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Queenscliffe Herald Article - August 2007

Save the Hooded Plover

Denise Moore - Swan Bay Environment Association

The following article is a follow-up to the ‘Hooded Plover in Point Lonsdale’ article published in the January issue of Queenscliff Herald. The author, Felicity Thyer, is a volunteer, as I am , to the Birds Australia Project, ‘Promoting Coexistence between Recreationists and Beach-nesting Birds’. This project extends over 2 years, and results from the first year have now been compiled. They are alarming and highlight the struggle for Hooded Plovers to successfully produce young. Only 35 chicks reached fledging age (that is, the age at which they can fly, five weeks after hatching) out of a total of 353 eggs that were observed by volunteers. This tells us as a community that if we don’t act now to protect these birds, beach-nesting birds will become a phenomenon of the past.

In her article, Felicity revealed that 3 chicks hatched and were present on the Point Lonsdale Beach. Given that about 60% of nests fail to hatch, we were lucky to have  Hooded Plover chicks on our local beach. A number of us visited these chicks over three weeks, watching them grow. Sadly they died, only two weeks away from when they would have been able to fly from danger. The threat of people, unleashed dogs, gulls and ravens coming so close to them was too great. During the nesting season, September to March, when walking from Surf Club to Collendina  we must leash our dogs. The Hooded Plover is one endangered species we could save just by adapting our behaviour on the beach.

Grainne Maguire, a Project Officer with Birds Australia, coordinates conservation efforts for Hooded Plovers across the entire coast. We are likely to see a number of these on our local beaches this spring and summer, including signs at access paths to the beach to update us as to when the birds are nesting, and signs along the base of dunes to help us recognize when we are walking past a breeding site. Little triangular wooden beach shelters are being trialled as a source of shelter for chicks to take refuge from predators or harsh weather. There will be some activities for the local school children to participate in and talks held for the community if you’d like to learn more about these birds.

If we are vigilant, concerned and take pride in our local environment, then we can go a long way to helping save this bird from extinction. So, when walking on the beach, look out for a Hooded Plover! It is small (about 20cm long) but stocky,  black head, white band around the neck, white stomach and grey back. It has a bright red bill and ring around the eyes, and pink legs. It is a rare thrill to see one because there are so few to be found along the Bellarine Peninsula and Surf coast. Hopefully we will always have this opportunity, and the beach will continue to be a place for all to enjoy and that includes our Hooded Plover.

My thanks to Grainne for her advice and assistance in compiling this article.

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