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Wetland rehabilitation to benefit bitterns

Arnold the bitternA rehabilitated canegrass wetland near Jerilderie is providing habitat for a member of a globally endangered waterbird species.

‘Arnold’, a young Australasian bittern, has moved into the wetland, which is on the property of Jerilderie landholder John Simpson. The bird’s presence is an outcome of a three-year project to protect and enhance the area’s wetlands.

Australasian bitterns (Botaurus poiciloptilus), or bunyip birds, are a rarely seen, poorly known and threatened waterbird species. Males of the species make deep booming noises during breeding season, audible for about 2 km, which became the source of legends of Australia’s mythical Bunyip.

John Simpson is excited to have such an important visitor to his wetland.

For the past three years John has been one of a number of landholders involved in the Australian Government-funded Murray Wetland Carbon Storage Project.

The project, delivered by Murray Local Land Services and Murray Darling Wetlands Working Group, supports landholders to improve biodiversity and increase the carbon storage capacity of their wetlands.

“It’s all quite exciting to have such a rare and iconic species using the wetland,” Mr Simpson said.

“It’s also an endorsement of the work that we are doing to rehabilitate wetlands, such as fencing, planting fringing native vegetation to buffer the wetland from surrounding crops and creating habitat for native wildlife.”

‘Arnold’ is one of a handful of bitterns being satellite-tracked through the Bitterns in Rice Project to learn more about the movements of this elusive bird. He was originally found in a Coleambally rice field back in April and since then has travelled to swamps near Boorooban, Tatura, Coleambally and now Jerilderie.

“It’s not surprising to have Arnold at the wetland, as most other wetlands in the area are beginning to dry out, but this wetland still has a good amount of water in it. It will be interesting to see how long Arnold stays here,” Mr Simpson said.

The work that John Simpson and countless other landholders across the Murray and Riverina regions are doing is vitally important to the long-term survival of bitterns and other wetland-dependent species. Landholders can assist with bittern conservation by managing and creating habitat, and controlling foxes and cats. It is hoped that the booming call of Bunyip birds sound out across the region for many years to come.

For more information, contact Sarah Ning, Murray Darling Wetlands Working Group, 0427 376 157.

Media inquiries, contact Matt Lane, Murray Local Land Services, 02 6051 2252.