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2016-2017 Activities: The Macquarie Marshes

Update on current activities

The waterbird breeding season within the Murray-Darling Basin is well under way and so is our field season! In October 2016 we made a trip to the Macquarie Marshes in north-western NSW, where thousands of waterbirds are breeding, nesting and foraging.


The Macquarie Marshes

The Macquarie Marshes provide important breeding and foraging habitat for an array of waterbirds. Part of the Marshes is listed as a Ramsar wetland of international importance. 2016 has been an exceptional year in the Marshes for waterbird breeding, especially straw-necked ibis (Threskiornis spinicollis).

Straw-necked ibis on nests at Monkeygar Swamp, Macquarie Marshes, NSW. Image credit: Heather McGinness

During our October 2016 visit to Monkeygar Swamp in the Marshes, straw-necked ibis had established nests on phragmites reed beds. Most nests contained at least one chick. A few Australian white ibis (Threskiornis molucca) were seen nesting with the straw-necked ibis, and glossy ibis (Plegadis falcinellus) were repeatedly seen flying in flocks and foraging within Monkeygar Swamp.

Straw-necked ibis chicks. Above: younger chicks. Below: older chicks. Image credits: Freya Robinson


Magpie geese (Anseranas semipalmata) with chicks, brolgas (Grus rubicunda), pink-eared ducks (Malacorhynchus membranaceus) with chicks, musk ducks (Biziura lobata), nankeen night-herons (Nycticorax caledonicus) and intermediate egrets (Ardea intermedia) were all seen foraging near the Monkeygar Swamp colony.

Time-lapse and motion-sensing camera nest monitoring

Staff from the NSW OEH (Office of Environment and Heritage) installed 15 cameras on straw-necked ibis nests in early October 2016 within the Monkeygar Swamp colony. We will process these images and extract information about chick mortality, feeding rates and predation within the Monkeygar colony. Although there was no direct evidence of predation within the Monkeygar colony (eg. smashed eggs) we did observe a fox, feral pig and cat on the fringe of the colony. A swamp harrier (Circus approximans) and whistling kite (Haliastur sphenurus) were seen too.

A fox seen on the fringes of the Monkeygar Swamp colony. Image credit: Freya Robinson
A camera set up on a clump of straw-necked ibis nests within the Monkeygar Swamp colony. Image credit: Heather McGinness


Satellite tracking of bird movements

We deployed satellite GPS transmitters on 5 adult straw-necked ibis (2 females and 3 males) in the Monkeygar Swamp colony. Birds were also fitted with leg bands for later identification.

Gracy, Gill, Gough, Galaxy and Gigi are our birds from the Macquarie Marshes. All are showing varied movements from Monkeygar Swamp and we will continue to monitor their movements. We will be updating the site regularly with satellite images of their movements.

Leg bands on a straw-necked ibis known as Gough. The orange band represents a Macquarie Marshes bird and the silver band is the ABBBS band. Image credit: Heather McGinness
A satellite transmitter attached to a bird harness. Image credit: Heather McGinness

Please report any sightings of banded birds or birds with transmitters to Heather McGinness: 0428124689 or the Australian Bird and Bat Banding Scheme (ABBBS) (02) 6274 2407


Straw-necked ibis movements

Gough’s movements (26 October 2016- 6 November 2016)

Movements of male straw-necked ibis Gough from the Macquarie Marshes to south of Dubbo. Image credit: CSIRO
Gough’s movements within NSW from the Macquarie Marshes to south of Dubbo. He has travelled over 200km. Image credit: CSIRO

Movements of all 5 Macquarie Marshes birds (29 October 2016- 12 December 2016)

Movements of all 5 birds from the Macquarie Marshes from 29 October 2016. White= Gough (male), green= Gigi (male), black= Galaxy (female), blue= Gill (male), yellow= Gracy (female). Click on image for larger version, Image credit: CSIRO


Check out the image gallery for more images from the Macquarie Marshes