Fly like a shorebird
Bird-lover Milly Formby is on a mission: she’s flying solo around Australia in her tiny microlight aircraft.
Crossing the Great Australian Bight in what looks like a hang-glider with a scooter tacked onto it sounds a little hair-raising, maybe even a bit mad. But Milly’s 20,000km adventure comes with a purpose.
“This is the closest I can get to experiencing the epic flight that our shorebirds make each year to their Arctic breeding grounds” says Milly.
And wherever she can, scientist and artist Milly uses her flight to connect with school kids and community groups to share the story of our migratory shorebirds. Because as well as being superheroes of long distance flight, they are the world’s most endangered group of bird species.
“This is a really fantastic way to highlight the way that people in coastal areas, and beach walkers, can really make a difference” says Milly.
“Birds and people share the shoreline, and by caring for the local wetland and coastal ecosystems our collective grassroots action can make a massive environmental impact.”
These migratory birds make an awe-inspiring 25,000km round journey from Australia to Siberia each year to breed. Milly will be completing a similar trip in just 180 flying days, in a microlight specifically chosen because it is the most like how shorebirds fly: at about 50 to 55 knots, or just under 100kph.
The strong winds in southern Australia are a challenge for the microlight, and it took almost 6 months for Milly to complete the first third of her journey – from Perth to Lake Macquarie. She plans to start the rest-of-Australia leg this week (weather permitting!).
She’s not actually flying with the birds, or even following the same flight path. But Milly’s trip follows most of Australia’s coastline where she can have the biggest impact in the communities on the front line.
Milly aims to capture the imagination of children and adults alike, with a book she illustrated – A Shorebird Flying Adventure. She uses the book and accompanying eLearning resources to engage primary school-aged children with science stories, and encourage a new generation of optimistic problem-solvers.
Accompanying school visits will help to fulfill educational objectives for BirdLife Australia’s Migratory Shorebird Conservation Action Plan, which aims to improve conservation of migratory shorebirds in the East Asian-Australasian Flyway.
Milly invites you to learn about some of the migratory birds in danger, like her favourite – the Red-Necked Stint, Australia’s smallest of 37 migratory birds (and weighs about the same as a Tim Tam) can travel more than 5,000 km at a time. That means the Red-Necked Stint travels more than the width of Australia in a single flight.
“Migratory shorebirds are a living expression of how we’re all connected through a global, ecological network” says Milly. “And while they’re at our beaches, they’re a doorway into nature that we can see every day.”
Ecosure is proud to be able to support Milly on this inspiring adventure. By sponsoring a flight leg, Ecosure is not only supporting Wing Threads’ important research efforts but also contributing to the broader understanding of bird migration and the conservation of avian species.
You can find out all about Milly’s journey – and even join one of her livestreams from the sky! – at wingthreads.com, and follow her on Facebook, Instagram @wingthreads and Twitter @wing_threads