Disused and dirty swamp transformed into vibrant wetlands in the heart of suburbia - National Tree Day Blog

Disused and dirty swamp transformed into vibrant wetlands in the heart of suburbia

Once a degraded swampland, the Eric Singleton Bird sanctuary in Perth, sandwiched between busy roads and suburbia on three sides, now provides an oasis for bird life – and the humans who visit.

Out of the brick and concrete, visitors enter the sanctuary and a wall of trees cause the sounds and sights of the city to fade. A plethora of bird song permeates the air, with frogs joining the chorus at dusk. Clean water twists along a horseshoe shaped waterway and an array of native plants flank the stream.

Skinny-legged birds, like spoonbills, herons, and even the humble ibis, have eagerly descended upon the haven, as have various other bird species. As hoped, black swans have returned to the wetlands after a long hiatus, restoring a species endemic to the area – its name being given to the nearby Swan River.

While the birds and amphibians clearly benefit, they aren’t the only ones to be given a new lease on life. The water quality has greatly improved as a result of the transformation. A process called denitrification has been established, which strips nitrogen out of the water, and deep and shallow pockets help alter the amount of oxygen. A system of pipes and a pollutant trap enables water to be further purified, removing sediment and garbage. Eventually, the cleansed water is fed into the Swan River.

But it hasn’t always been this way. Up until five years ago, the bird sanctuary was a degraded swampland with a slick of algae coating the surface. Eric Singleton saw the value of the wetlands in the 1970s and was instrumental in rescuing the site from development.

It’s been Jeremy Maher who has led the restoration project in recent years. He described the prior state of the site in an interview with ABC News, "What we saw was ... the continual decline of wildlife in there, particularly bird species."

This carefully curated site, while man-made, has enabled nature to take over. The growth of vegetation has been surprising, with regeneration being a couple of years down the track of what was anticipated.

Attention has now shifted upstream, to transforming the drains that feed into the wetlands into cleaner streams.

"This has been a project that I have been a part of over four years, and those were the years when my children were born as well," Mr Maher said.

"I used to come down with them as babies as the project was being built and I still come down with them on weekends, so they have seen it grow and it's a nice little connection for me."

No doubt many other locals and visitors share Maher’s enthusiasm for the new oasis, right in the heart of suburbia.

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Positive Environment News has been compiled using publicly available information. Planet Ark does not take responsibility for the accuracy of the original information and encourages readers to check the references before using this information for their own purposes. 

Laura Chalk

Laura joined Planet Ark in 2016. She has a wealth of knowledge and experience having travelled the world and a background in teaching English as a second language among other things.