Recently I spent a few days down the coast working on the beehives and the garden. Each morning I visited a different spot on the Peninsula for a bit of bushwalking and checking on the local birds. On the third day I decided to revisit Flinders Back Beach – the scene of an old financial crime – I got my camera wet in strong winds and drizzly rain. $650 later my camera was repaired and a $40 camera rain cover purchased – lesson learnt. On this occasion it was again drizzly and the camera cover went straight into action. By the time I was on the beach it was sunny. Almost immediately I found a small mixed flock of Red-necked Stints and Double banded Plovers. After a while, watching, counting and photographing the flock, I walked around the point looking for the resident Hooded Plovers – now becoming rare on many beaches in Victoria due to increased disturbance, natural predation and people walking their dogs off lead. I usually see a few Hoodeds but this time I only found one adult. I hoped that a few more were tucked down into the beached kelp out of the cool winds.
Hooded Plover, Flinders Ocean Beach, Flinders, Vic
Flinders Ocean Beach, Flinders, Vic (the hooded plover is in the pic)
Double banded Plover – can be tricky to see until they move
I drove down to the Flinders Ocean Beach today, also called Mushroom Reef due to the shape of the exposed reef at low tide. It is part of the Mornington Peninsula National Park. It was high tide and I walked along the sand looking for Hooded Plovers and other waders.
A birding minute or two at Flinders Ocean Beach
Singing Honeyeater in the strong wind, Flinders Ocean Beach, Flinders, Vic
Flinders Ocean Beach, Flinders, Vic
Second Cove, Flinders Ocean Beach
Juvenile Hooded Plover (without the signature black hood)
One of my favourite spots in the Mallacoota area is Shipwreck Creek. There is a 6km trail from Shipwreck Creek to Seal Creek that moves through banksia scrub, through heathland, dry forest, a small patch of rain forest and back through heath and beach scrub. Each area of vegetation holds it own species of animals and birds.
The tanin stained waters of Shipwreck Creek, Mallacoota
Shipwreck Creek meets the ocean
Hooded Plovers, tiny endangered beach birds, keeping under the wind.
As a follow up to my high tide visit to the Flinders Ocean Beach. My second visit to Flinders was at low tide. There were many more people around, exploring the rock pools, walking on the beach and fishing off the exposed reef. I found the Hooded Plover again further along the beach where piles of seaweed and kelp had washed up. There was no sign of the juvenile Hooded Plover and I hope he was hiding up in the grasses on the sand dunes away from all the activity. A few more bird species were around at low tide.
The area looked incredibly different at low tide. The mushroom shape of Mushroom Reef was exposed. At high tide the waves can come right up to the wooded steps.
Mushroom Reef Marine Sanctuary – at low tide. At high tide the water comes up to the wooden steps
White Ibis feeding in the grasses along the beach edge – there was something they really liked as they just munched away on whatever was living in the grass.
Sooty Oystercatchers and a Little Pied Cormorant – one of the Oystercatchers was Banded (yellow and silver rings)
I noticed that one of the Plovers was banded. There is an extensive banding program to monitor the Plovers across Southern Australia
Hooded Plover pair
Keeping low into the wind and catching anything that the waves bring in..
Hooded Plover – keeping low and facing into a strong wind
I was surprised to see blokes fishing way out on the last set of rocks at the edge of the reef. The waves were getting bigger and starting to crash near them and we have had bad weather and ocean warnings all week. They were at least packing up as I watched them and took some pics.
When I go to Greens Bush I like to drop in on Flinders back beach as well. There is a pair of resident Hooded Plovers on the beach that are surviving the conditions and the number of people that visit. It is a popular area, with the golf course above and the easy access to the beach at several points for locals and visitors. It is probably the closest point to Melbourne to find the Sooty Oystercatcher, the Hooded Plover and a good chance for the Black Faced Cormorant (though I have not seen them there yet). I visited twice on the weekend, once at high tide and again at low tide. At high tide the birds rest and groom at the high water mark waiting for the tide to turn and occasionally run into the waters edge for anything juicy that may become exposed or washed up.
Crested Tern & Silver Gull
The Hooded Plover is a closely monitored bird. It is endangered in many areas along the Australian coastline due to housing and commercial development and land clearing. It is particularly vulnerable to beach users especially dog owners. It lives and hunts on the sand and nests in scrapes amongst the sea weed at the high water mark or at the base of the dunes. It is hunted by cats, foxes and other predators and the nests are often disturbed or destroyed by walkers and dogs. Some councils will rope off areas when Plovers are nesting but so far I have only seen the Mallacoota council do this at Betka Beach. (On a busy day people did seem to stay clear of the ropes and the signs.) It is too bad that other councils don’t try it as well.
Hooded Plover II – hunkered down against the wind with plumage that helps camouflage against predators.
Hooded Plover III
Associating closely with the Hooded Plover was a Double Banded Plover. Due to its size I had thought it was a Juvenile Hooded Plover but I am happy to be corrected.