Terns, Caloundra, SEQld

To: Jill Dening <>
Subject: Terns, Caloundra, SEQld
From: Peter Woodall <>
Date: Mon, 29 Jan 2001 12:21:33 +1000
At 14:25 27/01/2001 +1100, you wrote:
>Hello Everyone,
>I have been hesitant to post the following, because I know that there 
>will be subscribers who will not believe me, but I realise there's 
>not a thing I can do about that.
>I have been reporting very large numbers of terns this summer in 
>Caloundra, but the numbers are now getting into the realms of 
>abundances never reported before to my knowledge.
>HANZAB, Vol 3, Snipe to Pigeons, Common Tern, page 658, Populations, 
>reports, "Some localities where 2000+ birds recorded, 
>include..............." As you know, the numbers I see regularly in 
>Caloundra exceed that number most of the time during the summer.
>Last Thursday, Barb Dickson & I recorded tern numbers as follows:
>Common Tern                    14,655 (plus below)
>White-Winged Black Tern                    830
>Little Tern                        605
>Crested Tern                         41
>Unidentified terns after sunset         4,990 (most would have been Common 
>TOTAL                          21,121
>How do we count such numbers? Every week we go out to the sandbanks 
>by boat, and stand near the terns, armed with telescopes and hand 
>tally counters. If we are lucky, we will get a stretch when we can 
>count the entire flock without a disturbance, but usually there are 
>several attempts before we can achieve an uninterrupted count. Terns 
>are often distributed across two or three sandbanks, depending on the 
>tide. With numbers so high, I have taken to clicking one for every 
>bunch of ten birds, and so it is done laboriously, and is not just an 
>educated guess. Each of us counts two species, with a tally counter 
>in each hand. It's confusing at first, but you get quite used to it. 
>I do all the number calling, while Barb stands next to me clicking as 
>I call. Back in the winter when numbers were more manageable, we used 
>to count separately to account for observer bias, but found that we 
>generally came out with pretty close numbers.
>When we arrive on the sandbanks we suggest to each other what our 
>estimate of the total flock number is. Then we do the count, and 
>compare afterwards with our original estimates. I have to admit that 
>last Thursday I was too embarrassed to admit that I thought we had 
>about 10,000 in one flock (in fact it was 11,114, so I wasn't too far 
>out). All I could say was, "This is just impossible, I want to go 
>home, I want my mother."
>After the boating, we drive quickly around to a vantage point, and 
>count the terns as they fly home from the sea. You can see them 
>pretty clearly against the sky until lack of light makes further 
>counting impossible.
>If any locals want to witness this roosting (Andrew S?), I think I am 
>starting to see a pattern. It seems that a low tide will provide the 
>best numbers at present. We have never done it in the morning, only 
>in the afternoons, so goodness knows what the morning low tides 
>At the end of the 12 months of observations, which will be July, all 
>the data will be written up, and the results offered to anyone who 
>can make use of them. The aim of the work is to detail the 
>conservation value of the sandbanks, which are subject to increasing 
>human disturbance. Caloundra Council is financing our boat hire, and 
>Jupiter's Casino Community Benefit Fund gave us (the Sunshine Coast 
>Ornithological Society) about $7000 for optical equipment.

Hi Jill

Wonderful work and great results you're getting.

Please, please, when its finished write up the results for publication in the
Sunbird.  This, or a similar publication, is where they should go.
Don't just offer it to anyone who wants it, YOU should complete your fine
work by writing it up and publishing it yourself. 

Too many projects end up with nothing or a report which, if unpublished, is 
essentially "lost" to future workers.  
I've tried to track down NPWLS reports which I KNOW were done
only 10 years ago, but they have become lost in the system. 
Now, no one knows where to find them.

Once published in a journal like the Sunbird, Corella, Queensland
Naturalist, etc
the paper will be abstracted by Zoological Record, which has been
producing annual summaries of the world's zoological literature since the
early 1800's.
These days ZR can be searched online by author/species/subject/ etc and your
data will NOT be lost.

Keep up the good work


Dr Peter Woodall                          email = 
Division of Vet Pathology & Anatomy             
School of Veterinary Science.             Phone = +61 7 3365 2300
The University of Queensland              Fax   = +61 7 3365 1355
Brisbane, Qld, Australia 4072             WWW  =
"hamba phezulu" (= "go higher" in isiZulu)


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