Every summer our beaches and waterways are graced by twenty-plus species of shorebirds that make their return following an astonishing journey to the Arctic Circle where they nest and back every year, a round trip of up to 25,000km. These are inspiring, knock-your-socks-off birds.
They can be seen on Leschenault Estuary, Leschenault Inlet, and along our shorelines. They’ll depart again around April to breed on the frozen tundra in the Northern Hemisphere summer.
Transmitters fitted on some birds have yielded astonishing information. Bar-tailed Godwits are the world record-holders for non-stop flight making the journey of 11,000km in just eight days, flying at 50kph.
The smallest bird, the Red-necked Stint, is the weight of a matchbox, at just 25 grams.
Their migration to Australia is as if set by clockwork, some species arrive, or depart, earlier. It is mysterious how they pinpoint their way along the flyways. Whether they navigate by the stars, rivers, certain landmarks, or if it is magnetic field, it is not known. Flocks of juvenile birds travel together after the adults have departed, and they know the way: it seems imprinted in their DNA.
In our autumn they congregate in large flocks near Broome to feast in the tidal mudflats at Roebuck Bay to build up reserves of fat and energy. Then begin the long haul back to the northern nesting grounds. This is one of the world’s remarkable sights.
During summers on Bunbury-Leschenault waters, they rest and recover by feeding on a variety of species found naturally along our shorelines. Sanctuary, nourishment and safety is essential. Disturbance by human activity or dogs running off-lead creates anxiety and often displaces birds needing tidal exchanges for feeding opportunities. If this happens they then have to fly to a safer location that may be less provident.
There is enormous concern by bird lovers, as all these bird species are classified “threatened” by international agreement. These evocative lines are by C20th Indian poet and mystic Randindranath Tagore
“Become untroubled in this depth of peace, like the evening at the seashore. When the water is silent, let me do nothing, when I have nothing to do”.
Signed, the Welcome Swallow