The Boardwalk (on MCAS grounds) is open to the public at all times. Groups visiting may wish to access the Interpretative Centre which may be used as a Training Centre for any groups connecting with the Focus Farm and the Wetland. The Centre can be booked by phoning 8556 8219.

The Mount Compass Wetlands Boardwalk is a 730 metres long boardwalk over a swamp along the creek on the outskirts of Mount Compass. The boardwalk meanders along through very wet areas, across natural drainage lines and over seasonally dry areas. The more recent 100 metre extension of the Boardwalk to Arthur Road now provides easy access. This small but important wetand contains many rare, vulnerable and endangered plants. Over 100 plants have been identified in the swamp. Unusual birds frequent the area: the shy, endangered Southern Emu Wren is a permanent inhabitant. Rare and delicate orchids and ferns have also been found scattered throughout this fascinating wetland. The Boardwalk provides easy, damage-free access to this interesting and important swamp at Mount Compass.


Wetlands are areas of land that are permanently or temporarily waterlogged or under shallow water. Wetland areas are very important for several reasons:
•  wetlands provide vital habitats for many of our unique native plants and animals. Wetlands provide food, water and shelter for a wide variety of plants and animals. They are homes, breeding grounds and refuges for many fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals. The protection of these wetlands, like the Mount Compass Swamp, plays a key role in attempts to conserve rare and endangered native species by preserving their natural habitat.

 •  wetlands function as water filters. They have the special ability to remove pollutants from stormwater by various physical, chemical and biological means.

•  wetlands help with flood control. They can act like natural sponges, absorbing large volumes of water during heavy rains and later releasing it during dry periods.

In the past, wetlands were often viewed as useless wastelands to be drained, filled and reduced in area so that their character changed, native vegetation and wildlife was harmed, and water quality was reduced. These days the value of wetlands has been realised and many people are working together to protect and conserve our wetland areas for everybody’s benefit.


The Mount Compass Swamp is home to many different birds and animals because it includes a wide variety of habitats that provide food, water and a place to shelter or hide. Many larger birds, including the Sacred Ibis, Great Egret, White-faced Heron and Masked Lapwing are only visitors searching for food in the swamp. Smaller birds such as wrens, warblers, grassbirds and the rare Southern Emu Wren will find food and nest in the swamp. Most swamp animals are naturally shy, secretive creatures but if you walk the boards quietly and listen carefully, you may be fortunate to see an Easter Water Skink or Swamp Rat.

Southern Emu Wren (Stipiturus malachurus) The Emu Wren is the pride of the Mount Compass Boardwalk. It is usually found in small parties and is very secretive, preferring to hide in the low shrubs or sedge tussocks. Some observers find this bird most easily by listening for its call, which is extremely high pitched. DISTRIBUTION: Inhabits dense vegetation of swamps, creeks and heaths. Usually occurs in small local colonies.

Water Skink (Sphenomorphus quoyii) Also called Eastern Water Skink or Golden Water Skink. It is a strong swimmer and can stay submerged for some time. It hunts amphibious creatures such as frogs and tadpoles and also gathers food on land.It is viviparous and produces two to three young. It is diurnal and is often seen basking on rocks or logs (or on the boardwalk itself). DISTRIBUTION: This reptile is a retiring creature that lives near waterways.

Great Egret (Ardea alba) The Great Egret, largest of the white herons, is a solitary and territorial feeder which hunts in the water up to 30 centimetres deep – deeper than other herons. DISTRIBUTION: Waters of lakes, swamps, rivers and dams throughout Australia.

Red-browed Finch (Neochmia temporalis) The Red-browed Finch or Waxbill is Australia’s most familiar finch. Red-browed finches live in tight-knit flocks, smaller during breeding and larger afterwards. Several pairs will even nest in the same bushes.Flock members keep in touch with constant high-pitched calling. DISTRIBUTION: Grassy areas interspersed with dense shrubberies, in wet woodland and open forest, from the Mount Lofty Ranges in South Australia, northwards to Cape Yorke Peninsula on rain forest edges.

