Yurrun.Ga wetland survey results

Wyn and I have been undertaking surveys regularly at this new wetland site in Gumbaynggirr Country.

I have a show ‘Yurruun.Ga wetlands’ – 60 short videos, photographs and texts – coming up at YAM, the new cultural centre in Coffs Harbour opening next year. Here is an example of one video. A history of capitalism in 60 seconds. Not long ago these wetlands in Gumbaynggirr Country were dead and exhausted habitat destroyed by antimony processing. The operators left without any attempt to restore the damage they caused. The same imbalance still applies to the producers of consumers goods, from cars to plastic packaging.

These photos from the wetland are from 22 Dec.

Plane (and two Pacific Black Ducks in flight)

Urunga wetland survey results, Richard Jordan, 22 Dec

Many of you will know of our ongoing bird surveys at the Urunga Wetland. This was an area recently rehabilitated at great expense to clean up ‘heavy metal’ contamination left after it was used to process antimony mined near Dorrigo. If you haven’t been there it is well worth a visit. Just look for the sign near where the old Pacific Highway leaves the southern limit of Urunga.

Some of us have volunteered to regularly check out the birds in and around the Wetland since it was opened to the public in 2017. Approximately150 surveys have been recorded to date, which is a great result. I should especially mention the efforts of John Bennett and Bronwyn Rodden, who have kept up the momentum even when the birds were very sparse.

Yellow-tailed Black Cockatoos, male on top

Now that we have more than five years of survey data I have taken the opportunity to do a quick analysis – especially as the survey period began in a prolonged drought, which transitioned to a period of flooding rain.

They show the dramatic effect of the drought-breaking rains that started in late summer 2018. These rains deluged the whole Murray-Darling Basin, and allowed waterbirds to disperse widely away from the coast, right up to the present day. There was a brief period of flooding rain in late summer 2017, and that shows up as a blip in the charts. But that rain did not extend west of the Divide, and so the waterbirds that left Urunga to explore for new foraging areas quickly returned.

Australia’s highly variable rainfall patterns mean that birds depending upon wetlands need to be able to disperse widely at short notice. There have been no Eurasian Coots at the Wetland for 18 months now. I believe we will soon see the coots return as the Murray-Darling Basin dries out in 2023. John Bennett has reported just today that numbers of Pacific Black Ducks have started building up at the Wetland.

Pacific Black Ducks


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