Welcome to the Friends of the Western Ground Parrot Newsletter
No. 84 - Spring 2019
Get up-to-date information about the latest efforts to save this critically endangered parrot unique to Western Australia
A very sad loss
Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions (DBCA) Western Ground Parrot Spring Update
Sarah Comer, Abby Thomas and Jeff Pinder
As reported by Deon in the last newsletter, winter is a quiet time for the DBCA ground parrot team with holidays and trips to warmer climates to recharge batteries. Since returning the south coast staff have followed up on reports of ground parrots in the Cheyne Beach area and serviced the solar ARUs (Acoustic Recording Units) in Cape Arid National Park and Nuytsland Nature Reserve.
The deployment of ARUs in Waychinicup was planned as part of the regular monitoring of this site, and when we received a report of calls from some local residents in August, we made sure that this area was covered in addition to some of the historically occupied sites. Twelve ARUs were deployed with the assistance of some local TAFE students, and left in situ for around 12 weeks. Unfortunately, when the units were retrieved in mid-November one was missing. Extensive searching for this unit has failed to locate any sign of it, and we can only conclude that someone else needed it more than us. Although we are unlikely to see the SM2 again, we would be very happy to have the SD cards dropped off so we can process the sound files.
November saw the team, accompanied by enthusiastic volunteers, head to Cape Arid to service the solar ARU’s. Given this is the first time we have used this technology we wanted to make sure that all the units were working. UWA/Bristol University students Larisse, Marie and Kieran joined Mark True and Jim Creighton and DBCA staff to undertake the mammoth task of walking to all of the sites to service the units and replace SD cards. This involved an estimated 125 km of walking (km x people), which three teams managed to complete in two days. On the third day the team headed out to Balladonia track to collect the last of the solar ARUs, and check out a potential ground parrot sighting on Gora Track. Two ARUs were deployed in habitat very similar to currently occupied habitat, less than 30km to the north of the small population in Nuytsland Nature Reserve.
Volunteers Mark True and Jim Creighton servicing a Solar ARU (Photo: S.Comer, DBCA)
Technical officer Jeff Pinder providing instruction on ARU servicing protocols (Photo: S.Comer DBCA)
Technical staff Abby Thomas and Jeff Pinder, helped by volunteers Larisse, Marie and Kieran in a team effort to set up a ARU monitoring point near Mt Ragged (Photo: S.Comer, DBCA)
Overall the solar ARUs have been working very well, with all units having good battery power and most with clean solar panels and free of ants and other invertebrates. Processing these files (over 990gb of data) will take some time, as there are over 6000 descrete recording sessions for CANP/NNR alone. This represents around 3000 hours of monitoring, and we look forward to providing an update on what we find. We are also planning deployment of the units purchased by the Friends in the Fitzgerald River NP, and hope to have these operating in the Wilderness zone of the national park by the end of January. These units will be invaluable in helping us to establish if ground parrots are still present in this area.
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Western Ground Parrot Update from Perth Zoo November 2019
Female Kangal displayed desire to breed at approx. 12 months of age, providing new information on potential age of reproduction for female Western Ground Parrots (WGPs). She formed a strong pair bond with nine-year-old male Brutus engaging in allofeeding (male feeding the female on the nest) and copulation solicitation. Brutus and Kangal engaged in their first mating attempt on the 15th August however the male didn’t progress to mount the female. Despite many subsequent copulation solicitations from the female towards the male, in several different areas, the male didn’t progress to mount the female and copulation didn’t occur. This behaviour is considered most unusual for a mature male parrot but unfortunately, this is not unique for this bird. Brutus exhibited the same behaviour towards a mature reproductively proven female (Dawn) in 2014. With Brutus’s lack of confidence/inability to mount the female it was decided to swap him out with proven male Joy. Unfortunately, male Joy showed no interest towards Kangal over several weeks and Brutus was therefore returned to the aviary. Brutus & Kangal resumed where they had left off in a short space of time, recommencing copulation solicitation & mating attempts. During one attempt, Brutus briefly stepped onto Kangal’s tail with both feet and we were hopeful he might figure things out, but this was as close as he got, and a ‘one off’ and successful mount and copulation didn’t result.
