Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions (DBCA) Western Ground Parrot Summer Update
Sarah Comer, Abby Thomas and Jeff Pinder
As many readers would know 2019 was another challenging year for ground parrots, with fires in January burning through around 6500 ha of habitat in the Pasley area and December burning through another 12,000 ha in the north-east of the known range. This recent bushfire started from an extensive area of lightning across the Esperance and south-east inland areas to which DBCA mounted a swift response. However, the fire fighting conditions were challenging with hot and strong winds fanning the fire and drought conditions leading to even recently burnt vegetation carrying fire.
These bushfires leave less than 14,000 of habitat that hasn’t burnt since 2015. Older areas are vitally important for roosting and feeding, so protecting these from further fire and the impact of introduced predators is a priority.
The devastating impact of bushfire on western ground parrot habitat ignited by lightning Photo: DBCA/Abby and Jeff
Post-fire planning for management of feral cats has been swift, with aerial Eradicat® baiting completed in January. This was followed up with ground baiting completed by Esperance staff in February, and the south coast DBCA team currently trapping feral cats in remaining unburnt habitat.
During the December fire as many of the Automated Recording Units (ARUs) as could be reached were collected, which resulted in only two of the 30 burning. These units are deployed across all potential and occupied ground parrot habitat in Cape Arid and Nuytsland, and with the solar panels can operate 365 days a year (or 366 in 2020). The redeployment of these was completed in February, with 11 units were re-installed to their previous locations and three new units. This took around 10 hours with the help of Brian Goodwin and his helicopter, and also allowed for some reconnaissance of the extent of habitat burnt and potential unburnt refuges. Camera-traps were deployed with ARUs to monitor introduced predator activity.
One of the two Automated Recording Units impacted by the December bushfire Photo: DBCA/Abby and Jeff
DBCA Technical Officer Jeff Pinder re-deploying a solar ARU that was removed before the bushfire impacted this site. Photo: DBCA / Abby Thomas
DBCA Technical Officer Abby Thomas redeploying an ARU into habitat that escape the impact of bushfire Photo: DBCA / Jeff Pinder
The DBCA team are currently working with partners (including BirdLife and the Friends of the WGP) to secure funds to complete a trial wild – wild translocation. Establishing a second, geographically isolated population, is critical to secure the future of the population and provide some security from future bushfires. The first step in planning a translocation will be to ensure that that there are enough birds to consider relocating a small number, so extensive monitoring of the Cape Arid and Nuytsland areas is planned for autumn 2020. This is an enormous task with around 100 units, some of which will be purchased with donations funds generously donated by the Friends of the Western Ground parrot, to be deployed in March in and around the few patches of long-unburnt vegetation across Nuytsland and Cape Arid National Park. More updates will be provided as this project progresses.
Western Ground Parrot Titbits
South Coast Festival of Birds and Biodiversity
Join this field trip to get the latest update about the threatened species (including the Western Ground Parrrot) of the South Coast of Western Australia. (Click Here to Book)
Western Ground Parrot tea towels
Bunbury artist Shelley Barton who runs Silken Twine Australia learned about the plight of WA's rarest bird and decided to create a Western Ground Parrot-themed tea towel. Part of the sale proceeds will be donated to the Western Ground Parrot Rescue Fund once the merchandise has been printed. These will soon be available from the Silken Twinewebsite.
Queensland man Fercen Curapiace had never heard about the Western Ground Parrot until he came across an article on the ABC News website reporting about the threat the latest bushfire had posed to the last wild population of this cryptic parrot and decided to start a fundraising campaign.
Give a gift that supports the Western Ground Parrot
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The gift pack includes a membership certificate, a copy of the DVD and a pin
Buy a copy of the DVD "Secrets at Sunrise" for $10 plus shipping from our website
Western Ground Parrot Update from Perth Zoo Summer 2020
Summer is a relatively quiet time for our Western Ground Parrots. The birds’ activity and calling is reduced and it’s also the time in which they undergo moult. This time of year provides an opportunity for the zoologists to undertake more substantial aviary maintenance including weeding around the outside of the complex and removal of any excess build-up of leaf litter, as well as aviary entries for roost cleaning, vegetation maintenance and substrate improvements.
Where's Leuca? - Photo: Perth Zoo
In preparation for the 2020 breeding season, female Kangal has been separated from male Brutus and moved in with male Monak for pairing and male Brutus has been moved into the holding aviary. Female Kangal and male Monak will be two years old this year and they are showing signs of increased maturity with a noticeable change in their calls.
Male Monak feeding on nutritious native seed - Photo: Perth Zoo
The eight birds (3 original males and 5 newer birds) are all in good condition. We will continue to track the birds’ behaviour over the coming months as the 2020 breeding season approaches to best prepare the birds for breeding later in the year.
Attached video of the birds calling. Female Kangal calls first and then the males call in response. The bird that can be seen calling in the video is male Monak
Male Monak call (responce to female Kangal call) & other males calling.
Wow what a summer! I’m sure we’ve all been glued to the reports of the bush fires and their impacts including for the Western Ground Parrot. I’ll focus on these fires, including additional information to that provided in the Parks and Wildlife report, and the Friends actions.
