Welcome to the Friends of the Western Ground Parrot Newsletter
Get up-to-date information about the latest efforts to save this critically endangered parrot unique to Western Australia
Friends of the Western Ground Parrot turn 15 this month!
From small community group to conservation charity
by Anne Bondin
Back in March 2003 a small number of people interested in bird conservation met in Albany and decided it was time to do something about the serious decline in Western Ground Parrot numbers. It was feared the species might slip into extinction without the world ever knowing about its existence. Initially, as a very small community group, we sold greeting cards and produced newsletters to help raise awareness about the cryptic ground-dwelling parrot. Much of our time was spent in the field searching for the parrots which had become harder and harder to find in both the Waychinicup area and Fitzgerald River National Park.
In 2009 we were approached by the late John Linton, founder of telecommunications company Exetel, who wanted to support the efforts of saving the Western Ground Parrot through donations from his company. Encouraged by this generosity we decided to incorporate the organisation and start the process to join the Register of Environmental Organisations and obtain deductible gift recipient status which has allowed us to receive tax-deductible donations since 2011. We also became a licensed charity under WA law permitting us to undertake fund-raising activities.
In 2014 we teamed up with film-maker Jennene Riggs and over three years helped fund the production of the documentary “Secrets at Sunrise” hoping to introduce the Western Ground Parrot to the wider community. The film has been well-received since its premiere last year, but we have yet to find a broadcaster to air it on television.
Whilst we have been able to raise the profile of the Western Ground Parrot our mission is far from being completed. In recent years it has become more and more difficult for the recovery project to receive adequate funding.The federal government's Threatened Species Prospectus released in 2016 outlines a target of $3 million over three years to save the species from extinction. While some federal funding from the South West Fauna Recovery Project, which included a portion of funds for cat control work on the South Coast and Western Ground Parrot surveys, is still available and allows for the continued employment of some staff, no other new funding has been set aside. The only amount the Threatened Species Recovery Fund has made available to date specifically for Western Ground Parrot conservation is a mere $80,000. On the other hand more than $250,000 have been pledged from private sources over the past 12 months to help carry out recovery measures that remain unfunded. Competition for the conservation dollar from both the government and private donors is huge and we encourage you to help us spread the word about this enigmatic bird.
CHANCE MEETING IN HOPETOUN
Anne Bondin (left) with the Hon. Stephen Dawson MLC (Minister for Environment; Disability Services)
and Sarah Comer (Chair of the South Coast Threatened Birds Recovery Team / DBCA)
While attending the launch of the Fitzgerald Biosphere in March I had the opportunity to personally tell Minister Dawson about our most recent donation to Perth Zoo. Thanks to a very generous donation we were able to contribute $16,500 towards the extension of the Western Ground Parrot aviary facilities at the Zoo. The donation will be used to meet additional expenses such as CCTV cameras which were not covered by the grant Perth Zoo received from the federal government's Threatened Species Recovery Fund last year.
UPDATE FROM PERTH ZOO by Arthur Ferguson
Perth Zoo gratefully acknowledges the recent donation of $16,500 by the Friends of the Western Ground Parrot to assist with the construction of additional aviaries. The generous individual behind the donation wishes to remain anonymous, but Perth Zoo staff were pleased to have the opportunity to say thank you in person as part of the donation was for a behind-the-scenes visit to the Western Ground Parrot facility.
Over the past few months Western Ground Parrots Fifi, Joy, Brutus and Zephyr have completed their annual moult. Summer is a quiet time of the year for the birds and provides staff with the opportunity to undertake routine aviary works such as vegetation maintenance and general aviary upkeep works.
As part of our routine husbandry, the birds are provided with fresh food daily in the mornings and afternoons and we use the sophisticated CCTV system to monitor feeding and drinking behaviour, health and activity. The birds are fed a variety of their food in a way that enables staff to record their body weights when the birds step onto their feed trays and this provides an excellent no invasive way to monitor the birds’ condition.
Zephyr 6th March 2018 feeding on food tray. Zephyr weighs 90.5 grams.
Zephyr CCTV camera side view used to evaluate health, feeding and drinking behaviour
Editor's note:Zoo staff are currently very busy working on the aviary extensions and will provide a more detailed update about the facilities in the next edition of the newsletter.
Can you spot Zephyr?
This is a hard one…
Staff are familiar with the behaviour patterns of the individual birds and have developed a keen eye to locate these highly cryptic birds in the aviaries using the CCTV cameras.
UPDATE FROM PARKS AND WILDLIFE SERVICE
by Sarah Comer, Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions (DBCA)
As we head into the cooler months, we are getting ready for a busy time of monitoring ground parrot populations in Cape Arid National Park and completing the cat baiting work. The data collected off the 31 automated recording units (ARUs) deployed by Abby Thomas and Jeff Pinder in Cape Arid and Nuytsland has now been analysed. Good numbers of calls (including juvenile calls) were heard in the Pasley area but not as many calls were heard at Poison Creek, although there were signs that birds were dispersed to the north and south of the core ground parrot area. While many of these ARUs did not detect any ground parrots, a cluster of three of the ten deployed on the track east of Pasley also recorded birds in a patch of unburnt vegetation which was very exciting.
