Exploring wetlands of the Discovery Bay Coast with the Hamilton Field Naturalists Club

Exploring wetlands of the Discovery Bay Coast with the Hamilton Field Naturalists Club

Last Saturday I went on a bit of a trip down memory lane, as the Hamilton Field Naturalists Club (plus a couple of Portland Field Nats who also came along) came to see the various wetland restoration projects that have happened over the past decade along the Discovery Bay Coast in Victoria and SA – a beautiful part of the world I’ve had a long and close connection with.

We started at Nobles Rocks, to look at how the restoration trial in Long Swamp is unfolding – and the good news is that things are looking great. Despite an incredibly dry period since September last year, the site now appears likely to hold water right through until the 2016 season breaks – which is great news.

I was also able to tell our visitors about an interesting observation during a recent visit to the site with Bryan Haywood (NGT’s resident entomologist, among his other ecological talents). With water levels holding (still knee-deep through the deeper parts of the swamp inland of Nobles Rocks) it looks like the swans using the swamp are doing a bit of ‘gardening’!

As you’ll see in the image below, they are pulling out many thousands of sedges (roots and all) – presumably to try to open up the habitat and assist its transition in response to the new water regime. Bryan and I discussed the possibilities and this was the only explanation that we agreed made sense – as swans were the only waterfowl that we spotted using the dense inundated sedge habitat. If they are successful in their apparent mission to create some open areas, we might see some different species of waterfowl out there this time next year – only time will tell… but a very interesting thing to keep an eye on.

That same day with Bryan, we also caught a glimpse of an Australasian bittern in the distance (possibly Robbie, but not sure) and a total of 6 species of dragonfly/damselfly – including our very own logo – the Ancient Greenling!

Is this apparent ‘ecosystem engineering’ by swans going to assist habitat transition in Long Swamp, in response to the restoration trial? Believe it or not, this area was dry this time last year, but is now holding knee-deep water (in Feb 2016).

Back to the Field Nats tour, and after Long Swamp, we stopped for lunch and a brief look at the River in Nelson, before heading in to see the restoration structure on the Piccaninnie Ponds artificial outlet, and finally a look at Pick Swamp. After a dry spell like this, we are very fortunate to have these groundwater fed wetlands still providing aquatic habitat at the end of summer, in a landscape that is otherwise (inland of the coast) looking parched at the moment.

The Hamilton Field Naturalists Club have been a great partner and supporter of NGT’s work in the South West, ever since our launch 4 years ago, so it was a real privilege to be able to spend the day with a great, down-to-earth bunch of people who share our passion for the natural environment. Many thanks to Rod Bird for arranging the group’s visit.

The tour of wetland restoration sites along Discovery Bay started at Nobles Rocks – the most recent restoration project to get underway in this part of the region.
From left to right (standing) Mark Bachmann (NGT) led the Hamilton Field Naturalists Club excursion, consisting of Hilary Turner, Jane Hayes, Ruth & Ivor Graney (Portland Field Nats), Glenys & John Cayley, Rod Bird, Diane Luhrs, and seated are Ken Grimes & Janeen Samuel. Also present was photographer: Peter Hocking.


Mark Bachmann