Small‑scale plantings occurred in 2004-2006 and then, over the next five years, 165 hectares were re-established through planting festivals involving large numbers of people. The largest KI festival was held in July 2011 and involved 702 people planting 120,000 seedlings over three days. Over 300,000 plants were propagated in the Cygnet Park nursery for these plantings and, with direct seeding, it is likely that more than a million native plants have been established.
The Cygnet River bisects the property and retains many of the majestic gum trees along the river and the associated billabongs. These comprise river red gums, SA blue gums, manna gums (beloved by the koalas!) and sugar gums which can tower up to 20 metres. This is where one or two pairs of the iconic Glossy Black-Cockatoos nest and part of the revegetation effort was designed to re-establish large numbers of its only food source – the Drooping Sheoak – close to the big hollow trees so that the birds can easily access food when feeding young. The sheoaks have done so well that the cockatoos have been feeding happily in small trees that are only five or six years old and, in the winter of 2016, at least ten cockies were feeding there.
Below the big gums along the river is some remnant understorey of acacias, pomaderris and other shrubs that are important for small birds like thornbills, honeyeaters and flycatchers. Plantings in the 50‑hectare riverine corridor have mainly been of tubestock to initiate the next generation of large gum trees and an endangered pomaderris.
One other aim of the project was to re-establish populations of threatened plants from the Kangaroo Island Narrow-leaved Mallee community; several species naturally occur on Cygnet Park but many thousands of seedlings of five nationally‑threatened species have been planted and are thriving. In all, over 200 species of native plants have been put back on the property, probably the most diverse revegetation effort on a large scale in South Australia.
Even so, there are pockets in the older revegetation plots that lack diversity and, in July 2016, a few intrepid souls set out to start improving the range of species in the mallee plantings and along the river. We used some large tubs of native understorey plants, like lasiopetallums, daviesias and thomasias, left over from student projects, as well as some riverine species grown especially for us in the nursery. Because of the size of the tubs, our hardworking managers dug trenches by machine which, by the time we came to plant after good winter rains, had filled with water. Planting into these was a bit like being in a rice paddy. Several times we nearly filled our rubber boots with water or left the boots in the sticky mud!
The planting of the smaller tubestock in between the gums near the river was much quicker and easier and we look forward to the time when we can see groves of wattles, dodonaeas, melaleucas, boobiallas and bottlebrush flourishing on the flats there. The last-named is a magnet for birds, particularly the New Holland Honeyeaters, which set up territories in the spring around the bright red flowers.
This is the type of project that Bio·R and its supporters love to get their hands dirty with and your support is vital to initiate and maintain projects like Cygnet Park Sanctuary, where we are learning by doing. Remember the 3 R’s – research, reconstruct and reconnect.