Enabling change in our Society, Environment and Economy (SEE)

Jerrabomberra Wetlands Update

Quite a big group of Friends picked up rubbish along the shoreline of Lake Burley Griffin for our unofficial Clean Up Australia activity on the first Tue in March. We had to be transported to the northern end of the Wetlands, the sensitive area not open to the general public, beside the paleo-channels where the Molonglo River enters the Lake. We cleaned up along the shore opposite Clare Holland House, working our way south-east towards Kingston Foreshore. There was a lot of rubbish, as well as piles of branches left over from the big floods in 2012 that filled the Lake with so many trees and floating hazards to swimmers and boats.

We were much like a collection of different shore birds. Some species, I mean Friends, moved along picking up larger pieces of rubbish. They were following by more picky species (Friends) who collected the smaller bits. Finally, a couple of very sensitive species brought up the rear, collecting all the tiny, annoying pieces that scattered the shoreline and escaped the beaks of the larger or less sensitive species. In all we collected about 10 bags of rubbish. Not a bad haul considering so much of it was pieces of plastic that were small and/or broken.

With onshore north-westerly winds driving the rubbish, almost all of it floating plastic of some description, there was almost none in the water – it was piled up amongst the branches on the shore. We found the usual collection of rubbish: pieces of styrofoam esky, thongs and toothbrushes, beer bottles and plant pots (there were more last time), fishing lures and plastic bottle caps, lolly wrappers and chip packets, plastic bags and parking vouchers, as well as many, many plastic drinking bottles. If Canberrans just gave up drinking water from disposable plastic bottles, it would reduce the rubbish by about half. The Wiggles comb found by the nice Green Army guy was our favourite piece, and it has gone into his collection.

The new Green Army team, one of the final Green Army teams around Australia, collected rubbish opposite the boat harbour, where we cleaned up 2 years before. I’m not sure how many bags they collected because they were still going when we left.

One highlight of our trip out to the north Wetlands was spotting a pair of beautiful Sacred Kingfishers. Many of us saw a blue and white kingfisher fly past and sit on a wire fenceline with its back to Molonglo Reach. We then watched it fly down and back to the same spot on the wire and as we drove off another kingfisher joined it. Enough people, including an avid birder or two, saw them to confirm the sighting. Apparently they were there on the fence 2 hours later when we drove back. Another highlight was two Latham’s Snipes flushed by Gail whilst she was picking up rubbish near the paleo-channels, and some other Friends counted 6 Darters, those lovely snake-necked birds. When we arrived at the Wetlands that day there were 8 Willie Wagtails around the office, so it was already a special day. Apparently the Wagtails may have been preparing for migration, which some of the ACT population do.


Sat 18 Mar – Friends’ third Sat activity is on this Saturday, starting from the Wetlands Office* at 9.00am. Please wear long pants, enclosed shoes, long sleeves, and bring sun protection and plenty of water.

Sun, Mon, Tue 19-21 Mar – various Jerrabomberra Wetlands Cycling and Walking Tours. Come and celebrate the inaugural “Canberra Walk and Ride Week” by going on a guided tour of the Wetlands. You will learn all about the rich history of the Wetlands, the amazing array of wildlife and all the other interesting things that Wetlands have to offer, while getting out and enjoying the sunshine and fresh air. The walks, some with cycling to begin, have different starting points and times and a small cost. Bookings and further information at http://jerrabomberrawetlands.org.au/events/list/. Organised by the Woodlands and Wetlands Trust.

Tue 4 Apr – Friends’ monthly first Tue activity will start at 9.30am from the Wetlands Office* (we’ll start later from April on, following the end of daylight savings on Sun 2 Apr). Please wear long pants and enclosed shoes, and bring water and sun protection. Wearing long sleeves is a good idea too.

Hope to see you soon at the Wetlands.


Snipe update

As of yesterday 14 Mar, one Jerra Wetlands snipe with a tracker (Nozomi) is still at the Wetlands. “Many other snipe have now left the wetland on migration, so we would expect her to leave any day now.” See the latest news at http://lathamssnipeproject.wordpress.com/news/.

And from Lori Gould, Program Manager with the Woodlands and Wetlands Trust (Jerrabomberra Wetlands):

“Click on the link for a 9 minute documentary on the Snipe tracking project produced by Haikkado TV (who followed us around for days on end when we were catching the Snipe at Jerra). It is in Japanese but it is easy enough to follow.” (!?)



Late breaking news

According to a well-know Canberra bird photographer posting on the COG chatline (Canberra Ornithologists Group), well-known Canberra citizen scientist Stuart Harris recently identified his fourth Peacock Spider species. I hope to have more details on this in the next newsletter.

Stuart Harris often joins us at the Wetlands for platypus surveys. He loves those cold mornings in August. And peacock spiders, obviously.


Herons around the world

Ian Fraser, in his fabulous Talking Naturally blog, featured herons in two posts in February 2017. They combine great photos with lots of fascinating information, and have a preponderance of Australian species, naturally.

A World of Herons: #1:


A World of Herons: #2:



Native land snails in conversation

Conversations, on ABC radio, recently replayed an interview by Richard Fidler with Dr John Stanisic. “John is a biodiversity scientist and Australia’s foremost expert on native land snails. He’s also known as The Snail Whisperer and has identified many thousand of species of native snails over the years. These are not the garden variety snails that eat your flowers and vegies, these are native land snails that are key players in forest decomposition. John believes Australian snails are little understood and can tell us much about environmental health, especially in rainforest and limestone habitats.

