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Newsupdate no. 65 – December 2014

Funds Raised for “Secrets at Sunrise” by Anne Bondin It is no secret that making a documentary costs a considerable amount of money. Earlier this year Jennene Riggs pitched a proposal about producing a Western Ground Parrot documentary to the ABC, but was unsuccessful as the national broadcaster's current focus was on producing “big, bold contemporary social documentaries”. Whilst disappointed, we did not let this negative reply discourage us and started looking for Plan B. With a lot of recent hype about crowdfunding, we decided that this might also be a way for us to raise funds for the documentary. We lodged a crowdfunding project with in late October and are pleased to report that we have reached our goal of $20,000 with four days to spare. As a matter of fact, we have gone well above the target with $22,236 pledged at the time of writing. A number of people who for some reason or other preferred to make donations directly to us, have also generously contributed a further $2,500. We would like to take this opportunity and thank everyone who has supported our campaign and helped us raise the funds needed to get “Secrets at Sunrise” underway. We would also like to acknowledge the help we had from a large number of people and organisations who spread the word about our crowdfunding campaign via e-mails, blogs, newsletters, Facebook and Twitter as well as the journalists who reported about it in newspapers, on radio and in online magazines. We couldn't have done it without your support – thank you! Last not least, we would like say a special thank-you to BirdLife WA for their extremely generous donation of $5,000.

Thank you for the Helping Hand !!

Secrets at Sunrise Documentary

On location: film-maker Jennene Riggs with ecologist Sarah Weste Comer. (Photo courtesy Anna Morcombe)

The Friends have teamed up with accomplished Western Australian film-maker Jennene Riggs (The Search for the Ocean's Super Predator) and with the support of the Recovery Team, we aim to produce a documentary about the race against time to save the Western Ground Parrot. Jennene has already managed to film some footage and this clip was used in the Pozible promo –: Once completed, it is intended to sell "Secrets at Sunrise" to TV channels in Australia as well as overseas introducing the Western Ground Parrot to the world and using any profits made from the documentary to support the Recovery Project.


Western Ground Parrot Recovery Project: Highlights of the update on progress 2013-14 presented at the Friends of the WGP AGM by Sarah Comer, Regional Ecologist - Department of Parks and Wildlife, South Coast. In 2013 and 2014 the Parks and Wildlife team, including IFRP team, regional and science division staff, have continued to implement recovery actions for the Western Ground Parrot. This work has been supported by funding partners (State NRM, Biodiversity Fund, South Coast NRM and Dept Parks and Wildlife) and numerous volunteers. The two major foci for this work are management of habitat (carried out by operational Parks and Wildlife staff with guidance and support from science and project staff), and ground parrot monitoring, survey and captive management. Fire management of ground parrot habitat has been a major focus of Esperance Parks and wildlife Nature Conservation Coordinator Stephen Butler, with strategic slash breaks established on key fire breaks in the Cape Arid National Park. This work was supported by the DPaW remote regions program. Key areas of habitat for Western Ground Parrots and numerous other threatened and non-threatened native fauna were baited in 2014. While the Eradicat® baits were developed to target feral cats they are also taken by foxes. Table : Summary of areas baited in 2014 and number of Eradicat® baits delivered Date Baited

Area Baited (km²)

# baits

Cape Arid National Park

March 3 – 5



Fitzgerald River National Park

March 6 – 8



Two Peoples Bay - Manypeaks

April 9




The team has also continued to monitor known Western Ground Parrot populations, and survey locations where they were previously known or where habitat looks promising. This work has been supported by numerous volunteers. A review of monitoring data collected between 2004 and 2013 is underway. This data will be essential for helping to make decisions about: a. whether to take more birds for the captive population, and from where; and b. future on-ground recovery actions, including intensity and location of predator control. CAPTIVE PROGRAM moved TO THE ZOO last July Why were birds transferred to the zoo? • Lack of resources to continue on south coast • Zoo has specialist keepers, keen and experienced in breeding parrot species • Zoo has specialist veterinary staff on hand • Existing infrastructure at the zoo was well suited to the captives • Opportunity to increase awareness more broadly • Intent to breed for release A sub-group of the South Coast Threatened Birds Recovery Team will concentrate on coordinating management and direction for the captive program. This group is currently working on securing funds to source more birds for the zoo. Husbandry for the captive birds is provided by a core team of zoo staff. Birds are serviced twice daily; once in the morning involving cleaning of feed station area and provision of fresh food with top-up of fresh green feed in the afternoon. Observation of the birds is conducted with the camera surveillance system. The birds’ weights are recorded three times a week. All information is entered into the Zoological Information System (ZIMS) data base.


