Welcome to the Friends of the Western Ground Parrot Newsletter No. 69 Get up-to-date information about the latest efforts to save this critically endangered parrot unique to Western Australia
NEW FORMAT If you have been searching for the newsletter attachment, search no more. We have decided to change the way we communicate with our supporters and have adopted a more modern newsletter format which should make it much easier to access our newsletters regardless of the device you are using. Downloading of pdf files is no longer required. A printable version of the newsletter is available from our website.
FIRES AT CAPE ARID NATIONAL PARK
Up to 90% of known occupied Western Ground Parrot habitat burnt
Department of Parks and Wildlife Spring 2015 Western Ground Parrot update Integrated Fauna Recovery Team by Sarah Comer
As most followers of Western Ground Parrot news will be aware, the past three months have been particularly busy for the Parks and Wildlife’s Integrated Fauna Recovery Project (IFRP) team with surveys, population monitoring, capture work and fires keeping everyone on their toes. Cape Arid National Park – October & November The first survey of Cape Arid was planned for mid-October and Parks and Wildlife staff and volunteers left Albany on Sunday 18th looking forward to a productive week of ground parrot surveys. By the time they reached Ravensthorpe a number of bushfires, started by lightning storms on the Saturday night, were burning in three separate locations in Cape Arid National Park. The trip had to be cancelled, as one of these fires was burning in the Poison Creek area, and the volunteers returned to Albany while Jon, Saul and Lucy travelled to Esperance to help with fire suppression activities. For those volunteers that missed out we hope that you will get the opportunity to come south again to help with future surveys! Two of the three October fires resulted in a significant loss of Western Ground Parrot habitat, with an estimated 20% of the known occupied habitat burnt. This loss, in addition to having not completed the Poison Creek surveys, resulted in some good debate at the October meeting of the South Coast Threatened Birds Recovery Team (SCTBRT) where it was agreed that the decision to source more birds for Perth Zoo would have to be made by staff on site when they returned in early November to conduct post-fire monitoring work. This presented a significant challenge, as the IFRP team had to not only assess the impact of fires on the areas where they had planned to catch birds, but also complete the Poison Creek monitoring. A team of volunteers set out with project staff on November 3 rd to commence survey work, and the remainder of the team arrived on the 5 th. With the uncertainty of sufficient birds being found to justify taking any more juveniles for the zoo post-October fires, Parks and Wildlife staff still had to plan for captures when packing for the trip. Human listening surveys were aided by the deployment of 40 ARUs, and some great post-fire data (from October) was also retrieved from Jim Creighton’s two solar powered ARUs. Staff collated listening data and analysed ARU data in the field, and after nine days of extensive survey effort the team were satisfied that they had found enough birds (including juveniles) to capture a small number for the Perth Zoo captive program.
Allan Burbidge and Dave Taylor setting up an ARU on the edge of the October fires, where a ground parrot had been flushed. This patch of vegetation was burnt in the November bushfires. (image courtesy S. Comer – Department of Parks and Wildlife).
Capture efforts were hampered by strong winds, but over four days two birds were caught. The first was a juvenile female and the second a second year male and both were very placid and appeared to be very healthy young birds. They were examined and measured in the field, and when we confirmed they were suitable for the Zoo they were taken into Esperance to be held in the temporary holding boxes provided by the Friends of the WGP. Perth Zoo staff member Matt Ricci had travelled to Esperance to care for the captured birds while the field team continued with their work. The passage of a trough on Sunday 15 th November saw significant lightning storms throughout the Park, which resulted in a spectacular evening sky. On the Monday evening the capture team were alerted to several fires that had started in different areas of the Park, and given their locations the capture work had to cease. ARUs were left in place to monitor the areas where birds had been caught and the two young birds started their journey to Perth.
