National Parks rangers are asking beachgoers to take care around wild bird nesting sites this holiday season.
Endangered nesting shorebirds like Little Terns and Pied Oystercatchers have been threatened by people crab catching, walking dogs and illegally camping near the nests.
Nesting shorebirds are easily disturbed by passersby, causing parent birds to abandon the nest to distract the potential predators. The eggs are then exposed to other predators.
Senior Conservation Planning Officer Max Beukers said the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) Shorebird Recovery Program team is working with south coast volunteers to monitor and protect beach nesting birds.
“Our rangers and the volunteers have set up protective fences and signs around the nest sites, so beach visitors are aware during the nesting season from August to March, peaking in the summer months,” he said.
“Chicks do not stay inside the fenced areas and will roam outside the protected area, so keeping dogs on leash and down by the water on beaches will help keep the chicks safe.”
Coordinator of Lake Wollumboola NPWS volunteers Frances Bray said there were a number of new nests at Lake Wollumboola this season that required extra protection.
“The Pied Oystercatcher pair that are resident at Lake Wollumboola had a three-egg nest which we’ve cared for for quite a few months now. We finally observed one of the chicks that has started to fly on its own, to fledge,” she said.
“Lake Wollumboola has also traditionally been a major site for Little Tern nesting but over the last few years it hasn’t been a successful time for Lake Wollumboola and the Little Terns.
“However this season we have three nests which we - myself in particular - are checking every day to see how many eggs have been laid and if there are any new nests,” she said.
Ms Bray said the public needed to observe the signs and keep at least 100 metres from the fences so not to disturb the birds.
“The whole of Lake Wollumboola and its shores is a no-dog area, principally because of its importance as habitats for so many birds,” she said.
“There has been a lot of rubbish left by people who attempted to camp here - which of course is illegal, being a part of national parks. Rubbish can bring foxes and foxes can also prey on the nests.”
The Shorebird Recovery Program is part of the NSW Saving our Species (SoS) program funded by the $100 million Threatened Species Program to secure as many species in the wild as possible.
It includes monitoring, nest protection and predator control to help the recovery of the birds into the future.
Despite the increase of new nests this season, Ms Bray says both Little Tern and Pied Oystercatcher species numbers have continued to decline.
“You can’t have birds in large numbers and people in large numbers. It just doesn’t work,” she said.