Charles Darwin Reserve has once again celebrated its annual spring weeding session. A group of enthusiastic weeders donned their armor and attacked the inevitable, but diminishing crops of Patterson’s Curse, Double Gees and Brassicas (to name the most prominent) with a vengeance. Years of work around the old watering sites from sheep station days is generally paying off but the front paddocks still have more than their fair share of weeds.
It's not all work and no play. New weeders on the scene were amazed at the variety and colours of the wildflowers and birds on the property and cameras had a good work-out along with their owners.
Being close to the ground while weeding we were able to spot some amazing invertebrates including a grub camouflaged by a bundle of tiny sticks on its back. There are also some amazing creatures living in the various rock holes on the property.
Situated on the edge of the north-eastern boundary of the South Western Australian Biodiversity hotspot, the only internationally recognised biodiversity hotspot in Australia, the scene changes throughout the property as does the variety of flowers over a period of at least several months. At the moment there are great expanses of white, yellow, orange and pink everlastings dispersed with shrubs with flowers ranging through the colours of the rainbow.
Whilst we were there a group of 4WD car owners and citizen scientists were filling in some of the tracks with rocks and brushing. Several members were also undertaking bird-banding, so we were fortunate to see some beautiful birds, including a Splendid Wren of unbelievably spectacular plumage. Out in the woodlands some of us were also lucky enough to see, and be totally blown away by, the unbelievable colouring of the Mulga Parrots.
This year we were also fortunate to have the chance to check-out the operations of a group from TERN (Terrestrial Ecosystem Research Network). This government-backed company travels Australia mapping various aspects of the country such as soil and vegetation cover. The results help assess vegetation change; detecting the impact of invasive species together with undertaking soil carbon analyses. They also measure particular nutrients in the soil and assess fuel load. Leaf samples are collected for assessing genetic variabilities.
Back in the accommodation building at night there were indirect competitions of whose meal was the most delicious, games of Scrabble and the highlight, night walks to check out the sky where the Milky Way stretched in a complete arc of zillions of stars and planets.
As most of us are getting on in years, some having done around 15 years of weeding, it would be great to have some more young people (that is under 70 or over if you are fit!) to join the group. Participants will be changed by the experience. Also, it’s great exercise so that you can enjoy all the cakes and treats people bring without feeling guilty about it!