Endangered pied oystercatchers have been spotted on nests, confirming the start of shorebird season on the South Coast.
While thrilled to see the birds lay on beaches across the Shoalhaven, Eurobodalla and Bega Valley, David McCreery from the National Parks and Wildlife Service said the pied oystercatchers still remain threatened.
"While we are excited to see these birds return, we also face each nesting season with some apprehension as there remain real threats to the birds and to the few eggs the female lays each year," said Mr McCreery.
"One of the best ways that people can help this species is to keep their pet dogs away from birds and their nests.
"Beachgoers really must take care when walking through the dunes as any minor disturbance can damage eggs or cause adult birds to abandon their nest.
"We know its easier said than done, the golf-ball sized eggs can be well camouflaged so avoid the high dunes and walk only on the wet sand to avoid nesting sites.
"If people see a nest site we ask that they please don't disturb the birds or eggs, instead call NPWS so we can go down and install signs or barriers to protect the site as best we can.
"NPWS Rangers along with the Saving our Species team and dedicated South Coast Shorebird volunteers will be monitoring nests right through summer until March next year."
Mr McCreery added the birds had a successful breeding season last year.
"Last year we saw excellent breeding and fledging success at some sites and we want the same this season so please, pay attention to the shorebird signs, keep your dog on a leash and walk on the wet sand.
"There are some threats that are more difficult to control, such as predation from foxes or storm surges, but with the help of local volunteers we are doing what we can.
"We are currently keeping an eye on at least seven pied oystercatcher nests and with hooded plovers and little terns out looking for mates they too should start nesting over the coming weeks and months," said Mr McCreery.
The South Coast Shorebird Recovery Program spans beaches from the Illawarra to the Victorian border and is boosted by volunteers each year.
If you would like to volunteer your time bird watching, locating nests and chicks, installing nest protection and recording data, apply at NPWS South Coast Branch.
As these activities relate to threatened species and are time critical, COVID-19 requirements are in place this season to ensure the safety of volunteers and NPWS staff.
For more information on endangered pied oystercatchers, visit Saving our Species.
We depend on subscription revenue to support our journalism. If you are able, please subscribe here. If you are already a subscriber, thank you for your support.