Warning signs are now in place to protect the fragile little tern nesting area at Hearnes Lake. Photo: TREVOR VEALE.
Warning signs are now in place to protect the fragile little tern nesting area at Hearnes Lake. Photo: TREVOR VEALE.

Terns return for breeding season

DOZENS of little terns have returned to Hearnes Lake for this year's breeding season.

Fencing has been erected around the nesting site and fox trapping has begun at Hearnes Lake Beach to help protect up to 20 breeding pairs of the birds that have already arrived and started nesting.

In the past week, two foxes and a feral cat were successfully trapped.

A total of 60 chicks were successfully fledged from the site in 2008, making it one of the most successful breeding grounds for the endangered species in New South Wales.

However, last year saw many of the established sites in the state fail. But the large number of birds already at the nesting site close to Willis Creek has given experts hope that even more birds will be fledged this year.

"No one expected such a high level of success in the first few years. It was initially only identified as a potential breeding site," National Parks and Wildlife Service Coffs Coast area manager Glenn Storrie said.

"In fact, the site at Hearnes Lake had more success than the more established habitat at Red Rock.

"It shows just how important it was to fence off this breeding site to give these endangered birds a chance to increase their numbers."

Coffs Harbour City Council and National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS), as part of the Shorebird Recovery Program, have fenced off the small breeding habitat area at the mouth of Willis Creek on Hearnes Lake Beach.

The Willis Creek on Hearnes Lake Beach breeding site will have limited access until mid-January.

Coffs Harbour City Council, NPWS, Solitary Marine Parks Authority, Land and Property Management staff and community volunteers are working co-operatively again this year to ensure another successful breeding program.


  • Stay clear of protective fencing around breeding sites.
  • Observe the 'dogs on leash' requirement around the colony.
  • Control domestic pets.
  • Don't park vehicles between the fence and the shoreline during the breeding season.
  • Slow down and drive carefully around the site.
  • Report damage to fences and signage to Coffs Harbour City Council's biodiversity unit on 6648 4000 or National Parks and Wildlife officers on 6652 0900.
  • Report sightings of cats, foxes or other pests harassing the little terns or damaging the nesting area.