A new birding guide and video series designed to promote Cessnock as a destination for nature tourism were launched at Cessnock Performing Arts Centre last week.
The Birding Guide to the Cessnock Woodlands has been produced by Hunter Bird Observers Club in partnership with BirdLife Australia and Mindaribba Local Aboriginal Land Council.
It includes a handy checklist of over 240 bird species to be spotted in the valley floor of the Cessnock region, with GPS co-ordinates and a QR code to scan and view an online map and driving directions to each site.
The guide showcases 18 sites, all with their own unique mix of bird species, with several sites providing vital habitat for the critically-endangered Swift Parrot and Regent Honeyeater, as well as being home to many other threatened birds, plants and animals.
Hunter Bird Observers Club president Dan Williams says that the guide will complement a number of birding routes already produced by the club.
"Whilst we have a series of birding routes available, this is the first time we have produced something this comprehensive, featuring detailed site descriptions, a species checklist and links to online maps so people can navigate their way around between sites," he said.
"It's an incredibly exciting initiative."
Hunter Bird Observers Club vice-president and BirdLife Australia woodland bird program manager Mick Roderick said that the Cessnock area is the logical "go-to" place for birdwatching tourism in NSW.
"Here we have some of the most significant and accessible woodlands for a range of birds not much more than an hour and a half from Sydney," he said.
"Cessnock is also blessed with tourism infrastructure and an airport. International birdwatchers pay good money to see a diverse range of birds, including rare ones, and this is exactly what Cessnock has.
"Proximity to the Hunter Estuary - the key shorebird site in NSW - adds to the attraction as well."
BirdLife Australia's woodland bird project officer Kristy Peters says birdwatching is one of the most convenient and accessible forms of wildlife watching, and its popularity soared during the pandemic.
"Many of us took time during lockdown to appreciate the beauty of birds living in our own backyards," she said.
"I hope this guide encourages locals and visitors to experience the joy and connection to the natural world that birdwatching provides."
The birding guide was launched in conjunction with Cessnock City Council's Our Bushland video series, which aims to raise awareness of the unique bushland environments within the Cessnock local government area and their importance to local species.
Cessnock mayor Bob Pynsent said the event last Thursday was an opportunity to bring together all the people and organisations that have been working hard to protect local bushland areas.
"Cessnock is a rapidly growing area, which is fantastic for our local businesses and community members. However, such rapid growth presents a challenge for protecting our local environment," he said.
"There are so many great things about our local bushland and council is actively encouraging the local community to learn more about it."
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