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Great Sandy Strait Shorebird Course

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The Great Sandy Strait (the GSS) is a Ramsar site and an internationally significant site for shorebirds. For many years, QWSG has conducted regular shorebird surveys in the GSS.

In January 2018, about 50 high tide roosts were surveyed, resulting in a total count of almost 21,000 shorebirds comprising 19 migratory species and seven resident species.

With no plans to run a shorebird course in Brisbane near the end of 2019, the decision was taken to have a half-day course on 17 February at Maaroom, about 20 km south of Maryborough. Maaroom, in the heart of the GSS, and having one of the most accessible high tide roosts in the GSS, seemed an ideal place. The conveniently situated Maaroom Ratepayers and Community Hall was used for the presentations.

The line-up for the Maaroom Shorebird Training Course in February (Photo: Arthur Keates, QWSG)

The 38 participants enrolled in the course included Qld Parks and Wildlife Service officers, Butchulla Land and Sea Rangers, an indigenous ranger from Gidarjil Development Corporation Ltd, Conservation and Project Officers from the Dept of Environment and Science, an officer from the Fraser Coast Regional Council, members of the Birdwatchers of Hervey Bay, Gympie Field Naturalists, Wildlife Preservation Society Qld and Project Officer for the Mary River Catchment Coordinating Committee, as well as members of Birds Qld and QWSG.

QWSG Chairperson, David Edwards, opened the proceedings explaining which species are regarded as a shorebird followed by an informative presentation on shorebird migration and breeding, finishing up on the conservation issues affecting shorebirds. After questions, QWSG stalwart and Secretary, Peter Rothlisberg, guided participants through a well-structured session giving tips on what to look for in identifying the species of shorebirds likely to be seen in the GSS.

At the end of the presentations, all participants gathered at the high tide roost on the foreshore near the Maaroom boat ramp to test their newfound knowledge, with mixed outcomes. A lone black-tailed godwit among the flock of bar-tailed godwit provided a good comparison of those species. While a few great knot were content roosting among the godwits, at least five red knot fed busily along the tide line also providing a good comparison of those species. Unfortunately, no far eastern curlew were present to compare with the single whimbrel that came in on the ebb tide. The following species of shorebirds were observed at the roost site: pied oystercatcher, red-capped plover, lesser sand plover, black-tailed godwit, bar-tailed godwit, whimbrel, marsh sandpiper, grey-tailed tattler, Terek sandpiper, great knot, red knot, red-necked stint and curlew sandpiper.

Most participants were able to see the curlew sandpiper fitted with an orange leg flag, banded in Victoria.  Some were fortunate to see what was believed to be a Taiwanese leg-flagged Terek Sandpiper among the c300 of its kind roosting along the tide line.

Thanks must go to Sheryl Keates for organising the course, David and Peter for their presentations, Treasurer, Judith Giles for handling the payments and to the QWSG volunteers who helped out at the field trip. Thanks also to QWSG member Cecile Espigole for ensuring government and council staff, and members of various groups in the GSS area, were given the opportunity to attend the course. Cecile, Bill Price, Lesley and Don Bradley attended the course and helped with the field trip. Local QWSG counter John Bell also helped with the field trip.

Article submitted by Arthur Keates, Queensland Wader Study Group

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