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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. 30

February 2008

This issue contains opportunities for volunteers on pages 1 & 2 …and much more Call for volunteers from the new WGP Recovery Project Team, by Abby It’s been a hectic first week in the job but Jeff and I are slowly settling in and getting organised. We’ve planned a fairly busy field schedule over the next few months with the aim of visiting all the known locations of Western Ground Parrots to get an idea of numbers. Last year surprisingly few birds were heard in the Fitz and while we are hoping that it was just a strange year where they weren’t calling much, we really need to find out what is going on. As in previous years, we will be reliant on the assistance of volunteers to survey these areas properly. If you have the time to spare we would very much appreciate your help. The survey dates are: 11-17 February 6-14 March 1-10 April 22 Apr - 1 May 13-22 May 4-13 June

Fitzgerald River NP - West River Fitzgerald River NP - Wilderness area Cape Arid NP - Pasley/Telegraph Tracks Fitzgerald River NP -Wilderness Gate Cape Arid NP - Poison Creek Fitzgerald River NP - Short Rd/Hamersley Drive

For more information, or if you would like to assist with surveys, contact: Abby Berryman – Project Officer – Ph: (08) 9842 4519; Mob: 0429 842 451 Email: abby.berryman@dec.wa.gov.au

The DEC’sWestern 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

Help find those ground parrots in the northern sandplain Mike Bamford is an environmental contractor employed by mining company Tiwest. One of their leases, near Dongara, includes extensive heath which appears to be well suited to ground parrots. The sighting in 1992 by Ray Woods of Dongara describes what appear to have been ground parrots in that area. Ray’s account was in the October 2007 issue of this newsletter.

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Tiwest has agreed to support a WGP survey on their lease and adjacent country near Dongara (Adams Road). They'll cover accommodation, meals and provide fuel costs for volunteers. Mike believes on the evidence we have to date that a northern population persists. He wants to get a team of volunteers together, preferably experienced in listening for ground parrots though this is not essential. Experience in detecting other birds by call is also valuable. The survey will be a listening survey so good hearing is essential. The survey month will probably be May. If you are interested, please contact Mike by email bamford.consulting@iinet.net.au

Fire in the Fitzgerald 2008 got off to a bad start with a series of lightning strikes in the Fitz. The photo shows one of the signs that was used to alert fire crews to critical areas within the park. The main WGP habitat was defended. Ground parrot habitat and dieback were the priority conservation issues.

Meet the new Technical Officer, Jeff Pinder Hello everyone. As David Chemello did such a great job as Technical Officer of the Western Ground Parrot Project I felt the need to announce myself to the world of Pezoporus enthusiasts and hence move out of his illustrious shadow. He certainly has big shoes to fill and anyone who knows me already will know I can only hope to fill them metaphorically. I would also

like to thank Allan Burbidge and Sarah Comer for giving me the opportunity to work on such an exciting (read also as “extremely challenging”) project.

I do feel I am ably qualified for the job as I am one of the lucky few who have actually seen a WGP. I just hope this is a good omen for the coming season. And even at this early stage I won’t apologise for looking for omens. Omen searching maybe an unscientific approach but I’ll take all the help I can get. (I know how these birds operate!). My credentials for this position include completing a 4 year honours degree in Rural Resource Management at Plymouth University in England (still not sure what a degree in rural resource management actually qualifies me to do). I then went on to work as a ranger on an island nature reserve; Flat Holm in the Bristol Channel. The island is only 500 metres in diameter with a population of three (good grounding for working in isolated areas such as ground parrot habitat). My main duties were conducting tours of the seabird colony, habitat management and goat herding.

