BIRD WATCHING: Ballina’s Gary Clark (left) and Alstonville’s Hans Lutter, both members of the Birds Australia Ballina 2020 shorebird monitoring team, welcome restrictions on dogs at Flat Rock where migratory birds roost.
BIRD WATCHING: Ballina’s Gary Clark (left) and Alstonville’s Hans Lutter, both members of the Birds Australia Ballina 2020 shorebird monitoring team, welcome restrictions on dogs at Flat Rock where migratory birds roost.

It’s a ‘win for the birds’

IT was a win for the birds.


That was Birds Australia Ballina 2020 shorebird monitoring team member Gary Clark’s comment after Ballina Shire Council last week agreed to keep Angels Beach as an on-leash area for dogs when it passed the Companion Animals Management Plan.


Two petitions – one in favour of a 90-minute off-leash period and another against – had been presented to council, both with about 100 signatures.


“It’s a great outcome for the birds,” Mr Clark said of the council’s decision.


“We’re ecstatic.


“Their (dogs) natural instinct is to chase birds.


“Birds are aware of dogs as a threat more than humans – even on a leash.


“They (the migratory birds) use stored energy to fly around until the threat goes away.”


He also welcomed the increased restrictions on dogs for the Flat Rock platform.


Council agreed to prohibit dogs on the Flat Rock reef, which Mr Clark said was one of three important areas for shorebirds in Ballina. The other two are Mobbs Bay and Lake Chickiba at East Ballina.


The monitoring team has a dozen or so members who gather statistics on birds, going to field locations about once a month in the cooler weather and fortnightly in the warmer months.


Heather Harford, another group member, said Birds Australia had a database for Ballina dating back to 1981.


She said that, nationally, there hah been a dramatic decline in migratory and resident shorebirds, which can range from the size of a sparrow to an ibis.


“Of the 26 species of shorebirds in Ballina Shire, 20 are migratory,” she said. “They fly to northern Asia, Mongolia, Siberia and Alaska during our winter to breed. Some of these birds fly direct from Alaska in nine days.


“Two species are listed globally as threatened with extinction and another six are listed as threatened also with extinction in NSW.


“It is crucial for their survival that they have as little disturbance as possible.


“These birds are roosting on the ground and cannot escape into trees like other birds.”


She said the migratory birds lost half their fat and muscle weight during their long journey, and need to regain their weight, and double it, to make the return flight.


The Birdwatchers have agreed to help council pay for signage to alert people to the restrictions, and to educate the public.


Lee Andresen, from Angels Beach Dune Care, said the group’s founder, Shirley White, had been lobbying for 21 years for greater protection for the Flat Rock area, and was ‘delighted’ that has now happened.


A proposal to make Sharpes Beach an off-leash area also was rejected.


Meanwhile, for those dog-owners who wanted space to exercise their dogs, council agreed to ‘investigate ... an additional suitable area to establish a fully enclosed off-leash facility with funding to be considered as part of the 2011/2012 budget’.


Council reports there are five off-leash areas in the shire, including: the northern end of Bicentennial Gardens; Compton Drive, East, Ballina; Gap Road, Alstonville; Seven Mile Beach, Lennox Head, north of the Lake Ainsworth Reserve; and the eastern reserve area at Ballina Heights estate.


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