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Workers clear weeds from shearwater NSW nesting grounds

January 2, 2015

An infestation of kikuyu grass and coastal morning glory is threatening Shearwater breeding grounds on Big Island near Port Kembla.

This weekend, volunteers and Office of Environment and Heritage (OEH) staff are working to address these weeds, which entangle parents and fledgling seabirds.

Under the guidance of Nicholas Carlile, OEH Senior Research Scientist for Threatened Island Fauna, volunteers and NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) staff are surveying shearwaters and removing weeds on Big Island until Sunday.

Friends of Five Islands volunteers comprise bird experts, weed specialists, bush regenerators and ecologists. Volunteer bird experts helping this weekend include members of the Southern Ocean Seabird Study Association and the Australasian Seabird Group within Birdlife Australia.

Currently the pan-tropical Wedge-tailed Shearwater and the temperate Short-tailed Shearwater are breeding and nesting on Five Islands Nature Reserve. Both species are listed for protection under the agreement between Australia and Japan for the protection of migratory birds in danger of extinction, or JAMBA.

NPWS Illawarra Area Manager Tony Horwood said the community’s interest was heartening.

“With amazing support from the Friends of Five Islands volunteers, NPWS and the wider Illawarra community are working towards restoring this important seabird habitat. We will plant suitable native species later in 2015.”

About this weekend’s survey:

Over the weekend, the shearwater survey will involve mapping burrow-nest boundaries.  Burrows will be counted along transect lines and each burrow will be checked for the number and species of birds present.  This can be as simple as calling into the burrow and mimicking the ‘moan’ of a shearwater, which the birds often answer.  If that fails, trained surveyors ‘shake hands’ with the bird, which means receiving a good bite to a gloved hand. Shearwaters hold their bites, which mean they can be gently extracted, checked, and returned to their burrows where, after a short protest, they continue incubating their single egg.

About Five Island Nature Reserve shearwaters:

Shearwaters return to the same burrows season after season, mostly with the same partner, who they have not seen since the last breeding season. Both male and female shearwaters share in incubating their eggs.  Incubation usually starts at the end of November and continues until the end of January, about 55 days.  Hatchlings fledge in about three months, usually in late April or early May when their feathers and wing muscles are sufficiently developed for flight.  Shearwaters travel incredible distances and disperse into the northern hemisphere outside their breeding season. They feed in local waters off Wollongong and as far afield as the Coral Sea and sub-Antarctic waters.

Photos for news media: link

Read more about shearwaters

Read more about Five Islands Nature Reserve


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