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Birds of a feather flock together

By Donna Carman

MORE than 60 people chose to spend the whole of day last week learning about birds, at the Shire of Denmark administration centre.

‘Discover the Extraordinary Birds of Denmark and Beyond’ was presented by the Denmark Bird Group and the Wilson Inlet Catchment Committee (WICC).

Speakers and participants ranged from keen amateur twitchers to professionals.

Dr Vicki Stoke, Birdlife WA. PHOTO JESZ FLEMING

Indigenous elder Carol Pettersen gave a welcome to country and spoke about the importance of birds as messengers to Noongar people.

One of the many examples she gave included birds indicating by their calls and actions the presence of a snake.

About 100 bird species are known to visit Denmark backyards, and local expert Tina Smith said that she sees about 50 of those weekly, and about 25 daily.

Tina advised spreading birdbaths at different heights, including in a hanging basket, and in different garden locations, to increase the chance of attracting a greater diversity of birds.

Of the nests and nest boxes on display Tina noted that some species used the same nest for several years, and that nest boxes should be built with multiple and varied entrances.

Dr Nic Dunlop spoke about ‘social facilitation’ being used on the west coast to encourage birds to breed in protected areas.

One example was to lure breeding pairs by using fake nests and colony calls to make them feel at home.

A tiny firetail finch makes a complex nest.

He stressed that citizen science was crucial to conservation programs.

Introducing 2019 WA Landcare Award recipient Basil Schur, WICC’s Shaun Ossinger described grassroots, community-based conservation as a winwin, with a multiplier effect that turned one dollar of investment into many dollars’ worth of outcomes.

Brad Kneebone presented the extraordinary journey of migratory shorebirds, from the Wilson inlet foreshore to Siberia via the South China Sea and back again.

The flight was “worth it” for the easy feeding in the Arctic summer, where young birds needed only to open their beaks in the air to get a bellyful of insects.

Migrating birds were tagged along the way with tiny coloured flags to identify which countries they had been to, and to assist building flightpath information.

Modern day hazards made the journey more perilous than nature already provided, with large-scale infrastructure projects in southeast Asia wiping out many resting and feeding sites, Brad said.

Images of South Korea’s remedial measures to provide habitat for shorebirds were shown, with discussions turning to what we can do locally to ensure that our resident and migratory shorebirds are able to continue breeding.

The two groups would continue to work with the community and the shire council to protect known breeding areas, especially at the most vulnerable times of year for nesting parents and their chicks.

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