Monday, April 02, 2012

French Visitor from the LPO

I'm often asked to guide visiting birders around some of the local  birding sites and almost invariably decline, but I was recently somehow cajoled into doing so. The recipient of my "largesse" was Philippe de Grissac, who was staying in Hobart with his partner, Nichole, as the guest of Dr Ian and Ann Crawford, of West Hobart. The Crawford's had befriended members of the French Antarctic organisation after a fatal helicopter crash in the Antarctic. The French operate the resupply vessel L'Astrolabe out of Hobart.
Philippe is the vice-president of the French bird conservation organisation LPO--La Liege Francaise pour la Protection des Oiseaux, the French equivalent of the British RSPB. I must confess that I'd never heard of the organisation, but it has just celebrated its' 100th birthday! My stereotypical view of the French is that they're more likely to eat the wildlife than conserve it. My lack of knowledge is perhaps all the more surprising, since I lived near the English coast not far from the Channel ports and visited France on the early "no passport" trips regularly. However, I do remember that these trips had more to do with duty free than any interest in French cultural pursuits. I also remember a lack of locals on the street, and now realise that our boorish behaviour may have been the cause--I don't recall ever seeing any birds there, not sure what that tells me!
Our first outing, to the Waterworks Reserve at Dynnyrne, wasn't exactly auspicious as it drizzled constantly, but we soldiered on, ticking off at least a few of our endemics, before retiring to a local coffee house.
Philippe and Nichole then toured the state and our second excursion was a week or so later, also to the Waterworks at Dynnyrne--I've found this to be one of the best sites to see a cross section of Tassie's birds. This visit included other members of his family (their relationship I wasn't sure of, and was afraid to ask--well they are French!). I do know it included his daughter, Sophie (pictured with binoculars at the ready), an ornithologist in her own right, and had just returned from the Antarctic--the reason for Philippe's visit. Sophie has recently co-authored a paper in the prestigious publication, "Science" entitled "Changes in Wind Pattern alter Albatross Distribution and Life-history Traits"--an interesting read. Due to a language "issue", I inadvertently led Philippe to believe I too had written a paper for "Science", and it became too difficult to put that to right. If you read this Phillipe, I have co-authored several papers, but definitely none have reached such exalted publications!
At the Waterworks we managed a good haul of local birds, including close views of a pair of Pink Robins. A pleasure meeting Philippe and family, I only wish I had paid more attention during my now distant French lessons.