Western Ground Parrot Upates

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Western Ground Parrot Upates

Post by ForumAdmin » Wed Apr 08, 2009 3:27 pm

Exetel has agreed to provide part of the funding required to put in place a protection/regeneration plan for the Western Ground Parrot - quite possibly one of the most endangered species on the planet.

Western Ground Parrot Project

Progress Report – Automated Recording Unit Project
March 2009

From 15-20 March 2009, Neil Boucher [designer of the Automated Recording Unit (ARU)] was in WA to train staff to use the device, and its associated software and, to oversee its initial deployment in the field. The training was attended by Abby Berryman (Western Ground Parrot Recovery Project leader), Allan Burbidge (principal research scientist for the Recovery Team) and Chris Powell (recently appointed ARU technical officer). It is envisaged that Chris will be employed full-time on the project for four months from mid-March.
Neil provided an intensive learning session in Perth on Monday 16 March, demonstrating the the SoundID software, and discussing the components of the ARU and its use in the field. The following day we travelled to Fitzgerald River National Park to set up the two ARUs in an area traditionally occupied by Western Ground Parrots (WGPs). Two nights were spent in the field during which the focus was to train Chris in the process of setting up and using the equipment. Because the ARUs are still in the prototype stage, Neil's presence was invaluable in solving technical problems that became obvious once the devices were in use. In providing this service Neil generously volunteered his time in exchange for the project meeting his travel expenses.
The ARUs were left onsite, and the following week one unit was collected and taken to the Wilderness Area of Fitzgerald River NP as part of a nine-day WGP survey trip. During these field trials, further complications were identified which Neil is now in the process of rectifying. Chris will analyse these recordings in coming weeks against a collection of reference calls that he is in the process of compiling from existing WGP recordings. The SoundID software will utilise these reference calls to detect WGPs within the recordings made in the field by the ARUs.
Over the coming months, the ARU field trials will continue in conjunction with WGP survey trips. The benefits of this are threefold – it will reduce the field expenses for the ARU field trials; Chris will, additionally, participate in WGP listening surveys and, the entire survey team will contribute to gauging the efficacy of the ARUs and calibrating results against traditional survey methods.

Additional Information

It should be noted that no Western Ground Parrots have been heard in Fitzgerald River NP this year, despite visiting both sites where they were found last year. In 2008 it was estimated that there were fewer than 16 individuals remaining in the park. Although surveys are yet to be completed, it appears that the WGP may now have become locally extinct within Fitzgerald River NP.
It is now thought that the total WGP population is less than 110 birds, all located within Cape Arid NP. As a consequence, the species is now at heightened risk of total extinction by a single large wildfire.
In addition, recent genetic work has indicated that the Western Ground Parrot is a species in its own right (previously the WGP had been considered a subspecies). This places it amongst the world’s most endangered bird species.

Chris Powell and Abby Berryman. April 2009

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Re: Western Ground Parrot Upates

Post by ForumAdmin » Thu Apr 30, 2009 4:37 pm

Progress Report – Automated Recording Unit Project
April 2009
Problem


During late-March, one automated recording unit (ARU) was left at the initial field trial site
in Fitzgerald River National Park (FRNP); while the other was taken 20km south. While no
Western Ground Parrot (WGP) calls were heard by listeners during the nine-day survey in
the southern site (25 March-2 April), the ARU was unable to detect calls we may have
missed due to ongoing technical problems – including, but not limited to, the timing
mechanism. Upon leaving the southern site, the unit at the initial site was checked and
found to be behaving similarly. Neil Boucher, the designer of the ARUs, has now issued
updated software with an improved timer incorporated into the audio recorder interface.

First success

By mid-April both units, with updated software, were deployed in the area of the initial site
for the duration of the next 10-day survey (14-23 April). On the first evening a WGP was
heard (by people listening) calling 80m from one unit, and 275m from the other.
Expectations were high. Subsequent examination of the sound files confirmed the calls
were indeed recorded, but barely audible. A faulty sound card in the closest unit was
suspected, and a replacement is now en route from Queensland. Although the calls were
faint, visual examination of a spectrogram wave file revealed there were in fact two birds
calling.

Both units made successful recordings; although from the furthest unit too, the calls were
faint. In this case the poor audibility was due to the increased distance from the birds, the
microphone being close to the ground and, considerable interference from localised noise
such as wind. Neil is currently developing an extension microphone to increase the
distance from which calls can be recorded, and reduce near-ground extraneous noise
such as moving vegetation. While wind remains a problem, Neil is also discussing further
modifications to the software in order to address this.

Improvements

Before leaving FRNP the sound cards were swapped between the two units. This will
enable the more-permanent setup (near where the birds were calling) to continue
recording with a functioning sound card. The more-portable unit returned with us to
Albany, and will be repaired once the new sound card arrives. This unit will then be
deployed during the forthcoming survey (5-14 May) in Cape Arid National Park. Last year,
high numbers of WGP calls were heard at this site, so it is envisaged that many more
recordings will be obtained.

