Koondrook State Forest records first bird breeding event in 24 years

Up to 600 breeding pairs of birds have built nests in a wetland in the Koondrook State Forest, known locally as ‘the Pollack’, in the forest’s first waterbird breeding event since 1993.

Forestry Corporation of NSW’s The Living Murray Program Manager Linda Broekman said breeding commenced during recent natural flooding and more than 20 million litres of environmental water a day is now being released into the wetland to maintain the water levels so the chicks can safely hatch and fledge.

“We haven’t had a natural waterbird breeding event in the Koondrook State Forest in 24 years, so it is exciting to see everything from Nankeen Night Herons and Pacific Herons to Cormorants and Intermediate Egrets breeding in the forest this year,” Ms Broekman said.

“When the natural flooding stopped late last year, water began evaporating quickly from this 200-hectare wetland, which created a real risk of these waterbirds abandoning their nests before the chicks fledged.

“By releasing environmental water into the Pollack, we’ve been able to replace that evaporation to give the chicks a chance to hatch and fledge without the water receding too quickly, which is good news for the waterbird population throughout the Murray-Darling system.”

Ms Broekman said the environmental water was being released through a neighbouring farm using upgraded infrastructure installed last winter.

“Because of its location, we are actually only able to direct environmental water into the Pollack via a neighbouring farm so we’ve been working with our neighbour for several years to develop outlet points and upgrade pipes to direct environmental water through his private irrigation infrastructure into the forest efficiently and effectively,” Ms Broekman said.

“The Pollack responded really well to the environmental flows we released last season and we believe this breeding event is taking place now because the habitat is in such good condition.

“Since mid-December, we’ve worked with our neighbour to release the equivalent of around 20 Olympic-sized swimming pools worth of water a day into the forest via his channels and dam and we expect to release over a gigalitre of water into the Pollack this way during this breeding event.

“We’ll be monitoring the main breeding colony throughout the watering to ensure the environmental flows continue to provide the water these birds need to complete the breeding event.”

The development of environmental flows into the Pollack was a collaborative effort between Forestry Corporation, the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage and the Bringan Irrigation Trust, which provided the pumps and channels to deliver the flows and members of the local community.

Water was provided by the NSW OEH Adaptive Environmental Water allocation and The Living Murray. The Living Murray is a joint initiative of the New South Wales, Victorian, South Australian, Australian Capital Territory and the Commonwealth governments, coordinated by the Murray–Darling Basin Authority.

Media contact: Elizabeth Fowler 9407 4265/ 0408 779 903