It's hard to get your head around the size and scale of Bon Bon Station Reserve, an old sheep station south of Coober Pedy in South Australia.
At around 70 kilometres long and 30 across it's the size of Sydney, but that's where the similarities end.
After the rains: an ephemeral lake on Bon Bon Station Reserve. Photo Craig Norris.
Instead of suburbs and skyscrapers, its desert landscape is dotted with shimmering salt lakes, freshwater wetlands, stately myall trees and stunningly beautiful expanses of pearl bluebush.
At its heart is Lake Puckridge, which fills up with water around once a decade and can run to seven metres deep.
The lake's wetlands system attracts large numbers of waders and waterbirds, including black-winged stilts, red-necked avocets and grey teals.
The reserve sits between the Great Victoria Desert and the large saltpan lakes of Eyre, Torrens and Gairdner, which are so big you can see them from space.
No wonder then that when ecologist Dr Steve Morton first investigated the reserve he called this one of the biggest skies in Australia.
All this has been protected thanks to the generosity of our supporters.
What this reserve protects
Photo: Graeme Chapman.
Western myall woodland. Photo: Craig Norris.
Stripe-faced dunnart. Photo: Perry Klinger.
Bon Bon Station Reserve is a place to find South Australia's only endemic bird species, the chestnut-breasted whiteface.
Bon Bon supports a higher diversity of species than might be expected for an arid zone property because it straddles two major bioregions – the Stony Plains in the north and the Gawler Ranges in the south.
The reserve also protects these significant species and communities:
- Stripe-faced dunnart
- Major Mitchell cockatoo
- Chestnut-breasted whiteface
- Southern hairy-nosed wombat
- Slender-billed thornbill (nationally vulnerable)
- Thick-billed grasswren (nationally vulnerable)
- Painted dragon
- Club spear grass (nationally vulnerable)
- Bullock bush
- Western myall
Bon Bon protects 14 vegetation communities, three of which are listed as threatened at the state level.
- Myall woodland
- Mulga woodland
- Canegrass-lignum wetlands
- Paperbark woodland
- Bluebush shrubland
- Samphire herbfield
What we’re doing on the property
Volunteers Nic and Finney (left) on a break with Reserve Managers Mike Chuk and Julia Harris. Photo Nicky Rolls.
The sheep are now gone from this former sheep station, but there are still areas where erosion will need to be controlled and in some cases repaired.
Almost the entire catchment of Lake Puckridge is nestled within Bon Bon, which enables us to protect and manage the tributaries and wetlands that feed into the lake.
Fire can be very damaging to the mulga and myall woodlands, and so this is another aspect that we are carefully managing by establishing strategic fire breaks and being 'fire-ready'.
Buffel grass is an emerging invasive weed that has the potential to significantly alter the landscape here. To prevent this happening, we're trying hard to contain and minimise its spread.
Feral predators and rabbits are an ever-present threat needing management, particularly following times of high rainfall.
A southern hairy-nosed wombat and youngster on Bon Bon – as snapped using a remote infrared camera.
Life on the edge
How does a big-bodied, hungry vegetarian with an aversion to hot weather survive in one of the hottest and driest places on earth?
For southern hairy-nosed wombats at Bon Bon Station Reserve the answer is ‘just nicely, thank you very much'!
Day-to-day life for this stumpy-legged powerhouse throws up many challenges.
First, the heat. Southern hairy-nosed wombats are susceptible to heat stress, so during the day they rest in cool, humid burrows and only emerge at night once temperatures have dropped.
Next job, food. These wombats occupy low-rainfall areas that support nutrient-poor grasses. To combat this, they have very low metabolic rates, allowing them to extract enough energy and water from their low-nutrient diet.
And then, finding a mate. This is a job for the girls, who leave home to search for mates while the blokes laze around waiting for a growl at the burrow entrance.
Burrows, however, are valuable real-estate, so it's an attractive offer to a prospective mate if you can provide shelter and a home.
History and cultural values
A galah rests on a remnant of Bon Bon's pastoral heritage. Photo by Glen Norris.
The traditional owners of this land are the Antakirinja Matu-Yankunytjatjara people; preliminary cultural heritage surveys have turned up Aboriginal tools and flakes.
The buildings and infrastructure on the reserve hark back to Bon Bon's 130-year history as a sheep station, when it was home to a large community of station owners, overseers, stockmen and Aboriginal families.
To ensure the Indigenous and European cultural heritage of Bon Bon is conserved, we're planning to undertake a more comprehensive Indigenous cultural heritage survey, and are currently working with the South Australian Museum to archive a number of important historical documents found on the property.