Lloyd Nielsen OAM
John Hobbs Medal awarded by BirdLife Australia in 2014 for
“Outstanding amateur contributions to Australasian ornithology by an amateur ornithologist.”
Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM)
Presented in 2020 in the Australia Day Honours Awards for
“Service to Conservation and the Environment”
My Life with Birds
My lifelong interest in birds began when an aunt gave me a copy of Neville Cayley’s What Bird is That? for my sixth birthday. Being used to birds around the family farm, such as Noisy Miners, Spur-winged Plovers and Black-backed Magpies as they were known in those days, even at that young age I could not believe the variety and immensity of species depicted in the book. The long bill of the Eastern Curlew, the incredible tail of the Lyrebird, the colours of the Gouldian Finch were unbelievable. From that moment I was hooked. I still retain that book even though it has long since fallen to pieces from the overuse it was subjected to in those days – and with boyish notes written throughout!
The bird rich Goomburra Valley of south-eastern Queensland where the family farm was situated provided endless fascination for my first 18 years. Here I recorded just over 200 species of birds in the first few years. The gullies which became fern gullies as they ran back into the ranges away from the farmland in the valley always begged to be explored for they held a different variety of birds from the more open areas of the valley floor. I would often sneak off to them when my parents let their protective guard down.
Then there was the huge area of subtropical rainforest at the head of the valley with its Albert’s Lyrebirds, Rufous Scrub-birds, Sooty Owls, Glossy Black-Cockatoos and others which, as I grew older was initially accessed on horseback. Later a local sawmill which intended taking timber from the unlogged rainforest built a road up the mountain and well into the rainforest so our horses were replaced by the old farm truck.
The family sold the farm and moved out to the flat plains of the Darling Downs to purchase a wheat and cattle farm. Here I spent 11 years becoming acquainted with Painted Honeyeater, Red-chested Button-quail,Little Woodswallow, Square-tailed Kite and many others new to me. I acquired a vehicle of my own and later began doing trips into such places as south-western Queensland and the rainforests of north-eastern Queensland which eventually became “The Wet Tropics of Queensland’s”.
Soon though as drought prevailed on the farm, it was a shift to Tamborine Mountain to establish a large wholesale nursery. Here I was only an hour’s drive away from the southern border ranges, the McPherson Range with treasures such as Rufous Scrub-bird, Olive Whistler and others.
It was here by accident that I was forced to illustrate birds when my friend Peter Slater had taken a large commission and was unable to do the illustrations for a small book “Birds of Lamington National Park & Environs – A Guides Guide” which I had written. Forced to do my own illustrations, I realised then that years of birding had paid off and I was able to draw a bird with correct jizz that looked like the species I was trying to illustrate. While I have never considered myself an artist, I have been able to illustrate every Australian bird, seabirds being the only exception.
After the years in the south-east of Queensland, I had to get back to the northern Wet Tropics, making a permanent shift there in 1991. Here I have been able to study rarities such as the Buff-breasted Button-quail, iconic species such as Little Red Boobook, Atherton Scrubwren and others, sort out the situation with the yellow-spot honeyeaters, establish that the Ashy-bellied White-eye actually exists on Green Island east of Cairns and so on.
While I have made excursions to many other areas of the Australian continent, here I have spent many years enjoying the birdlife that this special area has to offer.