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Revealed: The best sport you're probably not playing

ECOTOURISM POTENTIAL: Kelvin and Amelia Nielsen think Gympie is one of the best birdwatching regions and could easily capitalise on ecotourism opportunities.
ECOTOURISM POTENTIAL: Kelvin and Amelia Nielsen think Gympie is one of the best birdwatching regions and could easily capitalise on ecotourism opportunities. Rowan Schindler

BIRDWATCHING is probably the best sport you might not be doing.

This week is National Birdwatching Week, which coincides with the tail-end of the magpie swooping season.

Imagine birdwatching as Pokemon, but without the trapping of wildlife, and Gympie is a birdwatchers' playground, according to two of the regions most passionate "twitchers".

"Twitchers" is the slang term for those who, for sport, spot the feathered flying creatures.

Kelvin and Amelia Nielsen said there are many reasons people become birdwatchers, whether it be for therapy, curiosity or sport, but they said they most simply enjoy being outdoors in nature.

"I think people enjoy being outside more than they realise," Kelvin Nielsen said.

"I think man (mankind) has a natural affinity with nature because we are nature.

"There is a lot of research which proves being outside and being in nature is good for your health.

"These days, we have lost some of that though, just look at housing estates with very little natural areas within them."

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The Nielsens led The Gympie Times on a stroll around Lake Alford and pointed out individual bird species.

Magpie Lark (peewee), Dusky Moorhen, Hardhead duck, Noisey Firebird and the weed wobbler.

The Nielsens spend much of their time promoting birdwatching and natural pursuits around the Gympie region, with a focus on tourism and conservation.

They think the current Gympie Regional Council is the most environmental council the region has had in recent memory.

"We are planning on building this (birdwatching) up and working with council to evaluate tourism opportunities," Kelvin said.

Mr Nielsen said humans have also held a natural curiosity and learned many skills from watching birds.

"We have got this natural affinity, particularly with birds," he said.

"Look at our songs, art and dances across human cultures - we see birds everywhere.

"The US uses the bald eagle on everything, Indigenous peoples often have dances devoted to individual birds they respect.

"There's researchers who believe early humans learnt to weave by observing birds weaving nests."

Kelvin and Amelia Nielsen met 36 years ago and soon began a mutual love of birdwatching. When their children came along, they were brought along on the family adventures, camping out in the bush and counting birds, as well as other animals for surveys used by organisations such as National Parks.

National Bird Week - a tradition dating back nearly 100 years - celebrates the incredible variety of beautiful birds found in Australia.

The Backyard Bird Count is currently under way.

Last year's Aussie Backyard Bird Count saw a record 61,000 nature-loving Australians take time out from their busy schedules to count more than 1.4 million birds.

BirdLife Australia is calling on all Australian bird lovers to join in the count again this October. Anyone who is interested in birds can join in.

To take advantage of all this action, BirdLife Australia's annual Twitchathon - a race to see how many different species of birds can be spotted in 24 hours (or 12 hours, or 3 hours) - will take place today until tomorrow.

To support a local or state team see all state causes here, https://www.birdlife

twitchathon.org.au/teams

For more information about Cooloola birdwatching, visit www.birdingcooloola.org.au

Topics:  birdwatching cooloola coast gympie naturalism nature and conservation sport

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