The Cape Arid/Nuytsland fires at Christmas 2019 were severe and at one stage the fire crews had to abandon control efforts as conditions became too dangerous. Protecting the parrots and their habitat was the primary reason for the crews doing this work, which also included working over Christmas and Boxing Days. Eventually the fire was brought under control when weather conditions eased. A HUGE vote of gratitude to the fire crews from DBCA and volunteer brigades, some of which came from distant areas. I have written to WA Emergency Services and Environment Ministers expressing our gratitude and we also gave our ongoing thanks both directly when we could and via our social media.
The final wash up from the fire and recent fires is:
Over 50,000 ha of Cape Arid and the Nuytsland Nature Reserve were burnt in the Christmas 2019 fire
This included an approximately 12,000 ha of known core parrot habitat
The total reduction in core parrot habitat (roosting and breeding) due to the 3 major fires in Cape Arid since 2015 is estimated to be around 80 percent
Less than 14,000 hectares of core habitat (roosting and breeding) for the parrots is estimated to remain unburnt.
Christmas 2019 fire impact in Cape Arid National Park. Photo: DBCA / Abby Thomas
As indicated in their report, Parks and Wildlife are in the process of undertaking and organising field surveys in March to complete autumn monitoring of the core (unburnt) habitat using additional ARUs and observers/volunteers. The results from this work will be critical for determining the approximate surviving population and where remaining parrots are living. This is critical information for the possible Translocation Strategy identified in the Parks and Wildlife report. Parks and Wildlife are also organising the installation of 16 ARUs into the Fitzgerald River National Park (FRNP) as part of this possible Translocation.
The Friends have supported these activities and organised an urgent fund raising campaign starting in January . To-date over $30,000 has been raised from private donors, some substantial. A $USD 10,000 grant was achieved from the US based SPCA International (https://www.spcai.org/) thanks to facilitation by animal advocate Jennifer Skiff (@jenniferskiffauthor).
Queensland man Fercen Curapiaca had never heard about the Western Ground Parrot until he came across an article on the ABC News website reporting about the threat the latest bushfire had posed to the last wild population of this cryptic parrot. He decided to start a GoFundMe campaign.
On the other side of the world, in California, Cait Corrain also felt compelled to help Australian parrots impacted by the bushfire crisis and raised funds.
Treasurer Phil, who has an addiction to number crunching and spreadsheets, provided the following GiveNow donation summary as of 8th February (Note: does not include the SPCA donation):
20% of donations came from overseas, US- 18 donors, England- 3, NZ-2, Canada- 2, and one each from Wales, Russia, Thailand, Netherlands and France
A total of 158 donors
Average donation- $75.73
I’m sure we will all look forward to Phil’s final donation report!!
The Friends are truly appreciative of the generosity and support from all of the donors!!!
Using the $30,000 in donations, the Friends are supporting the critical monitoring work in Cape Arid with the purchase of 28 ARUs and also SD cards. We were able to obtain the SD cards with a substantial discounted contribution from Albany Retravision. So thanks to them too!!
Also from the $30,000, 6 additional solar powered ARUs were purchased for the Fitzgerald River National Park survey. You may recall the Friends made a $20,000 donation for the FRNP project back in September so a total of nearly $28,000 for this work. This project is targeting remote, and previously unsurveyed, parts of FRNP where parrots may still reside. The ARUs will be installed via helicopter and is scheduled to occur this month.
Chair Person Paul Wettin handing over an Autonomous Recording Units to DBCA Regional Manager Greg Mair purchased with funds donated to the Friends of the Western Ground Parrot - Photo: DBCA / Deon Utber
Our GiveNow fund raising campaign has been extended until end March and is now receiving support from the District Governor of Rotary District 9465. Caversham Wildlife Park is also raising funds for the parrots again!!
So additional donations are likely in upcoming months with the intention these funds to be used to support field work activities, including the retrieval of ARUs and/or data cards over coming months via helicopter.
The Friends have recently been invited by Member for O’Connor, Rick Wilson, to submit an application for some $10,000 from a second round the Communities Environment Fund. I am currently working on this application which is due on 24th March. If successful, the funding will be used for helicopter retrieval of data cards from the FRNP ARUs.
On 11 February 2020, the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment released a provisional list of 113 animal species that have been identified by experts as the highest priorities for urgent management intervention over the weeks and months following the 2019-20 bushfires in southern and eastern Australia. This report was provided to the Wildlife and Threatened Species Bushfire Recovery Expert Panel established by Federal Environment Minister Sussan Ley and in relation to the $50 million fund allocated to assist in prioritising recovery actions for native species, ecological communities, natural assets and their cultural values for Indigenous Australians, which have been affected by recent extreme fire events.
The No 1 ranked bird in this report was the Western Ground Parrot!
On 26th February a joint media release by Minister Ley and WA State Environment Minister Stephen Dawson stated: Urgent work to protect animals such as the critically endangered western ground parrot are among the priority Western Australian Government projects being supported by the Morrison Government’s initial $50 million Wildlife and habitat recovery package.
I am pleased to report the Federal Government’s Wildlife and Threatened Species Bushfire Recovery Expert Panel has worked with the Western Australian Government to confirm key recovery priorities with the Commonwealth delivering $1 million in initial financial support for:
On-ground surveys and rapid assessment of threatened species.
Additional acoustic recording units and intensive monitoring of western ground parrot.
Protection of regenerating habitat though fencing, watering and feral animal, invertebrate pest and weed control.
Seed collection and establishment of seed production areas for threatened plants in the Stirling Ranges.
Development of critical care response capacity at Perth Zoo for fire-affected threatened species.
Watch this space for updates in coming months on our social media and other reports!!!