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Locals warned after 'beyond frustrating' discovery at 'popular picnic spot'

Roughly 140 bird nests built on a sandbar in Perth have been destroyed in just a week.

Dog owners have been warned to stay off an idyllic sandbar after wildlife volunteers made a “really sad” discovery.

Earlier this month, researchers walking along the Point Walter spit on the Swan River in Perth counted 240 nests created by fairy terns — one of Australia’s smallest and rarest seabirds, an environmental conservation organisation called River Guardians said online.

A sign at Point Walter spit reading 'no entry past this point - breeding fairy terns'.
Roughly 140 nests built by fairy terns in Point Walter, Perth, have been destroyed in a week. Source: River Guardians/Facebook

Tragically, when the volunteers returned the day before Australia Day, they only found roughly 100 nests remaining “with evidence of human and dog activity along the sandbar”.

“We are devastated to hear this, as the entire Point Walter area is a NO DOG zone and the sandbar is fenced off, with signage about the fairy terns nesting,” the River Guardians posted on Facebook.

“Fairy terns are incredibly vulnerable to disturbance as they nest directly in the sand, so any presence of people or dogs can cause the birds to abandon their nests, as well as the risk of trampling the eggs that camouflage so well in the sand.”

The organisation said the long-weekend is expected to be very busy at Point Walter, and encouraged anyone who sees someone beyond the marked “no entry” sign to call the City of Melville rangers.

Fairy tern feeding chick.

Plea for locals to avoid 'popular picnic area'

Locals said the loss of about 140 nests was “devastating” and pointed out the area was a “popular picnic area, drawing people from all over Perth each weekend”. “So sad! Maybe they should shut off the whole area and have CCTV,” one person suggested.

The Melville Bird Sanctuary, which was established with the Melville Council’s support in June last year, also chimed in online.

Swan River foreshore showing the sandbar and picnickers.
The area is popular for fishing, kitesurfing and boating. Source: Getty Images

“Achieving proper sanctuary for our birds is impossible unless there are major changes, firstly in broad community expectations and secondly in current rules and regulations,” the group commented, adding that despite having 'No Dogs Allowed' signs along the point, the animals are regularly walked there and often while off-leash.

The sanctuary said a large number of locals also use the area for recreational purposes like fishing, kitesurfing and boating.

“Unfortunately, there are a number of people who don’t read the signs, or think such signs don’t apply to them and their dogs,” staff wrote. “On the spot fines of a few hundred dollars (and an increased numbers of rangers) may be an answer in the short-term. In the long-term, education for the community is important.”

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