Little Terns or Pigs Will Fly and Sawtell Dogs will be on a Leash

Where the coastal town of Sawtell meets the National Park, Little Terns have their breeding grounds. The endangered Little Terns (Sterna albifrons subsp sinensis) have been nesting in this area for a log time. They like to make beaches, sand spits and sand islands near rivers, creeks and coastal lakes and mouths of estuaries their homes. Every spring and summer the migratory seabirds have been raising their families along the Australian coastline.

“Little Tern nests are a simple scrape in the ground, sometimes lined with feathers and eggshells. The highly exposed hatchlings are very susceptible to predators from both introduced and native species, as well as disturbance from human activities.” (source)

"Nesting sites are usually located where humans swim, walk, exercise dogs, picnic and drive off-road vehicles. The mere presence of people on the beach may cause these terns to desert their eggs and eventually leave the colony altogether" (source)

Unchecked coastal urbanisation spreads 'the package' (McMansions, roads, multiple pets and lawns) into all 'scenic' coastal places. The sprawling want-to-be Sydney culture rejects the specificity of the local environment.

Not long ago there were 70 separate breeding colonies in NSW, but today there are only 15 sites left in NSW. (source) Roaming dogs and their lawless pet owners are one of the main threats to the continuing existence of the bird.

"It had also been disappointing to see the number of people taking dogs into the little tern breeding compound on Bongil Spit, south of Sawtell Headland….The locations where the little terns are nesting are clearly signposted and dogs are prohibited from entering national parks at all times due to the threat they pose to native animals...The law allowed for an immediate fine of $1500 and people found with dogs within the national park could expect an on-the-spot fine of $300." (source)

The forest of signs, the absence of enforcement and the paltry fine do not repel the enthusiasts of introduced canines from making the wildlife refuge a dog loo.

Rangers even have to expect aggressive responses from dog-walkers if they point out the law to pet owners. 'Dogs Breakfast' and appeals to the local population are there to 'raise awareness' of residents that have already 'voted with their feet' for pets. For birdwatchers or bushwalkers it seems outright dangerous to approach people that are wilfully breaking the law.

Sawtell, aerial photo
Little Terns, White-bellied Sea-Eagle, Hawksbill turtle, Bonville Headland mural, Sawtell

A car drove through a seabird community, leaving injured and dead birds lying on the sand.  A "crested terns had to be euthanised by the vet because its wing had been smashed to pieces" Cars on Airforce Beach at Evans Head. 08022017

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