Well , the wise menreckon the first twelve months are the hardestfor any enterprise so I guess we must be doing something right here!
There was much speculation in the beginning as to whether we could evoke any interst amongst the avicultural community and many suggested that this would be a ´lost cause´!
So much for a ´healthy`dose of scepticism I´m pleased to announce!!
I am pleased to be able to report that 30 Clubs and Societies have thrown their weight behind restoring the wild Gouldian finch. From large societies like the Queensland Finch Society and the Avicultural
Society of Australia and the AZ from Germany through the smaller clubs like the Gulgong and the North West Tasmanian Bird Club all have found the need to assist an old favourite
in dire straights.
Many have donated hard won funds to the ´war effort` while others have run raffles and auctions to further aid the cause.
AS well as these great clubs there have been a large number of individual donors getting behind the Fund.Some like Ray and Wendy Lowe and Peter Phippen have made sizeable donations
and we would like to publicly thank such aviculturists for their continued support.
Several times people have commented that they wished they could donate more to the Fund but were unable to because of circumstances, but to us they are a true reflection of the desire for birdo´s
to assist and „ own „ a part of this venture - there is no such thing as a small sum to us.
Our thanks must also be extended to the Canberra Finch Society and John Morrison who have become ´repeat offenders´ in that they felt the need to supply us with follow up support to ensure
our success hopefully you will be setting a trend for us!
Now if you have visited the Save The Gouldian Fund´s website you will be bound to notice the ever
increasing numbers of overseas donors appearing therein and that our words are now transcending the language barriers! This is in no small part due to the untiring efforts of Peter Rindom in Denmark
and Joerg Landenberger in Germany who have been fantastic in helping to bring the plight of the Gouldian to the world.
Much has already been said about the efforts of the Hunter Valley Branch of the Finch Society of Australia at the two Open Days that were held at the University Of New South Wales´s research facility
at Mike´s home. However , it would be grossly remiss of me not to further acknowledge
the input of ´General Butler´and his band of dedicated Hunter Valley Volunteers!
Hopefully I´ve covered all aspects of the multitude of supporters out there hat have made our work such a resounding success to date andrestassured that your words of encouragement throughout the
year have made it possible to struggle through the work load that such an undertaking demands to be run successfully.
To those out there that still remain sceptical then I guess I shall have to work harder to leave you no option but to join us- Mike always tells me I have far too much spare time anyway!!
In order to help out the Clubs that have ably supported us we have put together a Power Point Presentation that features a look at the Kimberley area and the problems facing the wild Gouldian and an outline of our efforts to stem the tide.
Better give you a brief rundown of what we Have been up to after all of that!!!
1) Provided a ½ time salary for a full _time Gouldian researcher to assist Dr Sarah Legge from AWC.
As chief scientific officer for the Mornington AWC property Sarah has a demanding workload so we thought what better way to ensure that the Gouldian researcher continues unhindered!
2) With the assistance of Gary from Argo ATV and Autosmart Australia provided an Argo 8- wheeled all terrain vehicleso that the Gouldian team could ford across the flooded rivers and streams
during the wet season and track those elusive Gouldians!
3) Following a request from Dr SarahPryke and the University of NSW we donated a 4WD Toyota Hilux to assist the Gouldian team in the newly established Wyndham Gouldian research site.
The fund has been directly involved with the establishment of this site from Day One so you will be hearing more about it in the near future- count on it!
Why the need for this site?
Well, there´s an old adage that we cop down here in Tassy a bit about two heads beeing better than one but this time I´m pleased to announce that it is going to be a plus for the Gouldian!
The main thrust in Wyndham site is to extend our knowledge of the breeding biology of the gouldian, it also allows researchers theopportunity to access a different population
and compare their findings with the work well underway at Mornington.
THE GOULDIAN FINCH NEEDS YOUR HELP!!
The beautiful Gouldian finch is seriously threatened in its wild habitat.
Given the nature of the Gouldian Finches place in aviculture would it not be a travesty if this magnificent bird was to disappear from its native habitat?
The reasons for its decline are as yet unclear, but with your help, the Australian Wildlife Conservancy (AWC) and a specialist team of scientists will unlock the puzzle.
Our aim is not only to fully identify these limiting factors but to reverse this decline with a view to restoring the Gouldian to its former numbers.
The AWC has acquired a 750,000 acre property in the Kimberley region of Western Australia - one of the last breeding strongholds of the Gouldian finch where ongoing field studies are being conducted. (See map at right)
However, the only problem with ecological studies of this magnitude, in such remote areas, is that they are very expensive.
We need you help in raising funds to ensure this project continues to be a success and to protect the remaining pockets of the Gouldian Finch.
So become a donor, encourage your colleagues and friends to do likewise and lobby your avicultural society to become actively involved.
Why should aviculturists donate ?
Already from the research into the Gouldian finch we have gleaned much useful information concerning behaviour and diet that has a flow-on effect to our hobby, so just think of the possibilities of the future where, if we can make this exercise successful, we could go on to sponsor research into other species of interest to aviculture.
To see any species disappear from the Earth is a cause for concern but more so for one that has inspired so many books and given so much joy to countless generations of bird keepers from those captivated with their beauty to those keen to unlock the world of avian genetics. This is perhaps our last chance to put something back into a pastime that has given us all so much.
And if all that isn’t enough, please remember that your donation is tax deductible!
We could then add several shots of Gouldians in the 3 natural head colours, juveniles and maybe one of them at a waterhole in company with other finch species.
The Gouldian Research Facility and The Save The Gouldian Fund.
By Marcus Pollard, Tasmania
If you have been following the rise of the Save The Gouldian Fund from its foundation in the beautiful AWC’s Mornington Wildlife Sanctuary then you are probably curious as to the work unfolding at the oft-mentioned Gouldian Research Centre in NSW. If so then this is for you!
