Waders are some of the most threatened species of birds in the world and we are privileged to have several species right at our back door and within the wetlands complex. Some make remarkable migratory journeys from the northern hemisphere to visit while others are local residents facing the challenges of survival against changing climatic conditions and human interactions.
Sooty Oystercatcher (Haematopus fuliginosus) NEAR-THREATENED
A moderately common, resident bird and we are fortunate to have small flocks along The Cape coastline. They are beach-nesting birds and so are vulnerable to human interactions. Look out for their all black plumage, red eyes and thick red bill. In strong coastal winds, they often tuck their head into their shoulder and stand on one leg into the breeze. They are near threatened in Victoria.
Pacific Golden Plover (Pluvialis fulva)
A remarkable migratory bird from western Alaska (and northern Siberia) that is an uncommon visitor to our coastline over summer. You will mainly see them on the rocks near 2nd Surf in small flocks of about 20 birds. A small-medium plover, its plumage in Australia (when it is non-breeding) consists of golden, ‘sparkling’ markings with a yellowish face and black bill.
Black-fronted Dotterel (Elseyornis melanops)
A small dainty bird that migrates from inland and appears in pairs around September at The Cape, primarily located in the wetlands and restored creek line where it works the fringes on mud and gravel as it avoids dense vegetation cover. From a distance, it is quite similar in appearance to the Hooded Plover on the beach – but it is slightly smaller, does not have the full black hood, has a maroon stripe on its wing and a distinctive black V on its chest. It will only wade in water a few millimetres deep. Nests are usually in small depressions on the ground near the water’s edge.
Hooded Plover (Thinornis cucullatus) VULNERABLE
The most vulnerable bird in our neighbourhood, we are extremely fortunate to have a number of these resident birds and breeding pairs close by on our beaches. Their numbers are hugely impacted by human actions and nest disturbances. Signs and roped-off areas advise off their nesting areas and our expected behaviour in the breeding season – that is by keeping away from their nesting areas, usually a shallow depression in the sand beyond the high tide mark and keeping dogs on leashes to prevent them chasing the birds. The breeding season is from August-March, the busiest time around The Cape area. During the non-breeding season, they form small flocks (usually 5-10 birds) along the various beach locations , but then pair up in the breeding season. These birds are listed as vulnerable in Victoria and it is estimated only 600 birds remain in Victoria.
Masked Lapwing (Vanellus miles)
There are several of these fairly common birds within The Cape and a resident pair have set up territory around the central wetland complex. You can often see them venturing out into the grassy open spaces around the estate. They are noticeable by their noisy, grating call, are easily alarmed and can be quite aggressive (even toward humans) and protective of their territory. These birds have wing spurs – so this bird is also known as the Spur-winged Plover.
Latham’s Snipe (Gallinago hardwickii) VULNERABLE
We are very excited to have these special and remarkable birds as visitors to The Cape over the warmer months. In honour of their presence and conservation, The Cape has developed more, and retained existing, Snipe habitat as part of the ecological and re-vegetation strategy. Residents are also actively involved in monitoring Snipe activity within The Cape and take part in three annual surveys to monitor the conservation of this vulnerable species.
For more information on the Latham’s Snipe Project go to: https://lathamssnipeproject.wordpress.com/
This bird is a migrant to Australia over the summer months from its breeding grounds in the northern islands of Japan, a trip of some 10,000 kms! It usually arrives in September. They are difficult to see and are well camouflaged when on the ground. Usually in dense cover by day and only venture out to feed at dawn and dusk. If disturbed they will take to flight wildly, call in alarm and quickly drop to cover again. Three birds were observed within and around The Cape wetlands in 2019-20 season. They are generally seen around the boggy, marshy and wet vegetative areas near the larger central wetland complex. They are listed as vulnerable in Victoria. This bird is also known as the Japanese Snipe.