Shoalhaven Heads is acknowledged as part of the Jerrinja country of the Shoalhaven and BirdLife Shoalhaven pays respect to the Jerrinja elders, past and present.
Shoalhaven Heads has a well-deserved reputation among birders as one of the great birding sites in the Shoalhaven and the South Coast. This is strongly related to the warm season presence of the international migratory birds such as the iconic Eastern Curlew but it also relates to the amazing biodiversity of birdlife in the immediate area.
In 2017 BirdLife Australia (BLA) joined international partners to re-declare Australian "Important Bird Areas" (IBAs) as "Key Biodiversity Areas" (KBAs) and this affected all such areas in the Shoalhaven.
(Click the image above to enlarge it, then click again to reduce it)
Shoalhaven Heads was not registered as an IBA and thus did not become a KBA, but in 2017 BirdLife Shoalhaven (BLS) commenced a conservation campaign for Shoalhaven Heads directed at a possible declaration of the area as a KBA and ongoing actions in support conservation interests of birdlife in the area, including work with partners who shared a specific interest in the area such as NPWS and Conservation Volunteers Australia.
This involved the research and production of a BLS Discussion paper by Conservation Officer, Chris Grounds, for the local committee. One of the major sources of biodiversity information on the area derives from the extensive and longer term work of the N.S.W. National Parks and Wildlife Service, which has included and continues to include specific biodiversity and birdlife species surveys.
This paper defined a possible area of interest and KBA to include the Shoalhaven River mouth, Shoalhaven River estuary to Pig Island, Seven Mile Beach National Park as that also includes portion of Coomonderry Swamp and Comerong Island Nature Reserve.
The discussion paper noted that this area had landmark biodiversity and bird credentials.
The Atlas of Living Australia has records for the area within a 5 kilometre radius of 1016 species of which 280 are bird species. The E-Bird recording database includes in its 'Hotspots' list both Shoalhaven Inlet with 155 bird species and Comerong Island with 151 bird species. The estuary alone has a recorded 90 species of shorebirds with 11 of those being Threatened species. The estuary is the only top-ranked site for waders on the south coast. An examination of individual species records for the Shoalhaven Heads site consistently reveals a strong cluster of records for that species at Shoalhaven Heads in the context of the Shoalhaven and the south coast.
A campaign was commenced with BLA to have the area considered for inclusion as a KBA. This involved some major checks and liaison with the BLA Officer for KBAs. The result was not positive despite the biodiversity credentials of the area. Listing the area as a KBA would still depend on meeting existing bird criteria that applied to IBAs. For example, a prime possible standard would be that the area contained 0.05% of the Critically Endangered Eastern Curlew. However, despite the population of this species which resides at the site in their non-breeding season, which was as high as 78 in 2018-2019, it was still short of the required quota.
It was recognized in the initial concept that the other major thrust of the work in researching would be that it would create an informed and resourced position for BLS to advocate on behalf of birdlife in the Shoalhaven Heads area in whatever opportunities arose.
BLS has now developed partnerships with NPWS, Conservation Volunteers Australia and the Shorebird Recovery Project [NPWS] and their volunteers in sharing an interest and advocating for the area.
To date three major public presentations have been provided by Chris Grounds as Conservation Officer including a Local Land Services conference, Jervis Bay Maritime Museum and the Bird Haven Festival.
Two World Wetlands Day guided walks in 2018 and 2019 involved Chris and other BLS members in leading community walks at the Shoalhaven Heads river entrance area. The 2018 inaugural Bird Haven Festival at Shoalhaven Heads also involved a similar presentation on the bird biodiversity and conservation interests of the area by Chris and a walk guided by BLS members. The Festival will run again in October in 2019.
This will be an open-ended and ongoing campaign interest for BLS, particularly as notions at the site of dredging and semi-permanent opening of the river mouth continue to have coverage and promotion.
Images below by Chris Grounds (March 2019)