South-East Australia Survey Route

Monday, 3rd November, 2008 - Observers : Richard Kingsford, John Porter. Pilot : Richard Byrne

Just north of Sydney after we crossed the Hawkesbury River, we surveyed the Tuggerah Lakes. Here there were hundreds of swans and a few migratory shorebirds but few other birds. We then surveyed part of the Myall Lakes and Wallis Lake and at the same time made a rendezvous with the ABC TV news team to cover the aerial survey. They filmed us on aerial survey over Myall Lakes before we landed on an island on Wallis Lake to be interviewed. We continued north but few of the coastal lakes had many waterbirds until we arrived at the floodplains of the Macleay River just south of the town of Kempsey. Here there were hundreds of Pacific black duck and grey teal, plus quite a few white-faced herons. We moved north to the Clarence and the Everlasting Swamp and the Coldstream wetlands had flocks in the hundreds. The Broadwater on the Clarence River had hundreds of Pacific black duck and chestnut teal sheltering under the mangroves.

ABC media coverage can be found here.


Tuesday, 4th November, 2008 - Observers : Richard Kingsford, John Porter. Pilot : Richard Byrne

Our coastal route took us north of Ballina, around the air control zone of the Gold Coast before we surveyed the mangroves and mudflats of Stradbroke and Moreton Islands. Here there are hundreds of migratory wading birds and other marine life. Stingrays, turtles and also dugongs use Moreton Bay. There was also a Humpback and her calf in the deeper waters. We flew on to the wetlands north of Noosa where reasonably large freshwater dune lakes supported a few black swans but no other waterbirds. We then worked our way through the most southern part of Hervey Bay and the mangroves and varied habitats of Great Sandy Strait where there were many large migratory shorebirds. We then surveyed the eastern shoreline of Fraser Island which is hardly used by any waterbirds.



Wednesday, 5th November, 2008 - Observers : Richard Kingsford, John Porter. Pilot : Richard Byrne

Great Sandy Strait at Hervey Bay is one of the more important estuaries in Australia, a place where migratory shorebirds collect in their thousands. They roost on sand spits and in the mangroves during high tides and then feed on the mudflats during low tide. We spent the day surveying the entire area including Fraser Island and its wetlands. The waterbird community here is dominated by migratory shorebirds. One of the major inputs of nutrients, freshwater and sediment is the Mary River contributing to the system’s importance. The Mary River Dam soon to be built will jeopardise the supply of nutrients and sediments into the bay and could ultimately affect its current ecological status.


Thursday, 6th November, 2008 - Observers : Richard Kingsford, John Porter. Pilot : Richard Byrne

The shoreline north of Hervey Bay had relatively few waterbirds but there were groups of shorebirds using some of the estuaries. The largest concentration of waterbirds was on Awoonga Reservoir near Gladstone where there were reasonably large numbers of cormorants and pelicans. The Fitzroy River Floodplain and the Fitzroy River Delta contain a vast network of interconnecting waterways and mangroves. These have small groups of migratory shorebirds which add up to a significant number when the whole area is considered. We found a large concentration of waterbirds, with tens of thousands of waterbirds of many species. The most common were Grey teal and Pacific black duck.


Friday, 7th November, 2008 - Observers : Richard Kingsford, John Porter. Pilot : Richard Byrne

The wetlands around the town of Rockhampton were full of many waterbirds, particularly Pacific black duck and grey teal but there was a wide range of different species. The wetlands had reasonably large concentrations of egrets and cormorants. Many of these lagoons are close to the airport, requiring us to get special permission to survey. We then flew up the beaches to the north and on to the prescribed military area of Shoalwater Bay. Normally no light aircraft are allowed in this area when the military are active which they were at this time. But we were given special permission for our survey. The mudflats were extensive but there were not many shorebirds. This is certainly the densest area for turtles that we have seen on the entire survey. Many of them had got stranded during low tide. We found a few lagoons near the small town of St Lawrence with reasonable numbers of waterbirds but most areas had few waterbirds during the survey today.


Saturday, 8th November, 2008 - Observers : Richard Kingsford, John Porter. Pilot : Richard Byrne

Mudflats and bays had groups of migratory shorebirds and terns numbering in the tens and sometimes hundreds. Egrets and occasionally Jabirus were also seen on the mudflats. Most of the important wetlands inland were dry. The highlight was the Cromarty wetlands, a group of freshwater wetlands near the town of Giru where there were thousands of waterbirds. In other places there were either rugged rocks rising directly up into tropical rainforest or mudflats supplied by rivers. Only the latter supported reasonable numbers of waterbirds. Inland was particularly dry, except where the major rivers ran such as the Burdekin River.


