Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Nest search at Waychinicup 2001: call data (3a)

The table below shows that the duration of calling was more than twice as long in October as in September. The number of calls was only 20% higher in October.

The map (Map 6)shows the positive listening points in and near the swamp (south-west of lake).


Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Nest search at Waychinicup 2001 (Part 2: coverage and distribution)

                                       playback trial, part of the segment (approximately half to two thirds) was
                                 played. After waiting three

Friday, November 11, 2016

Nest search Waychinicup 2001 (part 1)

This survey will be covered in some detail in a series of numbered entries.

A nest search at Waychinicup, east of Albany on the south coast of Western Australia was undertaken in September and October, 2001. The unpublished report of the exercise entitled "Western Ground Parrot nest search at Waychinicup September and October 2001: a pilot project", was intended to inform the South Coast Threatened Birds Recovery Team. The whole project was designed and operated on a voluntary basis.

The goals were to find out more about Western Ground Parrot (WGP) ecology and especially information on breeding. In 2001, the WGP was known to be present in only two disparate locations - Waychinicup National Park (WNP), and Fitzgerald River National Park where it was probably declining due to widespread fires. At that time, no WGPs had been located in Cape Arid National Park since 1989.

The first part of the plan was to locate WGPs in two separate areas within WNP and to determine where they were roosting. Thereafter, time was to be spent searching for a nest.

Locating birds was done by listening for them in the calling periods pre dawn and post sunset.

The map below shows the coverage (listening points). The positive sites are those from which one or more WGP calls was heard, and the negative sites are those from which no call was heard.
The small settlement of Cheyne Beach can be seen at the base of the bay.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Locally extinct?

The figure below is from 'Report on Western Ground Parrot survey at Waychinicup and Manypeaks, April to October 1998' (see previous posting).

Western Ground Parrots have not been recorded in this area for more than 10 years despite some surveys conducted by the Friends of the Western Ground Parrot including placement of Automated Recording Units (Songmeters).

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Survey for Western Ground Parrot at Waychinicup

The first systematic survey for the Western Ground Parrot in the Waychinicup Manypeaks area was in 1998. The work was funded by Worldwide Fund for Nature. The co-ordinator was Shapelle McNee and nearly all the other members of the survey team were volunteers. Logistic help was supplied by BirdLife Western Australia (then RAOU WA). This organisation also published the report: "Report on Western Ground Parrot Survey at Waychinicup and Manypeaks April to October 1998" by Shapelle McNee, as a supplement to Western Australian Birdnotes No. 90, June 1999.

Figure 2 from the report shows all the listening points, both positive and negative. The area called 'south-west of lake' is a sedgy swamp with four raised islands with different vegetation within it. The other positive sites were in low and diverse heathland.

A minimum of 29 calling birds was recorded in the Autumn of 1998.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Western Ground Parrots near Albany 1963

Cheyne Beach is east of Albany on the south coast of Western Australia and adjacent to Waychinicup National Park. The map,from Wikipedia, shows the location of the park. Julian Ford was a West Australian ornithologist and taxonomist. An account by Julian Ford of Western Ground Parrots in this area is below. It is taken from "Distribution and Taxonomic Notes on some parrots from Western Australia", published in the South Australian Ornithologist, Volume 25, 1965.

" --- On November 5, 1963, I led a party of R.A.O.U. members to Cheyne Beach, east of Albany. Two Ground Parrots were flushed from dense stunted heath and sedge association on the hills overlooking the ocean, several hundred yards south of the Cheyne Beach settlement. The occurrence of the Ground Parrot at Cheyne Beach was brought to my attention by Mr Charles Allen of Cuthbert (pers.comm.). Allen showed me a feather of the species which was one of a bundle he had obtained from fishermen in the 1940s when the species was quite common in the heath on the dunes and the higher wind-swept hill slops of the eastern-most extension of the Mount Manypeaks range system. The fishermen shot the birds as their dogs flushed them out of the heath scrub......."

The photo above and the one below were taken in ground parrot habitat at Cheyne's Beach during the R.A.O.U. expedition of November 1963. Julian Ford is in the front row of the photo above, second from the right. Dom Serventy is standing third from the left,Graham Pizzey is far right, standing and Lucy Serventy is standing with a blue long-sleeved shirt. Lucy Serventy appears also in the photo below, second from left, seated, with Graham Pizzey standing behind her.

