Restoring landscapes across the Mount Alexander Region

Landcare sticky beak tour 2022 – Castlemaine Landcare Group

Posted on 29 September, 2022 by Hadley Cole

 

As part of the Landcare Sticky Beak Tour in October 2022 we will be celebrating the work of Landcare and friends groups across the Mount Alexander/ Leanganook region.

Today we will have a little sticky beak into the wonderful work of Castlemaine Landcare Group.

 

Castlemaine Landcare Group volunteers hard at work (photo by Gerry Egan)

 

Castlemaine Landcare Group (CLG) has been running for 20 years and has achieved a great deal along Forest and Moonlight Creeks, close to the centre of Castlemaine VIC.  An area of gorse, blackberry and other weeds, has been transformed into a place of natural diversity and beauty. There is always more to do to encourage indigenous flora and fauna and deal with the ever-present weed challenges. CLG are a welcoming and well-organised group, and are always pleased to see new volunteers join their regular working bees.

To explore some of CLG work head to the Happy Valley (or Leanganook) walking track alongside Forest Creek, from Happy Valley Road to Colles Rd, or the stretch of Moonlight Creek from Happy Valley Rd downstream to Forest Creek. This is a beautiful part of the local environment and showcases Castlemaine Landcare’s work over 20 years. The area is shown on the map below, with marked access points (eg. E2) and our names for work areas (eg., The Copses). This area stretches for about 1 km, and can be approached as one walk, or in parts.

 CLG has about 40 members plus a number of other regular helpers.  They work predominantly on the Crown Land along the creek reserves, with some involvement of neighbouring landholders. Working bees are usually held every fortnight. 

Further details can be found on the CLG website (castlemainelandcare.org.au) or Facebook page (facebook.com/CastlemaineLandcare)

This October, get out there and explore your local neighbourhood and see what plants and animals you can find in your local Landcare group’s sites!

A happy Kookaburra enjoying the scenery (photo by Gerry Egan)

The Sticky Beak Tour was made possible through the Victorian Landcare Grants with the North Central Catchment Management Authority.

 

 

Looking for landholders: Bursaria for butterflies

Posted on 27 September, 2022 by Ivan

The Castlemaine area is home to the largest remaining populations of the Eltham Copper Butterfly. Historically, survey efforts and management actions have focused on public land, yet we know there is potential butterfly habitat on adjoining private land. This habitat is under threat, particularly from urbanisation, weeds, changed fire regimes and grazing.

Connecting Country’s Bursaria for Butterflies project aims to protect and enhance priority habitat for the threatened Eltham Copper Butterfly (Paralucia pyrodiscus lucida) around Castlemaine VIC. We’ll achieve this through practical on-ground actions to reduce threats and improve the quality, quantity and connectivity of available butterfly habitat. We will work with key landholders to protect and restore priority butterfly habitat on their land. We’re supporting local landholders to control threats (including weeds and rabbits) and revegetate their land, focusing on the butterfly’s host plant, Sweet Bursaria (Bursaria spinosa).

Sweet Bursaria is a small prickly shrub that produces abundant small white flowers through summer. It’s a great habitat plant for wildlife and essential for Eltham Copper Butterflies. On warm spring nights their caterpillars climb Sweet Bursaria plants to feed, accompanied by their special attendant ants.

This project is funded by the Australian Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment as part of the Environment Restoration Fund and Threatened Species Strategy Action Plan.

Looking for local landholders

We are looking for interested landholders with properties (of at least 1 acre) adjacent to the known local populations of the Eltham Copper Butterfly.

Assistance for landholders

If your property is suitable for the project, we will:

  • Visit your property to identify remnant vegetation and assess its potential as butterfly habitat.
  • Discuss management actions and provide you with advice on how to protect, connect and enhance butterfly habitat on your property.
  • Provide suitable indigenous understory plants and plant guards for revegetation, with a focus on Sweet Bursaria.

For five key landholders with larger properties, we will also:

  • Develop a written property management plan setting our on-ground actions to protect and improve butterfly habitat.
  • Supply contractor support for weed and rabbit control, and revegetation planting.
  • Provide ongoing advice on how to manage your property as butterfly habitat.

Property selection criteria

Not every property will be suitable as Eltham Copper Butterfly habitat and we will prioritise properties that are closer to known butterfly sightings. We’re looking for properties that meet the following criteria.

