Milly shares her shorebird awareness journey with the Coffs Coast

Local birder and BirdLife Northern NSW contact in Coffs, Sue Siwinski, shorebird educator Milly Formby with her children’s book ‘A Shorebird Flying Adventure’ and Mel Hunter, Sustainable Living Officer, City of Coffs Harbour.

MICROLIGHT Milly, Amellia Formby, flew into South Grafton Airfield last week for speaking engagements on the Coffs Coast on her year-long circumnavigation of Australia’s coastline.

Working for BirdLIfe Australia, the zoologist, children’s book illustrator and pilot is bringing awareness to the precarious life of shorebirds.

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On Thursday 30 March she spent the day sharing her adventure and purpose with children at Crossmaglen Public School in Bonville and Casuarina Steiner School in Coffs Harbour.

Owing to time constraints she was unable to fulfill other anticipated school engagements.

In the evening she presented to some 50 people at Woolgoolga Regional Community Garden which included a Q&A session.

Her purpose is to educate through sharing her knowledge and experience of the amazing journeys of migratory shorebirds, which are amongst the most endangered birds in the world.

They are in this precarious position owing to human disruption, development and disturbance of their precious habitats.

In their long-distance migration shorebirds can fly for up to ten days non-stop, flapping their wings.

Once they come to land on the coast, they need to rest, recover and refuel on the tidal sandbars and mudflats.

If these have been drained, developed or are used by people, their vehicles and animals, the exhausted birds struggle to find somewhere suitable to land and feed.

BirdLife Australia identifies a lack of awareness as the number one threat to shorebirds during their time in Australia.
For Milly this honed her attention to the question: ‘how to get everyone’s attention?’.

“While searching for answers, I came up with a plan,” said Milly, “what if I could inspire people by doing the very thing shorebirds excel at – flying.

“So I learned to fly a microlight.

“I’m currently halfway into a flying quest called Wing Threads: Flight Around Oz, aiming to circumnavigate the continent in my microlight aircraft.

“On the way, I’m sharing the amazing journeys of migratory shorebirds with primary school students and communities right around Australia.”

Milly is also sharing her journey with people in the public eye and changemakers in their community as she flies anti-clockwise around Australia.

“I invited Costa Georgiadis (TV-famous landscaper from Gardening Australia) to come and fly with me and now he’s an ambassador for the project,” she said.

Her foray into schools is making a positive impact, too.

Using Milly’s book, ‘A Shorebird Flying Adventure’, has been a useful pathway to educating children; the trip has been a hook into learning about shorebirds.

“Many schools are not familiar with shorebirds and don’t have shorebirds on the curriculum.

“They are now more likely to include them within their STEM curriculum,” she said.

“Next step is to create an online e-learning pack with teacher notes and activities.”

In the pipeline is a short Wing Threads documentary funded by the ABC, which Milly hopes will lead to a full-length doco of the whole adventure.

“We often hear about problems but don’t see the actions being undertaken towards a solution.

“It’s important to show this to bring balance to the ‘doom and gloom’ narrative we so often hear,” she said.

You can follow Milly’s adventure on Facebook and Instagram @wingthreads, the Wing Threads YouTube channel and website

The evening event was brought to the Coffs Coast through the City of Coffs Harbour Coffs By Nature program and Milly’s flight leg was sponsored by BirdLife Northern NSW.


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