Shorebird surveys identify important local habitats

A Kempsey Shire Council-commissioned survey of migratory and resident shorebirds in the Macleay River Estuary and adjoining coastline has identified important habitats and potential site-specific threats.

The series of surveys were conducted as part of the Macleay River Estuary Management Plan and Kempsey Coastal Zone Management Plan to identify population size, diversity, roosting and feeding areas.

Results from the surveys will be shared at an information session at South West Rocks on Friday, 17 May 2019 where community input will be sought on managing threats to habitat.

Council’s Senior Natural Resources Officer, Ron Kemsley, said the shorebird surveys were conducted over the summer months with five samples occurring between 5 December 2018 and 20 February 2019.

“Each survey sampled shorebirds during high and low tide at roost and foraging sites, with a total of 70 sites sampled between Grassy Head and Point Plomer,” Mr Kemsley said.

“The maximum count of shorebirds over the sample period was 1,822 individuals. A total of 20 shorebird species were recorded comprising eight resident and 12 migratory species, including six threatened species.”

The most abundant species identified were sharp-tailed sandpiper (917 individuals), black-winged stilt (330 individuals), Pacific golden plover (211 individuals), and masked lapwing (119 individuals). Important shorebird habitats were recorded at Killick Beach/Ryans Cut, Pelican Island, the Macleay Arm, Spencers Creek, and Boyters Lane.

Dr David Rohweder from Sandpiper Ecological Surveys said the results showed that the Macleay estuary and coastline provides important habitat for shorebirds and is equivalent to other sites in coastal northern NSW, such as the Clarence and Richmond estuaries.

“Shorebird habitat in the study area experiences a number of threats including, human disturbance, weed invasion, erosion from boat wash, 4WD vehicles and wetland reclamation,” Dr Rohweder said.

“Data on the shorebird community and threats will be assessed to identify opportunities to protect and manage high priority sites.”

The public is invited to attend the community information session at 10am on Friday, 17 May at the South West Rocks Surf Club. The session will include a brief presentation on shorebirds in the Macleay River Estuary and adjoining coastline, identification of significant shorebird sites, discussion of threats and site management.

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