Hard working volunteers, Ann and Frank Ingwersen share their observations and images from a recent 'round trip' to Edgbaston and Pullen Pullen Reserves in Western Queensland.
“Turn off the Aramac Rd at the sculpture” Shelley said. So, at the aeroplane sculpture we headed along the gravel road into Edgbaston Reserve. The country was flat, mostly open grassland with patches of trees and scrub and in the distance, a tree-covered ridge line.
Several kangaroos hopped unhurriedly in front of us, a couple of emus wandered in the distance and a bustard strutted along a side track. Finally, we pulled up in front of our home for the next few weeks –the shearing shed, and there was the welcome party of three roos standing to attention.
We pitched our tent at the rear then checked out the facilities. One half of the shed was home for a tractor and ATV (all terain vehicle) buggy parked on gravel, while the other half, our living area, had varying floor surfaces. Planks, slats (through which all sorts of things fell, to remain lost forever), mesh (through which other objects fell) and concrete for the wet area.
A very well-equipped kitchen, gas stove, BBQ, fridge and freezer, made cooking easy. The ablutions were outside, three-sided en plein air, the toilet with a boom to indicate when it was a no-go area and the shower with a very welcome gas water heater.
Being open to the elements meant that we could entertain the local wildlife – emus picking and pecking, roos feeding and a family of quails scuttling past. But it also meant that when the chill winds blew, the water went everywhere except where we wanted.
Next morning, Shelley, the cheerful and dedicated manager of Edgbaston and Pullen Pullen reserves, gave us the induction and an orientation drive around the reserve before heading back to Longreach. Along with the wildlife we mostly had the reserve to ourselves.
Pippa, Freshwater Ecologist, spent a couple of days working on the springs. She generously made time to introduce us to the Red-finned Blue-eyed fish hiding in the springs – an amazing sight as the springs are surrounded by a thick layer of glistening sodium carbonate crystals, resembling a snow fall. Al and DJ – who were researching buffel grass – kept us company for a few days. Lastly, hard-working Roger, the one-man fencing ‘team’, arrived to put up an exclusion fence.
Our work centred on weed eradication to improve the country for the survival of the endangered fish. Spraying and recording Parkinsonia and Prickly Acacia along one boundary took several days, followed by removal of old internal fencing and the checking and repairs of the fences along neighbouring boundaries.
An on-going trial of drilling mature Parkinsonia and Prickly Acacia was the next project. This required drilling near the base of the plants then plugging the hole with a fungicide pellet followed by a wooden pellet. As Ann is on the short side, nearer the ground, this was obviously her task. But Frank gallantly cleared access to the trunks by slashing the thorny, dead, lower branches with a rake-hoe, before recording the plant on a tablet.
During our free time we rode our mountain bikes to the up-lands, a totally different landscape, and to other areas where we hadn’t worked. A day at nearby Lake Dunn gave us another change of scenery and bird life. And we never tired of watching the stars at night and the brilliant clear skies change colour in the morning and evening.
Then to Pullen Pullen Reserve. Accommodation here was in a very comfortable donga on a nearby station. Again, full facilities and a well-equipped kitchen made life easy for us. As this is a very new reserve, fences have a high priority. Our tasks included checking and repairing fences to exclude cattle from neighbouring stations, making a stockpile of rolls of wire left by previous volunteer fence removers and clearing an old fence line ready for a new fence.
There are now some very unusual wire sculptures around the reserve, awaiting final removal. Intriguing large footprints in the dusty track turned out to be those of a camel. Over the next week, these prints appeared on different tracks, but we never did find the beast itself.
The highlight of each day was the variety and number of birds that crossed our path on the way to and from our work area. Large flock of budgies, galahs, diamond doves, zebra finches, corellas, solitary black-faced woods-swallows, falcons and others were a regular distraction. We watched in awe as a Brown Falcon swooped on a flock of budgies, caught one then sat in a tree above us, pulling out feathers, preparing for lunch.
Spending time on any of the Bush Heritage reserves is always a journey of discovery. Here we discovered among other things that there are billions more stars than we’d seen anywhere else in the world. “Hard work, no holiday” our friends say, but the rewards are great – not the least being the knowledge that we've contributed in a small way towards creating healthy landscapes for the survival of our unique flora and fauna.