Skip to content

Buffel grass surveys

Published 08 Apr 2020 by David and Sue Akers

Before managing Naree Reserve for us in NW NSW, Dave Akers worked in the channel country west of Longreach. In 2018, Dave and Sue returned to that big sky country as Bush Heritage volunteers to undertake buffel grass surveys on Pullen Pullen Reserve which they completed during a second visit in March this year.

In 1994, a colleague and I camped at the base of a mesa on Brighton Downs Station in Queensland’s Channel Country. Working for the Department of Natural Resources, we were en route to survey weed infestations along Spring Creek on the western floodplain of the Diamantina River. Fast forward to 2018 – Sue and I were in a side by side (SXS) Polaris four-wheeler skirting around the same mesa on the margin of the Diamantina floodplain.

As Sue eased the Polaris over a stony ridge, I pointed out our campsite from 23 years earlier. Again, the mission was a weed survey – this time on the Bush Heritage Australia property Pullen Pullen. We were taking time out, having recently completed a five-year stint managing Bush Heritage properties in north-west NSW, and had volunteered to do the weed survey project. The survey data would contribute to management planning for the new reserve. 

Originally part of the 420,000ha Brighton Downs holding, Pullen Pullen was purchased in 2016 from the Britten family as part of a national strategy to conserve the endangered Night Parrot (Pezoporus occidentalis). Pullen Pullen is the name given to the night parrot by the traditional owners for the area, the Maiawali people. The mysterious little bird is also referred to by the unglamorous title of 'fat budgie'.

Pullen Pullen is only 50km from Old Cork Station – immortalised by Redgum in their 1983 ballad 'The Diamantina Drover'.  Mesas and stony outwash areas of the Mayne and Nisbet ranges dominate the eastern part of the property with extensive areas of spinifex (Triodia spp.) grassland and mulga (Acacia aneura) woodlands.

The tall spinifex hummocks are considered critical habitat for the Night Parrot. The drainage lines, which are rough and steep-sided, flow westward onto the Diamantina River floodplain where they become shallower and more divided. On the alluvial floodplain soils the dominant vegetation becomes gidgee (Acacia cambagei) riparian woodland with adjacent Mitchell grass (Astrebla spp.) plains.

After settling into the Brighton Downs ringers’ quarters, we spent the first day in the Polaris four wheeler familiarising ourselves with the property boundaries, access tracks and drainage lines, as these would determine our strategy for the survey.

Satellite imagery on a GPS-enabled tablet made locating our position on the property simple and accurate. Buffel grass (Pennisetum ciliare) was our main target, as this invasive grass could potentially degrade key habitat areas for the Night Parrot. Other invasive exotics likely to occur in the area were the thorny shrub species Prickly Acacia (Acacia nilotica), Mesquite (Prosopis spp.) and Parkinsonia (Parkinsonia aculeata).

The actual survey work would be carried out on a motorcycle as it was simply not possible to get a four wheel drive vehicle or even the four wheeler into the rough drainage lines and dense riparian areas that needed to be surveyed in detail, and the distances are such that walking was not a practical alternative.

Even a drone is not a viable option due to the dense canopy cover in many areas, so once we'd determined the methodology Sue worked in a support/backup role from the quarters.

All drainage lines and flood-out areas, and places of disturbance such as tracks, fence lines, opal mining sites, stockyards and dams were surveyed. The locations of weed infestations were recorded as GPS waypoints and further detail entered into hard copy datasheets.

The track log was also recorded so that the areas surveyed could be clearly defined. As well as the GPS and tablet, a SPOT tracker was carried which sent a regular GPS location to Bush Heritage managers, and a satellite phone was used for emergency contact. A data sheet holder, first aid/snake bite kit, hydration pack with 4 litres of water, enough food to maintain energy levels for a day and a small tool kit were also on board.

Surveying in this manner is both physically and mentally demanding as the motorcycle operator is scanning continually for target species while finding a path through, over or around obstacles, and keeping the whole show upright.

The motor tends to get very hot, as does the operator, so it's important to have hourly breaks or concentration will start to fade and the required work standard will not be maintained. That's also when an accident is likely to occur.

Eight days were spent surveying, covering over 450km. Buffel grass was the only weed species recorded, which is a credit to the previous property owners and managers. About 200 infestations were recorded, although many of these were small, isolated and easily controllable. The only incident was a single puncture which was remarkable given the terrain covered.

