The Hooded Plovers

Posted on October 14, 2020 in News

I decided this morning to walk a section of the Bellarine footprintwalks trail again. So after a hearty breakfast of steaming hot porridge and lots of tea I put my faithful friend Maggie, my 10-year-old Jack Russell on the lead and set off.

Not too far into the walk Maggie was yelping with anticipation and excitement but I didn’t have the heart to tell her that for some of todays walk she would be on the lead due to the existence of the endangered Hooded Plovers. I had read a bit about them but never seen one in action.
Hooded Plovers are a rarity along the Great Ocean Road and so the Bellarine Peninsula is the last major population of the birds until Warrnambool.

This section of the Footprintwalks self guided package starts in Barwon Heads which is the starting point for both our 7 day Bellarine self guided Coastal Walk and our weekend Melbourne getaway. The heart of Barwon Heads has always been the river and the old footbridge. It’s about a 10 km walk to the Point Londsdale lighthouse from the Barwon river along the beach but the constant sludging in sand can make it very heavy going. Today I am determined to identify some off beach paths hopefully to cut the beach walk down by half. Of course some people will love the beach walk but for others not so, this is about options.

Back at the footbridge, Maggie and I set off over the Barwon river and headed on the well defined path to the Dunes restaurant right on the beach at Ocean Grove. The new lifesaving building is looking pretty flash these days after a multimillion dollar upgrade.

We follow this path that ends near the Begola wetlands so we jumped onto the road here and walked a 2km stretch to the CheekyCow cafe then entered the beach again. It wasn’t long before I spotted the little plovers that are smaller than the dive bombing variety that inhabit our street and have a particular disdain for my dog Maggie.

The Red Hooded Plovers were skipping in the waves their tiny little legs racing towards the water then racing out again as the waves approached. Much like small children in the summer, today on a warm wintery day they had the beach to themselves. As the days lengthen, the Hooded Plover (or Hoodie) starts to think about making a family. It’s not an easy feat for a bird that lays its eggs in a scrape on the beach and then must lead its tiny camouflaged chicks down to the edge of the water to feed for five weeks until they can fly.

An adult pair of Hooded Plovers will lay up to 3 eggs in a scrape in the sand, and incubate them for 4 weeks until the eggs hatch. The chicks can’t fly until they are five weeks old and must forage for their food up and down the beach and along the edge of the water, avoiding the beach-goers, their dogs and predators. Chicks can move up to 1 kilometer along the beach to feed.

I was so thrilled to see these endangered birds on my walk and I sat quietly while they played at the waters edge. Maggie was getting antsy so we carried on toward Pt L ondsdale passing the surf life-saving HQ towards the Lighthouse. I still had to do about 6 kms of the 10km walk on the sand but it was worth it to see the little Red Hooded Plovers of the Bellarine Peninsular.

Hooded Plover Bellarine Peninsula