We hear the birds before we see them.
Through the canopy high above us, a sharp, rapid fire chi chi chi rings out and, as one, we yank up our binoculars, looking for any sign of movement. Finally, everyone’s eyes settle on one of the protruding limbs of an enormous black gum (Eucalyptus ovata). On a small branch, a tiny, winged figure hops into view, its body a radical colouring of emerald and bottle greens, the head a mix of crimson and blue.
It is a swift parrot—the fastest parrot on earth, and one of the most endangered.
The first bird is joined by second, then another. In a few moments, fleeting in our binocular vision, the trio are off, deeper into Tasmania’s Eastern Tiers, a forested region adjacent to Tasmania’s east coast, midway between Launceston and Hobart.
The group’s elation at seeing these elusive birds is broken by Charley Gros, one of the guides of this expedition, who speaks quietly behind us. “They’re beautiful, aren’t they?” he says. “But right where we are is a logging coupe. It is due to be cut down at any time in the coming months.”
Charley is a scientist working for the Bob Brown Foundation. Along with fellow scientist Kasey McNamara, Charley spent most weekends this summer running citizen science surveys in Tasmanian forests where swift parrots – or Lathamus discolor to give them their scientific name – are known to nest.