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Newsupdate no. 57 – December 2012

Western Ground Parrot Survey Trip Report Fitzgerald River National Park 12 - 17 November 2012 By Georgina Steytler For those who have never been to the Fitzgerald River National Park - this is what you are missing out on: thousands of hectares of rolling hills, ornate dragon infested granite outcrops, beautiful flowering verticordias, calothamnus and mallee, and the odd scenic mountain backdrop. There are worst places to be camping than one of the world's top biodiversity hotspots. Our group included Abby Berryman (boss), Carol Trethowan, Michael Burns, Margot Oorebeek (ecologist extraordinaire), myself with (long-suffering) husband, Chris Steytler, and a couple of exceedingly friendly ticks. Each morning we were greeted by Abby's ever smiling face, before hopping into the car to dodge suicidal Brush-tailed Wallabies, kangaroos and emus (with chicks!). Some of the other little critters observed were an echidna, Barn Owl, Wedge-tailed Eagles, Southern Heath Monitor, Southern Emu-wrens, Rufous Fieldwrens, Hooded Robins, WGP-imitating Tawnycrowned Honeyeaters, Crested Bellbirds and a very

cheeky little Western Whipbird whom I stalked for several hours draped in my tres chic khaki camouflage net only to discover that as soon as I had left, he had happily come out in the open to entertain Margot. Alas, though we listened attentively at sunset and sunrise for 5 days, we did not hear any of our beloved WGPs. Songmeters were also set up at strategic points throughout an eastern section of the park. Some of our listening sites were known WGP areas, others had only historical records or were thought to have the appropriate habitat. Is this an ominous sign? It is difficult to say. In such a large park, we remain hopeful that the known population was just away visiting relatives for a few days. Many thanks to all my delightful camping companions for taking time out to try and help our fine feathered friends.

Photo above: Fitzgerald River National Park G. Steytler

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Jewel beetle and elusive Western Whipbird. Photos: G. Steytler Fitzgerald River National Park survey team: Abby Berryman with volunteers Georgina, Carol Trethowan, Margot Oorebeek,Michael Burns, Chris Steytler. Photo: A. Berryman

CHAIRMAN’S UPDATE Firstly, a great big THANK YOU to the volunteers and Department of Environment and Conservation staff who participated in the two recent field surveys in Cape Arid NP/Nuytsland NR and Fitzgerald NP. (Please refer to the individual reports on the surveys.) Without the support of the volunteers and DEC staff in the field, the demise of the WGP would be increasingly imminent.These surveys a great way to participate “hands on” in the conservation of the WGP, meet new and interesting people with common interests, a chance to form new friendships and visit interesting places that you may otherwise never experience. Secondly, to the committee, Anne Bondin, Val Hack, Deon Utber, Georgina Steytler and Carol Trethowan, thank you for being prepared to give up your time and be harassed, hassled, your expertise both questioned and sought. Also, a big thank you to Dr Abby Berryman our DEC Captive Management officer. Also a big thankyou to Stephen Fryc for his valuable input into producing our newsletter.Thank you all for your support. Without your support and input, the Friends of the Western Ground Parrot would not exist. I feel we have a huge uphill battle to gain the support of the general public and in the areas of corporate sponsorship, particularly corporate, to help provide the funding needed to keep our critically endangered species alive. The dedication of DEC staff in this area is unsurpassed. However, all is not doom and gloom as there is a vast amount of untapped resources out there, we just have to find them and gain their support. I wish all members and their families a Safe and Joyous Festive Season and look forward to positive outcomes for Friends of the Western Ground Parrot in 2013. By David Taylor

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Survey trip to Nuytsland Nature Reserve The eastern edge of the range of the Western Ground Parrot (WGP) falls within the remote Nuytsland Nature Reserve (NNR) which is adjacent to Cape Arid National Park. Going there is always an adventure, and this trip was no exception. The western part of NNR has a large component of low and diverse heathland, potentially suitable for WGPs. Most of it was burnt in a vast bushfire during the summer of 2002/03. The WGPs recorded previously in NNR have all been within the vegetation that escaped this fire and was long unburnt. One exception was a 2005 record of a bird heard as it flew in the evening from the bush burnt less than three years before, to settle in the older vegetation for the night. The field trip took place from 28 October to 3 November. The six volunteers, Dave Taylor, Allan Throne, Bruce Greatwich, Nigel Jackett, Russell Cannings and Brenda Newbey, were subsidized by a Department of Environment and Conservation (DEC) community grant, with the leader Shapelle McNee, contracted to DEC for the duration. Listening sites were selected in the long unburnt vegetation near where there had been WGP records previously, and also in the vegetation burnt nearly eleven years ago. We had a few problems which curtailed the number of listening sessions. This was compensated for to some extent in that we had several Songmeters (automated recording units) which were deployed, both with the listeners, and separately. These were placed during the day to record for one to five calling sessions. It is not trivial being accompanied on a survey by a Songmeter. The Songmeter itself is not too large to fit in a pack, but it is necessary to also carry a dropper to attach the Songmeter to and a mallet to ensure the dropper can stand firm. As often occurs along the south coast, weather was a factor in efficacy of this survey. One day that involved a lot of walking, started cloudy and pleasantly cool. Then around 11 am the clouds rolled back, the breeze died, and the temperature shot up to at least 36ÂşC. One of us (me), having insufficient water, and fitness, suffered Nigel gets an earful Photo: Allan Throne

