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The Shoalhaven on the NSW south coast is home to an amazing variety of birds and is a mecca for birdwatchers.
BirdLife Shoalhaven promotes a better understanding of our birds and works tirelessly to ensure their survival.

Bushfire Research Project (BRP)

The impact of the 2019-2020 fires and the slow recovery since
The Shoalhaven was severely impacted by the 2019-2020 fire season, suffering damage to over 60% of the region, including over 90% of our national parks, state forests and crown land.

The fire varied in intensity across the region. Straight after the fires low impacted areas supported small numbers of birds, while in vast ‘ground zero’ areas there was silence. With good and consistent rain since the fires, the habitat has slowly recovered, but this recovery has varied widely. Some of the ‘ground zero’ areas still show minimal change, almost 18 months later. The 2019-2020 fire season was a major throw of the evolutionary dice and the interactions of many factors will shape the future of our bird populations.

Identifying the long-term impact of fire on bird populations
To try to better understand the long-term impact of fire on bird populations in the Shoalhaven, BLS established a Bushfire Research Project (BRP). The long-term aim of the project is to examine changes in bird species richness and abundance in the Shoalhaven in the post-fire period.

The motivation for the project came from the local birdwatching community’s desire to contribute to the post-fire recovery effort. Overnight more people were submitting more surveys into BirdLife Australia’s (BirdLife) Birdata database than ever before. This has continued and increased since the launch of the project in March 2020 and through on-going presentations, social media and articles in the quarterly BLS Magazine.

BLS Bushfire Research Project Annual Reports

In June 2022, BLS released its Bushfire Recovery Project 2020 & 2021 Annual Report.

Click here to download the report - Bushfire Recovery Project 2020 & 2021 Annual Report.

This second project report analyses the species richness and abundance recorded by volunteers at sites of different fire severity within and outside the fire footprint. The report also looks at the impacts of the fires on individual species, species considered by the Australian Government as bushfire recovery priorities, nesting and feeding guilds and Shoalhaven’s Key Biodiversity Areas (KBAs).

The report is based on over 480 bird surveys recorded at 100 different locations throughout the Shoalhaven. It also draws upon a further 300 surveys from sites that escaped the bushfires for comparison.

BLS appreciates the commitment to the project shown by local birdwatchers, who have contributed many hours of effort in the field. Without their support this report would not have been possible.

We hope this will be a long-term project and we are keen to hear from any experienced birdwatchers in the Shoalhaven who want to get involved. If this is you, please contact Gary Brady, BLS Bushfire Research Project Coordinator at

We also hope the report will lead to partnerships with universities, as their research expertise and the involvement of students will both motivate the BLS volunteer team and help deliver the long-term aims of the project.

If any universities, researchers or academics would like to explore this further, please contact Rob Dunn, BirdLife Shoalhaven President at or 0438 250 600.

(Click here to download the report for the first year of the project- BRP 2020 Annual Report.)

Bushfire Research Project case studies

The BLS quarterly magazines include several case studies, interviews, updates and reports relevant to the project:

2021 Spring magazine
1. Bushfire Research Project update – pp 5-7

2020 Summer magazine
1. Reports from the field – pp 11-13

2020 Spring magazine
1. Interview with Nic Carlile – survey site owner at Budgong – pp 6-10
2. Bendalong case study – pp 11-12

2020 Winter magazine
1. Interview with Fiona Stewart – survey site owner at Yatte Yattah - pp 9-13
2. West Braidwood and Bawley Point case studies – pp 14-18

Shoalhaven fire intensity map showing survey sites