Field Gnats Trip to Mt Rothwell Conservation Reserve

The last weekend of Term 3 was the final trip to Mount Rothwell Conservation Reserve made by the Woodleigh School Field Gnats for 2022. Mount Rothwell is a 400-hectare fenced property located near the You Yangs, and is crucial to the recovery of many threatened species.

We departed Woodleigh School at 8:30am on the Saturday. Everyone was excited about returning to Mount Rothwell for the third time this year. We also had some newcomers joining, including Mrs de Jong who lent some much-needed assistance to Doc Simpson and Mr Hennessy (as well as providing some delicious snacks; yum!).

We set out to work at once starting with cleaning out the pens that are part of the captive breeding program for the endangered Bush-Stone Curlew. We were all delighted to see there were some newly hatched chicks in with their parents.

Also needing some enclosure cleaning and refurnishing were four Spotted Tailed Quolls (mainland Australia’s largest surviving native predator). While groups set to work weeding and cleaning out animal pens. Others ventured out into the reserve to retrieve browse (the name given to cut branches the animals get enrichment from), fallen logs, and leaf litter to line the enclosures.

Mt Rothwell is preparing to capture and release Brush-tailed Rock Wallabies onto a large reserve near Avenel, so we finished off the day with a walk around the reserve where we placed hay into traps. By placing hay, we are encouraging the animals to investigate the traps prior to the proposed relocation date.

After completing the days' jobs, we returned to the main centre where Mr Hennessy prepared some lovely Gnocchi Carbonara (and Creamed Spinach Gnocchi for the vegos). While dinner was underway, animal feed out took place where Curlews, Dingoes and Quolls were given their evening tucker. A round of Mt Rothwell bingo was played after dinner where students attempted to spot up to 5 species within the picnic area. The prize was a packet of Maltesers. Once the winners were declared, everyone prepared for a night walk through the reserve ending on the lookout where everyone could see the Melbourne skyline. Bettongs, Bandicoots, and even small elusive quolls were spotted by the excited students and staff. A particular highlight was witnessing a small group of Eastern Bettongs in the woodland, Eastern Bettongs are extinct in Victoria and were only released at Mt Rothwell in 2020.

Sunday was another productive day. Some early risers took a walk up the hill to see Brush-tailed Rock Wallabies with Mr Hennessy leading the group. Liam, a newly christened Field Gnat, also spotted a Little Eagle patrolling the hillside. After this walk, a good breakfast was in order, after which we returned to our work on the animal pens. Soon it was packing-up time, followed by lunch. This was a highly productive weekend and we’d like to thank ex-Field Gnats Lucy, Alex, Callum and Carl for tagging along to help, a wonderful way to conclude 2022 for the Woodleigh Field Gnats.

Now we look forward to what next year brings and what we can hope to contribute in 2023 to this and our other wonderful partner organisations.

"Mount Rothwell was a fabulous weekend spent with a passionate group of Woodleigh students, past and present. For anyone wanting to have some time in nature, the Field Gnats are a supportive group with a keen interest in our environment and care of wildlife. We spent time exploring this beautiful landscape, refurbishing the Curlew and Quoll enclosures, and walking through the fauna-rich terrain. A lot of work was achieved, and I am looking forward to being part of this program again in the future."

Andrea de Jong

Animal and Land Management