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Stocktake time!

At the end of each financial year many businesses do their annual stocktake. Winton Wetlands is not so different in some respects: but our annual “stocktake” consists of a whole lot of counting and monitoring of living things around Spring each year.

This counting and monitoring is to see how well we’re doing with various species that can provide a useful indication of the ecological health of the wetlands.

For example, over three weeks in October a dedicated team of staff and volunteers participated in reptile counting at 28 sites across the wetlands reserve. The process consisted largely of lifting up sheets of corrugated iron placed at various locations to see if any lizards, snakes or other creatures had taken up residence underneath them.

These inspections revealed the following:

  • 518 individual creatures, representing 15 different species
  • 143 reptiles (lizards and snakes, making up 28% of the total) and 372 amphibians (frogs, 72% of the total)
  • Spotted marsh frogs making up more than half (285, or 55%) of the observations
  • Amongst reptiles, the eastern large striped skink as the most commonly seen species (68 in total, or 13%)

More snakes were sighted than in previous surveys, as were froglets.

Some reptiles new to the area were spotted, including the Olive legless lizard at Flynn’s revegetation site. While they have been found before on the wetlands reserve, it has been particularly encouraging to see them in a vegetated area.

While some staff and volunteers spent much of Spring looking down at reptiles and amphibians, teams of dedicated birdwatchers from Birdlife Murray Goulburn were gazing skyward.

A group of 18 people, including 16 Birdlife Murray Goulburn volunteers and two Winton Wetlands staff, surveyed 14 sites on Wednesday 2 November.

They observed bird 81 species in total. Highlights were:

  • Eight different duck species, including two Blue Billed Ducks – a threatened species in Victoria
  • 10 different raptor species, including a Brown Goshawk
  • An endangered Grey-crowned Babbler at Humphries Hill
  • 25 waterbird species, including juvenile Wood Ducks, Grey Teal and Swamp Hen
  • Only the second sighting of a White-bellied Cuckoo Shrike (last seen in 2014), spotted in an area of land that is the location of important revegetation work done in recent years

In addition to counting birds and reptiles, 170 nest boxes across the reserve were checked during Spring. These nest boxes have been installed by staff and volunteers to help native species find secure nesting spots while waiting for newly planted trees to grow big enough to support natural nesting.

Inspections showed many of these boxes are now occupied by a range of species including sugar gliders, possums, yellow footed antechinuses and eastern rosellas. Most excitingly, a number of squirrel gliders were identified. As a threatened species in Victoria, this was a particularly welcome sighting.

Last but not least, fish surveys were recently undertaken at locations around the wetland reserve (Duck Pond, Cod Pond, and Boat Ramp) in preparation for the reintroduction of Southern Pygmy Perch, a freshwater species native to south-eastern Australia and Tasmania.

These surveys are being used to help ensure readiness for the reintroduction of this native species.

So, just like any retailer, the Winton Wetlands team continues to regularly track its current ‘stock’ (and not just in Spring!) and ensure that all is in readiness for new ‘merchandise’ expected for delivery in the near future – including fish, frogs, turtles, plants and other life forms that will need ‘stocking up’ over time to ensure a healthier business in future.

Of course, the retail analogies shouldn’t be pushed too far! Wetland restoration is a highly complex process, with many variables and contingencies: it’s not a simple profit or loss transactional equation. But it might also be argued that the cost of ecological inaction is very real, while the ‘profit’ to be gained from good ecological restoration efforts can be incalculably big in the longer term. In that sense, every day can be seen as a good day for stocktaking!