About Me - John Barkla

I have had a lifelong interest in birds.  Amongst my earliest memories are being taken by my uncle, Charles Giffard, on "nature walks" along the Yarra River in Kew to get us out of my Grandmother's house and give her some peace.  Charl would point out wonderful birds, such as Sacred Kingfishers, Red-rumped Parrots and, at the right time of year, Latham's Snipe (or Japanese Snipe as he called them then).  He also had large aviaries with dozens of colourful birds. My particular favourites were the Gouldian Finches, which Charl successfully bred.  Charl's enthusiasm for birds sparked my lifelong interest.

In the early years I mostly birded on my own, riding my bike to all of the good sites around my parents' home.  On one of my journeys, I met an old birder at Blackburn Lake, Harold Tarr, who told me about a group called the Bird Observers Club, that met every month in the city.  I went to their meetings for about two years before anyone spoke to me or I was confident enough to approach them.  I then learnt about their outings and how I could become a member. I joined the Bird Observers Club in 1973 and some 7 years later joined the RAOU, the former names of Bird Observation & Conservation Australia (BOCA) and Birds Australia.

Many years passed when I was mostly pre-occupied by my career and family, but I always had time for birding on Sundays.  During the working years, I became the Managing Partner of a major accounting firm until I retired in 2003.

I joined the Board of BOCA in 2005, serving in various capacities including as a member of its Finance & Audit Committee and as Trustee of the Australian Bird Environment Foundation and became its President in 2009.  At the same time I also served on the Finance & Audit Committee and Victorian Group Conservation Committee of Birds Australia.  Working with both of the national bird organisations in Australia, put me in a unique position to advocate for their merger.  This was achieved in 2012, with overwhelming support from the members of both.  The new national body is BirdLife Australia, of which I am honoured to be the President.

I have had a long and passionate involvement with the internationally significant, Ramsar listed, wetland at Melbourne Water’s Western Treatment Plant. I have served on its Biodiversity Conservation Advisory Committee (BCAC) since the inception of that committee in 1986, for many years now as its Chairman.

As birds have given me so much pleasure over my now long life, I feel an obligation to put something back.  I regularly lead outings, give talks on my birding travels and generally promote the need for conservation.  It was the desire to put back that lead me to photography.  I was frustrated that when giving talks about birds, I had difficulty finding pictures to add meaning to what I was saying.  The camera solved that and has now become an essential adjunct to my birding.  

I have been asked to comment on the camera equipment I have used.  I started in 2006 with a Canon 30D  with a 100-400mm lens.  I then progressed to a Canon 1D Mark IV with a 500mm f4 lens.  I now use a Canon 5Ds  with an EF200-400mm 1:4 L IS USM Extender 1.4x.  I rarely use a tripod or flash.        

I hope my website can play some small part in making people aware of the beauty of birds and their conservation needs.


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