|Wetland prior to floodgates reopening|
BirdLife Southern Queensland, through BirdLife Sunshine Coast volunteers, is conducting surveys of the wetland as part of an agreement with Unitywater. For some time after the water returned in May, few waterbirds were evident, raising fears that acid sulfate and other contaminants leaching to the surface during the dry years could take years to wash out of the site.
However, increasing numbers of birds have returned to the wetland in recent weeks. During the latest surveys this week, numbers of some species had returned to pretty much what they were before the site was drained. Others had yet to return or were in relatively small numbers. Nonetheless, the trend appears clear: the birds are on their way back, and sooner than some of us feared. Bird images here were taken this week.
The wetland was previously the only reliable site in the Sunshine Coast region for Black-necked Stork; at least one bird would nearly always be encountered during a visit and sometimes two pairs were present. This week we had three storks together at the wetland, with a pair displaying.
|Black-necked Storks displaying|
Spotless Crake is an example of a generally uncommon bird that was formerly numerous at the wetland but initially was sparsely reported after the gates reopened. This week we recorded five birds in two hours.
Black Swan had nested commonly but was slow to return, though numbers again are slowly increasing. Good numbers of ducks were present at the wetland this week, including an Australasian Shoveler. Australasian Swamphen was one of the most numerous waterbirds at the wetland and the absence of this hardy species for weeks after the gates were opened was particularly alarming; happily it is now back in substantial numbers.
|Australasian Shoveler & Grey Teal|
The wetland was a critically important habitat for Latham's Snipe with 100+ birds regularly recorded. Although there's still a long way to go, seven birds were seen during this week's surveys.
Similarly, fair numbers of Sharp-tailed Sandpiper were back at the wetland, indicating the site is on track to resume its previous position as an important feeding ground for migratory shorebirds.
Little Grassbird is another bird to have disappeared but is returning with gusto, with about 10 birds seen and heard in flooded reeds this week. Other species regarded as scarce in south-east Queensland that were encountered included Lewin's Rail, Glossy Ibis and White-winged Triller.
Reasonable numbers of cormorants suggest that fish are finding their way back into the wetland. Species like Great Egret and Royal Spoonbill, once common at Yandina Creek, are making regular appearances in small but gradually growing numbers.
White-throated Needletail and Pacific Swift were hawking insects overhead and bushbirds such as White-breasted Woodswallow, Tawny Grassbird and Red-browed Finch were plentiful.
To sum things up, the future is looking bright. The southern sector of the wetland remains high and dry, however. Hopefully Unitywater will reopen the remaining floodgates before too long so the site is fully restored. Another problem is the ongoing presence of foxes and feral dogs; the carcasses of several waterbirds, including a Black-necked Stork, have been found at the site. Note there is not yet public access to the wetland; only observers participating in the BirdLife surveys are allowed entry on dates approved in advance by Unitywater. Public assurances that the site will be opened eventually to the public have been given repeatedly by Unitywater but no timeframe has been set.