Birds of the Fleurieu 2015 calendar is released

Profits from sales of the 2015 Birds of the Fleurieu calendar goes towards projects protecting threatened species, including the Hooded Plover. Picture: Ash and Sue Read.
Profits from sales of the 2015 Birds of the Fleurieu calendar goes towards projects protecting threatened species, including the Hooded Plover. Picture: Ash and Sue Read.

A calendar that aims to raise money for protecting some of the Fleurieu’s threatened bird species has gone on sale.

Proceeds from the calendar 2015 Birds of the Fleurieu will go to projects protecting threatened bird species.  

Wildlife photographer and conservationist Elizabeth Steele-Collins said she produced her first bird calendar in 2006. The calendars and greeting cards have raised funds for environmental projects ever since.

Ms Steele-Collins said that loss of habitat is one of the major reasons why bird species’ are lost and a number of Fleurieu-based birds have been listed as threatened. Examples include the Hooded Plover and the White-bellied Sea-Eagle, which are known to be sensitive to disturbance in their breeding season.

“There is only one White-bellied Sea-Eagle pair on the Fleurieu and they are the only known breeding pair on the mainland coast of SA all the way from Eyre Peninsula to central Victoria,” she said.

“They have only successfully fledged one young since 2001 and this last successful breeding attempt was back in 2008. Disturbance during breeding season even from innocent passers-by can cause the eagles to abandon nests, exposing eggs and young to weather and predation.

“It is of great concern that sea-eagle numbers in SA are declining even in areas like Kangaroo Island, a traditional stronghold."

Ms Steele-Collins said most of the money from the 2014 calendar went towards the endangered Hooded Plover, a small beach-nesting bird that breeds on beaches during spring and summer.

“They need our help due to the increasing disturbance and threat to their breeding habitat,” she said.

“The focus has been on trying to protect some remote beach habitat by fencing to keep livestock away from Hooded Plover breeding territories. The elimination of other threats such as foxes and feral cats have been an ongoing program financed by the calendar.”

Ms Steele-Collins said the 2015 focus will be on the bird.

“Hooded Plover numbers continue to decline and now less than 20 pairs are left on the Fleurieu and these little birds need our help if they are going to survive as a species,” she said.

“Their chicks have one of the lowest survival rates of any bird in the world.” 

Ms Steele-Collins said Hooded Plover pairs can be found at beaches including Victor Harbor, Basham, Waitpinga, Sheepies, Tunkalilla, Normanville, Carrickalinga and Myponga. She said at the moment, two Hooded Plover pairs are nesting on Victor Harbor beaches and the eggs are very vulnerable to being predated or stepped on.

“If the eggs make it through to hatching, the chicks are at greater risk as they cannot fly for five weeks and could be anywhere on the beach trying to feed or hide,” she said.

“The parents do not feed their young who, from day one, need undisturbed space to feed themselves at the waters edge or around clumps of seaweed.

“The parents do an amazing job at trying to protect the chicks by hiding them in the face of disturbances or threats. Unfortunately, as long as the parents do not feel it is safe for the chicks to venture out to forage, they will keep them in hiding.”

Ms Steele-Collins said if this persists too long, the chicks will starve.

“This is all too common a scenario especially on beaches frequented by people and dogs, and in some locations vehicles as well. The Hoodies certainly have a lot to contend with,” she said.   

Ms Steele-Collins said dogs should be kept on a lead while on the beach between August and March each year to look after the plovers.

“Also keep watch out for the tiny Hooded Plover chicks to avoid accidentally stepping on them. Chicks are only the size of a 50-cent piece when first hatched,” she said.

Ms Steele-Collins said a number of the locally-based birds have an orange tag on their leg. She said these birds have been captured, banded and released as part of a research program, which enables individual birds to be tracked and their movements documented. These flags are designed to be easily read at a distance without disturbing the birds via binoculars or telephoto camera lenses.

 “The public is encouraged to record any flag details that they see, including the location and time of the sighting,” Ms Steele-Collins said.

The information can be sent to BirdLife Australia.

The 2015 ‘Birds of the Fleurieu’ Calendar is available from various outlets around the Fleurieu Peninsula, in Adelaide and the Hills including Visitor Information Centres, local libraries, State Flora Belair and the SA Museum Gift Shop.

To find your closest outlet or for postal orders and other enquiries phone CliffTop Creations on 8552 8822 or visit www.clifftopcreations.com

- Hoodies lay their eggs and raise their chicks during August to March

- One to three camouflaged eggs are laid in a shallow scrape in the sand on the upper beach between the high-tide mark and the base of the foredune, or on the dune itself.

- Parent birds need to sit on the nest for 28 days.

- The eggs on the beach are at great risk of being crushed under foot or eaten by dogs and other predators. If disturbed, the birds leave their nest and the eggs are adversely exposed to the hot sun or cold winds, either of which can prove fatal to the embryos.

- If the eggs hatch, the tiny chicks are only the size of a 20-cent piece and are very vulnerable, their only defence being camouflage.

- The chicks have to feed themselves from day one and need to get to the waters edge or around seaweed to forage for insects, sand hoppers and other small crustaceans

- The chicks cannot fly until they are five weeks old so the beach, especially in the busy summer months, can be a very dangerous place for parents to raise their young.

What we can do to help the Hooded Plovers to breed?

- Keep vehicles off the beach

- Put your dog on a lead

- When on the beach walk by the waters edge and try to avoid using the beach at the times of high tide

- When you see posted signs on the beach or temporary fences protecting nests and chicks, please do not linger in the area

For more information about the Hooded Plover visit www.birdlife.org.au/beach