Masked Lapwing (Vanellus miles) The strident staccato chatter of Masked Lapwings is a familiar warning signal in eastern Australian marshes and wet pastures.This call, given both from the ground (to warn) and in flight (to keep contact), alerts other birds as well. Masked Lapwings, with their longer legs, frequent wetter, more lush short pasture, crops and marshy ground than the Banded Lapwing, and are rarely found far from the water. DISTRIBUTION: Common on shores of swamps and lakes, but a non-breeding visitor in most northern inland regions.

Superb Blue Wren (Malurus cyaneus) A great favourite in south-eastern Australia, not only for the beautiful colouring of the males, but because it has adapted well to human intrusion and readily lives in gardens and parks. The Superb Blue Wren usually lives in a group which is basically a family party, but may contain several adult males. DISTRIBUTION: Highland southeastern Queensland to Tasmania and southern Eyre Peninsula, South Australia. Generally within 200km of coast, but also along the Murray and Lachlan River systems.

Sacred Ibis (Threskiornis aethiopicus) In the air Sacred Ibises often fly in groups strung out in a stepped or V-formation, like the Straw-necked Ibises with which they often associate.On the ground, the Sacred Ibis forages only in swampy or water-covered ground. In the water it moves its head from side to side continuously probing with its sensitive bill for food. DISTRIBUTION: Swamps, irrigated pastures and shallow lake margins in north and east; small, but increasing, colonies in southwest since 1950′s. Nomadic.

Japanese Snipe (Gallinago hardwickii) Details of the route taken by Japanese Snipe on their long migration to Australia are not known. The bulk of the population spend the summer in south-east New South Wales, Victoria and Tasmania and extreme south-east of South Australia. They are extremely wary and can flush a long time before an observer gets close to them. They are usually found on the ground in the thick growth near the edge of fresh-water swamps. DISTRIBUTION: Found in Australia in August – March; mostly restricted to coast and tablelands.

Scarlet Robin (Petroica multicolour) Scarlet Robins are identified among other red robins by the white cap on the male and bright red breast of the female. Male Scarlets can also be distinguished from Flame Robins by their black throats and deeper, more limited scarlet breasts. Where their foraging areas overlap during breeding, they occupy mutually exclusive territories. DISTRIBUTION: Scrubby eucalypt forest and woodland of southeastern Australia north on Great Dividing Range to granite belt, southeastern Queensland and west to Eyre Peninsula South Australia and southwestern Australia.

White-faced heron (Ardea novaehollandiae) The Heron most commonly seen in Australia is the White-faced – usually one or a pair, stalking about in shallow water or on pastures. Among the herons, White-faced are generalists, both in their habits and feeding. They forage over intertidal mud flats, rock pools, swamps and wet pasture. DISTRIBUTION: Frequents lakes, swamps, estuaries, mangroves, dams, tidal mud flats and grasslands throughout Australia. Nomadic.

Special thanks to Mick Owers who supplied most of the photographs for the birds and animals section.

Rushes and sedges are plants especially adapted to live along the edge of shallow swamps partially submerged in water. Their tall, slender, round or flat, stem and sheathing leaves grow upright out of the mud of the swamp forming thick masses of mobile green vegetation, that moves with the wind, and provides shelter for the birds and animals that live in the swamp. Their root system is shallow, serving only to anchor the plant in the swamp without wasting energy growing deeper in search of the minerals that do not exist in the poor swamp soil. Instead, the lower stems of the rushes and sedges are able to absorb mineral nutrients directly our of the swamp water, thereby greatly reducing the level of mineral nutrients in the swamp water. It is this process, together with the ability of the dense reed beds of rushes and sedges to slow down the movement of water through wetland areas, that improves the quality of the water as it passes through the swamp. Water leaving the swamp is cleaner and purer than water entering the swamp.