Ground parrot survey by flushing birds was the only way practised at that time; survey by call came later. This 1963 survey, was the first recorded Western Ground Parrot survey since Whitlock's exhaustive searches for eggs in 1912 and 1913. It was part of a field trip that followed the 1963 Annual Congress of the R.A.O.U. that was held in Perth and Albany. Consequently ornithologists from New South Wales, Victoria and New Zealand as well as Western Australia were present.

The photo below was more recent but in the same general area.

Western Ground Parrot habitat in Waychinicup National Park.

Western Ground Parrots have not been recorded in this park since 2003. There have been some detailed surveys prior to their disappearance, which will be the subject of future postings.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Blue underwing plumage

The frame below is captured from a video taken 22 September 2006. It is of a wild male Western Ground Parrot, in Fitzgerald River National Park. The blue leading edge of the underwing is revealed. Most of the underwing is dove grey and the pale bar can just be seen. The video was filmed by Brent Barrett and is owned by the Department of Parks and Wildlife, Western Australia.

The following extract is taken from

Courtney, J. (1997). Age-related colour changes and behaviour in the Ground Parrot Pezoporus wallicus. Australian Bird Watcher 17, 185-191.

A courtship display of captive male Eastern Ground Parrots is described.

The epigamic (courtship) display was commonly observed during September and
October. The male stands upright and lifts the folded wings well away from the body
at the ‘shoulders’ (carpus) while the tips of the wings remain touching the back.
Presumably this is to display the soft sky-blue undersurface of the carpus, which in
bright sunlight contrasts with the green of the body. The long tail is pressed firmly
to the ground because of the upright body posture, and therefore cannot be fanned
in the manner of most platycercine parrots performing this ‘shoulder squaring’ display.
This posture is maintained for many seconds during which the bird may stand still,
or walk slowly around in small circles, calling frequently with a series of short whistles
usually described as ‘tee tee tee‘. Occasionally, a male perching on a branch vigorously
thrusts the body up and down several times by bending and straightening its legs,
while calling in a similar way.      

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Underwing plumage

The underwing plumage of two Western Ground Parrot specimens from the Western Australian Museum are shown below.

This is the adult female (roadkill), specimen no. 27142, shown in the previous blog entry. The blue-green marginal coverts are a colour not visible elsewhere on the bird's plumage.

This bird, specimen no. 27143, a male, found headless, lacks the blue-green marginal coverts, but this is perhaps an indication of a stage of moult. It is not a male/female differentiaton feature. However, the width of the pale underwing stripe may be.

The images were taken with permission from the WA Museum and are used here with permission.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

WA Museum specimens showing an external difference between male and female WGPs

 The photos were taken in December 2005, when the Western Australian Museum had only four Western Ground Parrot specimens.

The photos below were taken with permission from the WA Museum and are being published here with permission. No unauthorized use of the images is permitted.

Three of the specimens are shown here. The fourth lacks his head. All came from the south coast. From L to R: a juvenile female that was a casualty of a radio-tracking project in the Fitzgerald River National Park (well east of Albany) in 1988; a bird shot in Torbay (west of Albany) 1906 in mistake for a quail; an adult female killed by a vehicle on Springdale Road east of Fitzgerald River National Park in 1995. Although the central specimen was unsexed, a difference can be noted in the beaks. Further study of beaks of specimens from the Australian Museum and Museum of Victoria showed that the Torbay bird was a male.

Beaks of two of the specimens viewed from above showing the broad upper mandible ridge of the Torbay bird (top), and the sharper, narrower ridge of the Springhill bird. The Torbay specimen was used for display for many years.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Another South Australian Ground Parrot specimen

Above is a South Australian Ground Parrot specimen from the Liverpool Museum collection. In 1911 North split the Eastern and Western Ground Parrots into two species: Pezoporus wallicus and Pezoporus flaviventris . One of the taxonomic differences was broken barring across the chest and abdomen, supposed to occur in the Western birds only. Later, Ford (1968), showed that this and other differences were not consistent and the earlier classification of the same species right across Australia was reinstated with the birds of east and west having only a varietal dilineation: Pezoporus wallicus wallicus and Pezoporus wallicus flaviventris. Now, the first genetic analysis appears to indicate a full split into separate species is appropriate. See previous posting.

Photo supplied by Liverpool Museum and used with permission.

A Western Ground Parrot captured in 1988 as part of a radio-tracking project to study habitat use, in what later became part of Fitzgerald River National Park. This bird was later deduced to be a female, by comparison with sexed skins.
The South Australian Ground Parrot specimen from Liverpool Museum collection. This bird's beak appears very similar to that of the Western Australian bird above.