The last day of capture work: Parks and Wildlife’s Integrated Fauna Project Team (Jon Pridham, Allan Burbidge, Alan Danks, Lucy Clausen, Abby Berryman, Saul Cowen and Sarah Comer - missing are Jeff Pinder and Louisa Bell) with volunteers Dave Taylor and John Tucker in Cape Arid National Park in November (image courtesy S. Comer, Department of Parks and Wildlife)
In the aftermath of fires The November fires were extensive and combined with the October fires the impact on the known habitat of Western Ground Parrots was significant. Based on annual survey and monitoring results Parks and Wildlife staff regularly update the area that is known to contain occupied habitat, and approximately 90% of this area was burnt in the October and November fires. There are two small pockets of known occupied habitat that remain unburnt. There is also the possibility that birds may have been able to escape the flames to the north and east of the November fires. There is some historical habitat to the east of the burnt area, and although this hasn’t had birds in it in recent years, some of the ARUs were deployed after the October fires (which were not burnt in November) and this will also be one of the areas that the team will target for future surveys. Until survey work can be completed an assessment on the number of Western Ground Parrots that remain is not possible. Introduced predator control The Parks and Wildlife team also conducted some introduced predator control work following the October fires, delivering ground baits to key areas of habitat surrounding the fires and setting traps around the fire edge. In the ten days of targeted trapping, seven feral cats were caught and euthanized. A special aerial baiting of the reserve with Eradicat® was also carried out through the Parks and Wildlife’s Western Shield program following the November fires.
What next? The impact of the recent fires on ground parrot habitat has been extensive, but we remain optimistic and hope that we will find birds in new areas in the New Year. The South Coast Threatened Birds Recovery Team will meet in early January to discuss post-fire recovery actions including proposed ground parrot monitoring, introduced predator control strategies and recovery actions for the other threatened birds in the South Coast Threatened Birds Recovery Plan that were impacted by November fires (Noisy Scrub-bird, Western Bristlebird and Western Whipbird). The IFRP and Parks and Wildlife staff would like to thank all the wonderful volunteers who assisted with survey work in 2015. Thanks also to the many people who have offered support following the spring fires in Cape Arid. And also a big thanks to Friends of the Western Ground Parrot, whose generous support for the recovery project contributed towards the November capture work and volunteer participation on field trips. 2016 survey dates will be programmed in the next few weeks, and advertised on the Friends webpage.
One of the automated recording units that was burn in the November fires. (image courtesy S. Comer, Department of Parks and Wildlife)
Editor's note: Our organisation is currently raising funds to help amongst other things make available additional ARUs for future Western Ground Parrot searches. Please help with a donation if you can.
Sponsorship from Horizon Power
We are pleased to announce that we have signed a sponsorship deal with Horizon Power. The WA
power company has made a $5,000 cash contribution towards the recovery project. Horizon Power wanted to support the conservation program after it learned that 90% of the known habitat of
Western Ground Parrots was burnt in the bushfires that ravaged the Esperance region including Cape Arid National Park. Thank you for your support, HORIZON POWER!
SECRETS AT SUNRISE Our efforts to create a documentary have suffered a serious set-back when Jennene Riggs' application for funding through Screen Australia was rejected. Nature documentaries it appears were not very high on the funding body's agenda this year. We are about to lodge a grant application with Lotterywest hoping to receive funds to cover the post-production costs such as editing, music, and narration. Jennene has been able to film more footage and is seen here with fire crews battling the blazes in Cape Arid National Park.
Image courtesy Riggs/Australia
Jennene has been in touch with a variety of overseas broadcasters over the past few months. Contacts with BBC and French/German channel ARTE appear to be the most promising as both have shown some interest in seeing the finished product. If you are in a position to support the making of the documentary, please consider giving a donation to the fund the Documentary Australia Foundation has set up in support of the project: http://www.documentaryaustralia.com.au/films/816/secrets-at-sunrise All donations above $2 are tax-deductible for Australian taxpayers.