Land with:

  • Minimum of 0.4 hectares (1 acre) land size with space for revegetation planting
  • Proximity (within 1 km) to Kalimna Park, Castlemaine Botanical Gardens northern section, Chewton Bushlands (Dingo Park Rd region), Walmer Forest Reserve (near southern end of Woodbrook Rd) and Campbells Creek (near Broad Rd).
  • Suitable conditions for the target plant species to facilitate healthy growth.
  • No domestic stock grazing.

Landholders with:

  • Strong interest in managing their property for biodiversity conservation and restoration.
  • Commitment to planting and maintaining the revegetated plants.
  • Capacity to commit to future land management actions (e.g., weed and rabbit control, grazing exclusion, maintaining plant guards).

Landholder expressions of interest

If you meet the criteria and are keen protect and restore butterfly habitat on your land, please complete our expression of interest form – click here

Please return your expression of interest form to Connecting Country via email (info@connectingcountry.org.au). Expressions of interest close on the 17 October 2022

Learn more about the Eltham Copper Butterfly

For more information about the Eltham Copper Butterfly – click here
You may also enjoy the following video, courtesy of N-danger-D.

 

Announcing Connecting Country AGM – 19 November 2022

Posted on 26 September, 2022 by Ivan

Connecting Country is delighted to announce our Annual General Meeting (AGM) for 2022. After two years of online AGMs, we finally meet at the magnificent Campbells Creek Community Centre in person. Hurrah!

Please join us for this free event on Saturday 19 November 2022 at 2.00 pm for brief AGM formalities, afternoon tea and our special guest presenter. As usual, it will be much more than an AGM!

Our theme is ‘Caring for large old trees in our landscape’ and we will feature a special presentation:

Large old trees: Caring and sharing their future
Chris Pocknee – Landscape and Biodiversity Conservation Ecologist with Biolinks Alliance

Chris is an ecologist with a passion for understanding the threats facing native fauna and ecosystems, and how we can address these issues. Chris grew up in the south-eastern suburbs of Melbourne and completed his MSc at the University of Melbourne in 2017 before undertaking an internship with the Australian Wildlife Conservancy in NSW. Chris has recently submitted his PhD thesis at the University of Queensland, where he studied the impacts of fire and feral cats on the Endangered northern bettong. He relishes collaborative ecological work, and is passionate about empowering communities to conserve and recover local biodiversity. Chris loves exploring the outdoors, camping, wildlife photography and football.

Join Chris to learn about how to care for old trees in our landscape, and how vital they are to a host of woodland birds and other wildlife.

Everyone is most welcome! Please register your attendance for the meeting – click here

 

AGM formalities

The following Connecting Country AGM 2022 documents are available for download:

Our independant financial audit report 2022 is  in progress and will be available in early November prior to the AGM.

Please note only current Connecting Country members can vote in the AGM. To become a member or renew your membership – click here

If you have any questions, please email info@connectingcountry.org.au

Thank you to the Ian & Shirley Norman Foundation for their invaluable support of our ‘Caring for large old trees’ project.

 

Landcare sticky beak tour – Saturday 8 October 2022

Posted on 21 September, 2022 by Hadley Cole

The Mount Alexander region Landcare sticky beak tour is a celebration of Landcare and friends groups across the region! Many of the natural spaces you can experience in our beautiful region have been lovingly brought back to life and cared for by the incredibly dedicated network of Landcare and friends groups of the region.

Our Landcare sticky beak tour provides an opportunity for our local Landcare and environment groups to showcase their work both online over the month of October 2022, and in person at the launch on Saturday 8 October 2022 at Honeycomb Reserve (end of Honeycomb Rd), Campbells Creek VIC from 10.00 am to 12 noon.

Connecting Country will launch the project in partnership with local Landcare and friends groups, with a walking tour in and around sites in the Campbells Creek area. This is a great opportunity to hear about the activities of local Landcare groups, meet some of the Landcarers and share their stories. Everyone is welcome and morning tea will be provided. Sturdy walking shoes and drink bottles are recommended.

Please book to assist us with planning.

To book for this free event – click here

If you have questions about the Landcare sticky beak tour please contact Connecting Country’s Landcare Facilitator, Hadley Cole – hadley@connectingcountry.org.au

This project is funded by North Central Catchment Management Authority as part of the Victorian Landcare Grants.

