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The return of the dancing brolgas to our Western plains wetlands By Jane Gibb


Brolgas once danced on the wetlands of Western Victoria. But agriculturalists drained the swamps to open land for farming decades ago. As the wetlands were lost, so were the enormous flocks of brolgas and other migratory and local birds that once graced our western plains.

Now, a community-driven project is underway to remediate Walker Swamp, seven kilometres north of Dunkeld on the Wannon River. It's a remarkable story of our community's determination to rebuild the wetlands, for so long a lost and misunderstood local treasure.

A big task gets community support

Swamps recover well from environmental damage. For example, a project to regenerate Scale Swamp, which covers about 100 hectares just south of Dunkeld, has had an incredible impact. Since 2014, the swamp has regained enough water to start attracting the brolgas and swans back. There is a lovely series of photos showing the change here

And it's not only birds that return; frogs and waterbugs love the wetlands, including the wonderfully names growling grass frog, which is currently on the endangered list.

Nonetheless, it is a big task to get Walker Swamp back to it's former glory. The Nature Glenelg Trust (NGT) started its work there a few years ago after a local farming family offered 200 hectares (500 acres) for remediation.

After decades of farming, the land was recently used for growing Bluegums for timber harvest under a managed investment scheme. Bluegums are magnificent, fast growing trees, but they are not indigenous to this area and they are water guzzlers.

To remediate the swamp, the bluegums had to go. And so did the drainage systems created so many decades ago to bleed the floodplains of their life-giving, bird-attracting waters.

Getting ready for Stage 2

On the 2nd of March 2018, the Trust settled the purchase of Stage 1 of Walker Swamp in partnership with the Glenelg Hopkins Catchment Management Authority (GHCMA) and the Hamilton Field Naturalists Club. It's a lovely example of community involvement in the whole process.

Now the Trust is trying to raise another $150,000 for Stage 2, which will double the size of the project to 400 hectares. And guest what. They have raised over $100,000! What incredible community support.

If you want to support this project, click the donate button below.

What this project means to us here at Griffins Hill Yoga RetreatSwamps have been a much misunderstood part of our environment, but that is changing.The supporters of this project are also educating the local people about birds and recently ran a 10-week bird course, with naturalist and birdwatcher, Dr Greg Kerr, which attracted 22 participants.

The idea is get local people to identify the birds and conduct bird surveys as to what birds are around because there are no longer any resources around to do that. It used to be paid for, but now they rely on volunteers. This kind of project improves our community because we can all be proud of conserving the environment.

Remediating beautiful wetland also creates another wonderful place where people who come to Griffins Hill can go and walk and look at bird. It is the change to experience a big wetland. There are not many places you can do that.

If the wetlands remediation is successful, we and many other locals hope that the brolgas will once again dance across the horizon of Walker Swamp.

If you want to support this project, click the donate button.

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