Saturday, May 24, 2014

First study of Western Ground Parrot ecology

In 1988, a new Ground Parrot survey was commenced. It was a field study located in the Vacant Crown Land to the north of Fitzgerald River National Park (FRNP). This land was now ear-marked to be added to the FRNP, though the process was not completed until after the end of the Ground Parrot project.

The project was the first study of the micro-habitat of the parrots as well as its ecology. It was funded by the World Wildlife Fund (Australia), and implemented by the Department of Conservation and Land Management, Western Australia. The report cover can be seen below. This valuable report was never formally published.

The photo above, by volunteer Kaye Vaux is of the project's operations centre. The caravan was loaned to the project by Chris Hart, head ranger in the FRNP.

Monday, May 19, 2014

How to catch a Ground Parrot?

In 1987, Dr Allan Burbidge, research scientist with the Department of Conservation and Land Management, together with technical officer Jim Rolfe, made a field trip to one of the sites where Ground Parrots were present in both of the previous studies (1984 Watkins and 1985/7 Chapman and Newbey). The site was in the area north of the then Fitzgerald River National Park. One objective was to ascertain that the birds were still there, and another was to trial a method of capture. 

The three photos below are by Allan Burbidge.

Above: An Elliot trap modified to catch birds. The trap is used in conjunction with a drift fence. This method had been successful for trapping another ground dweller, the Noisy Scrub Bird.

Below: A Ground Parrot was flushed from this point.

Below: a drift fence. Birds walking along would find traps (see above). However no Ground Parrots were caught this way.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Plants and vegetation structure of Ground Parrot habitat

Ken Newbey listing plants in site 232 on 11th October 1986

As part of the 1985-87 Biological Survey of the Fitzgerald area, Ken Newbey, the survey botanist, completed one of his plotless surveys within a site where Ground Parrots had been found during this survey. The vegetation site was numbered 232, and was near location 35 on the map in the last blog posting. This location was at that time Vacant Crown Land, north of the Fitzgerald River National Park. As can be seen in the photo, the vegetation is low heathland. There are scattered low mallee, and some emergent shrubs, but the densest layer of vegetation is from 0.1 to 0.5 metres above ground - within easy reach of a Ground Parrot, a bird that walks much more than it flies. Ken found a total of 139 different plant species within this site. Sedges and sedge-like plants form approximately as much of the ground cover as flowering plants.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Fitzgerald Survey 1985-1987

In 1984, the Fitzgerald River National Park Association (a community group), combined with the National Parks Authority of Western Australia to apply to the Western Australian Heritage Committee for a grant. The objective was to record flora, fauna, geology, landform and soils in the Fitzgerald River National Park (FRNP) and the Vacant Crown Land to the north of it because it was believed to be very rich and diverse in flora and fauna including many rare and endangered species. The grant was approved in February 1985.

The photo above shows Ken Newbey (botanist) and Andy Chapman (zoologist) planning the 1985-1987 survey at Twertup Field Studies Centre within the FRNP. (Photo: B. Newbey)

One of the rare vertebrates sought was the Ground Parrot. The map below shows the sites that were surveyed for Ground Parrots. Positive sites are shown in pink.

NOTE: Many of the tracks that were accessible then are now closed. Also, sadly, no Ground Parrots have been located in this area since 2012, despite several surveys.

Ground Parrots were located in three clumps of sites, but were not relocated at three of the six sites recorded by Watkins in 1984*. One of Watkins' sites had been recently burnt. At another was a possible distant call, too indistinct to be recorded as positive.

*Watkins, D. (1985). Report of the RAOU Ground Parrot survey in Western Australia. RAOU Report 15.

The 1985-1987 survey report was later published.

Chapman, A. and Newbey, K. (1995). A biological survey of the Fitzgerald area, Western Australia. CALM SCIENCE, Supplement three. Department of Conservation and Land Management, Western Australia.