Welcome to the News section of the iNSiGHT Ornithology website (
www.simoncherriman.com). This blog contains updates about various things I've been up to, interesting environmental issues and observations I make regularly while going about my day. It is designed to be fun AND educational, and inspire you about our wonderful natural world. Happy reading!

Monday, 27 November 2017

Djoorabiddi & The Project


Last month I had the privilege of taking a small group of people to visit a beautiful eagle eyrie in a remote part of the Perth Hills. This included Jo Manning from Murdoch University's public relations department, and Thom and Darrell from Channel 10's 'The Project', who (very excitingly!) were tagging along (pardon the pun!) to film some of my fieldwork to fit a GPS/Satellite transmitter to a juvenile Wailitj / Wedge-tailed Eagle. The bird I managed to catch on his nest was a very calm, placid young boy, who was given the name 'Djoorabiddi' by Noongar lady Alison Murphy. This word is derived from 'djoorab' = good natured/happy, & means 'go foward happily'. Alison's father Noel last year named my beautiful Parkerville eagle 'Yirrabiddi' (path/journey in the sky), so it was truly magic to have a journey theme connecting these two Nannup-derived names!!

The story of how we fitted Djoorabiddi with a satellite transmitter was played last night on the Sunday Project, who kindly gave me the below copy to post here. Keep your eyes on the Wedge-tailed Eagle Tracking website for updates on Djoorabiddi's progress, and the movements of other juvenile Wedge-tails from the Perth Hills and further a field. Enjoy!



Friday, 24 November 2017

Sign of the Seasons

 
Today there was an official celebration of the completion of Sawyers Valley Primary School's Nature Play area, a project which has been coordinated and delivered by the school's Natural Resource Management team, thanks to a State NRM grant. I've been privileged to be part of this project and participated in recording local fauna, taking guided walks for students and parents, and contributing photographs for interpretive signs that emphasise the area's cultural and environmental values. It was great to see the above Noongar Seasons sign installed today (just in the nick of time before the project finished!), which featured a variety of photographs of Perth Hills wildlife from my photo gallery. Thanks to the NRM team for the invitation to be part of such a great environmental initiative.

Saturday, 18 November 2017

Leonora Eagles


I've just returned from WA's Goldfields region where I completed the arid zone component of my Wedge-tailed Eagle Tracking research for 2017, satellite-tagging two more Matuwa-born Wedge-tailed Eagles. After this fieldwork had been completed, I was very excited to drive south and spend a day on country with a group of Leonora District High School students, an environmental educational activity arranged by the CSIRO's Science Pathways program. We found five eagle nests along some stunning breakaway country that I was privileged to be shown by teacher Fifi Harris. My friend Dave from CSIRO made a wonderful short film about the day which you can watch here. Also, local ABC radio presenter Rachel Day phoned while I was in town to chat about eagles - you can listen to the audio of the interview by clicking 'play' below.

What a busy week out bush it was! Now back to the desk to catch up on all the admin...


Sunday, 29 October 2017

Twin Brothers


These two amazing Wedge-tailed Eaglets hatched on a nest built by the parents of Wailitj - the Perth Hills' first juvenile eagle to be satellite-tracked - about a month ago. Given that Wailitj only survived for 2 months post-fledging, it was thrilling to discover his parents had doubled their 'output' this season.


At the end of September, with the help of some beautiful young boys (sons of some Perth Hills friends of mine) who have been keen to learn first hand about my eagle research, we fitted this brood of 'twins' with colour rings, weighed and measured the birds, then made ourselves scarce. With both having reached the age of 5 weeks, the odds were that they should continue growing healthily to fledging age of 3 months, but nothing is certain in the ever-changing natural world.

I was very excited to return to their eyrie this morning with my great friends Mick and Rianna and their two young sons Jarrahn and Bhodi, and find both eaglets (now juvenile eagles!) still alive and well! We fitted these birds with satellite transmitters - the second set of 'twin' WA wedgies to be sat-tagged - and I paused to photograph the partially consumed ibis on the eyrie as I placed them back 'home'. With this nest site definitely having the theme of 'two boys', I decided to give Jarrahn and Bhodi some homework: to come up with names for each eagle, with the only rule being that (as with all my Perth Hills eagles) they had to be in Noongar language.

The next day Mick rang me to let me know that the birds were to be called Naakal (= quiet) and Ngooni (= bother), two very appropriate Noongar words. It will be a privilege to follow the movements of these young brothers when they fledge and begin to wander around WA. I wonder if they will stay together on their journey?!

Naakal (left) and Ngooni sit next to a freshly killed Australian Ibis on their eyrie.

Monday, 23 October 2017

Ticking Off Eagle Nests


The time of year for Wailitj / Wedge-tailed Eagle (Aquila audax) ringing is upon us again, with most nests having quite large eaglets that are the perfect age for fitting with colour rings. Having just returned from my arid zone eagle research site at Matuwa last week, I was ready to carry on 'eagling' in the Perth Hills over the weekend and visited an amazing eyrie to ring/band the chick with my beautiful friend Dani on Sunday morning.

This eaglet 6-week old eaglet's eyrie was framed beautifully by the nest tree's limbs.

The eagle nest was located high in a live but very old and partially hollow Powderbark (Eucalyptus accedens) tree, which made the climb a nerve-racking but spectacular experience. I scaled the main trunk using ropes, then tied a safety line around the huge limb that I followed out towards the nest, inching my way along and trying not to pay too much attention to the multiple entrances to its hollow cavities, all covered in chew-marks from prospecting activities by local parrots.

