At 20, Malcolm Worthing is studying BSCHBD – Bachelor of Science (Honours) (Biodiversity and Conservation), not entirely unusual, but being a published author is. His book, Birds of the Hindmarsh River Trail, Fleurieu Peninsula, was released when he was 19 – a feat some aspiring writers take a lifetime to achieve, while many more never realise that dream.
I fired Malcolm some questions around his impressive achievement and the inspiration that drove his passion into print.
MP: Obviously, a project driven by your passion, how did the Hindmarsh River Trail have its impact on you and what was the trigger to turn that passion into a book?
MW: I have always had a passion for wildlife and have been walking along the Hindmarsh River Trail since around the age of five. I was one of those kids that would be out there in the rain looking for frogs or out in the blistering heat of summer trying to see how many grasshoppers I could catch. But I guess living alongside a patch of native vegetation as a kid really developed that interest into a passion as it enabled me to explore nature on a regular basis and as with most fields, the more I learnt, the more I realized there was so much I didn’t know. And this is what drove me to spend more time outdoors in nature.
I bought my first Ultra Zoom Nikon camera which is like a portable and compact DSLR when I was around 15 and began taking photos of the local wildlife along the Hindmarsh River Trail. Since the majority of vertebrate species along the trail are birds, these were the focus of most of these photos. Because of this, I began to take interest in bird photography and as time went on, I was astonished by the amount of different bird species I was finding.
The Hindmarsh River Estuary is quite biodiverse and think that many locals and tourists alike should know this so that we can further appreciate our local environments. For this reason, I decided to write a field guide specific to the Hindmarsh River Trail.
MP: How did you undertake your research and what’s something you learned along the way that surprised you?
MW: As previously mentioned, it began with photography which I believe really developed my patience. To increase the likelihood of photographing a bird (or any species for that matter), you need to immerse yourself in their world, learn about their habits, diet and other factors which may have an effect on their behaviour such a rain and temperature. I have noticed that this kind of observing, and thinking has helped me begin to discover the great level intricacy and connectivity within our ecosystems and just how much each species depends on another. Some bird species for example prefer certain flowering plants for foraging and other plants which may seem less important within their environment are actually critical for their survival has they provide nesting habitat. Similarly, there may be a plant in an ecosystem which does not appear to influence a bird’s habits or their life cycle, but it may in fact be the host/food plant for an insect species that forms a large proportion of that bird’s diet. In this way, if one piece of this intricate network goes missing it can have large repercussions on the ecosystem.
MP: How important is it to raise awareness of our local environments?
MW: Touching off my answer to the previous question, the way each species depends on each other closely emulates the way local environments work together and depend on each other and together reflect the overall health of our nation’s environment. Furthermore, the health of environments within different nations determines the overall health of our planet. Therefore, I believe that it is critical that we all do our part in raising awareness and helping conserve our local environments even if it is as local and specific as the strip of vegetation along the Hindmarsh River. Every little bit helps in removing some of the stress put on our wildlife and planet.
MP: Where can people get a copy of Birds of the Hindmarsh River Trail, Fleurieu Peninsula?
MW: Birds of the Hindmarsh River Trail can be purchased from a number of outlets throughout the Fleurieu Peninsula including the Book Stop (Victor Harbor), Urimbirra Wildlife Park (Victor Harbor), Fleurieu Environment Centre (Normanville), Yankalilla Landscaping and Garden Centre (Yankalilla), Willunga Environment Centre (Willunga) and Artworx Gallery(Goolwa).
MP: What’s the one thing you hope resonates with readers?
MW: My hope is that Birds of the Hindmarsh River Trail, Fleurieu Peninsula will help stir a passion within the readers for our birdlife in Adelaide, the Fleurieu and state-wide. I also hope that this passion may then bring forth action within our local communities which will help conserve our bird species.
MP: How satisfying is it to have written a book and at such a young age?
MW: It was definitely a great joy to be able to hold a physical copy of my book in my hands after working on it in amongst work and uni for over two years. And so, I would encourage anyone who is reading this article and may have thought of writing a book to take action and do it. Although the process can be stressful at times, it is well worth it in the end. I believe that everyone has a passion and therefore a story to tell, whether is a story of information learnt which can form a non-fiction book or a creative novel. The more knowledge we add to our world the brighter and more vibrant it will become.
MP: Do you have more books in the works?
MW: Although, I am not currently working on any books, I do definitely hope to write more in the future.
MP: Any final words on preserving the environment for future generations?
MW: I encourage everyone who has read this article, to take some time out of this week to reflect on ways they can help relieve some of the pressures our wildlife species are facing. For those living rurally or in the outer suburbs of Adelaide, simply planting a few locally native species in the backyard creates stepping-stones which our wildlife can use to travel safely from one conservation park to another. And for those of you who may want to have a similar impact but live in the city (and do not have a backyard), I would encourage you to join a local volunteer group dedicated to preserving the ecosystems which surround your area. Many of these groups such as the Friends of Warriparinga and the Friends of Sturt River Landcare can be found on the City of Marion website. Afterall, the more we raise awareness of our local environments, the better we can preserve them for future generations.
Visit Malcolm’s website (fully functioning soon)