It is not known when the South Australian bird was collected, but the collector was recorded as Peele, and the skin was purchased by the Liverpool Museum in 1896 from Henry Baker Tristram. Before that it had been in the Singapore Museum. Henry Tristram was a Canon, an explorer, and an avid ornithologist. He was an early developer of ornithology as a science, an avid collector, a supporter of Darwin's Theory of evolution, and a founding member of the British Ornithological Union.

Photo supplied by Liverpool Museum and used with permission.
Reference: Ford, Julian. (1968). 'Distribution and taxonomic notes on some parrots from Western Australia.' South Australian Ornithologist, Volume 25, pp99-105.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

South Australian Ground Parrot

South Australia no longer has Ground Parrots. At times, the South Australian birds have been considered closer to the Western Australian birds or perhaps part of a continuum across the continent. However the most recent study (Murphy et al. 2010) and the first using mitochondrial DNA analysis, places South Australian birds with the other Eastern States birds, and equally divergent from the Western Australian birds. It is likely that this separation of eastern and western populations occurred approximately 2 million years ago, probably caused by 'the onset of aridity in the median area'.

The actual specimen used in the genetic study was the specimen shown below which is held in the South Australian Museum. The photos were provided by the museum, and are used with permission.

Label: Swamp Parrot. snared with a loop snare  in the Reedy Field Reed beds S.A. by Tommy the Black Fellow in the lakes end of 1850 and preserved by Mr Wm White. 
to S.A. White (Different handwriting).

Reference: Murphy SA, Joseph L, Burbidge AH, Austin J (2010)A cryptic and critically endangered species revealed by mitochondrial DNA analyses: the Western Ground Parrot. Conservation Genetics. D01 10.1007/s10592-010-0161-1

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Why there are no authentic Ground Parrot specimens from Perth

Ground Parrots were definitely in the Perth area in 1839 when the naturalist John Gilbert arrived in March, as he recorded the local aboriginal name for them:- Djar-doon- gur-ree. He spent the first three months collecting within 16 km of Perth.

In a letter to his employer, John Gould, dated 11 April, and sent on the Helen or Elen, he mentioned having obtained five species of parrot. There are six possibilities. The Red-capped Parrot is mentioned, and so is the Elegant Parrot. Additionally there could have been the Western Rosella, Regent Parrot, Australian Ringneck and Western Ground Parrot. He would not have been particularly excited by the ground parrot as he had previously collected some in Tasmania though doubtless he would have collected them in the Swan River area as he always strove for a comprehensive collection.

The first shipment of Gilbert's specimens out of Perth was on HMS Herald. Gilbert wrote to Gould on 20 May 1839 saying he had placed a box of birds on the Herald that same day in special care of one of the officers. Then she had departed before there was time to load on any mail. (She had arrived on 17 May so was in Gage Roads, Fremantle for only two days.) The box was probably addressed to John Gould in Hobart (or maybe Sydney) as the Herald was headed to Hobart and then Sydney before she embarked on a very adventurous voyage in the Pacific playing a key role in New Zealand history and taking part in the first of the Opium Wars.

Gilbert's letter of May 20 stated that the Box contained 203 specimens and 75 species of Birds, 2 reptiles, and a box with a nest of the Elegant Parrot (which proved to be incorrect.)

In a letter for Gould dated 3 September 1839, Gilbert states that he did not enclose any letter or paper in the box that was sent on the Herald, and he had not yet been advised that the box from the Herald had safely arrived. This letter was sent on the barque Elizabeth which was wrecked soon after leaving Fremantle. In the same letter of 3 September, Gilbert said that the list of specimens was to go on the Herald with the governor's despatches. These too missed the boat and were probably on the ill-fated barque Elizabeth.The mail was saved, dried out, and was to be put on the schooner Elizabeth. Not all of it would have been legible. Another letter from Gilbert to Gould written on 28 October 1839 was also to go on the schooner Elizabeth. By then Gilbert had 153 species of birds, some collected further inland than Perth.

If a Western Ground Parrot specimen had been amongst the collection placed on the Herald, and it very likely was, it would definitely be from Perth. Any Gilbert specimen dated between 6 March 1839 and 31 May would be from the Perth vicinity. In early June 1839, Gilbert had his first inland trip.  

