A bird enthusiast has photographed a rare bird of prey, last seen on the southern Eyre Peninsula in 2004, and may be a chicken from one of only 10 remaining birds in southern Australia.
Photographer Fran Solly saw the square dragon (lophoictinia isura) on Whalers Way, south of Port Lincoln, while looking for another endangered species – the very shy western whip (psophodes nigrogularis).
Whalers Way is a privately owned coastal tourist attraction that hosts vegetation preserved under a heritage agreement.
The site is being used by SA space industry operator Southern Launch to conduct three test rocket launches with a view to a longer-term on-site presence.
Conservationists are worried that rocket launches will threaten the rare birds that call Whalers Way home, including the southern emu wren (stipiturus malachurus) and the western whip.
In an earlier statement, Southern Launch CEO Lloyd Damp said the test program would provide an opportunity to measure the impact the noise would have on local species.
“Should the impact be detrimental to the environment, the project, as proposed, should obviously not continue – we should look at other mitigating strategies or activities to preserve the local environment.”
Sir. Steam said the company would seek to clear less than 1 percent of the land at Whalers Way if a permanent program was approved.
“These parts of the country are outside the inheritance agreement,” he said.
Concern for birds
Mrs Solly is concerned about the impact of the rocket on bird life and the impact on habitat loss.
“These birds were formerly on the Eyre Peninsula, and the last recorded breeding of a square dragon on the Eyre Peninsula was between 1989 and 1991, and then the last recorded sighting was actually 2004,” Ms Solly said.
While she had photographed hundreds of birds in the region, the western whip had been elusive.
“We’ve definitely heard them, but these birds are incredibly secretive,” she said.
“We did not get the picture, but we got something just as exciting.
“It’s got a lot of birdwatchers in southern Australia getting a little excited,” Ms Solly said.
A spokesman for the Environment and Water said the kites stretched predominantly along coastal and sub-coastal areas from southwestern to northern Australia, Queensland, NSW and Victoria.
They were not listed as endangered nationally, but were listed as endangered in South Australia.
“There are several well-known pairs that regularly breed in Mount Lofty Ranges,” the spokesman said.
“The bird seen on Whalers Way may be offspring – from the successful breeding activity in Mount Lofty Ranges – looking to establish its own territory, visit the area or just pass through.
“There have been few shots of the birds on the Eyre Peninsula in recent years.”
The spokesman said the biggest threats to the species are clearing and fragmentation of their open forest habitats, disturbance of nests, collecting eggs from private collectors or as part of the illegal wildlife trade and illegal shooting.