Birds & birding in the Blue Mountains & Capertee Valley, Australia


CAROL PROBETS

Carol was drawn to birds from an early age. During a childhood in the suburbs of Sydney, that interest was fuelled when she was given the 1966 edition of Cayley's What Bird is That?, the only Australian bird identification book available at the time. It was a book which resulted in many hours dreaming of wild places and imagining what it would be like to see such beautiful and mysterious birds that inhabited the pages.

Growing up in a house filled with music (her father was a violinist and saxophonist), Carol's first job, while still at school, was teaching piano. Although she no longer regularly plays an instrument, this background has ensured a lifelong love of music of many diverse styles, and means that she now has an exceptional ear for bird calls, a valuable skill for a birding guide.

It was rockclimbing which first brought Carol to the Blue Mountains in the early 1980s. Thus began a lasting connection with the Blue Mountains bush. For the next 15 years she worked as a guide and office manager at an adventure company based in Katoomba. Always drawn to a challenge, in 1986 she completed the then-fledgling Six Foot Track Marathon and in 1991-2 she achieved a national top-ten ranking in women's cross country mountain bike racing.

However, her passion for the environment, its ecology and in particular, the avifauna gradually took over. She has been a licensed A class bird bander, was for 10 years a volunteer wildlife rescuer and carer, and in 1994 she started teaching popular community college classes in birdwatching. Since 2001 she has been focussing on full-time bird guiding and in that time has developed an outstanding reputation, having introduced hundreds of people to birdwatching and guided countless visitors to the area including a number of birding celebrities.

Much of Carol's involvement with birds, research and conservation is voluntary. She was President of Blue Mountains Bird Observers from 2009 to 2014 and is on the committee of the Capertee Valley Regent Honeyeater Recovery Group. Between 2000 and 2003 she spent two seasons as part of a small team radio-tracking endangered Regent Honeyeaters in the Capertee Valley. In 2011 with Blue Mountains Bird Observers she set up monitoring programmes for the Rockwarbler and migrating Yellow-faced Honeyeaters as part of the Important Bird Area project, and continues to coordinate these surveys.

From 2000 to 2008 she participated in the NSW Twitchathon as a member of the Whacked Out Woodswallows, the four-time winning team which, on three occasions broke the record for the number of birds found in 24 hours in NSW. During that time, Carol raised approximately $10,000 in sponsorship benefiting bird conservation projects. The team featured in the documentary Chasing Birds, which premiered at the Sydney Film Festival in 2008 and has since screened on ABC television.

The Superb Lyrebird is a special interest for Carol and the species has inspired her present involvement with two research projects. In the winter of 2010 she began documenting the social behaviour of the lyrebirds at Scenic World in the Jamison Valley, and she continues to monitor this population. She is also part of a team (with Vicki Powys and Dr Hollis Taylor) investigating the remarkable "flute-mimicking" lyrebirds of the northern tablelands of NSW. Since winter 2009, Carol and Hollis have recorded many hours of lyrebird song at more than 60 locations in that region.

Her comprehensive knowledge of the Blue Mountains and Capertee Valley region is put to good use in her guiding business. Carol considers herself lucky to earn a living doing what she loves. When she's not researching birds or guiding, she can usually be found on a Blue Mountains walking track, camping under a Yapunyah tree somewhere in the outback, or enjoying coffee and watching people in Katoomba Street.


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