Lake Wollumboola is a natural highly variable, shallow intermittently closing and opening coastal lake. It is located between the Shoalhaven-Crookhaven River estuaries and Jervis Bay. The lake bed and extensive sand and mud flats are exposed following openings and during drought. This complex, extreme system provides rich and varied habitat for water birds and migratory sea and shorebirds.
(Click the image on the left to enlarge it, then click again to reduce it)
Bird habitats range from the sand bar and adjacent open ocean, to deep and shallow open water, fresh water soaks, sand banks, mudflats, rocky reefs, sedge and coastal salt marsh as well as Swamp Oak and Melaleuca forests around the shore. The significance and use of these habitats varies with each bird species and is influenced by seasons, water levels, brackish/saline quality and nutrient levels as well as lake opening/closing status.
Over 100 bird species have been recorded, including 16 species that are listed under the NSW Threatened Species Conservation Act. At least 20,000 birds at any one time have been recorded, with Black Swan and Chestnut and Grey Teal comprising the greatest numbers. The greatest numbers and diversity occur during summers when the Lake level is low, attracting both migratory waders and sea birds as well as water birds.
The Lake's significance as bird habitat is recognized by:
- inclusion of the Lake, its sand bar and southwest catchment in Jervis Bay National Park.
- recognition of the lake as a Wetland of National Importance.
- its listing as a Globally Important Bird Area for Black Swan and Chestnut Teal by Birdlife International
- recognition in international treaties as migratory bird habitat including breeding habitat for the Little Tern as part of the East Asian-Australasian Flyway with 34 species protected under the Commonwealth Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act
The campaign to save Lake Wollumboola
The land to the south and west of Lake Wollumboola is private land which contains the primary water catchment for the lake. Over the years, the owners of the land have applied for multiple developments comprising large estates containing hundreds of houses, including a golf course. These developments have been strenuously resisted by some local residents and environmentalists who realized that degradation of the catchment would spell doom for the quality of the lake's water, resulting in significant environmental damage and providing great threats to its birdlife.
A protracted battle to save the lake has ensued for over a quarter of a century, led primarily by Frances Bray and the Lake Wollumboola Protection Association (LWPA). Their website can be found at www.wollumboola.org.au. BirdLife Shoalhaven has supported the LWPA since its formation. In late 2018 a series of decisions to refuse development proposals in the lake's catchment has led to the hope that the campaign to save the lake might be nearing its end.
The LWPA has proposed that the lake catchment land be included in Jervis Bay National Park. If this eventuates, the immediate future of the lake looks bright!