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FRIENDS OF THE WESTERN GROUND PARROT A community group dedicated to the recovery of an unusual WA bird which could soon become extinct.

Newsupdate no. 25

April 2007

This issue offers opportunities for volunteers in April, May and June. Jurien-based search for Western Ground Parrots Survey time 20 to 29 April The Jurien-based search for the Western Ground Parrot (WGP) has begun. Late last month Renee Hartley, a fauna conservation officer with DEC Jurien, volunteer Shapelle McNee (very experienced in WGP work), and Brenda Newbey, spent three full days seeking WGP habitat that is currently suitable for WGPs. The main two criteria were structural suitability of the vegetation and fire age suitability. A large amount of habitat was found, mostly in national parks and nature reserves. It is encouraging that there is so much reserved land in the vicinity. Another cause for hope is that there appears to have been a series of sightings, previously unrecorded, in 2003, on a farm adjacent to what was some excellent habitat prior to a fire. This is in addition to the unconfirmed but detailed sighting in May 2001. This search will be the first thorough search for the ground parrot ever undertaken on the west coast. Past survey The previous search in 1984, comprised only six nights and one morning, in a total of only two locations (one near Cervantes and one near Badgingarra) over two days. Conditions were recorded as poor on six of the sessions and good on only one, the dawn session. This search was part of a more detailed survey which focused more on the south coast where there had been more recent ground parrot records. Early records Back in 1921, Edwin Ashby wrote in Royal Ornithologist’s Union journal, The Emu, of being told that ground parrots had been quite well known in the northerly sandplains between Dongara and Watheroo before the turn of the century. Since then widespread fires were believed to have caused a sharp decline in their numbers. Mr Ashby recommended that they be ‘searched for in such districts that have been missed by fires.’ Writing in The South Australian Ornithologist in 1968, Julian Ford mentions a report of sightings on the laterite hills between Jurien Bay and Badgingarra. These were from Mr F. Whitfield back in the 1890s and 1900s, while he was cattle droving. If you are interested in assisting with the survey this month, contact Brenda Newbey (see below). It is not necessary to stay for the whole time. Brenda Newbey, project co-ordinator. 9 337 5673; email: wgparrot@westnet.com.au This project is a Birds Australia WA initiative, and is being strongly supported by the Department of Environment and Conservation (DEC).

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The Western Ground Parrot in Waychinicup National Park: They may be gone…. by Mike Barth and David Chemello

Waychinicup National Park lies just 40 kilometres east of Albany on the South Coast of Western Australia. Records of Western Ground Parrots (WGP’s) in the area date back to the 1940’s, when fishermen reported shooting several of them on the east side of the Mt. Manypeaks Range. Three more records came from the period between 1963 and 1985, and a further ten opportunistic records were made between 1993 to 1995. In 1998 Shapelle McNee ran the first extensive survey for WGP's in Waychinicup NP, with one goal to estimate the size of the population found there. At the conclusion of 4 trips, 3 sub-populations of WGP's were found, with an estimated minimum number of 29 birds. Waychinicup NP was again surveyed in 2001 with the aim of learning about breeding behaviour, but instead it quickly became clear that numbers of birds had significantly dropped. As a result, two further surveys were conducted in 2002 and 2003. The final survey revealed that the population was at a dangerously low level, with only 4 estimated birds to be found. The last confirmed WGP record for Waychinicup was in November 2003, when one bird was heard.

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Since the commencement of the WGP Recovery Project late in 2003 there have been many evening listening sessions and one dedicated survey (Nov 2006) of Waychinicup NP with no positive records. It seems the birds no longer exist in the areas they once occurred. The reason for the decline of WGP’s in the area is uncertain. Have the birds simply moved on, which asks the question of where? Or have they succumbed to the pressures of predation from cats and foxes or changes in vegetation from drought, dieback and fires? Certainly the frequency of fires in the area has contributed, with 5 fires occurring between 1987 and 1996. We know that small populations are at great risk of extinction and chances are that a combination of factors have contributed to their decline. Will we ever hear the piercing call of the Western Ground Parrot in the heath and swamps of Waychinicup……only time will tell.

A Quick Update of Recent DEC Surveys: In early March, a survey for WGP’s was conducted in the Stirling Range National Park. The low-lying heathlands on the south side of the ranges to the west of Chester Pass Rd. were the focus of this survey and is an area where a possible WGP sighting occurred in recent years. The habitat surveyed looks similar in structure to suitable WGP habitat in the Fitzgerald River National Park, but seems to be lacking in overall plant diversity. This is likely due to the effects of dieback (Phytopthera cinnamomi). No WGP’s were detected in the week-long survey. Mike Barth prepares to listen for WGP’s in the heathlands of the south Stirling Range NP.

A recent trip to eastern D’Entrecasteaux National Park near Walpole took place in late March where the lowlying coastal heaths near Broke Inlet and Walpole were surveyed for WGP’s over an eight day period. The habitat there is quite different from areas where WGP’s exist east of Albany, probably as a result of higher rainfall. The heaths seem to recover much more quickly from fire and become very dense in a relatively short time. There are extensive areas of sedge dominated swamps inland from the coast which superficially resemble Eastern Ground Parrot habitat like that in Southeast Queensland. Overall, survey conditions were good but no WGP’s were detected. A short reconnaissance of the Windy Harbour area further west in the park revealed extensive areas of suitable looking habitat which is due to be surveyed in mid-April. We are in need of volunteers for this trip………see below for dates.

Upcoming Survey Trips: April 12 – 20 D’Entrecasteaux NP May 22 – 31 Fitzgerald River NP

May 1 – 10 Fitzgerald River NP June 12 – 21 Cape Arid NP

We are also conducting Thursday evening listening surveys to Waychinicup NP/Cheyne’s Beach on a routine basis from the DEC Albany office. For information or if you’d like to assist, please contact: Mike Barth – Project Officer ph. (08) 9842 4519, mobile 0429 842 451 or e-mail: michael.barth@dec.wa.gov.au

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David Edmonds and David Chemello in the coastal heath of D’Entrecasteaux NP.

The Western Ground Parrot Recovery Project is funded by SCRIPT (South Coast Regional Initiative Planning Team) through Australian and State Government support of the Natural Heritage Trust.

WGP Shirts featuring Wendy Binks painting Why not get yourself a perfect Autumn shirt AND promote the little-known WGP!! Colours are pale grey and black. Very few black shirts remain. All shirts are $25 with an extra $5 per shirt to pay if the shirt is to be posted. Polo and Tee style, 100% cotton. Sizes XL, M, and S only. Contact Brenda Newbey. Web pages Birds Australia WA Inc. has a web page for the Western Ground Parrot. Go to their website at www.birdswa.com.au and then access Projects, and Western Ground Parrot. There is another web page maintained by the Albany Bird Group: www.albanygateway.com.au/Topic/Environment/Albany_Bird_Watching_Group/Endangered_Birds/ The next issue of the WGP Friends newsupdate is due in June 2007. Feedback is welcome. Contacts for Friends of the Western Ground Parrot Anne Bondin. Phone (08) 9844 1793; E-mail: albanybirds@hotmail.com Brenda Newbey. Phone (08) 9337 5673; E-mail: wgparrot@westnet.com.au Address: Albany Environment Centre, PO Box 1780, Albany, WA. 6330. (Don’t use this address for shirt orders.)

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April 2007 #25  

Friends of the Western Ground Parrot Newsletter April 2007 #25

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