By JOHN DOOLEY

A LOVE of the bush and its extraordinary birdlife is beautifully captured in the new, 270-page book ‘Birds of Millewa-Mallee, Sunrise to Sunset’, by Underbool photographer Pamela McNamara.

Featuring more than 700 photographs, the book includes information on species in our region and where they may be seen.

A self-taught photographer and bird-watching enthusiast for almost 40 years, Pamela has travelled the length and breadth of the more than 25,000 square kilometres of the Millewa-Mallee, spending countless hours patiently waiting for the perfect photo opportunity.

“I have always been a bush girl and I just love it, particularly the birdlife. So one day I picked a camera and started taking pictures,” Pam said.

“I originally started with a small point and shoot camera. No lenses way back then! I even had one of the old box brownies.

“In the early days with film you’d take a heap of photos and get your roll back and not one photo would have turned out well, and a lot of money would have gone down the drain!”

Pamela said the advent of digital photography changed that.

“Now you can instantly see what you have taken and delete images as you go − it’s made a huge difference,” she said.

To get close to the birds, Pam uses a ‘ghillie’ camouflage suit, hiding herself amongst the bush.

“I dress in camouflage − a lot of people laugh at me, but it’s worked for me − and it has allowed me to be close to a lot of birds without disturbing them too much. I have literally had them sit on my head,” she said.

“A lot of the time I just get in between bushes and poke my head up with my camera out. There are a lot of birds who are elusive, and hard to photograph like the Red-lored whistlers who are a very secretive bird to photograph … not an easy bird to find.”

Pamela said that birds tended to move around a lot rather than congregate in the one area all the time.

“Birds disperse to their chosen habitat preferences and we have a lot of birds who come in spring specially to breed in the Millewa-Mallee,” she said.

“A large range of birds fly in every season and I have just been out photographing at a big cutting near Underbool where Red-backed kingfisher, White-back swallows, Rainbow bee-eaters inhabit − just stunning birds.”

Pamela encourages people of all ages to take up bird watching or to visit different parts of the Millewa and Mallee and lists some of her favourite places.

“I’d love people to come out to Underbool, Murrayville, Cowangie, Linga, Walpeup, Hopetoun, Patchewollock, Werrimull, Kareen, Cullulleraine and Ouyen, which now has a wonderful new lake which is benefiting the birdlife in the township and surrounds,” she said.

Wonderful parks

“All our small towns have wonderful National Parks surrounding them, our whole region has suffered throughout drought and declining rainfall and it’s my endeavour to hopefully bring interest to our area and visitors through my book.”

Pamela is passionate for children being given the opportunity to read her book and to gain knowledge of the birds in their areas and hoping copies of the book may be available in schools and libraries in our region.

“If this book encourages any children to want to gain more knowledge about our birds, I will have succeeded in my endeavour,” she said.

Pamela said that the recent drought conditions and diminishing rainfall has had a detrimental effect on the bird population in the Millewa-Mallee during the past 15 years.

“This year we have had wonderful rain which has benefited all our areas. Birds and flora are at their best in many years,” she said.

“We are so lucky to have such diversity and variety of species numbering more than 250 in the region some really wonderful birdlife to explore throughout Millewa-Mallee to Mildura and along the Murray River.

“Everything is so alive again the native vegetation and grasses are flourishing, and the wildflowers are still blooming. All the trees are alive with new growth − it is just so pretty out there at the moment.”

Pamela said it was amazing how resilient birds were given the harsh conditions they must sometimes endure.

“Birds not only have to withstand temperatures of minus five in winter in the desert areas to where it can be 50 plus degrees. Then there is the lack water in summer and which most of them don’t have access to at all in the desert,” she said.

“They also have to contend with wildfire, and vermin, the statistics on the damage that foxes, wild cats and dogs cause, the numbers are absolutely staggering. The numbers are mentioned in my book.”

Pamela received plenty of encouragement, support and contributions toward her ambitious project, for which she was incredibly grateful, singling out Millewa-Carwarp Landcare, Lyn and Jack Pryse, and Bev Arney for a special mention.

“My publisher told me that they are immensely proud to be associated with the book. I thank all of them for their belief in my book.”

You can find more of Pam’s bird photos on Facebook. Go to: www.facebook.com pam.mcnamara2.

And, when the book is released next month it will sell for $60 and be available from: www.sunrisetosunsetphotography.com.au.