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Newsupdate no. 59 – June 2013 In this issue: trip reports, opportunities for volunteers, updates on captive WGPs and cat control trial - and MUCH more

Why it matters? By Georgina Staetler Every now and then you come across a person who asks what does it really matter if we lose a bird species or two? On these occasions, the right words often fail me. I become about as articulate as a drunken lorikeet. Recently I read an article by Samantha Vine titled "Orangebellied Parrot - On a Wing and a Prayer". It was published in the June 2010 edition of Wingspan (now called "Australian Birdlife"). She said (at pages 12-13): "We are in the midst of a biodiversity crisis, and the available funds will do little to stem the flow of extinctions of species currently teetering on the brink. It is disappointing that in a developed, prosperous country such as Australia we should even have to contemplate abandoning a species to extinction when it is usually development for economic growth that has caused their decline in the first place... Extinction is forever; there are no second chances. The disappearance of any species ... leaves us all the poorer and undermines our own survival. All species have their own unique role in maintaining ecosystems, and the diversity of the natural world is being damaged as a result of our activities. Giving up on our natural heritage because of cost would be tragic."

too. For instance, the cat baiting trial currently being run in the Fitzgerald River and Cape Arid National Parks by the Department of Environment and Conservation, whilst assisting the Western Ground Parrot, will also go to ensuring the survival of the 22 mammal (including 7 declared rare), 41 reptile and 12 frog species that share its habitat. The Western Ground Parrot is a beautiful, iconic bird and a precious natural resource. Recently Tourism Australian launched a campaign to promote the "'Great South West Edge", an area stretching from Busselton to Cape Arid National Park which it describes as follows: "Nature has been flaunting her beauty here for millions of years with white beaches, wildflowers, wetlands, towering forests, limestone caves and the meeting of two oceans at one river. A wet winter and dry summer Mediterranean style climate, a dazzling array of flora and fauna and captivating contrasts between land and sea, make the Great South West a truly unique national landscape offering diversity at its finest." The Western Ground Parrot is an integral part of the diversity found in the Great South West Edge. Biodiversity is our nation's natural wealth. That wealth is there for us, for our children and for their children. We have no right to squander it. Having created the problems that led to the threat of extinction, surely we have a duty to fix them.

I would add to this that saving one species invariably will have a positive flow on effect for the survival of other species

News regarding WGP status: On 14 May the Western Ground Parrot was listed as CRITICALLY ENDANGERED under federal Australian legislation bringing this important body in line with the classification by the Western Australian Department of Environment and Conservation (DEC) and the Action Plan for Australian Birds (2010). In 2010, FWGP combined with those DEC members of the South Coast Threatened Birds Recovery Team (SCTBRT) who were a part of the WGP Recovery Project, and the Birdlife Australia WA’s representatives to the SCTBRT, to make a joint application to the Australian Government for re-appraisal of WGP status from Endangered. The updated listing will ensure that decision makers are aware of the precarious situation of the WGP. The change can be seen at Many thanks to all involved.


Western Ground Parrot Recovery Project Update Abby Berryman & Sarah Comer Population monitoring & survey Cape Arid National Park Seven volunteers joined the Western Ground Parrot (WGP) survey trip to Cape Arid in April, focussing on surveying some of the eastern area of the park where WGPs are known to occur. This area hadn’t been surveyed thoroughly since si 2010 because wet tracks and dieback hygiene restrictions had prevented access in previous years. Pleasingly, good numbers of WGP calls were heard at nearly all of the established monitoring points that were surveyed. Results from the Song Meter automated ed recording units (ARUs) are still being analysed so it is too early to say how this compares to results from previous years, but first impressions are that this year’s results are encouraging and that numbers have not declined. As reported in the previous us newsletter, newsletter this trip was timed to

coincide with the Western Shield fauna monitoring work and retrieval of cat collars. There are two long term monitoring sites that were established in 2009 to document trends in native fauna following the introduction of cat baiting in Cape Arid, one at Poison Creek ek and one at Pasley. This allowed for some opportunistic listening and ARU survey to occur at Poison Creek at the same time, and this work focussed on the area burnt in a bushfire in January 2011. This site used to support a significant sub-population population of WGPs, and post-fire monitoring in 2011 had located a small number of birds to the north of the burnt area. The good news is that in April WGPs were still being heard to the north of the fire edge, and were also recorded flying back to roosts from the area that had been burnt.

