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My happy place (Brett Howland)

Published 15 Jan 2021 

Brett Howland

Ecologist – South West NSW

Right up in the northern corner of Scottsdale Reserve, up near the Murrumbidgee River, there's a rocky outcrop that retains much of its pre- European beauty, having never been ploughed or pasture improved.

Native grasslands at Scottsdale.

Native grasslands at Scottsdale.

Scottsdale is a restoration project – large parts of it were intensely farmed before Bush Heritage purchased it, but this little spot is one of the few places on the reserve that was left relatively untouched, probably largely because the ploughs couldn’t get through the rock.

You can literally see the line where the vegetation changes from African Lovegrass (a weed) to native Kangaroo Grass.

There’s also a really high diversity of native grasses and forbs there, including the threatened native pea Swainsona sericea, which goes to show that the natives can hang on really well when they’re not disturbed.

This one small area is probably one of the most diverse spots on the reserve. Over the last ten years I’ve seen so many different species there, including Dusky Woodswallows, Scarlet Robins and other threatened woodland birds that aren't often seen in this region.

I’ve also seen Common Dunnarts there several times, and it's a hotspot for reptile diversity on the reserve – I've seen 13 different species of reptiles in that one little area, and it’s the place we chose to release 120 legless lizards back in 2016 because it’s such good habitat.

Looking at this area gives you a sense of what Scottsdale’s grassy valley floors would once have looked like – and what we’re trying to get them back to, or as close as possible, once more.