Bustard Bay is a 27,870 hectare area of wetlands located approximately 120 kilometres south of Gladstone and 34 kilometers northeast of Mirriamvale in the Burnett Mary catchment of the South Eastern Queensland bioregion. The wetlands are just north of the coastal villages of Agnes Water and Town of Seventeen Seventy on a peninsula, with the Coral Sea and Bustard Bay on three sides. The wetlands extend 28 kilometers in a northwest - southeast direction and are 11 kilometers wide.
Bustard Bay is listed as a nationally important wetland in the directory of important Wetlands in Australia (Ford, 1995). The wetlands are considered a high conservation value aquatic ecosystem and are one of the few remaining intact areas of estuary and forested wetland along the eastern coast of Australia.
Bustard Bay is one of Australia’s Important Wetlands and is in near pristine condition. The area contains a suite of wetlands including rocky marine shores, coastal tidal flats, estuarine bays and inlets, mangroves, saline lagoon and marshes, freshwater marshes, non-tidal freshwater forested lagoons, seasonal freshwater ponds and non-tidal freshwater forested wetlands.
Several intertidal seagrass beds are situated in Pancake Inlet and in the small bay formed between Bustard Head and Clews Point. The seagrass beds and mangroves are known to provide critical habitat for a variety of fauna. Significant algal reefs occur off the east coast of Rodds Peninsula. The shrub Pemphis acidula, is at its southern limit of distribution (Ford, 1995).
Large populations of shorebirds feed and roost in the area, many of which are migratory birds listed on Japan-Australia Migratory Bird Agreement (JAMBA) and China-Australia Migratory Bird Agreement (CAMBA). The JAMBA and CAMBA agreements list terrestrial, water and shorebird species which migrate between Australia and the respective countries. The coastal saltflat on southeastern Rodds Peninsula supports one of the two largest colonies of the eastern curlew (Numenius madagascariensis) on the Curtis Coast. Beach stonecurlew (Esacus neglectus) are also relatively common throughout the area, as are black-necked storks (Xenorhynchus asiaticus) and sooty oystercatchers (Haematopus fuliginosus). Middle Island has an unconfirmed roosting site for the little tern (Sterna albifrons) ( Ford, G.I., 1995).
Hawksbill turtles (Eretmochelys imbricata) feed in Pancake Creek, and loggerhead turtle (Caretta caretta) occasionally nest on the ocean front beaches. The green turtle (Chelonia mydas) and flatback turtle (Natator depressus) also occur in the area (Ford, 1995.) Bustard Bay also supports a variety of other marine fauna and includes crab species and 29 mollusc species. Coral reefs are located off the east coast of Rodds Peninsula and of notable significance is the occurrence of a fringing coral reef in Pancake estuary (Ford, 1995).
Water Mouse Xeromys myoides, are listed as vulnerable and are highly impacted by loss and fragmentation of habitat, feral predators impacting on fragmented populations, recreational driving in the inter-tidal zone, and pugging of soil by stock and cattle destruction of nests and wetland vegetation.
The coastal area is the territory of the Gureng Gureng people (Ken Granger 2008). Aboriginal shell middens occur throughout the area. Round Hill Head was the first landing place and one of only three places where James Cook came during his voyage up the east coast of Australia in 1770 (Ford, 1995). In recognition of this, the whole of Josephs Banks Conservation Park has been listed on the Queensland Heritage Register (The State of Queensland Department of Environment, 1998). The area has a cemetery associated with early exploration of the area. The Bustard Head Lighthouse was the second to be built in Queensland in 1868 (Ford, 1995).
PHOTOS: Bustard Bay Landscape, Flora and Fauna. (Adam Gosling, WetlandCare Australia)
Coastal Habitat Damage
Coastal salt marsh in Bustard Bay is a very sensitive habitat, susceptible to damage from cattle if they are permitted to access them. Pugging, compaction, and destruction of samphire flats and endangered water mouse nests are issues that are of major concern in the region.
Introduced pest animals cause significant impacts on fauna and flora through predation, competition and habitat destruction or modification. The Bustard Bay region due to its proximity to agricultural lands hosts a range of feral animal species impacting on the catchment. Feral pigs have been identified as the priority pest species for the Bustard Bay region but there are also issues with foxes and feral cats.
PHOTO: WetlandCare Australia's Sherry O'Brien investigates cattle damage on an extensive Bustard Bay saltmarsh (Sherry O'Brien, WetlandCare Australia).
Coastal 20 Rehabilitation Actions:
WetlandCare Australia is working with a landholder to construct nine kilometers of wild life friendly fencing connecting with previous fencing projects funded by BMRG. This will enable exclusion of cattle access from more than 458 ha of coastal mud flats - which include endangered water mouse habitat. Cattle and feral pigs trample the sensitive samphire and saltbush and cause major damage in this beautiful region.
WetlandCare Australia helped facilitate a “Feral Pig Control” workshop in Mirriamvale (in partnership with BMRG) that was very successful and drew a lot of local community interest as they are all aware of the damage caused by feral animals.
Staff from Burnett Mary Regional Group (BMRG), WetlandCare Australia, Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service, Gladstone Regional Council, Gidarjil Development Corporation and community volunteers performed 'biocondition assessments' which provided a measure of how well a terrestrial ecosystem is functioning in terms of its biodiversity values.
WetlandCare Australia and the Burnett Mary Regional Group (BMRG) are holding a two part mangrove/plastics awareness workshop and Marine Debris Clean Up in the Town of 1770 on 19th and 20th April as part of Clean up Australia Day, World Wetland Day. We will be raising public awareness of the issue of marine debris and involving the local community and school, to improve and maintain the environmental health of the coastal habitat of Agnes Waters and the Town of 1770. Round Hill Creek is a declared fish habitat area and an important nursery for many marine species including mud crab, prawns, whiting, mullet and bream.
PHOTOS: Monitoring Bustard Bay (Sherry O'Brien, WetlandCare Australia).
Ford, G.I., 1995. Edited Miller, G.J. and Worland, J.L., 2004. Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts, Australian Wetlands Database, Directory of important wetlands in Australia – Information sheet Bustard Bay
Ken Granger 2008, Bustard Bay– Queensland by Degrees, http://www.rgsq.org.au/rgsqsite/24-152c.htm
The State of Queensland Department of Environment. 1998. Management Plan. Protected areas in the Agnes Water/1770 area.