UPDATE FROM PERTH ZOO by Arthur Ferguson
On the 18th November Perth Zoo was delighted to receive two new young birds captured from Cape Arid National Park by the Department of Parks and Wildlife to support the captive breeding efforts. With the recent spike of Bushfire activity in the Cape Arid National Park this may well have been a lifesaving move for these two birds. Based on the male’s plumage he is thought to be approximately 15 months old whereas the female is a younger bird bred this year most likely around 3 months old. The two birds were transported to Perth Zoo some 700km south east from Esperance and upon arrival at the zoo were given a health check by Perth Zoo veterinarians prior to being released into their customised quarantine aviary.
Quarantine aviary for new birds - image courtesy Perth Zoo
The birds have settled into the aviary really well and are both feeding, drinking and showing a settled demeanour. Often when one bird commences feeding the other bird will commence feeding so it’s very pleasing to see this level of compatibility so far.
Female bird front left and male bird rear right – image courtesy Perth Zoo
Unfortunately, there was little in the way of breeding developments with the two pairs of birds this season. This may have been partly due to the re-pairing of the birds, however, there is still a lot to be understood about the social and reproductive behaviour of this unique and poorly studied cryptic species. Perth Zoo continues to invest a great deal of time and effort understanding the birds' behaviour at an individual and group level and we are getting closer to being able to achieve breeding success which is becoming even more urgent due to the situation facing the population in the wild.
Department of Parks and Wildlife Spring 2015 Western Ground Parrot update cont. Integrated Fauna Recovery Team by Sarah Comer
Fitzgerald River National Park - October Early in October a team of staff and volunteers headed out to the Fitzgerald River National Park for a week of ground parrot surveys, native fauna monitoring and feral cat related work. Despite the bush looking great with wonderful spring flowering and some excellent listening conditions, no ground parrots were heard during the week. Remote cameras were reset to monitor the success of the spring Eradicat速 baiting trial, which gave the team a good opportunity to look for new areas to target for ground parrot surveys in autumn 2016. The spring baiting trial was supported by South Coast NRM, and we hope to learn more about optimal timing of feral cat control in south coast ecosystems from this work. Western Shield native fauna monitoring was also completed this week. The captures included a significant number of Dibbler, Western Mouse and Brush-tailed Possums were a highlight. Editors note The Fitzgerald River National Park survey was the first trip utilizing the camping equipment we were able to purchase thanks to a generous grant from State Natural Resource Management earlier this year.
image courtesy Dave Taylor
Having access to a decent shelter for food preparation and rest is very important for the field crew. We would like to thank the Department of Parks and Wildlife for offering storage whilst the equipment is not in use.
Chirpings from the Chair, Dave Taylor here with Threatened Species Commissioner Gregory Andrews Firstly, welcome to our new format. I hope this makes the newsletter just that little bit more noticeable and interesting. It is with regret that I advise the editor/producer of our newsletter Stephen Fryc has hung up his pens. Stephen has produced our newsletter from day one and from my calculations this makes it approximately 10 years. Stephen has done a great job over the years keeping members informed of what is happening with the Friends of the Western Ground Parrot. At times it was a very trying job getting people to submit articles on time and, at times articles were submitted after the cut off date. Stephen, thank you for a job well done and I wish you well for the future. Our Annual general Meeting was held on 15 October 2015. Let me introduce you to our new committee: Chair - David Taylor
Secretary - Anne Bondin
Committee members - Deon Utber, Liz Tanner, Peter Stewart, Michael Walters, Carol Trethowan
Dave Taylor with Carol Trethowan, Peter Stewart, Anne Bondin and Liz Tanner
Since the AGM, Carol has resigned her position. The committee would like to thank Carol for her input over the last couple of years.
