Birds find a refuge

Thursday 21 August, 2008
Thousands of waterbirds have found a welcome drought refuge at wetlands near Shepparton and Numurkah in northern Victoria.
Thousands of waterbirds have found a welcome drought refuge at wetlands near Shepparton and Numurkah in northern Victoria.

The Goulburn Broken Catchment Management Authority (GBCMA) today said the birds have discovered the wetlands which have been revived by an environmental water allocation delivered in autumn.

Simon Casanelia, managing the GBCMA project, said the birds are attracted to new plant and water life at Reedy, Kinnairds, Black and Moodies Swamps.

"It's encouraging to see these birds following the dramatic slump in waterbird numbers that has occurred in south eastern Australia in recent years due to the drought," Mr Casanelia said.

"More than 3,500 waterbirds were recorded recently at Reedy Swamp."

Local bird watchers and Field and Game Australia are amongst those monitoring the outcome of the environmental water delivered to the wetlands in April and May. A new acoustic monitoring device is helping a team from Department of Primary Industries (DPI) determine the different species of frogs and birds at different times of day and night.

Monitors have observed brolgas dancing - usually a prelude to breeding.

"With so many different types of birds already in the wetlands, we're hopeful that successful breeding will occur. And in the next month, we should witness the arrival of a number of other species," Mr Casanelia says.

"Some water fowl have already started breeding, but the real benefits will occur in spring with the growth of wetland vegetation," the GBCMA Strategic River Health and Environmental Water Reserve Coordinator said.

Birds observed so far include the White-bellied Sea-eagle, Peregrine Falcon, Brolga, Freckled Duck, Australian Shoveller, Musk Duck, Swamp Harriers, and over 1,000 Hardhead Ducks - a high number for Victoria in recent times.

The water provided to these regionally significant wetlands comes from Victoria's environmental water entitlement managed by the Department of Sustainability and Environment (DSE). It does not effect irrigators' allocations.

DSE Executive Director Sustainability and Environment, Dr Jane Doolan, said in this drought the watering is carefully targeted to avoid critical loss of threatened species, to prevent irreversible environmental damage, and to provide drought refuges.

"In response to the drought and the climate change predictions of less water, we need to be flexible and pragmatic in managing the modest amount of water set aside to protect critical sites," Dr Doolan said. "The results so far are encouraging."

Release Ends

For more information please contact

Stacey Brauman at Impress Publicity on 0400 644 637

Simon Casanelia at GB CMA on 5820 1100