 

Rapid Response Landcare Recovery competition – and the winner is….

Posted on 7 September, 2022 by Hadley Cole

As part of our Rapid Response Landcare Recovery project funded by the Helen Macpherson Smith Trust, Connecting Country ran a competition for Landcare groups across the Mount Alexander region to win a plant voucher for 50 native plants plus 50 plant guards.

We had some very competitive entries, which made the decision too difficult. Thank you to all the groups who took the time to send in their entries. In the end we drew the winner out of the hat!

And the winner is…..Golden Point Landcare! 

Golden Point Landcare will use the 50 plants and guards to ‘replace a ghastly gorse plant with a gorgeous “good” plant in the Chinamans Point area to show what a difference one small act can make to the health of our local bush.’

Congratulations Golden Point Landcare! May all 50 plants flourish and thrive!

Connecting Country sincerely thanks the Helen Macpherson Smith Trust for funding this project and making restoration efforts accessible for Landcare and friends groups across the region.

 

Local tubestock ready for planting (photo by Ivan Carter)

 

Bird of the month: Brown-headed Honeyeater

Posted on 6 September, 2022 by Ivan

Welcome to our 29th Bird of the month, a partnership between Connecting Country and BirdLife Castlemaine District. Each month we’re taking a close look at one special local bird species. We’re excited to join forces to deliver you a different bird each month, seasonally adjusted, and welcome suggestions from the community. We are blessed to have both the brilliant Damian Kelly and talented Jane Rusden from BirdLife Castlemaine District writing about our next bird of the month, accompanied by their stunning photos.

Brown-headed Honeyeater (Melithreptus brevirostris)

Walking through Rise and Shine Bushland Reserve (Sandon VIC) in late August, with my camera in hand, I observed a honeyeater intently doing something in a bunch of leaves. I couldn’t see clearly what was going on until I got to study the photos. Turns out it was a Brown-headed Honeyeater in the very early stages of constructing a nest, using spider web and fleece from a sheep to build the anchor point from which the nest will hang. Thus, this month Damian and I bring you the Brown-headed Honeyeater.

In our region there are three fairly similar honeyeaters with white napes – the White-naped, Black-chinned and Brown-headed Honeyeaters. They are often tricky to identify without close views. The eyes have it, with White-naped having an orange eye ring, the Black-chinned with a blue eye ring and the Brown-head with a pale eye ring. In many ways the Brown-headed Honeyeater is a nondescript bird with grey and brown predominating. It favours upper foliage and you are more likely to hear it than see it. And there is the added complication that it can be mistaken for the young of the related White-naped Honeyeater.

I find the Brown-headed Honeyeater to be shyer and slightly smaller than many other honeyeater species. They tend to hang back at the bird bath and patiently wait until the brasher birds have finished splashing, shouting at each other (Fuscous Honeyeaters), and generally causing mayhem. Although a honeyeater, its diet primarily consists of insects and spiders, as well as nectar when available. Some studies have shown a pattern of about 35% nectar and 65% insects.

Communal behaviour is marked in the species, with them regularly travelling and foraging in groups. In winter family groups from adjacent territories often form large wandering mobs. Birds may preen each other and family parties often roost in huddles, usually in slender foliage near the tops of trees. Similar to other species that roost together, the Brown-headed Honeyeater huddles have the mature birds take up the outer perches with the young birds sandwiched in-between. Often adjacent birds face in different directions, which probably makes it easier to pack closer together as well as providing a wider view of possible predators.

Brown-headed Honeyeater taking flight (photo Damian Kelly)

 

Nests are cup-shaped structures suspended from branches. Nesting is sometimes assisted by additional birds. The material mainly consists of spiders’ webs used to bind together such things as horse and cattle hair, and even Koala fur has been recorded. Strangely, cattle hair is usually from white animals not those with darker colours.

Two or three eggs are laid with incubation and feeding of young by both parents. One or more auxiliary birds may assist in incubation and the feeding of the young. Generally, this species moves within a large home range, with movements dependent on food availability. Bird banding studies have confirmed this, with the 99% of recoveries within 10 km of the banding site. Distribution is from southern Queensland through to Western Australia, mainly closer to coastal area and inland rivers.

