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.

Field and Game - - NEST BOXES -

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.”

Si­mon Web­ster

>> “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

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