Mulligans Flat Woodlands Sanctuary is part of the Canberra Nature Park, located between the suburbs of Forde and Bonner, 25 minutes north of the CBD. The sanctuary was formed in 2009 when a 11.5km electric fence was erected around 485 hectares of the reserve, to create a flora and fauna sanctuary within.
The aim is to turn back the clock to before European settlement, so the introduced predators (such as foxes and cats) have been removed and they have now re-introduced native animals and plant species which used to live in the area. In 2012, Eastern Bettongs were re-introduced - which marked the first time in a century that this species has lived in the wild on mainland Australia. It has since been followed by the Bush-Stone Curlew and Eastern Quoll. To see many of these animals up close, you can book a Mulligans Flat Twilight Tour, which is a popular way to experience the sanctuary by night.
Through the day however, the reserve is open for walkers to appreciate the bushland setting and enjoy its many walking paths. On my visit to the sanctuary, I chose to explore the Mulligans Flat Bird Walk (6km return) to see what birds and animals I could discover along the way. See map here for details.
See kangaroos in the wild at Mulligans Flat Woodlands Sanctuary
When you look at the map above, there are many entrances into the sanctuary, however the main gate is accessible from the Mulligans Flat Car Park on Amy Ackman Street in Forde. From here, it is a 600 metre uphill and downhill walk, before you reach the high and imposing main gate to the sanctuary. Take time to read the signs, keep away from the electric fence and walk through to the other side, remembering to shut the gate behind you. Once inside, have a look around - this is what the Australian bush looked like over 150 years ago.
From the car park, walk 600 metres to the main gate, with historical points of interest along the way
The main path straight ahead is utilised by a few of the walks on the map and is easy to follow, with clear signage and wide walkways for people to walk side by side. The easy-graded path makes its way up to Wool Shed information centre, which you can walk into and read the information panels about the sanctuary. There are also toilet facilities located behind.
The wide path then ventures up hills, past dams, near kangaroos and under tall gum trees that are teeming with birdlife. In the peaceful silence, all I could hear was the "crunch, crunch" of my footsteps on the gravel, however when I stopped I heard small finches twittering and flitting between the trees, as well as rosellas and cockatoos in the distance. If you have binoculars, also look out for the Fairy Wren, White Winged Chough, Noisy Friar Bird,Hooded Robin and the critically-endangered Regent Honey Eater.
When the sanctuary was created, over 2000 tonnes of large dead logs were distributed around the reserve, in patterns that are similar to fallen trees. Around them there is evidence of digging into the dirt, which is the tell-tale sign that a Bettong is at work. After walking past logs and gum trees on the main path, the scenery changes to grassy plains and it becomes easier to spot wildlife. If you take the time to look at what you are walking by, you soon notice small movements in the bushland, such as a kangaroo ear twitching or a bird moving high up in the trees. What I originally thought were burnt-out small trees in the distance, were actually black wallaby ears, slightly twitching and showing up against the light-coloured grass.
One of three elusive wallabies I spotted around the Mulligans Flat Bird Walk
After walking down a long hill, the signage for the Mulligans Flat Bird Walk then turns right onto a smaller pathway through the scrub. I must admit, this is where it got more interesting as the walk twisted and turned, went in and out of gates and went past different scenery and areas to look for birds and wildlife. Unfortunately I didn't see much bird life on this side of the walk, except for birds of prey circling high up in the air, but plenty of kangaroos were grazing by the pathway and stopped to look at me as I walked past. The path follows an electric fence for some of the way and then begins a series of changes in the paths direction - which were easy to follow with excellent signage.
Follow the green signs along the sanctuary fence line and beyond
When you follow the signs through gates (with a metal hook to hang back after you have gone through) and continue through the bush, eventually you get to a shimmering blue waterhole on the left of the path. Although I didn't venture off the walking track to get a closer look, it is clear that others before me have, to view the array of bird life who live around it.
Walk a few kilometres along clear paths, through gates and past a scenic water hole
The 6km walk (which felt like a lot longer!), eventually leads through another gate and around behind the Wool Shed and back to the entrance of the sanctuary. On my two hour walk, I thoroughly enjoyed reading the signs and learning about the background of the sanctuary and what it is doing for the future of the Australian native wildlife. Looking for wildlife was also a rewarding challenge, which kept the walk interesting throughout. I walked along on my own in silence for the whole way, enjoying listening to the sounds of the Aussie bush, made quieter by the fact that I didn't see anyone else on the paths for the two hours I was there.
If you have friends or family visiting from overseas, a visit to the Mulligans Flat Woodlands Sanctuary is a guaranteed way to spot kangaroos and wallabies in their natural environment - with the added possibility of discovering something endangered (and cute) along the way.
Eastern Bettong and Bush Stone Curlew. Source: Original photos from Mulligans Flat Woodlands Sanctuary website