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Volunteering in Brigalow country

Published 27 Aug 2020 by Paul and Jo Flint (volunteers)

Recently we were fortunate and grateful, given COVID-19 restrictions around the country, to be volunteer caretakers at Goonderoo Reserve in the brilliant Brigalow Belt bioregion of central-western Queensland.

Brigalow (Acacia harpophylla) is an abundant tree species in the brigalow threatened ecological community, which is also habitat for endangered flora and fauna including the nationally endangered Bridled Nail-tail Wallaby (BNTW).

On Goonderoo, Bush Heritage works to conserve brigalow ecosystems including improving habitat for BNTW.

One of our caretaker tasks was field support for a recently-commenced University of Queensland project investigating habitat suitability for BNTW on Goonderoo. We did photo monitoring to supplement GIS vegetation data. The photos offer insight into the presence of shelter resources such as fallen logs, and habitat structure/composition features not otherwise captured by vegetation data. This involved visiting representative sites around the reserve and taking photos in specified directions from a 1m2 sample area (quadrat).

Another task was the change-over of batteries and memory cards in the 20 camera traps around the reserve. On checking the downloaded images, we saw some very amusing photos of the antics of kangaroos and wallabies (when they think no-one's looking!).

These field tasks were a terrific opportunity for seeing the diverse areas and features of the brigalow ecosystem and how vegetation changes with soil type.

Other dominant trees on the reserve include Lancewood, Poplar Box, Lemon-scented Gum, Narrow-leaved Ironbark, and Bloodwoods.

There were dry, tall grasses with many and varied insects. The pearly white egg sacks of praying mantis gleamed in the shrub layer. The rewards of weed management work by past caretakers could clearly be seen, including the remains of dead Sword Cactus, sometimes several metres tall.

While at Goonderoo, we also supported the Queensland Department of Environment and Science’s (DES) wallaby work on the adjacent Avocet Nature Refuge.

We supplied food to the wallabies in the nursery and checked the integrity of the perimeter fence. We helped the amazing Janelle from DES with monitoring the wallabies in the nursery. This is done by setting up cage traps to catch the wallabies for health checks, and to microchip the young animals.

As the wallabies are nocturnal, this work is done at night (we’re glad we remembered our beanies!). And during the day we helped Janelle repair and position about 100 cage traps for the annual monitoring campaign outside of the nursery enclosure.

This is to monitor the progress of previously released wallabies on Avocet Nature Refuge. We wired the cage doors open so the traps couldn't be sprung, and placed food inside, allowing the wallabies to get used to the traps prior to trapping nights.

Having the beautiful surrounds and views from the Goonderoo house to return to every day was fabulous. Each evening we watched the setting sun light up the Lemon-scented Gum near the verandah.

We were pleased to have some maintenance tasks that kept us close to home and provided us with a chance to watch the variety of birds in the famous Goonderoo birdbath. We had some unexpected fun with the water supply cutting out one night, but that's a story for another day, and all part of the great adventure of volunteer caretaking.

Paul checking GPS location during photo monitoring. Paul checking GPS location during photo monitoring.
There's nothing like a punch-up to get warmed up on a cold morning. There's nothing like a punch-up to get warmed up on a cold morning.
Praying mantis egg cases everywhere. Praying mantis egg cases everywhere.
Sitting pretty at Avocet nursery feeding area. Sitting pretty at Avocet nursery feeding area.
Paul repairing wallaby traps at Avocet. Paul repairing wallaby traps at Avocet.
Jo readying a trap for pre-feeding at Avocet. Jo readying a trap for pre-feeding at Avocet.
Last light hitting Lemon-scented Gum near Goonderoo house. Last light hitting Lemon-scented Gum near Goonderoo house.

Goonderoo stories

BLOG 27/08/2020

Volunteering in Brigalow country

Regular Queensland-based volunteers Paul and Jo Flint report back on their recent caretaking work at Goonderoo Reserve in Central Queensland.

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BLOG 30/03/2020

Winning the war on weeds

Long-term volunteer and renowned 'King of Cactus', Ian Haverly, describes how we're winning the war on Goonderoo Reserve's sword cactus infestation.

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BLOG 03/05/2019

We love fuzzy bums

At Goonderoo Reserve we have been getting very excited about fuzzy bums. It all started last April when volunteer caretakers, Hazel and Dennis Hanrahan sent through a photo of a very healthy looking koala.

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BLOG 24/01/2019

A month with Flashjacks in the Brigalow

In late 2018 Paul Bateman spent a month at Goonderoo Reserve working as a volunteer caretaker, both on the reserve and helping with the Flashjack (Bridled Nailtail Wallaby) recovery project.

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BLOG 26/09/2018

The king of Sword Cactus

I'd like to introduce you to Ian Haverly, committed Bush Heritage volunteer and undisputed King of Cactus up here in the northern region.

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BLOG 15/08/2018

Birdbath antics at Goonderoo

Reserve-based volunteer placements are often a great opportunity for some citizen science. Many of our volunteers contribute excellent photos and incidental records for our species lists and databases as well as making important submissions to other organisations and projects such as Birdlife Australia and the Atlas of Living Australia.

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BUSHTRACKS 07/12/2017

Coming together for Flashjacks

Bush Heritage volunteers and staff recently had the chance to get up close and personal with Bridled Nailtail Wallabies in what turned out to be a record survey of the translocated population.

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BLOG 30/10/2017

Killing cactus at Goonderoo

Volunteers play an important role in weed control projects across the country. On Goonderoo Reserve in Central Qld, the target species is Sword Cactus (Acanthocereus pentagonus) a tall, columnar cactus that reaches a height of 2-7m. Sword cactus is multi-stemmed and highly spiky. It has the ability to form dense thickets and will dominate a vegetation community to the exclusion of many other plant and animal species.

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BLOG 12/09/2017

Surveying Flashjacks on Avocet

Our volunteer caretakers at Goonderoo play an important role in the recovery of Bridled Nailtail Wallabies (Flashjacks) at neighbouring Avocet Nature Refuge in Central Qld. As part of their weekly caretaker duties, the volunteers conduct fence inspections and check water at the Flashjack nursery. They also support feral animal control, monitoring and weeding projects in the Brigalow habitat that the Flashjacks call home.

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BLOG 15/03/2017

Wallaby weigh station

The Bridled Nail-tail Wallaby (aka Flashjack) is one of Australia's rarest and most endangered macropods - there are only around 300 left in the wild. On Avocet Nature Refuge, neighbouring our Goonderoo Reserve, staff and volunteers have the privilege of supporting innovative work that's successfully boosting breeding numbers in the wild.

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BLOG 04/07/2016

Drones on Goonderoo

I recently spent a few days with volunteers Rosemary Rogers and Geoff Spanner who spent a month on Goonderoo working on weeds and infrastructure. The place, especially around the homestead, is looking way better for it. Geoff is also a photographer and videographer and carries a camera drone (the DJI Phantom 3 to be exact).

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BLOG 21/06/2016

Dirt track detectives at Goonderoo

Volunteers Tony and Vicky Darlington had never heard of 'sand pad monitoring' when they signed up for a stint as caretakers at Goonderoo Reserve in Central Queensland. But with some simple instructions and a little bit of practise they soon got their 'eye in' as dirt-track detectives.

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BUSHTRACKS 11/04/2016

Apples & Androids: The future of wildlife monitoring?

Former video surveillance specialist and Bush Heritage volunteer Tom Sjolund is exploring ways old smartphones could help with wildlife monitoring.Former video surveillance specialist and Bush Heritage volunteer Tom Sjolund is exploring ways old smartphones could help with wildlife monitoring.

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