A wise man once said:
”In order to save the wild Gouldian you need to know everything about the Gouldian.”
This is an attempt to realise just that!
Nestled in the beautiful mountains of Cooranbong in NSW where the calls of the Bellbirds ring out sits the home of Gouldian Fund founder and self-confessed Gouldian lover Mike Fidler. Since deciding to call Australia home some 4 years ago Mike and Elisabeth have set about constructing a number of aviaries and bird rooms the like of which Australia has never seen!
As luck would have it at least as far as the Gouldian was concerned- a suggestion from the President of the Finch Society of Australia, Doug Hill, that Mike might like to meet Dr Sarah Pryke from the University of New South Wales (UNSW). This meeting of two kindred spirits saw Mike establish a base for Sarah’s and the Universities Gouldian research on his property.
Much has been written about Mike’s personal aviaries and they have featured in many avicultural magazines but little has been seen of the actual Research Facilities and this is our attempt to redress that oversight!
The first of the two research buildings measures 9 by 11 metres and this is divided into 5 flights.
Each flight is 6m long, 2m wide and ranges from 1.75m in the front up to 3m at the rear in height one of the reasons for this slope is to facilitate experiments on dominance hierarchies, since the dominant birds will tend to patrol the highest point in the aviary. Each flight also has a series of perches and nest boxes arranged along a vertical gradient (from low to high), again to facilitate dominance-related research.
The results of Dr Prykes primary research on dominance hierarchies among the three head colour morphs of the Gouldian can be accessed at www.savethegouldian.org/science/reds.htm and this represents the first scientific work to be completed at the Research Facility.
Each flight has a100watt infra red lamp suspended from the ceiling, which sits some 35cms from the floor. This idea, which was borrowed from Eelco Meyjes from South Africa, is supplied as a heat source for newly fledged youngsters - and great for any ill birds in the flight too. On frosty mornings it is nothing to see most of the aviary inhabitants arranged under the lamp getting ‘warmed up’ for the days activities!
This section of the centre is being used for continuing research on Gouldian behaviour. This includes finding answers to questions such as are Red heads or Black heads better parents? Why do Red heads dominate the others? Are Read heads more successful when in groups with other Red heads or when they are mixed with Black and Yellow heads? Do Gouldian’s imprint on their parents head type?
These experiments are what Dr Pryke calls her “pure science”, that is research into the reasons why the three different head colour morphs of Gouldian finches coexist together in wild populations.
Without wishing to blind you with science I will give you a very brief and lay-persons view of how all this is achieved!
Each bird in the study has a special transponder attached to its leg ring (each with a unique code) which allows for its individual recognition in the flock.
When nesting each nest box has an antennae and LED which allows for individual birds to be recognised as they enter or leave a particular box and also how long they spend in or out of the box. The transponder tells her ‘who’ and the LED says how often they come and go to and from the nest box!
This research has the potential to offer us much information about the nesting habits of the different colour morphs!
These transponders and antennae are also used for studying flock behaviour, such that, the relative position of each bird wearing a magnetically coded ring is recorded on each perch in the flights. This allows for added information on the fluidicity of the dominance hierarchy in that flock and whether it changes throughout the annual life cycle of the birds.
The second Block in this Facility measures 9.8m long by 5.5m wide and contains 2 rooms of multiple cages and Dr Prykes laboratory.
It is perhaps the research being undertaken in the second of these blocks that is of interest to most of us aviculturists. This is where the nutritional work takes place which aims to contribute towards the development of a “life cycle diet” for the Gouldian Finch.
Dr. Prykes wish is for this research to lead to the development of a cheap, readily available diet based on the best commercially available seeds for the Gouldian over the important periods of stress during its life namely during maintenance and also through the costly times of breeding and moulting. The results for us as finch breeders of this study is obvious especially as Dr. Pryke’s research will run concurrently with the wild nutritional work being undertaken at the Australian Wildlife Conservancies property at Mornington, Western Australia.
The best of both worlds’!
Again in my bumbling style I shall endeavour to give you a brief low-down on the gist of Dr. Prykes nutritional research.
It is Dr. Pryke’s belief that “most finch diets are based around the availability of seeds rather than the needs of the birds themselves” and who, as an aviculturist, can argue with that statement!
The main aim of the research will be to measure a number of physiological parameters of Gouldian’s as they move through different stages of their annual life cycle. This will identify when the birds are under the most stress for example during growth, when moulting or breeding for example. Once Dr. Pryke is able to identify how ‘stress’ is manifest in these birds (this work is under way at present) she then aims to determine how their nutritional requirements change accordingly.
By allowing birds to select their own optimal diet of a huge variety of different seeds, she will be able to measure how nutritional needs (e.g. protein, carbohydrate, macro- and micro-nutrients, etc.) change at different stressful times.
Throughout all these tests the birds will also have a series of physiological tests performed on them to regularly check their health at last a serious attempt to scientifically design a finch diet!
This should allow Dr. Pryke to determine which combination of seeds will provide the best diet for the Gouldian finch, and whether and how this differs during different periods of their life cycle, as well as help us aviculturists provide a balanced diet that will meet the natural stress of the daily life of the Gouldian, with these and our other aviary inhabitants the winners.
The obvious advantage of this research to the wild Gouldians is that it will allow Dr. Pryke to identify the times of physiological stress and possibly identify more of the limiting factors that we may be able to remedy to assist in restoring the Gouldian to its former glory.
Restoring the Wild Gouldian with research and aviculture let us pray that this is the start of a VERY fruitful relationship!
Keep behind the Save The Gouldian Fund and let us keep you informed and don’t forget to sign up on www.savethegouldian.org as a supporter as soon as possible every little helps!