Tuesday, 29 May 2012

A visit to parts of Jerrabomberra Wetlands

Being in Canberra this morning with a couple of hours between dropping Frances off and having to meet up with her I decided to propel my treadlie in the direction of Jerrabomberra Wetlands.

The quick way of doing this trip on a bike is to pass by Norgrove Park in Kingston.  This was at one stage the premier crake/rail spotting site in Canberra.  Then the developers got active and basically turned most of the area into playground for big Tonka Toys and the place looked completely buggered.  That had depressed me so I haven't been there for a while.  The boyz-with-toyz have moved away a little bit so the place looks as though it might have a chance of recovering.  Very few birds around as I passed through.

Getting into the Jerrabomberra area I first stopped at the Westernmost Hide (labelled Tadorna).  The level of water in the Creek was still very low and the only birds visible were 4 Black swans and 1 feral Muscovy Duck.  Even less birds were visible at Fulica Hide, possibly because work is being done to plant 'stuff' presumably to replace the massacred willows.  (The planters, resplendent in Hi-Vis jackets,  all seemed to be exercising the working man's right of having a brew up over by the bridge.)

I stopped at Ardea Hide on Kelly's Swamp and found a few more birds but all the very common species (Swamp Hen, Moorhen, Coot, Black Duck).   It did seem that the typha was benefiting greatly from the high water level: between that and the rampant grass growth hardly any open water was visible.  Bittern Hide was by-passed as the vegetation was all that would be visible.  I did note the numerous large heaps of eucalypt mulch around the plantings so the place is going to be made pretty in the nearish future.

On getting to Cygnus Hide I found that the predicted 'improvement' to the Hide was about complete.
While I still cannot understand why this was seen as necessary, since none of my birding colleagues - male or female - expressed any concern about entering the old hides, the re-design appears reasonable.  I would love to know how much it cost, but suspect several thousand dollars.

Entering the hide the first thing apparent was how much the typha (big reeds) is encroaching on the viewing area.  At the start of 2011 I suspect this image would have included no typha at all. 
There was an interesting bird present in the form of a very close Little Black Cormorant (LBC).
Given that this species is bog-common around Canberra watercourses it behooves me to justify the appellation 'interesting bird'.   There are two reasons for this:
  1. When looked at closely there is bronze iridescence in the primaries.  I have have never noticed that before for this species.
  2. The bird was very close to the Hide, perching on some some twigs that have recently been added to the foreshore. 
I suspect the added twigs were a response to a suggestion that some additional perching logs be added to the swamp for the benefit of larger waterbirds.  Here is a snap showing the nice reflections in the currently log free swamp.
In the recentish past there were several large logs - perhaps 5m long and 0.75m in diameter in the middle of the swamp.  They were popular haul-out spots for Pelicans, Herons and various other waterbirds.  They have vanished through processes unknown to me and it was hoped they could have been replaced.  This hasn't happened and the following image showing the LBC and the twigs indicates that they are not what is needed (imagine a dozen Pelicans trying to perch on these!).
I then crossed the road to the Sewage pits.  (As an aside, on exiting the Nature Reserve I noticed about 8 elderly folks bearing backpacks heading towards Ardea Hide: they didn't seem at all alarmed at entering such a dark place!).  The area of the sewage ponds seemed much tidier than in the past.  Whether this was due to some of the derelict wire fences being removed or the grass having been mown I don't know.  However the bird life was low both in numbers and diversity.  The most interesting birds seen were a horde (at least a dozen) Golden-headed Cisticolas in some deciduous shrubs in the North-eastern corner of the ponds.  As they are small and very active I couldn't get an image of the whole bunch but these 2 snaps give an idea of their appearance.

I did see two Black-fronted Dotterels in the 99% dry Pond 5.  Several Magpie-larks were also patrolling the mud looking for unfortunate arthropods!

As I left the area I noticed that, and this is the first time I have observed this, there were several cars parked in the old school grounds on Dairy Road.  Presumably this indicates that the Environment staff have actually moved out there.  However:
  • The place still looked like the field studies centre for the Australian Museum of Invasive Weeds (in our Shire anyone whose place looked like this would have a Weed Control Order served on them); and
  • There were a number of notices on fences saying to affect of "No entry: hazardous materials".  
    • So how come public servants are working in an area subject to such materials?  Where are the OHAS officers when needed?  
    • What about the teachers and kiddies who used to attend courses there?

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