09 April, 2011


Jerringot Wild Life Reserve
For years I have driven past the Belmont Common, not really paying attention to the reedy, swampy land to either side. Yes, there were a few bird breeding boxes and I knew that it was low-lying and inclined to flood at the first sign of rain. Presumably it connected to the Barwon in some way or other - but how  and what was really in there?
I discovered the answer to these questions on a recent ride to Waurn Ponds - which incidentally is made somewhat complicated at present due to the road works which are being carried out for the Breakwater Road re-alignment and have resulted in the closure of the nearby bike tracks. Nonetheless, hidden in plain view I found the Jerringot Wildlife Reserve. Wedged between the Princes Highway and the Barwon Valley Public Golf Course, it provides a haven for waterbirds and other small animals. According to signage at various points around the reserve, the area is part of the Belmont Common Flood Plain. Water flows from the Belmont Escarpment above into the wetlands which originally consisted of Billabongs and Jerringot Creek which drains into nearby Waurn Ponds Creek. This in turn flows to the Barwon River.
I am also informed that there are up to 120 species of birds to be found within the reserve most of which I have so far - frustratingly - been unable to locate. Incidentally, this is almost double the number of species I have identified on other parts of the river to date. In typical fashion, I arrived in time to discover that the internationally protected Latham's Snipe - a wading bird which chooses to spend its summer vacations in Belmont - had most probably packed its bags and headed home to Japan about two weeks before I got there. Perhaps I will have more success with the Cattle Egret which is due to arrive any day now.
Black Swan at Jerringot
The Belmont Common was also significant to the local Wathaurong population who used the area as a meeting and camping place, taking advantage of the abundant local plants and wildlife to supplement their diet. Fish, shellfish, crustaceans, root vegetables, seeds, grains and a variety of land animals all formed part of the menu. The name Jerringot is a local Wathaurong word meaning "place of Billabongs". The Jerringot ecosystem is reliant upon regular cycles of drought and flooding to maintain the variety of animal species which live here including frogs, insects, birds and reptiles.
Clearly I have much to discover about this little pocket of the Barwon's ecosystem and will have to spend further time investigating in the near future.

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