Monday, August 4, 2008

Smooger Point Shorebird Roost

With a mid-morning tide and the weather bureau promising another dry and sunny day I decided to kayak around to the shorebird roost at Smooger Point yesterday morning. The water was cold! - but apart from that it was beautiful. My friend Sarah came with me because two pairs of eyes are always better when counting shorebirds.

The roost at Smooger Point is not counted regularly and I really wanted to know how many waders and how many different species were using this roost during the winter when most birds have gone to the northern hemisphere to breed.

We put our kayaks in at the Carlo Creek boat ramp and paddled back towards Tin Can Bay. The tide pull inside the bay area is not strong but it makes the paddling a bit easier to go with the tide each way.

The view from Carlo Creek Boat ramp looking back toward Tin Can Bay

Most of the birds were using the exposed beach at the edge of the water. On very high tides they retreat up into quite extensive areas of salt marsh vegetation behind this. There are small mangroves fringing this saltmarsh on the water side which makes it very hard to do a count when the tide is high. Yesterday's tide should have been perfect - but as we paddled within sight of the roosting birds we saw a dingo skulking along behind the roosting birds. The dingo was black so possibly one of the ones that have cross-bred with dogs in this area. The birds, of course, were disturbed. The dingo took off but it took a while for the birds to settle again. As well as this there were a pair of Whistling Kites patrolling the area and later also a Brahminy Kite. Often it is possible to get quite close to roosting birds without disturbing them but not after all this. We used a spotting scope and hoped that they would stay settled for long enough to get a good count. We counted 535 birds and saw local birds - Red-capped Plovers, Pied Oystercatchers, a Little Egret, and a White-faced Heron; - as well as overwintering migrants - Red-necked Stints, Great Knots, Greenshanks, Grey-tailed Tattler, Whimbrels, Bar-tailed Godwits, and Eastern Curlew. The highest counts were the Bar-tailed Godwit – 188, and the Grey-tailed Tattler – 185. The Great Knots were in constant motion feeding along the edge of the water. All the other birds were resting. I have seen birds feeding constantly like this right after they come down from a migration flight but I would think it was too early for this species to be returning. I enjoy monitoring the birds like this because I usually end up with more questions for which to try and find answers.

Some of the roosting shorebirds at Smooger Point yesterday.

Part of the saltmarsh behind the shoreline


  1. G'day Mick,
    Oooo, that looks nice country to explore. And a great way to get to it. (I hope my envy is not showing). Wonderful bird list too. I reckon you must have enjoyed yourselves.

  2. Yes, we definitely did enjoy it - came back saying things like it wasn't as cold as we expected and we must do it again soon!

  3. Looks like a great spot for the birds. So, in the absence of dingos and kites, do you find that approaching from the water allows you to get considerably closer to the birds without disturbing them?

  4. Yes definitely, Mosura. From the water I can drift in to only a few meters away - using the tide and any breeze to get me in and sitting completely still. However, this is not usually the best way to get a count of a site as you can't see all the birds at the same time when you are sitting down at their level. Also, there is no access to this site by land - and it is difficult with a lower tide such as yesterday because the bay is too shallow and you run aground a long way out from where the birds are roosting.

  5. It just ain't fair Mick, showing us all those beautiful waders when we saw hardly any last season. ;-)

  6. I'm sorry for you Duncan! Just wait until they start returning this season. I can't wait!

  7. Nick - all that sea and sky with such an intense blue - you're so lucky :) Although it's difficult to believe the sea is cold!!

    And an amazing number of birds too.....

    (and no - I'm not the least bit envious" :D

  8. Thanks Tricia. But even here in Queensland we get a few frosts in winter - although I admit its all what you get used to!