Community explores wonders of the wetlands

Wednesday, 3 May 2017

Budding bird watchers and nature enthusiasts had the chance to see nature at its finest last month at the Wonders of our Wetlands event at Coodanup Foreshore's bird sanctuary.

Held by the City of Mandurah in partnership with the Peel Harvey Catchment Council (PHCC), the free event gave people the chance to become a 'citizen scientist' for the day, and contribute to the conservation of the wetland birds of the Ramsar-listed Peel-Yalgorup Wetland.

Every year, up to 150,000 migratory and resident shorebirds make their summer homes in the Peel-Yalgorup wetland system. Citizen science projects are a vital part of monitoring these important birds and their migratory patterns.

At the Wonders of our Wetlands event, participants observed 82 Caspian terns, six Great Knot and 42 Bar-tailed Godwit. The Great Knot and the Bar-tailed Godwit are migratory birds, flying all the way from Asia each year to feed on the mudflats of the Peel-Harvey Estuary.

Newcomers to bird watching were assisted by Ornithologist (bird scientist) Bill Rutherford, who was on hand in the bird hide to help with using the scopes and identifying the birds on the mudflat. The younger participants also enjoyed using the microscopes to examine the smaller lifeforms that the birds feed on, including species like dragonfly larvae.

Local Elder Harry Nannup performed a Welcome to Country, and George Walley performed songs about life in the environment and the animals of the area. Mr Walley also outlined how Noongar people were guided by the six seasons and the changes in the environment in each season.

In 2009, the City, PHCC and Alcoa joined forces to build the Nairns bird hide at the Coodanup Foreshore to observe the shorebirds without disturbing them. The bird hide will now be opened every morning for residents to get involved in bird watching and get in touch with nature.

This bird sanctuary area, or Djiba Gaabi Djerab Mia in Noongar, meaning 'place of the birds', is renowned for being an excellent bird watching site.

Mayor Marina Vergone said the City was proud to offer events like Wonders of our Wetlands, as residents have the opportunity to get closer to nature.

“We have such a beautiful, interesting and diverse natural environment and ecosystem in Mandurah, and events like this give people the chance to explore our natural wonders with their families, and learn from the experts,” she said.

PHCC Chairman Andy Gulliver said the PHCC was pleased to work with the City to help more people understand and enjoy the unique birdlife and wetlands on our doorstep.

There are many other ways the local community can get involved in birdwatching, including the annual Shorebird 2020 Count, or by downloading the free citizen science mobile app, Birdata. Birdata allows people to record their bird sightings on a mobile phone. Information recorded is also made available to scientists who are studying these birds and the area. The Birdata app is available for free download on Birdlife Australia's website.

The 2017 Shorebird 2020 count was recently facilitated by the Peel-Harvey Catchment Council, in partnership with Birdlife Peel branch.