heat stress (for the first time) and had to be helped the last kilometer back to the vehicle, first by Shapelle and Dave and then by Nigel and Bruce who brought extra and much-needed water from the vehicle. Wind often made listening difficult. Of the seven morning and evening listening sessions, three were excellent or very good, four were fair to poor. A puncture at 3.15 am one morning, en route to the morning sites, was quickly fixed by Bruce, Nigel and Russell and that listening session was saved. (Tawny-crowned Honeyeaters were plentiful and calling strongly and in the more southern sites we also heard White-fronted Honeyeaters.) Two morning sessions were lost due to very strong wind, and one evening session and one morning session were lost to rain which set in just as we arrived at the Tooklejenna campsite from Point Malcolm. The rain continued for twelve hours. (Three raptors were nesting within a hundred metres in the trees at Tooklejenna: Brown Falcon, Australian Hobby, and Collared Sparrowhawk). Access is a challenge in NNR being by 4WD tracks and our instructions were not to use the DEC tracks when wet. The threat of more rain led to our departure from NNR one day earlier than originally intended. As we travelled along the narrow track on the way out, with Dave ahead, the steering rod in his vehicle gave way, so the three following vehicles were trapped. After it became clear that rescue from this situation was impossible, and one makeshift repair had failed, a mechanic, Trevor, was contacted by satellite phone. He advised that a temporary repair could be made using a snatch strap. Dave had two of these, so the repair was made and it did enable Dave to drive slowly and with much concentration until by 10 pm he reached the gravel road. Two vehicles had gone on ahead to the comforts of Esperance arriving around that same time. Shapelle, in the DEC vehicle, stayed with Dave. Next morning, they made it to the bitumen and before too long Dave’s vehicle had been loaded onto the RAC towtruck. The listening sessions yielded no definite WGPs in NNR. Jeff Pinder has checked the Songmeter data and found no WGP calls. By Brenda Newbey Installing a Songmeter with two supports as it is to stay in position for a couple of days. Dave, Allan and Shapelle. Photo: B. Newbey

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Doris Thobaven, a member of FWGP, recently organised a Western Ground Parrot display at The Pines, a retirement village at Ellenbrook. It included a colouring competition. Congratulations to the winner, Hunter, shown here (on left) with her prize, "Invisible Me", and her grandmother, Mrs June Hooper. Doris too is to be congratulated for this awareness-raising initiative. Materials for a display can be provided on request.

Western Ground Parrot Captive Management Project Update Abby Berryman, DEC Conservation Officer Breeding attempt: Joy (male 09M04) and Dawn (female 09F04) In the last newsletter it was reported that Joy and Dawn had begun to mate. Mating was first observed on the 27 August and continued several times a day for the next four or five weeks. By the 10 September, Dawn had begun to gain weight and she laid her first egg on the 24 / 25 September. A second egg was laid sometime between the 26 - 28 September. It is not known whether any further eggs were laid after this as Dawn was now spending all her time sitting on the nest. After losing chicks in hot weather last year, efforts were made to provide the birds with nesting sites that were more protected from the elements and sheltered from direct sunlight. Prior to the breeding season, several nesting sites were provided, including a couple of plywood shelters, one of which had a video surveillance camera focussed on it. Frustratingly, Dawn chose to nest in the shelter without the camera, making monitoring of the nest a bit more challenging. Although it would have been good to have video surveillance on the nest, entering the aviary to move the camera was not an option as this pair is not very accepting of human presence within the aviary. Luckily, it was possible to gain a limited view into the nest through the aviary door. Once Dawn had laid the eggs, she settled down to incubate them, spending all day and night sitting on the nest apart from a short 10-15min break at first and last light. During the incubation period, Joy was very attentive, making regular visits to the nest throughout the day to feed Dawn. Based on knowledge of the Eastern Ground Parrot the incubation period is thought to be around 21 days, so the first egg was expected to hatch around the 15th of October. About this time, the frequency of Joy’s feeding visits to the nest began to increase and the behaviour of Joy and Dawn indicated that chick/s were being fed, even though they could not be seen. Dawn continued to spend all of her time sitting in the nest apart from her brief morning and evening breaks, and Joy continued his feeding duties. However, on the 29th of October it was observed that the frequency of Joy’s feeding visits to the nest had begun to drop off. Early the next morning the aviary was entered and in the nest was found one dead check and one infertile egg. An autopsy was carried out on the chick and the likely cause of death was aspiration pneumonia, probably from the chick inhaling food as it was being fed. It is unusual for a parent-raised chick to inhale food, and it has been suggested that this may indicate the chick was weak or had underlying health problems, but we can’t tell this for sure. While it is disappointing that this breeding attempt wasn’t successful, we continue to learn about the breeding behaviour of the WGP and what is required to breed them in captivity. The other two potential pairs did not attempt to breed this year, but both the females and one of the males are only two years old and possibly not quite ready to breed yet. Next year, we will experiment with rearranging pairings to see if this will encourage them to breed. It needs to be remembered that while the birds are being given the opportunity to breed, this is not yet a captive breeding program. A captive breeding program will require the capture of more birds, an expansion of the aviary complex and more resources than are currently available to the project.

