|Most recent IBA monitoring assessment|
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The Bellarine Wetlands IBA consists of a number of neighbouring wetland sites on the Bellarine Peninsula near Geelong in coastal Victoria. These are the Moolap salt fields, adjacent intertidal mudflats in Corio Bay and Point Henry, and the extensive wetlands of Reedy Lake, Hospital Swamp and Lake Connewarre. Reedy Lake is the largest freshwater swamp in central Victoria (at approximately 550 ha) and is contiguous with Hospital Swamp, Lake Connewarre, Salt Swamp (Big Marsh) and the Barwon River estuary. Nearby areas of regional significance for birds which don't make the IBA criteria include coastal beaches at Black Rocks (up to eight Hooded Plovers), the Breamlea estuary (a small separate population of shorebirds) and Belmont Common (up to 400 Latham's Snipe 1979-1982, then regularly over 100 until 1996, when 1000 estimated to use the site over the season, since when it has been too dry with max 88 in 2002 and 25 in 2005). Some birds move freely between these sites; other birds occur at just one site. Moolap is a commercial salt works and much of Point Henry is occupied by an aluminum smelter; the other wetlands are State Game Reserves. Reedy Lake is managed to maintain wetland health, with occasional drying out to kill off Eurasian Carp. Reedy is freshwater whereas Connewarre, Hospital Swamp and Moolap are salty. The Reedy Lake-Lake Connewarre system is within the Port Phillip Bay and Bellarine Peninsula Ramsar site.
Reedy Lake has supported three species of nesting waterbirds which may now have moved to Mud Islands: Royal Spoonbill (max 150 pairs), Australian White Ibis (up to 1000 nests) and Straw-necked Ibis (19,000 breeding birds in 1978, 10,000 flying young in 1996, 1800-2700 breeding birds in 2002; Mackenzie et al. 2006). Other rare breeding species include Hooded Plover (Black Rocks & Breamlea) and White-bellied Sea-Eagle (Lake Connewarre). Other species present in regionally-significant numbers at Reedy Lake include Magpie Geese (up to 37), Glossy Ibis (up to 100), Brolgas (up to 5), Australian Spotted Crakes (up to 30), Black-tailed Godwits (up to 14), Marsh Sandpipers (up to 130), Black-winged Stilts (up to 692), Red-kneed Dotterels (up to 56), and White-winged Black Terns (up to 50), Australian Shelduck (max 1230), Pacific Black Duck (max 2500), Australasian Shoveler (max 1000), Grey Teal (max 2805), Australian White Ibis (more than 1000 nests on 27/12/95), Purple Swamphen (max 2000 on 21/6/71), Whiskered Tern (max 1000 on 8/12/85) (Mackenzie et al. 2006). Thousands of Red-necked Avocets occasionally occur at Moolap (Geelong Bird Reports). Small numbers of the vulnerable Fairy Tern nest occasionally at Moolap Saltworks (e.g. three nests in 2005); higher numbers were recorded previously with a maximum 170 in 1990 (Hewish et al. 1999). Striated Fieldwrens were reported as 'frequent' in Geelong Bird Reports from 1981 to 2006 and were commonly recorded in Atlas surveys undertaken from 1998 to 2008 (Atlas of Australian Birds database).
Non-bird biodiversity: Lake Connewarre contains the most extensive example of Wilsonia herblands and Distichlis grassland in the State of Victoria. Grey Glasswort and Tangled Lignum reach their southern limit within the Lake Connewarre Reseve and the White Mangrove (Avecinnia marina ssp.australasica) reaches its westernmost limit in Victoria in the Barwon River estuary.
BirdLife International (2019) Important Bird Areas factsheet: Bellarine Wetlands. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 16/10/2019.