Newsupdate no. 55 – July 2012 Western Ground Parrot Captive Management Project Update by Dr Abby Berryman, DEC The breeding season is fast approaching and the captive birds are being closely watched for signs of breeding behaviour. There are three females in the captive colony and each has access to a male. There is still much to be learned about WGP breeding behaviour, and it is hoped that this season will provide us with opportunities to gain more knowledge. Joy (male 09M04) and Dawn (female 09F04) have been paired since October 2010. In November 2011 they nested but sadly the chicks died in hot weather. This was the first ever record of WGPs breeding in captivity. Joy and Dawn remain paired, and Dawn has been observed displaying to Joy in recent weeks. The second female, Nellie (10F01), has been housed with male Storm (10M04) since they were brought into captivity in 2010. Both are approaching two years old – the age at which Joy and Dawn first attempted to breed. No signs of breeding behaviour have been observed between them yet this year, but video surveillance in their aviary is limited and it is still early in the season. The third female, two year old Fifi (10F05) was housed on her own until recently. Last year she had viewing access to two males but did not show any interest in either of them. Because she was still young it was felt best not to rush into introducing her to a male unless she appeared to be ready. This year it was decided to introduce her to Zephyr (09M01) as he had shown interest in Fifi on several occasions. On th June 26 the panel dividing the two birds was removed, however it took eleven days before Zephyr ventured into Fifi’s aviary. In the days following this, Zephyr spent most of his time in Fifi’s aviary and lost some weight as he was more focussed on exploring and watching the female than on feeding. By day three Zephyr was once again focussed on feeding and was spending most of his time eating and resting in Fifi’s feeding area. Unfortunately this meant that the rather timid Fifi avoided her food tray for that day. Both of the birds are gradually settling down and becoming more relaxed in each other’s presence. Neither are particularly bold or outgoing birds so it may take some time for them to bond.
Photograph: Brutus (10M03) taken by Alan Danks A Crucial Time? There is still insufficient funding to launch into a fullscale captive breeding program. To support a captive breeding program for several years, as well as to obtain funding for field research, there needs to be much more widespread awareness of the bird and its plight. We are still at the critical stage whereby one serious fire could reduce the tiny population and hasten extinction OR a few years with a lessened cat and fox population, no fire in breeding areas, plenty of flower and seed production and the population could expand to occupy much more of the suitable habitat than they do now. B.Newbey
WESTERN GROUND PARROT SURVEY 11-15 JUNE 2012 BEEKEEPERS’ NATURE RESERVE/UCL DONGARA/ENEABBA AREA By David Taylor 0
4.30am,4 C and ten stalwart volunteers under the leadership of Mike Bamford of Bamford Consulting Ecologist set off to listen for Western Ground Parrots in weather the State had not experienced in a decade. The survey was conducted in the Beekeepers’ Nature Reserve in an area approximately 50 kilometres south east of Port Denison. A further survey was undertaken approximately 30 kilometres north/north east of Eneabba on Unallocated Crown Land (UCL). The five day survey for Bamford Consulting Ecologist was on behalf of mineral sands miner, Tronox (formerly TiWest) who hold exploration leases in the UCL area. The company is very keen on determining if the species is still present and how best it can manage its operations to protect and benefit the Western Ground Parrot population should they be found. Surprisingly enough, only one listening session was lost due to poor conditions. Fortunately for the other sessions, the wind abated and the rain eased to a light drizzle (some volunteers may not agree with this statement). Birds Australia conducted surveys in the Jurien to Eneabba area in 2007 following a sighting near Jurien in 2001. (ref: Search for Western Ground Parrots in the northern sandplain 2007 by Brenda Newbey and Renee Hartley). These were the first systematic surveys in the region since 1985. The species has not definitely been recorded on the th northern sandplain (ie seen by several reliable observers or heard by people familiar with its call) since the 19 Century. The 2007 surveys failed to record the birds, but brought to light several fairly recent sightings that seem reliable, and there were reports of Tawny-crowned Honeyeaters apparently mimicking Ground Parrots (something the honeyeaters do on the South Coast). TiWest supported a survey in 2008 in the general region of its proposed mine, and again while there were no confirmed records, there were some other birds giving passable imitations of a ground parrot call (including the Rufous Fieldwren.) Such calls were also noted in this survey. The vegetation in the areas surveyed, was similar in structure to the South Coast. There is a similar range of species and in some areas quite a lot of sedges. The areas surveyed were mostly burnt in the last 4-5 years. The last few days’ surveys were in a mosaic of 4-5 years fire age and some maybe 10-15 years old. Recordings of the dawn and evening chorus made by the author of the last few survey periods, produced a wide variety of birds in the area (some of which are yet to be identified) and makes for very pleasant and relaxing listening. Broadly speaking, although no soundings or sightings of the Western Ground Parrot were recorded, I consider the survey was successful in many aspects and would gladly participate in other surveys in the area when they happen.
