Eaglehawk Waterhole Restoration Reserve: update from caretaker Andy

Andy Lines was our live-in caretaker at Eaglehawk Waterhole for over three years from 2016 to 2019. After some time away, late last winter he returned to the site and has an update for us below.

Andy writes:

My arrival

Arriving in early August 2020, the weather was mostly cold and wet along with a few foggy mornings. Large flocks of corellas and sulphur crested cockatoos descended each morning on various paddocks, to feed on the (introduced) nut grass. Male emus with chicks wandered the property, and many of the female kangaroos had joeys at their feet. At night the air was full of sound; boobook owls and owlet nightjars could be heard calling most nights. The booming of emus, magpies warbling through the night, occasional calls from sugar gliders, with various species of duck and water bird flying over camp. Common froglets and bullfrogs along with the common spadefoot and the mallee spadefoot, all came out to join in on the evening chorus. As the weather began to warm in September, shingleback lizards, and the occasional bearded dragon began to appear. The scrub began to bloom, and insects started to appear.

Red-tailed Black Cockatoos

Over the past six months, there have been regular visits of red-tailed black cockatoos. Flocks of 40-60 birds have been seen, and one flock of just over 100 was recorded by Bryan Haywood out near the old Bangham Road. Occasionally there are smaller flocks of 15-20 birds, feeding on the stringy barks. Two pairs of red-tails live almost permanently on the property with a third pair living somewhere close by, possibly at Bangham Conservation Park.

Red-tailed Black Cockatoo getting a drink at the old water tank, Eaglehawk Waterhole (photo: Terry Thorne)

Weeds!

After a dry winter including a very dry July, over the spring and summer period we have had above average rainfall. This has resulted in an increase of the weed load around the property. Veldt and Phalaris grasses, along with Salvation Jane, have all benefited from the extra rain – unfortunately. The worst patches of Salvation Jane have been in the front paddocks, and this is where I’ve spent most of my time. Over the past few years I’ve been concentrating on the back paddocks, and this year I have been able to spend less time in these areas. Mostly spending a day or two wandering these paddocks once or twice a month, with a hoe hand weeding, with only a few small patches needing a spray. The front paddocks have been a different story, large patches of Salvation Jane have been sprayed. But with each new rainfall event, the large seedbank present in these paddocks began to sprout. In previous years the Salvation Jane hadn’t flowered until early December, this year (possibly from the dry July and sunny days it brought) it began in early September which reduced our usual weed control window by a couple of months. Some of the other weeds I’ve been working away at are evening primrose, cape tulip, thistles and stink weed.

Wedge-tailed eagles

The resident wedge-tailed eagles make regular appearances, and can often be seen high overhead. At other times they can be seen hunting, with one bird flying between the trees attempting to flush out any prey, with a second bird above the tree line ready to make a strike. Although they were not seen to breed this year, we now have four recorded nesting sites on the property.

Mallee ringneck parrots

During November and December a number of pairs of Mallee ringneck parrots arrived at Eaglehawk, along with their fledglings. Although they were seen feeding on grass seed, they seem to be most interested in feeding on the seed of the native daphne (Brachyloma daphnoides).

Camp shelter

A shelter is currently under construction near the firepit at the camping area. We are hoping to get it finished before winter this coming year. This more permanent structure will make the property more comfortable for visitors, providing some shelter from both sun and rain as necessary.

Frances Primary School visit

The children in the upper years at Frances Primary School visited our property in November. Rose, Sheryl, Taylah and I, along with Bronwyn Perryman from Birdlife Australia, were bush teachers for the day. When told what the first task entailed, some of the kids eagerly sprinted up the track, keen to check under the roofing tiles for reptiles. Some of the skinks disappeared in a flash, due to the warm temperatures of the day. But we got to see about seven different types of ants, scorpions, and one skink. The second task was to remove some tree guards from previous years’ revegetation areas, but walking out in the paddocks with all the seeding grasses proved to be a prickly job. The kids spent most of the lunch break pulling the seeds out of their socks! The final task of the day was to collect some stringybark seed. Fortunately the trees were full of ripe fruit capsules, ready for picking, and in no time at all the students had their little buckets full with seed pods. This seed was to be cleaned, and grown by the children, with the trees coming back to be planted here at Eaglehawk. So a huge thankyou to the children, teachers, and to Bronwyn (as part of the Kids helping Cockies programme) for helping us out on the property. We hope to see you again out there (winter and spring there are no prickles!).

Frances Primary School students picking stringybark seedpods (photo: Taylah Martin)

Previous revegetation plantings

Many of the previous years’ plantings (2015, 2016 & 2017) are doing very well, many of these trees are now up to 4-5 metres high. Banksias and tea tree are beginning to fill the understory.

As a result of our tree planting efforts, there are thousands of tree guards that need removing. We store the tree guards on site and reuse them at Eaglehawk and other reveg sites each year. Are there any groups, or families, or individuals that would like to help us out with their removal? Please get in touch with Bryan if you can offer us any assistance. We can offer you a lovely camp site abounding with wildlife as thanks for your efforts.

– Andy Lines

Sheryl Holliday
Sheryl Holliday


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