Female Kangal solicitation to male Brutus – Brutus failure to mount and copulate with female.
Female Kangal solicitation to male Brutus – Brutus failure to mount and copulate with female.
Male Zephyr and female Fifi progressed to solicitation and mating on the 28th September. This was the first time Zephyr had been confirmed to copulate with a female over the years and the prospect of Fifi attempting breeding with a different male was an exciting development. Unfortunately, our excitement turned to grief as Fifi was lost due to reproductive complications on the 5th October. She was nine years of age with a long history of reproductive abnormalities and health complications. Fifi was confirmed to have laid at least 16 eggs over the years however her eggs were considered smaller than average and fertility was very poor with only one egg confirmed as fertile. Fifi contributed much of what we now know about WGP behaviour and she is sadly missed.
Male Monak and female Kopin showed limited reproductive behaviours during the breeding season. There was some interest and watching at times however male Monak’s calls were subadult in nature and it’s thought that he was likely to young to breed. Female Kopin displayed occasional levels of excitement undertaking early morning flights often in response to the other males (Zephyr, Brutus, Joy) calling.
The new mature birds male Mingko and female Leuca were provided with access 22nd May. These birds were very quiet and remained well hidden maintaining a low profile in aviary. They rarely ventured into each other’s areas and limited reproductive behaviours were identified. Some tail fanning/flicking and interest watching was observed. In October/November (well after sunset) the female started to venture into the male’s area, and she could be seen approaching the male on his roost several times. Male Mingko displayed an unexpected level of nocturnal exploratory activity however no instances of allofeeding were identified.
Following the loss of Fifi, female Kopin was transferred into male Zephyrs aviary for pairing on the 7th October. Both Zephyr and Kopin showed some interest towards each other however they didn’t progress.
Despite the ongoing challenges that WGPs have presented in aviary management we have continued to learn and gain new insight into WGP behaviour and aviary management requirements. We are pleased how the new birds have settled in since their arrival late last year and we are optimistic that we can achieve a successful breeding outcome with the new birds in future breeding seasons.
Threatened Species Bakeoff
Western Ground Parrot cake by Georgette Hawes
Thanks to the baking skills of some of our members and supporters we were able to take part in September's Threatened Species Bakeoff which has been run on social media for a number of years by the Threatened Species Commissioner. We would also like to thank Christine Layton from ABC Radio in Perth for putting out a call for help. While we did not win, the cookies baked by Vicki Martin were sold and raised more than $200 for the Western Ground Parrot Recovery Fund.
Western Ground Parrot cookies by Vicki Martin
For this Newsletter my report to the Friends’ Annual General Meeting on 14th November is provided.
Friends of the Western Ground Parrot Inc Chairperson’s Annual Report to the 2019 Annual General Meeting
I would like to start with a summary of what I regard as the major outcomes achieved during the year and impending issues:
Significant new knowledge was gained about the ecology and movements of the 5 parrots fitted with radio transmitters in November 2018.
Five new founder birds were captured and transferred to the Perth Zoo captive program. I am anxiously awaiting news from the Zoo about any breeding activity over recent months.
The establishment of the permanent acoustic recording unit (ARU) network in Cape Arid.
The fire management work to save the parrots by the Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions (DBCA) and emergency services at Cape Arid National Park was extraordinary and possibly saved the parrots from extinction.
The summer fires highlighted the dire situation with the wild birds and their risk of extinction but the equally dire need for funding for a translocation study remains unmet.
The opportunity for Friends members and volunteers to participate in parrot survey work is diminishing due to funding shortfalls for DBCA.
Fund raising by the Friends has diminished from 2017/18 mostly due to reduced revenue from Secrets at Sunrise screenings and likely aligned donations.
