Their future is our future

Celebrating World Migratory Bird Day on 10 May

Every summer, Corner Inlet in South Gippsland is a hive of activity – and it’s not just tourists that flock to the area to visit the adjacent Wilsons Promontory.

Thousands of migratory waterbirds, including snipe, sandpipers, and tern, travel to the Ramsar listed inlet and its barrier sand islands as part of their annual nesting, feeding, and breeding lifecycle.

Thirty-two species of wading birds have been recorded at Corner Inlet and nearby Nooramunga, with populations at peak times reaching close to 30,000 birds. This is more than 20 per cent of Victoria’s summertime wading bird population.

The birds make a remarkable journey, with some flying a 20,000km roundtrip – about 5000km further than driving the loop of Australia – on their migration to and from Corner Inlet each year.

They travel from breeding grounds in north east Asia and Alaska as part of the East Asian Australasian Flyway and when the weather turns cold in Victoria, they leave their summer getaway and head back north, chasing the sun.

When those birds leave, other species arrive with the change of season, including the cattle egret and double banded dotterel.

Nearly 50 per cent of the migratory wading birds that spend their winter in Victoria do so in Corner Inlet and Nooramunga.

The feats of these remarkable migratory waterbirds will be celebrated on 10 May as part of World Migratory Bird Day.

This year’s theme – ‘Their Future is our Future’ – aims to raise awareness of the need for sustainable development and management of our natural resources for both wildlife and people.

According to Tracey Jones, Water Program Coordinator at West Gippsland Catchment Management Authority, conserving Corner Inlet and protecting the habitat of waterbirds is crucial for their continued abundance and diversity.

“Corner Inlet is one of the most important areas in Victoria for resident and migratory shorebirds,” Ms Jones said.

“Wetland habitat loss and degradation are significant threats to migratory waterbirds, which is why it’s so important we work together to help protect and conserve these important environmental areas. It takes a combined effort from government, business, community groups, residents and visitors,” Ms Jones said.

“Our Corner Inlet Connections Project has a focus on protecting and improving Corner Inlet.

“This is done through a partnership with farmers, commercial fisherman, Landcare,  Parks Victoria, DELWP, Ag Victoria, Traditional Owners’ – the Gunaikurnai Land and Waters Aboriginal Corporation (GLaWAC and many others.

“Over the past 10 years this project has protected more than 700ha of saltmarsh, made nesting habitats safer by targeted fox baiting progams, reduced spartina across the inlet and restored more than 150 river bank sites – reducing the amount of sediment flowing into the inlet,” explained Ms Jones.

In addition to migratory waterbirds, Corner Inlet is home to nationally threatened species including the orange bellied parrot, Australian grayling, fairy tern, and growling grass frog.

Fifteen threatened flora species and twenty-two threatened fauna species have also been recorded in Corner Inlet and the area supports the most southernmost mangrove community in the world.

Corner Inlet has been recognised for its outstanding environmental value through its listing as a wetland of international importance under the Ramsar Convention. The Corner Inlet Ramsar Site includes the areas known as Corner Inlet and Nooramunga, and is the most southerly marine embayment and tidal mudflat system of mainland Australia.

The Corner Inlet Connections Project is supported by WGCMA though funding from the Australian Government’s National Landcare Programme.