Newsupdate no. 45 – November 2010 Friends of the Western Ground Parrot Inc. news Dawn chooses Joy -
By Abby Berryman
In an exciting development for the project, last-minute funding has been secured to capture an additional three or four birds to progress to a trial of captive breeding. This will potentially give us three pairs of birds to trial breeding of WGPs in captivity and to refine breeding techniques with a view to expand into a fullscale captive breeding program (funding dependent). The capture work will take place in November, carried out by a team of Department of Environment and Conservation staff and volunteers with assistance from Perth Zoo. The Friends of the Western Ground Parrot have organised the volunteers to participate in the capture work and are covering volunteer expenses through a grant recently received through DEC’s Environmental Community Grant. (For an update on the capture work see page three – Ed.)
Joy and Dawn’s first encounter at the food tray. Joy is the bird on the left.
The three captive ground parrots have all settled well into the new aviaries. The new aviaries were designed so that the birds could be given the opportunity to interact with each other, initially through a mesh divider and later by removing a panel to open up the aviaries. When moved into the new facility, the birds were placed in adjacent aviaries with Dawn (the female) in the middle, and the two males (Zephyr and Joy) either side of her. This allowed us to observe how she interacted with the two males and to ensure that there were no signs of aggression before taking the next step and removing the dividing panel. Initially, Dawn spent time looking into the aviaries of both the males but as the weeks progressed she began to focus more on Joy. Joy was also very interested in watching Dawn’s movements. By 18 October, Dawn had begun to display to Joy by lowering her head and making a soft, repeated clucking noise. A few days after this she also began turning around and raising her tail while doing this display. Based on these observations, the decision was made to remove the panel dividing them. Once the panel was removed, it took four hours before Joy made his first venture into Dawn’s pen; however Dawn stayed hidden so no interaction took place. It wasn’t until the following morning that the interaction really began. Dawn made a couple of early morning forays into Joy’s pen. During one of these visits, Dawn was feeding on Joy’s food tray but got off when she heard Joy approaching. Joy came charging up and into the food tray, before running off again, while Dawn stood beside the tray before getting back on and resuming feeding. Both birds have been making regular excursions into the other’s pen and quite often they will be seen moving around the aviary together, or foraging in the other’s aviary for food. On the second morning, Dawn was once again helping herself to Joy’s food tray and Joy approached to watch her. Gradually he crept closer until he was on the tray with Dawn. He then ate one seed before running away to watch for a while and then repeating the process. It is really encouraging to see that so soon after being introduced, Joy and Dawn can share food without any signs of aggression. It is hoped that Joy and Dawn will develop a pair bond and perhaps, if we are really fortunate, they may attempt to breed this year. However, we consider that the chances of them breeding successfully are slim as they are both still young (they are a year old and, based on other parrot species, we did not think they would breed until two years) and it is late in the breeding season. Even if they do not breed this year, the time spent bonding now should be good preparation for next year’s breeding season.
Our AGM The AGM held in Albany on 29th September was well attended with 19 members and six visitors present. The committee for 2010/11 as elected at the meeting comprises some old hands and two new recruits: Brenda Newbey (Chair), Anne Bondin (Secretary / Treasurer), Saul Cowen, Val Hack, Deon Utber, Vicky Bilney, Craig Johnston (committee members). Although we were not able to elect a Vice-chair at the AGM, it is likely that Vicky Bilney who was absent from the AGM, will be appointed to this position during the November committee meeting. This photo from the meeting shows two members of the committee standing – Saul with back to the camera and Craig. Brenda can be seen in the background wearing a pale Western Ground Parrot tshirt. Abby Berryman, now the WGP Recovery Project’s Captive Management Conservation Officer, is between Brenda and Craig. Abby was one of our guest speakers. She was able to report on how the birds were settling in to their new and roomier accommodation which will be much better for the birds and also for their carers. Already there was the encouraging news that Joy was spending some time gazing at Dawn. We were pleasantly surprised that member Steve Waddington who is also one of the directors of the telecommunications company Exetel was present with two of his sons. This meant that we were able to personalize our thanks to Exetel for their continuing support for the captive management program. Sales During the meeting Brenda announced that Val Hack was giving up her role as the sales person for our fundraising/awareness-raising goods. We thanked Val for taking on this task for 15 months. After the meeting, arguably the busiest person in the room, offered to take on that role for us. This was Sarah Comer. Our items are now based at the DEC office in Albany and other members of the project team as well as the office staff are assisting with sales. One of our members Chris Creighton of Condingup, east of Esperance, has offered to host a selection of our items at their vineyard and these will be available for sale out there from mid-November.
