Using people??? to find Night Parrots

To: "Mike Carter" <>
Subject: Using people??? to find Night Parrots
From: Allan Richardson <>
Date: Fri, 8 Jun 2012 11:09:48 +1000
Mike I think the approach you guys took up was excellent - the only problem was 
that 20 people is too few, you needed thousands of people working at the same 
time to cover the sort of area required to give you a chance in the probability 

I think the dog method also has good merit, but falls down because of the drop 
in the ocean principle as well. Both of these strategies and the large number 
of birders strategy have their greatest chance of success if a quick response 
to a sighting could be organised. Therein these plans are likely to fall down. 
Few of the birding community have the ability to drop everything for a lengthy 
trip to a remote location in a coordinated search and you're going to need good 
numbers. An indication of at least some of the commitment available is if we 
cast our minds back to the Grey-headed Lapwing - less than 500 birders (correct 
me if I'm wrong) went out to see the bird, but they were strung out over a 3 
month period and they were highly motivated (it took me 3 months and the only 
reason I ended up out there was because work took me close to the area); 
remembering though that that was just a small percentage from the dedicated 
birding community (many other dedicated birders didn't g

Everything we've done so far appears to be planning for are relatively small 
almost individual projects for short periods of time, which are up against the 
enormity of habitat area and the constraints of time. Individual effort has 
some merit I think if someone could live out there, picking up clues perhaps, 
as the seasons change and checking the same areas deemed potentially suitable 
over and over again. It's this local knowledge and week in week out strategy 
that allow us to get a handle on what Regents and Swifts are doing and the same 
goes for the wandering habits of pelagic birds. We have trouble locating Swift 
Parrots and Regent Honeyeaters due to their nomadic movements in response to 
resource distribution (regents only turn up here in Morisset on a 4-5 year 
cycle despite what the blossom is doing, because the local picture isn't 
important unless compared to the extremities of the species' niche), so it is 
likely safe to assume that the areas you guys checked Mike may 
 have NP's some times, but they just weren't there at the time you were.  I 
know there are other issues, like how tight do NP's sit in their day-time 
roosts? leading to how close do you have pass to a roost before a bird will 
flush? Wouldn't we love to know how close many of us have actually been to a 
bird without knowing it?

I agree with Jeff that the birds may be more common than they seem to us, and I 
would hazard to guess that there are at least some folk in the community who 
are seeing these birds on a relatively regular basis - drovers and outback 
residents, because they're out there for long periods from year to year. 
Pushing hundreds and sometimes thousands of cattle through Night Parrot habitat 
must flush birds every now and then. Surely an education scheme would be 
valuable here?

A similar method Mike, in the absence of a starting point (although the western 
Queensland region may be good due to the recoveries of dead birds, amongst 
other possible locations), to what you guys employed might work, only on a much 
larger scale. Plan a large-scale event in different areas across the country 
much as we do for the Swift Parrot and Regent Honeyeater surveys, but take it 
outside the relatively small pool of folk in the birding community. There is no 
need to have only dedicated birders as long as there is a sufficient spattering 
among the hordes to confirm observations, collect data and organise on the 
ground logistics in each area. Setting a time in the future for the event, 
maybe two or three years down the track, would allow folk to plan for a week 
long event and include international interest to be involved as well. The 
immense nature of areas to check and the skulking nature of the species dictate 
that a large scale thorough coverage may be the only way we
  have any chance of getting fresh information that might allow a more 
predictive approach thereafter. There would be costs associated with the 
organisation and promotion of something of this scale, but a volunteer 
workforce, and volunteer landholder involvement for participant camping (some 
compensation may be in order), would form the backbone of man-power. It would 
certainly be the type of project that could capture the imagination of the 
community and would likely easily attract funding, due to its size.

In such a venture the dog, camera and other methodologies may be employed to 
greater value particularly if there is any success at all, because these 
resources could be at hand ready for such an occasion where they would be used 
to greatest effect.

There are perhaps many flaws in such a project, but we've all seen the 
immensity of habitat area out that way and how else do you overcome that 
without a large-scale thorough approach?

Allan Richardson
Morisset NSW

If such an undertaking were to be embarked upon it could be in a Clean Up 
Australia Day type format. Set at a future date
On 07/06/2012, at 11:08 AM, Mike Carter wrote:

> Attempts to use people enmasse to find Night Parrots has of course been tried 
> and after periods of heavy rain. My wife and I were members of the RAOU Night 
> Parrot expedition into the Lake Disappointment area of the Western Deserts of 
> WA in September 1987. See RAOU Report No. 49, 1988 by Stephen Davies, Mandy & 
> Mike Bamford. The rather wry title 'Princess but no Night' of the summary of 
> the trip in RAOU Newsletter No. 75, March 1988 indicates the degree of 
> success we had. The site was chosen because the area had never been grazed 
> and it was timed to follow a period of good rainfall. The initial party 
> consisted of 20 people in 9 vehicles and the search spanned 11 days. Four 
> search methods were used: traversing the spinifex and samphire by day in line 
> abreast using a rope between walkers where possible; listening at dawn and 
> dusk for calls; driving through spinifex and walking through samphire at 
> night; collecting old birds' nests and searching them for feathers. Some of 
> us al
 so watched for birds coming to drink at dams or waterholes.
> I am interested to see that although the search was unsuccessful in finding 
> Night Parrots, the Report is not cited under that species in HANZAB volume 4, 
> although it is cited in The Princess Parrot text of that volume. As usual, 
> presence is better documented than absence.
> Mike Carter
> 30 Canadian Bay Road
> Mount Eliza  VIC 3930
> Tel  (03) 9787 7136

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