Volunteers helping to protect endangered little terns nesting on Corrie Island

NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) and volunteers from the Myall Koala & Environmental Group are working together to protect a nesting colony of endangered little terns on Corrie Island Nature Reserve, as part of the NSW Government’s Saving our Species Program.

Little tern chicks (Sternula albifrons)

NSW Government Saving our Species Officer Christophe Tourenq said it was fantastic to see that little terns have returned to the island in the Lower Myall River mouth to breed this year.

“We’re relieved to see that this colony of little terns has returned to Corrie Island to breed for the 61st year running,” said Mr Tourenq.

“Little terns have been recorded breeding on and off the island and the nearby beach of Winda Woppa since the 1950’s and probably much earlier.

“Volunteers from Myall Koala & Environmental Group have counted 60 nests so far this season, which is already the double of the number reached last year at the peak of the breeding season.

“Little terns are endangered in NSW and sadly their populations are in decline. The big issue for little terns is that they breed during summer on beaches and sand spits – the same spaces where humans like to sit, camp and walk their unleashed dogs during the warm weather.

“Their eggs and chicks are so well camouflaged against the sand; they are almost invisible and all too easy for people and their pets to disturb, or even crush, without noticing. Luckily, Corrie Island is relatively isolated, so we hope they will have a better shot at a successful breeding season in 2020–21.

“We’re asking members of the public to please ‘share the shore’, respect the signs, and to refrain from visiting the island during the breeding season, which runs from November to February. Eggs or chicks could be anywhere on the island above the high tide line.

Volunteers have been essential in helping NPWS to gather data on shorebirds in the Port Stephens estuary. Since 2004, the Hunter Bird Observers Club have conducted summer surveys, and for the last four seasons, a small group of volunteers from the Myall Koala & Environmental Group have been monitoring and protect the nesting birds on Corrie Island.

Myall Koala & Environmental Group’s Trish Blair said “It is a pleasure and a privilege for us to play a part in helping to collect data about the numbers and breeding success of endangered shorebird species, and to take any action, in conjunction with relevant Government agencies to reduce the risk of destruction of eggs and chicks.”

“Our usual mode of transport to the nesting site is by kayak and on foot in our beautiful natural coastal environment. So, our ‘work’ is not onerous at all,” said Ms Blair.

People are reminded that camping and domestic pets are not allowed into Corrie Island Nature Reserve at any time.

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