Ok boomer! Endangered bitterns are ‘booming’ in western Vic

Recent wet conditions over spring and summer have resulted in a bumper year for records of the nationally endangered Australasian Bittern (Botaurus poiciloptilus), or ‘boomer’, known for its deep booming call. In fact, for the first time since restoration, a Bittern was detected in early November at our very own Walker Swamp by Tom and our regular team of volunteers. Walker Swamp supports habitat for a diversity of waterbirds and includes the tall reedy habitat favoured by the Australasian Bittern. The cacophony of frogs calling at Walker Swamp is a sure sign that there is plenty of food available! Although we don’t have photographic evidence of this particular bird, a number of our staff have since heard the distinctive call, so we can confirm it was still hanging around right through December. Bitterns are very shy but have a very unusual deep and booming call which you can listen to here.

The photo below was captured in 2020 at another wetland restored by NGT, Long Swamp, in the Glenelg Estuary and Discovery Bay Ramsar site. In fact it is turning into a regular occurance for Bitterns to turn up at wetlands soon after the water is restored; last year we had a Bittern drop into our Hutt Bay site shortly after major restoration works.

Australasian Bittern captured on wildlife monitoring camera at Long Swamp, Victoria in 2020

BirdLife Australia manage the Bittern Project, which aims to help ensure the species’ long-term survival. The group recently released the results of the national Australasian Bittern listening surveys, which detected positive recordings of 68 birds – a veritable boomer boom! Most records were detected in our own backyard in the Glenelg Hopkins CMA region of western Victoria.

NGT has been working with Glenelg Hopkins CMA for the past four years to hydrologically restore wetlands on private land to provide additional habitat for these cryptic and charismatic birds, so we are very pleased to hear about the high numbers recorded.

If the survey results are anything to go on, it will be a great year for boomers – now to keep our eyes open for chicks!

The hydrological restoration of wetlands on private land project is supported by Glenelg Hopkins CMA, through funding from the Australian Government’s National Landcare Program.

Melissa Herpich