Page 1 Page 2 Page 3 Page 4 Page 5 Page 6 Page 7 Page 8 Page 9 Page 10 Page 11 Page 12 Page 13 Page 14 Page 15 Page 16 Page 17 Page 18 Page 19 Page 20 Page 21 Page 22 Page 23 Page 24 Page 25 Page 26 Page 27 Page 28 Page 29 Page 30 Page 31 Page 32 Page 33 Page 34 Page 35 Page 36 Page 37 Page 38 Page 39 Page 40 Page 41 Page 42 Page 43 Page 4438 IREC Farmers' Newsletter No. 197 — Autumn 2017 HI-TECH TWITCHING IN COLEAMBALLY RICE FIELD Coleambally rice grower, Peter Sheppard, photographed seven brolgas in his rice field with a drone-mounted camera, in mid-March. It’s hard to think of a more iconic Australian waterbird than the brolga. Their dances, trumpeting calls and graceful flight are in equal parts unmistakable and captivating. Matthew Herring Wildlife Ecologist, Murray Wildlife BROLGAS have been embedded in Aboriginal culture for 50,000 years. Fortunately, they are still a common species across northern Australia and central Queensland, but down south they are now quite rare and considered a threatened species. There are about 1000 remaining in south-western Victoria and the far south-east of South Australia, and less than 250 in northern Victoria and southern New South Wales. Peter Sheppard, a Coleambally rice grower, managed to get some stunning images from his drone of seven brolgas during March 2017. It’s the most he has ever seen on his farm. Mark Robb from Coleambally Irrigation has been keeping tabs on brolga numbers in the area for almost 20 years and although he’s seen up to ten together in the broader region, he’s never had that many within the core irrigation area. Three of Peter’s seven brolgas are young birds, without the full red head, indicating an excellent breeding season consistent with many other waterbird species in 2016–17. After the winter–spring breeding season, brolgas congregate in non- breeding flocks, with the most important site in the Riverina being the Tuckerbil and Fivebough Swamps at Leeton. In 2003, I recorded 123 brolgas there but not a single one was a young bird. It is thought these flocking sites are where young birds meet and partner for life; a bit like a B&S Ball perhaps? During our Bitterns in Rice Project surveys we have recorded the odd pair of brolgas in rice around Coleambally and in the Murray Valley, including a rare breeding event near Deniliquin in 2013, but the best areas to see brolgas in southern NSW are on the plains around Urana, Boree Creek, Lockhart, Oaklands, Savernake and Balldale.