He is an honorary research fellow at the Queensland Museum, and a research associate with the Australian Museum.” The audio program runs for 50mins and was originally broadcast in June 2014:



Australia State of the Environment 2016

Invertebrates, and how little is known about them, gets a mention in the latest Australia State of the Environment (SoE) report. The Ecological Society of Australia (ESA) responded to the report in a post titled ‘Ecologists dismayed by loss of biodiversity identified in State of the Environment’:

‘ESA is very concerned with the ongoing loss of biodiversity highlighted by the State of the Environment report released this week,’ says Professor Don Driscoll, President of the Ecological Society of Australia.

The report, commissioned every 5 years by the Australian Government, notes that Australia’s biodiversity is continuing to decline, and new approaches are needed to prevent accelerating decline in many species.

‘The main pressures affecting the Australian environment today are the same as they were 5 years ago, when the last report was published,’ says Professor Driscoll. ‘Clearly there are major failures in regulation, in funding, and in policies that expand population growth.’ ” (read ESA’s full response here: http://www.ecolsoc.org.au/news/2017/03/ecologists-dismayed-loss-biodiversity-identified-state-environment).

It’s not all bad news, however.

Read an Overview of the SoE report: http://soe.environment.gov.au/theme/overview/headlines

Or read the SoE report by Theme – Atmosphere, Build Environment, Heritage, Biodiversity, Land, Inland water, Coasts, Marine environment, Antarctic environment: http://soe.environment.gov.au/themes-all

In the menu along the top you’ll also find links and the key findings related to:

Drivers: “In Australia, the key drivers of environmental change are population and economic activity.”

Frameworks: used to develop the report, building on the “internationally accepted approach for reporting on the environment – the drivers, pressures, state, impact, response (DPSIR) framework – to structure its assessments”

Topics: detailed breakdowns and/or common features across themes and frameworks

Download page: http://soe.environment.gov.au/download


Lakes, lakes, lakes

Over several days in late Feb, The Canberra Times featured articles and an editorial on various aspects of Canberra’s lakes.

‘Lake Burley Griffin: love it or lose it’, The Canberra Times Editorial 21 Feb 2017:


‘Love our lakes: Lake Burley Griffin water is improving and it’s usually safe to swim’, by Clare Sibthorpe, The Canberra Times 21 Feb 2017:


‘Love our lakes: Community groups welcome government education program to save our waterways’, by Clare Sibthorpe and Finbar O’Mallon, The Canberra Times 21 Feb 2017:


‘Love our lakes: Fixing the smell and appearance of Lake Burley Griffin water a decade’s job, scientist says’, by Clare Sibthorpe, The Canberra Times 22 Feb 2017. “‘People need to understand that if you drop a piece of rubbish it is likely to end up in the catchment which runs into the lakes.’ Clean up Australia president Ian Kiernan”




“In our day-to-day life in the 21st Century we have become increasingly partitioned from the events in the natural world. Many people find themselves living in a human created world of technology, concrete and glass. Whether living in the city, town or rural areas most people don’t have either the time or awareness to realise that there is another whole world of biodiversity with which we share our existence.”.

Although the SWIFFT (State Wide Integrated Flora and Fauna Teams) website is primary aimed at Victorians and their wildlife, much of the information is relevant to the ACT and region too and many of the species mentioned, such as Brolgas, were once commonplace in the ACT. Many of the coastal species can also be seen on our local NSW coast or were previously found there… [The SWIFFT website also hosts the Latham’s Snipe Project webpages]

“Bio-calendar is a resource that can assist in recognising natural biological processes that plants and animals undergo in response to seasonal variations in the environment.

Bio-calendar recognises six seasons which attempts to reflect seasonal variations that are more in alignment with natural biological events relevant to Victoria, Australia, rather than the fixed three monthly four seasons of the European calendar. Of course there will be variations across different parts of Victoria” [and the ACT and region too]: http://www.swifft.net.au/cb_pages/bio-calendar.php

SWIFFT also have a glossary explaining environmental terms: http://www.swifft.net.au/cb_pages/environmental_glossary.php


Threatened Wildlife photo competition open

The Australian Wildlife Society Threatened Wildlife Photographic Competition is a national competition that awards and promotes endangered Australian wildlife through the medium of photography. The Australian Wildlife Society invites photographers to raise the plight of endangered wildlife in Australia.  The Society aims to encourage the production of photographs taken in Australia, by Australians, which reflect the diversity and uniqueness of endangered Australian wildlife.

Closing date for entries 30 June.

An annual judge’s prize of $1,000 will be awarded.

An annual people’s choice prize of $500 will be awarded.


For competition details and entry rules see the attached flyer or go to http://www.aws.org.au.

Online voting for the people’s choice will be open from 1 July to 30 July.


Bat fact basics

– Bats are mammals: they are warm-blooded, have hair and feed their young on milk.
– Most bats are relatively long lived, from three to 10 years, and in some cases 20 years.

– Bats are ‘placental mammals’: young bats develop within their mothers’ uteri. Most mammals are placental, including dogs, cats and people. Other types of mammals are the pouched marsupials (kangaroos, possums etc.) and egg-laying monotremes (echidnas and platypus).

(from Bat Pack: Bat Resources, Bat Activities, available from the Australasian Bat Society, ausbats.org.au)


Deb Kellock

Coordinator FJW

With thanks to our


  • ACT Government Environment and Planning
  • The Association of Independent Schools of the ACT (AISACT)
  • Catholic Education Office (Archdiocese of Canberra and Goulburn)
  • Education and Training Directorate
  • ACT Government