Cape Arid sunrise at Jorndee Creek (photo credit A Thomas / DBCA)
The first of the autumn monitoring trips has just been completed, with a team of three staff and six volunteers braving the windy conditions at Pasley. During the week 44 ARUs were deployed across ground parrot habitat from Poison Creek to Nuytsland Nature Reserve. These units will remain in place until May and provide the basis of the Western Ground Parrot monitoring data for 2018.
Abby Thomas and Mal Grant (Fitzgerald River National Park Ranger) picked a mild autumn day to walk in and retrieve the eight recording units deployed last spring in the Fitzgerald River National Park. We were really keen to look at these and held high hopes that they may have detected ground parrots in the wilderness, and in the week since have done a first pass at both visual ID and Kaleidoscope software scanning with advanced classifiers. This software allows large volumes of data (in this case over 280 gigabytes) to be reviewed in a relatively short period of time. Sadly, no ground parrots have been detected yet but more work will be done analysing the data of these recordings in the coming weeks.
This week we will have deployed ARUs in Cape Le Grand National Park to follow up on a report of ground parrots in this reserve. We really appreciate being given information on possible ground parrot sightings, and where there is good justification we will follow up on these sightings by deploying ARUs.
Sarah and Steve Butler with Deon Utber deploying ARUs in Cape Le Grande NP (photo credit: S Comer / DBCA)
As we said in the last newsletter we are really keen for anyone who thinks they have seen or heard a ground parrot to contact us. More details on how to distinguish a ground parrot from other similar parrots can be found at this link:
To allow us to follow up on possible ground parrot observations it is really important to record a location (GPS if possible), or distance from an intersection, time of day and some notes on what you saw.
We thought you might enjoy meeting one of the Western Ground Parrot's neighbours:
Honey Possum (photo credit: Abby Thomas / DBCA)
Editor's note: Sarah Comer also took part in two South Coast Festival of Birds events, giving a presentation about threatened birds at the Symposium in Albany and co-hosting a Threatened Birds field trip to Waychinicup with BirdLife Albany.
Sarah Comer addressing bird festival participants in the field at Waychinicup (photo credit: M Howe)
CHIRPINGS FROM THE CHAIR
Summer has come to an end and we have been extremely lucky to get through the bushfire season without having any fires threatening the Western Ground Parrot and its habitat. With only one known wild population, it would seem prudent to establish a second wild population, and this was identified as one of the key recovery measures for the species. However, at the time of writing no government funds have been committed for this measure. I recently had the opportunity to speak to parliamentarian Rick Wilson, member for O'Connor who promised to provide a letter of support for a grant application for funding from the National Landcare Program Phase Two.
A very generous donation from someone who wishes to remain anonymous, but deeply cares about wildlife has allowed us to contribute $16,500 to Perth Zoo to meet costs of the aviary extensions not covered by the grant received from the federal government's Threatened Species Recovery Fund.
It is refreshing that we are receiving support for the Western Ground Parrot from a wide variety of people ranging from students attending St Brigid College in Perth to a researcher at the University of Giessen in Germany who will arrange of screening of “Secrets at Sunrise” at the International Ornithological Congress in Canada in August.
This year Dr. Jane Goodall's youth-led action program “Roots and Shoots” has taken on the cause of the Western Ground Parrot raising awareness at a variety of events. Perth Zoo staff involved in the recovery project recently spoke about their efforts to save the species at the Roots and Shoots conference in Perth.
We are also very grateful for the support we received from BirdLife Northern New South Wales. Branch Convenor Richard Jordan with the help of Gary Phillips organised a screening of “Secrets at Sunrise” in Bellingen, NSW and raised a total of $1,176. The documentary also had its international debut this month screening at the South African Eco Film Festival in Cape Town. Jennene Riggs still hasn't been able to commit a broadcaster to pick up the film, but if the documentary is successful at the prestigious Wildscreen Festival in Bristol in the UK in October it may receive more attention.
In the meantime we have to take matters into our own hands, and I would hope there are some people out there who have been inspired by the actions of BirdLife Northern New South Wales and also happy to organise a screening of the documentary. And if you are a library user, you might want to suggest to your local library that you would like them to purchase a copy of "Secrets of Sunrise". Library patrons are permitted to make suggestions for new titles to be added to the library collection.
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.
Albany Library screening of "Secrets at Sunrise"
Wednesday, 2 May 2018 at 6pm
Please book directly with the library: (08) 9841 9390
Chairperson: Anne Bondin
Mailing address: PO Box 5613, Albany, WA 6332