The two fledgling hooded plovers at Fairhaven. Photo: MARGARET LACEY

Volunteers delight in hooded plover fledglings

April 9, 2020 BY

A LOCAL volunteer group has seen their hard work rewarded with the fledging of two young hooded plovers they have helped protect.

Friends of the Hooded Plover Surf Coast are a group of volunteers who dedicate their spare time to overseeing the safety and wellbeing of the endangered species.

Group member Bron Ives said for the majority of the breeding season, hope had quickly been followed by disappointment.

“We were all getting a little despondent. It was late in the season and the two nesting pairs of hoodies at Fairhaven and Moggs were losing nest after nest – seven in total.

“Magpies were seen working in groups at one nest, scaring the incubating parent away and then feeding on the eggs; ravens were at the beach in large numbers; and fox prints were along the base of the dunes on many mornings.”

With the nesting season nearing its end, the hooded plovers at Fairhaven built a scrape on the beach at the high tide mark.

The Great Ocean Road Coast Committee (GORCC) quickly fenced the area off to protect the eggs that were laid in the scrape.

Hooded plovers have less than a three percent survival rate, so it was a special moment for the Friends of the Hooded Plover team when group member Kaz Paton found the chicks to have hatched.

“After finding the nest washed away, and after an hour of searching, I was about to give up when suddenly two little balls of fluff emerged from a clump of grass on the dune, along with two very watchful parents.”

GORCC subsequently placed a temporary dog exclusion zone around the birds.

Friends of the Hooded Plovers Surf Coast volunteers spent the next five weeks frequently checking in on the family. On weekends, pairs of volunteers would spend 90-minute shifts around the birds, ensuring they were given plenty of space to feed and rest while also answering any questions from interested passers-by.

Long-time group member Gretel Lamont said seeing the chicks develop was a great experience.

“How lucky was I – I got to stand on a beautiful part of the coast for a few hours a week, watching an extraordinary bird family.

“The parents did an outstanding job and the chicks were very cute. Plus I got to talk to lots of people about the birds.”

Volunteers said the large majority dog walkers and other beachgoers were very respectful of the need to give the birds space.

Friends of the Hooded Plovers Surf Coast are happy to welcome new members.

Group co-ordinator Janice Carpenter said being involved in the group is fantastic for nature lovers.

“The beach is a great workplace for volunteers and the hoodies need their support. If you’re interested in helping out over the breeding season next year, we’d love to hear from you.”

People interested in volunteering can message Ms Carpenter at [email protected].