Fitzgerald River National Park Six DEC staff ventured into the Wilderness Area to conduct fauna surveys in March. Part of this work was focussed on resurveying the historical al WGP habitat around Thumb Peak and Woolbernup Hill. ARUs were used to survey a large area of potential habitat, but no ground parrots were heard. Six volunteers joined the search for WGPs in the Fitz in May, with the area of focus being the two sites where w WGPs have been heard in recent years. Surveys were a combination of standard listening surveys in addition to placing some ARUs to increase the area covered. This included the established monitoring sites of Short Road and Drummond Track, but listening g surveys and ARUs were also placed at another historical ground parrot location near Mt Drummond. Unfortunately there were no confirmed WGP calls heard during the trip, and the ARUs did not record any calls either.

While this may sound discouraging, we don’t d yet think we are at the stage where we would say that WGPs no longer remain in the Fitz. Much uch of the habitat that had supported WGPs in recent years is no longer as suitable for WGPs. With time, the vegetation is becoming taller and/or denser, neither of which is ideal for WGPs. It may well be that any WGPs that used to live there have moved on to areas better suited to their needs. Future surveys will focus on locating and surveying new areas of potential habitat. A big thank you to all the volunteers who helped out with these surveys – your efforts are very much appreciated! Thank you also to the Friends of the Western Ground Parrot who provided support for volunteer travel expenses through a DEC Environmental Community unity Grant and State NRM who provided funds to support survey trips and purchase of ARUs.

(Photo Left) The Cape Arid National Park WGP survey group. From left to right: Sylvia Leighton, Stella Stewart-Wynne, Stewar Wynne, John Tucker, Margot Oorebeek, Carol Trethowan, Frank O’Connor, Abby Berryman (DEC) and Jim Creighton. (Photo Right) Some of the Fitzgerald River National Park WGP survey team headed for home. From left to right: Sarah Comer (DEC), Jon Pridham (DEC), ), Abby Berryman (DEC), Dave Taylor, Diana Rose and Peter Taylor (missing from this photo are volunteers Keith Lightbody, Michael Walters and Lesley Shaw)

More survey trips are planned FWGP still have some of the DEC Environmental Env Community Grant to assist with volunteer travel expenses. Too register your interest, interest please contact the Friends of the Western Ground Parrot ( ). Cape Arid National Park Pasley 6 – 11 October Poison Creek 27 October – 1 November. Dates for the Fitzgerald River National Park surveys are yet to be finalised Thanks!


Integrated predator control A.Berryman & S. Comer

Management of introduced predators in WGP habitat is ongoing with fox control funded through Western Shield and the trials of the cat bait Eradicat funded through Caring for Our Country, South Coast NRM and Biodiversity Fund. Cat baits were delivered to over 300,000 ha of Cape Arid and Fitzgerald River National Parks in March, and the first post-release monitoring found that two of the six collared cats were definite bait victims. Wet weather and access restrictions have delayed efforts to retrieve the other four collars. One of these may be faulty, and at least one was also in mortality mode in March. The team are still analysing the data from the remote cameras, which will provide further data to support the efficacy of baiting.

Captive Management Project – where to from here? A. Berryman & S. Comer

The WGP captive management project commenced in late 2009 as a trial to see if we could successfully take WGPs from the wild and keep them in captivity – this was something that had never been attempted before with this species. After the success of the pilot phase of this project, additional birds were captured in 2010 to allow us to further refine husbandry methods and to trial breeding the birds. The current captive population consists of seven birds (three females, four males), and although one pair has attempted to breed the past two years, the chicks did not survive. This is a promising start though, and shows that captive WGPs will attempt to breed, and with better luck and a few small modifications, successful breeding should be achievable. It needs to be remembered however that the current captive management project is not yet a captive breeding program. To undertake a successful captive breeding program we would

need to take more birds into captivity to avoid problems with inbreeding, and we would require additional aviaries and resources to support a breeding and release program. The Friends of the WGP have been lobbying for funds and approaching potential corporate sponsors in recent months but have not yet been successful in attracting the significant funds required to commence a captive breeding program. At the South Coast Threatened Birds Recovery Team meeting in April, options were explored as to what direction the project should take if further funding is unable to be secured. Alternative options include seeking another organisation to take on the captive breeding, or even releasing the current captive birds back into the wild, although this is the Recovery Team’s least preferred option, and would be a measure of last resort.

It should be kept in mind that in the past few years big inroads have been made in protecting wild WGP populations and we have learnt some invaluable lessons about keeping this species in captivity. The biggest threats facing the wild WGPs are uncontrolled bushfires and predation by feral cats. Fire management to protect WGP habitat continues to be a priority, and an experimental feral cat control project aims to reduce the numbers of feral cats through a baiting program, and this project is fully funded until mid 2015. However, it may take some time before these recovery efforts result in a substantial increase in WGP numbers which is why it is desirable to also have a captive breeding program so that captive bred WGPs can be released to bolster wild populations once effective feral predator control has taken place.

Update on the captive Western Ground Parrots A.

