New bird hiding places aim to bring both amateur and experienced bird watchers to Gum Swamp

Three new bird caches to help twitchers get closer to the action are being built at Gum Swamp, near Forbes, in west-central New South Wales.

New additions created by the local art society will complement the small shelter, built in the 1990s, already in the wetland.

Keith Mullette, Forbes Art Society member and ornithologist, said Gum Swamp is renowned for its diversity of birds.

“There is forest and wetlands so there are always birds here and you can always find great variety – you never run out,” Dr Mullette said.

“There is a panoply of birds that start upstream [of the Lachlan River] which belong to the birds of the east.

“By the time you get to Forbes you get a crossroads, where you start to have increasing numbers of western birds, so that’s a really important point.”

A wide variety of birds visit the wetland near Forbes.(ABC Center-Ouest: Lauren Bohane)

Over 160 species of birds have been recorded in the swamp, including protected species like the freckled duck and musk duck.

“Some will probably never be seen again, like an emu – it has been a long time since an emu was seen here,” said Dr Mullette.

The freckled duck
The spotted duck is one of the birds that nest in the region.(Supplied: HWC)

“But there are other birds that are more common, like the Latham Snipe.

“It’s just ideal for wading birds.”

Jayden Gunn, coordinator of Birdlife’s Central NSW Woodland Bird Project, said Gum Swamp was a site of national significance.

“This is such a good example of a healthy wetland ecosystem, which is quite rare in this part of NSW,” he said.

“The species that reside there … are virtually impossible to find elsewhere.

“So these areas are very important for protecting these species and for bird watchers and enthusiasts to be able to observe these species in the wild without disturbing them.”

Latham Snipe
Latham’s Snipe is a common sighting.(Provided: Geoffrey Dabb)

“Another point of view”

Kim Muffet, a member of the Forbes Art Society, which handles the planning and construction of the new skins, said the original skin was popular.

“I think these [new hides] are quite unique because they are two-story, which gives you a different perspective of the aquatic area, ”he said.

The existing bird skin was also renovated as part of the project.

“It was a Besser concrete building, so we just painted it and we’ll put a sculpture in it,” he said.

A small, two-story wooden building in the bush, with a ramp that leads to it.
The new skins are positioned to help observers get a good view of the swamp.(ABC Center-Ouest: Lauren Bohane)

Dr Mullette said the construction of bird skins has received a lot of consideration.

“You have to think about the visibility of the birds you are looking for and enough protection for the birds to see you, and just general comfort for bird watchers,” he said.

No experience needed

The arts society hopes the new skins will attract bird watchers from across the country and, when international borders reopen, from around the world.

Dr Mullette said bird watching is a hobby anyone can enjoy.

Two men wearing hats stand in front of a railing outside a bird skin.
Members of the Forbes Art Society, Keith Mullette and Kim Muffet, were heavily involved in the project.(ABC Center-Ouest: Lauren Bohane)

With decades of experience under his belt, his advice to those new to the business was to shut up and wait.

“If you make noise you won’t see much, but if you’re quiet and don’t move, and you’re inside the cache, the birds will eventually settle on the water… and will come up immediately.

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