If you go down to the mouth of Coolart Creek at fairly low tide you may encounter the little Red-capped Plovers as I did on Monday 25 May when I saw six. Fortunately at this time of year with fewer people on the beach, there is less pressure on this charismatic little beach-nesting bird. I think it is quite amazing and special that they still come to this spot when there is so much human activity.
You can watch them feeding for hours as they rush along the water’s edge, then stop abruptly, before darting forward again. Unlike most plover species, the male is distinct from the female with a more rufous head.
Two species of small plover breed on the Mornington Peninsula beaches, the Red-capped Plover and the near threatened Hooded Plover (the Hoodie).
They both lay their eggs directly on the sand in a simple shallow nest scrape somewhere above the high-tide mark. Plovers are visual foragers. They pick their food from the surface. And both species have large eyes in a rounded head, a short neck, a short stubby bill and a rotund body.
The Red-capped Plover
The Red-capped Plover is the most widespread plover in Australia and like the Hoodie is found in no other country. The Red-capped still breeds on the sand strip between Balnarring and Somers. Here they are threatened by human activity, dogs off leashes and horses. Numbers are fewer today than 25 years ago. There is a strong argument for providing leash-free areas well away from their breeding grounds and strictly policing dog-free breeding grounds for beach-nesting birds.
The Hooded Plover
The late Graeme Pizzey used to see Hooded Plovers on the beach in front of Coolart till about 40 years ago but they have long disappeared from this strip, their few remaining breeding spots on the Peninsula are between Shoreham and Portsea. ‘Friends of the Hoodie’ have worked tirelessly to protect them. We have to be particularly careful during the local breeding season from September to January because their small, speckled, well-camouflaged eggs are easily missed and trodden on.
If you would like to know more, or in fact volunteer to help Beach Nesting Birds of any species contact Grainne McGuire of Birdlife Australia at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Friends of the Hooded Plover
If you are interested in becoming a Friend of the Hooded Plover on the Mornington Peninsula contact Lois at: email@example.com