The captive birds’ diet is improved prior to the breeding season including increasing native blossom and seeding grasses. The Zoo team has provided multiple nest options for the birds including artificial nests and dense pockets of vegetation Right: Abby Berryman with the captive birds waiting to be processed prior to release into their new aviaries (S Comer, DPaW) A transportable building will be available from December exclusively for Western Ground Parrots and will be set up after the breeding season for food preparation, CCTV observation and artificial rearing support including incubation and hand-raising. Subject to funding, the Zoo staff are hoping to upgrade the current Analogue CCTV system to a better quality Digital CCTV System to enable better observational capacity. The Zoo staff were really grateful to the Friends of the Western Ground Parrot for fundraising efforts in support of the Captive Breeding Program. The funds raised by Georgina’s Sunsuper Dreams Competition raised enough money to buy some essential equipment, including a state of the art Grumbatch incubator (below), an egg candler and a digital heart monitor. The newly refurbished aviaries have similar feed trays to the south coast facilities, and were planted out with native species by Zoo staff (S Comer, DPaW)

A longer summary of Sarah’s presentation is available by snail mail or internet. Please see details on last page.

Western Ground Parrots Progress at Perth Zoo (abridged) by Arthur Ferguson Supervisor Zoology (Australian Fauna) Seven captive Western Ground Parrots were transferred from the Department of Parks and Wildlife (DPaW) managed facility on the south coast to a newly refurbished customised aviary complex at Perth Zoo on Sunday 6 th July 2014. As the birds have adjusted to their new accommodation and servicing routine they have become less nervous with the presence of keepers moving through the service corridor. This has helped reduce the likelihood of birds flushing and has increased opportunity for visual observation of birds.

A high priority has been placed on vermin control, with rat bait stations placed around the perimeter of the complex, and baits replaced on a weekly basis each Sunday. Argentine ant bait stations have been placed on the corners of the complex; baits are changed and rotated monthly. To date, the proactive vermin control and strict cleaning regime has resulted in no evidence of vermin through the aviaries. With the aviary complex having an opaque polycarbonate sheet roof to guard against faecal transmission from wild birds flying overhead, the internal overhead sprinklers have been used to simulate rain and


in the fine spray, the birds readily enjoy bathing often in full view of staff.

did this progress to full mount and copulation, and nesting and eggs did not eventuate.

Pair bonding and breeding behaviours were identified by reviewing recorded CCTV footage.

On Saturday 8th November during the morning CCTV check it was noted that female Nellie was not sighted and with the previously observed strong mate feeding behaviours, it was hoped that she had commenced incubation of eggs. As a precaution zoology staff decided it was important to sight Nellie so they proceeded around the back of the aviaries and to their dismay, discovered that Nellie was dead on the floor of the aviary. This was a real blow for the program, but staff were intent on investigating the cause of her death. Following post mortem examination by vets, it was revealed that Nellie had developed an Aspergillus (a common fungal pathogen) respiratory infection. An intensive CCTV review was also undertaken to evaluate her behaviour in the days prior to her death and a flush incident was also identified where she collided with the shade cloth/nylon netting inner liner. Based on this investigation, the aspergillosis and the collision are likely to have contributed to her death. The loss of female Nellie is a stark reminder of the perilous situation the species is facing and just how important every remaining living individual bird is!

In August male Brutus showed interest in female Dawn which presented in Brutus chasing Dawn around the aviary. Dawn did not appear receptive to Brutus’ advances and would run and occasionally fly away from him. Zephyr was observed mate feeding Nellie in the morning of 12th October and Brutus was observed feeding Dawn on the 13th October. Zephyr was again observed feeding Nellie on the 21st October (Figure 3). This feeding episode lasted approximately 1 minute and was followed by a short but elaborate post feeding display dance. The last feeding episode to be recorded between Zephyr and Nellie was on the 25th October. On the morning of 20th October, Dawn was observed soliciting to Brutus followed by Brutus positioning his left foot on Dawn’s back. The same behaviour was seen again between this pair on the morning of 21st, 22nd, 31st October and 4th November. Unfortunately however, on no occasion

In early November Fifi commenced chewing a small sedge on the right hand side of the feed station. She continued to spend a considerable amount of time in this area, and what can only be described as an elaborate nest was constructed . Despite the construction of the nest, mate feeding or pair bonding behaviour was not seen between Joy and Fifi during the breeding season and no eggs eventuated.

Left : Fifi sitting on nest, 26.11.2014 Over the past five months of the birds being at Perth Zoo we have learned a great deal about this very cryptic species, but there is still much more to be discovered before we can effectively manage reliable breeding success. The Western Ground Parrot is a truly unique parrot and requires a very different approach with captive management. The 24/7 CCTV system has been an integral part of getting to know and understand the behaviour of the birds and without this we would be relying on educated guesswork at best. Our CCTV system is an analogue system with limitations and the quality of the images are not ideal. In 2015 we will seek to find the support to improve our CCTV capabilities and upgrade the system to full HD Digital. Not only will this provide better quality images but it will also enable keepers to see more clearly the sparkle in the eyes of the birds to help verify the health of these rare gems. Planning will commence in the coming months to prepare for the 2015 breeding season and armed with a better understanding of the species we will be prepared to watch their every move. The team at Perth Zoo and Parks and Wildlife, with support of dedicated community members such as the Friends of the Western Ground Parrot, are committed to saving WA’s rarest bird from extinction. Thanks to the passionate supporters and fundraising efforts of the Friends of the Western Ground Parrots and the generous donations they have received, Perth Zoo has been able to purchase state of the art incubation equipment to support artificial incubation and rearing should it be necessary in 2015. Working together, we can save this amazing bird from extinction!

