Some very rare terns from Alaska have been spotted at the Manning River entrance near Old Bar and beach users are urged to use caution.
Alan Stuart, a self-trained ornithologist living in Newcastle, said the birds are Aleutian Terns, which have never before been recorded in Australia. Alan has a website Thinking About Birds
Liam Murphy is credited with spotting about 13-14 of these birds on Monday, December 11.
Alan said this species breeds in the Aleutian Islands in the northern summer and then departs. “There has never been any real understanding about where they go to although it was thought that they might end up at islands off Indonesia or Micronesia,” he said.
“It seems that at least some of them come to Australia.”
Alan said the birds that are here are roosting with the Common Terns and Little Terns on the northern side of the river mouth at Mudbishops Point. They were first noticed on Monday, December 11 as a group of nine birds but others since then have seen more of them – so, maybe they’re still arriving.
“Reports of rarities are closely scrutinised by a committee of experts in BirdLife Australia so this will not be an officially accepted record for quite some time.
“However, nobody is doubting that that’s what they are,” Alan said.
“Also, a photo taken from around this time last year (November 2016) has been unearthed, that has two birds in it which are very similar to the birds here now.
“In other words, they may have been coming here for quite a while and we were unawares. They look quite like Common Terns but have less black on the face and crown, and shorter legs.”
Taree Indigenous Development and Employment (TIDE) has a special interest in the birds as the TIDE Aboriginal rangers were contracted by Crown Lands for the second year running to install a fence around the nesting areas.
Unfortunately, the fences get knocked down and the birds often choose to nest outside the fenced areas. Last year was a disastrous season with no eggs hatching.
Following last year’s devastating breeding results for endangered shorebirds, the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) is urging people to protect nesting sites on beaches around Manning River.
“Out of 112 little tern eggs laid last season, only one chick hatched and sadly didn’t survive,” NPWS ranger Michael Thomas said.
“Foxes took 66 eggs over two nights, 4WDs ran over 37 eggs and domestic dogs destroyed eight,” he said.