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.