And the bush has friends to meet him, and their kindly voices greet him, In the murmur of the breezes and the river on its bars,
And he sees the vision splendid of the sunlit plains extended, And at night the wonderous glory of the everlasting stars.

Banjo Paterson (1889)

Friday, February 10, 2012

Waterbirds and Stormwater Ponds

Recently an Australian Painted Snipe (a rare record for Perth) was seen at a small drying wetland near Perth Airport, but it quickly moved on to better locations somewhere else. This got me thinking about the numerous small stormwater ponds near the airport, in the industrial suburbs of Kewdale and Welshpool, and their potential as habitats for waterbirds, including rarities such as the elusive Painted Snipe.

Unusually heavy summer rains this year, have kept water levels up in most of the Perth wetlands, and many of the stormwater ponds which are normally dry or just small pools by now, were still full of water. My wife and I decided to check out a few of the larger ponds in the Kewdale/Welshpool area.

First stop were the two stormwater ponds on the corner of Tonkin Highway and Kewdale Rd. The smaller western pond is full of dense reeds and probably only provides habitat for some crakes and rails, but the larger eastern pond has areas of open water with reed edges. Six waterbirds were recorded here (15 bird species in total), including breeding Australasian Grebe, Dusky Moorhen and Coots. A Spotless Crake was also seen running amongst the reeds.

The pond at this time had little in the way of shallow water and no exposed mud, reducing usable habitats for many non-diving waterbirds. The high dense edge vegetation surrounding the pond also may reduce the area’s potential for some waterbirds, who dislike tall vegetation, due to mainly not being able to see or escape predators approaching.

The second stop was to the large pond on the corner of Aitken Way and Abernethy Rd. This was by far the best and most varied of the stormwater ponds we visited in the industrial area, with 15 species of waterbirds out of a total of 22 bird species seen in the area.

The higher numbers of waterbirds and birds in general were expected, as this large pond has a good variety of habitats for birds, including open deep water, shallow water areas, dense reeds and a variation in density and height of edge vegetation. Australian Shelduck were in good numbers (50+), with Black Swans, Australian Pelicans and Yellow-billed Spoonbills also found there.

This large open pond had the greatest potential for interesting bird species and is easy to access and probably should be visited on a more regular basis.

Noble Park on Belmont Ave and Noble St is more of a designated park in a busy industrial area, but is still used as a stormwater catchment area. It had the lowest count of birds, again probably due to the high water levels and dense, often high vegetation in most of the park. Only 6 bird species were recorded here, with only a couple of Purple Swamphens and Black Ducks using the wetland area.

The large stormwater pond near the busy corner of Orrong Rd and Ballantine Rd (access via an unlocked gate near the tyre yard) has very steep banks, deep water and few shallow or exposed mud areas. We recorded 8 waterbird species (out of 11 bird species), with mainly diving waterbirds such as Australasian Grebes on the water. Shallow areas were limited, but some Black-fronted Dotterels were resting on a small area of exposed sediment near a drain.

A large pond, which also had some good bird potential, is located on Pilbara Rd (just north of Orrong Rd) and stretches across to Kewdale Rd. It has a variety of good waterbird habitats, including a vegetated island in the centre. Nine waterbirds out of 20 bird species were recorded here. Half the pond does have high dense edge vegetation, but the other half on Pilbara Rd has open water and extensive weedy areas.

A small, but interesting pond with open water and reeds was found on Anvil Way, with good recently revegetated areas. This pond appeared a good habitat for a number of bird species that like open sedge/reed areas with exposed mud and sand. A surprising 5 waterbirds were recorded (12 bird species in total), with breeding Australasian Grebe, Dusky Moorhen and Coots at this small narrow stormwater pond.

Mills St (north of Welshpool Rd) has this rectangular stormwater pond stretching onto Kewdale Rd with limited access, but a nice viewing platform. The side are again fairly steep with deepwater,reducing waterbird habitat, but it did have a shallower section on the Kewdale Rd end containing some Black-winged Stilts and Australian White Ibis. This small pond wedged in between factories in a busy industrial area, still managed to have 8 waterbird species out of the 9 birds sighted at the pond.

 A long narrow pond is located on busy Orrong Rd, near Kurnall Rd. I have seen more birds on here while driving past, when water levels were lower, but this time it contained only 5 waterbird species, with mainly Grey Teal and Black Duck on the pond.

This large pond on Banksia Rd has the typical steep sides and deep water of many stormwater ponds, including locked gates and a high fence with no access (well unless you want to push through a hole ripped in a section of fence by someone). We recorded 7 waterbird species, including Australian Shelduck, Grey Teal, Black Duck, and Hardheads, out of 10 bird species found at the pond area.

The large stormwater pond located on Orrong Rd near McDowel St, is again another pond where I have seen more birds during drier times, especially at the usual muddy area near the drain entrance. Water levels were very high and resulted in us only seeing 2 waterbird species out of 6 birds in the area. This pond does have a lot of potential when it’s a bit drier, with more areas of exposed mud.

In the last few years Fairy Martins have been sighted in the Perth area on a more regular basis and have been found nesting in their bottle shaped nests under some of the road bridges, especially along Roe Highway. There were about 10 Fairy Martins flying around their nests under this Roe highway road bridge just north of Welshpool Road.

It was the middle of the day and starting to get hot, so our final visit was the huge pond (or lake) area located at the intersection of Roe Highway and Welshpool Rd. This is by far the biggest of the ponds (~ 300 metres long) we had visited and had the great bird potential, but good views were limited due to the extensive and high vegetation around the pond. We did record 19 bird species with 8 waterbirds, including Black-fronted Dotterels, Hardheads and Darter.

More Fairy Martin nests under the railway bridge on Welshpool Road. It’s too hot and time to head home. There are more stormwater ponds still left to be visited in the Kewdale/Welshpool area, but they will have to wait for another time.

We visited 12 stormwater ponds over the morning and recorded 37 species of birds, with 19 of those being waterbird species. Stormwater ponds are often overlooked as potential good birding areas (especially for rarities), but with so many of these quiet small ponds in the metro area, often with good varied bird habitats, maybe it’s time we paid more attention to them.


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Richard King said...

Hmmmmmmmmmmm? Not really sure, maybe send your CV to some scientific mags?

Sharon said...
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Sharon said...
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Sharon said...

Even those stormwater ponds are located in industrial suburbs, they are like those in the countryside because of the many birds discovered and visited there. It's a nice place for everyone to get relaxed and see the view of nature without having doubt of getting polluted even they are found near the airport.

Sharon Strock