ELUSIVE and rare native waterbirds are finding safe haven in drought refuge wetlands across the lower Murrumbidgee River region.
Threatened Australasian bitterns and their smaller cousins, Little bitterns, have been busy booming, orrking, nesting and hatching in patches of the Murrumbidgee, Macquarie, Gwydir and Murray river regions where water for the environment has been provided.
The NSW Office of Environment and Heritage (OEH) and the Commonwealth Environmental Water Holder (CEWH) have used their limited water resources to provide vital refuge for native fish, birds and other wildlife.
In the Lower Murrumbidgee, bird surveys conducted at nine wetlands over summer have located both the rare Australasian bittern and Little bittern.
The birds have previously been spotted in rice crops in the MIA.
OEH senior environmental water manager James Maguire said water delivered to wetlands in Yanga National Park, close to Balranald, and to nearby private properties had been a boon for the bitterns.
"Maintaining some natural wetland refuge during dry times provides a lifeline for water-dependent wildlife that would otherwise have limited options to successfully breed," he said.
"While most of the wetlands will dry out over the next few months, some of the deeper refuge pools will remain.
"Here the bitterns, including juveniles which were bred in summer can feed, enabling the species to survive through the dry conditions affecting us all.
"Spotted throughout autumn, the Australasian bittern is a mysterious bird with an unusual booming call.
"Dense native wetland plant cover regenerated by water for the environment, such as reeds and rushes, is providing the perfect habitat for the birds to shelter, feed and breed.
"The bitterns are usually hidden amongst the reeds and are only heard and not seen by visitors. We can survey the birds most effectively during breeding activity when the males regularly call to attract the attention of females."
Regular surveys of the Murrumbidgee sites and other locations across inland NSW by OEH helps water managers prioritize their actions for long-term management of these wetlands.
While you're with us, you can now receive updates straight to your inbox every Friday at 6am from The Irrigator. To make sure you're up to date with all news in Leeton sign up here.