Summer caretaking at Boolcoomatta (part I)

about  Boolcoomatta Reserve  
on 03 Feb 2017 

The hot quieter months of summer provide a time for Bush Heritage staff to catch up with family and friends after a long hectic year. For reserve staff this is only possible when supported by competent volunteer caretakers.

This summer Boolcoomatta Reserve Manager Al Dermer and his family were able to enjoy a break away from the reserve knowing it was in the capable hands of two caretaker families. The summer caretaking was shared by Meredith and Tony Geyer and the Stone family.

Below is an extract from letters that Meredith sent to family and friends while she and Tony were caretaking.

“When we arrived at Boolcoomatta we spent some time unpacking and settling in to the Green House, and then had Al (Reserve Manager) over for a cup of tea and chat about what we'd need to do. Tony has a few small jobs to do in the shed and he knows what to do with the generator. Then there are the chooks, the budgies and the dog to feed.

I have a big typing job to do for the Reserve. Al wants to prepare a booklet of Boolcoomatta Birds. I have the list of species and need to include some details of habits, appearance and habitat. There are multiple bird reference books here to use as my source data.

After tea when the sun was low in the sky we walked up to the top of the tanks hill at the back of the homestead and watched the sun set behind the Olary Ranges, a beautiful sight, warm and just a touch of breeze. I shared out the cherries – very good quality this year. A most memorable start to our stay here.

Both of the house dams are full and we like to visit them morning and evening to see the Grey Teal, Hardheads, Wood Ducks, a Little Black Cormorant, a Reef Heron and a Pacific Heron. Two Butcher birds occasionally thrill us with their song, Yellow-throated Miners whistle and Murray Magpies are quite numerous. Out the back of the Green House we see the Apostle Birds, Variegated Fairy Wrens and Magpies. Yesterday we went to East Station Dam about 8km from the homestead, which has now been fenced, and were entertained by three Nankeen Kestrels hunting for food and generally enjoying themselves.

We had afternoon tea with Al and Karen today and they re-enforced the safety aspect of our stay here. We will need to log-in and log-out each day with a call centre, and provide details of our movements. The main risk is snake bite and in reality we're more likely to see them around the homestead with its cool gardens and the lure of mice. We assured them we'd be very careful. There is an airstrip here for the Flying Doctor.

Tomorrow is our first day of sole caretaker duties. It's going to be hot and we'll need to get everything done before morning tea time.

Here we are on day two when we're entirely in charge on 643 square kilometres of arid land. The nearest neighbours are about 40 minutes away on an adjoining sheep stations. It's just us and the dog, three chooks, two budgies and the surrounding wildlife.

Today we have the air conditioning on, with energy supplied by solar panels. It was forecast 37 degrees at Yunta today so that's pretty close to what it would be here. Bella the black kelpie stayed inside with us.

We started early this morning before it warmed up. Yesterday afternoon we filled the concrete trough close to the homestead and a family of Emu came calling. Their young were at the attractive teenage stage with sable heads and necks. We didn't see them drinking but they probably did when we were in bed. And the kangaroos came in too.

Last evening, after a slow drive out to East Station Dam (just thought we might see a Plains Wanderer) we sat out on the veranda. There was barely a breath of wind, balmy temperatures, and we enjoyed the long evening shadows.

Up here the terms ‘first light’ (5.30am) and ‘sunrise’ 6am take on extra significance. With such a hot day expected we didn't take long to be up and about with a few things to do.

The last couple of days have been very hot. We get out of bed at first light, sit on the front veranda in our pyjamas and watch the last of the night visitors leave.

Yesterday we had a phone call from Neil, who with his wife Kate, are our replacement caretakers. They expect to arrive on Wednesday”.

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