December 2nd 2003
Beach-Stone curlew discovery "Sensational"
One of Australia's most vulnerable bird species, the Beach Stone-curlew, has made a remarkable re-appearance on Magnetic Island. And it isn't just one - but a nesting pair - who have been spotted by Bird Observers Club Australia (BOCA) - Magnetic Island President Christine Corbett and club member David Growcott in an undisclosed location on the Island.
Bird watchers had observed, with great regret, that the last remaining pair of Beach Stone-curlews, which had lived near West Point, were reduced to one about a year ago leading Christine Corbett to describe the sighting as, "Sensational!"
David Growcott, who also works as a part-time Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service (QPWS) volunteer, took a series of photos of the birds with the Service's camera but due to a technical problem the film did not come out. Other, more distant photos he took with his own camera however, show one of the birds wading near Island mangroves.
Magnetic Island's new Head Ranger for QPWS Patrick Centurino, was very happy to learn of the birds' reappearance and was hoping residents will be particularly careful to keep their dogs on leashes when walking them on the Island's beaches. (It is unlawful for dogs to be off-leash in any public place).
The Beach Stone-curlew, which is officially classified as "Vulnerable", is similar but significantly different to the Island's well known Bush Stone curlew or Beach Thick knee. The Beach-Stone curlew is slightly stouter and has heavier beak with grey, brown and white plumage.
Christine Corbett told Magnetic Times, "These rarely seen, highly vulnerable birds are under threat in all our Queensland coastal areas and have disappeared in many places. Island residents and visitors have the rare privilege of guardianship for future generations."
According to a BOCA information sheet, estimates of the Beach-Stone curlew's total population may be less than 1000 individuals.
The bird is thought to have a naturally low population and because it is sedentary and its habitat limited to the narrow coastal strip, any pair may well require a considerable stretch of coastline to support themselves. As ground nesting birds they are also particularly vulnerable to native as well as introduced predators including, on Magnetic Island, dogs of leash and feral cats. Four wheel drive vehicles on beaches and beach foreshores are also capable of destroying nests.
Chris Corbett commended Townsville City Council for, "Recently issuing a timely reminder to residents and dog owners about the care required on the Island's beaches by cars, dogs and people to preserve the presence of these unique birds".
Story: George Hirst
Photo: David Growcott