Shorebird Survey 2019
Macleay River Estuary Migratory and Threatened Shorebird Species Strategy


Cover of Shorebird Survey 2019

Kempsey Shire Council recently completed the Macleay River Estuary Migratory and Threatened Shorebird Species Management Strategy (the Shorebird strategy; InSight Ecology 2017). The Shorebird strategy aimed to obtain baseline data on shorebird occurrence, abundance, species richness and habitat use in Kempsey Shire, and information on key threats and management actions needed to protect shorebirds and their habitats. The need for targeted work on shorebirds in the Macleay River Estuary was identified in the Macleay River Estuary Coastal Zone Management Plan (Strategy 21, Geolink 2012), the Kempsey Coastal Zone Management Plan (Action 15, WBM BMT 2015), and by Sandpiper Ecological Surveys (2009) during an audit of shorebird data in the Northern River Catchment Management Authority region.

Strategy No. 2 of the Shorebird strategy (InSight Ecology 2017) recommended the “Design and implementation of a shorebird monitoring program to determine changes in patterns of abundance, species richness, community structure and habitat use over time at existing sites in the study area. Consider adding new sites, especially in the Central Zone (Hat Head), to the monitoring program.” Strategy No. 2 included seven actions:

  • 2.1: Identify all key stakeholders in shorebird conservation and monitoring in the study area and adjoining areas such as the Hastings River catchment.
  • 2.2: Form a small working group comprising relevant and skilled interagency staff and informed local community members to help guide the implementation of shorebird conservation management strategies and actions.
  • 2.3: Repeat baseline shorebird surveys in two years and include the Central Zone around Hat Head. These should include shorebird vulnerability and qualitative risk assessment components. Obtain a detailed report on the results of this work.
  • 2.4: If possible and dependent on funds available, increase replication of surveys at each site (or at a smaller number of key sites), i.e. instead of 2 surveys undertake 6 surveys at each selected site over the peak summer period only (not spring & summer) when both migrant & resident shorebird species are present. This will add rigour to data obtained and make data more amenable to statistical analysis.
  • 2.5: Compare and contrast the 2016-17 survey results with those obtained in 2018-19, focusing on patterns of shorebird abundance, species richness, community structure, habitat use, threat analysis and reviewing/updating management actions.
  • 2.6: Evaluate existing shorebird habitat management strategies in the light of this new information and revise where necessary to ensure shorebirds and their habitat are adequately protected and enhanced.
  • 2.7: Support and facilitate collaboration on shorebird research and monitoring programs with universities, Aust. Wader Studies Group and relevant government agencies, e.g. NSW OEH, LLS, DPI.

Sandpiper Ecological Surveys was contracted by Kempsey Shire Council to undertake followup shorebird surveys, focusing primarily on addressing Actions 2.3-2.6 inclusive. The aim of this study, as specified in the project brief, is to review the findings and recommendations of the 2017 Strategy and gather additional spatial and temporal information to assist in identifying high and important conservation value habitats for migratory, threatened and resident shorebird species in the Kempsey LGA coastal zone.

The primary objective of the survey was to physically survey and collect information and interpret new and existing data on the shorebird community within the Kempsey LGA coastal zone that will:

  • value-add to the findings of the 2017 Strategy survey;
  • aid in the protection of important migratory, threatened and resident shorebirds within the Kempsey Shire LGA coastal zone;
  • minimise and where possible eliminate anthropogenic and predation threats to migratory shorebirds within the Kempsey Shire LGA coastal zone;
  • improve public awareness and knowledge of shorebird ecology within the Kempsey LGA coastal zone;
  • identify knowledge gaps in shorebird ecology within the Kempsey Shire LGA coastal zone;
  • promote shorebird recovery programs if required; and
  • be the basis of a detailed report on the findings and observations of the survey task elements.

Shorebirds belonging to the sub-order Charadrii are the focus of this assessment and the following report concentrates primarily on that group as opposed to the Order Charadriiformes, which also includes gulls and terns. Other species of estuarine bird are mentioned within the report but there is limited detailed analysis or discussion of those species.