Malleefowl Monitoring with the Badjebup Community
In August last year Liz Kington from the National Malleefowl Recovery Group asked me if I would like to come and assist her and Carl Danzi (also from the WA Malleefowl Recovery Group) deliver a South West Catchments Council (SWCC) funded Grid Survey of a Reserve east of Nyabing in the Great Southern region of Western Australia. We have been very lucky to escape the worst of the lockdowns endured by many in the eastern states due to the Covid 19 pandemic so we were able to travel around the state without restriction. Badgebup is about 330 km from Perth, so I put on an Audible book and headed off to Nyabing to meet Liz and Carl. We stayed in the Nyabing Community Hub and Inn. The original hotel was knocked down but the town folk joined together to find the funds to build a new one. It was a great place to stay with comfortable accommodation and a yummy café and pub.
The next morning we went off to the reserve to meet Derani Sullivan from SWCC and the folk from the Badgebup Aboriginal group. Eighteen people took part in the grid search, including three Elders Ezzard, Beryl, Margaret, other members of the Badjebup Rangers and two local farmers.
Carl orchestrated the Grid Survey. It’s a bit like herding cats, but he’s had lots of experience over the year and we had a plan. We all lined up about 5 meters apart. Four of us had GPS with all the required points to complete the search and took up positions at both ends and two in the middle of the line. The Badegbup young blokes thought our GPS system was a bit too much technology but were happy to make the most of the walk through the bush. We were all to maintain a straight line from one side of the reserve to the other keeping 5-meters apart looking out for signs of Malleefowl mounds. It was pretty hilarious at first with people crisscrossing backwards and forwards, until we worked out a method of calling to each other so we could keep position in the line. The terrain was a little up and down but the bush became quite thick, and we were pushing through thick bush in 32 degree heat. The Badgebup folk were amazing. They came well prepared with all the hi viz gear, walking boots, water bottles and pre-packed bursting lunch. We did four crossings in the first morning and more the next day, and maintained a pretty good grid survey. We didn’t find any active mounds which disappointed us all but saw lots of orchids and other animal diggings. After two days we didn’t quite finish the reserve and there is a residual area at the East end of the reserve, which on the map looked promising as Malleefowl habitat. We all want to go back this year and complete it.
I really enjoyed spending the weekend with the Badgebup Rangers. Everyone was welcoming and friendly. We started the day with a welcome to their country and a short story of how their families came to be in this area. Next came a set of warm-up exercises we all participated in. We worked hard all day but we laughed a lot and I learnt Noongar plant and animal names.
Later in November, I joined Liz in Mindarabin, another 400 km drive south-east and a new audible book… this one about fungi. This trip was to monitor about 20 mounds in the Mindarabin reserve. I met Liz and camped for the night ‘under the stars’. What a great way to spend the night in my stretcher tent after a camp dinner and a beer. Bliss!
Next morning we joined members of the Badgebup Rangers again. This time just Ezzard, Johnny and Rick. We were greeted like long-lost friends and set off to ‘hunt’ Malleefowl mounds. It was another hot day, but quite different bush, more open mallee and red moort, so it was reasonably easy walking. Johnny regaled me with lots of hilarious stories and I learnt more about the community and more things about the plants of the area. There is a vine called snotty gobble. Johnny found a seed pod and broke it open to reveal a very stringy snotty goo that was like slime which my grandkids delight in. The wild flowers were abundant and we found some beautiful orchids. We met up with the Gnowangerup Aboriginal Rangers for lunch. They were also doing survey work on the reserve, assisted by Angela Saunders from Bush Heritage who was doing a bird survey. They generously shared their lunch and a most welcome cuppa.
We continued visiting all the known mounds in the Mindarabin Reserve after lunch. It had become a very hot afternoon and we completed the survey mid-afternoon, but once again, no mounds. It was nevertheless such a great day with some wonderful warm, knowledgeable people, with so much to share and such a positive outlook on life.
Thanks so much for the opportunity to be part of it all.
All images used in this story are courtesy of Maryann Evett