The Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP) has been monitoring the numbers of endangered small Terns on the Gippsland Lakes and Lake Tyers every year for many years.
For the first time in the history of its annual program, DELWP contracted the resources of volunteer group, BirdLife Australia to carry out this season’s monitoring program and their results indicate that more small Terns visited the region this year to nest and breed.
DELWP Natural Environment Program Officer, Jo Andrews said: “Thanks to BirdLife Australia we’ve estimated that about 350 to 400 birds were present across the Gippsland Lakes through the 2018/19 season. This number is slightly higher than the estimated 300 in last year’s count.”
“While this is a great result, it’s disappointing that not so many fledglings were found this year, meaning the breeding has not been so successful,” Ms Andrews said.
“Lake Tyers was the only known site in the whole state to record small Tern fledglings in the 2018/19 season, with approximately 45-55 Little Terns and 15-25 Fairy Terns.
“Signage at some breeding sites advising the public to keep clear of nesting areas to protect the Terns and nestlings was unfortunately damaged or vandalised.
“Vandalism may have contributed to the Terns abandoning those sites if they were disturbed.
“Terns face a number of threats include foxes, domestic dogs, predator birds and some plant species that can invade their breeding area.
“Continual habitat restoration works are extremely important to ensure these small endangered birds can return each year and find their preferred flat sandy profiles to nest on.
“Recent sand renourishment works are now being monitored via aerial surveys which will help us understand and assess sand distribution changes over time.
“A two-year ‘Protecting Tern Habitat’ project funded by the Gippsland Lakes Coordinating Committee aims to improve tern habitat on Crescent Island, Pelican Island and Rigby Island.
“This will be done through revegetation and weed control as well as the sand renourishment and aerial surveys.”
For more on the project, visit: https://www.loveourlakes.net.au/portfolio/protecting-tern-habitat/
This project is funded by the Victorian State Government for the health of the Gippsland Lakes.
Story and photo courtesy DELWP Gippsland