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Jurien Bay fairy tern colony successfully protected thanks to community effort

Jamie ThannooMidwest Times
Fairy tern chicks under a shelter.
Camera IconFairy tern chicks under a shelter. Credit: Nic Dunlop

A conservationist has proclaimed a community effort to protect a colony of fairy terns at the mouth of the Hill River a success, a first under human supervision for the vulnerable bird species.

Jurien Bay locals, shire rangers and experts worked together for the first time to protect a nesting colony found in the area, which has successfully survived.

Nic Dunlop, a conservationist with WA Fairy Tern Conservation Network and the Conservation Council of WA, said the mouth of the Hill River was a classic spot for fairy tern breeding and nesting, however a colony had never succeeded due to off-road 4-wheel driving, feral animals, and illegal camping.

A fairy tern chick.
Camera IconA fairy tern chick. Credit: Nic Dunlop

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However, this year the colony appears to have succeeded with at least 17 chicks born from 38 pairs of terns, and other eggs still to hatch.

Fencing, signing, traps and cameras were all installed by volunteers and shire rangers to help protect the birds, and shelters built by the Jurien’s Bay Men Shed were placed at the nesting grounds, giving the vulnerable chicks shade and overhead protection.

Volunteers also watched over the area, often overnight, to monitor the site and ward off predators.

Dr Dunlop said the community effort had sparked a local passion for protecting the environment.

“The birds and the community effort has really changed the whole attitude toward the estuary mouth,” he said.

A successful colony, can have a great impact on the fairy tern population, Dr Dunlop said, and their success is important given the species is under threat.

Fairy terns by a shelter.
Camera IconFairy terns by a shelter. Credit: Nic Dunlop

“The general pattern is most colonies fail, but every now and then you get one that produces a large-ish number of birds, it’s those few successful colonies each year which supply the population,” he said.

“If we don’t work at it, they will become more threatened because their habit of nesting on beaches makes them vulnerable.”

Conservationists and the community plan to help protect the next colony if it appears later this year, with a more pro-active strategy in place, according to Dr Dunlop.

“Next year, I’m sure there is a few more things we could get the Men’s Shed to do,” he said.

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