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Atlassians with long-handled loppers
Beware of Atlassians wielding long-handled loppers.

It’s a little known fact that Atlassians have green blood. You could cut one to see, but that’s probably not a good idea. Especially if the Atlassian concerned is holding our weapon of choice, the long-handled lopper.

A few days ago, a group of us went out to help Conservation Volunteers Australia save the planet. Our mission: To rid (a small part of) Lane Cove National Park of the noxious weed, privet.

Privet, like many other non-native plants, simples loves Australia. It’s taking over and destroying the indigenous plants. Eventually, our wildlife will lose the habitat it depends on for food and shelter. Dwindling bio diversity. Global warming.  Planet under pressure.

Conservation volunteers to the rescue!

Our mission for the day

Conservation Volunteers Australia works hand in hand with the Australian national parks authorities. Three park rangers from Lane Cove National Park were at the conservation site, to show us the ropes.  Before we set off into the wild wild bush, one of the rangers clued us up on how to get rid of privet.

Trim away the branches, lop the stem at the base, then paint the stump with poison within 20 seconds. Throw the branches behind you and move on. (This led to a bit of confusion and hilarity when some of us realised we had cut off our line of retreat. But that was all part of the adventure.) Ignore any weeds that are shorter than knee-high. Try not to cut down a native plant.

Once the entire area has been cleared, by us and other volunteer groups in coming weeks, the rangers will light a controlled fire – a “hazard reduction burn”. This will burn all the cut branches and the small shooting weeds. The native vegetation will burn too, but will seed and sprout new growth. Many native plants rely on a good fire every now and then to clear the ground for the next generation and to trigger the release of seeds and the sprouting of seedlings.

Lions and tigers and snakes, oh my

A water dragon
We encountered this water dragon, a lizard about one metre long, sunning itself on a log.

The ranger’s briefing included an exciting list of hazards. Snakes are common in the park, in particular the brown snake and the red-bellied black snake. “But”, said our guide, “once we start working, any self-respecting snake will clear out. They don’t look at something 6 feet tall and say, ‘Ah, food.'”

We were warned to be wary of bull ants and jumper ants. They are aggressive, especially if you disturb a nest. They actually hop, and they move fast. We did spot a nest, and gave it a wide berth.

Ticks abound. We all sprayed ourselves liberally with insect repellent, but still a couple of people found ticks on their clothing. Usually a tick bite is just itchy and a nuisance, but some people do run into trouble with infections.

In truth, our park ranger said, our biggest foes were back pain and “that big yellow thing in the sky”. The weather was beautiful: not too hot, a light breeze, no rain. Nevertheless, we did spend the best part of a day in the Ozzie bush in mid summer. And we kept demolishing the trees that were giving us shade. So we drank lots of water, took frequent breaks, and learned to bend our knees rather than our backs.

Group photo
Victory!

Overheard

Armed with notebook and pen, I jotted down some comments from the bush whackers:

  • “Finally, we see the world in more than 1920 pixels.”
  • “I’ve discovered muscles I didn’t know I had.”
  • “That’s a greenhopper, right?”
    “No, a grasshopper.”
    “What’s a greenhopper then? Oh, wait, that’s our product!”
    [Yes, this is a true snippet of conversation, and the confusion was genuine. Real-life marketing. 😉 ]

A nature walk

After lunch we took a short walk through the park and learned a lot about the plants, wildlife and nature care groups in the area. Atlassians have taken part in three bush regeneration days so far, and the walk has become a tradition. Quite apart from saving the planet on a regular basis, we love to learn something new. Even if it’s just that “cutting down trees is harder than writing code” (OH).

More pictures

See the people and the action in this Flickr set, and check out Conservation Volunteers Australia on Facebook.

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