October 2016 Field Visit – Fivebough Swamp in flood

I must confess to a spot of laziness this month. With plenty of time available, and much sunnier weather than we’ve had in months, I had many opportunities to head out for a field visit during October, but I left off doing so until the final weekend (I did get a lot of washing and some yard work done, though, so I’m counting it as a productive month from a non-blogging perspective).

My tardiness was then capped off by a spot of not thinking things through properly, and I decided to head to Leeton’s Fivebough Swamp for this month’s trip. I managed to forget the part where this has been a high-rainfall year, and although Fivebough is now actively managed, it has for millennia been a drainage depression below a line of hills – aka a place that catches water in high-rainfall years (I don’t know, I was distracted, the brain cells just did not connect).

I have previously blogged about visits to Fivebough in January this year and last, so you might like to compare with the photos from those visits.

Currently, the main entrance to Fivebough looks like this:

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Given the complete and utter lack of passable (or even visible) pathways I was rather confined to this front section, near the picnic area. I did entertain some hopes of following the access road around to the ponds birdhide, but it was overgrown to the point where I couldn’t see any evidence that a road had ever existed just there, which was a bit of a disconcerting experience.

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However, in this one small area, in a year that does not lack for wetland habitat for birds across the state and beyond, there were still quite a few species of waterbirds represented.

Like this White-faced heron (Egretta novaehollandiae)

Peek-a-boo white-faced heron
Peek-a-boo!

 

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Several Black Swans (Cygnus atratus) – and assorted ducks

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While I watched, four large birds I at first thought might be swans came winging in:

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Once they’d landed I realised they were in fact Magpie Geese (Anseranas semipalmata).

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I saw some Magpie Geese at Fivebough in January, and have occasionally seen them at other locations, and they remain one of my favourite birds to see, so I was pretty happy that these four showed up while I was there.

Not long after the Magpie Geese, a flight of White Ibises flew past, although they didn’t land nearby.

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There were also quite a few invertebrates present. I’m not sure if these were all mosquitoes or something else entirely (or maybe a mix of both), but I didn’t want to disturb them and potentially find out.

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In the shallow water I also saw several bright red, thread-like invertebrates (worms perhaps? Larvae of something?) wriggling and dancing about before disappearing suddenly. I have no idea what they were, and they were hard to photograph, but I’ve managed to point some out in the photos below, and you can see them if you enlarge (click on) the photos. If anyone reading can shed some light on their identity I’d be interested to know.

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On the way out, while crossing the bridge over one of the irrigation channels that criss-cross Leeton I noticed a lot of tadpoles in the water – or possibly small fish, but from the shape of them I’m pretty sure they were tadpoles. Getting a good photograph was difficult, but here’s my best one:

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I also swung around to the Hooey Road lookout behind Fivebough, and saw a fair few swans with half-grown cygnets, but I need to upgrade my camera equipment before I can hope to get any sort of decent photos from that lookout – the birds are always much too far away for my current cameras.

See you in November! (Also, wow, it’s only two months to the end of the year again, yikes)

PS. In case you missed it: I got a couple of nice photos of a male Superb Fairy-wren at Deniliquin earlier this month.

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4 thoughts on “October 2016 Field Visit – Fivebough Swamp in flood

  1. A.M. Valenza October 31, 2016 / 1:29 pm

    All the pretty birds omg ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤ Of course the Black Swan's are my favorite this time around, heh, I remember how surprised I was about them the first time I got into your blog! I kind of want to do an entire story-verse with just birds and cool fantasy stuff, and your blog is always giving me All the Plot Bunnies for it.

    Anyway, so what I understand about Fivebough is that it's a place to collect run-off water during super rainy seasons? And since you've been dumped in rain this year, it's overflowing and all the paths disappeared. That kind of sucks but also it's cool to see in a very 'Logan's Run, the Earth Has Reclaimed Itself' kind of way.

    *excited* I just got a thousand plot bunnies for Bird story during this post. I blame you.

    Liked by 1 person

    • A.M. Valenza October 31, 2016 / 1:29 pm

      P.S. I’ve totally missed your other posts and Imma read them when I’m not so tired from editing all day long bleh ❤

      Like

      • riverinawildlife October 31, 2016 / 5:07 pm

        It’s all good. 🙂 Do you want me to make sure I tag you on Twitter every time I put up a new post?

        Like

    • riverinawildlife October 31, 2016 / 5:37 pm

      Woo! Fancy bird plot bunnies! I’m looking forward to seeing what you come up with. 🙂

      Yes, that’s pretty much it. Fivebough is basically a naturally-occurring low point in the landscape, which happens to be right near a major hill range (you can see them in the background), which means that rainfall runs off the hills and collects in the depression. So since forever it’s been a case of: Wet year = Bam! Wetland, and Dry year = open grassy area (or grassy woodland area, I believe it used to have trees in it back in the day), with the amount of rainfall each year determining how much water collected and how long it stayed. It used to be a really important site for local Wiradjuri people, because it was a good place to find food and water, and also rushes and things for weaving and making strings and stuff.

      The site and surrounding area has been modified a lot in the last 150 or so years (for one thing, there’s a now a town right next to it, as well as farmland), and the site is actively managed, and has water deliberately fed to it, so part of the site is now a permanent wetland, and part of it gets flooded once a year or as needed and allowed to slowly dry out. This means that even in dry years there is water in the permanent section and often water fed into the ephemeral section, to provide waterbird habitat when there’s not a lot anywhere else. It is however still a low point in the landscape, which means that it still collects rainwater run-off, which means that in a year like this year when there’s just been So. Much. Rain it really fills up. This is the most water I have ever seen in Fivebough at one time, but it’s also the first time I’ve visited in a flood year, so I was caught by surprise more than I probably ought to have been.

      The people who maintain it are probably going to have a hell of a time doing track maintenance after the water goes down though, and they only just upgraded the track system last year, so I feel a bit sorry for them on that front. There were a whole lot of recent seedlings planted not long ago that have been flooded too, but they’re in some of the shallower bit, so hopefully the water will go down quickly just there and all the little seedlings won’t have drowned. But yeah, that’s Nature for you, she put the rainwater tank there and we’re the ones who came along and put infrastructure in it, so we can’t really complain if our wetland gets wet.

      Like

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