Long Swamp Restoration Trial update – measuring our success, a trickle reaches Eel Creek, and where’s Robbie?

Long Swamp Restoration Trial update – measuring our success, a trickle reaches Eel Creek, and where’s Robbie?

Measuring our success at Long Swamp:

Thanks to the funding support of the Victorian Government (DELWP), our monitoring so far at Long Swamp has had a particular emphasis on the recovery of aquatic habitats for nationally threatened species of fish, but the trial is also benefiting a much wider range of wetland species (including frogs, waterbirds, plants and many others), and also aims to halt or reverse the trend of shrub invasion across an adjacent wider area of sedgeland habitat in Long Swamp.

A stunning shot of the restored wetland habitat in Long Swamp inland of the trial structure Nobles Rocks (Photo courtesy of Matt Herring)

All the signs so far, including both our scientific monitoring results and the visual changes we have been observing in the wetland, are extremely positive – but as the system is still adjusting to the change and will continue to adapt for some time, we are hoping to keep an eye on things for a while yet. With this in mind we have just submitted a grant proposal which, if successful, will enable us to continue to document the response of threatened species to the trial for another 12 months – so fingers crossed!

The first flows reach Eel Creek! :

In other very exciting Long Swamp news, thanks to the last minor adjustment to the level of the Phase 3 structure, the first trickle of surface water is now making its way from the newly restored wetland area behind Nobles Rocks downstream to the wetlands of central Long Swamp and ultimately the Glenelg River Estuary – noting that, in all likelihood, this is the first time water has flowed in a westerly direction, at this specific location where flows had been reversed towards the drain, since the Nobles Rocks outlet was cut in the 1930s. Although the downstream portion of Eel Creek (west of Nobles Rocks) does already flow to the river already every year, we’re hoping this hydrological change in the vicinity of Nobles Rocks will have downstream benefits for both ecological connectivity within Long Swamp and possibly even the volume of water reaching the river in some years.

Please click on this link, to see the footage of the trickling flow… ¬†Eel Creek flow from Nobles Rocks – 18th September 2015

This restored connectivity of water and flows through Long Swamp is something that we’re hoping to continue to monitor closely, as it not only has implications for the connectivity of fish populations in different areas within Long Swamp, but also for several species of fish that require access to the ocean (via the estuary) for critical periods in their life cycle. More news on this to come!

And if you were wondering how we got to this critical ‘tipping point’, the panoramic images below, showing the impact of the Phase 3 structure on upstream wetland levels, should help explain… quite a stunning transformation from a year ago!

Panorama of artificial outlet at Nobles Rocks with the Phase 1 structure in place – August 2014 (Photo: Mark Bachmann)

Panorama of artificial outlet at Nobles Rocks with the Phase 1 and 3 structures in place – September 2015 (Photo: Mark Bachmann)

So, just where is Robbie now? :

Finally, in some fascinating news just shared by Matt from the Bitterns in Rice Project, Robbie has decided to call an end to his coastal holiday and has flown back home to NSW – and is now only a very short distance from where he was born. Based on the productivity of the restored wetland at Long Swamp, which is teeming with life, we can be sure that Robbie was well fed before his long journey. Thanks for coming to visit Robbie – and do come back next year!

… and, in another interesting twist to this tale, only a few hours after I heard the news that Robbie had returned home, I inadvertently flushed another, different bittern at the restored swamp near Nobles Rocks. This is the first time we’ve seen a different bittern in the area this year (Robbie’s mini ‘back-pack’ mounted transmitter¬†was a dead give away for spotting him when he was here!), and got me wondering – could Robbie have been kicked out, or had his instincts just switched into gear and told him it was the right time to leave anyway?

It sure is great to see the restored habitat at Nobles Rocks providing habitat for the Australasian Bittern – a threatened species in its own right, and another key indicator of project success for us to watch over the years ahead…

You can see the full update, literally just written by Matt Herring on Robbie’s story here. What do you think, will he come back next year?

After a wetland restoration tour on the coast, Robbie has decided to fly back home!

Mark Bachmann