In May a chance came up to volunteer on Tarcutta Hills Reserve in NSW, to do a rabbit survey on the newly acquired block that's been added to the reserve.
This was an exciting opportunity because it would give me my first look at the Tarcutta Reserve and my first look at a Grassy White-Box woodland, which Tarcutta Hills is known for, and which has been reduced to only 1% of its pre-colonial distribution.
So I was excited to see the reserve and perhaps a Swift Parrot, Antechinus or... well... rabbit.
The first thing that struck me about the reserve was the enormous size of the Ironbark gums, which were in full flower.
I had only seen much smaller Ironbarks before and didn’t even know they got that big. They were full of Eastern and Crimson Rosellas, Red-rumped Parrots, Wattlebirds, and Noisy Friarbirds.
In fact, there were hundreds of Wattlebirds and Noisy Friarbirds calling from dawn until dusk anywhere you went in the forest. It was truly amazing.
But I wasn’t there to twitch – I was there to find rabbits.
My partner in crime was Georgia McManus, a recent Science, Law Graduate from Sydney who was also seeing Tarcutta Hills for the first time. On the first morning, after awakening to a cacophony of Noisy Friarbirds, we got our instructions from Field Officer Damon Bassett and headed out to look for any signs of rabbits and log the geolocation into the Bush Heritage system.
We started in what I would have called a rabbit-friendly spot. In a small valley, with lots of grass and dotted with blackberries, which we were also to geolocate into the system.
After looking around there were no signs of rabbit, scat, or burrows. There were a lot of signs of wombats however, so this was a good start, and a sign of what was to come.
Over two days, Georgia and I only found one trace of rabbits – a small, old pile of droppings – but no burrows and no actual rabbits. Of course, no rabbits is not a bad thing, it’s a good thing. But after two days I did begin to doubt whether or not I could tell the difference between a rabbit and a wombat…
Although we didn’t find any rabbits, we did see some Wedge-tailed Eagles close up, some amazing White Box, Stringybark, Ironbark and Scribbly Gum, a few sorts of Greenhood orchids, a lot of interesting insects, wallabies, kangaroos, the storage shed resident Antechinus and even a snake.
I took a photo of the snake and later Damon identified it as a Dwyer’s Snake. Apparently the first time this species has been seen on any of the Bush Heritage reserves, which was far better than finding a rabbit and made up for not seeing a Swift Parrot!
Over two days we did about half the new section and made plans to return at the end of the month and finish the rest.
When we returned the Ironbark blossoms were nearly all finished, and the nights were a little colder in the tent, but the results were the same when it came to rabbits – no sign of them. We did flush a Hare if that counts for anything?
There were Flame and Red Capped Robins, a few more interesting insects and a few of the White Box were in blossom, which have an amazing smell to them. In the evening there was a call of a bird I am yet to identify, followed by a beautiful moonrise.
Overall, it was a rewarding opportunity to just walk the reserve, to pay attention to the land and what was in it, and it was nice to know that there's at least one less introduced pest to worry about.
I'm from Canberra in Ngunnawal country where I work as a part-time electrician while doing a PhD at the ANU School of Art and Design. I started volunteering last year at Scottsdale Reserve.
For my PhD I make jewellery and small sculpture in wood using generative and degenerative processes to make works that both speak to the natural world and the human built environment. I'm researching our changing relationship to wonder, which began as a sensory engagement with nature and the beginning of philosophy but has now come to represent childish ignorance or at best inspiration to scientific-driven curiosity. This transition from wonder to curiosity has seen people, cultures and knowledge disconnect from nature and place humans above and separate from the natural world. I investigate this relationship through my practice and a series of jewellery and objects.
I'm currently living in Sydney in Wallumattagal country. I have just completed my Bachelor of Science and Law in February and am currently taking time to work out what I'd like to do next. Although I've been volunteering with Bush Heritage within the Climate Adaptation Team for almost a year, this was my first (of hopefully many) time on any reserves.