I then moved away from nature conservation and into “the nest of vipers” that is education. I started as an outdoor instructor teaching young people activities such as rock climbing and abseiling. After 3 years I went back to university (Southampton) and qualified as a high school teacher. I then took a job as an environmental tutor at a field study centre leading inner city kids on trips within the beautiful Dorset countryside. For many of these kids it was an experience of a lifetime. Some had never seen whole, live cows before, only parts of the animal such as a Big Mac or a Double Whopper. 2


Somewhere in the middle of this 7 year post I took a year’s sabbatical and travelled Down Under among other places. I loved the friendly, laid back life and the taste of Timtams. When I returned to England my mum said that she could see me moving permanently to Australia one day. And so it was on the 12th of February 2007 that I rode into Albany. Through the tinted window of the TRANSWA coach I could see a big bush fire; the Porongurups. At the time I had no idea about karri forests or noisy scrub birds. ….

to be continued in April (promise)

Another clip on YouTube It’s part of the samefootage that was filmed in 2006 by Mike Barth and Brent Barrett. This time it is interspersed with stills. Edited by Stephen Fryc. The link is http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=76gEf5-Ix8k In 2007, Charlie the film star, did not reappear at the same location which was his breeding ground for 2005 and 2006. He became accustomed to being followed around and, as you can see, he did not feel threatened. Sunbathing was part of Charlie’s routine.

Ground Parrots west of Albany? “What’s that budgie doing here?’ was Tim Leary’s first thought when he noticed a green bird with black mottling. Tim was near Denmark on the Sheila Hill walking trail (part of the Bibbulman Track) and the bird was in a shrub about a metre from the ground. It quietly moved through the shrub away from him. He glimpsed a second bird behaving in a similar way. He is very familiar with rosellas and so the possibilities of black-mottled budgie-like birds (though a little larger with a long tail) are few. The habitat was not classic WGP habitat but birds could be dispersing in early January. With the help of a field guide, Tim decided he may have seen a Western Ground Parrot and contacted Frank O’Connor of Birds Australia WA. Ground parrots were last definitely known west of Albany in the nineteen eighties. Biologist Bert Main saw two birds at Torbay on more than one occasion. In response to a suggestion from Wendy Binks and also Tim’s sighting, some of the ‘Help find me’ground parrot brochures are being placed in the Bibbulman Track huts from Walpole to Albany in the hope that more walkers on the track will be aware of the possibility of seeing ground parrots.

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Looking Ahead South Coast Threatened Birds Recovery Team meetings are held twice a year. The threatened birds in focus at these meetings are the Noisy Scrub-bird, the Western Bristlebird, Western Whipbirds, and most threatened of all, the Western Ground Parrot. News from last year’s research on the WGP was disturbing. Numbers in the Fitzgerald River National Park are very low – possibly fewer than twenty birds. The cause of this dramatic decline is not known. Drought affected food supply and predation were suggested as factors. It is known that the population of Chuditch in the park has risen sharply recently so that species, not yet in balance, is one suspect. Cat numbers are also high but they tend to prefer to feed on something plentiful. Frequent fire could also have had an impact. Ground Parrots have not returned to what was a favoured location which they left when it was burnt in 1998. It has appeared to be structurally suitable for their return for a couple of years but no ground parrots have been found there. It was discussed that alternative measures should be taken taken to preserve the species. One suggestion was to move birds from the Cape Arid population to boost the Fitzgerald population. This was considered unwise because it is not known what is causing the decline of the Fitzgerald birds. Another suggestion was a captive breeding program. Information about keeping ground parrots in captivity is to be compiled and presented at the next meeting. As far as is known, Western Ground Parrots have never been kept in captivity, but Eastern Ground Parrots occasionally have. What are your thoughts?

Shirts The new shirts are primarily for awareness raising, so the price is low: $20 for child sizes and $23 for adults, plus postage if needed. Do consider buying one especially if you do not yet have a WGP shirt in your family. A few of the 2006 design are also on hand. The green and cream colours are the adult sizes from XS to XL. The child sizes in yellow and brownish range from 6 to 14. The text reads Rare Wild and West Australian above, and Western Ground Parrot below the Wendy Binks painting. Stocks really are limited as only 100 of this new design were printed. Contact Brenda by phone or email (see below) to see if the size and colour you want is available. For example, there is only one M left, but plenty of size 6 and XL. All shirts are 100% cotton and Australian made.

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 April 2008. 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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February 2008 #30  

Friends of the Western Ground Parrot Newsletter February 2008 #30

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