The Hooded Plover

This beautiful little bird is said by some to be in danger of extinction. Some surveys put their numbers on the Victorian coast in the mere hundreds. In Western Australia the count is in the thousands. However, these two populations do not mix. They are not migratory. Hence, the Victorian population may well be at some risk. Parks Victoria has a detailed management plan which includes extensive public involvement to protect this bird.

The hooded plover seems to favour nesting in shallow scrapes in the sand on beaches, without the usual cover and security sought by most nesting birds. It is thus vulnerable to many obvious threats.

But I know a beach where they are plentiful. They appear to be breeding prolifically with an abundance of chicks and adults easily located any evening on and near the beach. These photos were taken on that beach an hour or so before sunset on the last day of 2018.

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The distinctive markings make identification simple. The black tip on the beak is not from dipping it into dark mudflats, but rather it is a standard marking present on all hooded plover.
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Not nesting – just pausing during an evening scurry around the beach looking for food. 
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Looks a bit like nesting, but actually just temporarily nestling. The observed behaviour before and after this photo was taken made clear that this was simply another temporary stopping place. 
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Insecure and exposed as this bit of dried beach vegetation was, it is a positive fortress compared to the areas in which the hooded plover nest. They will typically scrape out a very shallow area in the sand in which to lay their eggs. The incubation period for their eggs is lengthy (26-28 days), increasing the vulnerability to all the obvious risks. Further, the breeding season is long, and includes all of summer and some months either side of summer. So their breeding is a risky and precarious business. 
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I have observed that the hooded plover seems to favour walking and fast running along the beach, and only takes to the air as a last resort. They can get quite a pace up on the run. This bird was not about to take flight. It just stretched its wings, then kept walking and running. But they can and do fly fast when the mood or the need takes them. 
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In my experience, the hooded plover are alert but are not excessively sensitive to humans in their general vicinity, at a distance. That said, all these photos were taken with a powerful telephoto lens. 
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Alert but not alarmed. 

 

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This Pacific gull had two fully functioning legs. The smug look, and the slight angle to keep its centre of gravity over the leg of choice on this occasion, give no hint as to the reason for its choice on this occasion to deploy only one leg for standing.
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These are strong birds, and they exude a sense of being on top of their game as demonstrated in this photo as they walked past me totally ignoring the camera and its operator. I have watched and admired them for years. I have observed them in pairs at least as often as I have seen them alone. 
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A silver gull showing a degree of earnestness and focus not usually seen. 
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Turns out it was cranky about something. I have no idea what it was upset about. After a low circuit it landed on the adjacent river and floated around calmly with its fellow gulls.
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Terns taking flight in the fading light over the Barham River, Apollo Bay.

 

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Apollo Bay harbour mouth at sunset yesterday under a cloudless sky,
AB fog
Apollo Bay harbour mouth (a couple of weeks ago) in the late afternoon with a dense fog enveloping the hills and laying a dense mist over the sea.

Photography, it’s all about the light.

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