Volunteers prepped for Hoodie arrivals

Volunteers are gearing up for another busy Hooded Plover breeding season as the threatened shore birds begin to pair up and get ready to nest.

Volunteer group Friends of the Hooded Plover Surf Coast (FHPSC) will be working around the clock to protect nests and chicks again this year, monitoring nesting sites during breeding season.

FHPSC Regional Coordinator Sue Guinness said volunteer wardens would be working to educate beach users about the vulnerability and breeding habits of the ‘hoodies’ to improve the awareness in the community.

FHPSC Regional Coordinator Sue Guinness and GORCC Conservation Supervisor Georgie Beale observing hoodie nesting sites along the beach.
FHPSC Regional Coordinator Sue Guinness and GORCC Conservation Supervisor Georgie Beale observing hoodie nesting sites along the beach.

“We hope the community supports our efforts to help the chicks survive on the coast this breeding season.

The FHPSC group encourages the community to be actively aware of the impacts they have on chick survival.

“It would be fantastic to see humans, dogs and Hooded Plovers all using the same beach and coexisting together, and to do that we need to be aware of the risks we pose to these vulnerable birds.

Ms. Guinness said Hooded Plovers nest in high traffic areas during the busiest time of the year, making it difficult for chicks to survive without community effort.

A recreated Hooded Plover nest demonstrates how fragile and exposed these tiny eggs are on the beach.
A recreated Hooded Plover nest demonstrates how fragile and exposed these tiny eggs are on the beach.

“We try to engage with the community near breeding sites when we are out monitoring to generate interest about the plight of our plovers.

“The easiest way to help us save these precious birds is to talk about them with friends and respect nesting areas,” she said.

During breeding season land managers such as the Great Ocean Road Coast Committee install signs to alert beachgoers to breeding zones, with regular breeding sites at Point Roadknight, Point Impossible and Moggs Creek.

FHPSC Regional Coordinator Sue Guinness and GORCC Conservation Supervisor Georgie Beale dig in some hoodie shelters to help with chicks and adults survival.
FHPSC Regional Coordinator Sue Guinness and GORCC Conservation Supervisor Georgie Beale dig in some hoodie shelters to help with chicks and adults survival.

Last breeding season was a record year for ‘hoodies’ on the Surf Coast, with 6 chicks fledging (surviving until they are able to fly).   Only 12 chicks have survived to fledging on the Surf Coast since 2010.

This season FHPSC, Birdlife Australia and GORCC are again working together to give the chicks their best chances of survival and are encouraging beachgoers to give ‘hoodies’ some space.

To get involved in ‘hoodie’ protection and become a volunteer, contact Birdlife Australia via email or visit their website for more information.

Honour hoodies this Plover Appreciation Day

Hooded Plovers (aka ‘hoodies’) breed between September and March on our local beaches every year.   With only 12 chicks surviving on the Surf Coast between 2010-2015 (6 of those 12 fledging in just one season alone), these precious birds need our support to help ensure their survival.

The Great Ocean Road Coast Committee (GORCC) works with the dedicated Friends of the Hooded Plovers (Surf Coast) volunteers and Birdlife Australia to protect the hoodies and ensure as many chicks as possible fledge (take flight).

This September 16 BirdLife Australia is celebrating the plight of the plover through the first ever Plover Appreciation Day.

The Day recognises all ground-nesting plovers including the vulnerable Hooded Plover that is often seen breeding on the Surf Coast.

cute birds
A pair of Hooded Plover chicks.  Image: Grainne Maguire

The aim is to raise awareness of the plight of ground-nesting plovers across the world and spread awareness about how everyone can help save them.

Along the Surf Coast, humans and dogs pose are one of the biggest threats to the Hooded Plover’s survival.  Unfortunately, Hoodies create nests on the beach during the busiest season on the coast, forcing them to share their breeding sites with thousands of beach-goers (and their dogs, vehicles, horses … ).

The breeding habits of the Hoodie mean they are in direct conflict with not only humans and dogs but introduced predators as well.  To make matters worse for the Hoodie:

  • They lay their eggs on beaches above the high tide level where people like to walk their dogs or lay out their towels.
  • Any disturbance from people or animals can drive the adult birds away from their nests and chicks.
  • The eggs are almost impossible to see, which makes them very easy to step on.
  • The chicks are tiny, fragile and defenceless making them very vulnerable to threats.

It is important that all beachgoers keep their distance from hoodie breeding zones and ‘give them space’.

Not sure where the hoodies breed? Click here to find out.

Photo: Dean Ingwersen
Hooded Plovers are medium-sized sandy-brown birds with a black hood and are currently listed as critically endangered in New South Wales and vulnerable in Victoria and South Australia. Photo: Dean Ingwersen

There a four main ground-nesting plovers in the spotlight this Plover Appreciation Day – the Hooded Plover, Red-Capped Plover, Spur Winged Plover and Black Fronted Dotterel. To learn more about the different types of plovers in Australia click here.

How can you get involved?

To help raise awareness of the Hooded Plover’s struggle for survival, follow these easy 3 easy steps.

1. Like Birdlife on social media

   Hooded Plover
   birdlife_hoodie
   @birdlife_hoodie

2. Download our Hoodie mask (either the wearable version or selfie stick version)
3. Upload a photo on social media using the mask to express what it means to be ‘vulnerable’

Make sure you use the hashtag: #vulnerablehoodies for your chance to win great prizes.

birdlife hoodie mask
Click here to download the Hooded Plover mask.

For more information on Hooded Plovers, head to the BirdLife Australia website or the MyHoodie website.