Sunday, 9th November, 2008 -DECC Pilot : Richard Byrne RFO : John Porter LBO : Peter Morris

Obligatory pilot rest day in Townsville, and a crew change with Peter Morris replacing Richard Kingsford

Monday, 10th November, 2008 - DECC Pilot : Richard Byrne RFO : John Porter LBO : Peter Morris

From Townsville we begin by surveying wetlands in the Haughton River catchment where we find several small wetlands with thousands of waterbirds, mostly Magpie geese, Pacific black duck, egrets, Straw-necked ibis, Grey teal, Black swans and terns. We continue on to the Burdekin River and then the basalt country north of Charters Towers where we find many wetlands with water (including Eumara, Spring and Reeves Lakes) which contain thousands of waterbirds. As we continue west, conditions become noticeably drier and we survey sections of the Flinders River and Torrens Creek that are completely dry before stopping to refuel at Hughenden. We head towards Lake Buchanan which we think may be almost dry after checking satellite imagery; we arrive and find only a small pool of water at the southern end of the lake which is drying back rapidly and there are few waterbirds. After Lake Buchanan we search for any signs of water as we head further west to our final stop a Winton but have little success as most wetlands are dry.


Tuesday, 11th November, 2008 - DECC Pilot : Richard Byrne RFO : John Porter LBO : Peter Morris

Before departing Winton we stop in the town centre to photograph an immature Brolga that has taken up residence and spends part of each morning “window shopping” along the main street. From Winton, we follow the Western river until it joins the Diamantina, and continue downstream to the Diamantina Lakes area (a series of deep riverine pools and billabongs). Although several of these contain water there are only relatively small numbers of waterbirds, mainly Pink eared duck , Pelicans and cormorants. From this point we leave the Diamantina and head west to the wetlands of King Creek and Eyre Creek, where we find Lakes Machattie, Mipia, Koolivoo are dry before turning south to refuel at Birdsville. A mutiny by the crew is only narrowly avoided when we find that the Bakery is shut until April 2009 !
We head south east from Birdsville to Lake Etamunbanie which is dry and then turn north east to survey Lakes Short, Moondah and Cuddapan, which are also dry. Our next wetland is Cooper Creek where we find water (but few waterbirds) in some of the deeper channels and billabongs as we fly towards Windorah, the final stop for the day.


Wednesday, 12th November, 2008 - DECC Pilot : Richard Byrne RFO : John Porter LBO : Peter Morris

Our first survey task for the day is Lake Dartmouth, which is 65% full and we find thousands of waterbirds, mostly grey teal, wood duck, herons, ibis, spoonbill and stilts with smaller numbers of black-tailed native hen, masked lapwings and rufous night herons. From there we head north east to Lake Nuga Nuga, which has a sizable green algal bloom developing, This doesn’t seem to bother the birds and we count several thousand, mostly grey teal, black duck, wood duck, black swans and pelicans, with smaller numbers of pygmy geese, magpie geese, herons, egrets and ibis. We turn south to latitude 26 deg 30 min where we resume counting along Band 7 of the Eastern Australian Waterbird survey after being interupted by bad weather previously. Between Roma and Kingaroy there are relatively few large wetlands and we count many small (less than 1 ha) wetlands that have low numbers of waterbirds.


Thursday, 13th November, 2008 - DECC Pilot : Richard Byrne RFO : John Porter LBO : Peter Morris

South of Kingaroy we find our first wetlands for the day, Lake Broadwater and The Gums but they are both dry so we continue on to the large reservoir of Lake Kajarabee which fills from the Maranoa and Balonne rivers. The margins of the river channels within the reservoir are clearly visible because they are marked by rows of dead trees which were drowned when the dam was built. We find moderate numbers of wood duck which are attracted to herbaceous vegetation growing along the shallow margins. Further south we survey some small wetlands along the Balonne and McIntyre floodplains before reaching Pindari and Copeton Dams, which have low numbers of waterbirds. North of Armidale we count Llangothlin, Little Llangothlin and Mother of Ducks Lagoon and for the first time today find high densities of waterbirds, mostly Black swans, grey teal, pacific black duck, Eurasian coot, purple swamphen, grebes, ibis and stilts. Our last location for the day before stopping at Gunnedah is Lake Keepit dam, which has low numbers of waterbirds.


Friday, 14th November, 2008 - DECC Pilot : Richard Byrne RFO : John Porter LBO : Peter Morris

Leaving Gunnedah we head south for the last few wetlands on this leg of the survey to Lake Goran and are surprised to find no trace of the Lake (which is dry) because it has been utilised for lakebed cropping so that it is now almost indistinguishable from the surrounding farmlands. To the south there is permanent water in Lake Glenbawn Dam but it supports few waterbirds because of its relatively steep shoreline. The final wetlands for this leg are along a stretch of the Hunter River near Jerrys Plains that is adjacent to areas of heavy industry (coal mines) and a coal fired power station. We count only a handful of birds along the river before returning Sydney and a few days break before the next leg of the survey.


National Waterbird Survey
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