Never one to let a chance go by (well, not if I can help it), I recently took a few days of annual leave from my ‘day job’ to volunteer for this year’s Ecological Outcomes Monitoring surveys on Eurardy Reserve.
In a ‘normal’ year, this would have meant I had to ‘endure’ five days surrounded by a rainbow-coloured smorgasbord of some of the most spectacular wildflowers on the planet. But this hasn’t been the best of years for wildflowers, thanks largely to a prolonged, landscape-parching, dry spell this ‘winter’.
The usual annual explosion of everlastings and other wildflowers simply didn’t happen, and even most of the hardy heathland shrubs conserved their energy (and their limited moisture), and sensibly decided not to burst-forth with their usual spectacular flowering extravaganza.
But heck. That didn’t dent our enthusiasm. I joined the small survey team – comprising Ben Parkhurst (Eurardy Reserve Manager and Western Rangelands Ecologist), Elisabeth McLellan (Western Rangelands Landscapes Manager), Vanessa Westcott (Ecologist West), and fellow volunteers John Adams and Andréa Bride – for five days of field-work.
Venturing to every corner of the 30,000 hectare reserve, we added new data to Eurardy’s long-term monitoring dataset – gathering and recording valuable information about the flora, the condition of the vegetation and surface soil cover, and bird assemblages. The data – which is collected every three years – goes into the reserve’s five-year report, and helps with future conservation planning.
For five straight days we were up before dawn, with Ben and Elisabeth heading-off first for the bird surveys, while Vanessa and we three volunteers followed-up for the vegetation transects. Between us, we completed the target list of 30 transects, amassing a heap of data that the ecologists will now take back to the office for further analysis to see how life is changing at Eurardy after 12 years of Bush Heritage management.
Despite the harsh season, there were still lots of plants in flower, lots of birds in song in the mornings, and lots of other wildlife to get us excited. As well as the usual kangaroos and emus, we were delighted by regular flocks of Red-tailed Black-cockatoos (Calyptorhynchus banksii), as well as a Thorny Devil (Moloch horridus), Tawny Frogmouth (Podargus strigoides), Giant Jewel Beetles (Temognatha heros), Trapdoor Spider (Anidiops spp.) and a Priority Two listed species in a new location - Alcock's Duck Orchid (Paracaleana alcockii).
And we had a lot of fun!
Note to self: Book a place on the survey team for the next round of Ecological Outcomes Monitoring at Eurardy Reserve.
– Richard McLellan
Richard is a passionate Bush Heritage Volunteer, and the CEO of NACC (Northern Agricultural Catchments Council of WA). You can follow Richard on twitter: @RichardMcLellan