Each year at this time excitement mounts around Culburra Beach, for bird watchers at least, with the expected arrival of Little Tern chicks.
The Little Terns, a small migratory seabird flies from the South China Sea area to the South Coast to breed each season.
They make their home on the sandbanks and sandflats around Lake Wollumboola, to the south of the seaside village.
Over the years I, like most South Coast Register journalists, have done numerous stories on the Little Terns and their plight.
Their battles to firstly get to the area and then to successfully lay and hatch their eggs.
Each chick takes about three weeks to hatch - both parents sit on the eggs during this period.
Firstly, the eggs have to survive predation from avian birds, foxes and even dogs. And of course they have to survive the elements, which over the years have wiped out numerous nests.
It is another another 21 days until they become a fledgling and can fly.
During that time the chicks shelter in and around any debris that is on their sandbar.
Their parents also take them to the edges of the lake and secrete them in seaweed of algal drifts close to shoreline.
The parents catch fish to feed their youngsters, but predominantly they are one their own and it is often a case of survival of the fittest as they try to remain hidden from the predators, who are only too happy to whisk up the chicks.
Friday was a day I'll never forget.
In the past I've been lucky enough to be taken out to the nesting locations by South Coast Shorebird Recovery volunteer, and I'll call her "Little Tern expert" Frances Bray, and found eggs.
But on Friday I saw chicks, close to half a dozen of them.
And in one instance, which Frances, who has been studying, recording and monitoring the Little Terns and their breeding habits and survival rates since 2002, said was a very rare occurrence, we actually witnessed a chick emerge from its egg and greet its two siblings.
It was amazing and very rare to be able to witnessed a Little Tern chick emerge from its egg and greet its two siblings.
Its ever watchful parents were flying above us, squawking loudly, and at times swooping down, dropping poop, yes poop, in an effort to draw us away from the nest and the youngsters.
The visit was part of Frances' and other volunteers' daily visit to the site during breeding season to keep a running tally of the number of nests, their locations, amount of eggs and hatchlings.
It was indeed a special moment and one made even greater by Ms Bray who imparted so much of her knowledge on these wonderful little birds.
"They are quite amazing when you consider where they come from," she said.
Little Terns are quite amazing when you consider where they come from, it's thought to be from up in the South China Sea area. In years past, chicks have been tagged and they seem to come back to the same breeding areas. They pair for life and have been known to live up to 25 years.South Coast Shorebird Recovery volunteer Frances Bray
"No one really knows how far they fly but it's thought to be from up in the South China Sea area.
"In years past, chicks have been tagged and they seem to come back to the same breeding areas.
"They pair for life and have been known to live up to 25 years."
Expertly camouflaged among the various shell litter, the Tern's nests are almost indistinguishable.
Expertly camouflaged among the various shell litter, the Tern's nests are almost indistinguishable. The little eggs, also highly camouflaged to blend in with their surroundings, usually in groups of two and three, are no bigger than the size of a small chocolate easter egg.
The little eggs, also highly camouflaged to blend in with their surroundings, usually in groups of two and three, are no bigger than the size of a small chocolate easter egg.
2020, is looking to be a bumper season for the Little Terns at Lake Wollumboola.
Already 26 nests have been made and almost a dozen chicks hatched.
"As for survival rates it's hard to know," Ms Bray said.
"We lost two nests in the violent winds storms a couple of weeks ago. The poor little eggs and the nest just blew away in that terrible wind."
With Lake Wollumboola, at what Ms Bray describes as its lowest since the 1990s, this year the Terns are nesting in four locations.
"The lake opened with all that rain in July and August, but now it's closed again and the water is low - it's almost like it's in drought conditions," she said.
"I've never seen the area have four East Coast Lows in one season here before and that has also affected the lake.
"But that has worked in the Tern's advantage. They are nesting on two big mud flats, one of them where I've never seen them before, as well as the sandbar opening to the ocean and another site also on the southern reaches of the lake."
The Terns arrive mid to late October and start to nest by mid November.
They incubate their chicks for three weeks (21 days), and while it is described as a "nest" quite often it is just a small depression in the sand.
Although quite often they are decorated with elaborate piles of shell grit, seaweed or small pebbles.
"They usually lay between two and three eggs but can lay up to four," she said.
They usually only lay once a season, however if disturbed or a pair loses their eggs early in the season Ms Bray said they "might" attempt to establish another nest.
"We've been very lucky so far this season," she said.
"The cooperation of people has been great, just leaving the Terns alone to do their thing.
The nest quite often it is just a small depression in the sand. Often decorated with elaborate piles of shell grit, seaweed or small pebbles.They usually lay between two and three eggs but can lay up to four.South Coast Shorebird Recovery volunteer Frances Bray
"There has been very limited disturbances to the nests.
"Although we have noticed that there is starting to be what looks like some prawning activities in and around the lake and we just ask people to be aware the Terns are there and try not to stomp through their nesting areas."
Volunteers have erected signage and cord fencing around the nesting sites marking the Terns' area.
"It's a concern, especially at night, people may not even see them," she said.
"We have also been lucky the National Parks and Wildlife Service have done their fox controlling early this year which is fantastic, and so far, touch wood, we have not had any sightings of foxes."
Avian predators like Ravens are also a concern.
The cooperation of people has been great, just leaving the Terns alone to do their thing.There has been very limited disturbances to the nests.South Coast Shorebird Recovery volunteer Frances Bray
"They just come in and either take the eggs or the chicks. As do Sea Eagles - I've witnessed one eagle just come in, sit there and then scoop up a chick and be off."
Terns are also known to frequent the North Coast and locally there are also colonies at Shoalhaven Heads and Lake Conjola.
Little Terns feed by plunge-diving for fish. One of the interesting aspects of their courtship includes the male catching fish and offering it to the female. They can then be seen flying together, fastly, in unison.
"We have a core of four shorebird volunteers who come and check on the colony each morning and night," she said.
"We record the nest numbers and locations, the number of eggs and chicks each day.
"We also have two new volunteers coming onboard, which is fantastic.
"Last year was a tough season - there were a lot of abandoned nests either due to predators and I even think last year's bushfires impacted on them."
The Pied Oyster Catcher is another bird that calls the Lake home over the Christmas period for breeding with one fledgling already spotted.
The Terns are expected to stay until the middle of March before heading back north.
New interpretive signage, featuring photos of nine of the varieties of birds in the lake, photographed by locals, has also been recently installed at the bird viewing platform at the northern edge of the lake off East Crescent.
The project has been the combined efforts of National Parks and Wildlife, Shoalhaven City Council, Birdlife Shoalhaven and the Lake Wollumboola Protection Association.
New signs will also be erected in the Dorrigo Shelter in the park.