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Welcome to the Friends of the Western Ground Parrot Newsletter

No. 79

 
Get up-to-date information about the latest efforts to save this critically endangered parrot unique to Western Australia
Have you paid your membership for 2018-19?
 
This can be paid with the PayPal button on www.western-ground-parrot.org.au (credit card accepted)
or through a cheque or money sent to
Friends of the Western Ground Parrot
PO Box 5613, ALbany 6330
 
Friends of the Western Ground Parrot membership fee
Annual membership - single person $20.00 AUD
Annual membership - family $40.00 AUD
Annual single gift membership $20.00 AUD

Western Ground Parrot Update from Perth Zoo June 2018
 
The summer and autumn period has been a rather quiet time for the birds with completion of moult and allowing the commencement of aviary expansion and upgrade works.
 
Perth Zoo received funding from the federal government and from the Friends of the Western Ground Parrot to support the aviary expansion and upgrade with the aim of providing the facilities needed to bring in new wild founders.
 
As part of the plans for the aviary works, the birds currently at the Zoo were moved into their temporary holding accommodation at the end of April to allow construction to commence.  Works included enhancing the existing aviaries to make them suitable for settling new wild founder birds and adding an additional bank of four holding aviaries to manage the existing four birds.
 
The aviary works have been completed apart from the shade-cloth and internal netting components of the project. This component of works will be undertaken after this year’s breeding season and before the acquisition of new wild founders.
 
The four Western Ground Parrots were returned to the aviaries at the beginning of June. Due to low egg fertility and the leg pulling behaviour identified from male Joy towards female Fifi last season, and based on Zephyr displaying positive behaviour, female Fifi will be paired with male Zephyr this season. It is hoped that male Zephyr and female Fifi will form a pair bond and attempt to breed however if this does not progress Fifi could be paired with Joy later in the season.
 
 

Site of Aviary extension 3rd May 2018
 
 

New aviary extension 7th June 2018
 
 

 
Entrance to new aviary extension 7th June 2018

New aviary extension (eastern side of aviary complex) 7th June 2018.
Note: The lower layer of substrate for plants for the new aviaries has been added and temporary shade cloth screen and temporary mats to access the side feed station for aviary WGP01. After the breeding season/prior to the arrival of new birds, the new aviaries will be fitted with internal soft inner nylon netting and shade cloth including 3 dividing sections creating four holding aviaries each 3 meters long by 2.5 meters wide. New white sand, plants, reticulation, feed stations and cameras will then be added to complete the aviary setup.
 

New aviary extension front right and new feed hatch doors, power points and paved service corridor (Western side of aviary complex) 7th June 2018
 

New fodder garden (Melaleuca systena) being planted by Perth Zoo horticulture staff 7th June 2018
 

Fifi eating seeding grass after returning to Aviary WGP04 8th June 2018
 

Fifi perched on lomandra in aviary WGP04 11th June 2018

 

Interview with Western Ground Parrot Keeper - Matt Rici

We are introducing a series or Q&As with the people that work towards to the conservation of the Western Ground Parrot. This inaugural interview was conducted by Kate Simon-Menasse, a FWGP committee member, with Perth Zoo's Matt Rici

What made you want to become a Zoo keeper? 
I have always had a passion for working with animals. I was keeping and breeding birds and poultry from the age of 8 on my parents hobby farm, doing all the care and cleaning myself. I have a particular interest in birds which just seemed to be innate, I was always drawn to them and found them fascinating. I started to think about my career in High School and Zoo Keeping just always seemed like the sort of thing that would be rewarding as well as enjoyable. I directed my University study around Conservation Biology and incorporated some Environmental Tourism into my degree as well to hopefully assist in my dream to work at Perth Zoo, completing an honours thesis on campground tourism impacts on bird population dynamics in South West Jarrah Forests. During this time I began working part time at the Zoo, before successfully applying for a Keeping role in the Australian Fauna Department.
 
How long have you been working at Perth Zoo? 
I began working at Perth Zoo in September 2005, so this year will be 13 years.
 
