Articles appearing in the Gundaroo Gazette in 2018

March 2018  This is living – on the surprising success of a restoration

This is living
March 2018

After a rather pleasant wet spell in December the moisture in our landscape started to shrink down to the low lying areas, and it would appear that many of the birds did as well.  In late January there appeared birds in such profusion and variety around Lake Kevin that it was dizzying.  The combination of water, greener grass and the flowering of the nearby Yellow Box combined to be irresistibly attractive to birds.  On the water a Wood Duck pair and their brood of eight drifted about, being dodged by water-skimming Tree Martins.  Sacred Kingfishers zoomed here and there, while Dusky Wood-swallows swooped on airborne insects for their hungry offspring.  A large dead tree provided convenient parking for these birds, together with assorted Galahs, Noisy Friarbirds, and Varied Sittellas.  The surrounding bushes were aquiver with numerous bush birds: Spotted Pardalote, Willie Wagtail, Speckled Warbler, Red-Browed Firetail, Yellow-rumped Thornbill, Eastern Spinebill, Superb Fairy-wren (aka Blue Wren), Brown Thornbill, White-throated Tree Creeper and Buff-rumped Thornbill.

The spectacle of these cheery creatures was even sweeter with the thought that they were enjoying themselves in the location that was the most degraded part of the property a decade ago.  I was even more impressed that some of the birds were species that were rarely seen anywhere on Gang Gang in the past, but now have moved in permanently (Blue Wren, Willie Wagtail).  Others which has had been seen overhead previously were now finally gracing us with their perching presence (Dusky Woodswallow, Tree Martin).  The finches were especially exciting to have as this was the first time they had stayed for more than a fleeting visit.  And the Speckled Warblers are always special, being a particularly handsome species struggling to survive.  Foxes eat most of their offspring, owing to the bird’s unfortunate habit of nesting on the ground.

Twelve years ago, this area featured an ugly concrete flume, undermined by gullying. It sat in a hectare of scalded, eroded soil and gullies, parts of it salt affected. Past owners had works done ten years previously (contour banks, the flume, fencing) but it had all fallen apart, whether by poor management or bad luck. On advice, we decided to inter the failed infrastructure under a dam wall. This is when Kevin came on the scene. As you might expect, I am not a fan of the damage that bulldozers can do to vegetation, but Kevin did some spectacularly good earthworks and constructed a beautiful dam (which we named after him). It was now up to Jon and me to revegetate the wall and surrounding salty, eroded area.

Ten years from the time of this photo, the gully had been replaced by high quality bird habitat. 

We did a little bit of planting, some scattering of seed collected from elsewhere on Gang Gang, and added grass clippings and prunings to the most scorched spots. Other plants just found their way. This was one of the few sites where I have not been fussed about weed removal. Almost anything that could grow was welcome here.

After ten years, there are small eucalypts, lots of wattles, some dense bottlebrushes and Sweet Bursaria. The ground is a mosaic of bare ground and grass – the ground feeders seem to prefer a measure of bare soil as it enables them to move freely and keep an eye out for danger. Flowering occurs throughout the year now, which contributes to insect numbers (as does the dam) and wattle seed is relished by the parrots. Gang Gangs now linger longer on Gang Gang thanks to this new food source. As far as the birds (and ourselves) are concerned, this is living.

Lake Kevin ten years after the first photo, taken from approximately the same point. 


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