Meanwhile, we continue to work collaboratively with Neil Boucher in resolving the technical
difficulties we encounter through trial and error. It must be considered that these ARUs
are still essentially prototypes; and, once they have been proven in the field, the emphasis
will be on miniaturisation so they may be deployed in more remote situations.
Contribution so far
Problems with the ARUs are being methodically resolved.
The unit that has been left in the field should now be doing valuable monitoring.
If it were not for the ARU results there would have been no certainty that two WGPs
were still present in the FRNP where it had been feared that all birds may have
been lost.

Chris Powell

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Re: Western Ground Parrot Upates

Post by ForumAdmin » Tue Jun 09, 2009 12:53 pm

Progress Report – Automated Recording Unit Project
May 2009


In the Wilderness area of Fitzgerald River National Park (FRNP) during late-March, the more-portable ARU (the ‘Dalek’) suffered technical complications including problems with the timer, and recording of ‘silent’ files – files exhibiting no sound when played back, and no wave form when visually examined as a spectragram. Neil Boucher, the designer of the ARUs, subsequently issued a fix, which involved moving a wire on the circuit board. This modification was made prior to the unit’s next deployment at Cape Arid National Park (CANP) during May. Additionally, a replacement sound card (refer April report) was installed.

The Dalek unit was setup at the CANP Pasley site during the afternoon of 5 May, and dismantled on the morning of 14 May. The ARUs are typically programmed to record three 30-minute sound files encompassing each listening period; i.e. the hour before sunrise and the hour following sunset. We found that a default setting on the Audiorecorder page (whereby a box is automatically checked to turn off the playback mode) was causing the unit to record only the first 30-minute file and not the subsequent two. Although this could be overcome by simply un-checking the box, it became apparent that the first 30-minute file of each period contained a recording of only one or two seconds duration. In addition, on several occasions the unit again recorded silent files or, did not record at all.

Rather than return the Dalek to Queensland for repairs immediately, and risk making it unavailable for the remainder of our field season; we elected to keep the unit in service and, disregarding the possibility of other intermittent malfunctions, compensate for the missing first-files using the timer. Thus, the critical listening period would coincide with the second and third sound files. With this approach, the unit’s performance was satisfactory during the CANP Poison Creek survey in late-May/early-June. After the forthcoming trip to FRNP, later in June; the unit will undergo a major refurbishment, which includes an updated version of the software. We expect that the problems we have identified during field trials over the past few months will have been corrected in the new version.


At the conclusion of the April survey in the FRNP, the sound cards were swapped between the two ARUs. The more-permanent ‘Esky’ unit had recorded Western Ground Parrots calling from 80m; however, the recordings were barely audible despite good listening conditions and the relatively near distance, leading us to suspect that the sound card was faulty. The suspect card was replaced with the one from the Dalek so that the Esky could continue recording at FRNP during May, while survey teams, along with the Dalek, were deployed at the CANP Pasley site.

On the return journey from CANP, the Esky (minus its large solar panel setup) was recovered from FRNP and brought back to Albany. Attempts to retrieve data revealed that the unit had not only failed to download to its external hard drive, but only silent files were present on the PC solid-state drive. The electronics frame from the Esky was subsequently returned to Neil Boucher in Queensland for diagnostic tests. The issue of silent files was traced to a fault in the preamp input driver relay, and Neil advises that the entire unit will be refurbished – hopefully in time for the June survey at Short Road, in the FRNP. Since the new software version does not depend on relays, silent files should not reoccur in either ARU.


Chris Powell

Automated Recorder Unit Project Officer

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Re: Western Ground Parrot Upates

Post by ForumAdmin » Mon Jun 29, 2009 12:39 pm

Western Ground Parrot Recovery Project

Autonomous Recording Unit Field Trial

Summary of progress to date and proposal for further funding

Achieved so far…

1. Field deployment of Autonomous Recording Units (ARUs) designed and produced by Neil Boucher – all fieldwork completed.
2. Human observers have listened beside the ARUs to allow comparisons between the two in detection distance and reliability.
3. Two other recording units have been used as well – a Song Meter unit (a different type of ARU, kindly loaned by the Department of Food and Agriculture WA) and a Marantz recorder (this is not an automated unit). This will allow comparison with other recording methods. Of particular interest is whether the smaller, more portable Song Meter will also be suitable for Western Ground Parrot (WGP) surveys. Future purchasing decisions will be based on these results. Initial results suggest that the different ARUs have different strengths and weaknesses, and therefore may be suited to different applications or research questions.
4. Problems with the two Boucher ARUs (‘Esky’ and ‘Dalek’) have been identified and are being resolved. The Esky unit has been repaired and upgraded. Although there have been some issues with the Dalek unit it was still functional and was retained for field trials. The field season has now been completed and the Dalek will be sent to Neil Boucher for repair and upgrading. Once this has been completed both units will be ready for long-term deployment in the field
5. A library of Western Ground Parrot reference calls has been partially compiled. This reference call library is essential for using the Sound ID software to detect WGP calls within field recordings.

