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Out of the ashes

THE death of two wedge-tailed eagle chicks during a prescribed burn in Mt Helena last year, has led to a positive collaboration between a hills scientist and staff from the Department of Parks and Wildlife (DPaW).

Parkerville environmental advocate Simon Cherriman said he was working with Parks and Wildlife staff from the Perth Hills to incorporate eagle nest sites on prescribed burn planning maps.

“Following the sad death of two eagle chicks in an out-of-control prescribed burn in Leschenaultia conservation reserve in August 2015 DPaW staff began working together to allow nests in areas potentially impacted by burning to be identified,” he said.

“Precautionary measures are now being taken to ensure the nests are not destroyed.

“In April 2016, an eagle nest among bushland scheduled for a fuel-reduction burn in the Pickering Brook area was identified as being at risk.

“Fire staff were notified of the nest tree and leaf litter was removed from its base to prevent flames reaching the canopy.”

Mr Cherriman said he visited the nest in early September to check if the eagles were breeding.

“When I peered through fresh, green, post-fire growth of the newly regenerating forest, and saw a fluffy white head bobbing out of the nest, I was absolutely thrilled,” he said.

“It was such a great feeling to know that a beautiful eaglet had successfully hatched on the nest after our careful efforts to ensure it wasn’t burned”.

Mr Cherriman said the nest tree, a marri estimated to be more than 230 years old, was the only tree in the forest not to have scorch-marks up the trunk.

“As I explicitly stated last year, both in newspaper articles and on the radio, I did not set out to blame any individual or group of people for last year’s eagle deaths,” he said. “

“Rather I wanted to raise awareness about an important issue pertaining to human relations to the environment.

“I am an interface between wildlife and people, and am passionate about ensuring our unique bushland has a voice.

“Sometimes it takes a devastating event to make people see what impact human actions have.

“But this often creates an opportunity for improvement, and to fix past mistakes.

“Volunteering with DPaW staff to assist with pre-burn impact mitigation and prevent last year’s events from reoccurring has been a privilege.”

Parks and Wildlife Perth Hills district nature conservation coordinator Bob Huston said Mr Cherriman kept staff up-to-date with the location of any nesting trees in the area and the information was used in fire planning and preparation work.

“Every effort is now taken to locate these trees and rake a 2m zone around the trunk to help prevent any fire from reaching the tree,’’ he said.

Staff will help Mr Cherriman to tag and attach a tracking device on another fledging wedge tailed eagle later this month. Perth Hills district staff also advised him of any new nesting tree sites they discovered.

Through Mr Cheriman’s work the department is aware of about 25 wedge tailed breeding pairs and of about 100 nesting trees they use in the Perth Hills.

Along with DPaW staff and volunteers helping him with his PhD research on eagle movement ecology, Mr Cherriman revisited the Pickering Brook nest last week to place a GPS satellite transmitter on the 10-week-old eagle.

“This pioneering study will see juvenile wedge-tails from the Perth Hills tracked to investigate their dispersal throughout Western Australia,” he said.

“I’ve given her a Noongar name Korung to keep the spirit of this area’s first Australians alive.

“It’s exciting to see she’s not far from making her first flight.

“And even better to know that when she does, we’ll be watching.”


About Sarah Brookes

Sarah is an award-winning journalist (2016 WA Media Awards - Best Three Suburban Newspaper Stories) who has covered our Mundaring and Kalamunda editions since 2011. She went to Eastern Hills Senior High School before studying chemistry and biology at university. Staring down a microscope two years into her degree she realised a future in science wasn’t for her – journalism was. Sarah lived in Europe before re-settling in Darlington, where her family has lived for three generations, with her two children. She has worked for various government agencies and Media Monitors. Sarah is a media junkie who loves talkback radio and devours the weekend papers.

One comment

  1. One of the many pleasures I get from travelling the remote and outback regions are sightings of these magnificent creatures.

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