When Chris and I found TN and her un-banded partner harassing a posse of intruder Hoodies on their patch at Fowlers (Blairgowrie), we knew something was going on. Their nest site was deserted and, during the skirmish, they returned several times to the same location on the beach, standing vigil on some of the many rocks that are strewn along the sand. Sure enough, several days later Joanie and I found the pair acting suspiciously and caught a glimpse of a gorgeously fuzzy chick. Days went by and we observed this precious poppet darting into hiding behind, beside and under the rocks and ledges that make this beach such brilliant Hoodie habitat. TN and dad were diligent and ever vigilant with their little one. After losing four chicks last season (their first as a pair) it was such a delight to watch, week after week, this small family flourish at wonderful Fowlers. Poppet was active though petite for age and we eagerly awaited some flight as we saw wing stretching and confidence on the rock platform around 30 days. I did see some stuttering, hippity-hoppity flight just above the surface of the sand but never witnessed a soar.

Poppet on Christmas day. Photo by Karen Wootton

At Christmas, with Poppet around 41 days old, we found a surfer leaving the beach with an unleashed dog and Poppet hiding among the rocks unattended. TN soon flew in after seeing another Hoodie off in a dramatic fly past with her partner, but Poppet was limping. And the next day Poppet was still favouring the right leg, and the day after that, while still moving about the beach, our little sweetie lacked the vigour and spunk that had captivated us. Mark was able to check on Poppet for us a few days later but by then our Poppet was gone. We know that the little one didn’t fly away……

I’m glad we limited the duration of our observation periods, that we allowed these wonderful parents to have undisturbed time with their first fledgling, one of only two youngsters to fledge on the Peninsula prior to Christmas. This sweet family brought us so much delight. We’ll never know what happened, what went wrong. Sadly Poppet was one of the 50% of fledglings who don’t survive their first year.

We hope they’ll try again soon and we can celebrate their success. It will be well earned and well deserved.

But we’ll always remember Poppet.

By Karen Wootton