Friday, February 7, 2014

Ground Parrot surveying gets underway in the Fitzgerald

The Western Australian branch of the Royal Australasian Ornithologists’ Union (RAOU) had a quarterly magazine called Western Australian Birdnotes. In the June 1983 issue, a Fitzgerald Campout was advertized. It was to be based at Twertup Field Studies Centre within the Fitzgerald River National Park though there would also be some camping near the sites to be surveyed for Ground Parrots. The trip was to be led by Roger Jaensch, then the Waterbird Project Officer, and was to take place from 29 September to 5 October. Part of the plan was to search for Ground Parrots and Western Bristlebirds.

Meanwhile, aware that this trip was to happen, the Newbeys sought help from the  Fitzgerald River National Park Association (FRNPA) of which they were members, to practice for the first time, a survey involving a number of volunteers.

They had undertaken a survey on their own on 28 and 29 July, hearing four calls in the evening (one only 20 metres from the listener) and nine calls in the morning. Time, direction and estimated distance, and type of call were recorded, though only as notes: as yet the data sheet had not been devised. They noted that an access road for the proposed farms was under construction.

Richard Jordan of Barren Grounds in NSW was contacted to ask for his estimate of how far a Ground Parrot call could be heard in calm conditions, so that effective spacing could be determined.

The FRNPA trip was on 9 and 10 September. There were nine participants, and conditions were perfect.  Spacing for the surveys was 400 metres apart. Ground Parrots were heard from two of the listening positions in the evening, and six of them in the morning. Additionally a Ground Parrot was sighted.

The RAOU Fitzgerald Campout was very well attended with 49 participants over the week. There was a big contingent from Perth and several locals as well, especially members of the FRNPA. The trip report, written by Brice wells, appeared in the December 1983 issue of WA Birdnotes. Brice reported that the Ground Parrot call was heard from only three listening points.

It is not recorded how many listening points there were. Ground Parrot listening was only attempted on a couple of evenings.

I can recall being anxious about all the disturbance that so many people made, and not being surprised that the birds did not call much. A survey method described by Richard Jordan and successful for flushing Ground Parrots at Barren Grounds was tried on this trip. It involved several participants to walk in a line through the heath, all carrying a long rope which was to lightly brush vegetation between. It was a complete failure: the rope far too heavy, but the worst problem was the nature of the vegetation. There were too many mallees, three or more metres tall, and it was absolutely impossible for everyone to progress at the same pace. (Brenda Newbey)

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