More than 150 people at 81 sites on land, in kayaks and on boats participated in the very first Gippsland Lakes Great Pelican Count.
Count organizer BirdLife Australia Project Manager in East Gippsland, Deb Sullivan, said she was thrilled with number of participants involved in the citizen science project.
“There were 444 pelicans counted across 74 sites and we are still waiting for data on the remaining seven sites,” said Ms Sullivan.
“We had a great number of children and families involved and it was fantastic to have the Paynesville Sea Scouts counting pelicans at two sites.
“A feeding frenzy near Flannagan Island attracted larger numbers of birds whereas the western end of the Lakes system was quieter at the time of the count.
“There were also good numbers of pelicans to be spotted around Sale.
“From the numbers recorded we believe the nomadic and many of the young pelicans aren’t currently around the Gippsland Lakes, which is consistent with our observations leading up to the Count.
“But we still don’t know just where they go,” continued Ms Sullivan.
Pelicans are highly mobile and respond to rainfall levels inland by moving to and from the coast.
BirdLife Australia has been funded through the Gippsland Lakes Community Grants to investigate pelican movements further.
“From November this year we hope to start banding birds around the Gippsland Lakes,” continued Ms Sullivan.
“We’ll then be asking our citizen scientists to report band sightings to help us start to track where our resident and nomadic populations of pelicans are going.”
This research helps those working in natural resource management understand how birds are responding to climate change and management works.
This first Gippsland Lakes Great Pelican Count has provided useful baseline data for research.
“We are still waiting on data to be submitted for 11 sites, so if you are yet to return your forms please get them in quick.
“We’re so grateful to everyone who participated in the Count. The information gathered is extremely valuable, but we also hope participants got to enjoy being out on the Gippsland Lakes.”
The Gippsland Lakes Great Pelican Count will be held at a similar time of year in 2019.
The Great Pelican Count was funded by the Victorian State Government for the health of the Gippsland Lakes.