Where “Grey’s” matter _ Winton Wetlands home to Victoria’s smallest skink

An important aspect of the restoration of Winton Wetlands is enhancing biodiversity which can be achieved by protecting and reintroducing native species. To select the best course of action, having sound knowledge about the site and its wildlife is vital to plan and implement effective strategies.

Throughout September the team of staff and volunteers a Winton Wetlands carried out extensive surveys to help determine the presence of a range of reptile species at the reserve.

Winton Wetlands volunteer Rod Sherlock and Dr Lisa Farnsworth checking survey sites.

“If we don’t know it’s there, we can’t adequately protect it- our long term survey results will help guide our management objectives on the reserve and ensure that our strategies meet the requirements of multiple species, including our local reptiles,” said Dr Lisa Farnsworth who lead the survey program.

The surveys were conducted over a period of three weeks and included 32 sites across the reserve which were check twice daily. Each site consists of two pitfall lines with funnel traps- a traditional reptile survey technique.  Each site also had 18 roofing tiles, four bark covers, and two sheets of iron laid out, all of which are materials that provide attractive artificial habitat for reptiles.

Constructing the sites using artificial habitat is an important aspect of ensuring that natural habitat is not disturbed when checking the sites.

Overall, 4608 tiles were flipped, 576 bark covers were checked, 900 pitfall buckets were checked, 1280 funnel traps checked, and 256 sheets of iron flipped.

Despite some unfortunate cold weather, 11 different reptile species and 4 different frog species were recorded. The most significant records were Grey’s Skink (Menetia Greyi) at Humphries Hill and Dwyer’s Snake (Parasuta dwyeri) at Gould’s Hill, both of which have not previously been sited on the reserve. These records will add valuable information to the Victorian Biodiversity Atlas and have also increased the coverage of the species known distribution within Victoria.

Other highlights were several Olive Legless Lizards (Delma inornata) at Humphries Hill, Gould’s Hill, and Ashmead’s Road sites and the trapping of over 117 individual frogs. These frog records allowed us to collect over 50 swabs which will contribute to our chytrid fungus prevalence study as a part of the Winton Wetlands Growling Grass Frog Rewilding Project.

Olive Legless Lizard recorded during reptile surveys

Dr Lisa Farnsworth was pleased with the outcome of the first reptile surveys at the Winton Wetlands reserve in over 10 years.

“These surveys highlight the wonderful diversity of reptiles we have living on the reserve and emphasise that Winton Wetlands is a biodiversity asset in the presence and absence of water”

Winton Wetlands would like to thank all those involved for their hard work, especially those who volunteered their time.

A Sudell’s Frog recorded during the reptile surveys in September 2020.

Australia Post Releases Water Tower Art Stamp Issue

There is a level of irony in portraying huge artworks on tiny stamps, but even at a small scale, the impressive nature of these creations is evident. The artworks have become a magnificent symbol of the local people, nature environment, history and industries that were the heart of rural communities. The Winton Wetlands Art Tank, by Guido Van Helten, is one of 74 painted water towers throughout rural Australia and one of the most photographed locations at the Winton Wetlands site.

The Art Tank is now featured in Australia Post’s latest stamp issue – Water Tower Art, released on 7 September 2020, and presented alongside works in:

  • Gulargambone, New South Wales (artist, Jenny McCracken);
  • Narrandera, New South Wales (artists from Apparition Media); and
  • Snowtown, South Australia (artist, Vans the Omega).

The Winton Wetlands Art Tank is a stunning visual acknowledgment of local CFA volunteers which was created during the 2016 Wall-to-Wall Street Art Festival. Prior to commencing the artwork, Van Helten met with members from local Country Fire Authority (CFA) brigades to gain inspiration. The commission saw Van Helten incorporate portraits of three local volunteers, Colin Hooke from Chesney Vale Brigade, Robert Green of Taminick Brigade and Danielle Spokes of Winton Brigade, to create a multi-dimensional tribute. An unexpected but fitting compliment to the contribution of CFA volunteers to the area’s history, landscape and community, this artwork has received national and international acclaim for the striking expression it casts against the backdrop of lifeless river redgums.