Late winter and early spring are exciting times in the bush, with all sorts of breeding activities going on. Such a great time to stumble on interesting and curious animal behaviours. The following photos show a Brown-headed Honeyeater in the very early stages of nest building, high up in a Box tree. The anchor is being made, from which a cup-shaped nest will hang, hidden by leaves.

Brown-headed Honeyeater starting to build a new nest high up in a Box tree (photo by Jane Rusden)

 

Brown-headed Honeyeater in the very early stages of nest building (photo by Jane Rusden)

 

To listen to the brown-headed Honeyeater call – click here

Jane Rusden & Damian Kelly

 

Wettenhall celebrates with Professor Tim Flannery – 16 September 2022

Posted on 6 September, 2022 by Frances

Our friends and supporters at Wettenhall Environment Trust are celebrating their 25th birthday in style with a special event at the Melbourne Museum.

Join environmental luminaries Tim Flannery and Ann Jones as they tease out the monumental environmental problems we face.

Professor Tim Flannery will make the keynote address. ABC journalist and presenter, Dr Ann Jones, will then moderate a panel session during which Tim and a diverse range of people discuss – where to from here?

Date: Friday 16 September 2022 5:00 – 8.00 pm
Location: Melbourne Museum Theatre, 11 Nicholson Street, Carlton VIC 3053
To view the event flyer – click here
To purchase tickets – click here

Full-price tickets are $50 and student tickets are $30.

To learn more about the Wettenhall Environment Trust and their amazing 25 years of grant support for projects that make a positive difference to the natural living environment – click here

May be an image of 2 people, outdoors and text that says "25VEARS 25 1? Wettenhall YEARS ENVIRONMENTTRUS 0 OF 5 ×N Professor Tim Flannery was our first guest speaker at our lecture series at the Museum. Now, quarter of century later after the launching of Wettenhall Environment Trust, he's back making second keynote speech. ABC journalist and presrenter, Dr Ann Jones will then lead a panel session at which Tim and a diverse range of people discuss- where to from here? 25 YEARS 25 GRANTMAKIN ANT"

 

Bird of the month: White-faced Heron

Posted on 23 August, 2022 by Ivan

Welcome to our 28th Bird of the month, a partnership between Connecting Country and BirdLife Castlemaine District. Each month we’re taking a close look at one special local bird species. We’re excited to join forces to deliver you a different bird each month, seasonally adjusted, and welcome suggestions from the community. We are blessed to have both the brilliant Damian Kelly and talented Jane Rusden from BirdLife Castlemaine District writing about our next bird of the month, accompanied by their stunning photos.

White-faced Heron (Egretta novaehollandiae)

While walking and discussing birds and cameras with Damian Kelly and Ash Vigus, whom regular readers will know as extremely talented and knowledgable on both those topics, we spotted a White-faced Heron with a stick in its bill. Sure enough, it was nest building with its mate, high up in a tall Pinus halepensis, in the beautiful Castlemaine Botanical Gardens.

High in a tree is a classic spot for them to build their messy pile of sticks lined with smaller twigs, that somehow works as a nest. Favoured sites are near water and therefore a food source, even when these same sites are popular with human visitors. As a large blue-grey bird with it’s distinctive white face, normally seen stealthily stalking invertebrates and frogs in shallow water or mud flats, they can look a bit incongruous in a tree.

The majestic, blue-grey White-faced Heron (photo Damian Kelly)

 

Usually they are seen as single birds, who may have become resident at a dam or other food source for a long period of time. However, during the breeding season and for a while afterwards, family groups will form feeding parties and work their way across a paddock or irrigated farmland, searching for frogs and insects. During breeding, both sexes incubate and feed young. Clutch sizes are usually 2-3 chicks, and once fledged the young will stay near the nest site while the parents feed them.

The call of the White-faced Heron is slightly scary in my opinion, and not what you’d expect from such an elegant-looking bird. It is harsh and guttural, often heard while the bird is flying overhead. Usually, they are silent, as you’d expect from a bird that stalks its food, and relies on stealth and surprise to snatch a meal.

