Beach Stone-curlews, or Beach Thick-knees
May 11. The morning begins with Eos spreading over the ocean,
and a hole in one as day breaks open.
We are meeting a friend for lunch at Urunga, but go earlier for a walk on the boardwalk and hear a piping too feeble to be Oystercatchers, it’s a pair of Beach Stone-curlews, or Beach Thick-knees as we call them.
This bird usually inhabits sandy beaches that are lined with mangroves, resting in the shade during the heat of the day. They become active around sunset, slowly stalking their prey (crabs and other invertebrates) like herons, interspersed with quicker, plover-like dashes.
Beach Stone-curlews are secretive birds, and are easily disturbed by people. Much littoral and estuarine habitat in NSW has been and continues to be destroyed and degraded by coastal development and human population increases. Remaining habitat is at risk of disturbance by human recreational activities (including recreation vehicles) and dogs. Other threats include nest or chick predation by foxes and feral pigs. [i]
The species has largely disappeared from the south-eastern part of its former range, and is now rarely recorded on ocean beaches in New South Wales. Typically, one egg is laid per season, a second egg may be laid if the first is lost. Both parents care for their young until they reach 7-12 months old.[ii]
This species qualifies as Near Threatened because it has a small population (4,000) which is declining. If the population is found to be in decline it might qualify for uplisting to a higher threat category.[iii] The NSW Scientific Committee, established by the Threatened Species Conservation Act, listed it as a critically endangered species in 2011.
They are one of five species of Australian shorebirds and one Australian seabird which nest only or usually on the beach, and hence are subject to disturbance and loss of eggs. The others being: Pied Oystercatcher; Sooty Oystercatcher; Red-capped Plover; Hooded Plover and Fairy Tern.
The Bream are massed in their usual spot.
And Soldier Crabs are on the march.