What is your role within the ground parrot program at Perth Zoo? 
I am one of the primary keepers who cares for the Western Ground Parrots at Perth Zoo. This requires me to be responsible for monitoring the birds health on the CCTV system, general husbandry including feeding and watering the birds, enclosure maintenance and management, care for the enclosure living habitat and any other general management. I also sit on the Western Ground Parrot subcommittee for the South Coast Threatened Birds Recovery Team and contribute to conversation and discussion surrounding all things Western Ground Parrot.
 
Are there any special character traits the individual birds display that you can share with us?
  • Fifi – is very bold and tolerant of Keeper presence in the aviary, which means we get to see some incredible close up behaviour. She is often excited to receive fresh browse and can sometimes run up and start eating the browse when the keeper is trying to finish cleaning her platform. She likes to have a good bath too and often ends up completely drenched in water – looking somewhat bedraggled until she dies off in the sun.
  • Joy – Is very focused on breeding and securing his habitat from all other males in the area. He is a very fit and healthy bird
  • Zephyr – is a quiet and secretive individual. He is rarely heard of seen when we are in the aviaries, preferring to show all of the very cryptic behaviours that Ground Parrots are famous for in the wild.
  • Brutus – is a bit of a character, he loves his food and can often be seen eating for extended periods of time throughout the day. He would be what I would call the cheeky bird in the bunch and can usually be sighted checking out the keeper as much as the keeper is checking out him!
 
What are some of the challenges you face working with such a cryptic species? 
As you can imagine, the challenges and pressures of working with such an endangered and cryptic species are immense. The installation of CCTV monitoring is essential to determine bird health on a daily basis. If we did not have this option, it would be extremely hard to sight the birds daily and ensure they were in perfect health without entering the aviary and causing disruption. Creating the perfect environment in the aviaries has been essential in ensuring the birds are comfortable enough to attempt to breed.
Monitoring and interpreting different behavioural traits and breeding displays has been very rewarding, however every little setback the program has faced hits very hard and I can admit that I have many more grey hairs than before I began working on the program.

Stay tuned for more interviews to come...

Parks and Wildlife Update - South West Fauna Recovery Project (SWFRP)
By Jeff Pinder
 
In 2018 the Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions (DBCA) South-west Fauna Recovery Project (SWFRP) team have continued working on complementing management of introduced predators delivered by the Department’s Western Shield Program, and monitoring core populations of the western ground parrots (WGP) in Cape Arid National Park (CANP) and Nutysland Nature Reserve (NNR) population after the extensive wild fires of 2015.
 
To this end two field trips were organised in autumn targeting the park’s two core areas of WGP habitat. Volunteers were recruited after responding to an advertisement on the Friends’ website and in conjunction with DBCA staff from Esperance, a works programme of WGP listening surveys, western shield native fauna trapping and automated recording unit (ARU) deployments was implemented.
 
Listening conditions were variable for both trips with moderately strong winds making detection of birds very challenging for several survey sessions. Despite this, over 200 calls were heard in the eastern surveys at a couple of sites during one frenzied session. But mostly calls were hard to come by as we focused our listening on surveying areas of vegetation that weren’t burnt in 2015. Despite a very experienced team of volunteers (including a certain Dr Allan Burbidge) less than 6 birds were recorded along one 12 kilometre transect. However, one of our long serving volunteers Peter Taylor did manage to see his first WGP after 16 years of trying. Naturally he was rather happy!
 
Poison Creek was also challenging with regards to detecting WGPs and certainly not as fruitful as anticipated. Admittedly most of our surveys were conducted around the edges of the known population where WGP occupancy was likely to be at low density at best. This was intentional to reassess the perimeters of the population and to confirm the persistence of outlying birds after the fire disturbance from November 2015.
 
The Poison Creek team were largely inexperienced and, in some cases, getting their first exposure to WGP survey work. Not many surveys returned positive records and those that did only represented a handful of calls. Calling rates are normally relatively high at this time of year and even a supposed morale boosting evening session on the last night on Poison Creek Road yielded meager results. As always it is difficult to draw conclusions about WGP occupancy when there is only a snapshot in time of their calling activity i.e. listening at any particular site for one night and one night only. This is why the Automated Recording Unit (ARU) deployments are important to provide robust monitoring data and a longer-term picture to inform management actions.
 
