When Phil and Fiona Murdoch bought land in Colignan, northwest Victoria, they weren’t interested in growing citrus, grapes, or avocados like their neighbors.
Instead, they started doing conservation work on the 490 hectare property that adjoins Hattah-Kulkyne National Park.
Mr. Murdoch could fire 25 shots and kill 25 rabbits, but nowadays parasites are much harder to find.
In 2014, the couple installed five kilometers of electric fences to limit grazing damage caused by kangaroos, pigs and goats.
âIt’s really the native perennial grasses that hold the soil together – that’s the key to this landscape,â Ms. Murdoch said.
“So in this area we had such good spear grass last year – we also had a really good enneapogon that grows in the summer which just means we had little quail nesting in this little spot. . “
Amid the grass is a post which Ms Murdoch says is where a fleshy ragwort daisy – listed as endangered in Victoria – was found last year.
âWe don’t know where it came from, but it just appeared in that patch of grass. So we expect to see a lot of these endangered plants appear in the landscape,â she said.
Funding to replace more fences
The Murdochs got grants to fence off the rest of the border.
This means knocking down the old mesh fence that is on the property, which acts as a barrier for wildlife.
Instead, an electric earth return fence is installed with eight wires, and of these, three are hot to stop the larger herbivores.
âPhil did a lot of research which fence would suit our needs, we also wanted animals like echidnas, stubby-tailed lizards and snakes to pass through,â Ms. Murdoch said.
She admits it’s a big job and took time off to help her husband build the fence.
âIt’s my job to roll up the net. Phil drives the shovel and pulls out the poles. Today I was rolling the net and thought I was just fine and then I looked behind me, I didn’t had only done five meters and we “I have 7.6 kilometers to go and I’m exhausted. But we will definitely get there, âMs. Murdoch said.
No free time to watch the regent parrots
Mr Murdoch retired as District Manager from Forest Fire Management Victoria in 2019 and he planned to spend time watching the regent parrots pass the house, but he has yet to have much free time to do it.
âThere is always something going on on conservation property and probably a few things have been behind schedule since we’ve owned the place,â he said.
âWork has been the top priority. So you come home one weekend and try to put it all in. So there was a little catching up, and now a new project for a little more fencing, so I still have obligations, I think. “
The Murdochs live within three miles of an actively breeding colony of Regent Parrots.
This bird is listed as a vulnerable species in Victoria.
It nests in the red gums of rivers and finds food in the woods of Mallee, but these birds also like to fly along vegetation corridors.
âWe have regent parrots that we see every day. They follow pretty much the same flight path, they descend the vegetated road reserve and along the Raakajlim stream to the river,â Ms. Murdoch said.
“And being able to fence the entire length of Raakajlim Creek from where it joins a system of dry lakes in the National Park to Chalka Creek, which is also in Hattah-Kulkyne National Park, will provide this incredible habitat that regent parrots need. “
Home for rare butterfly
The property is also home to Australia’s largest population of the rare Arid Azure Bronze butterfly.
Ms Murdoch says they were discovered about 15 years ago and have been watching the butterfly ever since.
“So the butterfly lays its eggs at the base of a tree. When the eggs hatch, the ants come up and take the larvae of the butterfly inside their anthill, and the larvae produce a pheromone, which means the ants think it’s an ant queen so they take care of this caterpillar underground in the ant nest, “she said.
âBut the caterpillar actually secretly eats the baby ants so that it can grow up, and then once the caterpillar grows up, it comes out of the ant nest and flies away like a butterfly.
“It’s a pretty weird relationship and having such an amazing butterfly on our property is pretty impressive.”
The Murdochs are eager to invite people to tour the property to see all of the major types of vegetation that exist in the Mallee.
“They can come from the west side of the property where it’s a black box forest, they can walk through and observe a semi-arid forest, then there is a patch of Mallee forest, and then further down there is red gums and also our native prairies, âshe said.
“So being able to see all these plant communities in great shape will be a really good thing to show people.”