Murray River Survey Route

Wednesday, 12th November, 2008 - Observers: Richard Kingsford, Terry Korn. Pilot : Dr George Wilson

We took off from Sydney flying southwest and surveying Blowering Dam on the Tumut River. As part of the Snowy Mountains Hydroelectric Scheme, this storage is primarily used by fish-eating birds. We then flew along the River Murray which got progressively drier. There were few billabongs with water along the River Murray. The Barmah-Millewa Forest and Koondrook-Pericoota Forest primarily consisted of the main channel flowing through the forests. There were only a handful of waterbirds on the main channel. Moira Lake within the Barmah-Millewa Forest had only about 50 birds. Hattah Lakes were almost dry with three lakes with little water and a third reasonably full. Waterbirds numbered in the hundreds on the lakes. As we flew towards the meeting of the Murray and the Darling Rivers at the town of Wentworth, the river environment got drier.


Thursday, 13th November, 2008 - Observers: Richard Kingsford, Terry Korn. Pilot : Dr George Wilson

In the morning it was blowing a gale, at one stage more than 30 knots – not pleasant for aerial survey. We surveyed almost the entire course of the lower Murray from Wentworth. Lake Victoria and Lake Bonney had water but were poor in the diversity of waterbirds. Surprisingly the lagoons or billabongs along the River Murray were full of birds and with many species. Cut off from the regulated river, many of them seem to have established populations of aquatic plants that are the basis for the food web. The high concentrations of waterbirds were on these billabongs and an evaporation pan west of the town of Waikerie. That was until we ‘hit’ the lower lakes – Lake Alexandrina and Lake Albert. We only had time to survey these in the afternoon and they were spectacular. The number and diversity of these wetlands clearly mark them among the top ten in Australia – we can now say this confidently. And the waterbirds seem to be holding up reasonably well compared to last year when we did the same survey. There are hundreds of thousands. Worryingly lake levels are dropping. There seems to be little other habitat for these waterbirds should the water evaporate from these lakes.


Friday, 14th November, 2008 - Observers: Richard Kingsford, Terry Korn. Pilot : Dr George Wilson


We surveyed the lower Coorong from the mouth of the River Murray. There were many thousands of Australian shelduck and grey teal. The banded stilts, a saline specialist, were there in their tens of thousands. Surprisingly there were more migratory shorebirds on the freshwater lakes than in the Coorong. We found three colonies of waterbirds nesting on the islands: terns, silver gulls and pelicans. This system of the Coorong, Lakes Alexandrina and Albert represents among the more important wetlands in Australia based on the number of species and the number of birds based on our national surveys of the continent.


Saturday, 15th November, 2008 - Observers: Richard Kingsford, Terry Korn. Pilot : Dr George Wilson

We did two surveys of the lower lakes and the Coorong. On the second survey, the banded stilts on the Coorong were spread all across the wetland in their tens of thousands. It was then up the River Murray to survey remaining wetlands along its length before flying back to Sydney.


National Waterbird Survey
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