Volunteer Jan describes her time at Eurardy Reserve this spring. From tackling the double gees and cape weed, to hearing a juvenile Pied Butcher Bird learning its song, read on for a week in the life of a Bush Heritage Australia volunteer.
Sunday 25 August
Ross and I set off early so we could get past all the City to Surf road closures to the Indian Ocean Drive. A beautiful, sunny but cool, late-winter day – perfect for driving. The Chapman Valley was its usual beautiful self, with Canola fields and roadside wildflowers, but it wasn’t until we reached Galena Bridge and crossed the Murchison that we began to see small carpets of flowers.
Arriving at Eurardy around 2.30pm, we were greeted by Forest Red Tail Cockatoos and Crested Pigeons at the raised water trough, with a few inquisitive emus looking on.
We met the wonderful Brian Crute – volunteer extraordinaire – and settled in, ready for a not-too early morning start.
Monday 26 August
Ross gathered his equipment and paperwork to begin checking, testing and tagging all the electrical equipment and wiring throughout the homestead, sheds and accommodation. Brian and I headed off to the first track, armed with mattocks and buckets, where we aimed to remove any weeds encroaching from a pastured paddock into the adjacent bush.
The weeds we were after were Lupin, Cape Weed and Double Gees. By mid-afternoon, we'd cleared about a kilometre of track but the weeds were growing in intensity and we decided that with only the two of us, the only sensible course of action was to hand spray the villains. So we returned to the homestead and loaded a 400 L spray unit onto the back of Brian’s ute, returned to the track and took turns driving slowly while the other carefully spot sprayed weeds.
Tuesday 27 August
Brian and I headed off to the pipeline track, where we continued with our spot spraying for the full 3km or 4km of track while Ross continued with his checking and testing, focusing on the sheds and volunteer accommodation.
The spraying was quite meditative – slow enough to give us time to take in the scenery, observe the wildlife and listen to the many birds in the bush.
A flock of about 60 Red-tailed Black Cockatoos flew over and whirled down to settle in the adjacent paddock to feast on the seeds, disappearing completely in the long grasses. At least five different kinds of honeyeaters were calling in the bush with Spiny Cheeked Honey Eaters the most prevalent.
In the late afternoon, Brian took us for a drive to western end of the property, where we moved into the Kalbarri National Park then back and past the site of the original homestead. While the wildflowers were not yet spectacular there were hints of the colour to come.
Wednesday 28 August
A very warm day and we were all glad of our fly nets. Brian and I tackled some nests of very bad Double Gees and a long track where the Cape Weed was beginning to seriously encroach on the bush. Taking it in turns to drive and spray, we made good progress.
In the late afternoon, Brian took us for a drive to the eastern part of the property, on the other side of the highway. Here, we saw first-hand the work that had been done on building a new fence to keep the neighbouring cattle out of the bush and, conversely, the emus out of the neighbour’s crops.
The older growth Eucalypts on the eastern block were a haven to many different birds, including a Brown Falcon and Australian Hobby. We heard Red Capped Robins and, much to our surprise, found the tracks of a deer, which appears to live in this part of the property.
Thursday 29 August
On Thursday we woke to rain and could do only intermittent weeding. Brian and I went back to the eastern block with our mattocks to remove Patterson’s Curse that had spread from the neighbouring property. We met the neighbours and their three-legged dog and continued on our way, heading back to the freehold to dig up Double Gees. My shoes proved to be excellent seed collectors.
Near the entrance, in the MRD land adjacent to the property, we found some Buffel Grass, which is a particularly vigorous introduced species, loved by cattle graziers and loathed by ecologists. We carefully removed it, wrapped it in several layers of plastic and stored it for removal from the property.
The emus were out in force, enjoying the cooler weather and the water lying on the surface. We saw family groups with last year’s chicks and larger groups of 20 or 30. Whenever they saw us they seemed compelled to have a drag race with us, pounding along parallel to the track.
Friday 30 August
On Friday, with clearer skies, we were back in full swing. By now Ross had finished his electrical work and took over the ‘Gator – a small 4wd vehicle fitted with a 200-litre spray kit with a boom spray. While Brian and I continued our border spraying, Ross sprayed the tracks themselves, to add a second level of protection for the regenerating bush.
In our travels, we were lucky enough to see a pair of Black-Shouldered Kites, as well as a nesting pair of Nankeen Kestrels. And in our drive in the afternoon we startled a lone Australian Bustard.
The 13 mm of rain had certainly perked up the weeds as well as the fauna. The kangaroos, many with joeys, were out in force while there were traces of echidna activity in several areas, as well as the tracks of hopping mice and dunnarts.
Saturday 31 August
Saturday was a repeat of Friday, meditative spraying, listening to and watching birds, keeping an eye on the rain clouds and entertaining the curious emus. Late on Saturday Ross received a call that necessitated us making an early departure on Sunday morning. As we left, a flock of around 50 Straw-necked Ibis descended on the home paddock as storm clouds blew in from the south west.
All in all, we had a lovely time and hope to get back to Eurardy in the near future.
A final note – we were woken each morning by a juvenile Pied Butcher Bird learning its song. On the first day it had two notes, by day three it had three and a few days later was experimenting with five notes. Very exciting to hear its progression – it even responded to the song being whistled back to it!