Looking after Orange-bellied Parrots, with drones

July 14, 2017

In September 2012, the Corangamite CMA on behalf of four CMA regions across Victoria managed the Saltmarsh Protection Project aimed at protecting and enhancing the ecological value of Victorian coastal saltmarsh communities. Saltmarsh plants are the preferred food of the Orange-bellied Parrot. They migrate to southern Victoria from Tasmania every winter to feed

Deen Maar is an Indigenous Protected Area of around 450 hectares along the Eumeralla River estuary near the township of Yambuk. The area is home to many wildlife species, including the critically endangered Orange-bellied Parrot, whose known wild population has dwindled to a handful of birds in 2017.

The owners of Deen Maar, the Framlingham Trust, received funding through the Saltmarsh Protection program. These monies have been used to manage weeds, rabbits and foxes in order to improve the area for Orange-bellied Parrots. The Deen Maar site is managed using a mixture of traditional land management practices such as burning and contemporary techniques.

Stopping the spread of noxious weeds across the site was identified as one of the main tasks to improve the Orange-bellied Parrot’s habitat. Cape Tulip, a native of South Africa was one of these weeds and is notoriously difficult to control as it produces vast amounts of seed which can survive for up to 17 years. One of the main obstacles to effectively manage this weed was knowing how wide spread it was.

The solution came in the form of a very bright orange drone used by James Rennie of Australian UAV to map individual plants from aerial imagery. This is an important pilot program and will help us with future projects.
The areas of Cape Tulip have now been mapped and compared with existing areas where burning and other weed management has been done. This has informed a strategy to target the Cape Tulip weed by combining traditional and modern techniques.

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