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Shorebird volunteers take their tern

Tuesday 22 January 2019

Some of the shire’s shorebirds are under threat and holiday makers at Potato Point flocked to learn more.

Over two-dozen people attended an information session and beach clean-up at Blackfellows Point, adjacent to the Tuross estuary, on Tuesday 15 January. The event was hosted by members of Tuross Head’s shorebird recovery program – which has volunteers working with National Parks and Council staff to monitor and assist threatened species in the area.

NPWS shorebird recovery coordinator Sophie Hall-Aspland said the Tuross estuary was home to little tern, red-capped plover, and pied oystercatcher.

“The pied oystercatcher nests and feeds in the estuary, and if you head down to the sand spit you’ll get a look at the colony of little terns,” Dr Hall-Aspland said, stressing the program’s success depended on community involvement.

Tuross Shorebird Recovery Program volunteer Bill Nelson said the little tern colony numbered about 80 birds, with 18 nests and 30 eggs currently.

“The terns are not doing so well this year. We’ve had two inundations and a bad-wind day, when sand covered eggs and chicks,” Mr Nelson said.

Dr Hall-Aspland said the shorebird nests were little more than scrapes in the sand, making them susceptible to natural events like inundations, but man-made impacts were also taking a toll.

“Large numbers of fishers pumping for nippers (bait) behind the sand spit are frightening birds off their feeding ground and may be reducing their food resources. That is why we’re asking people to keep off some areas. It’s a balance between fishing and birds,” she said.

Council’s environmental education officer Bernadette Davis said there was increasing awareness in the community about the impact of plastic on birds.

“Birds mistake plastic as food, with adults also feeding it to their young. Entanglement in fishing line, plastic bags and lolly wrappers is also a problem,” she said.

Ms Davis said it was vital to clean the coastline of plastic but just as vital to log it in the Australian Marine Debris Database.

“It’s a handy app for your phone, and it means we can identify where the plastic comes from and work with business to find a better product,” she said.

“It’s like a citizen science program and we’ve taken it to all the schools in the Eurobodalla. The more information we have on different plastic waste, the more change we can make at state and federal level.”