While street art may be typically viewed as an urban medium, street art towns, like Benalla, are emerging across Australia. What these large-scale public artworks have in common is that they transform plain expanses, both built and natural, into vibrant and evocative boosts to tourism.

This is the third time that Australia Post have paid homage to the large-scale public murals, with the previous issues featuring Urban Street Art (2017) and Silo Art (2018) which also featured Van Helten’s silo mural in Brim, Victoria – the first silo art in eastern Australia.

Van Helten is among the world’s most prominent public mural artists and his characteristically realist, monochrome portraits can also be found on buildings in Ukraine, Poland, Spain, Belarus, Finland, Italy and America. His style is highly realistic; he often paints from photographs and is inspired by the tradition of documentary style humanist street photography.

The tank can be found in the middle of the wetlands and is part of a separate art trail within the area. Look out for other Winton Wetlands art projects on the site, such as ‘Martins Barge’, the ‘Fish Trees’or take the journey deeper into the site to see Hilda Bain and the Water Gallery.

The water tower art, silo art and rural street art can be explored and appreciated at full size via the Australian Silo Art trail, which coordinates and promotes the artwork tourist trails found across country Australia.

The Water Tower Art stamp issue is available from 7 September 2020, online, at participating Post Offices and via mail order on (1800 331 794), while stocks last.

Photo credit: Australia Post (2020).

Quotes attributable to Annette Green, one of the promoters of the Australian Silo Art Trail

“Silo art is an exciting way of promoting tourism in regional Australia, but it’s not just about the silo art, it’s about our great collection of water towers and regional street art too. With every new location added to our ‘trail’, more towns are linked together, creating an ultimate journey through regional Australia.”

“These artworks are more than just a beautiful addition to the local landscape, for many towns and communities it’s a lifeline. Many regional towns across Australia are struggling due to loss of business infrastructure, drought, bushfires and now COVID-19. Towns that have decided to join the trail are now seeing an increase in tourism, which boosts community income and community spirit”

“The Australian Silo Art Trail is one of this country’s greatest untapped tourism assets. Exposure such as the Water Tower Art stamp issue helps to bring about more public awareness of these great Australian treasures.”

Quotes attributable to Dr Dennis O’Brien, Chair, Winton Wetlands Committee of Management

“The Water Tower Art stamp issue is a great way of showcasing Van Helten’s extraordinary artwork.”

“This unlikely canvas is a breathtaking tribute to local people and a must-see for locals and visitors”.

“The Art Tank at Winton Wetlands has brought new life to a vital piece of infrastructure on our site, whilst recognising the phenomenal contribution the CFA makes to our community and social fabric.”

Photo credit: Banner image by RenSmart Photography

Wetlands are the Kidneys of the Landscape

It’s been raining!

As the water runs off the land and into the creeks running into the wetlands, it picks up sediment and the water becomes turbid (muddy). We measure this turbidity with the NTU scale – 1 is a clear water sample and 100 is quite muddy but it can go higher (Lake Mokoan at its worst was up to over 200 NTU).

At our recent water quality testing run, Restoration Scientist, Dr Lisa Farnsworth, discovered first-hand the value of wetlands filtering out sediment and contaminants from water. Water runs into part of the wetlands at 11 Mile Creek and the turbidity was 60 NTU (image 1).

11 Mile Creek turbidity was 60 NTU.

The water then travels through the series of shallow wetlands and into Boggy Bridge Swamp. Lisa measured the turbidity at the point where the water flowed from Boggy Bridge and into Green’s Swamp.  At this point, after being ‘filtered’ by the wetlands, the water was 5 NTU (image 2), the cleanest we have recorded for some time!

