Professional wildlife photographer Martin Willis reflects on his long connection with, and concern for Golden-shouldered Parrots on Artemis. Martin has travelled the world for his stunning images, five of which have been finalists in the BBC International Wildlife Photography Competition.
As a young bird photographer I admired with envy a wonderful photograph of a Golden-shouldered Parrot perched regally atop a conical termite mound. Oh to see and photograph such a rare and beautiful bird! Unfortunately, found only in a small pocket of the north-eastern extremity of the continent, it was as far from my reach as it was possible to be.
Eventually, however, my geographic situation changed and I was in a position to pursue one of my dreams.
Sue and Tom Shepherd, the owners of Artemis Station and voluntary custodians of the parrot, were extremely accommodating and set myself and fellow photographer, the late Ian Boyd, up with a campsite in the bush just a few hundred metres from where the birds were breeding. “I don’t mind photographers working near the nest when the young are about to leave.” Sue explained. “It helps prevent predation of the fledglings by butcherbirds”. Apparently, the butcherbirds perch in a broad-leaf melaleuca or other such shrub and wait for the young to emerge from their ant-bed nest. Easy dinner. Continued encroachment of woodland into the parrot’s open habitat is thought to be a major contributor to the dramatic decline in numbers of the GSP.
Well, we were very happy to oblige Sue and proceeded to set up our hide a good distance from the nest in preparation for a long awaited photo session.
Early the next morning we settled ourselves into our camo hide and waited for the action. Before long a gold and turquoise flash signalled the arrival of a magnificent male. He alighted obligingly atop the pinnacle of the mound and my photographic love affair with the Golden-shouldered Parrot began.
My first experience with the Golden-shouldered Parrot on Artemis was in 2007 and at this time it was common to see flocks of 20 or more birds across the property. However, what has really alarmed me of late is how few of these iconic little birds are left and how quickly they are disappearing. It would be a sad fate and an indictment on all Australians if we were to see the Golden-shouldered Parrot follow the same path to extinction as its brightly coloured cousin, the Paradise Parrot.
Fortunately, Sue and the rest of the people involved with the Artemis Nature Fund are rigorously pursuing a solution to this rapid decline. Drastic situations demand drastic measures and so I find myself extremely supportive of the most recent push to turn things around for GSPs on Artemis. Even as a passionate bird photographer, who hates to see banded birds in the wild, I am even more passionate about the survival of the species, so I understand the absolute necessity for colour-banding and the other research techniques being used. With concerted help from the public, I have every confidence that Sue and the team have all the necessary skills and passion to solve the problems and reverse the decline, and will do so in the most careful and diligent manner. Consequently, I have no hesitation in commending their work and encouraging other people to step up a support this most important cause.
All images in this post are copyright Martin Willis. To see more of Martin’s photos, visit: https://www.martinwillisphotographs.com.au/