Above: Water birds have flocked to the Tchum Lake wetland near Birchip after it received an environmental water allocation in 2017.
On the back of a wet 2016, the Mallee CMA received environmental water for selected wetlands, made available by the Victorian Environmental Water Holder. One of the wetlands to benefit has been Tchum Lake, just outside the Mallee town of Birchip.
Shallow wetlands are an ideal place for wading birds. Shortly after water first entered Tchum Lake Reserve an increase in birds was noticed, along with the appearance of frogs and turtles. The transformed landscape, now alive with wildlife, is drawing visitors to Birchip from near and far.
According to Cam Flowers, Project Officer Land and Biodiversity for the Mallee CMA, local people have been taking extra care driving near the lakes as turtles have been crossing the road from Tchum Lake South to reach Tchum Lake Reserve.
“I’m a Birchip local and this is definitely not something you see often in this part of Victoria,” Cam said.
While watering of Tchum Lake Reserve is relatively rare, only occurring after a wet year, the water delivery of 2017 has provided many benefits to the wetland.
“The water helps important plants like the black box trees and fringing lignum stay healthy and it’s making a great feeding and breeding habitat for lots of birds and animals,” Cam said.
The water has encouraged greater diversity within the wetland and it also supports the ephemeral water regime, where the Reserve experiences wetting and drying cycles, a natural process for wetlands in the semi-arid Mallee.
"Shallow wetlands are an ideal place for wading birds. Shortly after water first entered Tchum Lake Reserve an increase in birds was noticed, along with the appearance of frogs and turtles."
Droughts and human intervention have disrupted the wetting and drying cycle, so wetlands like Tchum Lake Reserve have had far fewer wet years. This impacts on the health and diversity of species that would have traditionally populated the wetland.
“Mallee wetlands were all about boom and bust. In wet years they’d fill and then slowly dry out during periods of low rainfall. Environmental watering is designed to mimic the boom, so what we saw in 2017 won’t happen every year,” Cam said.
The people of Birchip have embraced the rarity of the full lakes. Walking tracks have been installed to link the town to the lake and information signs and scenic drives are planned.
For further information contact Kirsten Lloyd at the Mallee CMA by email at Kirsten.Lloyd@malleecma.com.au