Photograph of Mike Walters, Norma Crommelin, Michael Burns, Kathryn Chuk, James Livingstone, Dave Taylor, Ken Loveland and Mike Bamford. Photo by Allan Tinker
AGM – Preliminary Notice Our Annual General Meeting will be on 25 September, starting at 2.30pm with time for a cuppa from 2pm. It will be at the same venue as last year: South Coast Natural Resource Management Centre, Mercer Road, Albany. The Guest Speaker this year will be Sarah Comer, Regional Ecologist, South Coast, DEC. Sarah will be speaking about the Cat Control program that we are hoping will ultimately benefit WGPs as well as other fauna that falls prey to cats (See page 4 for an update from Sarah.) New committee members will be needed this year. Seven seems to be a good number for our committee; six is essential. We only need three members for a quorum but sometimes it is difficult to get that number for a committee meeting and our last meeting was of only limited usefulness as there were only two committee members present. We are already one committee member short and the Chair is stepping down after three years. Please consider volunteering to help our group at this crucial time. There are likely to be five or six committee meetings per year, in Albany. Committee members from further afield should be able to join in by phone or VOIP.
Funding News The State Minister for the Environment announced as part of the State Budget 2012/13 that $250 000 has been allocated towards the WGP Recovery Project. We are very grateful to all who lobbied our Members of Parliament. This money will ensure that the captive birds are looked after and studied to the high standard needed for such endangered animals. Additionally it is likely that some of the State Government allocation of funding will go towards the Cat Control arm of the Recovery Project.
Membership Fees The 2012/13 membership fees became due on 1st July. Please pay soon if you haven’t already. We can achieve nothing without our financial members. New members who paid after 31 March are already covered for this year. The membership fee is $10. It can be paid by Direct Deposit into our Westpac account. A/C name: Friends of the Western Ground Parrot BSB: 036-168 A/C no. 298 423 Email our Treasurer when you have paid as the short text on the bank statement is not always clear enough (email@example.com) Alternatively, pay by cheque made out to Friends of the Western Ground Parrot. Send it to The Treasurer, Friends of the Western Ground Parrot, PO Box 5613. Albany WA 6332
Note from the Treasurer The Treasurer apologises for the delay in issuing tax receipts for donations to the Western Ground Parrot Rescue Fund. Tax receipts will be mailed towards the end of July.
Next FWGP Committee Meeting …is to be held at 5pm on1st August in Albany. Members are welcome. Please contact us if you would like to attend. Perth Royal Show: We will not be participating this year but may do again next year.
DEC’s WESTERN GROUND PARROT RECOVERY EFFORTS by Sarah Comer, Regional Ecologist, South Coast, Department of Environment and Conservation
In the last newsletter Anne Bondin provided a summary of funds available for continuing work to implement recovery actions for the Western Ground Parrot. In addition to the Biodiversity Funds mentioned by Anne, Caring for our Country, State NRM and South Coast NRM resources have now been secured for 2012-13, and these will be used with the special allocation of funds from our State Minister to continue the adaptive management project aiming to effectively integrate cat control with existing DEC Western Shield fox baiting, to increase survey efforts and to maintain the captive ground parrots (Integrated Fauna Recovery Project). While we aren’t naming the ground parrot in the project title for this work, as there are significant multi-species benefits, the Western Ground Parrot remains the flagship for this project and is the driver behind our efforts. The South Coast Threatened Birds Recovery Team members have agreed that the most important task for the future of the Western Ground Parrot is securing the future for the population in the wild. We are very optimistic that this will be achieved through sound fire management and integrated control of feral predators. Lessons learned from this work will also allow us to manage habitat where Western Ground Parrots are no longer extant, such as Waychinicup and Manypeaks, so that we can release birds back into these areas in the longer term. Reports on the captives and monitoring are elsewhere in this newsletter, and provide information on other activities being carried out by the team. Results for the 2012 baiting and radio tracking of feral cats in Cape Arid are still being collated, but some interesting and useful data has been retrieved from the radio-collars fitted with GPS units. An example of a female collared on the old Poison Creek Track is included below (Figure 1), with each of the points representing the animal’s position every 45 minutes. In 2012-13 the team will be concentrating on collaring more cats with GPS collars, which will continue to improve our understanding of the use of habitat by feral cats. The spread of aerial delivered baits through the habitat and improving our ability to focus baiting on areas that are commonly used by cats (including specific WGP habitat) will allow us to modify baiting to maximize efficiency of the program.