The enthusiasm to continue of several Committee members has taken a beating, mainly due to what we regard as the disrespectful treatment we’ve received primarily from the Federal Government. In our experience their policy rhetoric about the importance of the Community in threatened species conservation is not matched by actual, demonstrable commitments to that Community and the outcomes we are fighting to achieve.
At last year’s AGM I identified my priorities for the year and these are addressed in the following.
Continuing our effective and committed Committee
Your hard working Committee held 3 meetings during the year and with packed agendas for each. Our meetings run 2-3 hours and cover a wide range of issues.
I personally gained a new appreciation of the total workload involved in being the Chair. For example in the last year some 1500 emails have come into our gmail, most of which require some form of action.
When Anne Bondin went on her annual northern sojourn for 2 months I found out how much work she has done and still does, particularly in the membership and merchandising areas. There are numerous orders that need to be taken and dispatched often with a visit to the Post Office. As we didn’t have a Secretary, Anne also provided minute taking services for our meetings. She also does our social media with Twitter and Instagram - you should be impressed with the constant updates. Anne is a Rock of the Friends and a great advisor to me on most things regarding the Friends’ operations!!
Treasurer Phil Bailey who has to record and report on all financial transactions is also a Rock. While selling hundreds of parrot pins is a good outcome in terms our fund raising, Phil has to keep track of each sale and also for DVDs, T-shirts, membership fees, donations and our expenditure. And then there is the official annual financial audit and reporting we have to provide to State and Federal Governments to maintain our Charitable Status.
Deon Utber continues to provide our IT support and production of our 4 newsletters. Because we have not been able to source grant funds, he has taken on the job of revising our website which is seriously “over the hill”.
Liz Tanner has taken the lead role in our developing relationship with Bill Waterer at Roots and Shoots which I report on more fully below.
During the year we very gratefully welcomed 2 new members to the Committee:
Julie Lee is based in Sydney and who is now our Facebook editor and she’s doing a great job- have a look.
Chris Young is based in Perth and is getting familiar with Friends' business and is likely to get more directly involved in the Roots and Shoots relationship.
Both Julie and Chris also bring extensive expertise in environmental issues and business knowledge. Having Committee members in Sydney and Perth is a real benefit and strengthens and expands our view of the world outside of our cocoon on the South Coast of WA.
During the year our new Constitution was accepted and our charity licence renewed with the state government.
Implementing our priority funding commitments for 2018 and developing 2019 priorities
As previously reported in our Newsletters we provided over $50,000 in 2018 for facilities at the Zoo, also for the capture of 5 founder birds for the captive program in Cape Arid in November 2018 and for the support for volunteers. Also in November 2018, 5 birds were captured and fitted with tracking devices and re-released.
Determining our 2019 funding priority was undertaken in close consultation with Sarah Comer of the Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions (DBCA), the Recovery Team and also in consideration of a number of other potential sources of funds, including grants from other Not-for-Profit organisations. So there were a lot of “balls in the air” about potential funding sources for different aspects of the Recovery Plan.
At our August meeting, and in consideration of these matters, the Committee decided to donate $20,000 to DBCA to establish a network of acoustic recording units (ARUs) in remote parts of the Fitzgerald River National Park wilderness to hopefully “re-discover” that parrots still reside in the Park. This will provide for 10 ARUs of the 20 sought by DBCA for the network. I reported on this in the Winter Newsletter.
FWGP Chair Paul Wettin handing over a cheque for $20,000 to Parks and Wildlife South Coast Regional Manager Greg Mair for Solar ARUs in Fitzgerald River National Park
I also identified in the Newsletter a possible grant of $10,000 from the Federal Government’s Communities Environment Program for this network. More information is provided on this matter below.
Federal Election lobbying, determining policies and funding relevant to WGP conservation. Advising members
The Summer 2019 Newsletter outlines my meetings with the (then) Federal Environment Minister Melissa Price and also the State Environment Minister’s Principal Policy Adviser, Brendan Dooley.
