(Uncle Ossie Cruse. Photo by Karen Wootton)

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.

Do yourself a favour and watch the ‘Australian Story’ episode on Ossie at

Our world needs more people like Ossie.

By Karen Wootton (Friends of the Hooded Plover Newsletter, Issue 40, April 2020)

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)


We don’t have silos on the Mornington Peninsula. No industrial sites with fabulous rustic walls ripe for art. No railway stations crying out for a tart up. We do however have a plan…… We have a site, we have Parks Victoria onboard, we have a subject and, most importantly, we have Jimmy!

James ‘Jimmy’ Beattie is a renowned Melbourne aerosol artist whose work, under the moniker ‘Dvate’, adorns major sites including the much-visited Victorian silo art trail. He works in both the national and international street art scene and has a passion for conservation. Dvate’s images draw attention to our precious native animals, and his respect and connection to nature are clearly represented in his stunning works. Jimmy came to the attention of the Friends of the Hooded Plover (Mornington Peninsula) last year when he contacted our then president Diane Lewis about a work he was planning in Frankston as part of the inaugural ‘Big Picture’ street art festival. Jimmy wanted to create a piece that focused attention on a local threatened species, our precious Hoodies. Mark Lethlean generously made some of his glorious Hoodie photos available and the result is the magnificent image shown below.

Jimmy’s artwork at Frankston. Photo by Karen Wootton

Of course, we wanted more and, while we still have some paperwork issues to work through, Jimmy has agreed to adorn a space in the Mornington Peninsula National Park with one of his brilliant creations. We couldn’t be more thrilled. We’ll keep the location under wraps at the moment, just until all the legal requirements are complete, but we believe that Jimmy’s images will create a new talking point about Hooded Plovers and indeed, the issue of coastal conservation. It won’t be a huge artwork but it will be in a highly visible location with a spectacular backdrop. We’re hoping to have the artwork progress shortly, with Jimmy and his family staying on the peninsula for the duration of the project. We aim to create a festive air around the process, to engage the community and draw attention to the positive impact we can all have when we respect and share the coastal environment.

We can’t wait to share the next phase with everyone, and to unveil the end result. To say that we’re a bit excited would be an understatement. Stay tuned to welcome a new Hoodie (or two or three) to the peninsula. A huge thank you must go to Parks Victoria, and to Jimmy, for agreeing to be part of this wonderful initiative.

by Karen Wootton, 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

Presidents Report

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.

One of the new Point Nepean pair (Image: Mark Lethlean)

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, ( ) 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:
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.

Chicks using the shelter at Gunnamatta Fingal West (Image: Neil Shelley)

Friends of the Hooded Plover Mornington Peninsula President

Mark Lethlean