A White-faced Heron ‘surfing’ in the shallows. Along the coast they will hunt in rock pools, artfully dodging waves as they work the shore. (photo by Damian Kelly)

 

White-faced Herons are one of a small bunch of species that may have benefitted from land clearing and deforestation. They have adapted to using man-made or altered water sources for feeding, probably because they were already adapted to using a variety of fresh and saline habitats to hunt for food. Basically, if it’s got water, they will stalk it for tasty morsels such as fish, crustaceans, worms and other smaller creatures of the animal kingdom. They do farmers a favour with their capacity to consume large numbers of crickets in pasture. Being such an adaptable bird, White-faced Herons can be found all over Australia (except in the central deserts), and in New Zealand, parts of Papua-New Guinea and various offshore islands.

To find out more about White-faced Herons, including their calls – click here

Jane Rusden and Damian Kelly

 

 

1,000 plants for climate change resilience

Posted on 18 August, 2022 by Ivan

What could be more satisfying than planting 1,000 Silver Banksia (Banksia marginata) and Sweet Bursaria (Bursaria spinosa) in the middle of winter? Knowing that the plants will form two climate future plots right here in Mount Alexander region that will create seed production areas and provide climate-adapted seed for use in future revegetation projects!

We have been very busy over the past few months creating 1,000 sturdy wire trees guards, laying out the plots, planting, and labelling each plant so we can identify individuals and provenances most suited to survive in our changing climatic conditions. It has been a mammoth job, that is now completed through the combined efforts of dedicated volunteers, staff and contractors.

Each plot has been carefully set out to allow tracking of each plant into the future.  Mixing up provenances within the plot will increase the likelihood they will share pollen between plants when they flower and reproduce. This sharing of this genetic information may help the plants adapt as our climate changes. Once the plants are established, monitoring will allow us to assess plant growth and success.

The two climate future plots are located near Castlemaine and Metcalfe, with one having 500 Sweet Bursaria and the other 500 Silver Banksia. Both are key species for our local woodlands and landscape.

Silver Banksia plot near Metcalfe (photo by Bonnie Humphreys)

 

500 Silver Banksia planted at the plot near Metcalfe (photo by Bonnie Humphreys)

 

Sweet Bursaria plot near Castlemaine (photo by Bonnie Humphreys)

 

500 Sweet Bursaria planted at the plot near Castlemaine (photo by Bonnie Humphreys)

 

A massive thanks to Connecting Country’s volunteers, staff, contractors and landholders for making our climate future plots a reality. We’d especially like to thank Bonnie, Duncan, Anna and Richie for going the extra mile to get the precious plants safely in the ground and protected.

We have sourced plants from a variety of provenances, from local populations as well as further away. We started by looking at the Bureau of Meteorology’s climate predictions for our region, and selected seed from areas that are anticipated to match our predicted future local climate, focusing on areas that are hotter and drier. However, we also included seed from areas that are cooler and wetter. We aimed to include genetics from a wide range of environments, as we don’t know what will be important in the future. There may be other genetic information stored within a particular provenance, such as the ability to survive insect attack or frost resilience, that plants from hotter and drier areas do not have. We then paired these climate predictions with species distribution and the availability of seed or plants, to make our final plant selection.

We are thrilled to have our plants in the ground, during a moist period over winter, and protected by 1.5 m high wire guards. We will be holding a tour of the climate future plots over the coming year, once the plants are established.

The Silver Banksia and Sweet Bursaria prior to planting (photo by Ivan Carter)

 

We thank the Ross Trust for their generous funding for this important project. The Ross Trust is a perpetual charitable trust with a vision to create positive social and environmental change so Victorians can thrive.

 

To learn more about climate future plots visit:

 

Celebrate National Tree Day at events near you!

Posted on 27 July, 2022 by Hadley Cole

Sunday 31 July 2022 is National Tree Day – a day for the whole country to come together and celebrate the indigenous plants of the nation.

Established in 1996, National Tree Day has grown into Australia’s largest community tree planting and nature care event. The program is a call to action for all Australians to get their hands dirty and give back to their community.  Each year, around 300,000 people volunteer their time to engage in environmental activities that educate Australians about the world around them. 

Local Landcare groups often celebrate National Tree Day with planting events across the region. If you are keen to get involved see below for events (including the Castlemaine Landcare Group planting we posted about yesterday), happening across the Mount Alexander region this coming Sunday 31 July 2022. 

Castlemaine Landcare Group planting 

When: Sunday 31 July 2022, 10:00am

Where: You can access the site from Happy Valley Road – see access point E2 on our website https://castlemainelandcare.org.au/where-we-work/

What to bring: As per usual practice – don’t come if you have any COVID symptoms, maintain social distance, wear stout footwear and gloves, plus sun-protection.
Bring your own cup and drinking water.

