Snapper captures bird plight

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More than 30 migratory shore birds species from Canada, Siberia and the American arctic visit the Great Southern every year.

But because of pollution and climate change, most are close to extinction.

Avian ecologist and Shire of Jerramungup environmental officer Steve Elson has been documenting Great Southern shorebirds for more than 30 years.

He has now published a simple guide book for south-western Australia shorebirds.

“The concept of the field guide is really to raise awareness and educate people on the plight of shorebirds across the world,” he said.

“The number of birds which visit from the northern hemisphere is dropping.

“Instead of thousands that you would usually see in flock — like a swarm of bees, flying from feeding sites to feeding sites — all we see now is just small numbers in the hundreds and sometimes they are only in their 10s.”

Mr Elson has seen a lot of colonies destroyed over the years, resulting in only 10 per cent of juvenile birds surviving through adulthood.

“The majority of these birds died through predations — but some of their nests were also destroyed because some people ride on their nest and the eggs on the beach,” he said.

Mr Elson and his colleague Laurie Boyle have now collated more than 4500 nesting areas for all shorebird species that breed within the South West.

He said the Great Southern region was the perfect place for an environmentalist and an avian ecologist like him to live in.

“It’s so biodiverse-rich — not just the plants and animals but also all the different eco systems and habitats,” he said.

“One of the main reasons why I bought a house in Ongerup is basically because it’s close to the Stirling Range National Park.

“It’s also close to some of the major wetlands systems, such as Lake King and the Cranbrook lake system which attract a lot of shore birds or migratory birds from Siberia and the arctic.”

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