I also met with the Threatened Species Commissioner, Dr Sally Box, in Canberra in late February. The main message I conveyed in all these meetings was the critical need for the Translocation Study to be funded which was highlighted by the summer fire situation in Cape Arid and the risks with the world’s only known wild population of western ground parrots.
The outcome from this and other lobbying is reported in the Winter Newsletter but I repeat it here:
Currently over $1million per year for the Recovery Plan is being provided by the Western Australia Government for activities by the WA Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions (DBCA) for fire management, limited monitoring and feral animal control (mainly cats), and for the captive program at Perth Zoo. This leaves a major funding shortfall including some $150,000 per year to undertake the translocation study. I understand that recently a Federal contribution to the Recovery Plan via the NLP2 Regional Land Partnership Program to DBCA was agreed and is to be just over $110,000 per year. Originally these funds were to be for monitoring of the core wild population. I further understand these funds are well short of what DBCA submitted in the RLP application to meet this purpose. Consequently, I also understand, DBCA have had no choice but to scale back the outcomes they can meet with these funds.
Communities Environment Program (CEP) Grants
Two Expressions of Interest were submitted to the local Federal Member for O’Connor, Rick Wilson, for possible grants in March 2019 under the just announced Communities Environment Program. One for $5,000 was to upgrade our website to improve our communications and outreach. The second was for $10,000 for ARUs for the Fitzgerald network (note: this was well prior to the Committee’s decision for the $20,000 donation for this project). In early August Mr Wilson’s office advised the EOI for the ARU’s had “passed muster” and an on-line application for funding could be submitted by 11th October. This opportunity was publicly appreciated in our social media and Winter Newsletter!
I started to complete the on-line application in late September.
On 23rd September I was advised by Mr Wilson’s office of a new and unpublished (in the Program’s Guidelines) eligibility criterion which arose from the Federal Department of Environment:
this grant cannot be used to fund other government department projects so please be sure to focus on your project solely
As well as pointing out the “surprise” criterion, I advised Mr Wilson’s office of the following:
Our EOI was quite specific that the CEP funds would be used to purchase and install 5 acoustic recording units (ARUs) to be installed and managed by DBCA. If our application was based on an ineligible activity, as per the Department's advice above, why was the EOI accepted for an application? Despite several emails with Mr Wilson’s office, I have not received an answer to this question.
Subsequently on 27th September I was further advised by Mr Wilson’s office:
In the case of the FotWGP, we have unfortunately found ourselves in a position where we know the application was not going to be successful and it has been removed from the list of recommended projects.
My access to the on-line application was terminated. Subsequent communications with Delegated CEP officers in the Department of Industry, Innovation and Science in Canberra identified the main accountability for decisions about project nominations resides with local Federal members. Therefore I have asked Mr Wilson’s office:
how did you decide the application was not going to be successful when it was yet to be assessed by an independent process by the Program Delegate (in Canberra), presumably using the criteria published in the CEP Guidelines?
Can you confirm that you/Rick terminated my access to the on-line application? If so, was this not a prejudicial decision?
As of today, I have not received a response to these questions.
These circumstances have been a real “kick in the guts” to my personal and your Committee’s enthusiasm, and particularly when they arise from the local Federal member who is elected to represent the O’Connor community, which is our view includes the critically endangered western ground parrot.
Building advocacy and lobbying coalitions, eg BirdLife, SCNRM
Some success has been achieved in developing a stronger, broader and more effective advocacy base, but this work needs to continue.
South Coast Natural Resource Management (SCNRM) has been in turmoil most of the year with re-organisation and new funding arrangements and is now getting on with their “new business”. I have retained input to SCNRM via membership on their new Healthy Environments Reference Group.
BirdLife WA are part of the South Coast Threatened Birds Recovery Team and recently they have made a grant for much needed work on the noisy scrub-bird and western bristlebird. Equally BirdLife WA have obtained a grant for, again, much needed work on the Australasian bittern. The Friends support these initiatives.
