As summer crowds flock to our beaches, there’s one group of locals that needs some extra protection. That’s where Margaret McDonald and her fellow Birdlife Australia volunteers come in as they monitor the vulnerable Hooded Plovers.
Margaret became a hoodie volunteer in early 2013 when the tiny beach-nesting birds were seen nesting near Moggs Creek estuary.
“I had observed hooded plovers on the Moggs Creek beach for many years as I walked almost daily with my dogs. Seeing these birds banded, I was keen to become involved in the protection program,” Margaret recalls.
As well as registration and training through Birdlife Australia, Margaret says hoodie volunteers require resilience. On the day we visited Moggs Creek, the eggs were suspected to have fallen prey to Pacific Gulls.
“Eggs are washed away by tides, covered by sand in strong winds, taken by predatory birds, parents and eggs are taken by foxes, traumatised by dogs, trampled by people or horses; the list goes on,” Margaret says.
But amongst the disappointments, Margaret has also seen four hooded plovers fledge over the years, including two chicks raised by a single dad after a fox took the mother.
“It is just so exciting to share the experience with these amazing little birds. The number of hooded plovers have certainly increased in Victoria since the volunteer program was introduced, so we do make a difference,” she says.
Volunteers begin looking for nests in August, visiting beaches at least twice a week. If a nest is found, the local land manager puts up signs and fencing and information is passed on to Bird Life Australia.