Birds of a feather …
As part of the internationally recognised Kerang Wetlands, Hird Swamp is one of the region’s most significant waterways.
As a temporary freshwater marsh, it’s an important wetland for waterbird resting, nesting and feeding. It is also valued by the community as a popular bird watching and duck hunting spot.
For the past several years, the North Central Catchment Management Authority (CMA) has been managing a series of flows and drawdowns at the swamp designed to limit the growth of reeds to expand the amount of open water, support the high diversity of wetland plants, rehabilitate drowned vegetation and provide attractive habitat for waterbirds.
The results are in, and they are sensational.
“Water for the environment was used to partially fill Hird Swamp in autumn last year, and to fill both sides of the wetland in spring 2017,” North Central CMA Environmental Water Manager Louissa Rogers said.
“We saw an immediate response from a range of different waterbirds, and responded by topping up the western section in late summer this year.”
In February this year, up to 8000 birds from 47 different species were recorded.
“Over the 11 months we have recorded nine Threatened species – Baillon’s crake, whiskered tern, glossy ibis, royal spoonbill, eastern great egret, Australasian bittern, Australasian little bittern, magpie geese, and the white-bellied sea eagle,” Ms Rogers said.
“It was exciting to see such large numbers, but also seeing both adults and juveniles. That means they have been born there and are raising them on the wetland.
“One of the highlights was 11 brolgas, including a breeding pair with their juvenile. That tells us they are really happy with what’s on offer.
“It also means one of the other priorities in the area, the National Landcare Program-funded Kerang Wetlands protection program, is also making a difference. That program protects birds from pest species such as foxes, and works with surrounding landholders to create a protective barrier for the native animals.”
Under the Hird Swamp’s Environmental Water Management Plan, no more water for the environment will be delivered for at least the next two years.
“Drying the wetland out over the next couple of years will ensure the reeds don’t creep back into the swamp and, at the same time, waders, which are a different kind of bird, can come and make the most of it,” Ms Rogers said.
“Hird Swamp is a great example of water for the environment management being more than just about adding water. It’s about the right amount of water at the right time, mixed in with a range of targeted protection and revegtation measures.
The program is part of the Victorian Government’s $222 million Water for Victoria investment over the next four years to improve the health of waterways and catchments.
The flows are authorised by the Victorian Environmental Water Holder in line with its Seasonal Watering Plan 2017-18. The VEWH Seasonal Watering Plan 2017-18 is available for download from www.vewh.vic.gov.au, with regular watering updates posted on the North Central CMA website.