At our first Committee Meeting for the year, held on 3 December 2015, the following were appointed to the committee : Paul Wettin – Vice Chair
Wayne Monks – Treasurer
Both Paul and Wayne will be a valuable asset to our committee. Secondly, Fires. No doubt you are all aware of the devastation by fire from lightning strike ignition to Cape Arid National Park. Following surveys by Department of Parks & Wildlife (DPaW), it appears that approximately 90% of Western Ground Parrot habitat has been destroyed. What effect this has had on the population is not known at this stage. We are hopeful that most, if not all birds escaped the fires but this unlikely. However, we are ever hopeful that like after the 2002 fires that destroyed a greater portion of the Park, birds still remain. DPaW and volunteers were in the park undertaking surveys and a capture program of the WGP following the fires in October when further thunder storms necessitated the group to evacuate the park. Luckily, 2 WGP’s had been captured prior to the evacuation and are now held at Perth Zoo to further enhance the captive breeding and release project. It was at this survey that I saw my first Western Ground Parrot in the wild. Great interest has been shown in the plight of the WGP since the fires and we thank all the media people who have given coverage to this. The Albany Advertiser gave front page coverage to the WGP and Gilbert’s Potoroo. The Albany Extra also gave a front page write up. Several radio interviews have been done with ABC Great Southern, ABC Kalgoorlie and Radio National. Discovery Channel also gave footage of the WGP’s plight following the fires. The newspaper Kalgoorlie Miner also did a feature. More recently the West Australian and ABC News gave coverage of the birds at the Perth Zoo. Our Facebook page has a link to a short video clip by the West Australian on the health checks of the new parrots at Perth Zoo. Thirdly, On Sunday 6 December 2015, Threatened Species Commissioner Gregory Andrews visited Albany to view the damage caused by fire at the Two Peoples Bay Nature Reserve. This area is home to Gilbert’s Potoroo and the Noisy Scrub-bird. It was very pleasing to catch up with Gregory and discuss what can be done to save these threatened species as well as the Western Ground Parrot. Our fund raising program for conservation and rehabilitation to preserve the Western Ground Parrot is ticking over nicely. We have raised more than $6,000 so far. Thank you to all who have donated. Horizon Power has sponsored us for $5000 to help our cause. Thank you Horizon Power. Making of the documentary, Secrets at Sunrise is progressing nicely and it was good to catch up with Jennene in the field during November. I am sure this documentary will be a success when completed. Friends of the Western Ground Parrot were represented at World Animal Day by John & Judy Blyth. This now seems to be annual event sponsored by the City of Melville and held at Piney Lakes. Thank you John and Judy for your efforts on the day. The Western Ground Parrot costume which we were able to commission thanks to a State NRM grant is nearing completion. Committee member Liz has visited the costume maker last weekend. This has been a long drawn out project, but the finished costume should be ready for delivery to Perth Zoo this week.
Speaking of Christmas - It is the time of the year that I wish you all a VERY SAFE AND HAPPY CHRISTMAS and look forward to your support in the New Year.
STOP PRESS We have just learned via Twitter from BirdLife Australia's CEO Paul Sullivan that Australia's national birding association has pledged $5,000 from the Australian Bird Environment Fund to our organisation to assist us with covering volunteer expenses in upcoming Western Ground Parrot surveys. A huge thank you to BirdLife for their support! We hope some their members will join us in future surveys.
Contacts: Chairperson: David Taylor Phone: 0458 502836 Secretary: Anne Bondin Phone: (08) 9844 1793 Email: email@example.com Mailing address: PO Box 5613, Albany, WA 6332 Previous issues of our newsletter are available online at http://wgpnewsletters.blogspot.com/ Western Ground Parrot history blog: http://westerngroundparrothistory.blogspot.com.au/
Donate online: https://www.givenow.com.au/groundparrot Donate by direct deposit: Friends of the Western Ground Parrot Westpac/ Albany BSB: 036-168 A/C: 317989 Donate by cheque: Please mail a cheque in the name of our organisation copyright Friends of the Western Ground Parrot