When you spend time on the Gippsland Lakes this October and November, you will be sharing the shore with masses of birds that have returned to the area after their spring migrations.
Some will have travelled from as far afield as Siberia or China, where they have prepared for their flight throughout our winter, feasting on insects and other food sources to build up stores of fat to fuel their incredibly long, exhausting flights.
Others will have popped over the border from South Australia, southern Queensland or New South Wales to enjoy the bounty of the Gippsland Lakes, breed, feed and prepare for their next migration.
And while many vital areas of coastal wetlands along the birds’ migratory route are disappearing or being compromised by industrial developments the Gippsland Lakes are rolling out the welcome mat.
Habitat restoration works for terns
Fairy Terns and Little Terns will find a haven, designed especially for them to breed, hatch and rear their chicks, on the Lakes’ Rigby Island.
In the equivalent of a family resort for the shorebirds, which are both listed as threatened species in Victoria under the Flora and Fauna Guarantees Act (1988), DELWP and Parks Victoria have restored habitat on the island to make it more suitable for the Little Terns and Fairy Terns nesting sites.
Terns prefer to nest on flat, or gently undulating sites rather than on dunes, to maintain moist conditions for the eggs and chicks. A local bulldozer contractor has pushed over mounds on the site and redistributed the sand to make a much more comfortable and appropriate environment for the nesting birds.
Now is a critical time for the terns, as the birds look for appropriate breeding sites in late October. Any disturbance could displace them from potential sites, and possibly prevent them from breeding.
To help the terns’ breeding season achieve maximum success, dogs are not permitted on Rigby Island, and there have been signs erected to inform the public that it is a bird conservation site. DELWP Biodiversity staff and members of Birdlife East Gippsland will work closely together from October to March, when the fledglings will be ready to take off on their first migration. The teams will survey tern numbers, breeding activity and fledgling success.
Pelican Island, Crescent Island and Lake Tyers’ Mud Island are also important breeding sites for terns, while Jones Bay, Snipe Wetland, Victoria Lagoon and Morley Swamp provide important resting and feeding sites for many bird species as they prepare for their migratory departure.
What can I do?
- Observe and respect conservation areas – if there are fenced areas for nesting sites, don’t go into them; if dogs are allowed, keep them on a leash so they don’t run off and disturb nesting birds.
- Report any disturbances to nesting bird colonies to the DEWLP Biodiversity Officer at Bairnsdale on 5152 0400.
- Get involved in volunteer activities, including weeding and planting.