Better protection of birds urged on beaches

Headshot of Geoff Vivian
Geoff VivianGeraldton Guardian
Email Geoff Vivian
Irene Ghannage with nieces Delilah Bennell and Nadia Ghannage, and her dogs.
Camera IconIrene Ghannage with nieces Delilah Bennell and Nadia Ghannage, and her dogs. Credit: Geoff Vivian/The Geraldton Guardian

Conservationists are calling for more “bird-friendly” beaches around Geraldton when migrating shorebirds are present and others are nesting in the dunes.

Birdlife Australia representative Alice Bishop said dogs were an increasing problem.

Ms Bishop said migrating shorebirds visiting Geraldton from as far away as the Arctic Circle were all on the “threatened” list, with many species either endangered or critically endangered species.

Delilah Bennell, 9, and Nadia Ghannage, 4, found this temporary sign at Separation Point. The signs are used to encourage beachgoers to keep their dogs away from shorebirds.
Camera IconDelilah Bennell, 9, and Nadia Ghannage, 4, found this temporary sign at Separation Point. The signs are used to encourage beachgoers to keep their dogs away from shorebirds. Credit: Supplied, Irene Ghannage

She said none of the species that nested on Geraldton beaches appeared to be breeding successfully.

“Some people encourage their dogs to chase birds, which can be lethal to migratory birds and to chicks,” she said.

“Our group advocates for bird-friendly beaches where dogs are under control.”

Signage used in a German nature reserve to encourage people not to disturb birds.
Camera IconSignage used in a German nature reserve to encourage people not to disturb birds. Credit: Dr Indre Asmussen/Supplied

Ms Bishop said her group had been distributing educational posters on the subject to pet shops and vet surgeries.

She said the Batavia Coast Maritime Institute, the Northern Agricultural Catchments Council and the City of Greater Geraldton had agreed to her group placing temporary signs asking people to keep dogs on a lead.

Scientist Indre Asmussen, who studied Abrolhos shorebirds for her PdD, said she had seen temporary signs used in Europe which could work well here as most Geraldton shorebird activity occurred from August-April.

Detail of a sign used in a German nature reserve where dogs are permitted.
Camera IconDetail of a sign used in a German nature reserve where dogs are permitted. Credit: Dr Indre Asmussen

She said much feeding activity also followed the seaweed “wrack”.

“Every big storm event and high tide they will move, and the birds move with them,” she said.

“If some beach wrack turns up, we could have mobile signs.”

Former Conservation and Land Management lecturer Irene Ghannage said she took her dogs to Geraldton beaches regularly and used the trips to collect plastic pollution.

After 11 years visiting Geraldton’s beaches, she said many other dog owners had started taking the litter home.

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