Unfortunately, many of the original labels have been removed and the collection date and/or place lost.

Other specimens from other collectors with'Swan River' on the label are less likely to be authentically from the Swan River (Perth/Fremantle) vicinity.

Saturday, January 30, 2016

False Trail

I hoped to be able to find a Western Ground Parrot specimen that could definitely be traced back to the Perth area.

When looking through the papers relating to John Gould in the National Library of Australia, Canberra, I came across an undated consignment list for shipment on the 'Madras', together with an envelope dated 28 Ju 1839 (MS 587/57). The letter was addressed to Mr Prince, John Gould's secretary. Amongst the specimens on the list were 2 Pezoporus formosus (Ground Parrots). 

Thanks to Clemency Fisher's paper* I knew that collector John Gilbert was in Western Australia in June 1839, and in fact had for most of the three months he had been there, collected in the vicinity of Perth. He had sent some specimens on the 'Herald' in May. Perhaps he had got another consignment away in June. However a search in the 'Shipping Intelligence' section of the newspaper of the day for a visit from the 'Madras' to Cockburn Sound in 1839, yielded nothing. Then I perused the species list more closely. First there was a list of 82 eggs. Gilbert had complained of finding no eggs in Western Australia - wrong season. Some of the skins also pointed away from Western Australia: Platycercus eximius (Eastern Rosella), Wattled plover (Masked Lapwing), and Pardalotus affinis (Tasmanian version of Striated Pardalote), for example.

So it was necessary to conclude that these specimens were sent from Tasmania, after Gilbert and Gould returned to Lauceston following their Bass Strait Islands collecting trip which ended in mid-January 1839. Gould set off for Hobart. John Gilbert left Launceston on the 'Comet' bound for the Swan River Colony on 4 February 1839. 

However in the two short weeks before departure he was able to pack a box of specimens and have it placed on the 'Madras' which was loading at the time. Below is an extract (OCR copy) from the 'Ship News' of The Cornwall Chronicle, Launceston's weekly paper, concerning the arrival of the 'Madras' on 24 November 1838. On 26th January, a note in the Chronicle said 'Madras' is fast completing her cargo and is expected to leave about mid-February. 

The date on the envelope was more to do with arrival in England than time of departure from Australia. The Ground Parrots in that consignment were undoubtably not from Western Australia.

*See previous posting

Nov. 24. --- Madras (barque), 321 tons, W.
Henalker, master, from London— 1 cask British
goods, 1 crate ditto, 1 case silver plate, 88 cases
haberdashery, 41 bales ditto, 6 packages car.
riage, 3 packages British Roods, {packs ditto,
16 trunks ditto, 1 butt sherry, 1 butt pork, 84
eetkxbottled potter, SO hhds. stout, 17 casks
ale— 3. & D. Jlobertson; 8 bags nails, 2 cases
ironmongery, S7 packages British goods, 1 rase
ditto, 3 cases stationery, 4 cases books — F.
Palmer ; COO deals, 70 bhdn stout, 50 barrels
ale, 30 cash* vinegar, 10 torn iron tern-ing, 124
barrels pork, £6 cases British goods, IB bales
ditto,' 67 packages ditto, 20 buds, ale— Kerr,
Alexander. 4 Co. ; 40 packages a deal house, 7
packages British goods, I barrels ale — R. Spark ;
90 barrels port. 10 caws British goods £) hhfe.
ttout— Connolly & Co. ; 3 caws cigars 10 cases
wine, S pipes ditto, 10 obds. ditto, 10 quarter
casks ditto ? Order; 5 packages sundries — J.
Down i 1 caw British goods, 7 packages ditto,
S cask- ditto— J. Cameron ; 4 packages ditto— '
Smith, 'Revel), & Co. ; 12,000 staves — Willis,
Keogfci 4 Cd.j $8 packages wines 4 brandy;
SS quarter carts Tcnerifft— Order.

Passengers per Madrat, from London,
Mr. and Mrs. D. Robertson, 8 children and
servant ; Mr. and Mrs. Spark, 2 children and
servant ; Mr. and Mrs. Palmer, .Miss Palmer,
Miss E. Palmer, Mr. F. Palmer, Mr. W.
Palmer, Mr. C Palmer, Mr. A. Palmer and 4
children, Mr. and Mrs. Fairwcather. Mr. W.
Wood, Mr. Uncll, Mr. Greenhill, Mr. Canning,
Mr. Howard, Mr. H Howard.