Permission to Land: Latham’s Snipe Season Opens in Milang with a Flurry of Activity
31 October 2022
The 2022-23 Latham’s snipe season opened with 6 snipe observed during the National Snipe Survey event held at the Milang Snipe Sanctuary in September.
Each season, extending from September to April, staff from the Murraylands and Riverland Landscape Board undertake monthly snipe surveys as part of a national project to better understand this remarkable migratory bird's migration patterns and habitat use. The surveys are undertaken in collaboration with the community, Nature Foundation SA and Goolwa to Wellington LAP.
Latham’s snipe take flight each year from Japan and southeast Russia to the shores of southern Australia and Tasmania, travelling across Papua New Guinea en route. Leaving the Northern Hemisphere after the breeding season, they travel south to the warmer climes of the Australian coast. Here, they favour freshwater wetlands where they can feed and replenish their fat reserves before returning north.
The sighting of 6 birds in one survey is particularly exciting, given the total for the 2021-22 season was 20.
The National Snipe Survey collects information from more than 100 sites across Australia, with up to 2000 snipe observed across all sites in a single month.
E-watering a Vital Resource for Milang Snipe
In addition to contributing to the Milang Snipe Sanctuary Surveys, landscape board ecologists, in collaboration with Nature Foundation SA and Goolwa to Wellington LAP, provide advice regarding the timing, volume, frequency and delivery of environmental water (e-water) on behalf of the Commonwealth Environmental Water Holder.
Since being disconnected from Lake Alexandrina, the wetland relies on pumped e-water and stormwater to provide critical habitat for Latham’s snipe, which favour wet, muddy flats with low-lying vegetation.
Enhancing the timing and volume of e-water applications has become a focal point for Milang Snipe Sanctuary and several trials have been undertaken in order to attract more snipe. With the aim of developing the most suitable habitat, vegetation in the sanctuary has been slashed with 3 different techniques to improve our understanding of the optimal conditions for snipe.
Another factor under investigation is the timing and volume of pumped e-water into the wetlands. Ecologists aim to replicate the depth of water favoured by snipe to forage in (around 3-5 cm). With this in mind, experiments have trialled different approaches to delivering water early in the season to benefit water bugs, declining to levels that suit snipe as the season approaches.
High Flows and a Wet Spring
The high flows and wet conditions of 2022 have provided welcomed conditions to many floodplains and wetlands along the River Murray. Strong rainfall and lateral seepage from Lake Alexandrina will most likely result in favourable seasonal conditions at Milang, potentially without the need for supplementary e-water this season.
While excellent seasonal conditions sound ideal for attracting migratory birds to Milang wetland, many factors influence where Latham’s snipe will choose to spend their Australian visit. Landscape board staff and partners will continue to conduct monthly surveys to monitor snipe numbers over the coming season. Watch this space!
This ongoing effort is supported by Commonwealth Environmental Water Holder and the Murraylands and Riverland Landscape Board through funding from the National Landcare Program and landscape levies.