On May 1st the final 2 chicks from Point Nepean fledged bringing the total of fledged chicks on the Mornington Peninsula for the 2016/17 breeding season to 13. To put the significance of this figure into context, there had only been 11 chicks fledge over the 3 previous seasons combined. The last year where there had been double-digit fledglings was in 2006/07.
At this stage it is difficult to attribute the success to any single factor. It is imperative that we look at long term trends rather than focusing too much on the results or failures of single seasons. However, this current result is a much needed boost to the hard work provided by the growing team of dedicated volunteers backed by the support of BirdLife Australia, Parks Victoria and concerned community member
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And the good news is: dogs have been banned from the Mornington Peninsula National Park.
It has taken many years to achieve this result and many many people have contributed to this positive outcome. I cannot name them all but importantly they all had Hooded Plover conservation foremost in their minds. They all gave up their own leisure time to protect this species whilst also putting their safety at risk.
This effort over many years by many people used science to identify limiting factors, involved staff from many organisations who contributed many unpaid hours and dozens of volunteers who have had to watch tiny Hooded Plover chicks disappear, sometimes see them die in front of their eyes.
But the work is not over yet and there is a need for more research and monitoring. The good news is, it will be more pleasant on the beaches once this ban is in force.
The science is clear but Victoria’s Minister for Environment chooses to ignore it or she would rather see dogs in a National Park than native animals.
After years of counting Hooded Plovers, recording their breeding outcomes, and the behaviour of visitors in the Mornington Peninsula National Park, long term scientifically based monitoring clearly indicates a number of important and disappointing facts in relation to Hooded Plover conservation in the Mornington Peninsula National Park:
Volunteers have been counting Hooded Plovers in the Mornington Peninsula National Park on a regular basis for 20 years or more. However, in recent years, unpaid volunteers have been solely responsible for collecting and interrogating the data.
The results of surveys carried out four times per year over the last four years has been averaged and displayed (Figure 1). Clearly, the population is in decline.
Each Hooded Plover breeding season in the Mornington Peninsula National Park, volunteers, Parks Victoria and BirdLife Australia staff closely monitor nesting, egg laying, hatching of eggs and fledging of chicks in the National Park. In the last five years, the average rate of failure for each egg laid has been calculated as 96% (see Figure 2). Clearly this rate of failure to reproduce for a population of threatened shorebird is not sustainable and explains why the National Park’s Hooded Plover population is in decline.
Volunteers, Parks Victoria and BirdLife Australia staff also monitor and record the number of dogs seen on Hooded Plover breeding beaches in the Mornington Peninsula National Park and whether or not the dogs observed are on a leash.
Results from 305 observations in the summer of 2014/15 clearly identify that 75% of dogs run free on Hooded Plover Breeding beaches in the Mornington Peninsula National Park, (BirdLife Australia 2015).
One may ask, is a dog off its leash a risk to Hooded Plovers? Volunteers once again provide the answer. In December 2012 two members of the public monitoring a Hooded Plover chick at Point King on the Mornington Peninsula, directly observed a Labrador kill a thirty five day old Hooded Plover chick. The dog was not on a leash.
Minister Ignores the Science
Despite this clear evidence of a dog killing a Hooded Plover chick and the compilation of science collected by the public, BirdLife Australia and Parks Victoria staff, The Minister refuses to ban dogs in the Mornington Peninsula National Park, see The Age 21 March 2015.
The Minister is ignoring the advise from:
Ornithologists, ecologists, zoologists, volunteers, a forum put together by Parks Victoria, the Victorian National Parks Association, BirdLife Australia, the Friends of the Hooded Plover and the majority of Parks Victoria staff and the Department of Environment Land Water and Planning to mention a few.
The Minister is risking the survival of Hooded Plovers and appears she would rather a continued unsustainable breeding outcome for Hooded Plover in the Mornington Peninsula National Park in favour of upsetting dog walkers. The same dog walkers who mostly ignore park regulations and walk their dogs off leash in a Victorian National Park. The same dog walkers of whom two have assaulted a volunteer.
The Minister is also out of step with the local MLA for Nepean, Martin Dixon who has addressed Parliament and suggested dogs should be banned from the Mornington Peninsula National Park. The Greens have also suggested, “off the record” that they will support a total ban of dogs but have yet to say so publicly.
My thoughts are, if you live in Melbourne and want to see a Hooded Plover before they become locally extinct in the Mornington Peninsula National Park, you had better get down to the National Park quickly. There are fewer than 600 Hooded Plovers left in Victoria and only 60 in the National Park.
In June 2013, Parks Victoria announced they would continue to allow dogs to be walked on beaches where Hooded Plovers breed in the Mornington Peninsula National Park. There may be fewer than 600 Hooded Plovers left in Victoria and the species has recently been listed on the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999. It has been listed on the Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act 1988 for a number of years.
Many, (if not most) of the dog walkers allow their dogs to run off lead.
As of the 10th of January 2015 and since June 2013 there have been:
Chicks hatched = 60*
Chicks lived longer than 35 days = 2
Chicks currently alive = 9
Chicks dead = 49*
* These are estimations. Parks Victoria don’t provide coherent long term results on Hooded Plover breeding success in the Mornington Peninsula National Park.
If you want to help Hooded Plovers email Ryan Smith
and ask him to ban dogs in this National Park.
8 January 2014
Twenty one Hooded Plover Chicks have died in the Mornington Peninsula National Park
The Hooded Plover breeding season on the Mornington Peninsula is more than halfway completed. Since it’s start in October 2013, there have been 33 nesting attempts, 85 eggs laid and 21 chicks hatched. All of these chicks have died. The 2013/14 breeding season for Hooded Plovers in the Mornington Peninsula National Park is shaping up to be the worst in the last decade.
Sadly this is expected on the Mornington Peninsula. For a number of years, over 90 % of breeding attempts in the Mornington Peninsula National Park have failed. During the 2011/2012 breeding season, there were around 137 eggs laid with only three chicks surviving. That’s a failure rate of 98%
For the 2013/14 season, the failure rate is currently 100%
Hooded Plovers mostly nest on ocean beaches and one of the biggest known threats to Hooded Plover chicks is domestic dogs. Dog walkers on beaches frequently allow their dogs to roam off lead, which not only causes stress to Hooded Plover chicks but last year two volunteers watched a Labrador run down and kill a Hooded Plover chick.
Parks Victoria has spent the last three years and thousands of dollars reviewing dog walking in the Mornington Peninsula National Park but unfortunately for Hooded Plovers, dogs are still allowed in the National Park and more importantly, on beaches where Hooded Plovers nest.
There are fewer than 600 Hooded Plovers left in Victoria.
0403 997 831
08 January 2014