Volunteers doing a regular bird count on the sand island at the Noosa Estuary.
When we began work in the estuary, Sharp-tailed Sandpipers were a very common sight during the summer. Then suddenly they stopped coming at the end of 2009. Since then, the only Sharpie sightings have been during the spring migration: Once in 2010, twice in 2012, and once in 2013. On Thursday we had a mere six which compares rather poorly with the 70 we saw in 2005. (We are only there once a month, so we could miss some movements.)
Sadly, most species of shorebirds in the EastAsian/Australasian Flyway are suffering astonishing population crashes. It’s thought that the main problem is in the Yellow Sea, a small, shallow sea with vast intertidal mudflats, where the birds fatten up on both their northwards and southwards journeys. It’s like a bottleneck. After spending a few weeks fattening up in the Yellow Sea, birds spread all across the Arctic to breed. Same happens after breeding, on the way south for the Australian and New Zealand summer. Massive land reclamation of the Yellow Sea by China and two Koreas is causing the feeding grounds to contract, so that the birds can’t make it safely through the bottleneck. We just have to face reality, and that is that we will see extinctions during our lifetime. International talking has yielded nothing.
On the home front, the Crested Terns are getting ready to breed. Many, if not all, will breed on Cook Island, just offshore of the mouth of the Tweed River at the NSW border. Soon the only Crested Terns left in Noosa will be sexually immature birds. Then, come late January, the adults will start drifting back with their gawky babies, and the cycle continues. We love observing the cycle. Every month yields something different for those of us who go out there every month, so we are never bored.
For further information on this report please contact Jill Dening on (07) 5494 099