Berryman & S. Comer

On the 12th of June, all of the captive birds were caught and temporarily held in their transport boxes to allow us to do an annual cleanout of their aviaries. This also gave us the opportunity to examine each bird in the hand to ensure it was in good health and didn’t have any problems that we were unable to see on the video surveillance. All birds are in good condition, and the only obvious problem detected was a healing wound that Joy (09M04) had on his head –this had been noted as a disturbance to his head feathers several weeks ago when presumably he had startled, flushed and hit his head. While the birds were out of the aviaries, it gave us the chance to have a thorough cleanout, remove any droppings and old vegetation and leaf litter. The plants growing within the aviary were given a good prune to keep them resembling suitable WGP habitat. Also, nest boxes were positioned at the rear of the aviaries and surveillance cameras placed on them in preparation for the upcoming breeding season. It is hoped

that any pairs that attempt to breed this year will use these nest boxes, giving us the ability to monitor the breeding attempt via the video surveillance. The capture of the captive birds also gave us the opportunity to rearrange which birds are paired together. To date, only one of the females (Dawn 09F04) has attempted to breed and it is hoped that by providing them with a new potential partner, the other two females will be encouraged to attempt to breed as well. The birds have all settled back down quickly after the disturbance of capture and seem to being getting on very well with their new aviary-mates. It was really pleasing to see that within the space of a day one of the new pairs were feeding within a foot of each other. This is a really promising start as birds that are comfortable enough to feed close together within such a short space of time should have a better chance of bonding.


Orange-bellied Parrot Captive Breeding Program Abby Berryman In March I was fortunate to have the chance to spend some time at both the Hobart and Healesville Sanctuary Orange-bellied Parrot (OBP) captive breeding facilities and to attend the OBP Captive Management Group meeting. This was a great opportunity to see how the OBP program is run and to get some ideas on how we can improve the WGP captive management program. Staff at both facilities were extremely helpful with sharing their knowledge and experience. I had the chance to talk to them about various aspects of husbandry including diet, breeding, aviary design, and health, as well as record-keeping and overall program management and how this could be applied to the WGP program. A huge thank you to the staff from Healesville Sanctuary and the Tasmanian Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and Environment who made me feel so welcome and were so generous with their time and knowledge.

Eastern Ground Parrot Abby Berryman While I was in Hobart visiting the OBP captive facility, Mark Holdsworth was kind enough to take me looking for Eastern Ground Parrots. Mark couldn’t have planned it any better if he tried – we got out of the car, walked a few metres and up flew an EGP! The bird then landed and sat in full view for quite some time, giving me a far better look at an EGP than I’ve ever had of a wild WGP.

The site near Hobart where the Eastern Ground Parrot was sighted.

Western Ground Parrot and climate change In a recent paper dealing with all Australian bird species in relation to predicted climate change (Climate change adaptation strategies for Australian birds by Stephen Garnett et al., published by National Climate Change Research Facility, Gold Coast. 2013.) the Western Ground Parrot is shown to be very highly vulnerable to pressures of climate change. The predictions are based on an index of climate exposure, and climate sensitivity. The measure of sensitivity is comprised of values in each of four fields: specialization (food, habitat etc), relative brain size, reproductive capacity and genetic variability. The authors point out that it is likely that due to a combination of rising temperature and lower rainfall, fires across WGP habitat will become ever more frequent and so continuing investment in measures to control fires will be essential if the species is to be saved in the wild. The Western Ground Parrot is already under a lot of pressure, there being such a low population of wild birds, assured in only one location, and with no captive breeding program yet established. B Newbey and S Fryc


Crossword No. 1 (March 2013) solution Across: 1. Whitlock 6. era 7. cat 9. rock 10. all 11. pay 12. mist 14. net 15. see 17. compass 22. low heathland Down: 1. wilderness 2. tea 3. Charlie 4. beak 5. Barrett 7. cryptic 8. tray 13. ilk 18. ouch 19. a lot 20. soil 21. hard

An Artwork by S Fryc

YTT for the WGP – a story by Peter Stewart PART 1 An easy question to start with, although somewhat philosophical: What set of events has had to occur to have a Western Ground Parrot here today? There are a vast set of answers to this, some, off the top of your head maybe – a male and female found each other, an egg has had to hatch, the parents have had to hide their nest from predators, it must not have flooded or there were no bushfires when the chick was in the nest and so on and so on. Just these few points really highlight just how nature can adjust, modify, adapt and ‘strike it lucky’ to ensure that a species of animal (e.g. WGP) has been able to survive throughout the millennia. Now coming back to a time scale which humans have some capacity to comprehend, there are just three easy words – yesterday, today and tomorrow! YESTERDAY – a WGP had to eat some food TODAY – a WGP has to find some food TOMORROW – if the above two statements have not happened, there will be no WGP So has the existence of the WGP come down to those three words: yesterday, today and tomorrow (YTT)? Yes it has, and so let this tale begin.

