In a first for regional New South Wales a floating island will be installed this Friday 18 March in Orange to attract and provide habitat for migratory birds.
The habitat pontoon, to be installed on the reservoir at the Gosling Creek Reserve, an environmentally focused recreation area on Forest Road south of Orange, is a joint project between Orange City Council, Central Tablelands Local Land Services, and the Environment and Waterways Alliance.
The Manager for City Presentation with Orange City Council, Nigel Hobden, says habitat for migratory birds, particularly wetland dependent species, has significantly decreased in Australia and across the world due to urban expansion (including the draining of wetlands for housing and sporting fields) and weed encroachment.
“We see this project as a crucial step in restoring water fowl habitat for a range of migratory bird species. Partnering with Central Tablelands Local Land Services and the Environment & Waterways Alliance has allowed us to share our expertise and resources to ensure a very positive outcome for our environment,” said Nigel.
“The project will look to engage Citizen Science with the establishment of sign posted photo points where people can use their smart phones or cameras to record pictures of the island. Over time this will provide a record of activities occurring on the floating island.”
Approximately half of the 30 metre square pontoon will be planted with sedges, rushes and reeds to create habitat for wetland birds, while the remaining area will be left open as roosting space. Additional habitat features will be included such as hollow logs to encourage birds to utilise the area.
The roots of the wetland plants penetrate through the netting base of the pontoon directly into the water where they will absorb nutrients from the water.
Planted pontoons have been used to aid water filtration at sewerage treatment plants and in stormwater applications in larger Australian cities, but according to Local Land Services this is the first time the technology has been specifically used to create bird habitat.
“We believe this is the first installation of a floating island habitat in regional NSW,” said Colleen Farrow from Central Tablelands Local Land Services.
“Because the pontoon is surrounded by water, it will provide significant protection from feral predators such as foxes and cats.”
“Creating a floating pontoon using connected panels supplied by the company, AquaBiofilter, is a quick and cost effective means of creating habitat.”
“This is a much cheaper and more practical method than using machinery to create an artificial island, particularly as you need to either drain the water or wait for the water body to dry out before you can carry out earth works,” explained Colleen.
Additionally, revegetation of riparian land will be undertaken on the edges of the reservoir site to create habitat for a range of species including the threatened Superb Parrot.
Gosling Creek Reservoir was built in 1890 for the growing city of Orange. While it remains an important element of Orange’s water supply catchment, water is not drawn directly from the reservoir for the city’s potable water needs.
The Migratory Birds pontoon project has been funded by Central Tablelands Local Land Services through the Australian Government’s National Landcare Programme. Orange City Council has also made a significant contribution to the project and will provide ongoing maintenance of the works.