Woody weeds, Wedge-tailed Eagles, and wildflowers at Cobboboonee

Although we’ve had a few delays due to the ongoing COVID lockdowns and wet weather, I am now roughly four months into our woody weed treatment project in the beautiful Cobboboonee National Park. So, I thought it was time to do a little update on what I’ve been up to out in this magical forest.

Having now completed weed surveillance in the 2020 Mount Deception fire zone, I was pleasantly surprised to see there were very few woody weeds present, apart from scatted individuals and a couple of large patches of pine wildlings. Assessing the fire zone was slow going due to the fact that most of the pine wildlings were damaged by the fire, making them harder to identify from distance; some pines were found were still alive with green tops, such as in the photo below left.

The NGT bushcare team has joined me over the past few weeks, and we have extended our search for woody weeds out to the buffer zones around the fire zone. These zones include the roadsides, northern blocks, and edges of the forest. Tackling weeds like sweet pittosporum and pine wildlings in these areas (and fending off frequent leech attacks) is keeping our crew very busy.

Getting out in the bush several days a week has me noticing that the signs of spring are everywhere. The days are longer, the wildflowers are starting to pop up, the wattles are in bloom, and – you guessed it – the snakes are out. I have also been seeing a lot of animal diggings, some of which I believe to be bandicoot diggings, which bodes well for our future project at our newest reserve, Mount Vandyke – Banbangil.

I’ll leave you with this yarn from a day last month…

Golden Weather-glass Hypoxis hygrometrica, and many other wildflowers and wattles are in full bloom throughout the Cobobboonee National Park. Photo: Tom Sheehan.

After spending a few days surveying the Mount Deception area and finding little to no weeds, it was late in the afternoon and I thought I might call it a day. But something spoke to me… I decided to check a little pocket of bush nestled between a creek line and a tea-tree swamp. I walked into this area, crossed the creek and spotted a large patch of established pine wildlings. As I made my approach towards the pine patch, two majestic Wedge-tailed Eagles swooped out from a giant stringybark tree in the centre of the pine patch. The eagles came so close that I felt they were sending me a message. Sure enough, moments later I heard a screech from a chick in the nest. Mum and dad eagles were keeping a close eye on me and I didn’t want to disturb them or the baby further, so I recorded a waypoint, and made my way out of the forest. I’ll return later in the year once the chick has flown the nest to treat the site for weeds. It was a moment that I’ll remember for a long time, and a reminder that even weedy areas can be habitat for native animals and we need to treat all areas with care.

This project is supported by the Australian Government’s Bushfire Recovery for Wildlife and Habitat Community Grants Program.

Tom Sheehan