Would you encourage others to get involved as a volunteer and/or bird watcher?

Yes.

Could you share a few tips for fledgling bird watchers to improve their chances of a successful outing?

The best time for birding - and the only time I go - is the early morning when birds are usually most active. The best way for a complete novice to start is to purchase a field guide of Australian birds, invest in a pair of binoculars, and contact local birders who are dedicated to educating people about native Australian birds and the environment.

Also, for photographers, can you share a few tips or techniques for capturing beautiful bird photos?

Mornings provide the best photo opportunities as the birds are hungry and are looking for food.

For close-up bird photography, focus on their eyes. Try to catch them in action and capture their behaviour.

Can you describe an environmental watering event that yielded some memorable birding results?

When I first began birding in 2009, I visited Whittaker’s Lagoon, 20 kilometres west of Moree.

The lagoon had taken delivery of environmental water, with the help of a neighbouring landholder.

As a result of this environmental water, there was extensive waterbird breeding across the lagoon, especially with the White-necked Herons.

In late November 2010, I was very thrilled as a Comb-crested Jacana was sighted on an area of extensive floating plant growth on this isolated lagoon. The Jacana is a threatened/vulnerable species in NSW and was found well outside of the species range (they are usually found on wetlands along the coast).

How do you hope to use your bird-watching and photography skills in the future?

It would be great to launch my own website where I can educate people about Australian birds and the natural environment with a focus on my local area. I'd also like to create my own calendars and postcards featuring my photos. Another long term goal is to be a professional wildlife guide.

Do you plan to study in this field?

Yes, definitely. I would love to study environmental science/zoology.

More of Curtis' photography

You can see more of Curtis’ photography on his Flickr, Twitter and Instagram sites:

Curtis Hayne in the back of a six-wheeled amphibious ATV

Curtis Hayne volunteering with OEH

Black-winged Stilts landing, Gwydir Wetlands (property - Westholme). Photo C Hayne

Black-winged Stilts landing, Gwydir Wetlands (property - Westholme). Photo C.Hayne

Pink-eared ducks at a cotton farm near Ashley, NSW. Photo C Hayne

Pink-eared ducks at a cotton farm near Ashley, NSW. Photo C.Hayne

Black-tailed Native-hens, cotton farm near Ashley, NSW. Photo C Hayne

Black-tailed Native-hens, cotton farm near Ashley, NSW. Photo C Hayne

Great Egret emerging, Gwydir. Photo C Hayne

Great Egret emerging, Gwydir. Photo C.Hayne

Red-kneed Dotterel at a cotton farm near Moree. Photo C Hayne

Red-kneed Dotterel at a cotton farm near Moree. Photo C.Hayne

Black-necked Stork (Jabiru) in flight over cotton farm near Ashley, NSW. Photo C Hayne

Black-necked Stork (Jabiru) in flight over cotton farm near Ashley, NSW. Photo C.Hayne

Sacred Kingfisher, Gwydir Wetlands (Gingham Waterhole - property 'Munwonga'

Sacred Kingfisher, Gwydir Wetlands (Gingham Waterhole - property 'Munwonga'). Photo C.Hayne

Glossy Ibis during a major bird breeding event after floods, Gwydir Wetlands. Photo C Hayne

Glossy Ibis during a major bird breeding event after floods, Gwydir Wetlands. Photo C.Hayne

Golden-headed Cisticola, Gwydir Wetlands (property - Bunnor). Photo C Hayne

Golden-headed Cisticola, Gwydir Wetlands (property - Bunnor). Photo C.Hayne

Red-necked Avocets emerging from sewage ponds, Wee Waa, NSW. Photo C Hayne

Red-necked Avocets emerging from sewage ponds, Wee Waa, NSW. Photo C.Hayne

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Page last updated: 23 November 2015