Malleefowl have been seen recently and other birds are returning after the very hot and dry summer that saw a decrease in sightings of many of the most common species. Major Mitchell Cockatoos have been noticed every day for the last 3 weeks and they have been regularly observed feeding on the ground around the Visitors’ Centre, cracking the spiny seed pods of the Cannon Ball, a small shrub that is common on Gluepot.
Gluepot is well set up for social distancing, with a spacious Education Centre and three different camping grounds, each with 18 campsites which allow all participants to keep safely away from each other.
Recent courses on reptiles and macro photography were enjoyed by all participants, despite having to maintain social distancing rules throughout.
Just after the autumn courses, the COVID-19 pandemic caused the closure of the Reserve when all non-essential travel was halted and the South Australian state boarder was closed. This has allowed the rangers to focus on maintenance and our solar power array is being significantly upgraded.
More courses are planned for September, October and November if restrictions on travel are lifted by then.
The sounds of Gluepot are many.
Australian Ringnecks and Mulga Parrots are our first break-of-day songsters, communicating in short high-pitched trills, closely followed by Yellow-plumed Honeyeaters bustling noisily together.
The Spiny-cheeked Honeyeaters seem to have found sufficient food since the January rain to keep them away from bird-baths and hides.
Kookaburras, butcherbirds and Galahs visit the Homestead at varying times of day calling briefly, before flying away. On occasion, Variegated Fairy-wrens sing softly in the shrubs.
Other outdoor visitors like the Mallee Dragon and Tree Skink come and go silently and unobtrusively, while communication with co-workers creates a pleasant buzz.
Visitors can now enjoy Gluepot’s cooler nights and marvel at the passing overhead of the International Space Station. They can listen to the wind rustling leaves on the trees, the occasional ‘clop’ sound of a hopping kangaroo and look forward to the wonderful sound of rain on parched earth.
Long gone are the days of Belching Bertha generating electricity. Gluepot’s power-bank is relatively peaceful — a new inverter has been fitted and the solar array has had its seasonal tilt. Meanwhile, Gluepot’s fire extinguishers have just been serviced. Smoke alarms are checked regularly and currently are silent.
The first Environmental Education Course for 2020, ‘Getting to Know Reptiles’, commences 7–8 March, facilitated by Dr. Mark Hutchinson.
Gluepot Reserve has a magnetic attraction felt by both visitors and volunteers. It’s a place of fascination, relaxation, research, currently phenology and education.
Many visitors ask the Gluepot volunteers “What is the best time to visit Gluepot?” Every season has value here.
Now, in the height of summer, ‘survival’ is of the utmost importance. For us, as humans, personal safety is a priority. At Gluepot this is accomplished by remembering hats, maps, whistles, compasses, G.P.S., water, first-aid kits and communication devices e.g. satellite phones.
The recent 11 millimetres of rain has done little to the parched land. The highest temperature recorded for January is 42.5°C.
Gluepot has recorded 181 species of birds. They demonstrate various methods of survival.
We have been surprised by the increased number of Spiny-cheeked Honeyeaters, Yellow-plumed Honeyeaters and Brown-headed Honeyeaters seen at our bird troughs. The pecking order of birds drinking occurs in the cooler hours of early morning and evening. Our Homestead bird baths have required frequent re-filling.
Other sightings include the Chestnut Quail-thrush, Chestnut-crowned Babbler and Apostlebirds.
The kangaroos here are emaciated. The Mallee has adapted to survive. The occasional fox and rabbit are surviving.
Our first Environmental Education Course for 2020 is ‘Getting to Know Reptiles’. The Facilitator is Dr Mark Hutchinson.
Back here again as Ranger/Assistant Ranger for the eighth or ninth time since my first visit in December 2001, and my, how things have changed over the years!
The mallee has suffered from several fires during this time, resulting in a variety of new- and old-growth habitat which, in turn, attracts a range of birds with different preferences for new, medium and old-growth Mallee, Casuarina and Triodia.
The ubiquitous Yellow-plumed Honeyeater was without doubt the commonest bird in the Reserve for the first part of the millennium, but this year has seen the rise to dominance of the Spiny-cheeked Honeyeater, with huge numbers at the water troughs now outnumbering the Yellow-plumes by about 20 to 1. The Spiny-cheek’s gorgeous and varied liquid calls on a morning are an exquisite avian symphony, played by an orchestra of several hundred winged-flautists.
Change of a more ominous kind has come with the emergence of the Anthropocene and accompanying climate change: checking over the records this morning I find that when I was first here in December2001 there were NO 40°C-plus days that year, but last December there were six. In January 2002 there were 10 40°C-plus days (the long-term average is six), in January this year there were 14 40°C-plus days.
Maybe the Spiny-cheeked Honeyeater is better adapted to coping with worsening drought and higher temperatures than the Yellow-plumed Honeyeater?
Yes Mr Dylan, the times they are indeed a-changing.