This is a great example of the wetlands performing a vital “ecosystem service” of water quality treatment. The wetlands essentially act as the ‘kidneys of the landscape’, filtering and capturing sediment, and helping settle it to the bed of the wetland and the plants use these nutrients to grow which supports the whole ecosystem.

The water then travels through the series of shallow wetlands and into Boggy Bridge Swamp. The water was 5 NTU, the cleanest we have recorded for some time!
The 5 NTU water from Boggy Bridge Swamp.

Just Add Water

Ephemeral wetlands, like Winton Wetlands, dry and fill in a natural cycle following rainfall in the catchments of the creeks which feed the wetlands. The drying phase, now passed, was very important to the wetland ecosystem which resulted in:

  • organisms laying desiccation-resistant stages or eggs, or plants setting seeds as the water dried out;
  • plants being stimulated to colonise the edge and the wetland bed; and
  • nutrients being transformed and preparing the system for next refilling phase.

Now, as the catchment has become soaked, it seems every rain event even high in the catchment away from the wetlands, is sending pulses of water into our smaller wetlands (such as the Ashmeads Swamp, 7 Mile Creek Wetland and 11 Mile Creek Wetland, and others). They are now spilling over into the larger wetlands of Boggy Bridge Swamp and Winton Swamp, even if this isn’t that obvious from the Hub or the main roads.

The much-needed inflows will create new habitat for the wetland by releasing nutrients that stimulate the growth of aquatic flora and fauna. As the water inundates the wetland bed, the eggs of zooplankton and algal spores hatch, and this creates great feeding opportunities for many bird and fish species. The filling wetlands also trigger native fish and waterbird breeding.

It really is the boom time for wetlands and hopefully rain keeps falling to enable a new cycle of life for many wetland creatures across the whole reserve. This is an exciting time for wetland observers to see what plants and animals use the wetlands. It is also an important time for species to become established or abundant within a wetland system. All you need is to “just add water”.

7 Mile Creek Wetland, August 2020 – just after flooding, the terrestrial plants are drowned and will be soon replaced by the aquatic plants flourishing in the centre of the wetland in the photo. Photo credit: John Spencer
Winton Swamp near Lunette, August 2020. Many plants, such as dock shown in the foreground of the image, have underground tubers which will sprout when inundated, providing rapid cover. As flooding gets deeper, true aquatic plants will take over. Photo credit: Chloe Trevena, Winton Wetlands.

Winton Wetlands Newsletters

Summer 2020

Throughout September a team of staff and volunteers carried out extensive surveys to help determine the presence of a range of reptile species at the reserve. See what they found!

Spring 2020

Check out what’s been going on in the field and in the Mokoan Hub & Café during COVID-19.

Autumn 2020

While the Mokoan Hub & Café has been busy raising much needed funds for wildlife, the team at Winton Wetlands have been organising the site’s very own Turtle Pod.

Coffee for a Cause at the Mokoan Hub & Cafe

The bushfire crisis has created a tough time for many residents and visitors to north-east Victoria. The outlook over Winton Wetlands’ swamps have been eerily clouded with smoke, akin the region, which has served as a reminder of the devastation occurring just 50km to the south-east of the reserve and beyond.

Acknowledging the amazing efforts made by our emergency services and the impact to not only human life, but wildlife, has lead the team at the Mokoan Hub & Café to forge ahead with some supportive initiatives throughout the summer months.

“Being able to support a cause the whole team and our customers can get behind, in a situation you can otherwise feel pretty helpless as a bystander, has been really gratifying” says Café Manager Samantha Trevena.

Throughout January, $1 from every coffee sold will go towards the Wildlife Victoria Bushfire Appeal. All February, the hard cover local history publication Winton Swamp to Winton Wetlands, will be sold at half price through the café with all proceeds going towards the charity that distributes funds to fire affected animal shelters.

Mrs Trevena says that “within the first weeks of January, [the Mokoan Hub &Café] has already raised over $600 for the Wildlife Victoria Bushfire Appeal”.

