The Journey of KW: East to West

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 at Collendina. Photo by Brett Diehm

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)


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