How to register: Please register at clgvolunteers99@gmail.com with the heading WORKING.

For more information visit the Castlemaine Landcare Group website – here or their Facebook page – here

Friends of Campbells Creek

When: Sunday 31 July 2022, 10:00am – 12:00pm

Where:  here on the walking trail near Yandell Street, Castlemaine for a 10:00 a.m. start.  There is plenty of space for car parking at the east end of Yandell Street here.

What to bring: Light gloves, sturdy clothing suited to the weather and footwear appropriate for wet ground: gumboots are strongly advised! And your own drinking water if needed.

RSVP: Please email info.focc.org.au@gmail.com for catering purposes. There will be a barbecue provided at midday.

For more information head over to the Friends of Campbells Creek website – here

Tarrangower Wheel Cactus Control Group

Planting trees and other indigenous plants are definitely an important part of building species diversity and ecosystem resilience. However, weed management is just as important in the protection of our native species. This National Tree Day the Tarrangower Wheel Cactus Control Group aka The Cactus Warriors are hosting a field day to demonstrate how to destroy Wheel Cactus.

When: Sunday 31 July 2022, 10:30am and end with an enjoyable BBQ and friendly chat.

Where: The location is on a property a few kms north of Maldon in Baringhup Road, just after the turn off from Bridgewater Road (the route will be signposted).

What to bring: Sturdy foot ware and warm clothing

RSVP: via the website www.cactuswarriors.org

National Tree Day is a fun opportunity to take on-ground action in the protection of our region’s biodiversity. Your action on this day (and every other day of the year) goes a long way in establishing more native and indigenous species in the region which contribute greatly to healthy ecosystems and happy flora and fauna communities!

 

Look at Me: The ants keeping an endangered butterfly alive

Posted on 14 July, 2022 by Ivan

Look at Me‘ is a much-loved podcast series featuring weird and wonderful tales of Australian wildlife. It’s hosted by award-winning science journalist Rae Johnston and ecologist Chris McCormack, and is produced in conjunction with our talented friends at Remember the Wild.

We’re not talking about the usual koalas and kangaroos. This podcast delves into the more bizarre but fascinating creatures that most Australians probably haven’t even heard of!

This includes a very special local animal close to our hearts: the Eltham Copper Butterfly. As our regular readers know, the largest remaining population of this threatened species lives in Kalimna Park, right next door to Castlemaine in central Victoria. The podcast features interviews with local ecologist Elaine Bayes, who has worked tirelessly to document, monitor and protect our local Eltham Copper Butterfly population.

Look at Me: The ants keeping an endangered butterfly alive

Imagine outsourcing childcare to a nest of ants? This may not be the best idea for humans but a certain insect is making it work. Now the Eltham copper butterfly’s amazing use of surrogate ant parents has attracted human fans who are using a song to try to save it from extinction.

To listen to the Eltham Copper Butterfly podcast – click here

To find more exciting episodes of the Look at Me podcast – click here

Eltham Copper Butterfly on flowering Sweet Bursaria (photo by Elaine Bayes)

 

Volunteers outperform on climate future plots

Posted on 30 June, 2022 by Ivan

We have been busy preparing to plant our climate future plots over the past few months, and have been excited by the enthusiasm of volunteers keen to help us with this vital new project. Community has always been at the core of what we do at Connecting Country. In recent years, it’s been increasingly difficult to source funding for environmental projects. In this new phase, we’ve had to rely on our community and volunteers even more.

It is important we acknowledge and thank the wonderful volunteers that help make Connecting Country a success in delivering on-ground landscape restoration, wildlife monitoring, Landcare support and environmental education. Since beginning in 2007 we’ve clocked up over 12,000 hours of volunteer time, and we’ve have had a particularly strong flow of volunteers over the past few months to help us deliver our key projects.

Our most recent team of volunteers have put in a stellar effort to produce over 1,000 wire tree guards for our climate future plots, which will protect our recently-arrived Silver Banksia and Sweet Bursaria plants currently at the Connecting Country depot. The plants have arrived from locations all over southeastern Australia, as part of our ‘Future-proof our forests’ project. In 2021 Connecting Country secured funding support from the Ross Trust to establish two climate future plots of 500 plants each, right here in Mount Alexander region during 2021-23. The sturdy wire guards will protect our precious plants for many years to come.