The team hopes that in the coming weeks the number will climb much higher with thanks to the generosity of the local community and visitors from outside the region, interstate and overseas.

Visitors to the region are encouraged to keep an eye on Vic Emergency (https://emergency.vic.gov.au/) and EPA Air Watch (https://www.epa.vic.gov.au/EPAAirWatch) services.

World Wetlands Day at Winton Wetlands

Join us at the Mokoan Hub & Cafe to celebrate World Wetlands Day 2020!

Activities commence at 12:00pm, including water bug discovery, meet a scientist and colouring in for kids! Enjoy the festivities and our wetlands themed day in the Mokoan Hub & Cafe.

Live Stream with Dr Lisa Farnsworth | Biodiversity, Ecology, Wetlands + More

If you can’t make it, join us on Facebook for our live stream Q&A session with Winton Wetlands restoration scientist, Dr Lisa Farnsworth. Live stream commences at 3pm AEDT. Have your questions ready to go!

Photo Competition 

Test out your photography skills at Winton Wetlands and enter our World Wetlands Day Biodiversity Photography Competition, beginning on Wednesday 15th January!

Photographs must be taken at the Winton Wetlands site within the last 12 months. We have three categories; junior (16 and under), smart phone and DSLR and prizes up for grabs for each category.

Entries must be submitted to info@wintonwetlands.org.au

Your entry must include:

  • Name
  • Phone number
  • Photograph (JPEG or JPG formats only – up to 10mb)
  • Address the biodiversity theme
  • Photograph caption explains links to the biodiversity theme

For more information and T&Cs click here.


| World Wetlands Day at Winton Wetlands |

12pm – 3pm

652 Lake Mokoan Road, Chesney Vale, Vic 3725

Find us on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/wintonwetlands

‘True History of the Kelly Gang’ release

A win for regional tourism and the Kelly story.

Filmed in multiple locations in Victoria, including Winton Wetlands, Justin Kurzel’s True History of the Kelly Gang will open in Australian cinemas on January 9, before its Australia Day streaming premiere on Stan.
The bushranger epic is based on the Booker Prize winning novel of the same name by Peter Carey, and stars George MacKay as Ned Kelly with Russell Crowe as his mentor Harry Power, Nicholas Hoult as Constable Alexander Fitzpatrick, Charlie Hunnam as Sergeant O’Neil and Essie Davis as Ned’s mother Ellen Kelly. The cast also includes Thomasin McKenzie, Earl Cave, Claudia Karvan and introducing Orlando Schwerdt as Young Ned.

The film’s release is buoyed by positive reviews at the Toronto International Film Festival and coincides with MacKay’s other starring role in 1917, the First World War movie that is also due for summer release.
Produced by Porchlight Film’s Liz Watts, Daybreak Pictures’ Hal Vogel, Kurzel and Paul Ranford and adapted by Shaun Grant, the film ‘detonates a punk power-chord of defiance and anarchy with this brutally violent and unflinchingly stark tale that unfolds in a scorched, alien-looking landscape’.

That landscape was a combination of the skeletal remnant red gums at Winton Wetlands, the snow-topped rocky outcrops of Lake Mountain and the historically poignant Clunes Town Hall. The sweeping panoramic shots and eery backdrops created a dramatic addition to an already impressive story and cast.

“After filming onsite in winter 2018, we are thrilled to see the film released… and see our site on show for the world to see” said Daniel Basham, Winton Wetlands CEO.
The Location Manager was keen for places that complemented the drama of the dialogue and provided possibilities for the surrounds to catapult the story. After several site visits over the months leading up to filming from Kurzel and his crew, they were able to envisage both the creative and realistic elements, and balance what was feasible.

