Links to culture and identity
The land, water, plants and animals within a landscape are central to Aboriginal spirituality and identity.
The flora and fauna of the Worimi Conservation Lands provide traditional foods, medicines, and raw materials for a variety of traditional tools and implements. Cultural sites throughout the park, and at Birubi Point Aboriginal Place, demonstrate the important role that the marine environment has as a source of food, while some of these sites also contain bones from land-based animals that were hunted in the area.
The cultural importance of fauna also includes the totemic relationships Worimi People have with particular animals, and the role this had within traditional kinship systems.
An important home for many
The south-west corner of the WCL lies adjacent to the Hunter River estuary. The Hunter estuary wetlands is a Ramsar-listed site, and an important feeding and roosting site for a large seasonal population of shorebirds and as a waylay site for transient migrants. Over 250 species of birds have been recorded within the Ramsar site, including 45 species listed under international migratory conservation agreements, and many threatened species listed under the TSC Act and the EPBC Act. Some of these species have been recorded at the WCL, and is demonstrative of the role the beach, swale and dune areas of the WCL have as habitat for these species. For example, Pacific golden plovers fly from the Hunter estuary to the WCL where they roost in the swales behind the frontal dunes during very high tides or when disturbed off their roost in the estuary (Lindesay & Newman 2014).
Shorebirds are regularly monitored in the WCL, and knowledge of avian fauna in and around the WCL has been bolstered by the ongoing efforts of the Hunter Bird Observers Club. Pied oystercatchers normally nest near the high tide mark, but have been observed to nest in the swale area of the WCL (Russell & George 2012). In 2011 a majority of the breeding pairs of pied oystercatchers were observed nesting in or in close proximity to the midden conservation area, where vehicle access had been excluded since November 2010.
The changed vehicle access since the storm event in June 2012 has resulted in a larger area behind the beachfront where disturbance by vehicles should not occur. Since the 2009–10 breeding season, little terns have nested on the previously mined dunes along the south-western edge of the WCL and on neighbouring land. The location of the little tern nests at these sites is atypical of other known breeding sites that are generally located closer to the ocean on the beach and frontal dunes.
These threatened shorebirds breed in spring and summer (NPWS 2003; Owner & Rohweder 2003), coinciding with some of the busiest holiday periods in terms of visitors in the WCL. Temporary visitor exclusion areas and associated signage is installed to help protect nesting birds as necessary on a case-by-case basis, with limited success. Similar approaches at other breeding sites on the NSW coast typically involve a greater level of site monitoring, with the involvement of volunteers, and additional measures to mitigate the impacts of predation by foxes (Vulpes vulpes) which is crucial to achieving successful outcomes.
A total of 168 fauna species have been recorded in the park – 39 mammals, 12 reptiles, 9 amphibians and 108 birds.
Bird species include the endangered curlew sandpiper, little tern and perhaps the most recognised bird – the pied oyster catcher.