These birds shore are being disturbed

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These birds shore are being disturbed

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Bush Stone-curlew - Photo: Amanda Lilleyman

Bush Stone-curlew
Photo: Amanda Lilleyman

While studying for my bachelor degree over the past few years I began to focus my assessments on a particular bird – the bush stone-curlew; and more specifically what the threatening factors to it were. Coming from NSW this species is Endangered, however abundant up here in Darwin. One of the key threats to this bird was dogs off the lead. When I saw my current honours project (‘shorebirds and disturbance by natural and human agents’) advertised it seemed to fit perfectly. Not only was it combining shorebirds but also disturbances by humans and their dogs.

Mixed Knot flock. Photo: Keith McGuinness
Mixed Knot flock.
Photo: Keith McGuinness

Shorebirds have extraordinary ecology as they fly for thousands of kilometres during their annual migration from their breeding grounds in the northern hemisphere to their non-breeding grounds of the southern hemisphere arriving in Australia to rest and feed. They are also a birdwatcher’s delight as they provide challenges to identification and are often in areas of high visibility. For me, a major appeal of birdwatching is identifying a bird with other birdwatchers as each person will see a bird differently. My honours project has been running for just over four weeks now and I have completed my pilot study at Lee Point – Buffalo Creek beach, Darwin where each day of the spring tide sequence I go out to the beach and observe shorebirds, counting abundances and recording disturbance events.

Observing shorebirds - Credit Amanda Lilleyman
Observing shorebirds.
Photo: Amanda Lilleyman

Humans and their dogs are problematic to shorebirds as they are causing the resting birds to take flight to escape the potential risk. Further to this, my study site is classed as a ‘no dog’ zone and after being out there for a week it was very disappointing to see people ignoring the information signs and going on to allow disturbances to occur. Having completed my field work for the pilot study I have come across some challenges including methodological and physical – the latter being exhaustion that stems from working outdoors in the Darwin climate. However challenging these issues may be, it is still a joy to observe and document shorebird patterns and behaviours.