Last weekend (June 22-23) the weather was warm and still enough for a walk on the beach.
Those who went to the Inverloch Lagoon may have been surprised to see the considerable number of birds there.
The enlarged, greatly altered lagoon, offers a remarkable place for the birds to relax, forage and dive for food.
It offers a peaceful walk for those people who may look in awe at the hundred or so swans enjoying their swim. Cameras click. Children point in joy.
The many smaller birds sharing the area may go unnoticed, but a few people watch, breathing deeply, unwinding, rejoicing that such wonders exist.
Numerous people take to the beach with their dogs. Those owners who have their dogs on leads are obeying the signs, although birds are still alarmed.
What panics the birds even more are the dogs that run around freely. The dogs do no wrong. They are having a great time.
Their owners are breaking the law, yet their dogs could have a wonderful romp at an off-lead beach.
If owners don’t expect to get caught and they don’t care about birds, why should they worry about the disturbance that their dogs cause?
Some owners believe that their dogs do no harm, whilst others believe that their dogs have a right to play on any beach and no rules will change their mind.
Some believe that their dogs are under effective voice control so the signs prohibiting dogs from being off lead are not meant for them.
Unfortunately, even the best behaved dog, without intending to do so, can alarm and even kill birds.
Recently scientists stated that Australian wildlife is in an extinction crisis and we are number 2 in the world for species loss.
In less than two months the endangered hooded plovers will probably lay their clutch of two or three eggs close to the lagoon, as they have since it first formed.
Other beach nesting birds, such as the red capped plover and pied oyster catchers, will also choose this area to try to raise a family.
With luck, a small number of eggs will produce young that mature into adults, but ill-fated birds may have a number of attempts with no success.
There are many dangers for beach nesting birds, including foxes, birds of prey, coastal population growth and loss of habitat, so some dog owners argue that their dogs are not the only danger, yet in saying this, they admit that their dogs are one of the dangers.
Dogs may just be what tip the scale against hooded plovers and other endangered birds.
For dog owners who say that their dogs would never chase a bird, that may be true, but a dog off the lead moves erratically, and such a dog spells danger, causing birds to move off their nests, leaving eggs exposed.
Even well controlled, on lead dogs may frighten birds off nests or away from the young that they hope to protect.
The beach should be enjoyed, but before taking dogs to a place where there are many birds, such as the lagoon, imagine the fear that birds face when facing any threat.
Certainly, dogs are an important part of many families, and families want to enjoy the beach with their dogs. This is possible at a number of Bass Coast beaches.
In Inverloch, dogs under control are permitted, off lead, at all times along the Anderson Inlet beach between Grandview Grove and Cuttriss Street.
There, dogs can have fun while their owners relax and enjoy beach activities with their dogs.
In other areas refer to https://www.basscoast.vic.gov.au/services/pets-animals/where-can-i-walk-my-dog
In less than two months birds will be breeding on the beaches. We are so lucky to be able to witness that.
For the sake of the birds, the ecosystem and future generations of beach goers, birds must survive.
Volunteers are needed to help monitor the birds and chicks, report when the birds are nesting, and talk to beach users about the birds and threats to them.
To find out about becoming a volunteer, contact BirdLife Australia on 03 9347 0757 or email hoodedplover@birdlife.org.au
Bron Dahlstrom, Inverloch