Listed in Australia’s top 118 wetlands of significance to migratory shorebirds, experts believe sustaining the natural habitat of Denmark’s Wilson Inlet is crucial to reducing population decline of fliers travelling up to 12,000km each year to roost, feed and breed.
In a matter of days trained bird observers, Department of Environment and Conservation staff and volunteers will descend on the eastern inlet banks at Morley Beach to train others how to monitor up to 14 migratory species ahead of Birdlife Australia’s annual national shorebird survey, held in February each year.
As Birdlife Albany member and active shorebird survey participant Brad Kneebone explains, many of the 38 migratory shorebird species that visit Australia each year head to important sites on the south coast of WA after travelling through the East Asian Australasian Flyway.
“These amazing birds must stop over at various sites along the way to refuel before they can continue,” he said.
“Tragically, vast areas of key staging sites such as the margins of the Yellow Sea bordering China and Korea have been lost, with dramatic negative effects on shorebird populations for a number of species.”
These include the red and great knot, Pacific golden plover, bar-tailed godwit and sharp-tailed sandpiper, which are facing huge declines in population due to a range of factors including habitat loss, predation and hunting, habitat disturbance and pollution.
Some of the species travel from as far north as the Arctic tundra to Wilson Inlet and back each year.
“This tragic pressure on declining shorebird population makes it critical for us in Australia, including on the south coast, to strongly protect the ecosystems of our own estuaries and wetlands as shorebird sites,” Mr Kneebone said.
“And whilst doing so, we are protecting our own 10 species of endemic shorebirds that occur regularly on the south coast.”
That includes the hooded plover, which experts believe has dwindled in population from 7000 birds to less than 5000 since 2008.
On December 16 enthusiasts are invited to join a species identification workshop along with trained observers.
The goal is to attract more eyes to help monitor shorebird for the Birdlife Australia survey. Observations provide data for population, species diversity and geographical distribution vital to future management strategies for conservation and protection of habitats.