There has been much interest in the Western Australian cat baiting program and for good reason. The promise of “feral cat - free” conservation area seems too good to be true. Of course that is meant in the context that rare fauna have a better chance of daily survival without feral cats. During the Friends of the WGP AGM Cam Tiller presented a detailed insight into the DEC cat baiting “Western Shield” program. While this eradication program is ambitious, and there are many difficulties to overcome, it is hoped feral cat numbers can be reduced in an effective manner. Presented here are two internet links that provide some great background reading on feral cats and their management. Link One: http:/www.environment.gov.au/biodiversity/invasive/publications/pubs/cat-bait-christmas-island.pdf This is a downloadable pdf file, the Title is: A bait efficacy trial for the management of feral cats on Christmas Island. Published in 2010. A shortened link for this document is http://tinyurl.com/368j7td Link Two: http://www.feral.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2010/03/CatReport_web.pdf This is also a downloadable pdf, the Title is: Review of cat ecology and management strategies in Australia. Published in 2010. A shorter link is http://tinyurl.com/2cdxo8q
Saul preparing a carry box. Photo: B Newbey
Success at Cape Arid by Brenda Newbey Cape Arid National Park has extensive WGP habitat â€“ miles of vegetation below knee height with a low scattering of mallees. I was one of the volunteers to the November field trip to Cape Arid National Park, present for the first week. This part of the trip was organized by DECâ€™s Jeff Pinder with help from Louisa Bell and Saul Cohen and a little later, Neil Hamilton. The main objective of the field trip was to capture more wild ground parrots so that the captive breeding program can begin once funding has been secured. The three birds that were captured last year have shown that the Western Ground Parrot can be kept in captivity. We found that the heathland was looking healthy with many plants in flower and seeding sedges. At first we needed to find spots where there seemed to be plenty of ground parrot activity. We were blessed with excellent listening conditions. All of the first catch were juvenile birds. Ultimately two of them, a male and a female, were kept and two were released. Two days later, almost one kilometer from the first capture site, another juvenile female was caught and kept. All three of these young birds were in good shape when they were passed over to the care of Abby several hundred kilometers to the west. Careful preparations had been made for stress-free as possible processing and transport. Especial attention paid to elimination of unnecessary noise, and monitoring of the temperature. They were supplied with fresh wild food as well as budgie seed and water with alfalfa sprouts to prevent it from sloshing. We saw few birds of prey. One Brown Falcon was present some of the time. There were several monitor lizards. Research earlier this year has shown that there is a substantial cat population in the area. Photo below (taken by C. Johnston) shows Neil Hamilton holding one of the birds that was later released. It is a very young female. Her beak is still quite pink and she still has many of her fledgling feathers which are brown and grey. It was thought that she was too young to keep as she may still be partly dependent on a parent. The birds that were kept had no pink in their bill and more green feathers. Also the red patch above their bill had begun to show.
The photo below, on the next page, shows Neil releasing the young female. She perched on his hand then flew away strongly in the direction she had been travelling when her flight was interrupted. Her colouration blends perfectly with the bush. Photo taken by B Newbey.
Albany Show Display Contributed by Anne Bondin As in previous years the group set up a display at the Albany Show to educate the public about the Western Ground Parrot and what is being done to save it from possible extinction. This year our display was hosted by South Coast NRM - we would like to thank them for inviting us to their stall. DEC kindly assisted with the printing of publicity material. Thanks also go to Abby Berryman, Vicky Bilney, Anne Bondin, Fay Gorddard, Meg Lewis, Pam Lumsden, Janet Newell and Carol Trethowan for manning the display and answering visitors' questions.
Thanks from the Recovery Team Many â€˜Friendsâ€™ will be aware of the efforts of the Western Ground Parrot Recovery program to take a small number of birds into captivity in order to establish husbandry techniques. Given the rapid declines in populations at Waychinicup and more recently the Fitzgerald River National Park, this part of the recovery project was seen as an essential insurance measure in conservation actions for the species. Eventually we hope that the program can be shifted into captive breeding mode, with birds ultimately released in areas where predator management has been effective. One of the key items that we did not have funding for was the installation of a security system to protect the captive birds from unwanted attention. On behalf of the South Coast Threatened Birds Recovery Team, which is responsible for implementation of Western Ground Parrot Recovery actions, I would like to extend our grateful thanks to the members of the Friends for their generous contribution towards the security system. Sarah Comer
Contacts: Brenda Newbey (Chair). Phone (08) 9337 5673
Anne Bondin (Secretary/Treasurer). Phone (08) 9844 1793
Address: PO Box 5613, Albany, WA 6332
Archive: Previous issues of our newsletter are available online at Editor: Stephen Fryc Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
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This is the November 2010 edition