The new bird hide, waders and a change of focus

All hands on deck to finish the first bird hide.

All hands on deck to finish the first bird hide.

 

It has been some very busy while since last I made an entry to this blog.

One big problem has been that I have been blasted with spammers (2,384 in the last couple of weeks) and I am having to reconsider how I allow comments to this page. When I work that out I’ll put a message on the first page.

Meanwhile everyone in FROGS has been going hell for leather. The first and most important item was to open the bird hide. Due to last minute glitches with a delivery of dented colorbond it was real fingernail chewing time right up to the day. Goulburn Signs gave us a big discount and we got our big sign up describing birds of the wetlands as well as a small and temporary plaque thanking our local member Pru Goward for helping us so much, indeed in paying for the construction of the hide. She named it in honour of her husband The David Barnett Bird Hide and we all got ready for the day.

Divall's crew putting bitumen on the track to the bird hide.

Divall’s crew putting bitumen on the track to the bird hide.

Andy Divall, his men and machines came along and finished laying the main track, constructing a gravel cycle and fitness path and sealing the main car park and the road to the bird hide with bitumen.  This now means the main trails have been inserted into the wetlands and will provide a base from which items and activities can be placed. They finished in plenty of time for the opening and provided a generous discount. A job very efficiently completed by a local company.

The launch of the bird hide was deliberately planned to coincide with Goulburn’s Sustainability Week organised by The Goulburn Group (TGG). TGG had effectively run a program of well attended events throughout the week, including:

  • a Sustainable Building Design Forum
  • the launch of the Lieder Theatre Sustainability Project
  • guided tours through Goulburn’s Community Garden and Food Forest
  • a bike ride with Southern Tablelands Cycling Inc.
  • the opening of the Goulburn Resource Recovery Centre
  • a Heritage Walk and visit to the Sustainable Heritage Home
  • holding a stall, a series of Permaculture talks and demonstrations and making a Permaculture scarecrow at the Riversdale Markets
  • holding a tour and afternoon tea at the Victorian Kitchen Garden
  • a talk to Goulburn’s business community on Climate Change by John Hewson
  • and of course the launch of the Wetlands Bird Hide and Free Wifi, together with guided tours of the Wetlands

Below is a series of photos, thanks to Jim Webb, outlining the sequence of events on the day of the bird hide launch.

 

And afterwards people gathered round for the guided tour.

And afterwards people gathered round for the guided tour.

All through the presentation ceremony the people were watched by a mother black duck and her three ducklings, who only swam away at its end. We gave a huge sigh of relief at the end of that day, but next week we were back again. We planted Callistemons around the bird hide. These were the last of our plantings for 2013, since the weather was becoming hotter and drier and the survival of future plants was questionable. We will be planting again in autumn 2014.

Map of the Wetlands provided by LandTeam.

Map of the Wetlands provided by LandTeam.

The creation of the new paths was combined with some serious surveying done by LandTeam. Like Divall’s they also did this at a greatly reduced cost to us. The result was a collection of levels that can be used into the future for planning. This was translated into two maps: one detailed version for precision planning and another generalised one for easy consumption. Locations within the wetlands were given names for ready recognition and a general scheme was created, separating shy birds from active humans while allowing humans to remain hidden while checking out such difficult to see species as the migratory waders.

Uncovering old paths and the floors of old buildings.

Uncovering old paths and the floors of old buildings.

The hotter weather meant changing activities towards the old brickwork area, uncovering old paths and building floors so they can be preserved and incorporated into the wetlands project.
This is careful work. Apart from a few bricks and the odd relic, such as an old inkpot, a rusting piece of iron, a bent horse rail or a stamped brick, there is little to show but a pattern of building footprints. These are being interpreted by some of Goulburn’s experienced brick workers, such as Geoff Gulson, who has kindly donated his time to inspect the site. As a result we can gather a clearer understanding of what remains and what was. This information will be passed on to Goulburn Mulwaree Council’s heritage officers while we await their decision on how we should further proceed. When the old brickworks was dismantled and the ovens and chimney pulled down, people from around the town were given permission to scavenge what they liked. As a result there is little or no treasure to be found, but a lot of rubbish. Nonetheless this tells its own story of the site.

The first quadr5at in the first transect: our most naturally biodiverse vegetated area.

The first quadr5at in the first transect: our most naturally biodiverse vegetated area.

We commenced our first detailed transects and quadrats too. A transect is a sample of a site taken by stretching 50 metres of rope across a chosen sample area. Every 2 metres the species of plants within a one metre radius are identified and recorded. Once the transect is completed 4 quadrats are chosen at random along the transect. A quadrat is a one-metre square. In our case it is made of wood and is collapsible. It is placed over the point of the transect given by using a random number generator. The area occupied by each plant species is recorded as well as numbers of plants of species occupying too small an area to be readily calculated.

The footprints and beak marks of small and large waders by the wader pool.

The footprints and beak marks of small and large waders by the wader pool. You can clearly see the larger footprints of a white-faced heron superimposed on those of the smaller greenshanks, snipe and sandpipers.

Our first transect, from the wader pool into the surrounding grassy area, contained by far the greatest number of native plant species. The plants included Tall Sedge Carex appressa, Mat Grass Hemarthria uncinata, several rushes¬†Juncus species, native buttercups Ranunculus amphitriche and some introduced docks and grasses. At its end, however, we were left with a weed bed that had previously been poisoned in preparation for planting with native grasses next autumn. Halfway along the transect we struck mud and the edge of the pool. It was here we had disturbed two sandpipers on our way in. These little birds are a devil to identify as they invariably detect us before or as soon as we see them. A glimpse is all we generally get of them before they take explosively into the air and are gone. We are getting better at deciphering fleeting views of grey and white bottoms retreating away. So far we know we have Latham’s or Japanese Snipe (a bird covered by international treaties to protect it and its habitat), Common Greenshanks and Sharp-tailed Sandpipers. We now also suspect we have Common Sandpipers. In the wet mud they leave clear traces of their activities as they have probed into it with their long beaks, searching for juicy worms and other invertebrates. One day we all hope we’ll get a clear, uninterrupted view and a good photograph.

 

A small wader feather left behind on the mudflat, probably by a snipe.

A small wader feather left behind on the mudflat, probably by a snipe.

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