The Black-eared Miner
The Black-eared miner is one of Australia’s most endangered birds. The species looked doomed to extinction, when in 1996 a BirdLife Australia volunteer reported sighting Black-eared miners in the region of Gluepot Station. However, the owner of Gluepot Station had applied for approval to burn areas of the extensive mallee to increase fodder for his sheep. Further surveys by volunteers confirmed that not only were Black-eared miners and Malleefowl present in good numbers, but robust populations of four other nationally threatened birds occurred on Gluepot Station. The owner of the property indicated that he was happy to sell what was a marginal pastoral lease, but he was also happy to burn the mallee and continue farming for a few more years. The 54,390 ha (134,000 acres) property measuring 37 x 14 km underwent detailed assessments of its significance in the landscape, its vegetation communities and its birds, and the decision to purchase it was made.
The effort to raise $360,000 began. Over 2,400 people and organisations helped buy Gluepot Station in just ten weeks. Moreover, Founders pledged over $30,000 per year for the next five years to assist with management. As the volunteer Management Committee and first volunteer Rangers took up office in July 1997, it was time to take stock of what BirdLife Australia had purchased. Gluepot Reserve joins the Bookmark Biosphere Reserve (900,000 ha), an internationally significant area with direct links to other large conservation reserves in New South Wales and Victoria.
A unique ecosystem
Gluepot is part of the largest block of intact mallee left in Australia and so the viability of threatened bird populations and other flora and fauna is high. Six nationally threatened bird species can be found on Gluepot Reserve and a further 17 regionally threatened bird species. In all, 190 bird species have been recorded thus far. Gluepot Reserve has a diversity of vegetation communities which support important wildlife other than birds. Reptiles are particularly abundant with 42 species located so far, including the threatened Bandy Bandy. The last big fire on the actual Reserve occurred in the 1950s (with a small area burnt in 2006), but many areas were not burnt leaving substantial areas of mallee and Casuarina woodland with trees that are hundreds of years old. These old trees have numerous hollows for nesting birds and deep litter for ground-foraging species. The vegetation quality is particularly high in the eastern third of Gluepot because the lack of water for a 10 km radius means that grazing impacts have been minimal.