A timely reminder about helping to protect endangered seabirds this summer from Roy Schmidt, President, Gerroa Community Association
The shorebird nesting season is upon us once again and the action has commenced in and around the sand hills at the northern end of Seven Mile Beach.
Each year, our beautiful Seven Mile Beach becomes more popular, with increased usage of both the beach and close proximity reserves by local communities and visitors.
The official ‘beach user’ figures, recently released by Kiama Council, for the period mid-December 2018 to end-January 2019, showed a further 15% increase in usage of the northern section of the beach. Seven Mile Beach is by far the most popular beach in our Municipality, having 130% more users than the second most popular, East Beach.
The popularity of the northern end of Seven Mile Beach no doubt is due to its suitability for a wide variety of activities, including swimming, surfing, body boarding, wind surfing, kite surfing, riding jet skis, fishing, sun baking, playing beach games, walking, plus boat users launching in either Crooked River, or from the official launching facility alongside Little Beach.
Everyone has fun in a shared and generally safe environment. But, during the busy times, it does put pressure on parking facilities, surrounding reserves and the beach/river mouth areas.
Amongst all this activity are our shorebirds, protecting and raising their chicks. The nesting shorebirds are easily disturbed by beachgoers and animals, causing the parent birds to leave the nest to distract potential predators. This leaves the eggs and chicks exposed to heat, cold and predators.
The endangered Pied Oyster Catchers have selected a nesting site in the sand hills.
Two Masked Lapwings have already nested, hatched three chicks and flown off into the blue yonder this season. In addition five Red Cap Plovers have returned to again nest.
Also spotted regularly along Crooked River have been four Sooty Oyster Catchers, who are expected to nest out on Black Head.
Except for the Sooty Oyster Catchers, these birds can nest on the sand anywhere above the tideline and their nests, eggs and chicks are extremely well camouflaged.
The protective ropes and signs have again been erected around the central sand hills. These resources can only help protect the shorebirds and their chicks if dog owners refrain from taking their dogs on to Seven Mile Beach and parents educate their children as to the purpose of the roped-off area and the need to remain outside the ropes.
All these birds also spend time foraging for food within the intertidal zone, both along Crooked River and the beach.
So over the next seven to eight months, enjoy yourselves on beautiful Seven Mile Beach, but keep a ‘protective’ eye out for our shorebird friends.
Details: Anyone with questions or concerns about the shorebirds can call Sally Leonard on 0411 543 442.
Sally is a senior volunteer with National Parks, specialising in shorebirds.