Can a bird say 'cheese'?

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A network of remote surveillance cameras is providing new insights into wetland health and animal behaviour in the Gwydir valley.

Two new cameras have been installed in the Gwydir Wetlands this year, bringing the total number across the wetlands to four.  In a region where watering sites can be a day’s drive from the nearest office, the equipment is proving invaluable.  Senior Wetlands Conservation Officer Daryl Albertson said access to real-time and stored data as well as imagery offered a number of advantages over intermittent site visits which might be weeks or months apart.


The cameras allow us to see exactly what is happening at the target site at any given moment and without the need to travel long distances or negotiate difficult terrain, Mr Albertson said.


We have been using this remote camera technology to assess the movement of water to our target sites and adjust flows to achieve specific water levels if needed. In this way, we can flood the wetlands with precision and avoid human disturbances as much as possible.  Knowing what is happening on the ground within a short time-frame is the key.  The use of real-time data is also reassuring for anyone interested in the progress of environmental watering events.  It’s a means of building trust and confidence in the work done by the OEH, Mr Albertson said.

The original surveillance cameras were installed at key sites in 2010 and since then have provided reliable support for staff as they manage flow deliveries.  The images below show a remote drop-board weir where the channel can become blocked leading to breakouts onto cropping country upstream. This can have unwanted consequences during flow deliveries, particularly during harvest times. In response to images from the cameras, action can be taken almost immediately to alleviate the problem before crop damage occurs.

Funding for the two additional cameras has been provided by the Commonwealth Department of the Environment through the Long Term Intervention Monitoring program being undertaken in the Gwydir valley.  Attached to these new cameras is an array of other monitoring devices recording parameters such as rainfall, temperature and water depth.  Each camera comes complete with solar panels and deep cycle batteries. In the future, additional monitoring devices such as call recorders may be incorporated as technology improves.

The use of remote cameras offers a number of advantages for wildlife too.

These cameras allow us to be far less intrusive when it comes to bird monitoring, particularly during the breeding season.  Successful waterbird breeding is one of the important performance measures of environmental water management. Traditional ground surveys can disturb the nesting colony with potential unknown impacts on the overall success of the event.  Cameras allow for surveillance without the disturbance, alleviating animal welfare concerns and minimising human impacts on the colony. (Daryl Albertson)

The cameras researchers to keep an eye on water levels which are critical to the success of a breeding event. Too much or too little and the birds could abandon their nests, eggs or young to ever-present predators.

Recent observations of darters and cormorants nesting near one of the cameras revealed some interesting insights:

It was surprising to see just how quickly young darters grow when fed by attentive parents, Mr Albertson said



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