Small group of curlew sandpipers, Cairns Esplanade
Critically endangered elsewhere in Australia, curlew sandpipers are surprisingly common on the Cairns mudflats. ©Tony Neilson

Possible reprieve for migrating waders

There is some good news for the wading birds and other creatures that depend for their survival on the mudflats of the Cairns Esplanade in Australia’s Far North.

As previously reported, this globally renowned shorebird viewing location has been devastated by the recent creation of artificial beaches.

Huge quantities of sand shifted by tides and stormwater action have solidified the inshore mud and strangled much of the life out of a previously food-rich area. For thousands of migrating wading birds and numerous other creatures that depended on the mud for their survival, the impact has been catastrophic.

Tide may be turning

But there is fresh hope that the tide may be turning, so to speak. Pre-Christmas negotiations between birding, environmental, regulatory and city management interests appear to have produced an informal rescue plan.

Cleaning up the Esplanade and making it a more bird-friendly place is expected to include: cessation of sand dumping and removing some of the worst accumulations, improved stormwater management, and barriers to protect key roosting spots.

‘Birds Resting, Don’t Disturb’ signs like this might soon be part of a pro-bird plan in Cairns. Photo: ©Tony Neilson

There is even talk of new public signage to better explain why waders in particular should not be disturbed (by man or beast) when snatching a rest between high tides.

If the Cairns Regional Council delivers on these undertakings, it may not take too long for the ecosystem to recover – sufficient at least for the waders to gather again in their thousands to feed on the once organism-rich intertidal mudflats … and doze in relative peach.

We will be watching.

©Natural Images December 2016

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©2018 TONY NEILSON All Rights Reserved. All images are protected by Australian copyright law and cannot be downloaded or reproduced without my permission. Please contact me.

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