John Hutchinson Birdsong Collection

This week Dr Kate discusses John Hutchinson’s remarkable collection of recordings documenting Western Australian birds across several decades in remote areas across the state, including parts of the Kimberley, Pilbara and South-West.

John Hutchinson was born in 1928 and grew up in the Wheatbelt town of Wyalkatchem. In 1956 he began making recordings of wildlife, and in 1959 joined the Department of Agriculture. Through his work John was able to travel to numerous remote areas of the state during which time he made recordings of wildlife, most notably birds.

John released numerous vinyl albums, cassettes and CDs, and often hand-delivered his recordings to record stores, including ABC Shops. However, the bulk of John’s recordings have never been commercially released and were donated to the State Library of WA, the National Film and Sound Archive and the Bunbury Museum in 2015 with his wish that they be made available for preservation and research purposes.

Australian Bird Calls Index

John would spend up to six months of the year travelling to record birdsong, often spending between three to five weeks in a specific location to become acquainted with the birds in the area. John spent the last portion of his life at his property in Dunsborough, which became a haven for native flora and fauna, including birdlife. John died in 2015 from natural causes at the age of 87 in Busselton Hospital.

All 303 of John Hutchinson’s recordings of West Australian birdlife are available as streaming audio from the SLWA catalogue. Below are three examples of his recordings:

Search the catalogue for the John Hutchinson collection and to see the other photographs and stories online.

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Recorded live on ABC Radio Perth on 7 July 2020.