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Saturday, June 22, 2024

Bird Nerd Milly Flies Into Cairns School

Fitting neatly into co-curricular studies and specifically the Connecting to Cattana Wetlands program, year 6 students at Trinity Anglican School (TAS) White Rock campus were treated to a special presentation this week about migratory shorebirds by zoologist, microlight pilot adventurer and children’s book author, Milly Formby.

Melding science, art, and adventure to foster nature stewardship, Wing Threads is a flying quest undertaken by zoologist Amellia (Milly) Formby – who at the helm of her microlight – is currently flying around Australia to bring her book, A Shorebird Flying Adventure to Australian primary school students, including TAS in the Far North.

TAS’ year 6 students were captivated by Milly’s presentation, which provided a practical perspective to their studies of Cattana Wetlands near Smithfield – home to several species of shorebirds. This intergenerational and hands-on project is designed to give students an insight into the importance of caring for country and native habitat rehabilitation.  

Milly’s presentation focuses on the preservation of wetland ecosystems as chain links in the flight path for migratory shorebirds or waders. Although there are 50 species of shorebirds in Australia, they comprise the world’s most endangered species. Every year instinct drives millions of shorebirds onto the bird migration highway known as the East Asian-Australasian Flyway, to cover an epic distance of 12,000 km from Australia into breeding grounds on the Arctic Tundra.

Milly Formby currently works for BirdLife Australia as a Project Officer for their Migratory Shorebird Program based in Newcastle, NSW. Since training to become a qualified recreational pilot in WA in 2016, Milly crowdfunded over $18,000 to put towards a microlight until 2018 when she was sponsored by the Peel-Harvey Catchment Council in WA and pooling money from the crowdfunding and Dick Smith, managed to buy an Airborne M4 Sport microlight that she helped build herself. Since then, she has created a children’s book through CSIRO Publishing about Wing Threads to promote migratory shorebird conservation called A Shorebird Flying Adventure, written by Jackie Kerin and illustrated by Milly Formby.

Cattana Wetlands is a protected, 80-hectare reserve containing regionally significant forests and a diverse range of bird species (including 70 water species spanning freshwater and shorebirds (waders) and wildlife. Managed by Cairns Regional Council, the wetlands is very popular with morning walkers and wildlife photographers.

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