Out of the boxes
Field & Game Australia members put in thousands of hours erecting and maintaining nest boxes to support breeding and improve nesting success.
Their efforts are paying off this year with abundant water and reports of high rates of occupation.
Simon Webster, who has been working on nest boxes with the Bairnsdale and Sale branches for decades, is upbeat about the breeding season so far. “The conditions are fantastic, compared to where we were at the same time 12 months ago, the water alone is an enormous factor and the breeding season has been fantastic,” he said. “All the major State Game Reserves are all full and we are just poised for a tremendous run into the summer and we are very optimistic about the 2017 season.”
Bairnsdale’s scheme has 250 nest boxes across Macleod Morass and Simon estimates 75 per cent are being used for breeding.
“That is startling, I’ve been doing nest boxes for a long time, 20 plus years, and I’ve never seen the boxes being used as consistently as they are,” he said. “I fully expect we could have breeding right through to Christmas the way is at the moment. Sale has more than 350 boxes at Lake Wellington and it is much the same story.”
While nest boxes are a key plank of Field & Game’s conservation effort the Gippsland branches are working to ensure the broader community understands the work we do. “A real key thing for us this year was the nest box program extending into some of the urban and residential areas of towns,” Simon explains. “We’ve just put nest boxes through a new residential subdivision in Bairnsdale and we are ready to put boxes in Lake Guyatt and Lake Guthridge in Sale which helps us to show the non-hunting public what we’re doing. >>
“All the major State Game Reserves are all full and we are just poised for a tremendous run into the summer and we are very optimistic about the 2017 season.”
>> “I think engagement is important to let the public see what we’re doing, it’s one thing to go and put nesting boxes in places where hunters see them and get satisfaction from knowing the work is happening, it is another thing for the general public to see them and understand our conservation message.”
Accessible nest boxes closer to towns also provide an opportunity to engage local communities as nest box volunteers. “There’s no better place to put them than right alongside a major walking track that is travelled by thousands of mums and dads pushing prams and riding bikes, it is something we need to encourage,” Simon said.
Blair Findlay from Geelong Field & Game has a similar take on the breeding season based on monitoring at Hospital Swamp, Thompson Creek, Reedy Lake and the Barwon River. “Mainly in ours we track chestnut teal and we also get parrots as a bit of a byproduct but at least they are native,” he said.” “Recently because of the flooding we haven’t been able to access our sites and we lost some clutches where the nest boxes went underwater but prior to that we were seeing well above 50 per cent and as high as 80 to 90 per cent occupation.”
Blair said volunteers have reported clutches of 14 and 15 eggs in a single box and there are signs amongst other wetland dwellers of a significant breeding event. “It is hard to capture a lot of what you see, and people look at you in disbelief when you tell them there are 800 to 1000 swan nests on Lake Modewarre, you stumble across them without even trying.”
Jasmine Webster, 10, clearing a nest box at Macleod Morass
Bairnsdale FGA member John Nash clears a path
Bailey Webster, 8, understands that working on nesting boxes has its rewards