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VWSG volunteer Steve Johnson and the long-term resident.

VWSG volunteer Steve Johnson and the long-term resident.

Photo by: Parks Victoria

The one that didn’t get away — local oystercatcher re-caught after 25 years

Friday 23 August, 2013

Volunteers from the Victorian Wader Study Group and Parks Victoria rangers have re-caught a Pied Oystercatcher 25 years after it was first caught and banded in Cape Liptrap Coastal Park.

The long-term resident was re-trapped during a recent catching exercise at Point Smythe, as part of a 30 year program established to understand the behaviour and habitat needs of these local shorebirds.

Parks Victoria Ranger Jonathon Stevenson, said it was an exciting discovery for the team, particularly because it can be difficult to catch the birds.

“Catching oystercatchers is never an easy task, even when they walk right into the trapping area. We use canon nets which are large nets attached to projectiles fired by small canons, quickly flinging the net over the birds before they can escape.

“Once caught, the birds are banded, measured and flagged before they are released. This bird had its ID bands updated with a single blue leg flag with the unique ID code ‘A4’.The flag will allow the bird’s identity to be recorded in the field without it having to be caught again,” he said.

Dr Clive Minton, leader of the Victorian Wader Study Group team said the re-caught bird was now one of the oldest Pied Oystercatchers on record in Australia.

“This bird was originally caught in May 1988 at Inverloch. It was at least a three year old adult then, so it is now at least 28¼ years old,” he said.

Oystercatchers gather in Westernport, Andersons Inlet and Corner Inlet during winter and begin to disperse to breeding territories in September. Pied Oystercatchers banded in Victoria have been found as far west as the Murray mouth in South Australia and as far north as Ballina, northern NSW. Sooty Oystercatchers tend to head south onto the Bass Strait islands and Tasmania.

“Many pairs also breed locally, like the one we just caught who has been living and breeding around Inverloch and Point Smythe with his mate for the past 25 years,” said Clive.

Jonathon Stevenson said the data collected by the VWSG volunteers over the last 30 years had provided valuable information about the birds and their habitat.

“This data helps us to identify breeding areas and habitats throughout the year. The information is very useful in informing how we manage the parks and their habitats to ensure the birds have the maximum chance of survival. For example, we can focus fox and weed control programs accordingly,” said Jonathon.

“To ensure oystercatchers and other shorebirds like the Hooded Plover are protected, Point Smythe is one of several wildlife protection areas in Cape Liptrap Coastal Park with specific restrictions.

“Parks Victoria encourages visitors to look out for and avoid disturbing the birds when visiting these areas and be aware that dogs are prohibited at all times,” he said.



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