The 44 ARUs deployed targeted the core areas of habitat monitored in previous years as well as two areas of refugia left unburnt after the 2015 fire events – in the eastern area of CANP and NNR. These units were left in-situ for approximately 7 weeks, which covered all of April; the month which represents our annual monitoring period. Abby Berryman performed the analysis once the data was retrieved and the occupancy of WGPs was encouraging. Numbers of calls at several sites again in these areas also reached healthy levels with some nights recording 100 plus calls.
 
To supplement the protection of WGPs in May the SWFRP team (again with support from the Esperance District nature conservation team) undertook feral cat trapping across Cape Arid focus sing on tracks within and around key occupied WGP habitat. The trapping was timed to remove any surviving cats from the earlier autumn Eradicat® baiting delivered through Western Shield. In 737 trap nights, 8 feral cats were caught (5 male, 3 female) and 1 fox.  On one particular morning as we approached 1 cat in a trap a WGP started calling, which was a timely reminder of the importance of this work.

 
 

Some of the beneficiaries of introduced predator management.

 

To support the baiting efficacy an extensive monitoring program was implemented before and after the baiting and trapping using camera traps and lures. Twenty five out of 34 cameras deployed across the park detected feral cat activity before the baiting was undertaken. Post-bait and post-trap detections have not been analysed as yet. The team also implemented a monitoring program of cameras for the Fitzgerald River National Park Eradicat® baiting program.
 
So, it has been another busy field season for the team even though we are only half way through the year! Despite the challenges and budgetary pressures, the SWFRP team with support have met and surpassed their goals and kept the WGP in the spotlight. As always there is much more to be done and the second half of the year could prove to be the most significant yet in the fight for survival of this secretive, enigmatic parrot. Watch this space!

 
 
Camera trap and lure in Cape Arid 

 


Pedestal Cat trapping station designed to mitigate non-target (native animals) captures
 

 
Poison Creek WGP survey trip (Back row L to R: Jim Creighton, Lauren Sumner, Steve Butler, Mia Knott, Michael Saunders, Antonia Watkin; Front row L to R: Abby Thomas, Jeff Pinder) (Missing: Jennifer Grainger, Emma Massenbauer)

 
CHIRPINGS FROM THE VICE CHAIR

PAUL WETTIN

Greetings to you all and again Anne Bondin is having her sabbatical Puffin hunting trip to the northern parts of Europe- so my turn to let you what’s happened in the last 3 months with Friends of the Western Ground Parrot business. Thanks to Arthur for his report and good to see how the new housing arrangements are proceeding so well. Our hopes are high for a good upcoming breeding season and capture of birds for the translocation outcome (see below). Also, thanks to Jeff for his informative report and how much field work is being completed despite the shortage of staff resources. Their and the volunteers dedication to this work is greatly appreciated.

If you have any questions arising from this Newsletter please email us at wgparrot@gmail.com

Use of our Funds
Anne outlined in her last Chirping (Newsletter No. 78) some of the recent and generous donations to the Friends. Since this Newsletter further donations of some $3,800 have been received via our Give Now site, private donations and from Caversham Wildlife Park who continue to support us. Thanks to all who are generously helping with these contributions.
Consequently, at this time the Friends have about $50,000 to disperse from these donations and proceeds from the Secrets At Sunrise screenings (see more on Secrets screenings below). The FWGP Committee takes its funding grant advice for WGP needs from the South Coast Threatened Birds Recovery Team. Following recent advice the Committee endorsed the following priorities and funding commitments for 2018:

