Our region's coast and shoreline are home to a diverse range of sea and shorebirds, several of which migrate from national or international locations. Some of these species are listed as 'threatened' under national or NSW legislation.
The coastal mudflats of Farquhar Inlet provide rich feeding grounds for the critically endangered Majestic Eastern Curlew, which makes the long journey each year from the Northern Hemisphere. In late 2017, for the first time in Australia, Aleutian terns, a migratory species from Alaska were observed at Farquhar Inlet near Old Bar, attracting bird watchers from across New South Wales and Australia.
The estuaries and inlets in our region provide important breeding areas for the three threatened beach-nesting birds, the Beach Stone-curlew – Esacus neglectus, Pied Oystercatcher Haematoptus longirostris and Australia's smallest tern, the Little Tern – Sterna albifrons.
Until very recently, the beaches and inlets of Manning River provided the largest breeding population of Little Terns in NSW, a species now undergoing state-wide decline. These birds only visit Manning Point, Harrington and Old Bar, as well as areas further south near Yaccaba in the summer months, breeding and rearing their young, before migrating north for the winter.
What are the dangers facing these species?
These birds have a tough time surviving on our beaches particularly as summer is also the peak time for human activity. Nesting birds, their eggs and chicks have to contend with predation from feral foxes, as well as roaming, off-leash domestic dogs which may disturb, damage or predate birds and their young. If they survive these threats, then humans may inadvertently trample camouflaged eggs and chicks, either underfoot or when 4WDs illegally drive across the dunes and along the inlets.
The last two years have been major failures for breeding of these species, but in particular little terns. This is significant as the Manning Entrance has been the most important breeding site for little tern nationally and has until recently, defied the declining trend at other NSW sites.
Some of the results provided by NPWS highlight the main threats and losses in the last two seasons in the Manning beaches.
A pair of Beach Stone-curlews, a critically endangered species, failed to raise its single young which was lost to fox predation and the parents have not been seen since.
For Little Terns, the season was devastating. No chicks survived from 112 eggs on 48 nests. These nest numbers are normally higher, however, were reduced by increasingly high levels of disturbance. Foxes, 4WDs and dogs were devastating - foxes took 66 eggs in 2 nights, 4WDs ran over 37 eggs, dogs took 8 eggs and 1 chick . Uncontrolled domestic dogs not only predated eggs and a chick but also disrupted and interfered with the fox control program, exacerbating fox impacts.