Most successful breeding season for Little Terns

A SUCCESSFUL season for the Endangered Shorebird Program has shown why the Manning entrance is one of the most significant breeding sites in Australia.

Breeding on the Old Bar sand dune and on the sand at Charley's Island resulted in 117 Little Terns fledged, six Pied Oystercatchers and one Beach Stone-curlew (a critically endangered species).

"From information along the NSW coast, it appears this has been the most successful colony," said Brian Crisp, one of two wardens volunteer group Mates of the Manning supplies to monitor and record nests, eggs and chicks.

The 117 Little Terns fledged amounts to about half of all fledglings for New South Wales for the 2013-14 season.

"This is a somewhat scary result and highlights how important the Manning estuaries are," he said.

The result is also pleasing as it is a significant increase on the 17 fledged during the previous season.

The Manning Entrance Endangered Shorebird Program began in 1990 to assist in the protection of the three endangered shorebirds which use the entrances of the Manning River for their annual breeding and is operated by local volunteer support group, Mates of the Manning, supervised by the National Parks and Wildlife Service Taree office.

Although the last season was deemed successful, the overall numbers of these birds are in decline.

Program wardens Brian Crisp and Jeremy Smith credit the success of this past season to an increase in public awareness and responsible behaviour from people and dog owners.

"The more awareness of the birds that people have when using Old Bar spit and the waterways around Farquhar Inlet, the greater chance the birds have of successful breeding," Jeremy said.

The two biggest threats to the birds are human disturbance from recreational activities and dogs.

"We need people to continue being aware of the nesting sites and stay well clear of the fenced areas and obey the dog exclusion zone north of Old Bar's Second Corner and throughout the Farquhar Inlet's Manning Entrance State Park," said Jeremy.

"Any disturbance to the breeding birds can be devastating to the success of the breeding. Parent birds are scared off their nests, leaving eggs un-incubated and chicks unfed and exposed to weather and predation by other birds such as seagulls and ravens."

A joint effort by NPWS, Livestock Health and Pest Authority (LHPA), Mates of the Manning and landholders resulted in minimal losses of the birds to foxes this season, and dog owners have generally been complying with the no dog zones.

Pet dogs not only disturb the breeding and feeding birds but also have a significant impact and disruption to the fox control program which operates around the bird breeding areas.

With a small amount of money accessed through a government community action grant, the program was able to purchase new signage and host the Dogs Breakfast event which enabled greater education to dog owners about the bird program and the dog exclusion zones and the large dog friendly beach areas along Old Bar beach (south of second corner at Old Bar and south of 4WD access at Manning Point).

Also important to the success of the program is the Farquhar Inlet Management Group's work in carrying out maintenance dredging of the channels at the estuary.

"It is essential to keep the Old Bar entrance open to maintain water quality for environmental benefits, food supply for the shore and water birds, fish and oysters," Brian said.

Mates of the Manning and the National Parks and Wildlife Service have thanked those responsible dog owners and the members of the public who use Old Bar beach and Farquhar Inlet, including 4WD users, fisherman and the general public, whom have shown consideration and respect for these birds.

"Without people being aware and doing the right thing, these birds would quickly decline in number and add to the list of many species becoming extinct," said Jeremy.

This year's results have been very satisfying for the amount of work involved.

"Thanks to everybody for their help and compliance," Brian said.

The Little Terns will remain in the area until mid-to-late April when most of them will leave to return to near Japan, a journey of 4000km for the northern summer.

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