For the past few months, members of OCCA have been planning work around contributing to the citizen science Feather Map project. Run through the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO), the project involves collecting bird feathers in wetland areas across Australia, which are then mailed away and examined via nuclear techniques. Isotopes in the feathers act almost as unique codes and can identify where a bird was when it grew specific feathers. The isotope combinations are unique to each wetland area, and are dependent on the bird’s diet.

We conducted our first attempt at collecting for the Feather Map project on the morning of Tuesday July 4th. A group of seven, made up of members from Oxley Creek Catchment, Birds Queensland and a local photographer, scoured the grounds looking for feathers. Our expedition occurred at Oxley Creek Common, where we ventured on the track to Pelican Lagoon and Jabiru Swamp. More than anything, this exercise was a good demonstration and education tool to realise just how many birds are native to the Common. In one morning, we managed to identify over 50 different species of birds, just on the track and at the two wetland areas we observed. We managed to successfully find several bunches of feathers over the course of the morning.

Before the end of the year, we are hoping to conduct future collections at the Common utilising small boats to travel out to the islands where birds roost and hope to get better yield of feathers. Other possible locations on our list include Granard and Archerfield Wetlands. All members of OCCA are welcome to get involved and can email partnerships@oxleycreekcatchment.org.au for more information and future updates.

Our samples have been received and will undergo experimentation within the next 6-12 months. An interactive map on the ANSTO website will be continually updated with the data being distributed to the specific sites where you can zoom in and learn more about the results of the collection.

Special thank you to Rae Clark and David Niland for their knowledge on local birds, and also to Paul Campbell for his photography skills. For those interested, information regarding this project including the science behind examining the feathers and how to get involved can be found at: http://feathermap.ansto.gov.au/

– Kirsten Marano