July Meeting

Wed 11 July 2018 07:30pm

Jack Holland – Brown and Stubble Quail, Birds of the Month
Heather McGinness - Waterbird recruitment and movements: New information for water and wetland managers

The first speaker will be Jack Holland, presenting the Brown and Stubble Quail as the birds of the Month.

The main presentation will be by Heather McGinness, Senior Research Scientist at CSIRO Land and Water, on “Waterbird recruitment and movements: New information for water and wetland managers”.

River floodplain wetlands provide critical waterbird habitats, however, the quality and availability of these sites are influenced by our water and vegetation management decisions. Protecting and maintaining suitable feeding and nesting habitats both between and during rain and flood events is essential to maximise waterbird recruitment, maintain populations, and conserve biodiversity. This requires careful management of both vegetation and water regimes at a range of scales.

The use of valuable ‘environmental water’ within Australia’s Murray-Darling Basin has often been focused on supporting completion of large colonial waterbird breeding events at key nesting sites. However, managers and policy-makers are becoming increasingly conscious of the need to also manage feeding and stopover sites at Basin scales. Appropriately managing environmental water placement is critical to facilitating the recruitment of juvenile birds into waterbird populations. Yet we lack basic knowledge of how water flows interact with other factors such as bird movements, predation, weather extremes and food abundance to influence recruitment. We also lack knowledge of the movements of adults and young during and between breeding events – where do they go, and why? Filling these knowledge gaps is key to improving the efficiency of environmental water management – applying water to the right places at the right times – and ensuring the success of future breeding events and waterbird recruitment.

The Waterbird Theme of the Murray-Darling Basin Environmental Water Knowledge and Research Project (http://ewkr.com.au/) has begun filling these knowledge gaps. Over the past 18 months, the MDB EWKR project has deployed over 80 nest monitoring cameras at colonial breeding sites and has fitted GPS satellite transmitters to approximately 40 Straw-necked Ibis, 15 Royal Spoonbills, and 5 Australian White Ibis. The transmitters record hourly GPS location fixes between 7 AM and 7 PM, and a midnight fix. The trackers have an accuracy of about 10 metres, and are solar-charged and able to transmit for at least two years. While still in progress, preliminary results from this work have already advanced our knowledge of previously poorly understood ibis and spoonbill movement and population patterns and trends in Australia. By quantifying survival rates, movements, and their drivers, the research is assisting managers to identify key waterbird habitats and gain a better understanding of the scales at which habitats and environmental flows are required to support waterbird recruitment.

The MDB EWKR Waterbird Theme is a collaboration between the CSIRO, University of NSW and University of Canberra, funded by the Australian Government’s Commonwealth Environmental Water Office through the former Murray-Darling Freshwater Research Centre (La Trobe University).

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