Wing Threads Christmas Wrap Up 2019

Back in the air & back on my feet

Returning to Lake Macquaire, NSW

Following a big start to the year, things slowed down in the second-half, which has been part of a much needed recuperation.

As you may recall, I began flying again in January after a 5 month hiatus due to 2 broken limbs, then hit the road to return to Lake Macquarie from Perth. On the way we did Avalon Airshow in Melbourne as well as the two Day by the Bay Festivals in collaboration with Remember the Wild during February and March.

I arrived back in Lake Macquarie in late March and was invited to do the Hunter Valley Airshow at Cessnock a week later. I flew into the Airshow with Rory Duncan from Airborne. It felt great to be flying around the Hunter Valley again!

While at the Airshow, I met fellow trike pilot and past hang gliding champion, Neva Bull. Since then, Neva has become a great mentor and flying buddy to me and we have enjoyed several ‘flying safaris’ together, including a trip up to Old Bar for lunch.

Amellia Formby and passenger in white microlight flying over green hills
Me and Neva flying up to Old Bar through the Hunter Valley

Australasian Ornithological Conference

June saw me give a talk on Wing Threads at the Australasian Ornithological Conference (AOC) at Charles Darwin University as part of the seminar on Community Engagement where it was well received. 

After the talk I was approached by CSIRO Publishing to do a children’s book about my project and migratory shorebirds. How could I say no!Author, Jackie Kerin, is writing the book, which is now several drafts in, and I will be illustrating it. We hope it will be approved for publication in early 2020. 


Amellia Formby standing in front of a presentation at the Australasian Ornithological Conference in Darwin, 2019
Presenting on Wing Threads at the Australasian Ornithological Conference, Darwin, July 2019.

Welcome back Shorebirds!

I was also invited to attend the wonderful Welcome Back Shorebirds event in September at Toondah Harbour, Queensland. 

The event was organised by local activist group, Redlands 2030 in collaboration with BirdLife Australia to build community support around lobbying local Council members to protect Toondah Harbour from development.

Toondah Harbour is a listed Ramsar wetland, which the proposed development intends to override. Such a move would set a precedent for the development of other protected wetlands in Australia. 

The event was a great success with a turnout of over 500 people, including members of local Council. We also had a ‘Flock Oz’ of 200 birds painted along the shoreline. 

People painting shorebird cutouts
People painting shorebird cut outs for the Flock Oz at Toondah Harbour, Queensland, as part of the Welcome Back Shorebirds event in September, 2019.


One of my goals for the Wing Threads flight in 2021 is to obtain my controlled airspace endorsement. I was therefore very excited to receive a Women in Aviation scholarship from Pan Air Flight Training in Bathurst worth $2500 towards this.

Before I can do this, I will first need to complete my fixed-wing flight training through RAAus with instructor, Phil Unicomb, at Cessnock and transfer my Recreational Pilot Certificate to a Recreational Pilot License – something I can’t do in a microlight. I’m looking forward to learning how to fly another aircraft and slightly daunted by the prospect of going solo again!

Unfortunately, I was unable to make it to the award presentation night, but here is a short thank you video I made for the evening:

Back to work

To help myself out financially this year, I’ve had to return to the workforce, which has seen me in a few jobs this year. 

In March, I started out working casually with the crew from Skydive Australia at Lake Macquarie Airport assisting people to check in for their jumps and driving the bus. One of the great perks of the job is that sometimes you get to jump for free! I’ve now done 4 skydives and hope to do many more. I highly recommend it to anyone who is thinking of doing a skydive – it is the best fun ever!

Amellia Formby skydiving at Lake Macquarie, New South Wales
Me in freefall with Byron from Skydive Australia - Newcastle!

Then at the start of September I picked up a full-time role at a software company called Pegasus in Newcastle’s CBD where I was helping to create online inductions for corporate clients. Needless to say, working in an office just wasn’t really my style and I craved being outdoors the whole time!

So I was very pleased when I was asked by Dan Weller to join the team at BirdLife Australia as the Migratory Shorebird Project Officer for the Hunter Region in NSW! 

The role is part-time and officially started at the beginning of December, which will see me based here in Newcastle until the end of next year. I will be working closely with NRM group, Hunter Local Land Services to facilitate workshops with local land managers to develop 2 site action plans for migratory shorebirds in the Hunter, Worimi, Port Stephens and Manning Estuaries. 

It is a wonderful opportunity that ties in perfectly with Wing Threads and will allow me the extra time needed to keep my flying skills sharp and see me out in the field birding a lot more regularly!

Vale Dr. Clive Minton

Last, I wanted to acknowledge the passing of one of my greatest mentors, Dr. Clive Minton, leader of the Victorian Wader Studies Group.

Clive first moved to Victoria in the early 80’s and studied waders in Australia for nearly 40 years. He is recognised as the father of shorebird conservation in Australia and his legacy is far reaching all throughout the East Asian-Australasian Flyway and the world.

I first met Clive in 2014 when I joined the Victorian Wader Studies Group and had the privilege to work with him on 3 expeditions to northwest Australia. Clive’s warmth, energy and enthusiasm was unmatched and his legacy will continue to make a positive impact in the world of shorebird conservation for many years to come. He is remembered fondly not just for his passion for shorebirds, but also for regularly exclaiming ‘Absolutely!’ and ‘Everyone must be doing something!’

Clive was always incredibly supportive of Wing Threads and I am grateful to have experienced such a wonderful example of leadership. I thank Clive for his inspiration and for sharing his knowledge with me.

Here is the wonderful ‘Magic Birds’ video produced by Remember The Wild, featuring Clive speaking about shorebirds on 80 Mile Beach in northwest Australia in 2017 that was also played at his memorial earlier this month.

That’s it from me for another year! Thanking you all for following along with the adventure and I wish you all a safe and happy holiday season and look forward to sharing more adventures with you as Wing Threads continues in 2020. 

Clive Minton wearing a red beanie and holding a Pied Oystercatcher
Clive Minton holding a Curlew Sandpiper and Amellia Formby
Cllive Minton sitting in a bird hide on 80 Mile Beach
Milly Formby
Milly Formby is a zoologist, pilot, and illustrator of the children’s book, A Shorebird Flying Adventure She is currently flying her microlight around Australia in 2022/23 to share,A Shorebird Flying Adventure with primary students.
Image credits:
Book cover for A Shorebird Flying Adventure

A Shorebird Flying Adventure

Available Now

Join Milly on her microlight and discover how amazing and awesome migratory shorebirds are!

Milly Formby is a zoologist and illustrator of the children’s book A Shorebird Flying Adventure. Available now through CSIRO Publishing.

Like this post? Share the shorebird-nerdiness on social!

More posts you might like...