Little Terns nesting at The Entrance 2001-2002

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Subject: Little Terns nesting at The Entrance 2001-2002
From: "Alan Morris" <>
Date: Fri, 3 May 2002 09:58:23 +1000




The Little Terns Sterna albifrons returned to The Entrance again this summer to nest following their successful nesting last year when 24 pairs had 27 nesting attempts and fledged from 27 to 30 chicks. That nesting event at The Entrance constituted about 12% of the NSW breeding population and contributed about 8% of the young that fledged in early 2001. This summer season Little Terns were first seen on 27 October 2001 when a total of 12 birds in breeding plumage were at Picnic Point Reserve and Toowoon Bay. These birds gradually moved across to the main channel sandbars at The Entrance and soon were flying around Karagi Point sandspit. On 14 November, 22 adult birds were seen at the Karagi Point colony site and one nest with two eggs was located. Immediately the members of the Central Coast group of Birding NSW were notified of the nesting and volunteers organised to provide some monitoring of the site. The Lakes Sub-Region of the National Parks and Wildlife Service and Wyong Council were also notified and their co-operation sought for assistance with protecting and monitoring the nesting colony.


At this stage the area was only partly fenced, with one fence still in position from last year located down the middle of the spit (north-south) and some east west fencing. Wyong Council, through Foreman Bill Rose, completed the fencing of the former site and things seemed to be going well. While most nests initially were inside the fenced area, about 20% of the early nests were laid outside of the fence, closer to the sea. The first eggs hatched on 14 December by which time 35 nesting pairs had laid about 46 clutches, including repeat clutches. Predation of eggs was very evident either by Australian Ravens Corvus coronoides or by Silver Gulls Larus novaehollandiae, but foxes were ruled out because no fox tracks were seen near any nest. By Christmas many nests and re-nesting attempts were being made to the east of the fenced area. The increased human holiday traffic along the eastern side of the fence resulted in the trampling of a number of nests, so Wyong Council was approached to extend the fenced area eastwards. This was carried out and the remainder of the colony was then all fenced in and the creches of the chicks and the new nesting attempts were given greater protection.


The last eggs were laid on the 9 January 2002 and on 26 January following some strong winds and heavy rain, the colony site was deserted. On 20 January a count revealed a minimum of 29 flying young on the beach with more offshore and a minimum of 8 chicks inside the fences in the northern creche area all of which could fly short distances. It was expected that most of these would be flying by the 26 January when the colony was deserted. Overall 35 pairs laid 72 clutches, 41 clutches lost and 31 clutches presumed hatched,. It is hard to know how many chicks hatched because we did not always know the number of eggs in each clutch, but if we work on the assumption that there were 2 eggs in each clutch unless 3 eggs were confirmed (there were 14 clutches that hatched 3 eggs), then at least 76 chicks were reported as having hatched. It is estimated that a minimum of 37 chicks fledged, but as some had already left the site and were with their parents on the sandbanks in the river, it probable that overall the number of fledged young was 50+. Consequently it is estimated that this season, the Karagi Point colony contributed about 13% of the chicks that fledged in NSW.


Twenty-seven (27) members of the Central Coast Group of Birding NSW (CCFOC) gave up their time to monitor the colony, and each day people were rostered for morning and afternoon shifts of one to two hours. Maps were prepared and provided of nest locations and all posts numbered so it was easy this time to locate nests and using telescopes, to follow up on the progress of each nest. The assistance of the volunteers was greatly appreciated by me for their unstinting response to my calls for assistance. Their help was more necessary this season because, due to bushfires over the Christmas-January period, the NPWS was unable to provide monitoring and protection assistance other than in a limited capacity. The assistance of Wyong Council in protecting the Karagi Point colony again this season is greatly appreciated as well as the support from Bronwyn Conyers NPWS Area Manager, and her staff at Munmorah.


During the time that the colony was monitored from 14 November to 26 January 2002, at least six pairs of Red-capped Plovers Charadrius ruficapillus were present and nesting within the fenced area. The maximum count of Red-capped Plovers never exceeded 14 birds but nesting continued successfully throughout the period. Up to 400 Common Tens Sterna hirundo roosted in and around the colony daily while the nesting was in progress and during the period 19 December to 14 January, up to 14 White-winged Black Terns Chlidonius leucopterus were also present. An immature Hooded Plover Thinornis rubicollis was present along the beach and in the colony site from 16 to 22 January. Both the White-winged Black Terns and Hooded Plover, have not previously been recorded for the Central Coast



Fourteen of the Little Terns present at the colony site were coloured banded. Most of these Terns had been banded at the Towra Point Nature Reserve, Botany Bay breeding colony although some had been banded at Manning Point. The increased number of breeding pairs at Karagi Point was probably a reflection of successful breeding at the site from the previous year plus birds from the Towra Point site. At Towra Point where up to 30-40 pairs have bred successfully in recent years, the nesting colony this season failed. Initially Australian Ravens may have taken the first eggs, but it was understood that no funds were provided for boat hire for wardens to check the colony regularly, nor were rangers available to patrol the site, carry our fox or bird control etc, and eventually the birds went elsewhere.


Elsewhere in NSW, the two large colonies at Manning Point (Harrington) and Farquhar Inlet (Old Bar), both managed jointly by community groups and the NPWS, successfully fledged 106 chicks; Bongil Creek (Coffs Harbour) a NPWS managed site 81+ fledglings; Nambucca Heads possibly 10 fledglings, Lake Wollumboola 26 fledglings; Lake Conjola 7 fledglings; Wallaga Lake 2 fledglings; Tathra 12 fledglings; Lake Brou 2 fledglings; for a total 296 fledglings for NSW in 2001/2002 including those raised at Karagi Point. The South Coast colonies are managed through NPWS by two Shorebird Recovery Officers (SROs) employed for the season to mange both the Little Tern colonies and other Threatened Species such as Pied Haematopus longirostris & Sooty Oystercatchers H. fuliginosus and Hooded Plovers that nest in that Region. These SRO work in with local "Shorebird Volunteers" to manage and protect all the colonies, and an annual "South Coast Shorebird Recovery Newsletter" is produced to keep the volunteers, councils and other interested parties informed of actions and progress made. These united efforts of local government, volunteers and NPWS staff and funds have combined again in 2001/2002 to make this season’s Little Tern breeding period a success. However it would benefit the Little Terns if the level of commitment to conserve breeding shorebirds that occurs on the South Coast was implemented along the whole NSW coast.


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