Springtime at Garden Island, Western Australia is a busy time of births and new beginnings for the many bird species of the island, including Bridled Fairy Tern, Rainbow Bee-Eater, Osprey and Banded Lapwing.
With Defence facilities covering approximately 30% of the island, a proactive approach has been taken to sustainably manage the estate and protect the natural heritage and environmental assets from potential impacts of Defence operations or project works.
Two local bird species that make the island home in spring are the Banded Lapwing (Plovers) and the Rainbow Bee-eaters.
The Plovers, a local native species of bird, create their nests in the high traffic areas such as open grassed areas between buildings and on the sports ovals around HMAS Stirling, favouring lawn or sandy areas where they forage for seeds, and invertebrates which they pick from the soil.
Digging in and laying their eggs in scratched out hollows, the birds are vulnerable to disturbance not only by predators, but by base activities as personnel go about their usual business and fitness training.
As part of Navy’s commitment to environmental stewardship, every effort is made by the Broadspectrum Land Management Team and Navy personnel to accommodate and protect the Plovers during this time.
“We mark the nest sites with cones and signs to make sure they are clearly identified and that exercise and movement can continue around the nest without impacting on the nesting birds,” Ms Kara Price, Environment and Sustainability Manager said.
When protecting their nests the Plovers can be quite aggressive and will vigorously defend their space by wing flapping or pretending to have an injury to draw attention away from the eggs. Fortunately this defensive behaviour only lasts a few weeks and normally eases once the chicks have hatched.
The Plovers aren’t the only bird that require active management by the Land Management Team.
“The Rainbow Bee-eaters are a migratory bird that breed on Garden Island between August and January. They burrow into the ground to build their nests and are vulnerable to disturbance from activities such as sports activities, movement of personnel and construction works,” Ms Price said.
Stirling Commanding Officer Captain Ainsley Morthorpe said the management of the diverse range of bird species that either inhabit or visit Garden Island is critical to preserve the precious ecological systems that exist on the island.
“It’s a privilege be a custodian of such a unique and beautiful area and it’s our responsibility to ensure our activities don’t have any negative impact on that environment,” Captain Morthorpe said.
So, until nesting season is over, personnel around HMAS Stirling will continue to provide some privacy and protection to the Plovers as they raise their young.