Highlights from the Centre for Ecosystem Science Annual Waterbird Survey

UNSW Sydney’s Centre for Ecosystem Science (CES) carried out their annual Australian aerial waterbird survey from 6 October to 18 November, collecting information on the abundance and diversity of waterbirds across five Australian states and territories. The survey is supported by the Governments of Queensland, NSW, Victoria and South Australia as well as the Murray-Darling Basin Authority. The aerial survey was lead by CES Director Professor Richard Kingsford who has been undertaking the survey since 1986. 

In 2020, the survey was completed two weeks later than usual due to complications with interstate travel. In previous years the survey began in Queensland in early October but this year, the first part of the survey was confined to NSW, ACT and SA—with the exception of specific parts of Queensland and Victoria that could be observed without the need to land and refuel. Thousands of straw necked ibis established in the Gayini Wetlands. Image: Prof Richard Kingsford.

Prof Kingsford and his colleagues blogged along the way, sharing photos, videos and daily observations on bird species and numbers, water volumes in lakes, rivers, wetlands and dams and interactions with border control officers. For various bands of the survey, Prof Kingsford was accompanied by John Porter, visiting senior lecturer, CES and NSW Department of Planning, Industry and Environment (DPIE), Shannon Dundas (DPIE) and Paul Wainwright, Australian Department of the Environment, Heritage, Water and the Arts (DEWHA). The pilot throughout was James Barkell, DPIE. 

Prof Kingsford said it was challenging to complete the survey this year. He said that while many areas had experienced substantial rainfall, this hadn't translated into river flows - except for in the cases of the the Paroo and Lachlan Rivers. 

Results of the aerial survey are provided to the state governments and the Murray-Darling Basin Authority to measure conservation value, effects of river flows, including environmental water delivery for water dependent ecosystems. 

Explore the 2020 Annual Waterbird Survey blog

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