Movements of the rice-breeding Australasian Bittern population are slowly being revealed.
Four of our first five bitterns departed the Riverina after rice harvest.
Read “Robbie’s gone a roaming“, the Spring 2016 Australian Birdlife article detailing the full 323-day journey of the first ever Australasian Bittern to be satellite tracked.
Nine days after attaching the satellite transmitter on April 21st, 2015, with the rice almost fully harvested, “Robbie”, a 3-4 month old from Coleambally, NSW, dispersed 557 kilometres to Pick Swamp near Mount Gambier, SA. He spent four months at nearby Long Swamp, then returned to the Riverina in September, too early for the next rice season. He made his way back to south-western Victoria and to Pick Swamp, before beginning to retrace his journey, stopping at the Glenelg River mouth at Nelson, and then on December 17th, appearing back at Long Swamp. We lost contact in April 2016 after 323 days of tracking.
Where the bitterns go after rice harvest and spend the colder half of the year has been a mystery. Thanks primarily to our successful crowdfunding campaign in 2014, we’ll be able to track at least ten bitterns and identify the network of non-breeding wetlands they rely on. This will enable targeted conservation efforts such as environmental water delivery and habitat management.
Robbie has connected seemingly disparate places and people throughout his travels.
Over a 40-day period in September and October, 2014, the Bitterns in Rice Project raised more than $70 000 from around 300 individuals and 20 community groups and organisations. Note that not all of these funds were pledged on the Pozible website. Special thanks also go to Riverina Local Land Services for additional funding.
The community groups and organisations listed here made contributions of $2500 or more, and we extend our gratitude:
Ricegrowers’ Association of Australia
Cumberland Bird Observers Club
North Central Catchment Management Authority
Coleambally Irrigation Co-operative Limited
Murrumbidgee Field Naturalists Club
Murray Darling Wetlands Working Group
Canberra Ornithologists Club
Coleambally Lions Club
Murrumbidgee Shire Community Demonstration Farm
Murray Irrigation Limited
We’d also like to give special thanks to key supporters who contributed $500 or more:
Murrakool Land For Wildlife
NSW Land For Wildlife
Ecological Survey & Management
Birdlife Southern QLD
JM & JE Byron
Hayden & Veronica Cudmore
Chris & Sue Hardy
Warren & Alison Lang
Neambah Pty Ltd
Ruth & Len Wade
On this key component of the Bitterns in Rice Project, we are collaborating with waterbird tracking expert, Inka Veltheim (Federation University; University of Melbourne). We also gratefully acknowledge the assistance of the New Zealand bittern research team: Emma Williams (Massey University), Colin O’Donnell (Department of Conservation) and John Cheyne (WetlandWorks); and Eurasian Bittern expert, Gillian Gilbert (Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, UK). Thanks also goes to Banded Stilt researcher, Reece Pedler (Deakin University), for loaning us some key equipment to get started.
Some of Robbie’s movements along the South Australian and Victorian coast, 550 km from his rice crop.