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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. 37

June 2009

Threatened Species worse off in WA A hefty cut to the Department of Environment and Conservation (DEC) budget has resulted in threatened species being more at risk than ever. A report from the Auditor General has accused DEC of failing to protect endangered species: new biodiversity legislation is needed. Meanwhile, there have been severe cuts to some threatened species programs, many of which were already inadequate. This comes at a really bad time for our Western Ground Parrot. A funding boost is needed, not a cut. Contacting the environment minister, Ms Donna Faragher, or your local State MP over this issue would be timely and worthwhile.

Western Ground Parrot Population Monitoring By Abby Berryman Our fieldtrips so far this year have focussed on revisiting each of the known populations of Western Ground Parrots to see whether their numbers are increasing, decreasing or stable. The results have been a bit of a mixed bag with the Fitz birds appearing to be in real trouble while the birds at Cape Arid are faring much better. Fitzgerald River National Park Drummond Last year we estimated that there were between 6 and 12 WGPs at Drummond so we were surprised that this year there only seemed to be one, possibly two, birds calling here. Later examination of recordings made revealed confirmed the presence of a second bird – both birds had called together but only the louder call was heard at the time.

The crew from Drummond: rear left to right - Pierre, Jeff, Chris, Allan, Bridget; front - Rod, Jeff, Troy and Abby

Short Road As part of cat bait trials, staff from DEC Albany conducted a week of mammal trapping in the Fitz at the end of April. While they were out there, they spent several nights listening at Short Road. Last year no WGPs were heard at this site so there was great excitement when WGPs were heard calling. It

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seems that between 3 and 5 birds were present, taking brings the total known WGP population in the Fitz to 5-7 birds. While it is possible that there are more birds out there (there is plenty of suitable habitat) the fact that populations at regularly monitored sites have dwindled to such small numbers means that any other subpopulations in the Fitz are likely to be facing a similar problem. A full survey of the Short Road area will be conducted from 16-25 June, hopefully more WGPs will be heard. Cape Arid National Park Pasley Things are looking much brighter at Pasley. We heard good numbers of calls, including calls at several sites where last year we heard nothing. Although we are yet to fully analyse our survey results, it is expected that the number of WGPs at Pasley will be at least as many, if not more, than last year. Another good sign is that the area that was burnt last year is regenerating nicely, helped by summer rain. Over the next few years this area should develop into good feeding habitat for the WGP – already there are patches of sedges that have plenty of seeds developing. Poison Creek The trip to Poison Creek provided a very pleasant surprise – we were expecting to hear WGPs but did not expect the huge number of calls that we heard. We simply couldn’t write fast enough to get all the calls down on our listening sheets. In just one listening session I wrote down 80 calls and that wasn’t all of them! There seemed to be a lot of interaction going on between birds – at times there were up to four birds all close together calling at the same time which made for very frantic scribbling on the listening sheets.

Although we heard a lot more calls than last year at Poison Creek, it doesn’t necessarily represent more birds, but rather that each bird was calling more than normal. However, the fact that the area of use had expanded means number probably up. Over coming weeks we will analyse the survey results and estimate the number of WGPs present. So all in all it’s good news from Cape Arid but the reality is that the population there remains vulnerable to being wiped out by a severe wildfire. When combined with the dwindling numbers in the Fitz, the situation for the WGP is not looking good. Without our help in reducing the impact of wildfires, controlling feral predators (foxes in particular and hopefully cats in coming years), and possibly captive breeding, the Western Ground Parrot could be extinct in the next five to ten years.

The Poison Creek crew: (left to right) - Marissa, Rod, Bridget, Troy, Pierre, Jim, Aneta, Emma, Abby; front - Jeff. Volunteer opportunities If you would like to register your interest for any future volunteer work or if you would like more information on the WGP project please contact: Abby Berryman – mob: 0429 842 451 ph: (08) 9842 4519 or email: abby.berryman@dec.wa.gov.au

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Automated Recording Unit Project Compiled by Jo Mead from two reports by Chris Powell who is the technical officer running the Automated Recorder Unit Project.

