Bush Stone Curlew ~ still found in Kanyapella ~ by Keith Stockwell
Kanyapella Basin Wildlife Area
formerly called Kanyapella Co-operative Management Wildlife Reserve
east of Echuca and close to the Goulburn River (VicRoads Map 31 G4),
Kanyapella Basin is the remains
of a former lake, Lake Kanyapella, which resulted of earth movements
(Cadell Fault) about 18,000 years ago. When the lake drained, winds
blew sand from the dry lake bed to form sand dunes. The remainder of
the area is classified as River Red Gum and Black Box dominated shallow
freshwater marsh and freshwater meadow.
Since 1985, 2,452 hectares of the 2,950 hectare
basin has been a wildlife reserve and flood retardation wetland, management
of which has since been divided between several agencies:
Parks Victoria (a division of the Department of Sustainability and Environment ) is responsible
for a 13ha nature reserve which includes a vandalised storage shed (which is to be removed this year);
Department of Sustainability and Environment (DSE) is responsible for a 461 hectare State Forest;
Goulburn Murray Water manage and own 1,960 hectares which was
purchased from private land-owners by the former State Rivers and Water Supply Commission ~ much of this area has been leased to
adjoining land holders as grazing land, subject to conditions;
Shire of Campaspe is responsible for the through roads;
Goulburn-Broken Catchment Management Authority is responsible for waterways;
The Department of Primary Industry (DPI) plays a major role in coordinating management of the reserve and has made submissions to obtain funding for environmental works in the reserve.
The Victorian Environment Assessment Council (VEAC) recommended that much of Kanyapella Basin be a national park. A review panel changed the recommendation from a national park to a wildlife area. Despite these recommendations, the advisory committee continues to meet quarterly and the status quo has remained.
About 30,000 years ago, uplifting west of the Cadell Fault Line blocked the Goulburn River, leading to the creation of Lake Kanyapella. When the Goulburn cut through the uplifted area, the lake drained,and wind blew sand from the old lake floor to create sandhills, including the Bama Sandhills, the sandhills near Echuca Racecourse, the sandhills in Victoria Park (Echuca) and sandhills in Moama. The present Kanyapella Basin is marked as Little Kanyapella on the diagram below.
The above diagram is sourced from the VEAC Investigation Paper on Victoria's River Red Gum Forests. It should be stressed that the Murray River did not flow into the Goulburn in this area until after the Cadell Tilt Block blocked the course of the Murray about 15,000 years ago. The old course of the Murray River, today's Green Gully, is not shown on the diagram above.
Sand and sandy silt underlie most of the clay which covers most of the (Little Kanyapella) basin. Sandhills lie to the north-east. Much of the surrounding area is irrigated. Seepage from irrigated land tends to pass through the sands under the clay top soil and move in a northerly direction. One consequence is that the ground water of the basin is fresh. Furthermore, many of the trees can make use of groundwater when the upper soil layer is dry; most of the trees in the reserve appear to be healthy despite prolonged drought. Irrigation appears to have a positive impact upon this reserve. Source: DPI unpublished data.
Kanyapella Basin has bee dry and degraded due to the combined
effects of a protracted period of below-average rainfall, lack of environmental water, river regulation,
tree removal, over-grazing and introduced pest animals. In particular,
the shrub and ground layers have suffered. Most of the larger trees, however, appear to be in good condition because they are able to obtain fresh ground water from the sands beneath the clay surface layer.
of the basin was declared a wildlife reserve in 1985, Dwarf Cherry,
Chinese Scrub, lignum and native grasses have been making a very slow
recovery. The vegetation has responded particularly well to above-average rains during 2010-11.
Prior to 1985 many trees were logged. However, many mature
trees were left along the road reserves. Unfortunately, there is evidence of some illegal logging.
There is now considerable regeneration
of Black Box (Eucalyptus largiflorens) and Red Gum (Eucalyptus camaldulensis) over most of the reserve. There have been working bees during which hundreds of indigenous shrubs have been planted (e.g. on the sandhills and along the southern boundary of the reserve). There are plans under way to revegetate other disturbed areas, including an area from which a DSE shed is to be/has been removed.
