The Bird Man of Newstead

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Welcome to “The Nature Bloggers” – a new series of interviews with the finest bloggers on nature, science and sustainability in Australia.

Geoff Park
Geoff Park.

For nearly seven years, Geoff Park has devoted himself to Natural Newstead: his blog about the birds and the bush around a small country town in central Victoria. “I’m a bit obsessed with it,” he admits.

With more than 1,800 posts and nearly a third of a million page hits, Natural Newstead is now – according to one web site – one of the top 100 birding web sites in the world. That is an extraordinary achievement for a local blog from a tiny town of just 500 people. I began this edited interview by asking Geoff why he first decided to write a blog.

Can I take you back seven years – to two days before Christmas in December 2008, when you wrote your first post. It began: “Have just enjoyed a nice walk in the Rise and Shine Nature Conservation Reserve with Joe.” Did you have any idea of what you were embarking on?

No, at that stage I didn’t really know what a blog was. I remember opening one of my books and a bird list fell out of the back of it – from Wyperfeld National Park or somewhere – and I thought, “God I’ve got all these notebooks and lists and they’re all completely disorganized.”

I was berating myself when I thought, “there’s this idea around that you can put this stuff online now.” I didn’t think anybody would be interested in reading it, I just wanted to document my observations in a more organized way. In fact, I’d written about a dozen posts when my partner, Mary, found out – she thought I was leading some sort of third life.

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After a year or two, I realized that other people – like Bert Lobert and Duncan Fraser – were writing blogs similar to mine. I certainly didn’t know there were all these bird watching sites around the world. I just didn’t appreciate the possibilities. And I had no concept that I might become completely obsessed by it.

How would you describe Natural Newstead for someone who has never seen the site?

Natural Newstead is really an online nature diary, with photos and short articles about the area close to my home in Newstead. I’m really committed to this idea of understanding the local, of making sense of my place. I was inspired by the nature diarists from the past, right back to naturalists like Gilbert White, who recorded the daily happenings in their area over a long period of time.

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That’s just the start. The full interview – there’s much more – is hosted at the wonderful “Wild Melbourne” web site. Geoff Park is very inspiring so please follow the link and read on. I hope you enjoy it.

Thanks to Geoff for taking the time to talk to me about his wonderful blog and for permission to use his photographs in this profile.

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