Environment SA News

Chowilla wetlands come to life

Parts of the Chowilla Floodplain in the Riverland are teeming with life thanks to the delivery of water for the environment.

Chowilla wetlands come to life
Royal spoonbills, with their black bills, spotted alongside Yellow-billed spoonbills in Chowilla wetlands. Photo by Helga Kieskamp.

Ongoing dry conditions and low flows in the River Murray have prevented the operation of the Chowilla Creek regulator this year, so a large-scale watering event hasn’t been possible.

However Department for Environment and Water (DEW) spokesperson Alison Stokes said water for the environment is being pumped to a small number of priority wetlands at Chowilla and this is providing a much-needed drink for vegetation and valuable habitat for birds, including migratory waders, and frogs.

“In such dry conditions it is really important that we provide refuge areas for wildlife,” Ms Stokes said.

“Coombool Swamp is a great example of a site that has responded well to targeted watering during dry conditions.

“Bird monitoring this spring has revealed a number of important species are enjoying the results of water for the environment.

The water has attracted a range of water birds including 100 Red-necked Stints and 150 Sharp-tailed Sandpipers. These amazing species migrate from breeding grounds in Siberia and Alaska to visit Australia each summer and enjoy eating seeds, worms, insects, plants, molluscs and crustaceans.

“Other species using the wetland include 100 Red-capped Plovers and around 450 Red-necked Avocets. The avocets have a long slender upward curving bill that they sweep back and forth through the water to catch tiny water bugs.

“Royal spoonbills, with their black bills, have been spotted alongside the Yellow-billed spoonbills. They use their large spoon-shaped bills to swing through the water to feed on fish or crustaceans, insects, molluscs and plants.

“At another nearby wetland, a large number of Australian Spotted Crakes have been seen, and along with a range of other birds, they are enjoying the perfect conditions around the lignum bushes.

“A White-winged Triller was also seen. Not often recorded at Chowilla, this nomadic bird migrates to escape harsher outback conditions during spring.

“In addition a pair of the beautiful Major Mitchell Cockatoos (a rare species in SA) were recorded on the floodplain, as were two male Regent Parrots which are listed as nationally vulnerable.

“We look forward to seeing a large-scale natural flood again or broad-scale watering through a managed inundation from operating the environmental regulator, but in the meantime, targeted watering events during dry conditions are vital to help keep valuable pockets of wildlife refuge alive.”