Shorebirds campaigner spots her first Wandering Tattler

Local Coffs Coast birder and BirdLife Northern NSW contact Sue Siwinski with shorebird educator Milly Formby, displaying her children’s book, ‘A Shorebird Flying Adventure’.

FLYING on her microlight towards the Nambucca Valley, on her shorebirds awareness campaign, Amellia ‘Milly’ Formby did not know she was about to get a “lifer”, in other words her first ever sighting of a particular bird.

Working for BirdLIfe Australia, the zoologist, children’s book illustrator and pilot is bringing awareness to the precarious life of shorebirds in a quest called ‘Wing Threads: Flight Around Oz’, and is just over halfway through her year-long circumnavigation of Australia’s coastline.

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She drops into communities and schools 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.

Peter West from Hastings Birdwatchers, who was her ground crew that day, picked Amelia up at South Grafton Aerodrome to drive her back to Port Macquarie Airport.

“He (Peter) said we’re gonna stop and twitch a couple of birds on the way back; a Wandering Tattler and a Glossy Ibis,” Milly told News Of The Area.

“I was pumped because I’d not seen a Wandering Tattler before.

“We checked the tides and decided it would be best to stop at South West Rocks to see the Tattler first because it was high tide.

“Word on the street was that the Tattler was hanging out on the rocks just north of the Surf Life Saving Club.

“We parked and walked around the rocks and it didn’t take long to find it.

“I saw it on the rocks and called Peter on his phone to come over and see it,” said Milly.

“As we were watching it without binoculars, we noticed there were not one, but two Wandering Tattlers.”

Milly and Peter both observed and agreed that the white eyebrow stripe didn’t extend past the eye of the birds, which is a key identifying feature that distinguished the Wandering Tattler from Grey-tailed Tattlers.

“It’s not my favourite bird, but I was excited because it was a shorebird I’d never seen before.

“When you see a bird for the first time ever, we call it a ‘lifer’.

“So, the Wandering Tattler was a lifer for me last week.

“Always a great day when you see a lifer,” she said.

“We then went to Boyters Lane and found the Glossy Ibis too; what a great day.”

When BirdLife Australia identified a lack of awareness as the number one threat to shorebirds during their time in Australia several years ago, it set Milly thinking.

She honed her attention to the question of 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?”

She learned to fly a microlight and is circumnavigating the continent in the little aircraft.

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

“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 her website


Milly spotting the Wandering Tattler at South West Rocks, a first-ever sighting for the shorebird expert.

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