The Gippsland Lakes are the largest navigable inland waterway in Australia, popular with recreational fishers, nature lovers and holidaymakers. The area of the Lakes is over 400 square kilometres, of which much is accessible only by boat, providing many islands which provide safe habitat areas for permanent and migratory bird colonies.
Little Terns and Fairy Terns, both listed as threatened species in Victoria under the Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act 1988, migrate to the Gippsland Lakes to breed and raise chicks. The islands within the Gippsland Lakes are ideal for them as they are inaccessible by most pests, not frequented by people, protected from the full force of the ocean weather and also provide nice shallow areas where the fledglings learn to fend for themselves.
Two islands that provide habitat for these birds within the Lakes are Pelican Island, located east of Metung, and Crescent Island, located north of Ocean Grange. Both islands were undergoing erosion through boat wake, flood flows and small wind waves resulting in a loss of habitat for Little Terns and Fairy Terns.
In 2014, Water Technology undertook an assessment of the hydrodynamics and potential for the nourishment of the two islands to improve bird habitat within the Gippsland Lakes. Our work included a geomorphic and coastal/estuarine process review of the islands; determination of the potential material available for nourishment; suitability of dredge material for nourishment; the best location and design for the new beach; and the need for any additional protection structures. Our nourishment design was implemented by our project partners Gippsland Ports.
Our latest update from the project indicated that there are over 200 terns now on Pelican Island and the majority are in breeding plumage (previously there were very few even present). This is the largest single active colony ever observed by the Department of Land, Water, Environment and Planning in Victoria, and is a great result considering that in the 2002/03 breeding season only 123 breeding adults were observed across East Gippsland nesting sites. A previous visit to Crescent Island indicated this island was supporting a breeding colony as well.
Image credit: 48722974@N07 via Flickr
In the news: East Gippsland News
Originally published on LinkedIn by Christine Lauchlan Arrowsmith