Under the guidance of Bonnie and Jess (Connecting Country staff), the wonderful team of climate future plot volunteers has been led by Duncan Gibson, with assistance from John Carruthers, Kevin Cato, Huntly Barton and Frances Howe, plus our hardworking contactor, Anna Senior. Cutting wire and assembling plant guards in cold and damp conditions is not the most glamourous work, but our committed volunteers have put in an incredible effort to make this project happen.

A special mention has to go Duncan and Frances, who have also spent countless volunteer hours setting out and  drilling 550 holes for the Sweet Bursaria climate future plot. The site is now ready to plant out, once the remaining tree guards have been assembled over the coming weeks. We have seen ideal weather for planting and soil preparation, with a moist autumn and winter 2022 to date.

Drilling 550 holes in preparation for planting the Sweet Bursaria climate future plot (photo by Frances Howe)

 

Our climate future plots will focus on two species from our local area, Silver Banksia (Banksia marginata) and Sweet Bursaria (Bursaria spinosa). Both are key species for our local woodlands and landscape. We have sourced a variety of plant provenances of these plants, from local populations as well as some from further away. We started by looking at the Bureau of Meteorology’s climate predictions for our region and selected seed from areas that are anticipated to match our climate into the future, focusing on areas that are hotter and drier.

A huge thank you!

We are surrounded by an enthusiastic community that allows us to deliver our programs and bring the community along with us. If it wasn’t for your hard work, we simply would not be able to deliver all of our projects and key commitments. To everyone who has helped Connecting Country: THANK YOU! We are so grateful for your support.

We would also like to thank the Ross Trust for their generous funding for this important project. The Ross Trust is a perpetual charitable trust with a vision to create positive social and environmental change so Victorians can thrive.

Learn more about climate future plots

For more information on climate future plots, see:

 

A warm welcome: climate future plants arrive

Posted on 22 June, 2022 by Ivan

We would like to extend a warm welcome to our 1,000+ recent arrivals of Silver Banksia and Sweet Bursaria plants at the Connecting Country depot. The plants have arrived from locations all over southeastern Australia, as part of our ‘Future-proof our forests’ project. In 2021 Connecting Country secured funding support from the Ross Trust to establish two climate future plots of 500 plants each, right here in Mount Alexander region during 2021-23.

We are focusing on two species from our local area, Silver Banksia (Banksia marginata) and Sweet Bursaria (Bursaria spinosa). Both are key species for our local woodlands and landscape. We have sourced a variety of plant provenances of these plants, from local populations as well as some from further away. We started by looking at the Bureau of Meteorology’s climate predictions for our region and selected seed from areas that are anticipated to match our climate into the future, focussing on areas that are hotter and drier.

However, we also included seed from areas that are cooler and wetter. We aimed to to include genetics from a wide range of environments, as we don’t know what will be important in the future. There may be other genetic information stored within a particular provenance, such as the ability to survive an insect attack, or frost resilience, which plants from the hotter and drier area do not have.

We then paired these predictions with species distribution and the availability of seed or plants, to make our final plant selection.

Connecting Country’s Landscape Restoration Coordinator, Bonnie Humphreys, said ‘The aim of our two climate future plots is to create seed production areas and provide climate-adapted seed for use in future revegetation projects. They may also help us identify provenances most suited to survive in our changing climatic conditions’. ‘We are excited to have reached the stage of planting at the climate future plots, and look forward to watching them grow over and monitoring their progress over coming seasons,’ said Ms Humphreys.

The plants will be delivered from the depot to the climate future plot sites in the coming weeks, and guarded by sturdy wire plant guards. Each plot has been carefully set out to allow tracking of each plant into the future.  Mixing up provenances within the plot will increase the likelihood they will share pollen between plants when they flower and reproduce. This sharing of this genetic information may help the plants adapt as our climate changes. Once the plants are established, monitoring will allow us to assess plant growth and success.

Stayed tuned for more updates once the plants are in the ground and protected with plant guards. We will be holding a tour of the climate future plots in coming months.

We would like to thank the Ross Trust for their generous funding for this important project. The Ross Trus is a perpetual charitable trust with a vision to create positive social and environmental change so Victorians can thrive.

