With more than 950 bird species, including over 350 endemics, Australia is an impressive birding country… or a birding continent. Or both. Infrastructure is well-developed, prices reasonable – just rent a car (even better a 4×4) and head into your own adventure. Next to your bird guide, you may also use an adventure guide: The 100 Best Birdwatching Sites in Australia by Sue Taylor.

After a series of administrative jobs, Sue Taylor embarked on a freelance writing career in 1998 and has since written short stories, newspaper articles and five books on birdwatching. Being a veteran birder, she has recorded more than 800 Australian birds on her travels throughout Australia and its territories.

In the introduction (two pages), the author describes her site-selecting process: how large the “site” should be? Can a national park be a single site? Or a 500 km long road? In the end, a site was defined rather subjectively as “somewhere I’ve travelled to in order to go birding and having enjoyed myself seeing either a large number of species or a large number of special birds.” In some cases the sites turned out to be quite specific, such as Hasties Swamp, some are huge (Lakefield National Park), some are lengthy (the Strzelecki Track) and some cover a whole district, such as Katherine. At first, she thought that she wouldn’t include any sites with less than a 100 species, but soon gave up on that distinction, including several islands with only a handful of species, but a lot of birds.

In this second edition, Sue used the nomenclature of IOC 10.2.

All sites are described in two pages containing a tiny map of the continent with a site marked, but – pity – no map of the site itself. Each site is further visually determined by two or three photos of special birds, but, something I find more important, landscape and habitat photos are sometimes there and sometimes not. For each site Sue covers the type of habitat, which of the special species may be found there and when is the best time to visit. Underneath the main text and marked with binoculars are 4 target species chosen for each site to look out for.

Unlike the most of similar site guides where authors try to cover the same topics in each chapter, listing them as subchapters, Sue is describing the area subjectively, describing the efforts she goes into in search of particular species and her own experiences with birds, infrastructure and people alike. That approach brings an unexpected freshness into a rather dry genre, thus making many other site guides a bit boring to read. Sue’s personal touch makes this birdfinder, if not “fun” to read, then certainly interesting, even if you are not heading to Australia next month.

At the same time, filling the page not only with descriptions of habitats and lists of the most special birds (boring!) but one’s experiences and views is a mastermind’s way of going around that common trap into many where-to-watch-birds authors fall into: not having the same amount of info for each site they are describing, they end up with some chapters being shamefully short, as if they were not covered sufficiently.

The book ends with the index of birds and the list of sites divided by states or territories. As the book starts with a “contents” section listing all sites, I am confused why they are ordered like that in the book, since the order is neither geographical nor alphabetical, and I don’t remember reading the explanation of the ordering choice. There is also a map of Australia with all 100 sites marked, with the most obvious clusters around Darwin and Cairns, plus all over New South Wales.

A bird-travel guide author whose style is opposite of the usual boring one is such an unexpected refreshment. The 100 Best Birdwatching Sites In Australia is a pleasure to snoop through, to explore and, I guess, to use on a bird drive (I am dreaming about checking that myself). Highly recommended.

Australian Geographic The 100 Best Birdwatching Sites In Australia
By Sue Taylor
ISBN: 9781913679101
ISBN-10: 1913679101
Format: Paperback
Number of Pages: 224
Dimensions: 18 × 21 cm
Published: July 2021
Country of Publication: GB

Written by Dragan
Dragan Simic is obsessively passionate about two things – birding and travelling in search of birds, and that has taken him from his native Balkans to the far shores of Europe and the Mediterranean, southern Africa, India and Latin America. His 10,000 Birds blog posts were Highly Commended in the International Category of the 2015 BBC Wildlife Blogger Awards. Birder by passion and environmental scientist by education, he is an ecotourism consultant, a field researcher and a bird blogger who always thinks that birding must be better behind that next bend in the road, and that the best bird ever is – the next lifer. He tweets as @albicilla66