This Powderbark tree has been growing in the landscape for several centuries.


I reached the young Wedge-tail and admired his view across the beautifully forested surrounds, before lifting him gently into a handling bag and lowering him safely to the ground below. Dani took him into the shade where we both worked quietly to weigh, measure and fit the two types of rings/bands. Having the bird so close allowed me to notice a small Kangaroo Tick (Amblyomma triguttatum) at the edge of its eye.

A kangaroo tick is visible just below the eaglets brow, smaller than the ever-present bush fly in the centre.


While ticks are perfectly good climbers and probably capable of ascending into the canopy on their own, I suspect this parasite may have been transported into the eagles' eyrie 'on board' a Yonga / Western Grey Kangaroo (Macropus fuliginosus) joey, common food for eagles nesting in the Perth Hills. Once the joey had been eaten, the tick probably went crawling for an alternative host, with the eagle chick being the nearest new victim. I chose not to remove this parasite as I know that these animals do drop off eventually, and risking damage to such an important part of such a young bird's body was not worth it.

Ringing and processing complete, it was great to place the eaglet back on its lofty nest and take in more off the amazing view. Now onto the next nest!

Monday, 28 August 2017

Eaglets & ABC Afternoons


It's the time of year again in this beautiful season of Djilba when our marvellous Wailitj / Wedge-tailed Eagles are welcoming their new eaglets into the world. Yesterday I was thrilled to come across a wedge-tail 'suspiciously' gliding into the trees and a few minutes later, locate a new nest, one of those 'rare' ones in which both eaglets had hatched successfully and survived their first ~5 weeks.


On most nests I monitor, the larger eaglet kills the smaller one during the first fortnight, so it was very exciting to find both chicks looking fat and healthy.

The arrival of 2017's first eaglets has recently inspired me to post a few images on my Instagram and Twitter accounts, which prompted 720 ABC Perth to get in touch. Last week I was very fortunate to be given the opportunity by Gillian O'Shaughnessy to talk on her WA Afternoons program, so I had the idea of arranging this to be done live from the canopy of a tall Marri tree in the Perth Hills! The interview was booked for 2 pm on Thursday, and just beforehand, I was thrilled to climb another of this year's new nests, peer over the edge, and be greeted by this magical sight...


This eaglet is almost 4 weeks old, and as you can see in the below photo, still has a tiny egg-tooth, something which, after helping the chick break out from within its calcified prison, remains present on the end of its new bill for about 5 weeks. His first amazing primary feathers were emerging too, just visible as tiny feather pins in the above photo.

This egg tooth has a trail of dried salt which extends along the bill, the result of 'gaping' behaviour - the bird equivalent of panting - which helps lose heat in warm conditions.


It was very exciting to share this sight with ABC listeners, talk about my ongoing eagle research, and also mention the 'Where's Wailitj' Crowdfunding campaign that I'm currently running via the awesome team at Pozible. This publicity, and the fantastic article published by the Hills Gazette the following day (which talked about some of the threats to juvenile wedgies like drones that may have killed Walyunga earlier this year), created some nice media attention and helped the crowdfund climb even closer to its target! I am so grateful to all those who helped publicise my research!

If you missed the interview you can listen to it now on the ABC WA Afternoons blog here.

And if you haven't pledged to the crowdfunding campaign yet, watch this video and then visit the Pozible campaign website to make your pledge!


*POZIBLE 2017 from Simon Cherriman on Vimeo.

Thursday, 27 July 2017

Hawk-Owl Boxes for Christmas


This fabulous nest-box is one of 30 that were recently constructed by a fantastic bunch of school students from the Christmas Island District High School, under the supervision of their teachers Brad and James, a project initiated by Range to Reef Environmental and supported by Christmas Island Phosphate. These artificial tree-hollows were made for a unique, endemic and Vulnerable species of nocturnal bird of prey, the Christmas Island Hawk Owl (Ninox natalis). Range to Reef engaged me to become involved in the work, and after having closely related Southern Boobook Owls successfully use nest-boxes I installed in Perth and the WA Wheatbelt region early last year, I recommended that Range to Reef supply the same design to the school. I very privileged to be asked to assist with installation and have just returned from the island (which is one of the most amazing, unique places I've ever been!) where I worked with Range to Reef to find an arboreal home for all 30 boxes. I'll write more on this soon, but for now, here are a few snaps from the trip!

Boxes were installed using the tree-friendly 'Re-Cyc-Ology method with wire and hose-pipe.

Spot the Hawk-Owl nest-box! This one was hung about 20 m up in a beautiful Sysigium tree.

The awesome team from Range to Reef: Roget, Sophie and Andrew!

Despite spending over a week 'hanging out' in the rainforest, most of work was conducted during the day when Hawk Owls are roosting, and I was a little sad to climb on the plane and leave the island without having seen one! However, I know that one day I'll be back - hopefully to find owls nesting inside one of their new homes! In the meantime, I know the island's beautiful Frigatebirds will be soaring above the rainforest and keeping an eye out.

Tuesday, 13 June 2017

Kala & Aus Geo


You might remember a few weeks ago when I was thrilled to find Kala, our sat-tagged juvenile Wailitj hanging out with his parents, and be lucky enough to take some close-up photos of him perched in the morning sun. Today Australian Geographic reported on a recently published journal article about Wedge-tailed Eagle movement ecology (as studied by DNA), and one of these photos of Kala featured as the headline image! You can read the article, which contains some very interesting findings about the ecology of wedgies in Tasmania, at the Aus Geo blog here.