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!

Sunday, 14 January 2018

New Year Nestboxing


I've just returned from a beautiful piece of bushland not far from Margaret River in WA's south-west, where I spent a couple of days with my partner Dani installing nest-boxes designed for a variety of wildlife. Putting a new pulley and new hand ascender (Christmas presents!) straight into action for the first tree-climbing job of the new year helped us install the thirteen boxes more efficiently, with the pulley being a welcome addition to the normal hauling rig used to hoist my large vertical Black Cockatoo boxes (of which there were five) into place.


The picture at the top of this post shows how the 3-1 pulley system is set up on one of the cockatoo boxes, which was positioned in a very tall, old, but hollow-lacking Marri tree. And above is a slightly wider shot of the same box (and the two tiny ants installing it!), taken by the property owners Karen and Rob, whose wonderful enthusiasm to help her local fauna I had to thank for being here in the first place. One of the most rewarding things about my job is getting to meet the growing number of people going out of their way to engage with and provide support to native wildlife, a truly positive edge to our currently testing environmental times. As with all my nest-boxes, these hollow-homes will be closely monitored to help gather information about how effective they are, particularly in helping threatened species like Black Cockatoos, which have been very successful in my large vertical boxes. I can't wait to hear about the first occupants in this latest batch of boxes!

Room with a view: one of the cockatoo boxes overlooking a scenic lake near Margaret River.

Sunday, 10 December 2017

Another Carnaby's Chick


It was a thrill today to see another Gnolyenok / Carnaby's Cockatoo chick peering up at me from inside one of the cockatoo boxes in a local reserve in Mundaring, the third of its kind to be successfully raised in the past three years. These endangered birds were first recorded breeding in 2015, when the Shire of Mundaring supported the installation of a suite of nest-boxes for a post-bushfire recovery program.

Earlier this week I was fortunate to visit the reserve with the WA Musuem, local Friends Group coordinator Ron Coloquhoun, Mundaring Shire Environmental Officer Jolene Wallington, and other community volunteers, to see this precious creature fitted with an ABBBS leg-band. This harmless tag will help researchers identify it in the future, maybe even when it is feeding its own offspring in a local nest-box! Fingers crossed we have many more moments like this to look forward to in the future!

Jolene holds the Carnaby's Cockatoo nestling during banding, while her daughter Emma watches on.

Friday, 1 December 2017

PorongurUpdate


It's hard to believe that 10 years have passed since I installed my first Black Cockatoo nesting box on my friend Jeff's block in the Porongurup Range! Today Jeff and I celebrated this anniversary by paying a quick visit to the block and checking this box, as well as the five others that have been installed at the property since 2010, all of which have been part of increasingly successful breeding. by Gnolyenok / Carnaby's Cockatoo. We were thrilled to find Carnaby's Cockatoos in every box! The two most recently installed boxes, which went up in May this year as part of a Birdlife WA and South Coast NRM educational workshop, both had heavily chewed entrances, tell-tale signs of prospecting (and usually occupancy) by Black Cockatoos.

A large vertical box installed in May with a newly hatched Carnaby's Cockatoo chick.

These findings give me such a thrill because they prove the design of my large vertical nest-boxes is effective, and also that newly installed boxes can become occupied so readily when placed at known breeding sites.

Three cockatoo chicks were banded as part of an ongoing WA Museum study on their movements and survival, an exciting addition to the study that Jeff and I have been carrying out on the breeding of Carnaby's Cockatoo in the Porongurup range. It was amazing to see these birds so close, and heartwarming to think of the beautiful moment when they will make their first flight into the Karri canopy and beyond!

This Threatened cockatoo chick hatched inside a nest-box made from rubbish!

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!