Earlier this year, CO2 Australia ecologists Dr Jarrad Cousin and Dean Orrick participated in the Great Inland Glossy Count in central western New South Wales. The aim of this event is to undertake a coordinated, point-in-time survey of the at-risk inland population of glossy black cockatoo (Calyptorhynchus lathami) across targeted areas in the Pilliga Nature Reserve and surrounding State Forest.
The glossy black cockatoo is an uncommon species which suffered catastrophic impacts after the summer bushfires of 2019/2020.
This species has a particular preference for feeding on the fruit of sheoaks (Casuarina and Allocasuarina species). Sadly, the bushfires ravaged large areas of these already scattered, fire-sensitive plant communities, removing critical habitat and foraging areas for this species.
While the glossy black cockatoo has some regional protection, being listed as vulnerable in NSW, and threatened in the ACT and Victoria, only the isolated Kangaroo Island population is listed and protected at the Commonwealth level. However, conservationists are hopeful this protection might improve. Due to the recent impacts on the inland population, this species has been nominated for listing under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999. The threatened listing assessment is due to be completed in April 2022, and if the glossy black cockatoo is listed it will see the inland population protected at the Commonwealth level. Due to the uncertainty surrounding the longevity of this population, surveys such as the Great Inland Glossy Count have great importance to the continued conservation of the species.
Armed with the knowledge that glossy black cockatoos need to drink at least once a day, volunteers from across eastern Australia descended on the dams of the Pilliga Nature Reserve, which supports dense stands of sheoaks. As a population of glossy black cockatoos is known in the region, volunteers were assigned dams throughout the Pilliga Nature Reserve for observation with the hope of encountering a group of glossy black cockatoos.
Jarrad and Dean were assigned Salt Cave Dam within the centre of the Pilliga East State Forest and from 4pm, hunkered down in the beautiful surrounds to await the hopeful arrival of these special cockatoos. The trees surrounding the dam were alive with honeyeaters from the moment Jarrad and Dean arrived, with fantastic views of a flock of varied sitellas; a bark-foraging specialist, as well as brown-headed, yellow-faced, striped spiny-cheeked and white-eared honeyeaters.
The significance of these watering points was exemplified by the 150 common bronzewing that were observed coming in to drink throughout the afternoon. In all, 24 species of birds were observed, including two species listed under the Biodiversity Conservation Act 2016 (NSW) – the turquoise parrot and the grey-crowned babbler.
Unfortunately, no glossy-black cockatoos were heard, nor seen coming in to drink at the Salt Cave Dam. Nonetheless, Jarrad and Dean got to experience some fantastic birding in the most intact and beautiful of surrounds, all while contributing to this long-term monitoring project. CO2 Australia will be back to volunteer in 2023; contributing to the wonderful work of the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service.