Populations of Western Ground Parrot are monitored by recording their calls. This year’s Western Ground Parrot fieldtrips have included trialling two automated recording units (ARUs), designed by Neil Boucher. These ARUs are prototypes and, once they have been proven in the field, the emphasis will be on miniaturisation so they may be deployed in more remote situations.

noise such as wind. Neil is developing an extension microphone to increase the distance from which calls can be recorded, and reduce near-ground extraneous noise such as moving vegetation. While wind remains a problem, he is also discussing further modifications to the software in order to address this.

Technical problems have included a faulty sound card, problems with the timer, the recording of ‘silent’ files and no wave form when visually examined as a spectragram. Both ARUs have received updated software.

While the ARUs still requiring finetuning, they have been valuable: on one occasion, although the calls were faint, the visual examination of a spectrogram wave file revealed there was in fact, not one, but two birds calling.

To date, both units have made successful recordings although the calls were faint. Poor audibility has been due to distance from the birds, the microphone being close to the ground and interference from localised

Meanwhile, through collaboration with Neil Boucher in resolving the technical difficulties, the ARUs are developing. Contribution of ARUs so far: • Problems with the ARUs are being methodically resolved. • The unit that has been left in the field should now be doing valuable monitoring. • If it were not for the ARU results there would have been no certainty that two WGPs were still present in the FRNP where it had been feared that all birds may have been lost.

Chris Powell (ARU technical officer) and Jeff Pinder (WGP Recovery Project technical officer) set up one of the ARUs in the Fitzgerald River National Park.

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Notice of meeting and request for help Firstly, apologies for changing the date of the meeting which was originally advertised for last month. We did try to notify everyone in time but may not have been completely successful. The meeting is to be held in Albany on Wednesday 24 June from 2pm to 4pm in the Girl Guide Hall, 19 Parker Street. Our group has been very informal for the past six years with no constitution, office bearers or separate bank account. That will be reversed when we change to a formal association. At first the association will be unincorporated. The struggle to save the Western Ground Parrot from extinction over the next few years will be very challenging and, we hope, rewarding. Our association will be focussing on promotion of awareness of the bird and its plight as well as assisting with population recovery actions. There have been a few volunteers but more are needed. Don’t let distance stand in your way as communications these days can overcome this problem to a large degree. If you are interested in being a committee member please let us know. (It would be good to know there will be enough people willing to help in this essential way.)

It is hoped to have TWO people interested in each of the additional tasks. Newsletter. We have one volunteer, Jo Mead, who is making this issue her first. The newsletters have been and should continue to be integral to the Friends’ activities. Publicity and Education. We have one volunteer. Much needs to be done in this area. Too few Western Australians are aware of the existence, the unusual lifestyle, the perilous situation and what is being done to save the WGP. Sales. No volunteers. This area could be expanded – it’s been very low key until now and could be kept that way. The task also involves deciding what to sell, how to obtainit, and how to sell it. At present we have shirts and cards for sale. Fundraising. No volunteers. There is a large gap where the Commonwealth and State funding for WGP research and conservation should be. Our association could help find more funds. Website. Have the quota of two volunteers. Your Co-ordinators, Brenda Newbey and Anne Bondin. (contact details below)

Video on YouTube Brent Barrett has produced a short WGP video that is well worth a look. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wwvxgdw1iYc

Archive All the Friends of the Western Ground Parrot newsupdates from June 2005 onwards have been placed in a blog for easy reference. The address is http://wgpnewsletters.blogspot.com/

Web pages

Web page Birds Australia has a web page for the Western Ground Parrot. Go to http:birdsaustralia.com.au/the-organisation/western-australia and then access Projects, and Western Ground Parrot.

The next issue of the Friends of the Western Ground Parrot newsupdate is due in July 2009. Feedback is welcome. Contacts

albanybirds@hotmail.com wgparrot@westnet.com.au Address: Albany Environment Centre PO Box 1780, Albany WA 6330 Anne Bondin. Phone (08) 9844 1793; E-mail:

Brenda Newbey. Phone (08) 9337 5673; E-mail:

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WGP Newsletter June 2009  

newletter western ground parrot

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