The Byron Wetlands

The Byron Wetlands are part of the so called Byron Bay integrated water management reserve.  While it could be more coarsely referred to as the Byron Bay sewerage works, in truth, when you are there it is easy see why they are an award winning example good resource management as they have created a wonderful natural habitat for local fauna and flora – birds in particular.   Apart from an unobtrusive industrial processing centre in one corner, the place is more like a park with a number of lakes and swamps interspersed with walking tracks.   Access is by prior arrangement with the council, but it is free and restricted access ensures that the birds do not suffer the continual harassment from dogs and children that they would otherwise endure in an open reserve.

I spotted 5 new species of bird at this site maybe 6 – not bad for two hours of bird-watching with 377 species already on the list.

wetland reserve map
The map shows how water from the sewage treatment plant is then directed to a series of ponds.  In contrast to other sewerage treatment works, which tend to have a series of uniform ponds, in Byron each pond has been set up with a subtly different habitat and as a result each attracts a different set of birds.
sewage treatment
Here the treatment plant can be seen behind one of the lakes that has been constructed as an open marshy area with deep channels attracting ducks, swans, crakes etc. Also it was amazing all this did not smell like a sewage treatment plant!?

In this area we spotted Baillon’s crake (top left), and a swamp harrier – both new birds for the trip.  Also black swans and Australasian grebes.  We saw some spotless crake here too – unfortunately the views were all too fleeting to get a photograph.

sewage ponds
This more shallow lake had a gradual incline resulting in a transition from grasses to lilies, where birds like the golden-headed cisticola and comb-crested jacana below liked to hang out respectively.
fairy martins and mud
The previous night’s rain created some mud that these fairy martins felt was perfect for mud nest construction.   So even the service roads have created an attractive habitat for some birds!
lillies at the sewage works
Some ponds were fringed with melaleuca (paperbark trees) which attracted another variety of birds…
olive backed oriole 3
… such as this olive-backed oriole
white cheeked honeyeater
White-cheeked honey-eater.  Also a new bird.
leaden flycatcher male 2
A male leaden flycatcher briefly emerged from the melaleuca thickets to pose for this photo.
owl box
An owl box in the swampy melaleuca zone.
tawny grassbird
We heard tawny grassbirds on a few occasions.  They normally like to stay concealed, but I managed to get a sly photo of this one.
stilt
Other ponds were constructed with muddy shallows that attracted waders like this black winged stilt and Lathams snipe below.

lathams snipe 2

red knot 2
There were also plenty of red-kneed dotterel, black-fronted dotterel and sharp-tailed sandpiper.  The bird on the left might be a red knot.  It was noticeably lighter than the sharp-tails around it and it also remained behind when all the sharpies suddenly flew off together.  While this would make it a new bird for the trip, I can’t be sure, so unfortunately I won’t be counting it.

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