Black Box grassland in Kanyapella Forest (K Stockwell)
A variety of native grasses grow on the forest floor. A feature
of the reserve is an enormous Box Tree, hundreds of years old, and still
in healthy condition.
of a huge old Box Tree in Kanyapella forest (K Stockwell)
The basin used to fill in times
of flood. Engineering works carried out in 2010 mean that floodwaters can once again be diverted in the basin.
Some areas of rushes and lignum remain along Warrigul Creek and elsewhere even though the Basin has been dry for many years.
Around 200 species of plants have ben recorded in Kanyapella.
Some rare, threatened or near threatened plants which h.
An interesting tree with a large round hole can be observed along Warragul Track (between Scott Track and Castle Track). There is a mound (aboriginal midden) nearby. Perhaps the tree's growth was "manipulated" by aboriginal inhabitants to create a marker, possibly to denote a tribal boundary or perhaps it was meant as a directional sign. The midden would have been surrounded by flood waters at times, allowing the indigenous people to sleep and cook on dry ground.
Management and engineering works
Drainage channels and embankments were built in the reserve
some years ago, affecting the habitat. Some channels carry runoff from
nearby irrigated farms. Some embankments were built on the suggestion
of shooters to facilitate flooding of sections in order to promote the
breeding of ducks but the work has fallen into disrepair. Rehabilitation
works are necessary if the basin is to act as a flood retarding basin
and if its conservation values are to be enhanced. Some funding has been sourced from Murray Goulburn Water and the Australian Government to enable some engineering works, revegetation work, replacement fencing and new signage.
It is some years since the reserve
has contained water and so much of the vegetation is stressed. Fences
and infrastructure fell into disrepair; sheep and horses from neighbouring properties were able to graze over most of
the reserve. During 2008 and 2009, most boundary fences were replaced or repaired. Some other fencing improvements are likely during 2010.
As stated above, key stake-holders
include Goulburn Broken Catchment Management Authority, DPI, DSE, Parks
Victoria, Campaspe Shire, and Goulburn Murray
Water. Other stake-holders include adjoining landholders, Field and Game Victoria, Koyuga-Kanyapella
Landcare Group and the Echuca and District Branch of Birdlife Australia (formerly BOCA).
Representatives of these bodies used to meet quarterly to discuss management issues and to suggest ways of enhancing the environmental health of the reserve. Some issues followed up as a result of these meetings included fox and feral cat eradication measures, working bees to plant indigenous trees and shrubs, fencing improvements, track maintenance, law enforcement, signage and the signing off of a management plan.
Unfortunately, since funding was reduced, the facilitator's position has been discontinued and the quarterly meetings no longer take place.
Copies of the management plan are available
through the government office in Tatura. The management plan and draft management plan contain a wealth of information about Kanyapella's flora and fauna..
Members of the Koyuga-Kanyapella Landcare Group have been particularly keen to reintroduce some of the indigenous shrubs (such as wattles) which have been depleted or vanished from the basin over the decades. indigenous shrubs and trees were planted near the southern boundary in November 2009.
It is expected that, following the completion of engineering works, environmental
water, when and if it is available, will be allowed
to enter specific parts of the reserve over Spring or early summer and then
be allowed to evaporate or be drained away as autumn approaches. Only
a small percentage of the area is likely to receive environmental water at any one time so that the
basin can be used as a flood amelioration basin should a major rain
event occur. The Black Box/grassland area may not be deliberately flooded.
Local land-holders have expressed an interest in re-using environmental
water as it drains from the wetland.
Two regulators and some levee banks were constructed in 2010. As a result, it should now be possible to divert water into much of the basin.
A section of a nearby sand dune has been
revegetated and its boundary fences were replaced or repaired between 2001 and 2011. A fence alongside Mitchell Road was repaired (replaced in places) in 2011.
