Without a doubt “global hot spot” is not often a term used to describe the Hay Plains – but for the small ground-dwelling bird the plains-wanderer it is the perfect description.
Australia is the only place in the world where these birds exist and with their numbers declining by 90 per cent over the last 15 years, only 300 are believed to remain alive in the native grasslands of NSW.
Two of those native grassland spots the birds call home exist to the north of Hay and southwest of Griffith and a new project is looking to bring graziers in those areas together with government agencies to manage the grasslands in a way that will also benefit the bird.
The program ‘Saving our Species’ has brought Riverina and Murray local lands services and the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage together with local landholders to develop the plains-wanderer stewardship program.
By managing the birds habitat and reducing the risk of fox predation, one of the key threats to the bird’s survival, the program aims to secure a future for the species.
Three project officers are working with graziers to make this a reality, including the Griffith based Megan Purvis.
Ms Purvis said the response from Carrathool farmers in the area she was covering had been encouraging.
“I’ve talked to a number of property owners who have expressed interest in the project and we are now looking at practical ways to get them involved in the program,” she said.
Her counterpart, based in Hay, Cassandra Hooke said the purpose of the project was to get the birds to a point where they are no longer on a trajectory to extinction.
“We are looking for farmers who’d like to work in partnership with us to ensure there is a sustainable population in the future,” she said.
“We’ve been out talking to local graziers about management options that would assist them in maintaining suitable habitat in good condition.
“It’s a flexible project where the property owners talk to us about their individual situation and we work up a plan together.”
Ms Hooke, Ms Purvis and Jerilderie based officer Claire Gannon alongside senior threatened species offercer and expert on the bird David Parker recently found five plains-wanderers in one night on the Nevinson’s property south-east of Hay.
Interested property owners who think they may have grassland habitat for plains-wanderers are urged to contact the project officers to find out more.
They can arrange a site visit and talk about options for grazing, fox control and any other ideas they might have to help the bird while still using their paddocks.
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