Wing Threads Project Update April 2019

Back in the saddle

White Gum Farm, York, Western Australia

It was a bittersweet start to the year getting back in the trike and flying again after not being able to fly for 5 months due to a broken leg and wrist. Flying instructor, Jeff Bowman, kindly agreed to be my passenger to back me up just in case. 

I spent the next 6 weeks enjoying flying at White Gum Farm and surrounds of the Wheatbelt. The time to say goodbye to my friends at White Gum Farm came only too soon as we hit the road to make our way back to Newcastle. I am already looking forward to the day when I come back to visit WA again.

Taxiing microlight
Taxiing Runway 14 at White Gum Farm.

On the road again

Phil and I left Perth in the second week of February with the microlight in tow, headed for Victoria on our way back to Newcastle, New South Wales.

We stayed in Melbourne for a month and did several festivals and presentations while we were there to promote Wing Threads: Flight Around Oz. 

Navara at EBO

Crossing the Nullarbor

On our way, we stopped at Esperance and were hosted by our lovely friends, Robyn and Nigel, at Lucky Bay Brewery (their beers are amazing btw) and checked out Cape Le Grande National Park. 

Then it was onward to the Eyre Bird Observatory where we stayed for a night and were greeted in the morning by Major Mitchell’s Cockatoos. After breakfast, we trekked through the epic sand dunes, which were like a white Sahara desert with fossilised roots. 

EBO sign
Major Mitchell's Cockatoos
Fossilised roots at EBO

We also had to stop for the giant kangaroo and whale and Australia’s biggest windmill, because it would have been rude not to…

Australia's biggest windmill

Hello Melbourne!

Avalon Airshow

That just flew into Avalon feeling!

We arrived in Melbourne in late February and didn’t have much time to relax because it was time to prepare for Australia’s largest International Airshow at Avalon. 

No thanks to the wind and bushfires, I was unable to fly into the Airshow from Drouin as planned, but was fortunate enough to meet up with a fellow trike pilot at Torquay. We took off early Friday morning and met up with the guys from Airborne over Barwon Prison.

Seeing their gyrocopters appear above the ranges on the horizon was like a scene out of Apocalyspe Now! All five aircraft flew into the Airshow together as a formation.

It was an amazing feeling to fly into a huge airport like that as pilot-in-command and even better to capture it all on video!

Many thanks to the team at Recreational Aviaiton Australia for again giving Wing Threads a space in their tent for us to promote the project – and right next to runway-side too! The perfect place to view the Airshow. It was great fun hanging out with you guys again. Thanks must also go to the guys from Airborne – we made it through the weekend of crazy 40 degree temperatures together!

Amellia Formby and Neil Schaefer
Me and Neil Schaefer from RAAus
Me and Russell Duncan from Airborne

One of the highlights of the Airshow for me was catching up with engineer, Alex Allum, from the Temora Aviation Museum whom I had met at the last Airshow in 2017. 

Alex knows I am a fan of Amelia Earhart, so came and found me to ask if I would like a private tour of their Lockheed Electra 10 – very similar to the LE 12 Amelia Earhart attempted to fly around the world. Now, how could I say no to that!

Day by the Bay festivals

Just prior to and one month after Avalon Airshow, Wing Threads also took part in a first for Melbourne – the two Day by the Bay music festivals in Mornington and Point Cook! 

Day by the Bay is the brainchild of Wing Threads project partners, Remember The Wild as part of their Connected to Port Phillip initiative celebrating the precious wildlife of Port Philip Bay to promote stronger connections with this precious ecosystem.

It was so wonderful watching people engage with everything from dolphins, seals, nudibranchs – and of course, shorebirds – while enjoying music from The Orbweaver, Jaala, HEXDEBT and Mojo Juju!

Mojo Ju Ju on stage at the Day By the Bay Festival in 2019
Mojo Juju performing at Day by the Bay, Point Cook.

The festivals also saw us double our number of email subscribers thanks to a prize pack donated by BirdLife Australia that included a copy of Cockatoo, a shorebird tea towel designed by Kate Gorringe-Smith and a Red Knot pin.

This wonderful prize was drawn on April 30th and went to Reiko Yamada from the Port Philip EcoCentre in Victoria! Congratulations Reiko! We hope the prize will help your bird-nerdiness to grow exponentially!

Amellia Formby at the Wing Threads stall at the Day By the Bay festival in Mornington
Wing Threads stall at Mornington, Victoria.
Amellia Formby at the Wing Threads stall at the Day By the Bay festival in Point Cook
Wing Threads stall at Point Cook, Victoria.

