O’Kane’s Swamp is a private property wetland 3ha in size and is located 8km south-west of Yarrawonga in northern Victoria. Although it is small, it is an important shallow freshwater marsh wetland which has been identified as a brolga breeding site, as well as containing habitat that potentially could support other threatened waterbird species such as Australasian bittern and Australian painted snipe. This wetland used to fill regularly from rainfall and the landholders enjoyed seeing brolgas every year, but now it was receiving far less water and the birds were disappearing. So we stepped in to help with achieving a watering regime that would re-establish the vegetation that was lacking, and hopefully brolgas will follow!
The landholder at O’Kanes Swamp loves brolgas and birds, and their family history is filled with memories of brolgas that would live at the swamp for many years, becoming part of this farming family. Our aim is to use water from the Environmental Water Trust to create suitable habitat to for brolgas and other threatened waterbirds to return to the swamp.
This project commenced in May 2018, with an ongoing watering program for the next ten years. Water has been provided over four consecutive years now.
Water was delivered to O’Kanes Swamp through existing channels on the landholder’s property for an initial watering in May 2018. The environmental water program has been aiming to mimic the historical rainfall events that would have resulted in the wetland filling followed by a drawdown and the essential drying period. This has been providing habitat for waterbirds. Regular monitoring events focus on waterbird diversity and abundance.
There are good signs that improvements to vegetation and habitat are already being achieved, and more vegetation complexity is developing with every drying and watering period. Results so far have seen the new growth of plants such as common spike-rush (Eleocharis acuta), rushes, milfoils and groundcover species such as joyweed and sneezeweed. All these plant species are creating a diverse cover of vegetation which is then used by birds in different ways, such as for food, hiding and breeding.
Since the initial environmental watering event in 2018, 25 waterbird species and over 1000 individuals have been recorded. Widespread species such as the black swan, Australian pelican, red-kneed dotterel have been recorded alongside seven different duck species. The royal spoonbill and Eastern great egret, listed as being vulnerable and threatened in Victoria respectively, have also been consistently observed.
Not only does the watering support the waterbird population, but the woodland birds benefit from the healthy river red gum canopy and abundant insect life! There is never a quiet moment at O’Kanes.