  • $30,000 for capture of birds to establish a 2nd wild population- the highest priority of the WGP Recovery Plan. These funds are to be used in 2nd half of 2018 in conjunction with funds provided by the Association for the Conservation of Threatened Parrots[1]. This German based group has made a donation of $200,000 over 2018 and 2019 to the WGP Recovery Plan and we are extremely grateful for this generosity. The Threatened Species Commissioner’s Office facilitated this donation.
  • $3000 from the BirdLife grant to support volunteers expenses for their participation in the field surveys.
  • $17,785 to Perth Zoo for equipment for the new aviary facilities. These funds have already been transferred to the Zoo.
The Committee also committed to the following priority actions this year:
  • Continue lobbying efforts to obtain funds for unfunded Recovery Plan activities (see more on this below).
  • Seek additional grants, donations and Secrets At Sunrise income.
  • $5,000 for a Post-graduate research top-up scholarship(s) (total of $15,000 would be required for 3 years). I have had discussions with senior officers of the Department of Biodiversity Conservation and Attractions about this scholarship and they were very enthusiastic about it and will be providing further advice and guidance on how best to pursue it in the near future.
Meeting with the Threatened Species Commissioner
In late May the Threatened Species Commissioner, Dr Sally Box, was in Albany as a guest of the DBCA who organised a meeting for me with Dr Box. We met for over an hour and had a good discussion. The primary issues I identified with her included:
  • The critical need for funds to undertake the critical translocation studies to establish a second wild population of WGP’s. DBCA’s application last year to the Threatened Species Fund for this work had not been successful. DBCA has subsequently sought these funds via the National Landcare Program 2, Regional Partnerships arrangements via the tender for the NLP2 funding by South Coast NRM.
  • Our disappointment (Anne and I particularly) at the lack of response we've gotten over the past year from our letters to the Environment Minister and more recently the Assistant Environment Minister (who is a West Aussie), asking for support for funds to replace, at least partially, the Grant funded staff whose funding ceased in June 2017. These staff would be directly involved in the translocation and wild population monitoring work. Note: I did acknowledge that we have had a good relationship and responses from Rick Wilson's office.
  • One of the key questions asked in the letter was about the remaining funds in the Threatened Species Recovery Fund (which last year committed $3 mil of the $5 mil available to 19 projects –and I was advised this was from over 300 applications submitted......). Overall, I told Dr Box that Anne and I felt seriously disrespected by this Government and particularly in the context of the Threatened Species Prospectus which promotes the critical involvement of NGO's. We strongly believe we are delivering our part of the contribution needed for WGP conservation.
  • Given the lack of funding from the Federal Government, this puts even more reliance on donors (like us) or philanthropic organisations to fill the funding gap.
  • There is only about $200,000 remaining in the Recovery fund and her office would be pleased to accept Expressions of Interest for funds from it. But what was hugely disappointing, Dr Box did not indicate there were any other funds available. Presumably this means there was nothing in the recent Federal Budget for the Recovery Fund.
Interview with Lisa Cox of The Guardian newspaper
 
Last month Lisa Cox of the The Guardian was seeking information about funding and other circumstances surrounding WGP conservation. I did an interview with Lisa with her article appearing in the paper soon afterward[2]. The article focusses on some of the issues I highlighted to the Threatened Species Commissioner.
 
Secrets At Sunrise screenings
 
Secrets is on a good run of International festival screenings having recently been shown at the South Africa Eco Festival in Cape Town. It is scheduled to be screened in October at the Green Screen Festival in Germany and the Windscreen Festival in Bristol, UK. We are currently awaiting a decision, and are very hopeful, for Secrets to be screened at the Vancouver International Bird Festival in August. This event is being run in conjunction with the International Ornithological Congress which is held only every fourth year and attracts thousands of delegates from all over the world.
Unfortunately there is no revenue arising from film festival screenings, but there is always the hope that donations to FWGP may arise, or distribution interest, and there will definitely be a major increase in awareness. Who knows what may eventuate???
 
 
 
 
 
HOW TO ORGANISE A FUND-RAISING SCREENING

Find a suitable venue (most community halls can be rented for a small fee). Then get in touch with us and we will provide you with a copy of the DVD ( we also have the film on a hard drive in high quality if you have access to a more cinema-like venue). If you don't want to deal with the ticketing yourself, we can arrange online ticketing using the services of Trybooking. The ticket price is $10 per person.

Want to buy the DVD? Visit www.secretsatsunrise.com to order one online or find a link to the Riggs Australia website to purchase as a download.
 
Contacts:
 
Chairperson:  Anne Bondin  

Email: wgparrot@gmail.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/
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