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Citizen scientists get a birds' eye view

Students from Irymple South Primary School are honing their skills as “citizen scientists” and helping to measure the impact of environmental watering on birdlife at the iconic Hattah Lakes.

The students are the first in the Mallee to complete Threatened Mallee Birds Education Kit, developed by Mallee CMA in partnership with Birdlife Australia.

This week they put their classroom learning into practice with a field trip to the Hattah Lakes to identify and record threatened species, including the Regent Parrot, Mallee Fowl and Emu Wren.

Mallee CMA chair Sharyon Peart said the trip allowed students to try out their bird-watching techniques as well as adding to a nation-wide database of threatened bird species.

“The kit is proving to be a fantastic resource because it’s so practical both in the classroom as well as the field excursion,” Ms Peart said.

“The classroom teaching resources even include recordings of bird calls of common and threatened native species, which the students really enjoy,” she said.

“The program is hands-on and the students get so enthused that when they get out in the field they’re really ready to shine.”

Students used binoculars, field guides and had help from a local ecologist to identify native birds at the Hattah Lakes.  The ecologist also helped build students’ knowledge about threatened species and their environmental needs for survival.

ISPS Grade Two teacher Maddy Jones said the children enjoyed the practical, hands-on approach to learning.

“The activities we did in class meant they came to Hattah knowing what they were looking and listening for so they could identify bird species,” Ms Jones said.

“They were especially excited to try to spot one of the endangered birds we hoped we might find, the Regent Parrot,” Ms Jones said.

Ms Peart said data collected from the field excursion was confirmed by the ecologist would be entered into the national Birdata web portal, an online platform which allows volunteers and researchers to enter survey information data.

“We will also use the bird data to report to the Murray Darling Basin Authority and the Victorian Environmental Water Holder on the bird species that took advantage of the full Hattah Lakes this year,” Ms Peart said.


The program is supported by the Mallee Catchment Management Authority (CMA) through funding from the Victorian Government. 

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