There was plenty of healthy spinifex from which lots of doves (Geopelia spp.) and quail (Turnix or Coturnix spp.) emerged, but we were not lucky enough to see a fat budgie. I did see a Grey Falcon (Falco  hypoleucos) – only the second I've ever seen, and the well-constructed bower of a Spotted Bowerbird (Chlamydera maculata), which was decorated with bones and large mussel shells but free of the usual human detritus of coloured glass and plastic bits.

I came upon a remote and ancient set of bronco yards (Billyer Yard, I've since discovered from a previous manager of Brighton Downs), which would have some wonderful stories to tell, and a lonely grave at a place called Perishing Corner.

I passed lots of fascinating botanical specimens flourishing after recent rain, but time did not permit the luxury of any more than a cursory glance. I'm sure Pullen Pullen has a lot more secrets to reveal to anyone lucky enough to visit this diverse property.

Sue Akers on Mayne Range, Pullen Pullen boundary Sue Akers on Mayne Range, Pullen Pullen boundary
Drainage lines, Mayne Range, Pullen Pullen Drainage lines, Mayne Range, Pullen Pullen
Healthy spinifex hummocks Healthy spinifex hummocks
The technology – SPOT tracker, sat phone, GPS, I-Pad and fly swatter The technology – SPOT tracker, sat phone, GPS, I-Pad and fly swatter
Mesas and outwash areas – Nisbet Range Mesas and outwash areas – Nisbet Range
Buffel grass infestation along drainage line Buffel grass infestation along drainage line
The most effective weed surveying vehicle The most effective weed surveying vehicle
Bower of spotted bowerbird – Nisbett Range Bower of spotted bowerbird – Nisbett Range
The not so dusty Diamantina – storm over the Diamantina floodplain near Pullen Pullen The not so dusty Diamantina – storm over the Diamantina floodplain near Pullen Pullen

Related stories

BLOG 04/11/2022

Surveying birds at Naree and Yantabulla

Field report from the Naree and Yantabulla reserves bird survey. Now Birdlife Australia and Bush Heritage have 5 years of data, including 126 species recorded in this survey.

Read More

BLOG 21/06/2022

Governmental support in landmark conservation deal

A landmark conservation covenant with NSW Government’s Biodiversity Conservation Trust will provide additional permanent protections to our Naree Station Reserve – and neighbouring Yantabulla Station, which is owned by South Endeavour Trust. The deal underscores the importance of private land conservation in Australia.

Read More

BLOG 18/05/2022

Connecting with Budjiti Country

During the Easter holidays, a Budjiti Cultural Camp saw 20 Budjiti people on country. A trip to the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies also marked a significant step towards reviving language and culture.

Read More

BLOG 01/07/2021

Red dirt and Wanda!

Being presented with a wire winder wouldn’t excite everyone but knowing that we were in for a week or two of fence removal at Naree Reserve, we thought it was pretty good!

Read More
Waterbirds flocked to Yantabulla Swamp after flooding and  rains in March 2020. Photo by Kylie Fisher.

BUSHTRACKS 18/06/2021

Soundtrack of the bush

Australian scientists, in collaboration with Bush Heritage and other conservation groups, have built a world-first acoustic recording network that will change the nature of ecological monitoring forever.

Read More

BLOG 07/01/2021

A summer fire near Naree

On Monday 28 December a fire, caused by a lightning strike from a recent thunderstorm, started on a neighbouring property to the west of Naree Station Reserve on Budjiti country in north​ western New South Wales. Thankfully, it was quickly contained.

Read More
Drone's view of a swan's nest with eggs. Photo Roxane Francis.

BUSHTRACKS 25/09/2020

Birds of a feather

Pelicans in the driveway, thousands of kilometres from the sea…what exactly does Naree Station Reserve look like when birds come to breed?

Read More

BLOG 24/04/2020

The biggest rains in 30 years

The rains have come to Naree, on Budjiti country in far western NSW. In fact, in March we had 116ml in a single day, which is one of the single biggest falls in the area in over 30 years. On top of that, floodwaters have been flowing in down the Warrego River and Cuttaburra Creek.

Read More

BUSHTRACKS 17/12/2019

My happy place (Greg Carroll)

Mulga is one of those unusual plants that sheep and cattle will eat, so it has disappeared from a lot of the old cattle properties. We’ve owned Naree for seven years now — before that it was a sheep station — and we’re trying to allow the Mulga here to regenerate but it takes a long time to grow.

