Newsupdate no. 52 â€“ January 2012 Western Ground Parrot Captive Management Project Breeding Attempt Update 16 December 2011 Two of the captive Western Ground Parrots have been housed together in the one aviary because they had previously shown interest in each other, through assumed courtship behaviour. These two birds, Joy (09M04) and Dawn (09F04), had been observed mating since the 4th of October. By the 22nd of October, Dawn appeared to be nesting and the decision was made to place a surveillance camera close to the nest so that we could observe the activity in the nest area. WGPs have not bred in captivity before so it was important to learn as much as possible about their breeding behaviour. On the 26th of October the aviary was entered to place the camera. The nest contained two eggs, and it was assumed that Dawn was only part way through laying the clutch. Over the following days, Dawn returned to the nest several times, rolled the eggs and sat on them briefly, but did not recommence incubation. Five days after the aviary entry, on the 31st of October, Dawn had re-nested in a different place in the aviary and was thought to have laid the first egg of a new clutch, based on changes in her weight. From this point onwards, very little was seen of Dawn as she spent the majority of the time on the nest incubating. During this period, Joy fed Dawn by regurgitating seeds into her open beak. Often these feeds were done on the nest. Based on information about Eastern Ground Parrot incubation periods, it was assumed that if the eggs were fertile, they would begin hatching the week of the 21st of November. By the 4th of December, Dawn was still on the nest brooding but Joy had stopped feeding her. On the 8th of December it seems that Dawn stopped brooding and from this point onwards neither Joy nor Dawn appeared to have any interest in the nest. On the 15th of December, the aviary was entered to inspect the nest. Within the nest were two eggs and two dead chicks. One of the eggs appeared to have no development, while the second egg had been in the early stages of hatching when the chick within it died. The two dead chicks were very young, with one slightly larger than the other. It appears that the two chicks and the third that was in the process of hatching all died at the same time. The likely cause of death was hot weather on the 23rd and 24th of November (32 and 35 degrees respectively). On both of these days, the temperature at the aviary was monitored, as was the response of the other WGPs to the heat. All other birds showed no signs of overheating, with the exception of Joy who showed signs of heat stress, but only after sun bathing in direct sunlight during the heat of the day. The sprinklers were turned on a couple of times to assist with cooling. However, this would not have helped much as the nest, although partly sheltered by brush, would have had direct sunlight into it at times during the day. This breeding attempt was very late in the season - based on observations of wild WGPs, they normally nest two to three months earlier, which means that that they would not normally be exposed to such hot weather. Although the first clutch (which was abandoned) was slightly earlier, any chicks resulting from it would have only been about a week old at the time of the hot days and may not have fared any better in the heat. Knowledge gained over the past few months has increased our understanding of the requirements of WGPs for breeding in captivity. Prior to the start of the 2012 breeding period, research into what, if any, changes can be made to minimise the risk of losing chicks to heat will be progressed. While it is unfortunate that this first attempt at breeding in captivity was unsuccessful at producing fledglings, it is encouraging that it progressed as far as it did. Young birds are often unsuccessful in their first attempt at breeding so for at least three out of four eggs from this clutch to have been viable is promising. Western Ground Parrot Recovery Project
Raising funds and awareness for ground parrot conservation: Some recent successes One of the greatest challenges facing the Western Ground Parrot recovery efforts is the lack of resources to implement recovery actions, but in recent times there have been some wonderful fund raising activities by Friends and the broader community to help with conservation efforts. The generous contribution of the Creighton family from Condingup in donating a percentage of the sales of the Western Ground Parrot wine is one such effort. In addition to donations from wine sales Chris Creighton has the eastern most display of Western Ground Parrot merchandise in the Condingup Vineyeard cellar door, and Jim and Aneta are regular volunteers on the ground parrot monitoring trips. On behalf of the South Coast Threatened Birds Recovery Team, DEC staff and volunteers presented the Creighton’s with one of Brent Barrett’s wonderful ground parrot photos to say thanks for their efforts towards the conservation program.
Nesting Timing: Historic Note by B. Newbey Only two WGP nests have ever been located in the wild. Both were in the Denmark area and both were found by F. Lawson Whitlock. He was seeking eggs to add to the collection of the ornithologist Mr H. L. White in response to the 1911 classification separation by Mr A. J. North of the Western Ground Parrot from the Eastern Ground Parrot. The first find was on 20th October 1912 when a nest containing two chicks only a few days old was found ‘after weeks of plodding search’. The second find ‘after a long and weary search’ was on 20th November 1913. This nest contained three freshly laid eggs and was just what Mr Lawson Whitlock had been seeking. Both of these could be termed ‘late nesting’ though with such a small amount of data a norm has not been established. Could latitude play a part affecting light, temperature and subsequently food supply?
L-R : Chris Creighton, Abby Berryman, Jim Creighton, Aneta Creighton, Emma Bryce, Dave Taylor Another major fund raising effort was the Australian Geographic campaign that was run nationally in September and October last year (mentioned in the September 2011 Friends Newsletter). Through the generous donations from people across the country this campaign raised just over $19,000, which will assist greatly with the control of feral cats in Cape Arid National Park in 2012. By Sarah Comer Condingup Vineyard is donating over 30% of the proceeds from the sale of two of its specially labelled red wines to the Western Ground Parrot Rescue Fund. The wine order form is available from http://tinyurl.com/wineorderform or our website (see below). It is possible to avoid postage and also to buy small quantities if you are in Albany or Perth. For Albany, contact Dave Taylor and for Perth, contact Brenda Newbey.
There is a one degree difference in latitude between the birds studied in CANP and FRNP, and Denmark. Denmark has a higher rainfall than either of the other two locations and it may simply be a matter of the habitat drying out sufficiently. The first of the Denmark nests was on a ‘low but dry ridge’. The siting within the landscape of the second is not described. Reference: Whitlock, F.L. (1914). Notes on the Spotless Crake and Western Ground Parrot. Emu 13, 202-205.