To do…

1. Finish compiling the library of WGP reference calls and use the SoundID software to detect WGP calls within the field recordings from the Boucher units, Song Meter and Marantz. Determine how effective SoundID is at detecting WGP calls, particularly calls that are very faint.
2. Compare WGP call detection capability between Boucher ARUs, SongMetre ARU, Marantz recorder and human observers. The comparison between the ARUs and human observers will allow us to calibrate ARU results against current survey methods.
3. Produce a report summarising the results of the project and make recommendations about ARUs to inform future application and purchases.

Reasons why the project has not been completed within the expected timeframe

There were some unexpected problems with the ARUs that delayed progress on the project. The Boucher ARUs are prototype units that were made available to us at cost for us to trial them in the field to provide feedback to their designer (Neil Boucher) to refine and improve their design.

Some of the problems we identified with the Boucher ARUs included an intermittently faulty sound card as well as some software glitches. The problems encountered with the ARUs meant that time was spent identifying what the issues were and resolving them, rather than focusing on developing the reference call library and analysing the recordings. Also, developing the reference call library has been more time consuming than initially expected because each WGP call needs to be broken down into its component parts for the SoundID software to be most effective.

Funds required to complete the project

The work required to finish the ARU project would require an additional month of employment for ARU technical officer Chris Powell. The amount required for Chris’s wages and overheads for this period is $5829. Infrastructure, incidental expenses and other support will be provided by the Department of Environment and Conservation.

Additional information

The Critically Endangered Western Ground Parrot is rarely seen and usually only calls in the hour before sunrise and the hour after sunset. As a result, we are extremely limited in our opportunities to detect and monitor these birds. Currently, survey methods rely on having groups of people listen during these calling times. This is very labour intensive and heavily reliant on assistance from volunteers.

Recent advances in technology have resulted in the development of an Autonomous Recording Unit (ARU) and associated software that has the potential to increase the effectiveness and reduce the labour intensiveness of surveying WGP populations. The ARUs are self-contained recording units that can be left in place for long periods. The sophisticated software that accompanies them means that the time required for someone to process the calls when the recordings are retrieved is greatly reduced.

The advantage of ARUs is that they can be left in place in the field for weeks or months at a time (depending on the unit) without the need for a person to be present. This will increase our ability to detect low numbers of WGPs that may be calling infrequently. Also, ARUs could help in the search for new populations of WGPs by placing them in areas of suitable habitat. This would increase the area that could be surveyed without taking staff away from other, higher priority tasks.

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Re: Western Ground Parrot Upates

Post by ForumAdmin » Thu Jul 16, 2009 3:55 pm

Progress Report – Autonomous Recording Unit Project
June 2009


Field Trials

Earlier in the year, the more-portable ARU, the Dalek, suffered technical complications, some of
which were later rectified with a temporary fix and, by replacing the sound card. During the May
trip to the Pasley site, in Cape Arid National Park (CANP), the unit developed a further malfunction
whereby recording failed one or two seconds into the first 30-minute sound file. It was decided that
rather than have the unit repaired at that stage, we would keep it in service and circumvent the lost
first files by setting the timer to start recording earlier. Using this approach, the Dalek’s
performance was otherwise satisfactory during the CANP Poison Creek survey in late-May/early-
June; i.e. there were no missing or silent files as experienced earlier in May.
For the final survey of the 2009 season, the Dalek was operational at the Short Road site in the
Fitzgerald River National Park (FRNP) from 17-25 June. While heavy rain and gale-force winds
hampered our listening efforts for much of this period (factors that similarly affect the ARUs), with
the exception of the first 30-minute file in each session, the Dalek again recorded consistently. The
electronics frame has now been returned to Queensland for a complete rebuild and, installation of
an external weather station that records temperature and humidity, as well as wind speed and
direction. The weather station will be interchangeable between both units.
The frame from the other ARU, the Esky, had already been returned for diagnostic tests because of
persistent ‘silent’ sound files, which occupied drive space but had no audible signal or visual
waveform. The problem was traced to the sound card and the preamp, both of which were replaced.
We did not receive the repaired frame in time for the June survey, but the unit will be redeployed at
FRNP in the near future. Now that the problems we encountered during field trials have been
identified and addressed, both ARUs can function in their intended capacity; i.e. record
autonomously, whilst we make only periodic checks and change hard drives.

Reference Call Library

A comprehensive library of Western Ground Parrot (WGP) reference calls is now nearing
completion. This involved assessing the many WGP recordings on file, by visually examining each
waveform as a spectragram. Those of sufficient quality (many were not) were frequencytransformed
and registered as reference calls using the SoundID recognition software,
collaboratively developed by Neil Boucher – the designer of the ARUs. Each of these calls was
divided into its composition of phrases (calls may include two or three different call types), which
in turn were dissected into their individual sound components. Each phrase, with its respective
compilation of notes, was saved as a data file so that ARU recordings can be matched for specific
call types, if necessary against several different reference calls simultaneously. There are now over
100 WGP reference calls registered in the library. Some comprise over 150 individual notes, each of which was excised and processed separately. While this process has been time consuming, the
basic reference library is now available for future use. Its availability has the potential to save many
hours in the future, because it allows the SoundID recognition software to search any existing or
future field recordings for a wide vocabulary of WGP calls.
The final stage of the project will utilise the software to detect calls within the ARU recordings.
This too will be time consuming as it requires loading the selected reference calls and sound files,
and then activating the software to search for matches on a note-by-note basis. This is necessary
because when examined closely, a bird call of seemingly repetitive notes is, in fact, composed of
notes that are very different – to the extent that the software could not identify two notes that were
perfect matches of each other; either from the same bird or from within groups of similar calls from
different birds (Boucher et al. 2006). At the conclusion of this final stage we will compare matches
detected by the software with observations recorded on listening data sheets. This will be the
empirical comparison of ‘man and machine’ as far as hearing sensitivity, imperviousness to
extraneous sound and, overall practicability goes.

