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Location Australia, Victoria
Central coordinates 144o 26.68' East  38o 13.22' South
IBA criteria A1, A4i
Area 4,564 ha
Year of IBA assessment 2009

BirdLife Australia

Summary The wetlands support significant numbers of the critically endangered Orange-bellied Parrot, the endangered Australasian Bittern and more than 1% of the world population of Chestnut Teal, Red-necked Stint, Sharp-tailed Sandpiper and Banded Stilt.

Site description 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.

Key Biodiversity 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.

Populations of IBA trigger species

Species Season Period Population estimate Quality of estimate IBA Criteria IUCN Category
Chestnut Teal Anas castanea non-breeding  1981-2007  1,200 individuals  good  A4i  Least Concern 
Australasian Bittern Botaurus poiciloptilus resident  1981-2008  12 individuals  medium  A1  Endangered 
Banded Stilt Cladorhynchus leucocephalus non-breeding  1981-2007  5,000 individuals  good  A4i  Least Concern 
Red-necked Stint Calidris ruficollis non-breeding  1981-2007  2,205-12,310 individuals  good  A4i  Near Threatened 
Sharp-tailed Sandpiper Calidris acuminata non-breeding  1981-2007  541-5,591 individuals  good  A4i  Least Concern 
Orange-bellied Parrot Neophema chrysogaster non-breeding  1981-2007  12 individuals  good  A1  Critically Endangered 

IBA Monitoring

2008 high not assessed not assessed
Good - based on reliable and complete / representative data

Invasive & other problematic species, genes & diseases invasive non-native/alien species/diseases - named species happening now majority/most of area/population (50-90%) slow but significant deterioration high
Natural system modifications dams & water management/use - abstraction of surface water (unknown use) likely in long term (beyond 4 years) some of area/population (10-49%) slow but significant deterioration medium
Residential and commercial development housing and urban areas likely in long term (beyond 4 years) small area/few individuals (<10%) moderate to rapid deterioration low

Protected areas

Protected area Designation Area (ha) Relationship with IBA Overlap with IBA (ha)  
Lake Connewarre Natural Features Reserve - Wildlife Reserve (hunting) 3,707 protected area contained by site 3,707  


IUCN habitat Habitat detail Extent (% of site)
Coastline Estuarine waters; Intertidal mud, sand & salt flats; Salt marshes; Sand cays, islets & bars  minor
Wetlands (inland) Permanent herbaceous swamps & bogs; Saline lakes; Salt marshes  major

Land ownership Moolap Saltworks is a private, commercial salt production facility owned by Cheetham Salt Pty Ltd. The adjacent intertidal areas in Corio Bay are Crown Land. Lake Connewarre and Reedy Lake are State Game Reserves managed by Parks Victoria.

Land use

Land-use Extent (% of site)
nature conservation and research major
Notes: Lake Connewarre, Reedy Lake and the land between Lake Connewarre and Salt Lake are Wildlife Reserves
hunting minor
Notes: Lake Connewarre and Reedy Lake are a State Game Reserve
rangeland/pastureland minor
Notes: Grazing abuts and overlaps with some wetlands on the lower Barwon River
urban/industrial/transport major
Notes: Moolap Saltworks

Access/Land-Owner requests Moolap Saltworks is private land and access requires permission of the landowner, Cheetham Salt in Geelong. Much of Hospital Swamp is on private land and access requires permission of the landowner.

Acknowledgements The nomination was prepared by Kevin Wood.

References Australasian Wader Studies Group biannual shorebird counts (1981-2007).

Dedman, V., McCarthy, G., Pescott, T. and Hewish, M. (1998). The Birds of Belmont Common and Jerringot Wildlife Reserve. In the Geelong Bird Report 1997: 51-66.

Department of Sustainability and Environment (2003). Port Phillip Bay (Western Shoreline) & Bellarine Peninsula Ramsar Site. Strategic Management Plan, Victoria.

Geelong Field Naturalists Club (1997-2007). Geelong Bird Reports 1996-2006.

Hewish, M., Pescott, T., Cameron, M., Mackenzie, R. and Russell, P. (1999) The Birds of Point Henry and Moolap saltworks. In the Geelong Bird Report 1998: 57-84.

Mackenzie, R. Pescott, T. and Hewish, M. (2006). The Birds of Reedy Lake, Geelong. In the Geelong Bird Report.

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Recommended citation  BirdLife International (2016) Important Bird and Biodiversity Area factsheet: Bellarine Wetlands. Downloaded from on 22/10/2016

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