ON THE ROAD — While the Helmeted Honey-Eaters and other birds occupy the upper storey habitat in a large freeflight enclosure at Healesville Sanctuary, a family of Bush Stone-curlews (Burhinus grallarius) share the terrestrial zone with a few Black-breasted Button Quail (Turnix melanogaster). In Darwin we are used to seeing the Bush Stone-curlew around the streets and gardens but in southern Australia populations are in serious decline where Pizzey and Knight describe its status as “rare to wholly extinct in settled parts of south-east Australia”. With big eyes the Bush Stone-curlew is well equipped for night hunting when it takes insects, lizards and occasionally small mammals like mice. The Black-breasted Button Quail is a species listed as vulnerable in the wild under the Commonwealth’s Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act.
Down on the Nightcliff foreshore this morning quite a lot of bird yoga happening. Caught this juvenile crested tern (Thalasseus bergii) confidently holding the warrior pose (virabhadrasana III) which Iyengar experts say is the “most difficult warrior pose. It combines strength and dynamism with firm balance.”
But so much for humour and shorebirds. There’s nothing to smile about in the statistics for shorebirds that annually make the mind-boggling journey from breeding grounds in Alaska and Siberia to Australia and New Zealand using the East Asian Flyway.
The Shorebirds 2020 conference has just concluded in Darwin, with delegates from all along the flyway except, critically, Russia.
This report of the perilous situation facing shore birds comes from Birdlife Australia and Shorebirds 2020 web page.
“One of the world’s great natural wonders is the migration of shorebirds between their breeding grounds in Alaska and Siberia and their non-breeding grounds in Australia and New Zealand using the East Asian Australasian Flyway. This amazing phenomenon is in danger of imminent collapse because vital staging sites on the migration route are being lost.
“This was the conclusion reached at the 9th Australasian Shorebird Conference held in Darwin on the weekend.
“The Flyway’s 23 countries include nearly half the world’s human population and some of its fastest growing economies. The combination is applying extraordinary development pressure on tidal flats and wetlands where the birds find food to fuel their journeys.
“Paper after paper described accelerating losses to aquaculture, agriculture and urban or industrial infrastructure, particularly in the Yellow Sea. Hunting, pollution and disturbance through recreational pursuits are also significant issues along the length of the Flyway.
“Projects aiming to protect shorebird habitat and reduce its loss through remediation and/or restoration were highlighted but the sheer scale and rate of change is overwhelming these efforts.
“Traditional livelihoods of the many people in the Flyway who depend on coastal wetlands and tidal flats are also disappearing.
“In view of the dire situation facing shorebirds, delegates of the 9th Australasian Shorebird Conference:
• Express their deep concern about the alarming decline in shorebird numbers in the Flyway
• Encourage national governments to work in the spirit of international agreements to protect wetlands and coastal habitat for future generations
• Call on governments at all levels, the business sector and the community to work together to protect shorebirds and their habitat to prevent further losses
• Recognise and acknowledge the important role of the East Asian Australasian-Flyway Partnership as a framework to collaborate in the protection of shorebirds and their
Veteran Deep North shorebird enthusiast Gavin O’Brien says the early risers in the migration start arriving in Darwin in August, increasing sharply in September and peaking in October.
Late in September the Darwin shorebird gang counted 1000 knots at Lee Point. They are expecting groups of 3000 to be there in a week or so.