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Posted on 04/04/2022 by Phillip Island Nature Parks

Know Your Nature Parks - Autumn in the Nature Parks

It’s another busy period on Millowl (Phillip Island) the breeding season is over and it’s time for many of our species to prepare for migration. Our Conservation team have been busy across all areas of the parks, read on to find out about what is going on behind the scenes at Phillip Island Nature Parks.


In The Skies - Birdlife

Hooded Plover Breeding Season Update

So far so good for the 2021/22 Hooded Plover breeding season. Nature Parks Rangers have observed a total of 48 eggs which resulted in 17 chicks (35.4% success rate). Although the number of eggs laid was well down on previous years, the hatch rate has increased, and we have seen a good number of chicks. As for fledglings, there have been 3 chicks fledging successfully so far with 7 more chicks at 3 locations well on their way. The fledglings seemed to be over achievers, learning to use their wings faster than we typically observe – which was great for the chicks but not for our team trying to band them.

Staying clear of signed and/or fenced areas where birds are nesting gives them a much greater chance of success: nests on busy beaches fail without protection, but with fencing/signing, they have an equal chance of fledging chicks compared with birds that nest on remote beaches. You can help by reading the nest update signs, keeping dogs on a leash, walking on the wet sand past a refuge and not lingering in front of a refuge between the refuge and the water.

Short-tailed shearwaters leave

Autumn is a time when Adult Short-tailed shearwaters are leaving our shores to begin the long flight to the Bering Strait near Alaska starting with a trip south to feed in the rich waters around Antarctica before heading north. They leave their fat, fluffy chicks behind in the burrows where they lose weight and grow their adult flight feathers. In late April/early May, they will take off to commence their own migration. When the chicks take these practise flights, they often ‘crash land’ on roads at night as they are attracted to bright lights, or can end up in unusual places, even your backyard.

The Nature Parks runs a Shearwater Rescue program early morning and evenings after dark where staff and volunteers remove the shearwater chicks from dangerous locations such as roads and return them to safe areas of the colony to have another attempt at flight. (Note only appropriately trained staff perform rescues on roads, volunteers help release birds to safe areas of the colony).

How you can help:

  • Slow down on roads at night and early morning and take note of reduced speed limits
  • Turn off any outdoor lights in homes and business in the vicinity (San Remo, Surf Beach, Cape Woolamai)
  • Return birds found in unsafe areas to the shearwater colony – place them under a bush or in a burrow if safe to do so – do not walk over shearwater burrows as they collapse easily and can injure birds inside.
  • Our rescue program runs between mid-April – early May, please be aware of rangers on roads and changed traffic conditions during this time. Thank you for your support.

Also, in the skies – other Birdlife

Look for yellow robins and flame robins that have arrived back on Phillip Island from as far away as Tasmania.

New Zealand dotterel arrive from the highlands of NZ to escape the cold winter. Look for these shorebirds on local beaches such as Kitty Miller Bay and Observation Point.

The migration of birds of prey such as Swamp Harriers from Tasmania to mainland Australia reaches a peak. Look for them around wetlands – you can recognise them by the white band on their tail.

Pacific gulls have brought their chicks from the islands off Wilsons Promontory to feed. These large gulls reach maturity at approximately four years of age and are listed as significant fauna in the Nature Parks because of their colonial nesting habits.

On The Ground

Echidnas are still out and about. Please be careful when driving as they may sometimes cross a road!

We are very proud to continue to be able to declare our island fox free, however if you do think you may have seen a fox, please let us know.  Reports of fox sightings at Oswin-Roberts Reserve and Silverleaves were investigated with detection dogs and cameras however no evidence has been found to date

Any possible sighting will be investigated by our specialist team. Please report any suspected sightings by calling:  0419 369 365. Injured foxes should be taken to the nearest veterinary clinic on the mainland, it is imperative that no foxes be brought to the island for any reason.

