Conservationists hail successful year for Mandurah Fairy Terns as breeding season draws to a close | Mandurah Courier

Conservationists are celebrating another successful breeding season for one of WA’s most iconic and vulnerable species as efforts continue to protect the Australian fairy tern.

The WA Fairy Tern Network – run by the Conservation Council of WA – has reported at least 12 successful breeding colonies between Cape Arid and Leeman, with one site in the Mandurah area supporting around 350 breeding pairs.

As one of Australia’s smallest beach-nesting seabirds, the lesser fairy tern faces a host of threats during the breeding season.

Many breeding sites are nestled in the suburbs of the Perth metropolitan area, meaning human activity and beach recreation can disrupt a nesting attempt and even destroy their shallow nests in the sand.

Eggs and chicks are also threatened by predators such as rats, gulls, foxes and domestic cats.

As a result, teams of conservationists and volunteers, working alongside local authorities and land managers, are using a range of innovative measures to protect breeding colonies from disturbance, including temporarily fencing off vulnerable areas of the littoral ; watch for predators; raise awareness in the local community and install purpose-built chick shelters.

This year, 20 additional shelters were donated by Bush Ranger cadets from John Tonkin College and the Peel Preservation Group to provide the Mandurah chicks with a welcome refuge from the sun and a place to hide from predators.

SHELTER: Simple shelters like this can provide chicks with a welcome respite from the hot summer sun. Photo: supplied.

In a collaboration involving the WA Fairy Tern Network, the Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions (DBCA) and Birdlife Australia, a new trial breeding site has been established in the Peel Estuary- Harvey.

The site was fenced off to protect the colony and a layer of beach shells spread over the surface of the ground to enhance its attractiveness to birds.

It is hoped that over time the site will become an important nesting area and help reduce pressures on existing breeding sites in the Mandurah region – where disturbance and interference can have a catastrophic effect on breeding success in its entirety.

CCWA citizen science officer Claire Greenwell said the success of the 2021/22 fairy tern breeding season was an encouraging sign that conservation efforts were working.

PROTECTION: Temporary fences protect breeding sites and nests.  Photo: supplied.

PROTECTION: Temporary fences protect breeding sites and nests. Photo: provided.

“Counting the number of breeding pairs and new chicks each year is a good measure of how far we’ve come in recent years, but there are other areas of success as well.

“The involvement of local communities and volunteers continues to grow and it’s wonderful to see so many people invested in the welfare and success of these little birds – in particular, the painstaking and time-consuming work of monitoring terns and predator monitoring.

“We are also grateful to the WA public for their help in protecting this vulnerable species.

“Sometimes fencing certain areas of the beach or shoreline is unavoidable to protect nests and eggs.

“It can mean people can’t get to their favorite fishing spot or four-wheel drive trail for a short time and – almost exclusively – they’re supportive and understanding.”