Recently an exciting opportunity landed in my lap – an invitation to lead a park sensory walk. As someone who cherishes the tranquillity of park strolls and embraces every chance that comes my way (well, most of them), I eagerly accepted. The focus of this adventure aptly named ‘Birding by Ear” was to learn, listen and identify bird songs in their natural setting. This initiative by Parks Victoria turned out to be an immersive experience like no other.
After a multitude of paperwork, a couple of induction sessions, study notes to learn on the history of the park, including First Nations and European history, more study notes on the flora and fauna of the area and an audio of the local birdsongs, I was ready to go. I lead my first walk in December 2023 with Mip, Community Engagement Ranger from Parks Victoria. And just like me, Mip was a first timer at doing this kind of walk.
The group of about 15 had gathered early at the designated meeting point and were eager to start the walk when I arrived with Joanna, my support worker. We had a few traffic issues en route but still made it just on time. Even though this event was advertised to the general public, most participants were visually impaired and included members of Blind Sports and Recreation Victoria (BSRV). We were met by people from Parks Victoria including Mip, my co-walker group leader and trusty assistant, Nita, the organiser and Brooke, a university student doing a placement.
I commenced the event with a Welcome to Country and then proceeded to outline the agenda. Somehow, I had forgotten the most important thing: that we would be making stops at various points to listen to bird sounds and attempt to identify them by matching their calls to the prerecorded audio. Despite this oversight, marking the beginning of enriching sensory experience for everyone involved.
Just wanted to share an article with you that Paddy Naughtin from Parks Victoria wrote about the forthcoming (and now completed) ‘Birding by Ear’ park walk after he interviewed me. The article was intended for the Parks Victoria newsletter, but also appeared in ‘The National Tribune’.
We completed the walk on Friday, 8 December. It was fantastic and I can’t wait to do it again.
Photos: Thanks to Joanna Lay, my friend and helper, for the beautiful photos taken at Westgate Park on the inaugural ‘Birding by Ear’ walk.