Closed borders are not an issue for migratory birds, who fly hundreds of thousands of kilometres across the globe to find food, habitat for breeding and feeding young. The 8th May marks World Migratory Bird Day, an annual awareness raising campaign to highlight the need for conservation of migratory birds and their habitats.
Locally in the Vasse Wonnerup wetlands, we have over 20,000 waterbirds regularly visiting the wetlands, and many of these are migratory. Waterbird numbers are monitored on a monthly basis by the Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions (DBCA) through the Revitalising Geographe Waterways program.
Many migratory waders visit the Vasse Wonnerup in summer, and this year there were some interesting visitors not seen in the wetlands for a very long time, and some never at all. DBCA Regional Leader Nature Conservation Kim Williams says the total numbers were not out of the ordinary, but the species diversity and number of unusual species turning up in small numbers was.
“This year we had the first ever record in the Vasse Wonnerup of an Oriental Pratincole and a pair of Asian Dowitchers” said Kim.
“We also recorded the first Eurasian Curlew in the Vasse Wonnerup, and in fact this was the only record of this species anywhere in Australia since February 2019”.
“Seen this year but not previously for many years in the Vasse Wonnerup were a probable Latham’s Snipe and a Grey-tailed Tattler” said Kim.
Conserving the habitat value of the Vasse Wonnerup wetlands is critical for migratory waders, who need the upper estuaries to partially dry out in summer to provide the perfect depth for wading shorebirds to pick invertebrates from the sediments.
This is an important consideration for managers when changing water levels through the surge barriers and bar openings to manage water quality, amenity and reduce algal blooms.
Ongoing monthly waterbird monitoring is important and will continue through the Healthy Estuaries WA and Revitalising Geographe Waterways programs. These State Government initiatives aim to support the long-term health of our south-west estuaries.