With support from Hunter Local Land Services through funding from the Australian Government’s National Landcare Program, Hunter Region Landcare Network hosted a weekend of collaborative events with the University of Newcastle (UoN) and the Hunter Bird Observers Club (HBOC), to welcome our migratory Shorebirds back to the Hunter Estuary.
On the middle weekend of October, we celebrated the return of migratory Shorebirds and the presence of residential Shorebirds, by increasing community knowledge of Shorebirds and their habitats. This was done through the delivery of Shorebird Information Sessions and Shorebird Spotting on Saturday 15th and Sunday 16th, respectfully.
The information sessions began with Dr Andrea Griffin, Behavioural Ecologist and Senior Lecturer at UoN, discussing the life history and ecology of migratory Shorebirds. The story of these mighty migrators is so compelling, that it’s difficult to not be awed by their incredible adaptations and upset by “the fragility of shorebirds and their habitat.”
Then, PhD candidates (Environment Science) – Ms Mattea Taylor and Ms Louise Williams – introduced attendees to Shorebird ID, counting, conducting surveys and the significance of local habitats.
We also heard about their PhD research projects, including the impacts of disturbance to migratory and residential shorebirds, the presence and role of pollutants, Shorebird behaviour, predation risk, foraging ecology and habitat degradation – to better inform the conservation action plans within the Hunter Estuary.
“Hearing the university researchers share their interesting information” was a real highlight for attendees, as the general public are not often given the chance to hear about current research projects or data collection opportunities with researchers.
The following day produced beautiful weather for Shorebird Spotting at the Stockton Sandspit. We had a fantastic turn out, with attendees passing through for a couple hours on either side of the midday hightide.
This field day was supported by members from HBOC, who provided scopes, ID assistance, local knowledge and enthusiasm. With both the presence of UoN and HBOC members, an attendee reported that ”There were so many amazing people to answer my every question.”
We spotted Endangered migratory species, including several Eastern Curlews and tens (maybe hundreds) of Black & Bar-tailed Godwits foraging and then resting. There were also Pied Oystercatchers spotted, a vulnerable residential Shorebird that nests on beaches in Port Stephens, whose nests are particularly vulnerable to destruction by human activities, and are protected and monitored by Worimi Conservation Lands.
It was especially good to see the relative sizes and foraging behaviours of Shorebirds side-by-side; the large body and dramatic beak of the Eastern Curlew (Numenius madagascariensis) compared to the tiny Red-Necked Stint (Calidris ruficollis). We also witnessed the flocking behaviour of Shorebirds when disturbed by a predator – in this case, a juvenile White-bellied Sea Eagle flying over the roost.
Those who attended both days of the weekend appreciated “the theory that led into application” and learning about the significance of our local environment. For some, “It opened my eyes to a whole new world” and others are now on “a quest to learn more and observe the different species more closely and help protect habitat”.
A huge thank you to all involved – experts, passionate volunteers and the engaged attendees. Keep on spreading the Shorebird Word!