Future Directions

A focus of this project was to assess the efficacy of ARUs, with a view to reducing our dependence
on resource-intensive surveys, where personnel are deployed for extended periods in remote
locations. Teams are comprised predominantly of volunteers, most of whom require training in
situ. Often several days are lost while participants familiarise themselves with the calls of the WGP
and, learn to discriminate between genuine calls and those of mimics. This is itself subjective and
difficult to gauge between listeners.

One area we have identified as a weakness in the survey protocol is the recording of time when calls
are heard. We depend upon accurate time keeping, to the nearest second, for accurate correlation of
calls – estimations of distance and direction are perhaps less crucial. The difference of a few
seconds on listening data sheets could e.g. result in a single call being categorised as two discrete
calls; the compounded effects of which could ultimately influence population estimates. The use of
time-synchronised ARUs removes the reliance on inexperienced listeners to simultaneously record
time. Although the ARUs currently cannot measure distance, or the direction from which a call
comes(but potentially will in the future, using multiple microphones and appropriate software),
these variables too are only estimated by listening personnel, and subject to individual
interpretation.

In addition to the main ARUs, which are suited to more-permanent listening stations, a set of
miniaturised units would be highly desirable. Portable sound recorders, such as those currently
being developed by Neil Boucher, could be placed strategically for short periods (up to a week), and
rotated throughout the established grids. They could also be carried into the more-remote
unsurveyed areas for WGP detection. Rather than make listening teams redundant, this would
reduce the number of individuals deployed in the field. The initial outlay would be recouped by the
lesser cost of provisioning a smaller team.

Chris Powell

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Re: Western Ground Parrot Upates

Post by ForumAdmin » Tue Sep 29, 2009 6:36 pm

Western Ground Parrot Captive Management Project

Progress Report September 2009


The focus this month has been on preparing for the captive management project.

Achievements include:


Staff appointed
- the project will be managed by Abby Berryman (Conservation Officer –
Captive Management)
- Exetel-funded positions:
o Jeff Pinder has been appointed to the Technical Officer position. Jeff
has been involved in the WGP project for more than two years now
and brings with him the experience necessary to assist with captures,
to help care for the captive birds and to carry out the population
monitoring in Autumn next year.
o the Technical Assistant position will be filled by Brent Barrett. Brent
will be working on this project for two months and his role will be to
settle the WGPs into captivity. He is a former WGP project leader and
has a range of experience with threatened birds (particularly parrots)
that will be invaluable in the success of this phase of the project.

Planning and consultation

- a steering committee has been formed to oversee the captive management
project. This group consists of Department of Environment and Conservation
staff (Deon Utber – Regional Leader Nature Conservation; Sarah Comer –
Regional Ecologist; Allan Burbidge – Principal Research Scientist; Abby
Berryman – Conservation Officer and Cam Tiller – Conservation Officer) as
well as relevant experts as required (eg veterinarians, aviculturalists and zoo
staff).
- a range of experts have been consulted and they have provided advice on
aspects of the captive management project such as health, housing, hygiene
and transport.
- we have been liaising with Perth Zoo and they have offered to provide advice
on veterinary and husbandry issues, as well as hands-on staff involvement in
the project.
- as part of the planning process, guidelines and protocols are being drawn up
covering transport, health testing, hygiene, quarantine and husbandry. In
addition, Simone Vitali (Senior Veterinarian, Perth Zoo) and David Edmonds
(Denmark Veterinary Clinic) are carrying out a disease risk analysis and are
developing risk mitigation strategies.


Aviary Modification


- planning of the aviary modifications has commenced, materials are being
sourced and work commences this week
- Arthur Ferguson (Supervisor Australian Fauna) and Mikaylie Wilson (Vet
Nurse Supervisor) from Perth Zoo will visit the captive facility from 30
September to 2 October to inspect the

Shady
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Re: Western Ground Parrot Upates

Post by Shady » Mon Nov 02, 2009 10:10 am

Western Ground Parrot Captive Management Project

Progress Report October 2009

Over the past month we have continued to consult widely with a variety of experts
with relevant veterinary, zoo, avicultural and captive breeding experience. As part of
this consultation process, the Western Ground Parrot (WGP) Steering Committee
held a meeting to bring some of these experts together to combine their advice and
expertise to come up with a sound strategy for taking WGPs into captivity and
maintaining them successfully. WGPs have not been kept in captivity before, so part
of the process of developing a captive management project has been to seek advice
from people who have relevant experience and knowledge to offer.

