Ramsar wetlands host record number of migratory birds

Mathilde Norman. Photo: Supplied.
Mathilde Norman. Photo: Supplied.

An annual bird migratory survey of the region's Ramsar wetlands has recorded the highest numbers since the program began back in 2006.

The survey, conducted the Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions' Ecosystem Science Program, found Lake Warden, Lake Gore and the surrounding wetlands were providing a refuge for 48,337 birds.

The figure is almost 1.5 times the previous record of 32,344 back in October, 2012.

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Migratory birds overwinter in the region each year, making a round trip of up to 26,000 kilometres to their summer feeding grounds.

Ecosystem Science Program leader Adrian Pinder said both he and his colleagues sighted a number of birds, including gulls, terns, shorebirds, hens, coots, raptors, herons, egrets, spoonbills, ibis, pelicans, cormorants, grebes, swans and ducks.

The February 2019 survey included 557 sharp-tailed sandpipers, 23 curlew sandpipers and 1500 red-necked stints, as well as 144 of our resident hooded plovers, or "hoodies", which are classed as vulnerable in other states.

The Esperance Bird Observers Group were also carrying out surveys of 28 inland wetlands and beach sites, spanning a distance of 100 kilometres either side of town.

Mr Pinder said the results were a good indication that the lake systems were providing a refuge for birds and meeting the Ramsar criteria for wetland management.

Ramsar Project officer Claudia Magaña echoed Mr Pinder's sentiments and said the outcome reflected the hard work of the community, the department and South Coast NRM.

"The hard work the community, Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions, South Coast NRM and other NRM groups have done in the catchment to protect habitat has been worthwhile to see these numbers," she said.

"Even if it indicates a time of need for the birds from other regions."

The dozens of lakes in the Lake Warden and Lake Gore systems are protected under the international Ramsar treaty.

The Ramsar project aims to work with the community to improve the ecological character of the wetlands through on ground works including revegetation, fencing, pest management and shorebird monitoring.

The federal government have contributed funding to the program for the next four years through the Regional Land Partnership program.