A total of 18 feral cats were trapped over 1899 trap nights (number of traps x number of nights) in areas including the Nobbies, Observation Point, Rhyll Inlet, and Long Point bringing the total to 57 cats for the year. Camera monitoring has revealed at least 4 adult feral cats and kittens in Oswin Roberts Reserve recently. This information will be used to estimate feral cat densities at key sites across the island, and more immediately, will guide cat control efforts in the coming weeks.

Foreshore Management

Look out for changes down at Forrest Caves in the coming months! We'll be conducting strengthening works to the staircase to Forrest Caves beach in response to ongoing coastal erosion.

The works are weather dependent and are anticipated to occur over approximately 8 days between mid-May and the end of June. Further communications will be provided when the exact dates are known.

Alternate access during this time will be via Bruce Ave.

These vital works will stabilise and strengthen the staircase structure to ensure ongoing safe access to Forrest Caves

To learn more follow us on Facebook and be sure to sign up to the FB event.

On Our Shores and In Our Waters

Penguins moulting

After the busy breeding season, Little Penguins are completing the process of moulting. This is when penguins go through a complete rejuvenation by replacing all their old feathers with new ones. This gain, however, does not come without pain. The penguins must spend about 17 days ashore, suffering from the heat, covered in fleas and ticks and with no food or water.

Before the moult, they feed intensively and almost double their body weight to withstand the long fast. During moult, you will often see penguins onshore during the day and you will see scatters of feathers around their burrows. After moult, the penguins are very thin when they emerge from their burrows with their sleek new feathers which ensure they are fully waterproof and prepared for long feeding trips in the cold winter seas. They head straight out to sea to feed. During winter, their feeding trips can often take them as far as South Australia. They have no commitments on land at this time as their chicks have fledged and they have a break from their partners before they reunite for the spring breeding season. Many penguins still return to the colony during winter – perhaps just to check on their burrows and territories – the real reason why is yet another mystery of the lives of our Little penguins.

Seal Rocks news

Australian fur seal females and pups remain at Seal Rocks, they are moulting at the moment and females are coming and going feeding the pups, big breeding males have left and are off foraging out in Bass Strait but some juveniles are still around - they sometimes wait to see if they can still get some milk from mum either being sneaky or if the recent pup has died.

On dry land much work is being done by our team, including a resident PhD student who is researching the impacts of vessel visitation and associated vessel noise on the pup health at the rocks. We have also partnered with the South East Trawl Fishing Industry Association and RMIT University to help reduce seal entanglement via the placement of custom-built bins on boats designed to ensure more rubbish is kept onboard.

Wildlife Rehabilitation

Our rehabilitation rangers responded to over 430 calls to assist with injured wildlife throughout January and February this year! The injured wildlife represented over 35 different species. Our team treated 182 of these animals, of which 28 were little penguins.

One of the malnourished juvenile penguins cared for achieved fame on release for World Penguin Day, getting airtime on both channel 7 and 10 News. ‘Red’ spent about a month in care at the Nature Parks Rehabilitation Centre after being found by a member of the public in Cowes.

A Lesser Long Eared Bat was found heat affected at the Rip Curl store and after rehydration and a bit of tasty tucker (mealworms) the bat recovered and flew off instantly when released. Two juvenile magpies, initially admitted as orphans, were finally released late December after spending about one and a half months in the shelter learning to become independent.

Keeping wildlife wild – the greatest thing you can do for wildlife is to keep it wild. These animals are very different to domestic animals, and have developed very specific diets, behaviours and habitat needs over thousands of years. What you can do to help:

•             Don’t feed or approach wildlife unless injured, admire them from a distance

•             Create habitat on your property by planting local indigenous plants for food and shelter

•             Landholders can create wildlife corridors

•             You could also provide nesting boxes for birds and mammals

•             Install a bird bath or pond

For more information, or if you find injured wildlife, you can call Phillip Island Nature Parks on 5951 2800 or Wildlife Victoria 8400 7300

Share Your Nature Parks

Don't forget to share your Nature Parks images with us by using our hashtag #PhillipIslandNP