Mist rises with the morning sun, as duck calls break the silence. Clouds shadow the black box woodlands and flocks of ibis ruffle their feathers and take flight. Wetlands stretch into the distance.
Welcome to Naree Station - Bush Heritage's newest reserve, a 14,400-hectare property that you have the chance to protect forever.
Naree, located 150km north-west of Bourke in the remote north west of New South Wales, is aptly described as "wetlands in the outback".
Why? "Naree is located on the Cuttaburra Creek, in the upper Murray-Darling Basin - between the Paroo and Warrego Rivers - and it's part of one of the 20 most important wetlands for waterbirds in Australia," says Jim Radford, Bush Heritage's Science and Monitoring Manager.
In May this year, the future of this beautiful place, and the creatures that thrive in its nationally renowned wetlands became suddenly uncertain.
The previous owners Paul and Debbie Kaluder, who had cared for Naree Station for six years, made the difficult decision to put the property on the market.
Black-fronted dotteral. Photo by Peter Morris
The future of this incredible place was of deep concern to the Environmental Water Trust (EWT), a national body protecting the health of Australia's rivers and waterways, and to renowned ornithologist Professor Richard Kingsford, who has been studying waterbird populations on Naree for over 26 years.
Together, Richard and the EWT recognised Bush Heritage as the ideal new owners of Naree Station. Now, Bush Heritage supporters like you have the opportunity to help protect this outback wonderland forever.
A fight for life
"It's a good thing to see something you've nurtured go to someone who will carry it on," says previous owner Paul Kaluder about Bush Heritage's new role as owners and guardians of Naree Station. "We're delighted with the way Bush Heritage looks after their land."
Grey teal at Naree Lakes. Photo by Peter Morris
When the Kaluders bought Naree in 2006, it had suffered years of drought and heavy grazing that had severely degraded the condition of the land. Determined not to let this magical land go to ruin, they worked tirelessly to restore the ecological health of the property through an innovative and progressive grazing regime.
Debbie Kaluder was also instrumental in the successful campaign to prevent the extraction of water from the Warrego River. If those plans had been allowed to continue, the wetlands' natural flooding and drying cycles would have been seriously affected, and along with it Naree's iconic waterbirds, like the brolga, freckled duck, pied stilt and spoonbills.
"Waterbirds like ibis, egrets and cormorants need regular floods to establish breeding colonies, which often doesn't happen elsewhere in the Murray-Darling Basin because most of the water is extracted or stored in dams," says Jim. "Naree is special because the extent and regularity of flooding means it is one of the more reliable and most important colonial waterbird breeding sites in inland Australia."
The future is in our hands
Thanks to the Kaluders, Naree is showing good signs of recovery. However, Naree's future remains far from secure.
"If we hadn't purchased Naree," explains Jim, "then it would have been sold on the open market, with the very real risk that it would have been bought by someone without the environmental credentials of the Kaluders or Bush Heritage. That could have had disastrous consequences for the wetlands and other ecosystems on the property."
"The Kaluders have been such responsible stewards of the land," says Richard Kingsford. "They represent everything that's great about people living in the bush. They're very practical, but they have a deep empathy and understanding of the country, wetlands and rivers and just how important it is to protect them."
Now, you too have a unique opportunity to help protect this extraordinary property forever. "Think about how important the water is here," urges Richard. "Help ensure it's protected so we can be good custodians for future generations."
Naree is also home to mammals such as the kultarr, a nocturnal marsupial that weighs just 30gm and measures 100mm, with a tail 1.5 times as long as its body. The kultarr bounds along at high speed, and inhabits the burrows of other animals including trapdoor spiders and hopping mice. The kultarr feeds on spiders and crickets and is found in sparsely vegetated arid plains like the acacia shrublands and woodlands found at Naree Station.