Ossie Cruse walks quietly, gently and proudly. Wearing his unique hat, Ossie has a big story to tell of a life of hardship and redemption and of persistence and resilience. He has known the love and respect of family and community, and he has experienced biased, baseless hatred. Ossie Cruse wears both his hat and his dignity well. At 86 he has a ready smile and a warmth that transmits from his eyes to his handshake. Charisma is what Ossie has, and he has it in abundance.
Ossie and his wife Robin (they met a few years ago when she contacted him as part of her PhD in gum leaf playing) wandered into our orbit while admiring Jimmy’s mural. Ossie explained to Lois that the Plover is his totemic (spiritual) emblem so Lois immediately gave Ossie her Hoodie pin and he popped it straight onto the front of his distinctive hat. A conversation ensued with Chris learning that ‘Uncle Ossie’ lives in Eden and is a humble man with an incredible story.
From his early involvement in land rights he has dedicated his life to the advancement of Aboriginal people and to the survival and sharing of Aboriginal culture and knowledge. He’s a man who respects his ancestral home and has a passion for gum leaf playing and treading lightly on the land. Ossie loved Jimmy’s Hoodie mural.
We always believed, once our mural project commenced, it would connect people with nature and help raise awareness of the challenges facing our coastal environment and its inhabitants. We could never have imagined that, through the mural, we would meet Ossie Cruse MBE, OAM, a national treasure who would give us tips on gum leaf playing and pin a Hoodie badge proudly on his hat. Art truly has the power to connect.
KW was the only known chick from the last clutch of eggs for the 2018/19 breeding season belonging to its parents’ XT (female) and JZ (male) at the Koonya West site. JZ, its father, was a legend himself in that up until his disappearance at the end of the last season was one of the oldest Hooded Plovers known to us. JZ was first banded as a juvenile on the 3rd of March 1997 at Gunnamatta so he was at least 22 years old at the time of his disappearance!
KW was born around the 8th of January from a nest that survived the Christmas onslaught of visitors to the Morning-ton Peninsula. Volunteers Karen Wootton, Chris Willocks, Diane Lewis, Rosalba Catena, Graeme Millar, Joan McPhee, and Glenn Ehmke did a fantastic job in monitoring this site and great support was offered by Parks Victoria rangers Harry Bainbridge, Jessica McKenzie, and Holly Barker. The rangers helped with fencing the nest and installing signs both on the beach (flanking the nest site) and at the access point. KW as a chick was observed to be very active with Chris adding to one of her entries on the portal, “This is the most active chick I have ever seen. Running all over lower beach with JZ trying to supervise.”
On the 13th of February when KW was 36 days old (possibly already fledged at 35 days), it was decided that we should attempt to catch and attach a leg flag to it because birds can disperse very quickly after fledging. It was successfully caught and given the leg flag “KW”. The flag KW represented the site name ‘Koonya West’ and also ‘Karen Wootton’, the volunteer who put in a lot of effort in monitoring these birds. KW is amicably known to us as ‘Sweetpea’ which was the name given to it by Karen.
After fledging, it hung around with its parents for a bit and was last seen at the site on 27th of February. It was then seen heading west, sighted at Coppins Lookout beach on 5th March and then at Portsea Sphinx Rocks on the same day. It hung out with the flock at Portsea and was last seen there on 28th of March. The next sighting of KW came from a volunteer on the other side of the Port Phillip Bay at Collendina on the 23rd of June. It was then seen earlier this season on 14th of October with JU (male) at the Collendina 5W site and it seems like they have partnered up, with KW being only 9 months old and still having ‘salt and pepper’ plumage on the head! We are waiting eagerly to hear the good news of them nesting. We only managed to track the journey of KW at a very young age from the east to west thanks to the flag and it shows what important information can be gathered from flagging Hoodies.
By Kasun Ekanayake, Beach-nesting Birds Program Coordinator, BirdLife Australia (from Word about the Hood Edition 22)
Australia begins this decade in tragic circumstances. The absolute impact of massive fires across our country is yet to be fully assessed. We already know the enormous tragedy of people who have lost their lives, their homes, and their livelihood. We know of the enormity of the damage to the environment across so much of our country but must wait to see what we have lost forever and what can regenerate and recover. It is a sobering time and our thoughts are with all for their suffering and loss.
We are now mid-way through the Hooded Plover breeding season and as I write have six chicks on two territories, Fingal Track West and Montforts, that are over a week old. Our hopes for a batch of fledglings prior to the New Year was not fulfilled. We had two birds fledge, at Fowlers and Alison Avenue, but unfortunately the Fowlers chick disappeared soon after. We still have eight active nests on the go and so hope to see a few more chicks on the ground. Our records show that on the Mornington Peninsula, nesting activity drops right away as we get into February.
One particularly interesting find by Parks Victoria Rangers was an unbanded pair that have set up a new territory on the bay side of Point Nepean. We have had birds nest inside the Heads previously but not in this particular area. The nest has two eggs and is expected to hatch in the next week.
Although the Red-capped Plover breeding season has been very disappointing I’m pleased to report that we at least have our first two chicks at the very busy East Creek Beach at Point Leo. As I have previously reported, the Balnarring Colony has for a second year been raided by Ravens. Who knows, but maybe the proximity of campers to the nest at East Creek was able to keep those pesky Ravens at bay?
In that regard, the Beach-nesting Team at BirdLife have decided to sponsor two research projects this year. One will be looking at the flocking behaviour of Hooded Plovers through the non-breeding season and the other will be looking at performing taste aversion trials against Ravens. This involves taking empty Quail eggs (which look much like Hooded and Red-capped Plover eggs) and filling them with a chemical that might dissuade a Raven from predating nests. This is a project that the FoHP Mornington Peninsula has actively encouraged.
As discussed in the last newsletter, the committee has decided to commis-sion a work of art depicting the life stages of the Hooded Plover to be painted on a wall that overlooks the Sorrento ocean beach carpark. We are expecting that the artist, Jimmy Beattie, (http://www.graffixcreative.com/ ) should have the work completed by mid February and we will let you all know of the expected time and date for a small opening ceremony.
I want to highlight again that this project has been funded by money received from Trigger Bros. from the sale of Hooded Plover merchandise. Trigger Bros. have been a massive supporter of beach-nesting bird conservation on the Mornington Peninsula and we thank them sincerely. Despite the bad weather on 26 October the Beach Walks organised by Kasun from BirdLife, assisted by Holly, Chris and Mark, were a success. Hopefully the potential new volunteers and interested locals will get more involved.
We again have held several events over the summer period to educate the community on BNB conservation. Jo and Lois have held several street stalls where they talk with the public and sell some of our merchandise. They feel that the feedback from the public has been a lot more positive which is good to hear. Thanks to Dave Roberts who organised an information stall at Point Leo for the Trigger Brothers Surf Competition. We have also contributed to junior ranger programs, have talked with Nippers at the Portsea SLSC and with 14 year old cadets at the Point Leo SLSC.
We have also started a Mornington Peninsula specific Facebook page thanks to the social media talents of Bec Westlund: https://www.facebook.com/hoodedplovermornpen/ Please check it out and share the page with friends, I think she has done an amazing job.
Finally, thanks to all our volunteers and the supporting staff at Parks Victoria for their tireless efforts. Let’s hope we can get a few more birds into the air before the end of this season. Stay Safe.
Friends of the Hooded Plover Mornington Peninsula President