Mundaring wildlife on its way back after fires

WA Museum’s Ron Johnstone holding a Carnaby’s Cockatoo chick while biologist Simon Cherriman looks on. Photographer: Tony Kirkby.
WA Museum’s Ron Johnstone holding a Carnaby’s Cockatoo chick while biologist Simon Cherriman looks on. Photographer: Tony Kirkby.

A PROJECT designed to help local wildlife recover following the Parkerville-Stoneville-Mt Helena bushfires of 2014 is finally beginning to bear fruit.

The Shire of Mundaring’s post-fire recovery project involved the construction and installation of nest boxes for wildlife in May and June this year.

Since then, WA Museum ornithology curator Ron Johnstone has been working in the field with biologist Simon Cherriman and the men have successfully banded a five to six-week-old Carnaby’s cockatoo chick.

Mr Johnstone said the chick “was a fledging with hardly any down left on its body”.

The boxes were installed to replace tree hollows in old hardwood trees that were lost in the fire.

In September, one of the boxes was found to be occupied by a pair of endangered Carnaby’s Cockatoos, and in November, a second pair was discovered nesting in a nearby marri tree.

Mr Johnstone said the WA Museum had conducted research into threatened black cockatoo species for several decades. These include the Carnaby, Baudin and Forest red-tailed black cockatoos.

“In order to learn more about species movements and survival, chicks are weighed, measured and given a unique leg band to identify individuals,” he said.

“The Mundaring field trip was very successful with one chick being banded – although it wasn’t in the nesting boxes we used but in the old marri tree hollow.”

Biologist Simon Cherriman said it was heart warming news to come out of what was initially a local disaster for the community.

“When you look across the canopy of what was burned landscape one year ago, it is now green and verdant and the re-growth is very heartening,” he said.

Mr Johnstone said there had been great interest in how the nest boxes were received since concerns that the original hardwood hollows were not available to birds after the fires.

“We have since discovered some of the hardwood hollows are still operating, which is a great relief for the birds nesting,” he said.

“Some of the veteran marris are over 250 years old and for Carnaby’s (cockatoos) to nest they have to back into the hollows tail first as they need a wide floor space for their tails.”

Mr Johnstone said all three breeds of black cockatoo were endemic to the southwest of WA and all had declined greatly over the past 50 years.

“It is great to see birds using a box in the Mundaring area,” he said.

“It is also important to be able to retain these marri trees in reserves where cockatoos breed so that their hollows are big enough for black cockies.

“It was good luck that this tree remained standing after the 2012 fire,” Mr Johnstone said.