School visits, STEM Sisters & shorebirds

One of my favourite things to do when travelling to new places is to speak about Wing Threads and share the amazing marvel of shorebird migration.

My other favourite thing/s to do is go birdwatching and/or bird banding – and I got to do both on this trip!

The Flock Oz lands in Mandurah, WA

Before we left Western Australia, I was invited by our sponsors, the Peel-Harvey Catchment Council (PHCC) to present for a second time to the students of John Tonkin College (JTC) in Mandurah. 

This was a wonderful opportunity to also trial a new community art project – The Flock Oz – as part of the Wing Threads schools program.  After the presentation, the students got to create their own ‘flock’ of shorebirds, which then took up residence in their community garden.

Painted cutouts of shorebirds for the Flock Oz on stakes in the grass
The Flock Oz at John Tonkin College, Mandurah, WA.

Many thanks to the Mandurah Men’s Shed for cutting out all of the shorebirds silhouettes for the students! Since our visit, JTC has continued to grow their flock with other students at the school in collaboration with PHCC. Well done Barbara Sing and Sharon Meredith for being such awesome shorebird-nerds!

Amellia Formby with volunteers from The Mandurah Men's Shed holding shorebird cutouts
Milly with the guys from the Mandurah Men's Shed.
Shorebird cutouts ready to paint for the Flock Oz
Shorebird cutouts ready to paint!
Phil painting a shorebird cutout white
Phil painting shorebirds for The Flock Oz

STEM Sisters & Drouin Secondary College

While staying in my home town of Drouin where I grew up, I was invited to give  talk to the students for their leadership assembly at my high school, Drouin Secondary College

Thank you to Shelley Watson (my inspired art teacher!) and school principal, Deb Gentle, for organising for me to be a part of this special occasion. It was a trip to see how much the school has changed since I attended 20 years ago!

Amellia Formby with students and principal, Deb Sullivan, at Drouin Secondary College
Milly with school principal, Deb Gentle (centre) and students from Drouin Secondary College, Victoria.

I was also given the honour of becoming part of the inspiring STEM Sisters program for the Baw Baw Latrobe LLEN (Local Learning and Employment Network) alongside over 20 other women working in the local area in the field of science, technology, engineering and maths. Statistics show that young girls who have female role models working in STEM are 52% more like to choose careers in these fields compared to less than one third of those without a role model. 

As a passionate ambassador for women in STEM, it was therefore a privilege to present to the group of Year 10 girls from six schools across the Baw Baw Latrobe area in Trafalgar before we headed back to New South Wales. The impressive questions afterwards were evidence of the level of their engagement! I look forward to continuing to be a part of this inspiring initiative.

STEM Sisters
Milly with the next generation of women in STEM from the Baw Baw Latrobe area.

Southern Microlight Club

During March, I gave a long-awaited presentation to the Southern Microlight Club as part of their monthly meeting in Ringwood.

These guys are so passionate about trike flying and it was so much fun sharing my upcoming adventures with them and laying plans for the  potential of them joining me for different legs of the national flight through Victoria.

Many thanks to president, Steve Bell and Dave Sly for your ongoing support!

Milly with the Southern Microlight Club
Milly with the guys from the Southern Microlight Club.

Cannon-netting with the Victorian Wader Study Group

While I was in Drouin, I happily took the opportunity to join the Victorian Wader Study Group on a catch at Yallock Creek on Westernport Bay.

Our target species were Red-necked Stints and Curlew Sandpipers, which were to be fitted with geolocators to track them on migration through the East Asian-Australasian Flyway. 

Unfortunately, it was too windy for me to fly the microlight over to Tooradin for the day, but the successful catch of 0ver 300 waders made up for it!

The full report (written in prose thanks to Pat McWhirter) can be read on the Wing Threads blog here.

Coming full circle

Back at YLMQ

After what was an epic journey full of the unexpected driving around Australia, Phil and I finally made it back to Lake Macquarie Airport and Airborne Australia at the end of March. 

Phil has since returned back home to Perth and will continue his role as project manager for Wing Threads (get your grant writing shoes on Pip!) and I will stay here until next year while I get back to 100% fitness. I’ve got lots of longer cross country flight planned in the months ahead!

Aerial view of the coast at sunset taken from a silver microlight
Sunset over Lake Macquarie, NSW.

It feels good to be back at Lake Macquarie Airport and flying around the beautiful Hunter Valley. Many thanks must go to all the guys at Airborne Australia for inviting me back to fly with them again. I look forward to sharing more of my flying adventures with you over the coming months!

Well, on that note I shall leave it there – it has been an epic update! Many thanks to everyone for your ongoing support!

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...