“The cast and crew were an absolute pleasure to have here – even during some extreme weather they were receptive and respectful to the site, our Traditional Owners, our staff and our neighbours”

“During the filming, all cast and crew stayed in the region, which was a welcome injection into our visitor economy”

“The buzz that was created by the cast being in and around town was wonderful for both Benalla and Wangaratta, and surrounds”

Frog ID Week

This week is the Australian Museums FrogID Week, Australia’s biggest frog count!

Frogs are a sign of a healthy environment, but around Australia frogs are declining and many are endangered. By counting Australia’s frogs we can learn more about where they are and how they’re doing.

There’s no way scientists can count Australia’s frogs on their own. The country’s too big and there’s too many frogs! That’s where you come in. With FrogID, citizen scientists just like you can help us put frogs on the map!

If you’d like to contribute, download the Australian Museum’s FrogID App onto your phone and start recording your frog calls!

Our Restoration Ecologist, Lisa Farnsworth has just completed analysing 3360 hours (1600GB) of frog call recordings collected over 4 years at Winton Wetlands by our local volunteer Rod Sherlock.

The purpose of this analysis was to confirm the absence of Growling Grass Frogs (Litoria raniformis) on the site, a species that has not been recorded at Winton Wetlands since 1970.

In the process of the analyses, the most common frog species detected on the recordings were the Spotted Marsh Frog (Limnodynastes tasmaniensis), the Common Eastern Froglet (Crinia signifera), the Eastern sign-bearing Froglet (Crinia parinsignifera) and the Peron’s Tree Frog (Litoria peronii).

Many thanks to Dr Karen Rowe from Museum Victoria for assistance with setting up the analyser software for this work and to the Wettenhall Environment Trust for funding the work.

Determining the current kangaroo populations at Winton Wetlands

The Winton Wetlands ecology team have recently been carrying out surveys to determine the need for controlling local kangaroo populations.

Eastern Grey Kangaroos and Black-tailed Swamp Wallabies were surveyed using Line Transect methodology from sunrise to 9:30am when the species were more likely to be active. A total of 65km of transects spread throughout the Winton Wetlands reserve were surveyed on three separate occasions.


  • Average of 64- Eastern Grey Kangaroos per survey
  • Average of 8 Black-tailed Swamp Wallabies observed per survey
  • Kangaroo density of 0.33 per hectare (estimated using conventional distance sampling method)

Based on these results, we estimate the reserve currently holds approximately 3000 kangaroos.

“These densities are less that half of the suggested target density of one kangaroo per hectare for grasslands (ACT Kangaroo Management Plan, 2017) and also below the economic carrying capacity of 0.5 kangaroos per hectare (DEWLP), said Winton Wetlands Restoration Ecologist Dr Lisa Farnsworth.

These results will be incorporated into a Winton Wetlands Kangaroo Management Plan that will detail the following:

  • Kangaroo survey methods and results
  • Fence removal to reduce road safety concerns
  • New vegetation monitoring techniques
  • Future student research opportunities

“The survey results, combined with our highly successful revegetation program have lead us to conclude that, from an ecological perspective, active kangaroo control on the reserve is unnecessary at this stage,’ Dr Farnsworth commented.

In addition to the recent survey work, Winton Wetlands, in partnership with the Friends of Winton Wetlands team have commenced the removal of 12km of unnecessary roadside fencing on the reserve. The fencing that is being removed opens the reserve to create a safer path for native species to disperse and will reduce the likelihood of them becoming trapped in the fences or ‘funneled” along the roadway.

On a state-wide scale, the Victorian Government has recently commenced a permanent Kangaroo Harvesting Program to control increasing kangaroo populations. The new programs is administered by the Department of Jobs, Precincts and Regions, and includes strict safeguards to ensure harvesting is carries out at a sustainable level, that animal welfare standards are met and that the livelihoods of farmers are protected. Landowners or harvesters interested in being involved in the Kangaroo Harvesting Program should visit agriculture.vic.gov.au. All enquiries should be emails to kangarooharvesting@ecodev.vic.gov.au or call 136 186


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Image by Matt Devine