GORCC is running a local awareness #SaveTheHoodie campaign to encourage beachgoers on the Surf Coast to keep their dogs away from hoodie breeding zones and encourage everyone to ‘give them space’.  For more information vist the ‘Save The Hoodie’ website.

Interested in getting involved?  To volunteer contact BirdLife Australia at hoodedplover@birdlife.org.au.

Research highlights vital hoodie sites

New research conducted by Deakin University and Birdlife Australia has found that endangered Hooded Plovers select breeding locations based on food availability.

The research compared 56 different beach sites in Victoria and collected more than 7,500 invertebrates to determine the potential food source available at each location.

Study sites along the Victorian coast, between Nelson and Lake Reeve, Gippsland Lakes. Photo: Anna Cuttriss
Study sites along the Victorian coast, between Nelson and Lake Reeve, Gippsland Lakes.
Photo: Anna Cuttriss

Deakin University Honours student Anna Cuttriss worked with Birdlife Australia examine known breeding sites and sites where Hooded Plover’s had not been recorded.

Researchers collecting invertebrate samples using pitfall traps along the Victorian coastline. Photo: Mike Weston
Researchers collecting invertebrate samples using pitfall traps along the Victorian coastline.
Photo: Mike Weston

Birdlife Australia’s Coast and Marine Program Manager Grainne Maguire, who co-supervised the research, said the findings were significant.

“This information will assist in the identification of potential breeding sites and help us to better understand how many Hooded Plovers should ideally exist in Victoria.

“An abundance of food was found in the vicinity of known breeding sites and these sites were largely dominated by amphipods (such as sand hoppers) whereas non-inhabited sites hosted more beetles,”

Hooded Plovers are tagged to track their nesting locations. Photo: Mike Weston
Hooded Plovers were tagged by Birdlife Australia to monitor and identify hooded plover breeding sites.
Photo: Mike Weston

The quantity of Hooded Plover food available on beaches across Victoria varies immensely, highlighting the importance of the current known breeding sites which are limited in number.

Deakin University Senior Lecturer in Wildlife and Conservation Biology Mike Weston said Hooded Plover’s have limited breeding capacity and need help to survive.

“This research has provided insight to how much habitat is actually suitable for Hooded Plovers and the types of food sources they look for when breeding.

“There are so many people in the community engaged in the conservation effort and this research is another piece of the jigsaw,” he said.

Great Ocean Road Coat Committee (GORCC) Conservation Supervisor Georgie Beale worked tirelessly with volunteers last breeding season to protect three breeding sites on GORCC managed land.

It was estimated that the Friends of the Hooded Plover Surf Coast volunteers have donated over 1,800 hours of their time working to protect chicks.

Volunteers built huts to shelter nesting hooded plovers at Eastern View.
Volunteers built huts to shelter nesting hooded plovers at Eastern View.

“As a community we need to work together to conserve these known breeding sites and give the Hooded Plovers the best chance of survival.

“The research confirms that these local breeding sites are vital for the ‘Hoodies’,” Ms Beale said.

The full research paper will be published in CSIRO Marine and Freshwater Research Journal later this year.

Hooded Plovers are listed as vulnerable under the Environment Protection Biodiversity and Conservation Act 1999 and have one of the lowest survival rates of any species in the world.

More information on Hooded Plovers is available at our Save the Hoodie website.

Are you interested in helping our wonderful volunteers protect our precious hoodies? Click here for more information about volunteering in the Surf Coast.

Star single dad’s success

Two Hooded Plover chicks at Moggs Creek have overcome all odds and taken flight, a feat made even more impressive given they were raised by a single dad.

Four vulnerable Hooded Plover chicks on the Surf Coast have fledged after surviving the dangerous 60 days to fledging since 2010.

Hooded Plover chick
Hooded Plover chick

The chicks’ mother perished in what is thought to have been a dog, fox or cat attack earlier in 2015, while their sibling was taken by a fox.

The Hooded Plovers have one of the lowest survival rate of any species in the world at 2.5% and are listed as vulnerable under the Environment Protection Biodiversity and Conservation Act 1999.

Volunteers, Birdlife Australia staff and the Great Ocean Road Coast Committee (GORCC) team worked tirelessly to protect the precious little family, attempting to protect them from the many threats these beach-nesting birds face.

The 2015 breeding season is still in full swing, with one three-week-old Hooded Plover chick still battling to survive at Point Roadknight.

‘Save the Hoodie’ campaign signs have been installed across the Surf Coast in breeding zones, urging beachgoers to stay well away from nests and keep dogs out of these areas.

(L-R) American ecologist Tim Seastedt, GORCC conservation supervisor Georgie Bealse, American scientist Kathy Tate and Friends of the Hooded Plover Surf Coast volunteers Ethorne Mitchell and Mandy Mitchell
(L-R) American ecologist Tim Seastedt, GORCC conservation supervisor Georgie Bealse, American scientist Kathy Tate and Friends of the Hooded Plover Surf Coast volunteers Ethorne Mitchell and Mandy Mitchell keep predators away from the Hooded Plovers.

Friends of the Hooded Plovers volunteer Margaret MacDonald is thankful to the community for their cooperation over the breeding season.

“The birds have had to learn to live with a lot of people around in the holiday season and it has been fantastic to see everyone taking more care around the nests.

“People have been responding well to the information and have been very supportive of the work we are doing to protect the Hooded Plovers,” Ms MacDonald said.

The volunteers patrol the breeding sites for a month before the eggs hatch and then increase patrols 30 days after hatching to protect the chicks from predators.

“The chicks would not have survived without the volunteers support so it’s a great achievement by all.

This article was published in the Surf Coast Times Green the Coast column.

For information about how to save of precious Hooded Plovers click here.

Have you entered the Save the Hoodie comptetition yet? Times running out! For more details click here