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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. 35

February 2009

Western Ground Parrot numbers dangerously low (page 1) Heavy field work program for the next few months – help needed (page 2) New project – bringing automatic recording onto the team (page 1) French Connection – Welcome Pierre! (p 3) Financial help (page 3) And more…. .

From Abby Berryman, leader of the Western Ground Parrot Recovery Project Summer is traditionally the quiet time on the Western Ground Parrot Recovery Project with no time being spent in the field but plenty of time in the office to collate the results of the work completed in 2008. Jeff and I have spent the summer plotting Ramsey’s locations from the time spent radio-tracking, having a closer look at some of the recordings of WGP calls that have been made in the past year, and summarising the information collected on the population monitoring trips. In 2008, the total WGP population was estimated to be fewer than 140 individuals. Particularly in Fitzgerald River National Park, things are looking quite grim – the population at Short Road seems to have vanished and our surveys of the other two sites only detected 16 birds at most. We still don’t understand why the numbers have declined so dramatically in the Fitz, but predation by feral cats is likely to be having a big impact. Efforts to develop an effective means of cat control will continue this year with trials of cat baits planned for April. The year ahead… This year we will again be focussing on monitoring WGP populations (volunteer opportunities are listed below). It is important that we know how many WGPs remain and whether the populations are increasing or decreasing so we can act accordingly. Last year the WGP project purchased an Automated Recording Unit (ARU). The ARU still needs to be tested in the field, but if all goes well it should be a huge help with our surveys. The ARU can be left in the field for weeks at a time without staff needing to be present. It will help us to monitor our known populations and could also be used to search for new populations of WGPs in areas of suitable habitat. A technical officer will be employed to focus on trialling the ARU over the next few months. At the recent South Coast Threatened Birds Recovery Meeting there were serious discussions about trialling captive management of WGPs. We are very aware that we cannot run the risk of acting too late. As a matter of urgency we feel it is important to take a small number of WGPs into captivity. WGPs have not been kept in captivity before and it is important that we start now to refine techniques to give a captive breeding program the greatest chance of success if a full-scale operation is required. Corrections (part 1)… In the previous two newsletters there have been photos of Ramsey that were taken by Arthur Ferguson. Arthur took the photo below left of Abby with Ramsay. (See also below page 4)

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He provided invaluable assistance while we were radio-tracking and was chief photographer while Jeff and I (Abby) were focussed on handling Ramsey.

In newsletter n u m b e r 3 4 there was a paragraph describing transmitter attachment. This stated that the transmitter was attached on top of Ramsey’s tail. However, the transmitter was actually tied and glued underneath the two central feathers of Ramsey’s tail(See above right). The transmitter was completely hidden beneath the tail. (Photo by Arthur Ferguson)

Volunteer opportunities We are looking for volunteers to assist us monitor Western Ground Parrot populations on the following trips:

3 – 13 March 24 March – 2 April 14 – 24 April 4 – 15 May 25 May – 4 June 16 – 25 June

Nuytsland Nature Reserve Fitzgerald River NP – Wilderness area Fitzgerald River NP – Drummond Track Cape Arid NP – Pasley Cape Arid NP – Poison Creek Fitzgerald River NP – Short Road

All food is provided as well as assistance with travel expenses. Camping gear is also available. Training, too, is provided. If you would like to assist with this work please contact: Abby Berryman – mob: 0429 842 451 ph: (08) 9842 4519 or email: abby.berryman@dec.wa.gov.au

The DEC’s Western Ground Parrot Recovery Project is funded through theSouth 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