On the positive side the following arrangements are being pursued:
Roots and Shoots (R&S) (the Jane Goodall charity which is A global network of young people taking action to improve our world)
Recently Liz Tanner, Sarah Comer and I had a meeting with Bill Waterer (the WA and National Co-ordinator of R&S) about how we can bolster R&S’s focus on promoting the WGP to something similar to what they’ve achieved in WA with the Western Swamp Tortoise.
The following actions are to be pursued in the near future:
A formal R&S Memorandum of Understanding with WA scouts has been organised giving access to 8,000 Scouts aged 6-25yrs.
R&S will be involved in big scout gathering in Feb-Mar in Perth in early 2020. Bill would like a talk on WGPs might be possible from DBCA.
field monitoring opportunities to combine outdoor skills with WGP monitoring and habitat care projects.
Bill has a team of University volunteers aged their early 20s based in Perth who assist with a range of R&S administration tasks, and are available for assisting with the analysis of parrot audio files (from ARUs) and data entry. Sarah described some features of Zooniverse (CSIRO program) as a possible platform to use.
Merchandising and fund raising
Bill has indicated he can promote the parrots and the Friends with his audiences and connections
Chis Young likely to be the Committee’s ongoing contact with Bill in Perth.
Parkieten Sociëteit (a Dutch parrot society)
Early next year, the parrots and the Friends will be featured at “Big Bird Event” in the Netherlands, thanks to the work of Simon de Haan of the Society (The Society is now a Life Member for the Friends!!!). We have provided materials to support the event, pins, Secrets at Sunrise DVDs and brochures (in Dutch thanks to the translation by one of our members). The Society is preparing a banner and also has prepared a YouTube clip using video from Dave Taylor/Anne’s ABC Open production a few years back, interviews with Jennene Riggs and a trailer from Secrets at Sunrise.
Cheynes Beach Caravan Park has been purchasing and selling parrot pins at a significant rate, mostly to the bird watchers who visit there. Thanks to them!!!
Retaining focus on fund raising
I have mentioned above the dismal record on influencing and gaining significant funds for the outstanding projects under the Recovery Plan.
There are still other avenues for funding to pursue which will be discussed by the new Committee.
Life Memberships. We introduced $250 Life Memberships this year with a reasonable success with over 10 new Life Members.
Revenue from Secrets at Sunrise has diminished significantly this year as the main income was from screenings in 2017 and 2018. Little further income from screenings is expected. DVD sales have been sluggish, some 400 sold in 2 years and with a stock of nearly 1000 remaining. In September the cost was lowered to $10/DVD with Jennene Riggs agreement but still few were sold. We have decided to continue the $10 price, again with Jennene’s agreement.
We pulled back on the outlets for sales of Secrets at Sunrise DVDs as it proved very difficult to keep track of the stock and revenue from sales. The DVD is now only available via on-line sales through our website.
The Parrot pins have proven popular with several hundred sold.
Management of State NRM grant, if successful
This was for a grant of over $300,000 to be administered by the Friends on behalf of DBCA for the parrot translocation study. The application was unsuccessful. I am led to believe another grant round is to be announced in coming months.
Keeping members and community informed, revised web site, social media
Hopefully this has been achieved with the seasonal and the Special Election Newsletters in 2019, Facebook, Twitter and the new Instagram account.
The website improvement is still in the wings…….
Please let me know if our communication needs improving, in what way and via which mechanisms.
Finding a replacement Chair in 1-2 years
No progress but definitely on my radar.
Finally, a huge thank you to our members who continue to provide ongoing support for the goals of the Friends of the Western Ground Parrot.
Chair, Friends of the Western Ground Parrot
 Addendum- I subsequently received a letter from Mr Wilson on these matters. He did not answer the questions. He provided the following statement- I have written to the Minister for the Environment and requested that should there be an under-spend on this grant round, that the Friends application be considered in its own merit for consideration of funding.
Chairperson: Paul Wettin
Mailing address: PO Box 5613, Albany, WA 6332