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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. 27

A u g u s t 2007

Opportunities for volunteers in September and October (see page 3)

Western Ground Parrot goes global Now, with the help of YouTube you can SEE a Western Ground Parrot (WGP) feeding and resting in his natural habitat! The short video is a compilation of some extraordinary movies taken in spring 2006 by Brent Barrett and Mike Barth. This bird became accustomed to being studied. The manner of feeding as well as which plants and what part of them are being selected – flowers or fruit for example - can be seen. WGPs rest in the middle of the day. The end of the clip shows the bird being very cautious about moving into the open to cross a track. He appears much more concerned about this than about being followed by the photographer. The link is below. The quality suffers in the YouTube process but it may help to view a little further back from the screen than you usually do. It can be viewed with a normal web browser. http://youtube.com/watch?v=ScL_zMsN_bs

Search for Western Ground Parrot in the Jurien area This project is a Birds Australia WA initiative, made possible by a gift from an anonymous donor. The project is being strongly supported by the Department of Environment and Conservation (DEC).

The August field trip was successful in many ways but we were not able to find any ground parrots. There was an excellent team of volunteers and most of the time listening conditions were very good although from some sites, difficulty was experienced with the constant traffic of Brand Highway. Birds generally were calling much more vigorously than they had been in April and the dawn and evening choruses were filled with sound.

Volunteer Barbara Hart surveying in Badgingarra National Park 1


In some areas the Tawny-crowned Honeyeater calls bore no resemblance to ground parrot calls. In other spots, w e were certain that some of the Tawny-crowned Honeyeaters had heard ground parrots. In fact it wasn’t until volunteer John Tucker followed the sound to finally observe a Tawny-crowned Honeyeater making one especially authentic-sounding call that we could change one particular ‘maybe’that had fooled three of us, to ‘no’.This was in the Badgingarra National Park where it seems almost certain that Western Ground Parrots lived until the fire of 2003. We have not been able to ascertain (yet) whether any remain there. Recent Sightings One of the outcomes of the surveys for ground parrots in the northern sandplain has been the additional evidence of their relatively recent presence in the area. When the project began there was only one recent record: Shane Heriot’s sighting at the mouth of the Hill River in May 2001. Now five additional recordshave come to light. All are unconfirmed. The most recent is from Humphrey Hayes (who later became a volunteer with the project) and this sighting was in a very unexpected location. Humphrey Hayes Ground Parrot account

This sighting was in October 2006, close to sunset. Location by GPS using datum WGS 84: easting 310828; northing 6645621.

The sighting was in low dunes along the waterfront in Jurien townsite. The dunes are between a path and the sandy beach.

Humphrey was walking on the path. Suddenly he saw a flash of green as two parrots erupted from near his feet. They flew parallel to the path, low over the vegetation, and in a straight line, then dropped back to the ground only about fifteen metres away.

Humphrey crept closer. The birds were now feeding. One climbed up to reach spinifex seeds then dropped back to the ground. One stayed in view. Humphrey saw black and yellow on the bright green back. He didn’t see any red.

Humphrey is interested in birds, accustomed to observing wildlife, and is familiar with Rock Parrots which could be expected to be in the situation described above. He had not seen parrots like these before and consulted his bird field guide. He had no doubt that the birds he saw were Ground Parrots.

Brenda Newbey, June 2007. This account has been checked by Humphrey.

In August Humphrey viewed with close attention some of the video footage of the Ground Parrot. He remains confident that is the species he saw last October. There is quite a large area of coastal shrubs and heathland adjacent to the place where the birds were seen. This in turn adjoins a large area that had recently been cleared for development. Although the habitat does not seem ideal, it may be suitable at times and the birds in the Jurien area, may of necessity be more mobile than those in the Fitzgerald River National Park seem to be. The Hill river mouth sighting in 2001 was among a few acres of sedges but surrounding the sedges is a much larger area of coastal vegetation similar to that at Jurien. Should you be in Jurien within the next couple of months and walking along the coastal pathway keep the possibility of an encounter with ground parrots in mind.

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T h e W e s t e r n G r o u n d P a r r o t R e c o v e r y P r o j e c t – Update – b y M i k e B a r t h With the nesting season now just around the corner, project staff are gearing up for another search for the elusive Western Ground Parrot nest and have plans to radio-track a pair of breeding birds in the Fitzgerald River NP. Recent surveys indicate declining numbers of Western Ground Parrots in the park and very little recolonisation of available habitat is taking place. The three main factors for declines involve the “3 F’s”: f i r e s (uncontrolled wildfires displacing birds and creating unsuitable habitat), ferals (predation by feral foxes and cats) and f r a g m e n t a t i o n (isolated patches of suitable habitat mainly as a result of past land clearing). Another factor could be related to the breeding success (or lack of success) of the birds. The radio-tracking study this year may give us insight into the breeding biology of this elusive bird and help to identify some basic information such as clutch size, home range size and fledging success rate. All this information will give us a better picture of how this elusive parrot fits into the park’s dynamic ecosystem. Volunteer assistance will be required. If you’d like to help out please see contact details below…. Upcoming field trip dates are: Sept. (3-9th), (11-17th), (18 - 24th), (25th-1st Oct), October (2-8th), (9 15th), (16 - 22nd) and (23 - 29th).

Western Ground Parrot photographed during the 2006 breeding season (Photo by Brent Barrett)

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

The Western Ground Parrot Recovery Project is funded through the South Coast Natural Resource Management Inc., the regional group for NRM on the South Coast of Western Australia. Funding provided by the Australian and Western Australian Governments through the joint National Action Plan for Salinity and Water Quality programme and the Natural Heritage Trust.

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Award for David David Chemello is the Technical Officer with the DEC Western Ground Parrot project. He has been with the project for longer than either of the two Research Scientists and his input was an important part of the handover from Brent to Mike. Everyone who has read the Friends of the WGP newsupdates or who has been on one of the south coast ground parrot field trips has some idea of David’svaluable contribution to the project as a whole. He is a Graduate Recruit with DEC and last month received the Director General’s Merit Award which is the runner-up award for the graduate recruit who has displayed the best all round performance in both theoretical and practical areas. Congratulations David. David encountered a rare and strange creature on a recent field trip and, undaunted, he captured the photo on the left. David setting off for another ground parrot survey session is on the right.

More Shirts

In view of the feedback we have decided to do another run of shirts. This time, all being well, there will be tee shirts only and there will be child sizes. For the child sizes, we will probably use a scaled down version of the Wendy Binks painting of the bird from the side. The shirt colours will be different and so will the text. Any ideas for the text? Submit them soon to Brenda.

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 October 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: Birds Australia Western Australia, Peregrine House, 167 Perry Lakes Drive, Floreat. WA 6014

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August 2007 #27