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Great Sandy Strait Shorebird Survey

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The first surveys of the Great Sandy Strait (GSS) region were completed by Peter Driscoll and published in Driscoll, P.V. (1993).  QWSG has continued extensive surveys of the region since February 1995, and in total (including those completed by Peter), 18 surveys have been undertaken.

Bar-tailed godwits – the Great Sandy Strait’s shorebirds prepare to be counted (Photo: Lesley Bradley)

Timing for the most recent survey, held on 21-23 February this year, clashed with optimal dates selected for the count programme, which resulted in having to choose a weekend with a slightly higher tide than would have been preferred. Thankfully, weather conditions during most of the survey period were favourable with dry and warm days, but a moderate to strong south-easterly wind on the last day was uncomfortable for those in boats. Most sites were counted during Friday and Saturday, but a few were done on Sunday when there was some rain and stronger winds.

No aerial count was conducted during this survey. In total, 59 sites were listed for counting by land and boat. Of the 59 sites, only 49 were surveyed.  Another site that had not been counted for 15 years was visited, bringing the total number of counts to 50.

The total counts from the February survey were 20,161 migratory and 809 resident waders. The bar-tailed godwit count was 10,990, representing nearly 55% of the total migratory species counted. The next largest counts were whimbrel (1,846) and red-necked stint (1,793), followed by far eastern curlew (1,590). Of these four species, three (bar-tailed godwit, whimbrel and far eastern curlew), are in internationally significant numbers. The percentage of the flyway population for these species is bar-tailed godwit (3.3%), whimbrel (2.8%) and far eastern curlew (4.5%) (Hansen, B.D. et al.). Other birds counted during the survey comprised of waterbirds (1,301), raptors (35), seabirds (2), silver gull (135) and terns (1,286) made up of 6 species and, of those, 641 were greater crested tern.

SPECIESJan 2005Oct 2009Jan 2012Dec 2013Oct 2014Feb 2016Jan 2018Feb 2020
Bush Stone-curlew02000000
Beach Stone-curlew041136969
Pied Oystercatcher287103448204147316259282
Sooty Oystercatcher309621102
Pied Stilt5419425575431417863125
Red-necked Avocet00010000
Masked Lapwing4095717653807869
Red-kneed Dotterel0507914040
Pacific Golden Plover24129239213134196373138
Grey Plover911421951062345413512
Red-capped Plover21015749146882308379420
Double-banded Plover00000006
Lesser Sand Plover234562420994898244082911109
Greater Sand Plover41431010193328615808396
Black-fronted Dotterel13162251
Comb-crested Jacana3816100071
Latham’s Snipe00252100
Asian Dowitcher00000502
Black-tailed Godwit43841021455
Bar-tailed Godwit88691372717076125851380710210961610990
Far Eastern Curlew22791865311013011275141712191590
Marsh Sandpiper501045110255854
Common Greenshank18646324118919416219196
Wood Sandpiper01000200
Grey-tailed Tattler69621541638635116419871344640
Wandering Tattler05600260
Terek Sandpiper1302586582391366311470
Common Sandpiper00000000
Ruddy Turnstone14192531034116
Great Knot2094208211821461889256922181270
Red Knot42282012518056423
Red-necked Stint27741462194710852102129415031793
Sharp-tailed Sandpiper1023181952711798410424
Curlew Sandpiper291194177182242100187151
Broad-billed Sandpiper01000000
Australian Pratincole02000000
Total migratory waders2080525421317641979723009200971943020161
Total resident waders598571130216076209041369809
Total waders2140325992330662140423629210012079920970
Total migratory species1822202020222019
Total resident species798108788
Total species2531303028292827
Unidentified Small Wader3082000000
Unidentified Medium Wader02561500000
Total Waders2140626017345012140423629210012079920970
Total roost sites counted2551485448355950
Aerial count conductedNoNoYesNoNoNoNoNo
Table 1: Results of the Great Sandy Strait Shorebird Survey February 2020 (Data: Queensland Wader Study Group)

A flagged bird was reported from Moon Creek west entrance on Fraser Island during the survey period – a red-necked stint with black flag over yellow flag on the right tibia. The bird was flagged on the Kamchatka Peninsula in Russia.

No breeding records were reported. 

Extracts of higher wader counts from the survey are listed below:

  • Red-capped plover: Garnet’s Lagoon No. 1 Hervey Bay (115), Inskip Pt. (105)
  • Lesser sand plover: Cooloola (422), Gables’s Pt. Rocks, Hervey Bay (286)
  • Greater sand plover: O’Regan’s Creek westside, Hervey Bay (160), Pt. Vernon, Hervey Bay (147)
  • Bar-tailed godwit: Inskip Pt. (2,800), Moon Pt. Fraser Island (1,570), Maaroom (1,580), Boonooroo Site 1 (1,447)
  • Whimbrel: Puthoo Creek, Moon Pt. Fraser Island (315), Toowoora Creek, Stewart Island (244)
  • Far eastern curlew: Mangrove Pt. south claypan, Hervey Bay (386), Moon Pt. Fraser Island (230)
  • Marsh sandpiper: Maaroom (34)
  • Common greenshank: Tuan (52)
  • Grey-tailed tattler: mangroves West Carlo Island, Tin Can Bay (490)
  • Great knot: Maaroom (620)
  • Red knot: Maaroom (20)
  • Red-necked stint: Boonooroo Site 1 (797).

Other species of interest observed on Fraser Island were four beach stone-curlew – Inskip Pt, six double-banded plover – Garnet’s Lagoon No. 1, Hervey Bay, two Asian dowitcher – Inskip Pt, five black-tailed godwit – Maaroom, one brown noddy – Pelican Banks, Fraser Island and one black noddy – Inskip Pt.

QWSG sincerely thanks Kristy Murray, John Schwarzrock, and Natalie Kastner from Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service, Department of Environment and Science (DES), for their assistance in organising and supplying vessels on Friday and Saturday to cover sites on Fraser Island and others within the GSS.   QWSG also sincerely thanks the following people for allowing survey teams onto or through their property to conduct the counts. Their cooperation is very much appreciated: Garnet Bengsten – the owner of Garnet’s Lagoons at River Heads, Hervey Bay, Lindsay & Noela Titmarsh – owners of Tandora on the Mary River, Maryborough, Jim and Jane Woods – owners of Woojari at Tinnanbar (access to Kauri Creek roost) and Len and Colleen Crossley – caretakers of Woojari at Tinnanbar during the owner’s absence.

Special thanks to the counters for their assistance, without them these surveys would not be possible.  QWSG Members: John Bell, Rhianna Boyle, Donald & Lesley Bradley, Deirdre Chrzescijanski, Ken Cowell, Peter Driscoll, David Edwards, Cecile Espigole, Micha Jackson, Rob Kernot, John Knight, Amelia Nielsen, Kelvin Nielsen, Will Price, Peter Rothlisberg,  Marilyn Sweetnam, Floss Wainwright, Dez Wells and Brad Woodworth.  Birdwatchers of Hervey Bay Members: Jane Barnes, Alice Ekin, Frank Ekin, Bill Gauld, Evan Goodall, Kay Humphrey and Peter Tierney.  Queensland Parks and Wildlife (DES) staff:  Troy Broome, Rene Burgess, Natalie Kastner, Noah Poole and John Schwarzrock.  Other helpers:  Coryn Dennett and Peter Mansell.

Article submitted by Linda Cross, Queensland Wader Study Group

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