New populations of endangered grasswrens found in Gawler Ranges
New populations of the endangered Short-tailed Grasswren (Gawler Ranges subspecies) were identified in a recent survey of areas of the Gawler Ranges.
Posted 22 November 2017.
To monitor how this species is tracking, staff from Natural Resources SA Arid Lands, volunteers and local community members spent a week surveying known habitat sites as well as new sites in the Gawler Ranges National Park and surrounding stations of Thurlga, Yardea, Mount Ive and Kolendo, as well as Nature Foundation’s Hiltaba Nature Reserve.
Figures from the 2017 survey were compared with results from a DEWNR survey in 2005 conducted by Graham Carpenter, with the same method for identifying suitable habitat applied. Graham returned as a volunteer to assist with the 2017 survey.
Grasswrens are elusive and are restricted to rocky hilltops dominated by spinifex grassland. They forage mostly on the ground and fire and grazing are the most immediate threats to the species, which has an estimated total population of about 900 mature individuals.
In the original survey of 51 sites conducted in 2005, 19 were detected as having populations of Short-tailed Grasswrens but due to a fire in 2011, of the original 19 sites many were found to have no evidence of Grasswrens in the recent survey.
Community Ecologist Catherine Lynch said while its was disappointing that it appeared some of the populations were no longer present at previously identified sites, the results from the survey were still positive.
“Of the 57 sites surveyed, we did detect Grasswrens at 20 of those sites with a number of new sites located,” Ms Lynch said. “It was pleasing as there were real concerns about whether the Grasswrens were still present in the area following the fire.”
From this survey funded by the SA Arid Lands NRM Board and the National Landcare Program, Ms Lynch says a greater understanding has been gained about the habitat requirements of Short-tailed Grasswrens and the differences between where they were and weren’t, with particular fire and grazing regimes a factor.
It was also valuable to see how fox baiting undertaken in the National Park as part of the Bounceback program has benefited the Short-tailed Grasswren.
The Short-tailed Grasswren (Gawler Ranges) is one of only two subspecies of Short-tailed Grasswrens with the other subspecies found in the Flinders Ranges.