Beach-nesting hoodies

It’s always been difficult for Hooded Plovers to raise their tiny families; they’ve always had to deal with king tides, weather extremes and predation from gulls, ravens and snakes but now they have the added dangers of foxes, cats, vehicles and dogs.

 

201410201814_6023_Hooded Plover (Thinornis rubricollis) – parent with chicks
Canon 5DIII, 100-400mm L IS USM, 1/800, f5.6, ISO 400, focal length 390mm

 

Late last month I got a call from volunteer-hoodie-protector Sue to say that the first chicks had hatched. As soon as I could I was driving towards their beach. I arrived just when the sun was getting low and Sue and I spent the next few hours watching and waiting. The images are not as sharp as I prefer to share but I’m always mindful that the birds’ well-being is far more important than any photograph. I kept my distance, and the heavy cropping, along with the heat haze played havoc with the image quality – but this post is about more than image quality.

Did you notice how many legs the adult bird has in the image above?

 

201410201815_6029_Hooded Plover (Thinornis rubricollis) – 3 day old chicks
Canon 5DIII, 100-400mm L IS USM, 1/800, f5.6, ISO 400, focal length 390mm

 

These chicks are  3 or 4 days old, it’s hard to know exactly when they hatched. They remind me of cotton wool balls with matchstick legs; they are adorable. They are remarkable little hatchlings that foraged for themselves from day one, darting around looking for insects and sandhoppers amongst the seaweed and rock pools while their watchful parents scanned the beach for signs of danger.

 

201410210742_6172_Hooded Plover (Thinornis rubricollis) – 4 day old chick
Canon 5DIII, 100-400mm L IS USM, 1/2000, f5.6, ISO 400, focal length 400mm

 

The image above was taken the following morning. One of my favourite things (apart from ‘brown paper packages tied up with strings’ and ‘wild geese that fly with the moon on their wings’) is to be at the beach before sunrise. There is something magical about watching the first rays of sunlight creep across the sea and the sand delivering sparkles of warmth.

I had hoped to revisit these chicks and make a record of their little lives. I had hoped to see them get bigger and stronger as their feathers grew and they practised flying in ever-increasing circles across the water. I had hoped that they’d be banded and I’d hear of their adventures but sadly my hurried trip to their tiny patch of coastline was the only time I saw them. Two chicks didn’t survive a storm that raged around them when they were 6 days old and the third was lost at two-and-a-half weeks when another storm battered the beach.

This post comes with a plea for bird-lovers to encourage beach-goers to be mindful of our beach-nesting birds when holidaying by the ocean this summer. These little birds don’t ask for much and we can help by not walking our dogs near them, by staying close to the water’s edge, by carefully following the instructions on signage boards and by being willing to change our habits just a little.

Last year a pair of hoodies successfully raised a family, for better quality images and a happier ending you might enjoy The hoodies have flown!

Happy birding and thank you for caring, Kim

 

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12 comments to Beach-nesting hoodies

  • You have no idea how absolutely jealous I am! Anywhere here in the states where plovers nest is off limits to humans and you can’t get close enough to get shots. Those babies are my all time favorite fuzzies! Thank you for sharing these!!!!

    • lirralirra

      Aw Sherry, I wish I could take you to visit our little chicks. Though actually it’s great that where you are the plovers are protected so effectively, their survival rate must be increased with such fantastic acknowledgement of their needs, Kim

  • Robyn McTavish

    Well done!

  • I am so sorry. So very sorry. The odds are stacked against them without our careless input.

  • Marie-Louise Schaefer

    Oh, what a sad story. We have talked many times to people jogging on beaches where signs indicate breeding birds. We have talked to people with dogs off leash. Some get really aggressive . One woman was proud to tell us that she lives there and has taken her dog for a run for years and never seen any nesting birds. That kind of ignorance hurts.

    • lirralirra

      You are so right Marie-Louise. I’ve talked to people on the beach who say similar things. One lady recently wasn’t at all worried about having her two dogs off leash and said she knew all about the hoodies as she’d seen a nest with 20 eggs in it :/ Thank goodness for all the lovely people who are willing to leash their dogs and change their route. Many of them become quite engaged with the birds once they’ve learned more about them, and that kind of consequence is awesome. It’s great that you’re comfortable speaking with beach goers, I hope you meet some lovely ones amongst the others.

  • Alison Moore

    Dear Kim and fellow bird lovers,
    the sad plight of these chicks reminded me of another pair of parents, this time, Mountain Wood Ducks who I am lucky to have near my home. I was delighted on my morning walk to see the proud parents sheltering their brood of eight as the morning traffic whizzed by. As a newcomer in this area I may have incurred the wrath of one new neighbour as I raised my arms and lowered them several times to check her speed. She did slow down and it is heartening to live in a community where the animals and birds are observed as an integral and joyful part of where we live. Unfortunately, a week later, there were no ducklings left, cats, raptors I don’t know however the parents remain to breed again.
    Lovely pics Kim and timely messages for us all of the fragility of these beautiful tiny birds.

    • lirralirra

      So sorry to hear about the baby wood ducks, I hope the parents are more successful next time round. It’s great that you’re out there caring for them and hopefully making residents more aware of their speed. I got some warning signs put up by council about the families of ducks that cross our street but I’m not sure how much good they actually do, hopefully some!

  • I’m sorry that your plans for the plovers did not materialize. The Snowy Plovers on our local beach had similar difficulty. I’m not sure there were any survivors. Storms, vehicles, and foxes were the major problems. Important stories can be told and emotions evoked using images that are not razor sharp, as your post demonstrates.

    • lirralirra

      Thank you Dave, I hadn’t planned to share these images and you’ve made me extra glad I did. I looked up your Snowy Plovers, what beautiful little birds, I hope there were some survivors.

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