Arthur’s full report, with additional photos and text is available. See last page. 4

Threatened Species Commissioner in Albany by Anne Bondin In early December I had the opportunity to meet Threatened Species Commissioner Gregory Andrews who was visiting Albany to learn more about the conservation work being carried out by the local Department of Parks and Wildlife. To allow the Commissioner to get a better understanding about the threatened species recovery projects, he was keen to visit Waychinicup National Park. As we had an early start, the Commissioner was in luck and managed to hear the call of a Noisy Scrub-bird. Whilst thrilled to hear such a rare bird, he lamented the fact that Western Ground Parrots had disappeared from the area and were presumed locally extinct. He said he was keen to work with us to tackle the feral cat problem and other threats and bring Western Ground Parrots back to the Albany area. He also said that he would love to help out with a Western Ground Parrot survey one day.

Photo: Gregory Andrews, Anne Bondin, Sarah Comer, Abby Berryman

Department of Parks and Wildlife Integrated Fauna Recovery Program (IFRP)Update by Saul Cowen, Jon Pridham, Lucy Clausen, Jeff Pinder, Abby Berryman and Sarah Comer

The spring Western Ground Parrot surveys were conducted at the three regular south coast locations of Drummond Track in ‘the Fitz’, and Pasley Track and Poison Creek in Cape Arid National Park. Three volunteers joined Parks and Wildlife staff members at Fitzgerald River National Park (from as far as Queensland!) in the hope of locating Western Ground Parrots in the Drummond and Short Road areas. Despite excellent listening conditions no WGPs were heard. Songmeters were deployed in good habitat at both locations and will be retrieved in early 2015. Fauna monitoring was also undertaken with an interesting mix of species captured, including several Dibblers. There was also a sighting of a Chuditch one morning during a WGP listening survey! Another activity during this week was the establishment of future trapping sites for the ongoing cat-trapping work by the Integrated Fauna Recovery Project team. This was a major task, with traps set over 100km of tracks, but an enthusiastic team resulted in the job being completed in just two days. More surveys are planned for the Fitzgerald in 2015, to hopefully rediscover WGPs in some of their previous hotspots. The survey team were also treated to prime conditions to watch the lunar eclipse in all its red glory. The Pasley trip hosted five volunteers, with another interstater (from Victoria this time) joining the team. Calls were heard at the usual locations. Numbers of calls were as would be expected for this time of year with the highest individual session being around 30 calls. Conditions were quite windy, which was unfortunate. Fauna trapping results were reasonable and one new Quenda for the week. A highlight – for some- was the capture of a fortunately quite cold tiger snake in an Elliott trap. It was weighed and released under the scrutiny of the Jennene Riggs who was filming during the trip. The Poison Creek survey revealed a number of good calling rates over a couple of nights especially in the prime habitat areas. This was despite a number of both morning and evening sessions being cancelled due thunderstorms with associated heavy rain and strong winds making listening all but impossible…although it did keep the mozzies and flies away! However being Cape Arid, the trip was still enjoyed by our dedicated volunteers and Parks and Wildlife staff. The Western Shield trapping resulted in Bush Rats (Rattus fuscipes) being the predominate mammal caught., However, results were skewed as the weather exerted its influence resulting in the traps being closed early with the welfare of the animals in mind.


CHAIR’S CHIRPINGS At the Friend’s Annual General Meeting, held on 7 October 2014 the same committee as the previous year was reelected. A big thank you to the committee members who renominated and unselfishly give their time to our cause. Your committee members are:Chair – David Taylor Secretary – Anne Bondin Treasurer – Steve Waddington Members – Carol Trethowan Georgina Steytler Peter Stewart Deon Utber Michael Walters The first General meeting for the 2014/15 year was held on 25 November 2014. At this meeting it was unanimously agreed and accepted that Steve Waddington would be Vice Chair and Carol Trethowan as Vice Treasurer. Once again, it is the time of the year to wish you all a


Sarah’s full article (on page 2.) is available at :

Arthur’s full article (on page 3.) is available at : If you don’t have the internet please phone Stephen 0403873922 for a snail mail copy.

Contacts: David Taylor (Chair). Phone 0458502836

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

Address: PO Box 5613, Albany, WA 6332


Website: Archive: Previous issues of our newsletter are available online at

Editor: Stephen Fryc Email:

Next issue: March 2015


December 2014  

Friends of the Western Ground Parrot Newsletter, December 2014

December 2014  

Friends of the Western Ground Parrot Newsletter, December 2014