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More about Ramsey Ramsey is the WGP that was captured last August. He was tracked for 19 days until he met an untimely end. The tracking showed that he had two feeding areas. The larger one was in vegetation that was burnt in 2002 and the other in vegetation that was much older - over 30 years. For the first two weeks he would mostly feed in the young vegetation then fly to rendezvous with his mate in the older vegetation two or three times a day. We think that at these times Ramsey was feeding his mate. A few days before his death, his behaviour changed. He fed more often in the older vegetation and he no longer seemed to meet with his mate. It appears that he was feeding on the seeds of a dryandra bush in the older vegetation when he became prey to a raptor. Help from France Bonjour! I’m introducing me. I am Pierre Rouxal and I am 18 years old. I live in Brittany in France. In France I was a member of the Scout et Guide de France. I used to camp in the natural environment since I was a child. As well as Australia I have visited Cuba, Germany, Crete, Tunisia and Guadeloupe in the Caribbean. My interests include fauna, more exactly birds. I have just arrived in Albany a few days ago with the exchange program “AFS”. I left France with snow to come to a hotter and very pretty country to help the D.E.C. during 5 months. I will be working more specifically on the Western Ground Parrot Project, which is very important to avoid the disappearing of this threatened species. I am very pleased to be here with you and I’m sure we will have a lot of great moments. Financial help Recently, a private company has become aware of the dire straits that the WGP is in. The company, Exetel, has a policy of donating on a regular basis to environmental projects and already supports some Gouldian Finch and Regent Honeyeater work. The company has offered to assist the Western Ground Parrot Recovery Project and also to sponsor The Friends of the WGP email and website. The arrangements are still in progress and there will be more details in the next newsupdate. Friends of the WGP and the South Coast Threatened Birds Recovery Team (SCTBRT) are very grateful for the offer and morale has been considerably boosted. The SCTBRT met on February 18. It was made very clear that there is a great deal of uncertainty about Commonwealth funding for two of the team’smajor projects, one of which is the Western Ground Parrot Recovery Project, for the second half of this year.

A distinct species? Preliminary genetic work has indicated that the Western Ground Parrot may be as different from the Eastern Ground Parrot as the Western Rosella is from the Eastern Rosella. This would mean that it is a distinct species, rather than a subspecies of the more common Eastern Ground Parrot. If this is so it is probably the world’s rarest parrot. Regardless of the final outcome, it should be emphasized that the WGP is Western Australia’s only ground parrot. Then there is the grim reminder that South Australia has already lost all her ground parrots long before any genetic determination could be made.

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Road through Fitzgerald River National Park The Premier of Western Australia has recently promoted the idea of a road between Bremer Bay and Hopetoun as a response to the closure of the BHP mine in Ravensthorpe. The road would pass through the wilderness area of the park and through the area occupied by a small but persistent population of WGPs. The Friends will register an objection to the plan. We hope that some people will do so as individuals also.

A PR Prop It has been suggested that a WGP costume suitable for an adult to wear should be made. There is a Potoroo costume and it has had considerable success in attracting attention in public places. If you are creative in that way why not give it a go. Contact Brenda Newbey (See below)

New run of shirts (Chance to comment) There is to be a new run of shirts. The intent is that they will be darker and of a slimmer fit than the last lot. The design will feature one of Brent Barrett’s photos of a whole bird (Charlie) looking very lively and healthy. The wording will be Western Ground Parrot above. Below there is a choice. It could be (1) Going

going

...

or (2) Going

going

... ?

or (3) another idea – yours There is no doubt that without a helping hand the WGP will soon drop out of existence. However a question mark may suggest a little more hope. Let’s know your suggestions for (3), or preference for (1) or (2).

Correction (part 2): These photos which appeared in the last Friends of the Western Ground Parrot newsupdate (No. 34) were incorrectly acknowledged. On the right is Ramsey taken by Arthur Ferguson. The others were taken by Abby Berryman. Apologies to each of you.

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 Friends of the Western Ground Parrot newsupdate is due in April 2009. Feedback is welcome. Contacts for Friends of the Western Ground Parrot albanybirds@hotmail.com 9337 5673; E-mail: wgparrot@westnet.com.au

Anne Bondin. Phone (08) 9844 1793; E-mail:

Brenda Newbey. Phone (08) Address: Birds Australia Western Australia, Peregrine House, 167 Perry Lakes Drive, Floreat. WA 6014

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February 2009 #35  

Friends of the Western Ground Parrot Newsletter February 2009 #35

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