On Saturday 19th November, Stefan Brager, Norbert Kempf, Vaughan Turland and I went on a wetland odyssey, to Black River Upper Morass, Parottee Ponds and Great Pedro Pond.
We started at Black River Morass, where we were principally looking for Spotted Rail, which had been reported carrying nesting material the previous week. Sadly, although we heard one close to the road, we could not see it.
We did get excellent views of Limpkin, and many other birds including Northern Jacana. The core area that is the best place in the entire morass system for birding has apparently been leased to cattle farmers, who have run fences into the water. The impacts of grazing seem to include eutrophication, resulting in a loss of open water. This site has great potential for eco-tourism and is less than ideal for cattle.
Next we went to Parottee Ponds, where the water levels were so high that there were no exposed mudflats for shorebirds. This reminded me of the urgent need to reopen the connection to the sea. In the early 1980's Patrick Fairbairn initiated a project to connect a creek to the west of the pond, resulting in a culvert and a bump in the road. This allowed for tidal flows into the pond as well as drainage into the sea when water levels were high. Unfortunately the lands to seaward have been "developed" and the connection to the sea apparently lost. "Fairbairn's bump" has been flattened and it is not clear whether the culvert under the road remains open. This reduces the ecological value of the pond and threatens coastal properties with flooding. Ideally the connection should be reopened. Perhaps the current owner of the land could be prevailed upon to help...
The only birds we saw were Royal Terns, Sandwich Terns and a Caspian Tern.
From Parottee we explored ponds near Hill Top, and got an excellent chance to compare Lesser and Greater Yellowlegs.
From Hill Top we went to Wallywash Pond, where there was only a single coot to be seen. Thence to Great Pedro Pond where the water levels were high and there were Blue-winged Teal, Ring-necked Ducks and Lesser Scaup, as well as a Merlin and several other species.
Regular rains have resulted in unusually lush vegetation around the pond and it was gloriously rich in butterflies, grasshoppers, spiders and dragonflies.