Wednesday, 14 December 2016

Five Noongar Birds

So far the Wedge-tailed Eagle tracking project has been set entirely on Martu Country, and we have made some wonderful discoveries about the ecology of arid-zone eagles residing in this vast landscape. But my dream to satellite-track Wedge-tails actually began a long time ago and a long way south, on Noongar Country, so since starting research here in the desert, I've been working towards adding a south-west WA site to the project. Commencing a PhD project through Murdoch University in July this year created the opportunity to do just that, and part of my research proposal is to compare the juvenile dispersal behaviour of eagles born at Matuwa with those raised in my homeland, the Perth Hills. Today I'm pleased to announce the Perth region is now officially on the wedgie-tracking map, with the fifth and final (for 2016!) Perth Hills eagle being satellite-tagged. This bird was named 'Walyunga' after the very special National Park in which it was born, an important cultural area for ancient Noongar people on whose land I am privileged to be able to live and work.

Stuart Broadley holds the eagle while its PTT is attached.
Walyunga on his eyrie after satellite-tagging. The PTT aerial is visible protruding from his back.

I am especially grateful to the volunteers who accompanied me to assist with today's satellite-tagging fieldwork, especially Andrea Williams from the Goldfields Environmental Management Group (GEMG), who currently sponsor field operations for the Matuwa eagle research, and Paul Udinga, the senior Walyunga National Park ranger, who has assisted with monitoring of and access to this nest. Thanks also to Heidi Dougherty from the Shire of Mundaring, Parks and Wildlife volunteer Ken Suckling, and my friend and fellow eagle enthusiast Stuart Broadley from the Philippine Eagle Foundation, for helping make this thrilling afternoon a great success! It was a wonderful day to be out bush!

Walyunga (a male) joins Wailitj (female), Yirrabiddi (female - pictured at the top of this post), Kala (male) and Korung (female), all of whom were tagged as juveniles in October and November this year. You can read more about the individual tagging events pertaining to each bird on my personal iNSiGHT News blog. The below map shows the locations of each of these birds' natal territories, shown from north to south in the order the birds are listed above. We anticipate these juvenile eagles will remain 'at home' for the next 3-4 months, then begin dispersing... somewhere! This will be the first time Wedge-tails from a Mediterranean climate have been tracked during this early phase of their life. Where will these wedgies dare? Keep watching to find out!

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