Following this meeting, WGP project staff met with staff from Perth Zoo including
Helen Robertson (Director Animal Health and Research), Simone Vitali (Senior
Veterinarian) and Arthur Ferguson (Supervisor Australian Fauna). Perth Zoo have
offered their support by providing veterinary and husbandry advice, as well as handson
staff involvement in the project. This may include zoo staff assisting with the
capture fieldwork or veterinary staff coming to the captive facility to conduct health
checks on the captive birds. Maintaining a healthy captive population is essential to
the success of a project such as this. Simone Vitali has already provided a Disease
Risk Analysis and mitigation strategies and has been advising on health screening,
treatment of unwell birds and hygiene.

Following advice from several sources that birds are more likely to settle successfully
into a smaller enclosure and that a smaller enclosure is better for the initial
quarantine period, it has been decided to use smaller aviaries available at the captive
facility to house the birds when they first arrive. These aviaries are small enough to
meet the requirements of a settling and quarantine facility, yet large enough for the
ground parrots to be kept comfortably for several months. Modifications to these
aviaries have been made based on discussions at the steering committee meeting
mentioned above. WGPs are more likely to settle into captivity successfully if
disturbance and stress is kept to a minimum so most of the modifications have been
made with this in mind. These modifications include the addition of feeding hatches
to each aviary to reduce the need to enter the aviaries which would cause
disturbance and potentially stress the birds. Video surveillance has been installed
because it is the only practical means of monitoring the birds in the aviaries. Scales
will be used under the feeding trays as an unobtrusive method of monitoring the
bird’s condition – often weight loss is one of the first signs that something is not right.

Project staff are currently at the field site conducting preliminary surveys to identify
areas to target for captures. It is hoped that captures will commence within the next
week.
Last edited by Shady on Thu Jan 14, 2010 4:33 pm, edited 3 times in total.

Shady
Posts: 436
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Re: Western Ground Parrot Upates

Post by Shady » Tue Dec 01, 2009 10:21 am

Western Ground Parrot Captive Management Project

Progress Report November 2009

November has seen the attempt to capture a Western Ground Parrot commence in
earnest. The Project team, Abby Berryman, Jeff Pinder and Brent Barrett all travelled
to the field site to conduct pre-capture monitoring as reported in last months’ report.
A week of listening resulted in many birds being heard including juvenile calls, which
was an encouraging sign as juveniles are the target for capture. Juveniles are being
targeted as they will likely adapt quicker and more readily to a captive environment
rather than adult birds that have already formed strong habitual behavior.

The first bird, named ‘Zephyr’, was captured on 6 November and was transported
back to the captive facility by Jeff Pinder and Brent Barrett. The bird had some
damage to the back of the neck but it is thought that the injury occurred prior to the
capture. A number of blood and faecal samples were taken from the bird to
determine any possible disease or parasite issues. The only result of concern was a
higher than expected white blood count. It is difficult to know what is considered
normal with this bird given that there are no benchmarks to compare against.

The settling in of Zephyr took a number of days as the bird still attempted morning
and evening flights while held in the aviary. Soft walls were installed prior to the bird
entering the aviary but had to be modified slightly to minimise any likely damage.
Zephyr has now ceased flights and has gone into an activity mode based around
feeding times. Zephyr’s feeding has mainly consisted of smaller budgie type
commercial seed, though has shown some interest in the seed heads cut from native
vegetation, and not showing any interest in larger seeds or nuts. The cameras have
proved very useful to observe feeding on the scales and general behaviour. Analysis
has come back confirming that the bird is a male sub adult.

The second Western Ground Parrot was an adult bird and was nicknamed ‘Grumpy’.
As this was an adult bird it was released. A juvenile bird, named ‘Toot’ was captured
on 15 November. There was some concern at capture as the bird had blood within its
mouth but close inspection determined that the blood came from a small cut on the
tongue. The bird was transported to the aviary and normal test and hygiene protocols
were followed. Observations over the next few days saw the bird lose some weight
but nothing beyond expected post-capture weight loss or remarkably different from
Zephyrs’ settling in experience.

Unfortunately on 19 November Toot was discovered dead. Initial autopsy results
determined that there was some bruising around the pelvic dorsal area but also
bleeding in and around the lungs. This was unusual as there was no bruising or
bleeding in the thorax area that would indicate a trauma from impact. Histopathology
results came in one week after the incident and have shown that pneumonia
developed from bacteria in blood ingested at the time of capture. At the time of the
incident captures were temporarily stopped while the project team had several
teleconference meetings to determine the likely cause and subsequent course of
action. The team has agreed on a set of protocols and procedures to deal with such
an incident if a similar situation occurs. This will include administration of antibiotics
and holding of the bird in a hospital box with oxygen. A number of vets have provided
advice concerning this approach.

Three birds other than these mentioned above have been captured and subsequently
released as they were adult birds. The project team, in liaison with the South Coast
Threatened Birds Recovery Team, has agreed on some critical time frames for
determining on when to start retaining adult birds in order to have a sufficient number
of birds to adequately assess husbandry protocols for this cryptic bird species.
DEC South Coast Region is in the process of contracting to build a purpose built
WGP aviary using funds secured through the Department. It is expected that the
aviary will be completed but the end of March 2010.