Stone Curlew: still sighted in Kanyapella Basin (K Stockwell)
As a result of the conservation
measures, it is hoped that ~ if and when the wetland area receives water ~ Brolga will return to this forest, that Bush
Stone Curlews will continue to survive and that water birds will breed
each winter. At least four Bush Stone Curlews were observed in the forest at various times over the past four years and a forest lease-holder claims some are resident on
his farm. If commercial cattle grazing ceases, an ecological grazing
regime using sheep may be appropriate, at times, to maintain optimal condition
for the Curlews and to reduce weeds or the build up of fuel. Grazing would be best done over winter provided the
soil is dry, before indigenous grasses flower and set seed. Grazing should be restricted to certain parts of
A baiting programme was carried out during 2011. Prior to the baiting, about 187 foxes were believed to be in the reserve. 495 baits were laid. Evidence suggests that five baits were stolen and three sites vandalised. It is estimated that only a few old foxes remained at the end of the period. Shooters hope to be able to detect and dispatch most of the remaining foxes. It is likely, however, that foxes are now moving in from surrounding areas. An on-going programme is needed!
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At some stage in the future, walking tracks may be marked and
dilapidated picnic tables repaired so that the public might enjoy this
forest in increasing numbers. There are no marked trails at this stage. However, it is possible to complete circuit walks
using existing vehicular tracks. Cross country (compass bearing) walks
are possible in places. When planning a day walk in the forest, it is
best to cross the main drainage channel via Mitchell Road bridge or
via a regulator near the end of Castle Road.
Suggested Circuit Walk
is a circuit walk. Drive from Echuca via Ogilvie Avenue and Mitchell
Road and, shortly after the bitumen ends, at a large Kanyapella Sign,
turn left into Tehan Road and immediately turn left along a dirt track.
Leave some cars alongside this track at the edge of a grassy woodland
where a fence separates them from Mitchell Road.
O km Park cars and follow the track to the raised Levee and walk along
the levee toward the east
1.6km Turn left off the levee once a track alongside the main drain
2.1km Turn right at Mitchell Road and cross the drain (Warrigul Creek)
2.3km Turn right onto dirt track (take left fork)
4.1km Veer left
4.6km Once Warrigul Track/Castle Track junction is reached head due
east (off track, using a compass) (wetland).
6.3km Right at Murphy Road (head south along the eastern boundary
of the reserve)
7km Right at Scott Road and immediately turn left and follow Kanyapella
10km Left at Scott Track and follow it along old fence line.
13km Follow the main drain back to Mitchell Road and then back to
the cars (15km)
OR, if the drain is dry, cross the drain and take Levee 4 back to
Tehan Road and the cars (15km)
OR walk alongside the main drain away from Mitchell Road and cross
it on a regulator wall ~ return on the other side of the drain, taking
Levee 4 back to the cars (17km).
New signs have recently bee/will soon be erected
(e.g. advising that trail bikes must be registered and ridden only by
licensed drivers and advising that firewood collection is not permitted).
To help protect the vegetation, some boundary fences have been rebuilt
and others repaired; a new grid has also been installed. Illegal grazing
appears to have been overcome.
Registered vehicles can be driven
on several unsealed roads, including Mitchell Road, Watson Road, Castles
Road, Fraser Road and Tehan Road. The unsealed tracks in the basin are
fine during dry weather but are often impassable, and should be avoided, following rain or flooding.
Driving on wet tracks can damage them, causing deep ruts.
The basin was zoned as a Cooperative
Management Wildlife Reserve but is to be designated as a Wildlife Area.VEAC recommended that Kanyapella be part of a national park but this recommendation was over-ruled.
A coloured brochure about the reserve has been prepared and was sent to a printer in May 2011. Copies are to be made available to local tourist information centres and DPI offices.
Note: the collection of firewood
is not permitted in the reserve; patrols have been stepped up
and some prosecutions have occurred. Becaused of increased staffing, a roster system is in place to ensure that the reserve is patrolled or a ranger on call every day, includiong holidays and weekends. Warning signs have been/will be erected.
Topographic map: Koyuga 7825-1-2
here to view a map of the area
here to download a pdf brochure on birding spots of the Kanyapella
Basin by Dallas Wyatt.
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Last revision was 23rd May 2011.
Kanyapella Basin Wildlife Reserve
of northern Victoria and southern Riverina
Victoria Barmah National Park Page
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Bonus: Short bush stories