Water Bird Numbers Being Affected by Drought

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The Weekly Times shared an article that has the anti duck hunting groups fitting with excitement. Annual aerial waterbird survey results have started to trickle in, and the initial duck numbers are reportedly down due to drought conditions in the surveyed areas.

With the aerial count still ongoing, the final results are still out. On top of this, the season was already heavily restricted this year to account for the conditions.

The article opens with: DROUGHT has devastated waterbird populations across eastern Australia, once again raising the prospect of cuts or even a ban on the 2020 Victorian duck season.

Reports are already coming in from the annual aerial waterbird survey that conditions are now as bad as during the millennium drought.

The University of NSW survey team are more than halfway through their 20-day survey, which began on October 1, and have found three years of drought has dried up wetlands, water holes and farm dams.

While flying over the Macquarie Marshes last week the team leader Professor Richard Kingsford reported “only once during the Millennium Drought have I seen it this bad”.
 

“It didn’t get any better as we headed east. Dry river beds and dams everywhere.”

“Occasionally there was a farm dam with some water and there were a few waterbirds. No water means no waterbirds.

“Around Narrabri, there was a lake which I have never seen without water — bone dry. The Namoi which almost always carries some water was just a string of puddles.”

However, while the survey team found large areas of eastern Australia devoid of water and birds, they discovered what they called “nirvana” in one of Queensland’s most important wetlands — Lake Galilee.

“We work our way around the convoluted shorelines counting rapidly into our recorders — there must be more than 50,000 waterbirds on the lake and its one of the highlights of the trip so far,” Observers John Porter & Shannon Dundas reported.

The survey plays a key role in the Victorian Game Management Authority recommendation to government on whether a 2020 duck season gets the go ahead.
 

“With large parts of eastern Australia experiencing very dry conditions over a prolonged period, there is a level of concern with the impact on game duck populations,” GMA chief executive Graeme Ford said.

“The GMA heavily modified the 2019 season and will carefully consider the impact of the ongoing dry conditions and overall duck numbers in making a recommendation for the 2020 season.”

During the millennium drought the Victorian Government was forced to abandon duck season in 2007 and 2008.

Even last season dry conditions led the GMA to recommend shortening the duck season by three weeks and halving bag limits.

The other big factor at play in the GMA’s final recommendation to government is rainfall records and the outlook.

The BOM has already declared the current drought the worst on record in the Murray Darling Basin, with the latest Outlook stating: The drier outlook continues into December for southern Australia, eastern Queensland, far northeast NSW and much of the NT, with the remainder of the country having roughly equal chances of being wetter or drier than average.

While the outlooks for drier-than-average conditions ease in the coming months, it should be noted that this won’t necessarily ease the current rainfall deficiencies. Several months of above average rainfall would be needed to see a recovery from current conditions.

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