This month, NACC NRM Biodiversity Project Officer Sam rallied the troops and headed to Hutt Lagoon to check on one of the very precious Australian Fairy Tern colonies of the Midwest.
Joining Sam were Birdlife Midwest volunteers Alice Bishop, Dr. Moira McKinnon, and Mike Clarke, and Western Mulga Rangers William Gregory and Blake Mamid; what a team!
Fairy Tern chicks of varying ages were observed waiting – often very impatiently – for their busy parents to return from one of many fishing trips that day with a meal. A significant number of females were also still incubating eggs in nests!
The Australian Fairy Tern (Sternula nereis nereis) was officially listed as threatened (Vulnerable) under the Commonwealth Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Act (1999). As a beach-nesting bird, Fairy Terns face numerous threats. This has led to a National Recovery Plan being established in 2020. They typically nest on sandy beaches, near river mouths, on coastal islands, and within sheltered lagoons.
Populations of Fairy Terns can also be found in South Australia, Victoria, Tasmania, and New South Wales. In Western Australia, the most recent population estimate sits between ̴5000 – 6000 mature individuals spread over 2,700km of coastline.
The colonies between Kalbarri and Lancelin are managed by numerous researchers and dedicated Birdlife volunteers, who make up the Midwest Coast Management Unit. This unit monitors approximately 300 breeding pairs within these colonies.
Birdlife Midwest volunteer, Alice Bishop, has dedicated hundreds of hours to seabird and shorebird conservation, with weekly trips to Hutt Lagoon to monitor the number of chicks and adults. An enormous part of Alice’s work also involves investigation and mitigation of the many threats faced by these iconic seabirds. Feral predators, human intrusion and disturbance through beach/off-road driving, and uncontrolled dogs are just some of the threats that contribute to limited nest suitability and survival rate of Fairy Terns.
NACC NRM supports the Birdlife team in their endeavours, promoting the protection of threatened species like Fairy Terns, through education and community events. Keep an eye out on NACC NRM’s social media and events page for upcoming events!