Rex and Gail are fantastic bushie volunteers. They've both done a tremendous amount for Bush Heritage in the West over the past few years helping with ecological fieldwork, desk-top data analysis and general reserve support. They recently completed their first stint as caretakers at Hamelin Station Reserve, where they learnt what a diverse and interesting experience caretaking for Bush Heritage can be! Here's their account:
We recently had the opportunity to spend 3 weeks caretaking at the beautiful Hamelin Station Reserve. It was a pleasure to meet and get to know the resident Field Officers Tony and Larissa, their two little boys Harry and Riley, and of course the chooks, Bob the dog, and the resident Perentie.
Did you know that the Perentie (Varanus giganteus) is the largest monitor lizard, or goanna, native to Australia, and the fourth-largest living lizard on earth? Neither did we!
The first week was very busy with induction, infrastructure maintenance training, getting together a list of jobs that needed to be done, handover, familiarising ourselves with where everything was and general maintenance and cleaning jobs.
Also at the Reserve for the first week were three scientists initiating a collaborative research project involving the Stromatolites – Dr Erica Suosaari (Bush Heritage), Dr Amanda Oehlert (Agouron Institute), and, Cat Cushenan (University of Algarve and Bush Heritage volunteer).
One aspect of the Stromatolite project involves weekly collection of aolian and saltating dust samples for 12 months; aolian dust is transported via wind currents in the atmosphere and rains down to the ground, while saltating dust bounces along the ground.
Amanda had set up a nifty dust collector, and we were also trained in how to collect and label dust samples.
The samples are critical to our understanding of the rare earth element (REE) geochemistry of the Stromatolites in Hamelin Pool. Who knew? It's all very interesting.
We had the honour of collecting the very first two lots of samples!
Two nights before Tony and Larissa were due to leave (to attend the Bush Heritage meeting in Victoria) one of their chooks was taken by a feral cat. Bob the dog took chase, and Tony and Larissa found the chook out in the bush – with a broken wing – and Bob had a tuft of cat fur in his mouth. So we also had a lesson in how to bandage a chook’s wing!
The next two weeks were busy and enjoyable. The lucky chook – who we named Henrietta – did not look very well at all and we were preparing ourselves for the worst. She managed to get her bandage off most days, so she had to be rebandaged, however after nearly a week she had improved and it was clear that she would be ok.
As well as the daily and scheduled maintenance jobs, we performed other tasks including fixing the chook house door, putting shadecloth up over Larissa’s fantastic veggie garden, mowing the lawn (yes they have lawn!), cleaning up and moving the old cottage debris to the ‘use me later’ tip, cleaning and replacing batteries in the landing strip lamps and moving them to the hangar, doing a safety grab-bag audit and restock, and general cleaning and running repairs in the volunteer quarters.
We had some time off to see the dolphin feeding at Monkey Mia and to look around Denham. The boardwalk at Eagle Bluff on the Denham road is fantastic and we highly recommend it – the view over the ocean and coastline is stunning. We also did a run up some of the northern tracks on the property which lead to some pretty spectacular ocean and coastal scenery.
The day before we left we went with Larissa to collect some camera traps, and the landscape she took us through was varied and so unexpectedly beautiful – very different to that which immediately surrounds the homestead.
Larissa knows the landscape, flora and fauna like the back of her hand and we felt lucky to have her as our ‘tour guide’.
We feel privileged to have been able to spend time on such a wonderful reserve, and to get to know the dedicated, hard-working and committed Field Officers, Tony and Larissa. Thanks guys!
Thanks to Gail and Rex for helping out at Hamelin Station Reserve. Volunteers make all the difference!