Recently Sanford and I travelled approximately 550km south to the Snowy Mountains to volunteer for the Hawkweed Eradication Program. This was Sanford’s sixth and my first year doing this.
So what the heck is hawkweed? Orange hawkweed (Heiracium aurantiacum) is a species of daisy that originates from northeastern and central Europe. In its native home there are other plants that keep it in check, but when colonized in new territory, it is a huge threat. Hawkweed plants are very aggressive and can out-compete native and farm plants and take over vast stretches of land rendering it useless. This species was first discovered in the Snowy Mountains in Kosciuszko National Park in December 2003 and has been part of a control program since that time.
Each day, we, along with one other volunteer and up to five field officers, went out to areas in Kosciuszko National Park where hawkweed had previously been found. Once there we formed a line with each person about an arm’s length away and walk through the terrain searching the ground for hawkweed plants. If a plant was found, a marker was placed and the GPS coordinates recorded. Contractors are later sent in with pesticides to treat the plant and a one-meter radius. There are virtually hundreds of sites to be searched in the park: I think in our week we searched about 30. Each new plant found becomes the centre of a new survey site and an area of 25 meters around each plant is searched for more hawkweed. As you can imagine there are many intersecting sites.
I have to say it was interesting staring at the ground intently for up to five hours a day. We walked through some flat areas, on slopes, through bogs, streams, through dense brush and through shrubs. I could identify spider holes in the ground, a web spider hole, rat holes, wombat dens, different types of beetles, spiders, skinks, caterpillars, jumping jack ants, etc. The ground is just teeming with life!
In our week of volunteering I never found one Hawkweed plant, Sanford found two, as did the other volunteer. I was disappointed I didn’t find any but I did become very good at identifying the native flora, some of which is quite similar to Hawkweed. In previous weeks volunteers had encounters with snakes but we didn’t see any….thankfully. We had no issue with any wildlife at all.
Now that we have done our “work” we are off for a two week cruise to Fiji and the South Pacific Islands. I will blog about that when we’re back.