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Posted on 27/06/2022 by Phillip Island Nature Parks

Know Your Nature Parks - Winter at the Nature Parks


As we keep warm indoors during these cooler months, 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

The Hooded Plover breeding season is officially over, with 14 chicks successfully fledged this is the second highest number recorded in 30 years of monitoring! 

During winter, Hooded Plovers move in flocks between feeding spots around and off the island. A flock of 8-15 hoodies has been regularly spotted at Summerland beach in front of the Penguin Parade viewing platforms alongside a small group of Red-capped plovers.

Hooded Plovers will start breeding again in late August to early September. You can help them by walking on the wet sand as you pass by and keeping dogs on lead.

Short-tailed Shearwaters  

The Shearwater adults and chicks have now left our shores to fly directly towards the Sea of Japan.  Whilst much is still to be learned about the fledglings and their journey, we do know the adults have no stopovers, and they don’t even touch the water much on their way so are probably not feeding at all. The trip for adults is about 13,000 km from the Southern Ocean near Antarctica to the Sea of Japan and takes them only about two weeks. Most birds then move across to the Bering Sea near Alaska, another 6,000 km, though not all at the same time. It is summer in this part of the world and whilst in the Northern Hemisphere the birds are far more sedentary, they find the most productive waters and spend a lot of time sitting on the water foraging.

On The Ground

Flora

The yellow bottle-brush flowers of the coast banksia and the white star-shaped flowers of the white correa continue to flower through winter helping to brighten up the grey skies. But for most of the plants in the Nature Parks, it is underground where the activity is happening at this time of year. Good rains mean that the soil is alive with fungi, many of which are important allies of the plants helping them take up nutrients by their roots. The fruiting bodies of some fantastic fungi can be seen now amongst the leaf litter.

Along the beaches, mangrove seedlings are washing up. Mangroves are a unique group of plants in that the seeds germinate while still attached to the mother plant. The grey mangroves in Westernport are currently dropping their seedlings. They can float around in the water for months and will hopefully, eventually find themselves settling into a suitable substrate where they can take root.

Fox Sighting

A reminder that any possible fox 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.

Foreshore Management

Our planned strengthening works to the staircase to Forrest Caves beach in response to ongoing coastal erosion are now expected to take place in mid-July. The works are weather dependent, exact dates for this construction will be posted to our Facebook event and local beach signage will be updated. Alternate access during this time will be via Bruce Ave. To learn more follow us on Facebook and be sure to sign up to the Facebook event

Surf Beach Sunderland Bay Biodiversity Project

To protect significant coastal vegetation and cultural heritage in this area from the impacts of rabbits, the construction of a rabbit-exclusion fence in conjunction with a rabbit control program and targeted revegetation program will be occurring. This project is a resident led initiative, with the support of Surf Beach Sunderland Bay Coastcare Group, Bass Coast Shire Council, Bass Coast Landcare Network, Bunurong Land Council and Phillip Island Nature Parks. Construction is expected to commence in early August, a community drop-in session is being held Saturday 16 July 10am at the Surfies Point car park. Further information is available https://www.penguins.org.au/about/local-community/news/biodiversity-project/

On Our Shores and In Our Waters

Penguins

The Little penguins are emerging from what is known as the ‘Autumn breed’. This is a time when their behaviour is just like the start of the Spring breeding season – they return to their burrows, perform courtship rituals, and even lay eggs. As the days get shorter and the weather colder, they will face the rigours of winter. Little penguins can deal very well with cold waters, due to their compact, waterproof outer feathers and inner down – just like a doona inside a wetsuit!  When the water temperature around Phillip Island drops to 10-12 degrees Celsius, their food sources, such as small fish, may move away from Phillip Island meaning the penguins have to travel further for food. Despite these long feeding trips, the penguins still come ashore at Phillip Island, an average of four times during Winter.

Seal Rocks News

This year saw the 5th annual SealSpotter challenge take place! The three-week challenge called upon everyday citizens to help protect our population of Australian fur seals by helping to identify new pups and entangled seals captured in thousands of drone images of the colonies at Seal Rocks here on Millowl and The Skerries near Mallacoota. This allows Nature Parks scientists to analyse seal population and marine debris entanglement data faster and more accurately, leading to a greater understanding of their world and the threats they face.   Over 13,000 images were counted with participants from all over the world including Australia, Spain and Hungary! Thank you

Wildlife Rehabilitation

The Rehabilitation Centre has finally slowed as the weather cools down and we shift into Autumn. We received 253 calls from March to May involving 31 different species. We have released several species including a Pacific Gull and three Little Penguins. As well as five Gould’s Wattled bats, which were found in a disused caravan at Summerland and carefully placed in a box by the house owner before calling the Rehabilitation Centre. All five were healthy and fit and were released successfully without incident after sunset.

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 - just 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