As a Bank Australia customer, you may be aware that you are a part owner in a 927 hectare Conservation Reserve in Western Victoria. But you might be wondering what happens day to day on the Reserve? And how our daily activities on the property are helping conservation more broadly?
Fiona Copley, a Senior Conservation Officer with Trust for Nature tells us about an average day working on the Reserve and what the team on the ground are learning.
8.30am – Arriving at the Reserve
I am aware of the vast silence as soon as I enter the Reserve and turn off the engine. I have just arrived at the Bank Australia Conservation Reserve, a touch under one hundred kilometres west of Horsham – less than thirty kilometres to the SA/Victorian border and just south of Little Desert National Park. With ears attuned to the hum of the engine and chatter of my radio, it takes me a minute to hear the quieter bush noises. Soon I adjust to the silence, which is punctuated by the cry of the cicada, the scolding of the honeyeater. Overhead, a blue cloudless sky stretches out before me.
9.30am – Surveying plants and wildlife
As I start to move about the property, I follow a track that winds through a shallow, dry depression that was full of water a few short months back. I head towards a wetland at the back of the property that still holds water from last year’s rain.
It is here I meet Bryan Haywood and Andy Lines, who work for the Nature Glenelg Trust. The Nature Glenelg Trust has been engaged to undertake a comprehensive survey of the plants and wildlife on Bank Australia’s Conservation Reserve. This will provide an important baseline so that Trust for Nature and our partner Greening Australia can make better management decisions for the Reserve.
Today, Bryan has already completed a few bird surveys, but the increasing heat of the day makes the birds quiet and still in their trees. So we turn to look out over the wetland, with our eyes peeled for wildlife. I spot a dragonfly with a lime green head and thorax, and a red abdomen, and a splash of bright blue on the tip. We note and map a bees’ nest in a hollow above our heads.
We search for the Fiery Jewel Butterfly (Hypochrysops ignitus), a species listed as endangered, and take note of several Buloke species – another butterfly, a diurnal moth and cicadas. We admire the bleached grasses with fluffy seed-heads, the green heaths with brilliant red flowers and the heavy-looking falls of mistletoe, also flowering red.
11am – Learning and sharing information helps us build towards our conservation goals
As we work, we swap information about the species we hunt for. I learn that it is possible to tell the difference between diurnal moths and butterflies in flight. Often animal life cycles are not well described and we have picked up species information from different sources. All that we learn, we will remember and relay to the next people we are on site with. We discuss management and species needs. Acacia paradoxa – or Hedge Wattle – is an interesting example that we debate at length. As a colonising plant, it can come to dominate disturbed sites – does this exclude species such as grass-seed-eating birds, or does the shrubbery protect them? When is it a problem? Will it naturally decline as vegetation communities age, or should we be proactive in removing it?
The ongoing conservation studies at the Bank Australia Conservation Reserve is one of our few opportunities to understand how best to manage these complex ecosystems and to answer questions such as this one.
2pm – Developing our implementation approach
I jot down some notes to help inform the implementation plan we’re currently developing with Greening Australia. This plan will outline exactly how the Reserve will be managed over the next few years to benefit the rare species resident there.
3.30pm - Wrapping up the day’s work
When I leave, I am thinking about how best to use the information I have gathered today. Where else can I search for Buloke butterflies? How can we manage the reserve to best enhance its natural values? What can I do to help Bank customers see the reserve as I see it? The gift I take with me the memory of the shimmer of a dragonfly wing, the harsh cry of the cicada and the flash of mistletoe red; all against a backdrop of a sparkling wetland.
This article was contributed by Fiona Copley, Trust for Nature’s Senior Conservation Officer for the Wimmera region of Victoria. Fiona’s role with Trust for Nature involves opening people’s eyes to the beauty of the bush and helping them discover why the flora and fauna at the Bank Australia Conservation Reserve is important and special.