This report was compiled by Deon Utber, Regional Leader Nature Conservation
Department of Environment and Conservation, South Coast Region.
Contact: 9842 4500 or 0429 080 243

Shady
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Joined: Wed May 23, 2007 11:19 am

Re: Western Ground Parrot Upates

Post by Shady » Mon Jan 11, 2010 4:56 pm

Western Ground Parrot Captive Management Project

Progress Report December 2009

This month saw the conclusion of capture attempts after another two juvenile
Western Ground Parrots (WGPs) were added to the captive population. All up, 6
weeks were spent in the field attempting to capture WGPs. At times, capture efforts
were hampered by wind or rain, neither of which is conducive to mist-netting. A total
of 31 mist-netting sessions were carried out, representing 278 net hours. At times,
nearly 200m of nets were set up and these were manned by up to 10 people per
session. A total of eight WGPs were captured, although four of these birds were
released again. The birds that were released were all adults and therefore less
desirable candidates for the captive population. The other four birds (3 juveniles and
a sub-adult) were taken into captivity. As described in the last report, sadly one of our
captive birds died. The remaining three birds are doing well and adjusting to captive
conditions.

The captive birds are being monitored closely, particularly in the early stages of
settling in. We have scales set up under the food tray of each bird and have video
surveillance which allows close monitoring of the birds’ weight and condition without
subjecting them to stressful encounters with humans. Human disturbance is kept to a
minimum and normally limited to feeding the birds via the access hatch every second
day. This has greatly aided the success of the settling-in process – less disturbance
means less stress which we believe is important for their general well-being.

Zephyr continues to do well. On 2 December he was captured for follow-up health
testing and to add more brush to his aviary. Zephyr’s health testing results revealed
no problems. He has been feeding well, including some native vegetation and has
been maintaining a good weight.

Joy, a juvenile male, was captured on the evening of 2 December and transported
overnight. He arrived at the aviaries at 6am and was released after minimal handling
to obtain samples for health testing. He settled into captivity much faster than Zephyr
did, supporting the decision to target juvenile birds in preference to adults because
they adjust better to captivity. Joy took readily to the commercial budgie seed mix
and in the past week has been eating an increasing amount of native vegetation. He
has also become more active in the aviary and is sometimes seen running around
and doing small flits into the air.

Dawn, a juvenile female, was captured on the morning of 4 December and
transported immediately. Half way through the journey she began to look unwell, with
fluffed-up feathers, hunched posture and drooped wings. She was immediately given
oral electrolytes (and again an hour later) to combat dehydration and she was kept
warm. On arrival at the captive facility she was given antibiotics, more fluids, food
and placed into a brooder (a heated chamber) - a protocol that was refined based on
veterinary advice following the results of Toot’s autopsy.

The exact cause of Dawn’s decline is unclear but she was captured at a very low
weight (67g). In the first 24 hours she put on 7g indicating that she was probably very
dehydrated on capture. Dawn rapidly responded to treatment and after a three day
course of antibiotics she was released into the aviary. She has continued to do well
and her weight has now stabilised at around 76-79g. Dawn has been feeding well on
both the commercial budgie mix and native plants. She is the most active of the three
birds, and is often seen playing, running around on the open ground and jumping into
the air.

Security for the captive birds is being addressed, with project staff meeting with
Senior Wildlife Officers Rick Dawson and Kevin Morrison from DEC’s Wildlife Branch
earlier this month. Rare parrots are sought after on the black market and Rick and
Kevin offered practical suggestions for minimising the risk of theft. This included
maintaining a constant on-site presence, installing an alarm and cameras to monitor
vehicles coming into the area and, most importantly, restricting the release of
information about the location of the captive facility and capture methods and
locations.

After supervising the settling-in process, Brent Barrett has now returned to New
Zealand. Before his departure Brent spent 2 weeks training project staff Abby
Berryman and Jeff Pinder in all aspects of caring for the WGPs and providing
guidance on how to deal with any emergencies that may arise.

The settling-in process will continue over the next few months with partitioning to be
removed from within each of Joy and Dawn’s aviaries providing them with more
space. More vegetation will also be added as they adjust to captive conditions.
Construction of the new purpose-built aviaries should commence soon and be
completed by the end of March.

Shady
Posts: 436
Joined: Wed May 23, 2007 11:19 am

Re: Western Ground Parrot Upates

Post by Shady » Fri Jan 29, 2010 4:19 pm

Western Ground Parrot Captive Management Project

Progress Report January 2010

Update on the captive birds:

Zephyr’s weight over the past month has slowly crept up as the combined
effects of laziness and freely available food begin to show. At this stage he is
slightly heavier than we would expect a wild WGP to be. He is now on a diet –
the amount of budgie seed that he is getting has been reduced but he is given
plenty of native vegetation. We certainly don’t want to starve Zephyr but want
to encourage him to work a little harder to have a feed. This has had several
benefits – Zephyr is now eating a wider variety of food and he has also
become more active.

On a recent hot day, we saw Zephyr having a bath. He is the first of our
WGPs to be seen bathing. His tail, which had looked rather scruffy, has
moulted at long last and new tail feathers are in the process of growing.

