Pair of carpentarian grasswrens
The day Rex found this pair of carpentarian grass wrens near Mt Isa he spotted 10 others! Photo: ©Rex Whitehead

The quiet achiever from Mt Isa

I first met Rex Whitehead a couple of years ago at the unfortunately named Abattoir Swamp bird hide not far from Mt Molloy in North Queensland.

He was visiting from Mt Isa and on a mission to find and photograph some reasonably tricky species, including the blue-faced parrot finch. That I was able to point him in the right direction for most of his targets was something of a minor miracle.

We have stayed in touch and done each other the odd favour along the way – endless thanks, Rex for the intel on the grey falcons and the kalkadoon grass wrens.

Observer and breeder

Born in Victoria but a Mt Isa resident since arriving there in 1962 as a 21-year-old, Rex credits his father for his life-long interest in birds. “Dad was a keen bird observer and breeder. Our backyard was half-full of aviaries.”

The young Whitehead joined the Gould League of Bird Lovers and he still has his first serious bird book, Neville Cayley’s What Bird Is That?

A modest and private sort of guy (he gracefully declined to send a pic of himself), Rex would be the last person to talk up his skill as a birder or photographer. But on the former, his reputation as an expert on some of the highly sought-after species from his territory (such as the endemic grass wrens), he is impressive. And on the latter, just take a look at the quality of his images with this profile piece.

Painted snipe with wings spread
Painted snipe in typical water-shading mode, private property, Mt Isa. Photo: ©Rex Whitehead

Fairly poor results

For some time, Rex viewed photography as visual support for his hand-written observations, using “numerous fairly cheap cameras, with fairly poor results”.

His first ‘quality’ combo was a Canon 70D on the end of the old 100-400 mm ‘slider’ lens. And last year he upgraded to the Canon 80D and the much-improved Canon 100-400 mm Mk II zoom lens.

“I am still on the learning curve, but I do see some improvement in my images,” he says with customary reserve.

Visiting birdos

“My other great thrill comes from showing visiting birdos around my patch, especially if they get a new species for themselves.” He also looks forward to September each year when the migratory waders start re-appearing in the Mt Isa region.

For my own part, I expect to catch up with Rex again in June on my way back from a road trip through south-west Queensland. Bring on those grass wrens!

(The images supporting this post are from Rex Whitehead’s collection and we thank him for allowing us to share them with Natural Images readers.)

©Natural Images 2018

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©2018 TONY NEILSON All Rights Reserved. All images are protected by Australian copyright law and cannot be downloaded or reproduced without my permission. Please contact me.

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One thought on “BIRDER PROFILE

  • Dell Beasley May 25, 2018 at 4:58 PM Reply

    I also met Rex 2 years ago on my way to the NT.His cousin gave me a contact number.We had a wonderful day with Rex and I was able to tick off 3 new birds.
    The article by Tony sums Rex up very well.A humble man with extensive knowledge willing to share his passion for birds .

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