Yesterday, our little WGP came out from his roost before the sun’s rays had stretched across the sandplains and heathlands of the Barrens. The Tallarack trees were hanging onto the last of their nightly glow and the dew was settling on the leaves of the Honey Pot Dryandra, ready to trickle down and be added to the sweet nectar of the almost hidden flowers. The dawn had already broken at Cape Arid, the shafts of sunlight sharply angled but rising quickly to warm the earth. At the Barrens, the shy WGP stretches tall and ruffles his feathers to help release the autumn chill which through the night had tried desperately to seek out his bones. With a deep instinctive drive he commences an ancient communiqué to this world, a buzz call which melds effortlessly into a strong rising crescendo of notes. This is HIS call and HIS territory and so his day begins as the sun breaches the horizon and blazes a path to the zenith and beyond to the west. Energy. This is what he now seeks, to firstly fuel his core functions but then there must be a surplus, a reserve available for growth, activity, exploration and joy. He moves, purposefully and stealthily, letting his mottled feathers take him into the world of plants where form and colour are static, but he has the skills to make movement stand still. And there is energy here, the sun’s radiation captured and transformed by a myriad of plant species and although growing and producing for their own needs there is now usable energy in the form of food available to our skillful WGP. He sets out, traversing his territory with the features of the landscape mapped within his mind, in combination with the sun’s position and the magnetism of the earth beneath his lightweight frame. A call carries from the north; it is far off, delivered from the heath at the base of the Breakaway, it is easily recognizable – female. He stops, props himself steady and returns a call, pushing the notes into the breeze, willing his call to reach her as he has done for last two seasons. He needs to pause, too much movement! For the winged assassins will soon be soaring as the ground heats and the thermals start to carry them, their silent swift shadows a precursor to a savage death, as his last mate had suffered. Stillness, Listening. There are core functions still to be fulfilled before joy can be experienced. To be continued…….


FWGP Committee Update – from David Taylor (Chairman) and Georgina Steytler Bird Expo participation At the inaugural Bird Expo recently held in Albany, Friends of the Western Ground Parrot had a stand and made good use of our giveaway materials such as stickers, bookmarks and brochures. This was well received and approximately 450 people passed through the Expo. It is hoped this will become an annual event giving us and the WGP greater exposure locally. Surveys at Waychicup Listening surveys were conducted in the Waychinicup and Cheynes Beach area during February and June. Again, unfortunately, no calls were heard. It does seem after at least six years with no positive records, that no birds are now present in this area. Many thanks to the volunteers who assisted in these sessions. Perth Royal Show We have asked the Perth Royal Show organisers if we can exhibit at this year's event to be held from 28 September to 5 October. We haven't yet received an answer. If we get a favourable response, we will run the stand in conjunction with Birdlife Australia WA and are looking for volunteers to assist. If anyone is interested in helping, please contact Georgina Steytler at Awareness article On 20 April 2013 an article raising awareness of the plight of the WGP was published in the West Australian newspaper. The article is titled "Care critical for threatened species". A copy is available on our website. A potential sponsor Michael Booth from Coca-cola Amatil has offered to promote the cause of the WGP at upcoming Perth Arena events. Stay tuned for developments in the coming weeks, including a children's colouring-in competition and an online auction . We are on Facebook Keep up to date by checking our facebook page: . If you haven't already done this, please make sure to "Like" our page and encourage friends to do so too. Every bit of support counts. Receipts Please note that our treasurer is away for a little longer so issuing of receipts could be slow.

Membership Fees

Please donate to the Western Ground Parrot Rescue Fund: Online: Direct credit: Western Ground Parrot Rescue Fund BSB: 036-168 A/C: 317989 Cheque: Western Ground Parrot Rescue Fund

The 2013/14 membership fees become 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 (

Donations of $2 or more are tax deductible.

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

Contacts: David Taylor (Chair). Phone 0458502836

Anne Bondin (Secretary/Treasurer). Phone (08) 9844 1793

Address: PO Box 5613, Albany, WA 6332


Website: Archive: Previous issues of our newsletter are available online at

Editor: Stephen Fryc Email:

Next issue: September 2013


Friends of the Western Ground Parrot June 2013 Newsletter  

This is a quarterly newsletter for the Friends of the Western Ground Parrot. This is the June 2013 edition. The Western Ground Parrot is cri...

Friends of the Western Ground Parrot June 2013 Newsletter  

This is a quarterly newsletter for the Friends of the Western Ground Parrot. This is the June 2013 edition. The Western Ground Parrot is cri...