National Parks and Wildlife Service rangers are patrolling Towra Point Nature Reserve over the holiday period to protect the nesting areas of endangered shorebirds.
This year’s nesting season has already proved bountiful, and rangers want to do everything possible to ensure the birds have the best possible conditions to multiply.
Public access is restricted to day visitation of part of the Towra Point beach area, while stepping foot on Towra Spit Island is banned.
Ranger Jason Bishop said, “Most people observe the rules, but you do get the odd person who will walk past the sign, so it is important we are out here to protect the birds”.
“One of the best things visitors can do to help these endangered species is to give them space,” he said.
“Shorebirds make their shallow nests directly in the sand so they are extremely vulnerable to disturbance by people, dogs and foxes.
“Even the presence of people or animals near nests can cause the birds stress and they may flee, leaving eggs or chicks unprotected.
“We remind people Towra Point Nature Reserve is only accessible by boat and visitors are restricted to the sign-posted Day Use Area.”
The reserve is a breeding ground for migratory Little Terns and non-migratory Pied Oystercatchers.
Little Terns, migrate from Japan each year to lay their eggs in sandy nests, particularly on Towra Spit island.
They nest from November to January, the birds fledge from January onwards and all depart by March and fly back to Japan.
Rangers prepared for the breeding season by removing rubbish, weeds and encroaching vegetation to enhance nesting sites in the sand.
They also raked back the sand to expose shells, providing hardness for nests.
The work paid off, with seven Pied Oystercatcher nests recorded by mid-November, the same number recorded during for the entire previous season.
Little Tern breeding is harder to monitor because they are much smaller and their nests are not easy to see.
Towra Spit island is the favoured breeding ground because it is normally cut off from the mainland, providing greater protection, particularly from foxes.
A fox baiting program is conducted jointly by Sutherland Shire Council, NPWS and private landholders on the Kurnell Peninsula.
A spokeswoman for the Office of Environment and Heritage said Towra Spit had averaged 30 breeding pairs of Little Terns over the last 16 years, making it one of the most significant nesting sites in NSW.
“Between five and nine breeding pairs of Pied Oystercatchers have been observed at Towra Spit and surrounds over the last few seasons,” she said.