I got myself invited to John Young's presentation this past week. It was
fantastic to see the footage and a few [about 4] of his hundred images.
I thought you might be interested in some random notes i recorded in the
evening [the presentation was 12 - 2 early in the afternoon] - didn't have the
sense to take notes while i was there. So here they are totally unedited - see
what you can make of them; [Any errors are mine]
Habitat ? SW Qld, Lake Eyre Basin, near gibber, remnant spinifex country, high
unburned spinifex, recently seeded, c 5-6 ft high, ridges, sandy soils, few
small shrubs and trees adjacent.
Private land, grazing property however the land had little grazing pressure.
Few other bird or mammal spp recorded at site.
Behaviour ? mixed reactions to playback. Sometimes [often] shut up for weeks.
Very sensitive to disturbance. Many nights un-vocal. Other parrots heard at
night flying around but Night parrot unreliable.
Low to ground playback caused territorial reactions causing bird [male] to come
into view. Bird walked between spinifex but puffed itself up and spread wings
to look intimidating. Fast Hopping gate [c 20 -25 cm] jumps at a time.
Calling ? at night only ? [bird strictly nocturnal?] ? Immediately identifiable
as a parrot however some similarity with Pied Honeyeater? Female had different
Male / Female differences ? male slightly larger, brighter, yellow further up
breast under crop, brighter yellow on under tail coverts?
Different calls between sexes.
Different behaviours and responses to call ? male reacted to call ? banging
head on the ground, raking the ground with feet, circling spinifex mounds with
?increasing excitement?, puffed up posture ?like an echidna?
Male held a variety of roosting positions in different clumps of spinifex over
different days ? deep in Triodia clump ? perched off the ground in the centre
of the clump.
Female besting deep within clump, thick nest made of broken spinifex, lined
nest, again off the ground, some 15 feet at least from edge of spinifex.
Nesting success confirmed by sound of young in nest.
Perhaps two pair over the ?greater area?. Sightings and sound of bird recorded
over several visits. Photographic evidence achieved May 24, 2013.
Partly insectivorous ? moth wings, grasshopper legs adjacent to roost sites.
Droppings very chalky / calcium filled with little evidence [although some]
offering suggestion of herbage in diet. Bird possibly opportunistic regards
diet like small mammals in arid areas. Again like small mammals bird gets water
from eating insect / invertebrate prey. Lack of water dependence making
strategy of staking outback water holes redundant.
Searching for feathers in and around roosting and nesting sites [apparently
without being too intrusive..] revealed only a very small number of feathers.
Subsequently sent to WA museum for DNA testing.
Details of searches by John Young ? revealed strategies of following fence
lines looking for feathers, searching lined nests for possible use of Night
Parrot feathers., examining caves, baiting outback waterholes with seed, long
nights listening. Last strategy was most successful. Recorded call which
ultimately allowed all photography.
1/ Location kept secret to minimise disturbance from birders, visitors etc ?and
also because of wishes of land owner. Land owner apparently keen to conserve
the birds but prefers anonymity.
2/ Control of feral cats and foxes ? professional shooters in the short term
plus examination of other methods such as baiting. [Further Research needed on
control techniques for these two main feral predators. Consider the r?ship of
dingo numbers and cat / fox numbers.] Anecdotally several people report high
cat numbers in the outback generally.
3/ team approach at management ? number of stakeholders needed. Details thus
far very sketchy although a few organisations have offered assistance [Desert
Survey methods to be trialled at site where known birds exist to try to develop
methods that can be used elsewhere; remote camers, call recording, response to
playbacks [although John believes this is not suitable], infared, heat sensing
equipment, night vision glasses etc
Survey of habitat - floristics, soil types, vegetation structure, topography
etc measured, fire history etc so as to facilitate plotting of like locations
to assist in survey developments.
Control of pest spp.
Sniffer dogs [as used in Kiwi location] considered too invasive.
Predator proof fencing deemed inappropriate at site.
No word on when JY plans to publish any of his observations, information,
photos ect. It is very important [I believe] to add his experience and
observations to the literature.
Some words mentioned about conservation groups wanting to use the footage etc
for fund raising. As part of support conservation groups want a transparent
open system however JY etc can not guarantee that as they have made pacts of
secrecy with land owners.
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