For many Australians, and Victorians in particular, a weekly planner has become a bit of a foreign concept lately. At the beginning of this year, few Melburnians could have anticipated the relish and keen anticipation with which they would one day write the word ‘haircut’ on their calendar. But simultaneously, being restricted from usual activities has meant many people are spending a lot more time outdoors connecting with the natural world, including an explosion in birdwatching.
It’s almost as if the creative team at iconic Australian magazine frankie could have predicted the chaos of 2020 that would see so many more of us getting better acquainted with our feathered friends while physically cut off from human associates.
Sophie Kalagas, frankie’s editor, notes that this has been ‘a lovely consequence of a not-so-lovely year.’ Nature has always held a prominent place in frankie’s content. They have recently released their 2021 diary, which features stunning illustrations of Aussie native birds by Brisbane-based artist Cass Urquhart, as well as tips on bird identification, avian natural history and attracting birds to your garden.
Cass Urquhart has been a frankie collaborator for several years. ‘She’s a whiz at patterns, realistic drawings and retro vibes, so we knew she’d nail our “vintage bird handbook” brief,’ says Sophie, part of the brains trust behind the diary. ‘We brought the theme to her with some details in mind, but let her brainstorm a bunch of ideas for the main month-to-month patterns. And we definitely weren’t disappointed.’
The bird-themed diary has been a hit with frankie’s diverse audience of mostly millennial and Gen Z readers. ‘We were a bit concerned that people wouldn’t even want a diary after the way this year’s gone,’ says Sophie, but adds that from the way it’s been flying out the door, it’s clear the diary concept has been wildly popular. ‘And many seem extra excited about the birdwatching aspect.’ So, what’s behind the focus on birds?
‘Over the past few years we’ve worked with different themes for our diaries,’ Sophie explains. ‘Australian native flowers, Indigenous artwork and stories – and they’ve been really well-received, so we felt confident in embracing a theme again this year, especially when it celebrated some amazing native creatures!’
With an audience and staff who love getting outdoors, whether in the back garden or out bush, the frankie team thought it was only natural to tap into that theme, especially when it lends itself so well to artistic inspiration.
I’m now determined to make my backyard much more bird-friendly, and have been zoning in on birds’ beaks whenever I see them to try to figure out what they might eat.
In fact, nature has always been a primary inspiration for beautiful artwork. Animals and plants have always featured in traditional Aboriginal art; early colonial painters were inspired by Australia’s landscape; and today, local species continue to capture our attention in large-scale mural paintings, brightening up our streets and silos. So it’s no surprise that nature has been a recurring theme in frankie’s designs.
What is more surprising is the way the team has incorporated a learning and connection element into the diary’s design, so it’s not just a collection of nice images of Australian birds, but also actively encourages the user to explore further – to step outside, observe and record, learn and appreciate.
The frankie team is confident that there’s nothing overly niche about the bird journal theme of next year’s diary. Gone are the days when birding is a pursuit confined to senior citizens in khaki (not to disrespect the khaki clan.) Sophie says one of the surprising joys of creating the diary was learning more about its subjects. ‘Caitlin (our designer) and I became super bird-obsessed while putting the diary together – especially the pages of bird facts. I’m now determined to make my backyard much more bird-friendly, and have been zoning in on birds’ beaks whenever I see them to try to figure out what they might eat. I was blown away that each bird’s physical features have such specific purposes – right down to the shapes and textures of different feathers.’
The hope is that the diary will act in a similar way for many others who flick through its pages while planning their (hopefully more eventful) 2021. And we might even find a few slow Saturday mornings devoted to a coffee and bird session on the porch, or a BYO-binoculars picnic.
‘Overall, frankie is about appreciating the little things in life,’ reflects Sophie, ‘and that includes the feathery friends that are literally all around us. Our 2021 diary is a practical product with lots of useful features (like stickers, shopping lists and gift cards) but it’s also a reminder to slow down a little, get outdoors and breathe.’
This year, Remember The Wild teamed up with the frankie crew to deliver a fully immersive National Bird Week, featuring live streamed nests from our Managing Director Chris’s property in central Victoria. You can see some footage and learn a little bit about each species over on our native birds live stream page. Chris also shared some handy tips with the frankie audience on how to slow down and engage with the natural world, and enjoy the benefits of nature connection.
Watch the footage of Dusky Woodswallows below as they laid their eggs during our bird week live stream. You can see some more streams and meet the resident Crested Pigeon over on our YouTube account, and we hope to bring you some more live bird footage in the near future.