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The moon is still high in the sky as dawn arrives at Boolcoomatta, SA. The property is a former sheep property turned nature reserve, 100km west of Broken Hill.
The spectacular vista of Dome Rock. Much of Boolcoomatta is saltbush plains, all in the shadow of the dramatic Olary Ranges. Small birds are some of the species now thriving since livestock were removed from the property in 2006.
Bush Heritage’s Dr Jim Radford and Boolcoomatta reserve manager Emma Ashton weigh and measure a stripe-faced dunnart (Sminthopsis macroura) caught in an early morning survey of fauna.
The dusky hopping mouse (Notomys fuscus) is listed as vulnerable in Australia and is one native species that has recently returned to Boolcoomatta.
Down on the saltbush plains at Boolcoomatta, where the deep red earth contrasts with the bright blue sky, you can catch a glimpse of orange chats, chirruping wedgebills, bearded dragons and large flocks of emus.
Invasive weeds such as Patterson’s curse (Echium plantagineum) sometimes have attractive flowers, but their beauty belies their danger. Controlling the spread of these plants is an important part of the work that reserve managers do.
Bush Heritage ecologists – such as Dr Jim Radford, pictured – and volunteers have been carrying out plant and animal surveys. Already these show good signs of bird recovery at Boolcoomatta, with significant increases in shrub-dependent birds such as the cinnamon quail-thrush, rufous field-wren, redthroat and chirruping wedgebill.
Purple-wood wattle (Acacia carneorum), pictured here, is a listed as a vulnerable species in Australia and is protected behind fenced areas in some parts of the reserve.
Run for 150 years as a sheep station, Boolcoomatta shows signs that it was well managed, and retains outstanding examples of saltbush plains, ephemeral streams and wetlands.
Bearded dragons (Pogona sp.) are among the many species flourishing at Boolcoomatta following the removal of livestock.
Ecologist Dr Jim Radford examines a dusky hopping mouse.
An endangered species in NSW, this Bolam’s mouse (Pseudomys bolami), also turned up in a survey of fauna.
The rusted remains of farm machinery from times gone by, near the homestead at Boolcoomatta.
Shearing sheds. Boolcoomatta holds a significant place in the European history of South Australia, playing a crucial role in both the pastoral and mining industries that helped expand the fledgling colony.
Emma and Peter Ashton live at Boolcomatta – which has interesting heritage features such as this historic gas pump – because they have important work to do: overseeing the property, fixing fences and infrastructure, keeping the rabbits and foxes controlled and the protecting the wildlife.
Boolcoomatta is an unusual place to call home. Spectacular, yet often harsh and unforgiving, the property’s homestead is surrounded by vast treeless plains, silvery grey saltbush and prickly acacia shrubs.
Dr Jim Radford carefully checks along a line of harmless pitfall traps, set up to catch small animals as they scurry along the fenceline. These surveys are essential to measure the biodiversity of the reserve. “I often refer to ourselves as nature farmers,” says reserve manager Emma Ashton, “because we live in much the same way as any farmer but without the stock or crops.”
This is the traditional country of the Adnyamathanha, Ngadjuri and Wiljakali peoples. Adnyamathanha means hills or rock people.
Home Topics Wildlife Gallery: Private conservation to protect native species
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