Wetland rehabilitation benefits bitterns

October 04, 2017

A rehabilitated canegrass wetland near Jerilderie is providing habitat for a member of a globally endangered waterbird species.

‘Arnold’, a young Australasian bittern, has moved into the wetland, which is on the property of Jerilderie landholder John Simpson. The bird’s presence is an outcome of a three-year project to protect and enhance the area’s wetlands.

Australasian bitterns, or bunyip birds, are a rarely seen, poorly known and threatened waterbird species. Males of the species make deep booming noises during breeding season, audible for about 2 km, which became the source of legends of Australia’s mythical Bunyip.

Mr Simpson is excited to have such an important visitor to his wetland.

For the past three years he has been one of a number of landholders involved in the Australian Government-funded Murray Wetland Carbon Storage Project.

The project supports landholders to improve biodiversity and increase the carbon storage capacity of their wetlands.

‘‘It’s all quite exciting to have such a rare and iconic species using the wetland,’’ Mr Simpson said.

‘‘It’s also an endorsement of the work that we are doing to rehabilitate wetlands, such as fencing, planting fringing native vegetation to buffer the wetland from surrounding crops and creating habitat for native wildlife.’’

‘Arnold’ is one of a handful of bitterns being satellite-tracked through the Bitterns in Rice Project to learn more about the movements of this elusive bird. He was originally found in a Coleambally rice field back in April and since then has travelled to swamps near Booroorban, Tatura, Coleambally and now Jerilderie.

‘‘It’s not surprising to have Arnold at the wetland, as most other wetlands in the area are beginning to dry out, but this one still has a good amount of water in it. It will be interesting to see how long Arnold stays here,’’ Mr Simpson said.

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