Lake Gladstone is the largest permanent wetland in the Kimberley region of northern Australia. However until recently, it was trampled by cattle, its waters muddied, and the balance of native vegetation exposed to invasive weeds.
In 2005, an agreement between neighbouring property managers and the Australian Wildlife Conservancy lead to restoration of this unique wetland. A stock-excluding fence was erected, followed by weed control measures. The results have been spectacular.
To visit Lake Gladstone now is to experience a richly biodiverse place, alive with the sounds of birdsong and waterfowl. Ducks and grebes call from the water, darters and egrets from surrounding perches, while brolgas take wing and call from overhead. Crakes and swamphens dabble among the reeds along the water's edge, and bush birdsong fills the trees.
This recording documents a single morning at the lake, beginning in the darkness of predawn. Over the following three hours, the sun rises, casting long shadows over the waters and reedbeds. The soundscape subtly transitions from the songs of nocturnal crickets and cries of waterbirds in the dark, to the daytime activity of songbirds.
This is a single, unedited recording. At three hours, it is also a long one. However it remains interesting the whole time, presenting the biodiversity of the place and allowing you to hear the success that collaborative conservation initiatives can achieve.
"One would expect that it would be easy to sound record in such an acoustically rich location. However placement of microphones involved some consideration. I chose two locations and ran two recorders continuously: one on open grassland close to the main water body, and the other by reeds and the water's edge in a sheltered area under established eucalypts.
"The final edit is comprised of the two recordings. The early dawn sequence was recorded in the open, and captures the nocturnal sounds of ducks and waterfowl on the lake and adjacent reedbeds. As the sun rises, the edit transitions to the second pair of microphones under the trees. Open water was still nearby, but here honeyeaters, magpie larks, cuckoo-shrikes and other songbirds flit about. Crakes and swamphens can be heard splashing and feeding close by the microphones. This recording location remained interesting well into the morning, while the open ground recording eventually became dominated by the buzz of flies circling (and landing on!) the microphones.
"At the conclusion, you can just hear the first morning breeze stirring the trees, and it was not long after that activity dissipated."
Bird species audible on this recording (in taxonomic order rather than any sequence of when their heard, and there are certainly species I've missed!):
Little Black Cormorant
Little Pied Cormorant
Plumed Whistling Duck
Wandering Whistling Duck
Pacific Black Duck
Red-tailed Black Cockatoo
In addition, there are nocturnal and diurnal crickets calling, plus at least one species of frog (heard in the predawn sequence).
Lake Gladstone is listed on the Directory of Important Wetlands of Australia, and home to a large number of waterbird species, both migratory and resident, including a number of species considered vulnerable. Although Crown land, it was designated as a travelling stock route, which lead to the degradation that ensued over a long period.
Lake Gladstone is nearby to Mornington-Marion Downs Station, a property administered by the Australian Wildlife Conservancy for research and conservation. It was their initiative to undertake restoration of the lake, and it is inspiring to see what they have achieved.
The restoration of Lake Gladstone has been a conservation partnership that also includes neighbouring landholders, the West Australian government's Natural Resource Management Program and the local Tirralintji-Yulumbu Aboriginal community.
What really struck me was how this inclusive collaboration and relatively simple measures could lead to such dramatic outcomes. Given half a chance, we really can help nature come back from the brink.