Skip to content

Dirt track detectives at Goonderoo

Published 21 Jun 2016 by Tony Darlington

One of the delights of being a Bush Heritage volunteer is being offered a task out of the box, along with the promise of a spectacular location!

Such was the case when Vicki and I put our hands up to act as rolling caretakers at the Goonderoo Reserve and to do a bit of sand-pad monitoring.

We naturally jumped at the chance and then asked... "Um, what's sand-pad monitoring?"

You have to give it to the Regional Community Engagement Officers, they have tact, diplomacy and the ability to pass on good advice. Ours had us squared away in no time flat so the job was on! We'd already been given an induction so we soon found ourselves out and about confirming the locations of the 25-prospective sand pads.

Each sand pad was marked by a painted star picket. The ground around each was flattened out, all the grass removed and fine sand spread evenly over the area so when a critter walks, crawls or hops over the surface, a well-trained eye can hopefully determine what made the tracks.

We then returned armed with numerous racks, shovels and the all-important house broom and by the end of the day had spilt a bit of good honest sweat readying all the pads. Thankfully the posts were close to the track so we could use the track surface to give us a large pad. With all this hard work now behind us we could look forward to the really enjoyable bit – the daily checking for tracks!

The pads were separated by around 500m so we would drive up to the marker, get out and observe the pad from all angles as the direction of the sun really does help the critter tracks stand out. We'd then compare our observations and happily argue our differing interpretations until we reached a consensus as to what made the tracks then recorded the findings on the reserve's flash new bulletproof tablet. Then out would come the house broom and we'd sweep the sand-pad smooth before mounting up and heading off to the next marker to repeat the performance.

It all became very exciting when we found multiple tracks of differing macropods, birds, wild dogs, reptiles and feral cats all mixed in together!

Our best day saw us finding everything on the desired list as well as the tracks of a possum and a couple of snake slides.

We'd been asked to gather the pad information over five to eight days to get a good picture of the habits of the creatures making the tracks. We did discover that temperature played a very important part as the very active five warm days turned into a nearly barren period following two extremely cold days. It's not only humans that prefer to stay in bed when it gets cold!

Another challenge is trying to get a decent picture of any interesting track. That’s where we'd use the direction of the sun and a Polaroid filter to help the track definition stand out.

Thankfully the Goonderoo homestead is absolutely first class when it comes to home comforts and we thoroughly recommend the rolling volunteer caretaker offer that's available here. If you get the chance, have a crack at sand-pad monitoring and brush up (no pun intended) on your critter tracks.

Volunteer Vicki Darlington records tracks at a Goonderoo monitoring site. Volunteer Vicki Darlington records tracks at a Goonderoo monitoring site.
Macropod tracks. Could it be a Flashjack? Macropod tracks. Could it be a Flashjack?
One of the sand pad monitoring sites used to record native and feral animal activity on reserve. One of the sand pad monitoring sites used to record native and feral animal activity on reserve.

Related 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.

Read More

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.

Read More

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.

Read More

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.

Read More

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.

Read More

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.

Read More

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.

Read More

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.

Read More

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.

Read More

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.

Read More

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).

Read More

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.

Read More

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.

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