Volunteers get involved in monitoring shorebirds' habitat
IT'S a long way from the Great Sandy Strait to Siberia and every year a number of coastal communities between the two play host to a declining number of shorebirds as they migrate across the globe.
Fauna & Flora International Australia conservation partnerships manager Sue Sargent said it was easy to point the finger at other off-shore threats for the drop in numbers.
But she asked how confident we could be locally that we weren't also impacting on the birds?
Ms Sargent said Birds Without Borders was a new initiative that aimed to involve local communities in assessing shorebird habitat for values such as food quantity and availability which acted as early warning systems when something went wrong.
She said more than 30 keen locals had spent an afternoon learning about the threats to the shorebirds before a hands-on session to test the methodology on the tidal flats at Maaroom late last year.
Ms Sargent said the monitoring program would formally commence in February with shorebird feeding sites monitored twice a year by volunteers.
She said the methods were simple and, apart from a little mud, also suitable for school groups.
The University of Queensland and Queensland Wader Study Group are partners in the project and lead researcher, Associate Professor Greg Skilleter said it was hard to find funding to support research into the small worms, crustaceans and molluscs that make up much of the shorebirds diet.
He said it was harder still to get data for areas such as the Great Sandy Strait.
But that's where a dose of enthusiasm and citizen science can help fill the gap.
Ms Sargent said they were amazed to see how many people were willing to participate in the workshop and their enthusiastic response.
She said the workshop greatly demystified the science.
"For example, who would have thought that what Greg jokingly called a gravity-dependent soil resistance device, or penetrometer, was actually just a steel rod that you drop from a set height to see how far it penetrates the mud?" Ms Sargent said.
"And why build-up of coarser sediments or traffic can compact the mud making it far harder for the birds' bills to penetrate and allow them to feed."
Queensland Wader Study Group David Milton said habitat degradation, land reclamation, loss of seagrass and feed, disturbances by people, dogs, vehicles and even water-based craft were threats to the birds.
For anyone wanting to join in, phone Sue Sargent on 4181 2999, ext 204, or email email@example.com.