What a tern up: The endangered little tern colony at Hearnes Lake has fledged 30 chicks this breeding season.
What a tern up: The endangered little tern colony at Hearnes Lake has fledged 30 chicks this breeding season. Submitted

Little terns on way to survival

NEW measures providing greater protection to the little tern breeding colony at Hearnes Lake have proven successful with nearly double the number of chicks surviving compared to last year.

Little terns travel from Asia to breed locally on the sandflats along the Australian coast at a limited number of specific sites.

The species is listed as endangered with threats including loss of breeding sites, disturbance and predators.

In 2010, despite a very promising start to the season, only 16 chicks of this endangered species were successfully fledged.

However, this year a total of 30 chicks have been recorded.

“We learnt a lot of lessons from the previous season and made sure we put the protection measures in place earlier than we had ever done before,” said Coffs Harbour Council’s senior biodiversity officer Nigel Cotsell.

“Dogs, vehicles, predators and kite-boarders were identified as major issues in the poor result in 2010, so we worked closely with the kite-boarding fraternity and community to explain the importance of avoiding the area as well as implementing pest eradication programs run by the National Parks and Wildlife Service.

“The success of the combined approached can be measured by the numbers of surviving chicks and it was also very encouraging to see an even higher level of support and interest shown by local residents and visitors.”

An outer and inner ring of temporary fencing was also installed around the site at Willis Creek prior to the start of the breeding season.

During the season five red-capped plovers were also fledged at the site and a pair of plovers remain at the site with three eggs in a nest.

The temporary fencing will remain in place until the plover chicks have fledged while the outer vehicle barrier fence will stay to protect newly-established vegetation.

“The little terns protection program will begin again in October with even greater emphasis on protection at the beginning of the season when newly-arrived birds are looking to establish themselves in the areas that meet their needs for breeding,” Mr Cotsell said.