Figure 1: The movements of one of the female feral cats fitted with a GPS collar in Cape Arid National Park in January 2012. Each of the white dots represents a location, and these are recorded every 45 minutes. The black squares are the locations of Eradicat cat bait drops, and the red dots are the location of the cat on the day it died.
Automated Recording Units at Cape Arid National Park – The Results! As you may recall from the last edition of the Friends newsletter (Edition 54, May 2012) the Department of Environment and Conservation (DEC) had borrowed 20 automated recording units (ARUs) from the Department of Agriculture and Food (DAFWA) with intent to support monitoring of known wild populations of Western Ground Parrot (WGP), to survey historical sites and to help discover new populations. The song meters (SM2s) can stay out in the field for extended periods of time and be programmed to target the critical WGP calling times at sunrise and sunset. After successfully trialing the SM2s (see Newsletter Number 54), 19 units were set up in Cape Arid National Park (CANP) in January 2012. These were placed at five kilometer intervals and no more than 400 metres from vehicle tracks - the distribution of song meters meant that areas that had never been surveyed for WGPs, areas that had not been surveyed for a long time and areas presently known to support WGPs were all covered. After six weeks of recording the SM2s were collected and their sound files analyzed using Syrinx software. One hundred and eighteen definite WGP calls were recorded and identified. These 118 calls were ‘heard’ between six different SM2s. The 118 calls were shared out amongst 34 positive recording sessions or, in other words 34 positive recording sessions produced 118 WGP calls. This is equivalent to an average of 3.5 WGP calls for every positive recording session. The 34 positive recording sessions were derived from a total of 212 recording sessions. Therefore 16% or one in six of the total recording sessions undertaken produced at least one definite WGP call. Of the six SM2s yielding WGP calls one unit was located at the northern end of Pasley Track where WGPs haven’t been heard since 2005. This finding will enable DEC staff, ‘Friends’ members and volunteers to undertake a more comprehensive survey of the area to identify the extent and concentration of this occupied habitat. This information will be vitally important as DEC focuses towards dedicated WGP fire protection measures in this area in 2012/13. Another ‘successful’ unit was positioned in a well vegetated gully system north of Telegraph Track. This result was encouraging from one of two standpoints. Either WGPs were occupying atypical habitat (both in terms of topography and vegetation type) or, which is perhaps more likely, the ARUs were capable of detecting calls from adjacent habitat some distance away. A third song meter station which produced definite WGP records (SM27) was specifically installed near to one of the 2010 capture sites in Cape Arid National Park. Four out of nine recording sessions analyzed supported WGP calls. These records are also very important and provide a level of reassurance that these birds are persisting in the area. The remaining three ARUs collecting definite WGP records were all located close to previous survey sites where positive records had been obtained in the most recent years of monitoring. So it was perhaps less surprising to record WGP calls at these sites but nonetheless confidence inspiring that the birds are still surviving and the technology is most definitely working! There were a further 40 unconfirmed WGP calls (i.e. ‘maybes’). These ‘maybe’ calls encompassed an additional five SM2s. However without the presence of any ‘definite’ WGP calls from these units it is very difficult to corroborate these findings. One potential significant factor hampering call identification at this time of year is the presence of WGP chicks. Chick calls are often lower in frequency than adults and more likely to fluctuate up and down in tone. This pattern mirrors the best Tawny Crowned Honeyeater impersonators therefore making it extremely difficult to discern between the two. Any follow up surveys in these areas to confirm presence / absence of WGPs would be better attempted later in the year. In conclusion, the use of automated recording technology for assisting WGP monitoring and survey has shown real promise and these units will assist in ongoing research for this species. Jeff Pinder, DEC
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: September 2012