Volunteers help our plovers recover

BIRDLIFE Australia has thanked local people for helping the vulnerable hooded plover have a successful breeding season so far this year in the south-west.

Birdlife Australia’s hooded plover project officer Grainne Maguire said more than 30 volunteers had maintained protection around the birds’ nest sites on south-west beaches to give chicks the chance to live beyond infancy.

Ms Maguire said the good breeding season for the birds in western Victoria was sustaining the Victorian population because breeding outcomes in eastern Victoria this season had been “terrible”.

Human intrusion into nesting sites in eastern Victoria, including beaches along the Mornington Peninsula, had devastated the survival rate of chicks born in those areas, she said. 

However, good numbers of hooded plover nesting pairs had been found on beaches in the Warrnambool, Levy’s Point, Killarney and Yambuk areas.

The big volunteer effort, coordinated by Tower Hill ranger Toni Ryan, helped chicks get through the high-risk stage to where they are able to fly from their nesting area.

Ms Maguire said volunteers had roped off some nest sites in high-risk areas and erected signs asking people to stay away because of birds’ vulnerable status.

They maintained the protective measures for more than 60 days, from the time the first camouflaged eggs were spotted at a nest — usually a humble scoop in the sand — until the chicks could fly. 

The success stories have included a nest site in an off-leash area for dogs on the Lady Bay shoreline at the mouth of the Hopkins River. Ms Maguire said Warrnambool people had respected the roped-off areas and one of the three chicks hatched in the area survived to be able to fly away last month.

She said a one-third survival rate for hooded plover chicks was about normal for the species.

She said there was another nesting site on the shoreline near the Logans Beach whale viewing platform where two chicks are yet to reach the flying stage.

This season was the first time hooded plovers had nested so close to the popular viewing platform, said Ms Maguire, who was delighted the public had respected the nesting site and not disturbed the birds.

Birdlife Australia has been running a campaign to protect the hooded plover for about the past seven years because of its vulnerable status.

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