AS most of Australia battles a crippling drought, Victoria's western district's damp year has provided a rare summer sight for nature lovers.
For one of the few occasions in the past 20 years, the region's lakes and dams have plentiful supplies of water at the start of summer, and it should remain that way for some time to come even if we don't get any more rainfall.
The rare phenomenon is seeing bird life teem into the places which normally are bone dry throughout the summer months including Lake Learmonth, Lake Goldsmith, Black Swamp and Lake Wendouree.
The Courier's nature columnist Roger Thomas says this year has provided conditions for wildlife not seen in two decades.
"There are water birds here in greater numbers than we've seen in almost 20 years," he said.
"The white-necked heron is all over the Ballarat district, that's the one that most people are noticing most of all. It has a dark body, a white neck and is a crane type bird you would normally find up near the Murray River.
"We're also seeing a lot of Black Tailed Native Hens, which the best way to describe them is like a bantam fowl."
Mr Thomas said many people in younger generations would not have seen so much water at the start of summer before.
"Up until about 20 years ago, Lake Learmonth was always full, but it hasn't been for many years," he said. "Now that's looking particularly good it's got water in it again.
"We've actually spotted about 50 freckled ducks which are incredibly rare to the area. These have come down from the Murray Darling Basin. Lake Learmonth should now hold water until the end of the summer.
"There's obviously not a lot of water north of the divide, but the birds all seem to know where the water is. It's like this all the way across the western district.
"We've just had the right amount of rain at exactly the right time and it's like this all the way through to places like Willaura and Lake Bolac as well."
However, the extra rain fall has meant there's one waterway that is missing out and that is Lake Burrumbeet.
"Actually, what we see with Lake Burrumbeet is a lot of bird life come in when the levels are a bit lower," Mr Thomas said.
"Burrumbeet is always better for bird life when there's a bit more mud."