The amazing godwit flight
The Bar-tailed Godwit is a small migratory shorebird that features on the Parramatta River. In Spring each year, the birds fly 11,000km from the Arctic Circle to feed along our foreshores before making the long flight back home in Autumn.
However, the number of visits by Bar-tailed Godwits and other migratory shorebird species to our area have been on a steady decline. One of the biggest threats to them is being disturbed while foraging along the foreshore. This means they are unable to feed sufficiently, which makes it unlikely they will be able to make the long flight back home. You can help protect these precious birds from the brink of extinction by making small changes in your behaviour, such as keeping your dog on a leash when walking along the foreshore.
According to Bird Life Australia, between 2008 and 2011, over 300 Godwits were recorded in the Parramatta River estuary. That number has been on a steady decline and in the 2018-19 season, the maximum seen was 91.
It's not only the number of Bar-tailed Godwits that are dwindling — Birdlife Australia has also tracked a decline in other migratory shorebird species, such as the Curlew Sandpiper and the Pacific Golden Plover. These declines represent a significant cause for concern for our City and it is vital that Council show leadership in maintaining the delicate balance between lifestyle, development, and the natural environment.
Some threats to Bar-Tailed Godwits visiting our foreshore include:
- Disturbances by off-leash dogs or people. Excessive disturbance like being chased by dogs can reduce the birds’ feeding time, or force them to move to less a suitable habitat.
- Litter and pollution. All types of litter and pollution, including dog poo and contaminated water, can be devastating to birds. Polluted habitats provide less food, making it difficult for birds to complete their migration successfully.
- Habitat modification. Activities such as fishing, urban development and invasive species can change the ecology of wetland habitats, resulting in the deterioration of the quantity and quality of food and other resources available to support migratory shorebirds.
How you can help
Council will be delivering public education, signage upgrades, citizen science workshops and enforcement to educate residents about threats to migratory shorebirds and prevent their decline.
How you can help protect our shorebirds:
- Keep your dog on a leash and do not approach birds
This is compulsory, especially if you are walking your dog near the water’s edge, and will reduce the risk to feeding birds. In Spring and Summer, if you see Bar-tailed Godwits, Curlew Sandpipers or any other migratory shorebirds on the beach, keep well away because they are are sensitive to disturbances from people and dogs.
- Place all your rubbish in the bin
Litter can be devastating to birds. Remember to place all your rubbish in the bin and pick up any litter, especially in areas where birds feed.
- Join a community clean up group
Help clean up our foreshore and parks by joining a community clean up group through Council's Love Your Place program.
- Migratory Shorebird Program by Birdlife Australia
Support Birdlife Australia by participating in bird count events, volunteering and donating to help protect birds in our local area.
Mangroves & saltmarshes
What are mangroves and saltmarshes?
Mangroves and saltmarshes occupy transitional zones between wet and dry land and are typically found in the upper tidal zone of coastal waterways. They are a community of foreshore plants that can tolerate salty conditions. Mangroves are woody shrubs and trees that grow along the foreshore, usually at the mean high water level. Saltmarshes are made up of low vegetation grasses, herbs, reed, sedges and shrubs that occupy the high tide zone. In City of Canada Bay, when saltmarshes and mangroves coexist, saltmarshes are typically found at higher elevations where they are inundated less frequently than mangroves.
Saltmarsh and mangrove communities have historically been undervalued and in severe decline, as a result of land reclamation for industrial, residential and recreational development. Major threats to coastal wetlands has been attributed to foreshore reclamation, weed invasion, pollution, climate change and pedestrian traffic. In NSW, the Coastal Saltmarsh listed as an Endangered Ecological Community (EEC) (in NSW under the Threatened Species Conservation Act 1995) as it is facing a very high risk of extinction. Both mangroves and saltmarsh communities are protected in New South Wales (NSW) under the Fisheries Management Act 1994.
Why are they important?
Mangroves and saltmarshes are an important part of the foreshore ecology and serve a number of purposes like:
- They are highly productive habitats - mangroves and coastal saltmarsh communities provide food and shelter for a variety of invertebrates like prawns, crabs, molluscs and insects. During high tides, fish such as the Yellowfin Bream, feed upon the invertebrates. Saltmarsh are also important roosting and feeding grounds for migratory birds such as Godwits, Curlews and Sandpipers.
- They keep our river clean - they act as filters by trapping nutrients and sediments to help maintain water quality.
- They protect and stabilise the foreshore - with predicted increases in storm surge intensity and rising sea levels, they play a crucial role in protecting coastal foreshores by absorbing the energy of wind and wave action helping to minimise erosion.
- They capture and store large quantities of carbon - Australia’s coastal wetland ecosystems capture carbon on a per hectare basis at rates of up to 66 times higher and store 5 times more carbon in their soils than forests.
How can you help?
Some actions you can take to protect this important foreshore ecology includes:
- avoid driving, walking or biking through saltmarsh areas;
- dispose rubbish and chemicals responsibly - remember, the drain is just for rain;
- be a responsible pet owner by picking up your dog's poo; and
- join a a Bushcare or Love Your Place group to help with litter clean up or regeneration projects.
Local Public Schools
Students, teachers, parents and members of the community at Abbotsford Public School have played a significant role in raising awareness about the plight of migratory shorebirds.
In 2016, the school worked with Birdlife Australia and Our Living River to launch the Dog Saves Bird campaign, encouraging dog owners to keep their dogs on a leash in order to protect the Bar-tailed Godwits. With funding from Council, students illustrated and designed signage to share this important message. The signs have since been installed along Hen & Chicken Bay in Five Dock and Wareemba.
To raise the profile of the campaign further, the school embedded learning about the birds and the importance of local wetlands within the school curriculum. Books about the Bar-tailed Godwits were purchased for each classroom and reusable coffee cups promoting the Dog Saves Bird campaign were also introduced and promoted at community events.
Russell Lea Public School welcomed Birdlife Australia to their school in 2019 to learn about the plight of the Bar-tailed Godwits. With the help of teachers and a school parent, students created artworks which have been used on a newly installed interpretive signage in Rodd Park.
Annual Spring Clean
Each October, during Riverfest Week, Council organises a Spring Clean. Residents from across the City are invited to roll up their sleeves and take part in the Spring Clean for the Shorebirds, to help protect their habitat from the threats of litter and pollution. The event is supported by Birdlife Australia and Parramatta River Catchment Group, who come along to play games and educate the community about the biodiversity along the Parramatta River.
Community Clean Up Volunteers
The Love Your Place volunteers regularly clean up around Hen & Chicken Bay and Rodd Park with the aim of keeping the foreshore litter-free. Come rain or shine this group of dedicated volunteers work on Wednesdays (at Halliday Park) and Fridays (at Rodd Park), and welcome everyone to join in the clean up.