Our caretaking stint at Hamelin got off to a shaky start thanks to that pesky Covid-19. After talking to the reserve managers, Ken and Michelle Judd, we arrived at Hamelin a day early for handover, only to find that, fortuitously, we'd left just in time to avoid a three-day snap lockdown in Perth. This played havoc with Ken and Michelle’s holiday plans, as Perth is where they were headed. Luckily the lockdown wasn’t extended, so Ken and Michelle managed to rearrange their timetable, and finally got away for a well-deserved break.
Hamelin Station Reserve is huge – over 200,000 hectares of diverse mid-west country abutting (and extending) the Shark Bay World Heritage Area.
This year it had an unusually high rainfall so the country was lush and the greenest we've ever seen. The abundance of early wildflowers already beginning to bloom heralded a bumper wildflower season.
The Hamelin Outback Station Stay, which is on reserve, was extremely busy. With international travel off the cards and hard state borders popping into and out of existence it seems that all of WA is on the move and holidaying locally.
There’s always plenty of work to keep us busy on reserve, and this year we did our first lot of fence removal. I have to say that we found it extremely satisfying removing these wildlife death traps.
We also planted Sandalwood seeds, which was an interesting task. Twenty plant guards had been constructed for us to use because loads of animals like to eat young Sandalwood (very tasty apparently), and our job was to select the planting sites and prepare and plant the seeds.
We were lucky to be able to talk to the Sandalwood guru, Richard McLellan, who for the last two years has been monitoring and researching Sandalwood in WA for his PhD project. Because these trees are hemiparasitic, they like to be near a host plant in order to thrive, and apparently acacia is a good host. This was great for us because there are lots of acacia sites quite close to the Homestead at Hamelin.
Richard was also able to advise us on the seed preparation and planting. So with 20 new sites now all planted (five seeds at each site) we're looking forward to seeing some new Sandalwood trees next time we visit.
While we were preparing one of the Sandalwood planting sites we disturbed a bird sitting on eggs in a little nest in the grass, which was later identified as a Rufous Songlark. I was worried that we may have frightened her off for good, however Michelle has since sent us pictures of the successfully hatched chicks in the nest (thanks Michelle!).
Another task we love is to get out into the country and do the camera trap runs. On one run we were delighted to come across a Felixer feral cat management device, which is operating in photo only mode to inform risk assessment before commissioning.
We're back at home now, and I’m sure that by now the Rufous Songlark chicks will have fledged, a spectacular wildflower season will be now in full swing, and Hamelin Station Reserve will be looking stunning. Ken and Michelle had a wonderful and very well-deserved holiday by all accounts, and we certainly had a busy but enjoyable and satisfying caretaking time at Hamelin.
Gail Holt and Rex George