Eighty-one volunteers and researchers from the Peel-Harvey Catchment Council (PHCC) were hard at work last Sunday undertaking their annual shorebird count.
While volunteers and advocates often carry out their own counts throughout the year, the annual count by the council is the largest coordinated shorebird count effort in Australia.
This year, Community Engagement Coordinator Charlie Jones said the approximate shorebird count was 30,000. In comparison to last year's count of 33,000, it was clear that the shorebird population was on a steady decline.
"The picture globally is relatively grim," Ms Jones said.
Many of the shorebirds that visit Mandurah are migratory, which means they stay in the area during the summer, then travel north during the winter to breed, visiting places like Alaska and even Siberia.
Ms Jones said the decline in migratory shorebird population was due to a combination of local threats in Mandurah as well as threats along the migratory route, also known as their 'flyway'.
"Things like land reclamation and rapid urbanisation reduces their habitats and food available. These birds feed on crustaceans and bugs in mud flats. Marinas and channels take up some of that land which means there's less habitat for them to use," Ms Jones said.
Ms Jones said the council's research, shorebird counts and lobbying over 10 years helped to stop new developments such as the Point Grey Marina from taking place there.
Bird counters who have been volunteering for years have reported an increase in people out crabbing and on their boats, Ms Jones revealed.
"Birds are really easily disturbed by this. It reduces the amount of time they can spend in Mandurah during the summer, and forces them to spend the energy they would otherwise have saved. When they're down here, they feed the whole summer to build fat reserves to fly back [north] and breed," Ms Jones said.
There are some easy ways the community can help look after our shorebird population.
Volunteers have been monitoring waterbirds in the Peel-Yalgorup wetlands since as far back as the 1970s.
"We have a reliable data set we look back on every year. We use that data to advocate to protect sites or raise the alarm about particular species experiencing decline," Ms Jones said.
The count focuses on water dependent birds including shorebirds as well as other waterbirds, such as terns and gulls, pelicans, swans, ducks, cormorants and egrets.
The council runs annual training programs to allow new volunteers to participate in the count, as identifying shorebirds and waterbirds requires a high level of skill and experience from volunteers.
This citizen science effort contributes to BirdLife's Australian Shorebird Monitoring Program and is supported by the PHCC through funding from the Australian Government's National Landcare Program.
Those who would like to learn more about our local waterbirds and shorebirds can contact the council at email@example.com
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