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A month with Flashjacks in the Brigalow

Published 24 Jan 2019 by Paul Bateman

For over three years now Bush Heritage has used a rolling volunteer caretaker program to manage Goonderoo Reserve in Central Queensland. It continues to be a very popular posting and many applications came in over Christmas from dedicated folks hoping to spend a month as managers of this precious patch of Brigalow.

The program at Goonderoo is varied. Volunteers are involved in weed and feral animal control, infrastructure maintenance and ecological monitoring. Our volunteers also play an important role in supporting the Flashjack (Bridled Nailtail Wallaby) recovery work on neighbouring Avocet Conservation Reserve.

Over the Summer months this support becomes even more critical as volunteers help ensure the endangered Flashjacks have the food and water they need to make it through the hottest and driest part of the year. For regular Bush Heritage volunteer, Paul Bateman, this "duty” was the highlight of his caretaker stay in late 2018.

I spent November volunteering at Goonderoo as Reserve Caretaker. Goonderoo is a 600 hectare property south of Emerald in central Queensland. It was part of an old cattle property that still has the old homestead and yards and protects stands of Brigalow (Acacia harpophylla) and Lancewood (Acacia shirleyi).

I met the previous month's volunteers, John and Barb, who showed me around the homestead, which is positioned on top of a rise with great views and a cooling breeze on the hot days. We did a tour pointing out various on-going tasks such as lawn mowing, checking fences and water points for birds and erosion repairs on a washout, to name a few.

I was then introduced to the Bridled Nailtail Wallabies, which are kept in a nursery on the adjoining property – Avocet. They needed to be fed three times a week – a job which consisted of slicing about 5kg of sweet potato, mixing it with two 4-litre tubs of lucerne and placing it all in 12 feeders throughout the nursery. Goonderoo was part of Avocet before Bush Heritage acquired it. Avocet has a nature reserve that houses the nursery and wallabies in the wild.

After meeting with reserve manager Chris Wilson, I was given the job of weed spraying all the reserve tracks with the herbicide boom sprayer. This is done to help create firebreaks and control the spread of weed seeds by vehicles.

I then mapped and sprayed Mimosa Bush (Vachellia farnesiana) mostly in Bullock paddock. With the spraying done in the early morning I was lucky to have a resident Willie Wagtail start chirping at 4.30 every morning as an alarm clock.

Being involved with the Bridled Nailtail Wallabies at Avocet was a highlight of my stay. As well as feeding, I was able to help with the construction of drought feeders placed in the nature reserve to feed wallabies that have been released.

I also built hay feeders for the nursery and repaired carpet in the nursery traps. I was able to help with the trapping at night of the wallabies so their health and weight, among other things, could be measured, as well as checking the females' pouches. We even placed some in the release pen ready to be released into the wild.

Some of my spare time was spent just sitting on the verandah at the homestead, watching and photographing the many birds flying past and coming into the water dish for a drink.

Thanks Leanne from Bush heritage and Janelle from the Queensland Government Endangered Species Dept for the opportunity to be able to help out.

Dinner time. Dinner time.
My alarm clock. My alarm clock.
Red-winged parrot. Red-winged parrot.
The Flashjacks' drought feeder. The Flashjacks' drought feeder.
Hope for the future. Hope for the future.
Sun sets behind a windmill. Sun sets behind a windmill.

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