Read More

BLOG 16/12/2019

Annual spring bird surveys at Naree

Good birding; important work; challenging and harshly beautiful environment; a very companionable group – the core elements of a really rewarding expedition.

Read More

BUSHTRACKS 16/12/2019

Smart country

At Naree Station Reserve, water is as precious and rare as gold. Our job: to make sure that when the water comes – either from the sky or down the rivers – the land is ready.

Read More

BLOG 25/10/2019

Jord's outback adventure to Naree

'Back o’ Bourke' as a metaphor for a place very far from anywhere was coined for a reason. It took an hour long flight and a four-hour drive just to get to Bourke, and then another two hours on mostly dirt roads to get to the 'back' of it – Naree Reserve. But although Naree is literally 'back o’ Bourke', it rewards those with the determination to get there with a rich experience.

Read More

BLOG 28/07/2019

Naree - now and then

Naree, in Northern NSW, holds beauty and life in both the dry and the wet. But the wet helps us understand how well our management strategies are working. A recent visit has let me see a side of Naree that shows the life that sits dormant in between drinks.

Read More

BLOG 26/04/2018

Back where they belong

Last Tuesday, around 30 members of the Budjiti community travelled to our Naree Reserve in New South Wales to return a collection of cultural artefacts back on country.

Read More

BLOG 20/02/2018

Small mammal research at Naree

Natalie Caulfield recently volunteered at Naree to help Justin McCann with his PhD research. This trip involved recording the abundance of small mammals - specifically dunnarts.

Read More

BLOG 11/10/2017

Volunteer awakening

Bush Heritage volunteering opened my eyes to a landscape that I could never have imagined. As we turned through the gate, I felt like we'd landed on the moon. We'd been driving for six hours, having refuelled at Bourke before the final 170km of dirt road to Naree Station.

Read More

BUSHTRACKS 14/03/2017

Come rain or shine

Braving monsoonal rains and searing heat, PhD student and Bush Heritage Environmental Research Scholarship recipient Justin McCann is unlocking the secrets of Naree Station Reserve.

Read More

BLOG 21/12/2016

Volunteers answer researcher's call

Kathleen Davies and Brian Redman answered the call to volunteer at Naree Station, helping UNSW PhD student Justin McCann in his studies.

Read More

BLOG 29/08/2016

Mulga magic

Naree and Yantabulla stations have many iconic symbols of the Australian bush, and one of the most noticeable as you drive around the two properties is 'the mulga' – silvery grey acacia shrubs and trees growing on brilliant red sandy soils.

Read More

BLOG 27/07/2016

Endangered Ringed Brown Snake found

Our volunteer botanists, John and Vanessa Hunter, found more than interesting plants on their last visit to Naree Station in April this year – pictured is a Ringed Brown Snake (Pseudonaja modesta) encountered during a monitoring trip. Listed as an endangered species in New South Wales the snake's habitat has suffered severe fragmentation, degradation and loss, and the species on which it preys – skinks – are declining for the same reasons.

Read More

BLOG 02/05/2016

Artesian connections

Phillip Eulo, his daughter Kiara and grand-daughters recently visited extinct artesian spring sites at Yantabulla station with Bush Heritage manager David Akers. The Eulo family are from the Budjiti people, recognised Traditional Owners of the Paroo-Warrego region, which overlays the Qld-NSW border. The site pictured is especially poignant for the family as Phil's aunty Ruby Eulo was born under a bloodwood tree at a camp on a sand hill about 500 metres from where the family are seen standing, more than 80 years ago.

Read More

BLOG 03/07/2015

Celebrating with the Budjiti People

The Traditional Custodians of Naree Station are the Budjiti People. Their ancestral lands along the Paroo River span two states – far western NSW and over the border into Queensland. Last Tuesday was a momentous day as the Budjiti, or Paroo River People, celebrated their native title determination in Queensland over 11,000 square kilometres southwest of Cunnamulla.

Read More

BUSHTRACKS 21/06/2015

Double the impact in outback wetlands

Through an innovative new partnership with South Endeavour Trust, Bush Heritage Australia has begun managing Yantabulla Station adjacent to our Naree Reserve. These properties sit at the heart of the Paroo-Warrego wetlands – the last remaining free-flowing river catchment in the Murray-Darling Basin.

Read More
{{itemsInCart}} Items - {{formatCurrency(grandTotal)}}