PHOTO BY MARK OLIVER
A feeding frenzy of pelicans, charismatic dolphin and large numbers of fish and waterbirds delighted scientists carrying out seasonal monitoring on the Vasse Wonnerup wetlands in late January.
High numbers of fish in the lower Vasse Estuary provided a feast for pelicans showcasing their impressive fishing skills. Scientists witnessed a flock of pelicans herding and encircling fish, feeding in a flurry of flapping wings and feet.
An abundance of fish were also observed within the Wonnerup Inlet where a dolphin was spotted cruising towards the mouth.
“Summer is a great time on the wetlands,” Revitalising Geographe Waterways scientist Jane Wilshaw from the Department of Water and Environmental regulation said.
“Over summer months the wetlands provide a variety of different habitats including mudflats, worm mounds and deeper water, supporting an abundance of macroinvertebrate (bugs), fish and waterbirds”.
As the water levels evaporate over summer they create important habitat for wading birds able to source food from the shallower depths. Many species of waterbirds feed in a variety of habitats ranging from dry mudflats to wet mud and shallow water.
Results from last year’s monitoring of benthic macroinvertebrate by Murdoch University showed that different species of macroinvertebrate occurred in the deep (> 50cm), shallow (~ 15cm) and drying mudflats of the wetlands, with the greatest number of species found in the mudflats.
“As a key food source for water birds it is important to understand the value of these mudflats in supporting different macroinvertebrate species,” Jane said.
“The aim of the integrated ecological monitoring is to better understand the relationship between water levels and the ecological values of the wetlands so we can better manage these internationally important wetlands”.
The ecological monitoring is being carried out seasonally from March 2017 to March 2018 by the departments of Water and Environmental Regulation, Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions and Murdoch University, monitoring waterbirds, water quality, water levels, macroinvertebrate, aquatic plants and fish.
To find out more go to the ‘Appling Science’ page on the Revitalising Geographe Waterways website https://rgw.dwer.wa.gov.au/applying-science/vasse-wonnerup-science/.
For more information contact GeoCatch on 97810 111.