Joy’s weight has also been increasing but in his case this is a good thing as
he is a young bird and still has some growing to do before he reaches adult
weight. Joy is still feeding well on both the native vegetation and the budgie
seed.

Dawn has had us worried over the past month as she has been observed on
several occasions sleeping with her head forward resting on the ground.
However, the rest of the time she appears her usual bright self – she is eating
well, and behaving like a happy, healthy little ground parrot. She is still seen
playing regularly, running around and doing little jumps and flits into the air.
We have been monitoring her closely and have consulted with veterinarians
and experienced aviculturalists and the general consensus has been that the
strange sleeping position on its own isn’t a major cause for concern. Her
weight has been stable over recent weeks but we would like to see her put on
a few more grams. We have been providing her with a variety of other foods
such as different seeds, fruit and vegetables in an effort to boost her weight.
However, providing new foods is one thing, getting Dawn to eat them is
another matter altogether! Her favourites still remain the millet in the budgie
seed mix and she loves the various native food plants that we give her.

Volunteer opportunities

Once again this year we are searching for volunteers to assist us with
monitoring our WGP populations and we would like to extend this invitation to
staff and customers of Exetel. Monitoring WGP populations plays an
important role in the management of the WGP. In particular, this year’s
monitoring will help evaluate the effectiveness of an experimental cat control
project that aims to conserve the WGP and other threatened fauna including
Western Bristlebirds, Dibblers, Red-tailed Phascogales, Chuditch and
Malleefowl.

The monitoring work involves listening for WGP calls so good hearing is
essential. No experience is necessary as we will train you to detect WGP
calls. The survey work involves bush camping and all food and most camping
gear is provided. Transport from Albany is supplied. Dates of the survey trips
are:

2 – 11 March Fitzgerald River NP
22 – 29 March Fitzgerald River NP
7-16 April Fitzgerald River NP
27 April – 7 May Cape Arid NP
24 May – 4 June Cape Arid NP

If you would like to volunteer for one of these trips, or if you would like more
information on the WGP project please contact:
Jeff Pinder –ph: (08) 9842 4519
or email: jeff.pinder@dec.wa.gov.au

Shady
Posts: 436
Joined: Wed May 23, 2007 11:19 am

Re: Western Ground Parrot Upates

Post by Shady » Wed Apr 07, 2010 9:41 am

Western Ground Parrot Captive Management Project

Progress Report March 2010

Update on the captive birds

This month the captive birds held by the Department of Environment and
Conservation have continued to do well and have been really showing an
interest in the native plant food that they are given. Quite often Joy and Dawn
will be down nibbling on the fresh native plants within minutes of putting the
food in. The native food helps provide the birds with stimulation, it maintains
wild-type behaviour and it provides them with more balanced nutrition than
budgie seed alone.

Dawn has had a history of health problems (as mentioned in previous
reports), including sleeping with her head down – a posture that isn’t normally
observed in birds. On the morning of 27 March she was again observed
sleeping with her head down. Her feathers were fluffed up and her tail was
bobbing up and down (this can indicate difficulties with breathing). Also, when
she was resting she seemed unsteady at times and at one point almost
toppled over forwards.

Following procedures developed previously, the project officer responded by
providing Dawn with heat, monitored her closely and sought advice from
veterinarians. Over the next few days Dawn showed no more signs of illness
so no further treatment was required. She has been active, is eating well and
her weight hasn’t decreased significantly.

Dawn has been a relatively unfit bird in comparison to Zephyr and Joy,
particularly immediately after capture. She was caught at a very low weight
and in poor condition so it is possible that she is a bird that would have
struggled in the wild. It may be that she will always be more susceptible to
illness and the most recent problem might have been brought on by the cool
damp weather. The important thing is that project staff are aware of this and
Dawn will be watched carefully for illness and provided with extra heat and
care when needed.

Population monitoring

As part of the captive management project, known populations of Western
Ground Parrots are being surveyed to monitor their numbers. In addition to
providing us with information on population size, the monitoring serves
several purposes including assessing the impact that taking birds for captivity
has had on the source population at Cape Arid. It will help identify sites from
which we could capture more birds for the captive colony. This is especially
important in Fitzgerald River National Park (FRNP) as we know of only a
handful of birds remaining there. We aim to take some of these birds into
captivity to add their genetic diversity to the captive population.

Jeff Pinder and a team of volunteers have spent most of this month in the
FRNP surveying two of the sites where WGPs have been known to occur in
the past few years. Previously the population in this park was more
widespread but has contracted to three known sites. In the recent survey in
the Wilderness Area, no WGPs were heard, despite spending 10 days
searching the site. The Short Road trip however has yielded encouraging
results with up to six WGPs heard. Population monitoring will continue over
the next few months with one more trip to FRNP and two trips to Cape Arid
National Park planned.

