Cairns Esplanade bird sign
New public information signage in Cairns greeted by a paucity of shorebirds. Photo: ©Tony Neilson

Cairns gets its wader protection signage, but …

The perversity of it is inescapable. The reality is chillingly shocking.

I’m talking about what should be a cause for celebration – the installation in October of bright, new public information signage on the Cairns Esplanade, telling people all about the migratory waders and why they should be left in peace when roosting and feeding.

Having provided all the images and words (gratis, of course), I was as keen as anyone to see the finished products – a series of six ‘storyboards’ – in position along the seaward side of the newly re-decked esplanade boardwalk.

For the worse

But in the two years since negotiations with Cairns Regional Council (CRC) began, the ecology of mudflats that previously supported thousands of waders and other water birds along the waterfront has changed dramatically – and for the worse.

As I have noted many times, what was once mud is now hidden in many places under a thick crust of solidified sand – strong enough to support anybody who wants to walk out upwards of 100 m. (See images.)

Birdwatcher looking at new Cairns sign
Long-time Cairns birding identity John Seale braves a stiff breeze to check out the new signs. Photo: ©Tony Neilson

Time and tide

The sand was placed along the shoreline by the CRC in a misguided effort to beautify the foreshore by creating artificial ‘beaches’ for the public and their animals to frolic.

But as Geoffrey Chaucer famously wrote, ‘Time and tide wait for no man’. And the shifting sand has caused serious environmental damage. Where several thousand shorebirds would have fed and rested every day during the non-breeding season, there are now about 400 … at best.

A glimmer of hope could be in the world’s increasingly violent and unpredictable weather events: a decent storm blowing in from the Coral Sea might just do the trick.

Meantime, and although I say it myself, the new signs (designed by Claire Burton at the CRC) look pretty damned schmick!

©Natural Images 2018


©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.



  • Andy A October 31, 2018 at 9:22 AM Reply

    Still, 430 Sharptails counted by Mikey on 28th Oct, at the northern end where most of the sand is, could possibly be a Cairns all-time revord.

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