beach-rules-still-a-dogs-breakfastHooded Plover coordinator for the Bass Coast Region, Steve Johnson, was on hand at last week’s ‘Dog’s Breakfast’ in Inverloch to provide information, not only about Hooded Plovers but also about other threatened beach-nesting birds in the local area. M010415

IT WAS billed as a ‘Dog’s Breakfast’ by Birdlife Australia and the Bass Coast Shire Council, and in several respects, that’s the way it turned out when dog owners, with their pooches in tow, and bird lovers met at Rainbow Park in Inverloch last Wednesday morning.
Although well behaved, the dogs were barking, sniffing and doing some of the other things that dogs do.
And the bird and nature enthusiasts, in smaller numbers, were milling around waiting to be asked for information.
It must be said that there was something of an uneasy tension at first between the two groups with one dog owner making the allegation that reports of dogs destroying a Hooded Plover nest recently were “just a set-up”.
Hooded Plover coordinator for the Bass Coast Region, Steve Johnson, denied anyone could have replicated dog tracks inside a protected area simply to cast aspersions on dog owners.
But the local dog lover wasn’t having any of it.
Thankfully, it was an isolated incident and the morning meeting over breakfast, for dogs and humans alike, was a measured success.
But typical of “meetings” these days, no one formally presented any information or facilitated a public question and answer session.
As is standard practice these days, the information was provided on stand-up billboards and in pamphlets and it was up to everyone to seek it out for themselves – it wasn’t a “public meeting” per se.
It left the dog owners, as many as 40 of them with their dogs on leads, pretty much talking among themselves with the representatives of Birdlife Australia, Coastcare, and Bass Coast Friends of the Hooded Plover largely missing the chance to present their information.

The birds

According to Mr Johnson, there have been two pairs of Hooded Plovers breeding in the Norman Point area of Inverloch this summer, one of which has already successfully taken a chick through to flight.
“They’re still there so they might be trying again. Hopefully they are,” Mr Johnson said.
“The second pair has had two unsuccessful attempts. With the first lot, someone went into the enclosure with a dog and we don’t know what happened but the eggs went missing.
“The second ones were probably taken by a fox as we saw fox prints in the enclosure.
“That pair is still out there too so hopefully they’re having another go.”
They aren’t the only endangered, beach nesting birds that have chosen to make Inverloch home this summer.
There’s also a pair of Pied Oyster Catchers out on the temporary sand spit at Point Norman who’ve successfully hatched two chicks after two attempts despite choosing a precarious place to set up home.
One of their attempts was too close to the water and the eggs were taken by a high tide.
“They’re going well and we’ve been able to band those chicks so we’ll be able to monitor their progress.”
There’s also been four pairs of Red Capped Plovers at Point Norman, some Fairy Terns scoping the area out for suitable nesting places, without settling, and some Beach Stone Curlews, probably from Northern Territory or Queensland, at Screw Creek, although they’ve gone now.
“We’ve had quite an active summer.”
Mr Johnson appealed to dog owners to give the protected nesting areas a wide berth and to have their dogs on a leash when visiting the Point Norman area, as the shire’s new regulations require.

The dogs

For their part, the dog owners were happy of the chance to find out some information about the birds and to enjoy a barbecue breakfast, but all claimed that dog owners generally take a responsible attitude when walking their animals on the beach, especially in the vicinity of the protected nesting areas.
Labrador owners, John and Dianna Resuggan of Inverloch noted, however, that they are still disappointed about the arrangements for off-leash exercising of dogs.
“A lot of people are concerned that if they say too much, the shire might take the area between Grandview Grove and Cuttriss Street off them as an off-leash area but the truth of it is that the area is too small,” Mr Resuggan said, whose dogs ‘Toby’ and ‘Ella’ love visiting the beach for a run and a swim.
“We would like to see it extended beyond Cuttriss Street.
“Our dogs are our life now that there’s no one else at home.
“We walk the dogs every morning from 7am onwards in the off-leash area but some days it’s just so busy with swimmers, fishermen, other beach users and dogs.
“We put our dogs on the lead when there are people around. You can’t just let the dogs run off when there are all those people around.”
Mr Resuggan said the situation was a lot better before.
“I don’t see any problem with letting the dog off the leash when there’s no one else around and then putting them back on when you’re approaching a protected area or when people are around.
“Even if you had the situation that dogs must be on the leash at all times between, say 9am or 10am and 5pm, there’s got to be a simpler alternative to what we’ve got now.
“Our daughter lives down near Torquay and they have a much bigger area (on the beach) for the dogs to go off-leash and there are no problems,” Mrs Resuggan said.
Mr Resuggan would like to see the matter reviewed and simplified next year.
“There’s a high level of dog ownership in Inverloch and I’m not sure the council was aware of that when they took this on.
“You’ve also got the issue of people visiting the beach for the day and not realising there are restrictions before they get here.”
Both the dogs and their owners, and the bird enthusiasts enjoyed the barbecue breakfast but there appears to be quite some way to go yet before their issues are finally put to bed.