Monday, February 7, 2011

Hooded Plovers - Ulladulla

South Coast Trip - Part 1

My wife and I decided to undertake a trip down the South Coast of NSW and then onto Wilsons Promontory. This is the same trip that we abandoned at the same time last year due to bad weather. If there was a target species it was going to be the Hooded Plover, which I had not photographed before. The first stop was Ulladulla where we had arranged to meet up with Mike, a fellow photographer the next morning . The light on arrival was good so I decided to check out one of the locations prior to meeting Mike. It was literally a few minutes before I found a pair of plovers that were taking cover near a group of people playing touch football. With sun at my back I gradually edged closer to one of the birds. I was surprised just how close I was able to get to these birds as I had been warned that they were hard to approach.
They were  similar to other small plovers in that patience and a basic understanding of their behaviour was required. Later I was to find that these birds on popular town beaches were a lot more accepting of a human approach than those birds encountered on isolated beaches. After our initial success I was looking forward to meeting Mike and seeing what he could show us on his patch. We started at dawn looking at the same location that I'd had previous success, however no birds were found even after a search of the whole beach. It wasn't until we explored the beach immediately to the north that we found the pair I had photographed the night before. As a bonus there were another three birds within 10 metres of the original pair. This threesome included a young bird that must have been close to fledging.

The light was a little harsh so we grabbed a few shots and called it a day. As it turned out we would have been looking in all the wrong places if Mike hadn't helped us with the Ulladulla locations.
The little research I carried out before the trip  indicated that Hooded Plovers could be found on ocean beaches with backing sand dunes and with seaweed present. This turned out to be accurate as  the plovers were found exclusively on this type of beach.
The most frustrating thing on this trip was the total disregard the majority of dog owners had for the signs that required dogs to be on a leash. The saving grace was that the beaches located within the National Parks were completely devoid of dogs.

Other species seen on the beaches and adjoining rock ledges were Masked Lapwing, Crested Tern, Welcome Swallows and Sooty Oystercatchers. The Masked Lapwing is not usually a bird I would bother photographing, however the light was good, it was very approachable and I liked the pose.

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