Mr F. Lawson Whitlock
Western Ground Parrot population monitoring trip Cape Arid National Park 7-11 November 2011 In November a survey trip was planned for the Pasley area of Cape Arid National Park to survey the largest known population of WGPs. DEC staff and volunteers from the Friends of the Western Ground Parrot were excited to be revisiting this area to find out how the population was faring. However, heavy rain in the weeks prior to the trip meant that the tracks were too wet to access the area, due to the risk of spreading dieback in an uninfested area of the Park. Dieback has a devastating effect on some plants, including plants on which the WGP feeds. The focus of the trip then switched to the Poison Creek area to do further post-fire surveys around the area that was burnt in January 2011. The survey in April found a small number of birds to the north of the burnt area and it was pleasing to again locate these birds during the November trip. The number of individuals heard was less than 10 but there is plenty of suitable habitat nearby that we did not have the time to survey. The other goal of the trip was to trial Song Meter units (automated recording devices) which have been kindly loaned to us by the Department of Agriculture and Food WA. The aim of the trial was to compare the Song Meters to our standard survey techniques, which use human listeners. Once birds were located we concentrated on this area with each person taking a Song Meter unit with them every session so that individual survey sheets could be compared to the Song Meter recordings. Although all of the volunteers were experienced and had been on WGP trips before, for some of them it had been a long time since last hearing WGPs, or they had been on trips where only a few calls were heard. The survey proved to be a challenge for the volunteers as it took a few days to locate birds and there were plenty of Tawny-crowned Honeyeaters doing very convincing WGP imitations, resulting in a lot of confusion. Although we regularly played the WGP training CD, there is no substitute for hearing the real thing to really get you ears tuned in. So, the big question is how did the Song Meters compare to the humans? It was a mixed bag of results and generally the more experienced the human, the more likely they were to pick up more calls than the Song Meter. Conversely, volunteers who hadn’t had the opportunity to hear many WGP calls in the past generally didn’t hear quite as many calls as were recorded on the Song Meter. This is to be expected, as the more WGP calls you have heard, the more you become tuned in to them and the better able you are to pick out faint calls amongst the chorus of other bird species. The Song Meters aren’t intended to replace human listeners but rather to augment the survey effort. Song Meters will allow us to reach areas that wouldn’t otherwise be practical to survey – the problem with traditional surveys is that people either have to walk in to their position in the dark for morning sessions or out in the dark in the evening. For sites that are a long way off tracks this, while not impossible, can be quite a challenge. While Song Meters aren’t as sensitive as an experienced listener they provide a labour-saving way of covering more ground and learning more about which areas are being used by WGPs. Thanks to the dedicated volunteers who came on this trip and were willing to test their listening skills against modern technology!
By Abby Berryman and Sarah Comer
Some of the team ready to set out for the evening session: Keith Chappell, Aneta Creighton, Emma Bryce, Emma Adams, Abby Berryman
A Song Meter set up at a listening site
Help for Fitzgerald River National Park Fitzgerald River National Park (FRNP) is one of only two known locations of the Western Ground Parrot. Some of the WGPs have been recorded over several years in the wilderness area in the centre of the park. Although this was a small population which may now have disappeared, there was some concern within our group about a WA government plan to build a walk track with huts, right through the wilderness area of the park as part of the FRNP Improvement Plan (FWGP Newsletter September 2010). A major aspect of the concern was the risk of further spread of Phytophthora dieback. An assessment by the Environmental Protection Authority resulted in the recommendation that the walk trail concept should be modified so as not to traverse the park’s wilderness zone. Although this recommendation could have been overturned, the Environment Minister Bill Marmion made a welcome announcement in a press release dated 22 December 2011 (quoted in part): Environment Minister Bill Marmion has rejected plans to build a full walk trail through the wilderness management zone in Fitzgerald River National Park. Instead, he has approved the construction of two short-distance walk trails on either side of the wilderness area to allow users to enjoy one of Australia’s biggest and most botanically significant national parks. To protect native flora and fauna from Phytophthora dieback, the Minister has set down strict conditions for the project’s implementation. These include preparing a Dieback Risk Assessment, Dieback Management Plan and a Dieback Response Plan to protect uninfected areas of the Fitzgerald River National Park. For the past few years the park has had only two rangers. DEC is now building up the ranger crew to four which will allow much more effective management of this large and biologically invaluable park. In the future it is hoped that the population of WGPs will again build up in FRNP (perhaps with help from captivebred birds) and these decisions will retain that option. B. Newbey Note: The community group Friends of the Fitzgerald River National Park intends to maintain involvement in the planning of the FRNP walk trails. www.fitzgeraldfriends.org.au
In November we had the opportunity to raise awareness about the WGP at the Albany Show. Sharing a stall with Birds Australia and the Yongernow Malleefowl Centre, quite a few show visitors were attracted to our display. The following Albany members volunteered their time to man the stall: Carol Trethowan, Michael Burns, Ray Garstone, Fay Gorddard, Pam Lumsden, Louisa Bell,
Jeff Pinder and Anne Bondin. http://www.facebook.com/pages/Friends-of-the-Western-Ground-Parrot/283796521652371 Friends of the Western Ground Parrot are now on Facebook. All those of you out there who are on Facebook, help spread the word about our group and our feathered friend!
Contacts: Brenda Newbey (Chair). Phone (08) 9337 5673 Anne Bondin (Treasurer). Phone (08) 9844 1793 Dave Taylor (Secretary) 0458 502 836 Address: PO Box 5613, Albany, WA 6332 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org 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: email@example.com
Next issue: March 2012