The bush stone-curlew, endemic to Australia, is classified as Endangered in New South Wales. It is mainly nocturnal and specialises in hunting small grassland animals (frogs, spiders, insects, molluscs, crustaceans, snakes, lizards and small mammals) found in soft soil or rotting wood, along with seeds or tubers in drought years. They forage alone or in pairs over their range especially on moonlit nights. By day they hide in tall grass or low shrubs. Their predators are foxes, wild dogs, dingoes or goannas. Like the other species at Black Rocks sports field it also has many threats to its survival.
Between October 2011 and December 2015 there have been 67 evidenced bush stone-curlew activities/sightings on or adjacent to the sports field and access road (with 3 birds sighted concurrently) which have been reported to council and logged into NSW Bionet Wildlife Atlas. Many of these activities/sightings were of wailing calls during breeding season. If there is no successful breeding it is likely to be due to disturbance and threats.
A number of the above bush stone-curlew sightings occurred during the day (see photo below) as well as at night on the access road (including a sighting during the day reported by a council officer).
Dog attack risk
Bush stone-curlews are currently exposed to risk of dog attack during the day when the koala/dog-proof vehicle access gate is open, or any time through the self-latching pedestrian access gates if accompanied by a person. If the vehicle access gate is removed and replaced with a grid, there will be no restriction to stop dogs being transported over the grid in motor vehicles both day and night.
Recovery Plan for the Bush Stone-Curlew (RPBSC) February, 2006
The land surrounding the sports field and access road is a preferred bush stone-curlew roosting and/or breeding habitat, as described in RPBSC, 3.6 (p.8).
‘Within urban areas, bush stone-curlews may become accustomed to foraging under street lights that attract insects. This significantly increases the risk of individuals being hit by cars and falling victim to predators.’
Cat Threat to Bush Stone-Curlews
Many cats reside in the Black Rocks by the Sea estate, even though the 88B Instrument and the Black Rocks by the Sea Koala Plan of Management state that no cats are allowed in this estate. During the current breeding season, there has been a significant decline in the number of bush stone-curlew breeding calls and sightings in this area.
Local residents reported a bush stone-curlew call at 10pm on 2 February 2016 which they believed came from the bushland adjacent to the southern edge of the koala protection gates at the entrance to the Black Rocks sports field. Immediately before the call they heard the loud squawk of a bird close by. They said that it was impossible to tell if it was a bush stone-curlew but the bird sounded either frightened or as though it had been attacked. When they went to the area to check, they saw a very large persian cat which slunk back to its home across the road. The same cat had been stalking birds in that area during the day.
A cat that has been stalking birds has also been seen in a property in Toshack Place, where the remains of two white-cheeked honey eaters were found. These remains were consistent with being killed by a cat.
Some residents in the estate are registered with Council's Backyard Habitat for Wildlife programme. However, the Threatened Species Conservation Society Inc. (TSCS) believes that it is counter-productive and unacceptable to encourage residents to plant habitat which attracts wildlife, only to have them killed by cats residing in the area because the 'no cats rule' has not been enforced. This wildlife is also at risk from aggressive breeds of dogs which are prohibited under the 88B Instrument and Black Rocks by the Sea Koala Plan of Management.
TSCS requested that Council advise all residents of the Black Rocks by the Sea by the Estate of their obligation to comply with the 88B Instrument and Black Rocks by the Sea Koala Plan of Management in relation to the 'no cats and limited dog rule', and that this rule be enforced. However, Council required the times, dates and places/residences where cats had been seen. TSCS does not believe that it is the responsibility of the community to 'dob in' their neighbours in order to assist Council with compliance of regulations that are not enforced. It is also not fair to single out those residents known to have cats and prohibited dogs whilst others also housing prohibited animals go undetected. Council has since advised that they do not consider door knocking every residence to be an efficient use of council resources and, without further evidence to advance any possible investigation, the matter is considered closed.
7-PART TEST UNDER THE ENVIRONMENTAL PLANNING & ASSESSMENT ACT, 1979
In relation to the Mens' Shed being built on the Black Rocks sports field, based on the suitable foraging and breeding habitat adjacent to the sports field and access road site, the evidenced sightings and the existing and/or potential impacts detailed above, which are likely to have an adverse effect on the life cycle of the species, TSCS believes that the bush stone-curlew should be subject to the 7-part test under the EP&A Act 1979.
Contrary to Flora & Fauna Assessment of the Men's Shed D.A. (p.32), the Review of Environmental Factors for failed tennis court application PTV12/0022 at the Black Rocks sports field stated that consideration of impacts under the 7-part test for the bush stone-curlew at the access road and surrounding bushland was warranted. This is further evidence that the bush stone-curlew should be subject to the 7-part test.
According to the Recovery Plan for the bush stone-curlew, February 2006 Appendix 4:-
‘The loss of individual birds can have a significant adverse effect on local and regional populations and the species as a whole within NSW.’