By Mitch Guy
POWLETT River farmers weren’t the only ones affected by the recent flooding of the area, with many swans tragically dying after being caught in fences inundated by flood waters.
The mouth of the river closed naturally earlier in the year and farms at the mouth were flooded as a result after the autumn break.
The West Gippsland Catchment Management Authority chose not to artificially open the river for months due to environmental concerns.
A nearby resident, who does not wish to be named, found approximately 50 dead swans over a five to six week period at a farm that was heavily inundated prior to the artificial opening of the mouth of the Powlett River on July 3.
Thousands of swans visited the temporary wetlands and this week the resident told the Sentinel-Times the story of the first shocking encounter with a dying swan.
“The water was halfway up the fence posts, so like an airplane they try take off into the wind and they get a head of steam up and because they’re quite a large bird it takes them quite a long time to get off the water and they clip the fence,” the local resident said.
“It had hit the fence and it was alive, a big, beautiful swan and I wandered over to it and basically I was trying to comfort it. I laid it down on a dune, which was surrounded by water so I knew no foxes would get to it.
“That was the first one and we actually saw it happen. From that day onwards the swans would take off and it was happening all the time.”
The swans’ awful deaths were distressing for the resident.
“It happened once before when it flooded and the birdlife was nothing short of spectacular.
“They’re beautiful creatures. I’ve seen a couple of thousand of them taking off and it’s so majestic.
“The swans that were here, there were thousands and thousands here, so I suppose in the scheme of things the amount that got killed in the fences wasn’t too high.
“As the water started to subside the foxes got in there and had a bit of a feed so they mostly ended up being skeletons.”