Volunteers are the lifeblood of Centennial Parklands. Every year, hundreds of volunteers work more than 10,000 hours across 24 programs at the Parklands, and without them our wonderful green space simply wouldn’t be the same!

This week is National Volunteer Week (8 – 14 May 2017) and we are celebrating all of our great volunteer contributions with a close look at the volunteer work of birdwatcher Graeme Robinson.


Graeme’s volunteer birdwatching


Can you believe, Graeme has been a volunteer birdwatcher for eight years? In that time, he has tracked more than 124 native bird species across the Parklands. He and the other members of the volunteer birdwatching group have identified everything, from Powerful owls to Purple swamp hens to Freckled ducks!

We had a chat with Graeme about it all.


Powerful Owl

One of the Powerful owls sighted in Centennial Park.


CP: How did you become a birdwatching volunteer?

GR: I have always enjoyed birdwatching and spending time in Centennial Parklands, so it seemed like a great fit when I was invited to monitor bird populations for Centennial Parklands and Birding NSW research projects.

CP: What do the birdwatching volunteers do?

GR: We meet every season or four months and visit 13 different environments across the Parklands, including Eastern Suburbs Banksia Scrub, Sandstone Ridge, pond edges and Melaleuca and Pine forest environments.

We use binoculars and a note book to record information about what bird varieties we see, what they are doing and whether they are nesting.

CP: Why is it important?

GR: It is all part of a quest to secure details about species diversity and breeding habits!

The notes collected by our volunteer group are translated into important data for Centennial Parklands’ environmental planning. The information is also uploaded to the Birding NSW database which is used by external research groups.

With the data we provide, researchers can make links between bird nesting habits and big picture environmental patterns. As an example, really high levels of rainfall interstate might take certain bird species away from the Parklands. Meanwhile, new food sources might attract certain birds. You can often see that with the Yellow-tailed black cockatoos and the pine cones in Centennial Park!

CP: What are some of your favourite moments as a volunteer birdwatcher? 

GR: Over the years we have made some incredible discoveries. We have recorded the first known pair of Powerful owls with chicks in Centennial Park. We have sighted a rare Freckled duck from inland Australia and we’ve seen those fantastic Yellow-tailed Black cockatoos leave and return with the pine cones.

…Though I think my favourite sightings are always of the Superb Fairy-wrens. You never tire of that blue!


Yellow-tailed Black cockatoos

Yellow-tailed Black cockatoos eating pine cones at Centennial Park.


CP: So you must know all the best hiding places for birds in the Park?

GR: We definitely know most of them. You can always catch the bird volunteers in the Park in our own time, helping families and tourists to spot the best bird life. The quirky Tawny frogmouths are very popular with children!


Tawny frogmouth and chicks

Tawny frogmouth with chicks in the Parklands.


CP: So you must enjoy the volunteer birdwatching?

GR: Definitely. I really haven’t looked back, it all brings a tremendous joy to my day, because I am doing what I love!


Benefits of volunteering


Graeme is not alone. Many of our great volunteers tell us that they find work in the Parklands rewarding.

Interestingly, research indicates that both volunteering and spending time in nature (just 15-30 minutes in a green setting) can have lots of benefits on state-of-mind and health. Here are just a few:

  • Increase ability to cope with stressful events and improve outlook on life;
  • Decrease levels of depression;
  • Improve sleeping patterns and mood;
  • Increase a sense of purpose and boost self-esteem.

The research also shows that volunteers are even more likely to reap these benefits when engaging in tasks that align with their passions.

You can read more about the research here, here and here.


Other ways to get involved at Centennial Parklands


Wondering how you can get in some volunteer time with us?

The Parklands are currently actively recruiting for a number of projects which allow you to combine a passion for being in the Park and nature with volunteer work.

Two great projects are:

  • Bush Reneration – Get outdoors and get active in the fresh air with plenty of hands on weeding, digging and planting. At the moment our Regeneration group is working to rejuvenate the Guriwal Trail in Centennial Park.
  • Carp Management – Love to fish? Register with our Carp Management group, learn the methods used to fish for carp and help us reduce the numbers of this pest species in our ponds.

You can register for or read more about these and other great programs in the Parklands.


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