Shady
Posts: 436
Joined: Wed May 23, 2007 11:19 am

Re: Western Ground Parrot Upates

Post by Shady » Fri Apr 30, 2010 2:48 pm

Download the latest news here (PDF): http://www.exetel.com.au/files/WGP_Exet ... _Apr10.pdf

Shady
Posts: 436
Joined: Wed May 23, 2007 11:19 am

Re: Western Ground Parrot Upates

Post by Shady » Tue Jun 01, 2010 9:20 am

Western Ground Parrot Captive Management Project
Progress Report May 2010


Update on the captive birds

The captive management project is progressing smoothly with all three ground parrots continuing to do well. Zephyr has now been in captivity for nearly 7 months and Joy and Dawn close to 6 months, giving us the confidence that we can successfully maintain WGPs in captivity. Prior to this project, WGPs had not been kept in captivity so the aim of the captive management project was to develop the methods for safely taking a small number of WGPs into captivity and to refine the husbandry techniques for keeping them. Throughout the entire process, Department of Environment and Conservation (DEC) staff have consulted widely with a range of experts to develop the best possible practices.

At a recent meeting of DEC’s South Coast Threatened Birds Recovery Team it was agreed that we have now reached the stage where the project is ready to progress to the next phase and begin a trial of captive breeding, although funding is yet to be secured. A new aviary complex is currently in the final stages of construction and will provide the space and facilities for this trial of captive breeding.

Provided that funding is secured for a captive breeding project, it would involve taking up to three more birds into captivity later in the year, potentially providing three breeding pairs. Currently we have two males (Zephyr and Joy) and one female (Dawn) in captivity. Dawn was captured as a juvenile and it is unlikely that she will be ready to breed before Spring 2011. While juvenile birds are preferred because they adapt more readily to captivity, it is recognised that we may need to consider taking adult birds because of the long lag time before they are ready to breed. Considering that the total population of WGPs is thought to number between 100 to 200 birds, time is a luxury that we no longer have. Even if more adult birds are captured, they would not be likely to breed until Spring 2011.

The conservation efforts aimed at the recovery of the Critically Endangered WGP are not limited solely to captive breeding. The Recovery Project takes an integrated approach to conserving the WGP with the main aim to halt and eventually reverse the decline of the wild populations by reducing the pressures on these populations. The two greatest threats thought to be facing the WGP are predation by feral cats and inappropriate fire regimes. Both fire management and predator control are integral parts of the recovery effort, and a feral cat baiting project has recently commenced.

Although the ideal is to conserve the WGP in the wild, it is recognised that in conjunction with this there was a need for captive breeding. It may take some time for a reduction in cat numbers to translate into an increase in WGP numbers. Particularly in Fitzgerald River National Park, the known WGP populations are now so small that they may never fully recover. Captive breeding, if successful, provides the potential to supplement the depleted populations with captive bred individuals or to reintroduce WGPs into areas where they no longer occur to give this unique bird a better chance of recovery.

Population monitoring

The Department of Environment and Conservation’s Jeff Pinder and a group of volunteers spent 10 days at the beginning of this month surveying the first of the two known populations at Cape Arid National Park (CANP). The results were very encouraging as the number of calls had increased compared to last year. However, the results are yet to be fully analysed – some of the variation in the number of calls heard will reflect the differences in survey effort (ie how many listeners and how many listening sessions) and there are also seasonal variations in the calling frequency to take into account. In previous years it has been observed that there is a marked increase in WGP calling rates around April/May. This increased calling rate reflects an increase in the number of calls that each bird is making, rather than an increase in the actual number of birds. While we don’t know for sure why the WGPs call so much as that time of year it is probable that it plays a role in pair formation and bonding in the lead-up to the breeding season.

Jeff and volunteers are currently in CANP surveying the second of the populations there. This survey is particularly important as this was the site from which the birds were captured for the captive management project. It will allow us to assess the impact that removal of birds has had on the population. The results of this survey will be reported in the next newsletter.

Shady
Posts: 436
Joined: Wed May 23, 2007 11:19 am

Re: Western Ground Parrot Upates

Post by Shady » Mon Jun 28, 2010 8:58 am


Shady
Posts: 436
Joined: Wed May 23, 2007 11:19 am

Re: Western Ground Parrot Upates

Post by Shady » Tue Aug 31, 2010 5:32 pm

Western Ground Parrot Captive Management Project

Progress Report August 2010

This month work has continued on finishing the new aviary complex, with the
facility in the final stages of completion. On August 12, Neil Hamilton
(Department of Environment and Conservation) and Arthur Ferguson (Perth
Zoo) visited the new aviaries to inspect and advise on any modifications
necessary to ensure the aviaries are completely suitable for the ground
parrots. They were impressed with the aviaries and made a few suggestions
for minor modifications. Both Neil and Arthur have considerable experience
with keeping captive birds and their expertise is invaluable.

As well as inspecting the aviaries, DEC project staff spent time discussing
with Neil and Arthur the ongoing management of the captive WGPs, in
particular the best method to move the birds into the new aviary and settle
them in while keeping stress to a minimum. We also discussed ways in which
to introduce birds to each other and promote breeding.

The captive birds are doing well. Over the past few months they have
gradually become more accepting of human presence during feed time. Joy
and Dawn in particular have become accustomed to the routine and more
often than not are down at the feed area within minutes to sample the fresh
food.

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