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November 12, 2019 - New art exhibition in Cardwell

A new art exhibition on the Cassowary Coast depicts one of the longest-running conservation projects in Australia’s history, and the husband and wife team who worked tirelessly for more than 50 years to make it possible.

The exhibition, titled “Who’s Counting” is about the annual migration of birds to the stunning Brook Islands, off the coast of Cardwell.

Local artist Daryl Dickson, whose work is part of the exhibition, said that the Brook Islands were one of “the most beautiful places on earth”, and the existence of flourishing bird life there was only possible because of the visionary efforts of original local conservationists Margaret and Arthur Thorsborne.

Ms Dickson said that in 1965 the couple began annual counts of migrating Torres Strait Pigeons who flew thousands of kilometres to nest and hatch their young around this time each year.

Illegal poaching and hunting had previously decimated the bird population on the islands. The Thorsbornes were advised by the Queensland government that nothing could be done without knowing what the migrating bird population was, and how far numbers were falling.

This prompted the Thorsbornes to begin an annual bird count which helped save the species on the island and preserve bird migratory patterns to the region for generations to come.

Ms Dickson said that even though the birds were no longer in jeopardy, the annual count continued as a legacy to both the couple, and the birds which migrate to the area.

“It’s stunning to see the beautiful white birds flying at dusk above the water. The light is amazing, and North Brook Island is just beautiful,” she said.

“The location is one of those places you feel privileged just to be observing. When you see it, it leaves you with memories that last a lifetime.

“The art exhibition strives to pay tribute to that experience, and the bird counts that helped make it possible. We also have an ongoing commitment to maintaining this important scientific study.”

The display at the Cardwell library includes paintings in watercolours and acrylic, as well as digital prints and information panels.

The library is operated by the Cassowary Coast Regional Council, and Councillor Mark Nolan said that exhibitions like “Who’s Counting” provided a “rare opportunity to enjoy local history, beauty and artistic skill at the same time”.

“Some of the images are quite exceptional, it’s a special tribute to more than 50 years of local conservation history, and the late Margaret and Arthur Thorsborne,” he said.

“It’s not often you get to see art that has such a great story to tell, as well as being beautiful to look at.”

In 2011, just a few years before Margaret Thorsborne’s death, she was bestowed Australia’s second highest national award, as an Officer of the Order of Australia for her lifetime services to conservation.

The exhibition “Who’s Counting” runs until the end of November at the Cardwell Library, 4 Balliol St, Cardwell. Admission is free.