Gwydir catchment aerial survey

Water managers have taken to the sky to monitor flows in rivers and wetlands across the Gwydir catchment.

Gwydir catchment aerial survey

Staff from the Department of Planning and Environment's Environment, Energy and Science Group joined National Parks and Wildlife Service personnel to survey the landscape over spring.

Between drought-breaking rains and follow-up flows, the Gwydir catchment has been transformed.

Aerial surveys are an efficient way to access sites during inundation, observe habitat response, examine flow paths and check for signs of colonial waterbird breeding.

Water manager David Preston said the sight was breathtaking.

'We have seen the landscape change from brown to green in a matter of weeks,' Mr Preston said.

'Core sites that have been supported by water for the environment during dry times have bounced back quickly.

'Waterbird surveys have detected promising signs of breeding including egrets, Australian white ibis, straw-necked ibis, little black cormorants, little pied cormorants and Australasian darters.

'Our ground surveys for frogs found 8 species during a recent spring surveys, including species which respond to inundation of wetland areas including spotted marsh frogs, barking marsh frogs, eastern sign-bearing froglets, broad-palmed frogs and Peron's tree frogs.

'Water for the environment has played an important role in supporting rivers and floodplain habitats to ensure they can recover faster when larger, natural events occur.

'Rain in late 2020 led to a small scale colonial waterbird breeding event on the Gingham Channel. We used water for the environment to support this event and ensure chicks reached fledging stage.

'Then came significant rain and large scale inundation in March 2021, which filled many floodplain creeks and wetlands. Follow-up rainfall since then has kept sites inundated over winter and into spring.

'As we head towards summer, recent natural flows have triggered further waterbird breeding and helped our river and wetland ecosystems to grow stronger and healthier.

'Where needed, we will be able to provide strategic deliveries of water for the environment to ensure breeding waterbirds can fledge their young and other wildlife can breed, feed and grow,' he said.

The department will continue to monitor sites from the ground and the air to ensure waterbird colonies are supported, and the restoration of wetlands continues after the recent drought.