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Radio interview on ABC South East in South Australia

by Anne Bondin

In late October we received an unexpected request from a South Australian radio station wanting to know more about the Western Ground Parrot. We were, of course, more than happy to comply with this request and were invited to be interviewed for Stan Thomson's Morning program. Sarah Comer (ecologist DEC/Albany) and I used this opportunity to tell South Australians about the plight of the Western Ground Parrot. You may be wondering how ABC South East became aware of the Western Ground Parrot in the first place. A recently aired program about the elusive Orange-bellied Parrot impelled one of our Facebook page supporters to post her concerns about the equally critically endangered Western Ground Parrot on the ABC South East website. Curious about this previously unknown parrot, Stan Thomson decided that he wanted his listeners to know more about it and requested an interview. It seems the word is starting to get around.........

Report from the Treasurer

Western Ground Parrot surveys at Waychinicup

A recent change in the interpretation of the Charitable Collections Act has required us to apply for a Charitable Collections Licence so we can continue our fundraising efforts. We have been advised by the WA Department of Commerce that we can expect a decision by the end of December.

We are conducting a series of surveys in the Waychinicup area where Western Ground Parrots were previously recorded. These surveys take place on Tuesday evenings between summer and early autumn. If you would like to join us, please contact us at wgparrot@gmail.com

Volunteers required to help scan data on automated recording units The deployment of automated recording units which have been used to detect Western Ground Parrot calls in the wild in recent months has amassed a huge amount of data from places as far afield as Nuytsland Nature Reserve and Waychinicup National Park. Jeff Pinder, based with the Department of Environment and Conservation (DEC) in Albany, has started to work his way through the data. To assist Jeff, we are looking for volunteers based in Albany who

are willing to help scan the data files for Western Ground Parrot calls. Volunteers need to be computer literate and are ideally able to identify Western Ground Parrot calls and are also familiar with the calls of other species occurring in the same heathland habitat.

a home computer. The software required for the task can be downloaded free-of-charge from Syrinx. It takes approximately five minutes to scan a thirty minute data file. So here is your chance to locate a Western Ground Parrot from the comfort of your home! If you want to help, please contact Jeff after New Year (he is presently on leave) on (08) 9842 4565 or by email: jeff.pinder@dec.wa.gov.au

After a training session with Jeff in Albany, volunteers will be able to identify the spectrogram of Western Ground Parrot calls. All further work can be carried out at

Please donate to the Western Ground Parrot Rescue Fund: Online: www.givenow.com.au/groundparrot Direct credit: Western Ground Parrot Rescue Fund BSB: 036-168 A/C: 317989 Cheque: Western Ground Parrot Rescue Fund Donations of $2 or more are tax deductible.

Contacts: David Taylor (Chair). Phone 0458502836

Anne Bondin (Secretary/Treasurer). Phone (08) 9844 1793

Address: PO Box 5613, Albany, WA 6332

Email: wgparrot@gmail.com

Website: http://www.western-ground-parrot.org.au Archive: Previous issues of our newsletter are available online at http://wgpnewsletters.blogspot.com/

Editor: Stephen Fryc Email: pwazzx@gmail.com

Next issue: March 2013

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WGP Newsletter December 2012  

The Friends of the Western Ground Parrot Newsletter, December 2012

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