Volunteer Profile - Dick Cooper
The South-eastern Red-tailed Black-Cockatoo Recovery Program relies heavily on the support and ongoing assistance of our volunteers, who continue to play a key role in the delivery of recovery activities for the cockatoo. We have established a huge observer network over many years and developed strong ties with local supporters who frequently assist with collecting and recording field data and observations as part of the program.
To honour and acknowledge all their hard work, love and dedication in helping the plight of this colourful cockatoo, in each edition of Red-tail News we will introduce some of our most dedicated volunteers, starting with one of the longest serving, Mr Dick Cooper.
From an early age, Dick Cooper developed a strong passion for the bush and the many creatures that call it home. Born and raised in the Merino and Casterton District, Dick, an avid rabbit, fox and duck shooter, spent much of his days combing the bush tracks, wetlands and dams in the region in search of a meal.
Knowing all of the best fishing spots within a 70 km radius of Casterton, Dick can tell you many a story of his bush adventures, which are as vivid and colourful as the blood red in the tail-feather panels of one of his most loved locals, the South-eastern Red-tailed Black-Cockatoo.
After reading an article in the local paper about Red-tails and how most of the cockatoos were concentrated around Edenhope, Dick thought he would try his luck searching in and around the Casterton region for these elusive birds. Fortunately enough, in 1996, while out searching for rabbits, Dick encountered not only his first Red-tailed Black-Cockatoo, but a flock of around 40 birds drinking from a fresh puddle along Tower Track in Drajurk State Forest, west of Casterton. Ecstatic with his find, he contacted the local Department for Sustainability and Environment to report his discovery and was passed onto to Richard Hill, the program’s field biologist for the species at the time.
After some scepticism at the number of cockatoos seen, despite an assurance from Dick that he “knew how to count birds from his duck hunting expeditions”, Richard arranged to meet up with him to confirm his discovery. Funnily enough, while on his way out to meet Dick, Richard came across a similar sized flock of Red-tails nearby where Dick made his first discovery.
From that day forward Dick and Richard formed a great partnership, together scouring the bush tracks in search of Red-tails and their preferred nesting, feeding and roosting habitat. Dick’s vast knowledge of the bush and the country folk from Mount Gambier to Edenhope (gained through his love of the countryside and work at the local solicitor’s office) proved to be a big success in their partnership and ongoing quest for Red-tails and their habitat haunts in the region.
Dick has been involved with the Red-tail Recovery Program for over 17 years, and still at the ripe young age of 86 continues to spend much of his spare time searching for Red-tails, and reporting his sightings to the project team. Over the years he has been fortunate enough to see some of the largest flocks of Red-tails ever encountered in the region, including the largest flock ever recorded — around 460 birds — seen together with Tim Burnard out the back of Dergholm. Even today, Dick continues to participate in the annual count for the cockatoos, and always goes above and beyond what is required to help locate drinking sites and large flocks, especially in the lead-up to the count.
Dick, who is always more than happy to share his knowledge and understanding of the cockatoos and their habitat, has established many lifelong friendships during his time with Red-tails, particularly among project staff. His friendly, outgoing nature and passion and enthusiasm for finding cockatoos have made him one of our most loved volunteers.
We would sincerely like to thank and acknowledge Dick for his invaluable contribution to the program and Red-tails over the last 17 years and wish him all the very best in his future searches.
- Jonathan Tuck
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- Image: Geoffrey Dabb
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Feb 14, 2014