Spotted pardalotes are among the woodland species that Nardoo Hills supports. Photo: Wayne Lawler/Ecopix.
It's almost impossible to imagine the Australian bush without the sound of a laughing kookaburra or flashy show of colour from a passing lorikeet, robin or honeyeater.
Yet that's exactly the sort of future we face if temperate woodlands, the most threatened wooded ecosystem type in Australia, are not better protected.
The case is particularly severe in Victoria, which since European settlement has lost 83% of its woodland ecosystems to land clearance.
The protected woodlands of Nardoo Hills Reserves. Photo: Wayne Lawler/Ecopix.
Combined with drier weather patterns, that loss has led to a dramatic decline in woodland bird numbers, with recent research suggesting that even common birds such as the red wattlebird, spotted pardalote and rufous whistler are in trouble.
Such harrowing data is one of the main reasons Bush Heritage decided to buy Victoria's Nardoo Hills, one of the few places left in the state where you can still find healthy examples of grassy box and box-ironbark woodlands, the sort of country loved by our woodland birds.
We hope Nardoo Hills Reserves, which include Judith Eardley Reserve and the Barnett Block, will help ensure that our woodland birds are heard long into the future.
All this has been protected thanks to the generosity of our supporters.
What these reserves protect
Swift parrot. Photo by Graeme Chapman.
Northern golden moths orchid. Photo: Jeroen van Veen.
Lace monitor (goanna). Photo: Wayne Lawler / Ecopix.
Nardoo Hills supports more than 110 bird species, including the nationally endangered swift parrot, which travels all the way from Tasmania during winter to feed on the area's flowering eucalypts.
Nardoo Hills also protects these significant species and communities:
- Hooded robin (threatened in Victoria)
- Diamond firetail (threatened in Victoria)
- Lace monitor (endangered in Victoria)
- Fat-tailed dunnart
- Chocolate wattled bat
- Brown treecreeper
- Crested bellbird (threatened in Victoria)
- Crested shrike-tit.
- Yellow box
- Drooping sheoak
- Creamy candles
- Northern golden moths orchid (threatened in Victoria)
- Southern swainson pea
- Robust greenhood orchid (nationally critically endangered)
- Plains grassy woodland (endangered)
- Hillcrest herb-rich woodland
- Metamorphic slopes shrubby woodland
What we’re doing on the property
‘Stabbing' wheel cactus at Nardoo Hills Reserves. Photo: David Baker-Gabb.
Bush Heritage volunteers have helped us all but rid Nardoo Hills of wheel cactus, a noxious weed. When left unchecked, the cactus can form dense, almost impenetrable infestations.
We use a rather unusual technique to kill the cactus: ‘stabbing' them with herbicide. Thanks to our volunteers, we've killed nearly all adult wheel cactus plants in this way, although follow-up work to control seedlings will be required over the coming years.
A huge effort has also gone into controlling rabbits, whose population has been massively reduced by an integrated program of warren mapping, control and monitoring. That said, we must be vigilant to ensure their numbers are kept under control.
Nardoo Hills is now free of grazing sheep, which in the past damaged the area's native vegetation.
‘Extinct' orchid rediscovered
The robust greenhood orchid. Photo by Jeroen van Veen.
Jeroen van Veen – Bush Heritage's Field Officer at Nardoo Hills Reserves. Photo: Catherine Hunt.
It's no exaggeration to say that the robust greenhood orchid astonished everyone when it made an appearance at Nardoo Hills in 2009.
After all, it's not every day that you find a plant presumed to be extinct. In fact, before that, the green and white-striped flower hadn't been seen since 1941.
Previously, grazing by rabbits and livestock had limited opportunities for many plants at Nardoo Hills. And by bringing experts onto the reserve, we're able to recognise and catalogue the full range of species present on Nardoo Hills.
Bush Heritage's Field Officer, Jeroen van Veen, said: ‘This is what we work for. After years and years of slogging away and restoring natural bushland, these are the kinds of things that keep you going'.
Remarkably, this was the second rare orchid to turn up at Nardoo Hills. A few years earlier, the northern golden moths, a small yellow orchid, had also made an unexpected appearance. These days, Nardoo Hills is now home to the largest protected population of northern golden moths in Australia.
Hopefully, in years to come, we will continue to be surprised by other rare species popping their heads up on Bush Heritage reserves.
A short-beaked echidna on Nardoo Hills Reserves. Photo Wayne Lawler / Ecopix.
This is the traditional lands of the Dja Dja Wurrung people, who have shared some of their knowledge on the cultural significance of their country, including identification of more than 20 scar trees (as recorded in a preliminary cultural survey). In the future we plan to conduct a more comprehensive cultural heritage survey.
The Paterson family has owned much of the Nardoo Hills for three generations, spanning more than 100 years, and so the present generation has a wealth of local historical knowledge.