Everlasting daisies now cover an old sheep paddock on Charles Darwin Reserve. Photo by Peter Houghton.
The sheep may be gone from this former pastoral station, but there's no shortage of animals roaming its ancient woodlands and wildflower-strewn plains.
Charles Darwin Reserve, named in honour of the great naturalist, lies to the north-east of Perth, on the northern edge of the Western Australian wheat belt.
The history of extensive clearing throughout south-west Western Australia makes the reserve an important refuge for animal and plant species that were once widespread in the region.
Charles Darwin Reserve falls largely within the Southwest Botanical Province, Australia's only internationally recognised biodiversity ‘hotspot'. Incredibly, plant species diversity in the Southwest Botanical Province is higher than that in Australian tropical rainforests.
The Reserve also extends into the more arid Eremean Province to the north, creating an interesting ‘melting pot' of plant species.
Charles Darwin Reserve provides habitat for over 230 animals including mammals, reptiles, birds and amphibians.
So far we have recorded over 680 plant species. The daisy, pea and eucalypt families are particularly well represented and the diversity of wattles is very high with over 55 species recorded so far.
All this has been protected thanks to the generosity of our supporters.
What this reserve protects
Charles Darwin Reserve provides important habitat for the nationally vulnerable malleefowl, with a number of active mounds (nests) found there in recent years.
Charles Darwin Reserve also protects a number of significant species and communities:
Malleefowl. Photo: Jiri Lochman/Lochman Transparencies.
Acaciacerrastes. Photo: Catherine Hunt.
Major Mitchell cockatoo. Photo: Paul Evans.
- Major Mitchell cockatoo
- Regent parrot
- Australian bustard
- Rainbow bee-eater
- White-tailed dunnart
- Gilbert's dunnart
- Robust striped gecko
- Spiny-tailed skink
- Rare and endemic insect species including the nationally vulnerable shield-backed trapdoor spider
27 priority-listed species including:
- Acacia cerastes (a rare, wiry wattle)
- Nodding waxflower (Philotheca nutans)
- Nodding waxflower (Philotheca nutans)
- Fragrant China orchid (Cyanicula fragrans)
- Wurmbea sp. white wells (a lily endemic to the reserve)
What we’re doing on the property
Bush Heritage ecologist Dr Jim Radford measuring a malleefowl nest. Photo: Catherine Hunt.
Since the property came into our hands, with help from volunteers and neighbours, we've removed the last stray sheep, and tackled the dozens of species of weeds growing there.
Feral goats are a major threat on Charles Darwin Reserve, damaging plants and exacerbating soil erosion, so we have an ongoing goat control program to reduce their numbers. Numbers have been dramatically reduced. Less than 30 were trapped in 2013. This is a great result as we were tapping over 600 goats 5 years ago.
Bush Heritage Australia and Edith Cowan University are conducting a research project to test the effectiveness of ground-baiting using Eradicat to control cats at Charles Darwin Reserve.
In September 2013, 1500 Eradicat 1080-poison baits were distributed by hand over the southern half of the property and the northern portion remained as an un-baited experimental control site.
Predator numbers were monitored before and after the baiting using 40 remote infrared ‘camera traps'. Inspection of this data showed that cat activity was low both before and after baiting in the baited area, making it difficult to detect an effect of baiting. Dingo/wild dog activity was also consistently low across the property both before and after baiting.
The baiting will be repeated again in May 2014 with a further 1500 baits laid.
The potential benefits of this research include a better understanding of the efficacy of predator control operations and improved land management strategies leading to nature conservation and agricultural protection benefits.
As part of a bigger picture, Charles Darwin Reserve is helping us understand the effects of a changing climate on Australian animals and plants. For the next 30 years, the reserve will be part of the Climate Change Observatory project – an ambitious initiative designed to see how our native species are responding to the expected drier and hotter weather.
Natural selection of a reserve
Chris Darwin and son Erasmus at Charles Darwin Reserve. Photo by Annette Ruzicka.
The eminent naturalist Charles Darwin had one great regret: that he didn't do more to help his fellow creatures.
Now, his great-great-grandson is doing just that.
A donation from Chris Darwin, Charles's Australia-based descendant, was critical in helping Bush Heritage acquire Charles Darwin Reserve in 2003.
Chris explains his reasons for supporting the reserve: ‘We share this planet with millions of other creatures, it's about time we started to share out the land so the other species can survive.'
‘We encourage like-minded individuals to take the leap: move from wealth to significance, because it is something that you will never regret.'
The reserve lies on the traditional lands of the Badimaya people.
Charles Darwin Reserve, also known as White Wells Station, was previously operated as a sheep station. For more information, visit the Charles Darwin Reserve Community History website.
Open Day and Blues for the Bush
Early October an annual celebration is held. Bush Heritage Australia and the Shire of Perenjori, with generous support from sponsors, run a Community Open Day at the Reserve followed by an open air Blues for the Bush concert. Those attending the community open day are engaged in demonstrations and discussions about important aspects of the social, cultural and economic life of this vibrant and resilient community.
Then as the sun goes down picnic rugs are spread out, the BBQ fired up, the bar opened and a Blues for the Bush concert begins. Local, Perth and interstate bands provide the backdrop for an ever-so-rare opportunity for city and country folk to meet, mingle and even dance together under the stars.
Unfortunately the Blues for the Bush 2015 event has been postponed and will now return in October 2016.
For more information see www.bluesforthebush.org.au.