Learn more about climate future plots

For more information on climate future plots, see:

 

A successful Landcare Link-up for winter 2022

Posted on 22 June, 2022 by Hadley Cole

On 2 June 2022 Connecting Country hosted a Landcare Link-up with the theme of ‘Getting to know Connecting Country’. Our Landcare Link-ups provide an opportunity for Landcare and Friends groups of the Mount Alexander region to come together and share information, knowledge and experience. Historically, Connecting Country hosts a Landcare Link-up twice a year.

The event was held at the lovely historical Chewton Town Hall on a cold winters evening. Attendees came far and wide from Sutton Grange, Nuggety and Redesdale and represented eight Landcare groups from the region. Frances Howe and Brendan Sydes from Connecting Country gave a brief presentation on the work Connecting Country is involved in outside of Landcare, which covers community engagement, landscape restoration, and biodiversity monitoring.

Attendees enjoyed the opportunity to understand more about Connecting Country as an organisation and meet some of the staff and committee members who make all the work happen. It was also a great chance for neighbouring Landcare groups to discuss some of the restoration challenges they have on the ground and compare notes on the various landscapes they are working across.

We all enjoyed a hot and tasty vegetable soup and crusty bread for dinner followed by cakes and biscuits for dessert, which were all made possible by generous donations from wonderful local businesses Green Goes the Grocer, Sprout Bakery and Maxi IGA Castlemaine. It is heartwarming to know that local business will dig deep when it comes to supporting our local Landcare groups who do an amazing job in protecting and enhancing biodiversity in the Mount Alexander Region.

A special thank you to Hadley, Marie and Bonnie for setting up the venue and making the soup!

If you would like to connect with your local Landcare or Friends group – click here

To find out more about Landcare in the region, please contact our local Landcare Facilitator, Hadley – hadley@connectingcountry.org.au

 

Bird of the month: Long-billed and Little Corella

Posted on 21 June, 2022 by Ivan

Welcome to our 26th Bird of the month, a partnership between Connecting Country and BirdLife Castlemaine District. Each month we’re taking a close look at one special local bird species. We’re excited to join forces to deliver you a different bird each month, seasonally adjusted, and welcome suggestions from the community. We are blessed to have both the brilliant Damian Kelly and talented Jane Rusden from BirdLife Castlemaine District writing about our next bird of the month, accompanied by their stunning photos.

Long-billed Corella (Cacatua tenuirostris) and Little Corella (Cacatua sanguine)

Damian Kelly on wild Corellas

The story of Corellas in Australia is one of boom, bust and boom. And along the way some hard lessons have been learnt about misguided control measures that had exactly the opposite impact to what was intended.

Back in 1878 in the Kimberley in Western Australia one estimate put a flock of Little Corellas at 50,000 birds. The noise of their calls was unbearable as anyone who has been close to a flock would appreciate. Many very large flocks have been recorded across various parts of the inland.

The Little Corella has been used as a reliable guide to the presence of water by both the local Aboriginal groups and the later European settlers. Little Corellas are seldom found far from permanent water sources as they drink each day and occupy communal roosts near water in wooded farmlands, tree-lined water courses and nearby scrublands

Unlike northern Australia, in Victoria Little Corellas were first recorded in the dry north-west of the state in 1951. Steady expansion of their range occurred so that by the early 1970s flocks were common throughout the north-west. By 1978 they were recorded near Melbourne, probably assisted by accidental or deliberate releases of captive birds.

First records in Tasmania were in 1982, most likely from releases of captive birds. They experienced a spectacular spread in South Australia from the 1950s. Little Corellas have adapted with ease to the changing environment of farms throughout inland Australia.

Right from the early days they were kept as pets partly because they they are good talkers. There are even early records of some birds speaking in local Aboriginal dialects. They will readily breed in captivity and are also known to hydridise with Galahs and Pink Cockatoos in captivity. Hybrids with Galah have also been recorded in the wild

Long-billed Corellas originally were generally confined to south-eastern Australia. However, feral populations are now established in all states. They prefer wetter habitats compared to the Little Corella.

Long-billed Corella in the wild displaying the very long bill, pink face and stripe across the base of the neck (photo by Damian Kelly)

 

As a salutary lesson in messing with nature, in the early 1970’s large numbers of Long-billed Corellas were trapped by government agencies in grain growing areas. These birds were then sold into the pet trade. However, these wild birds proved to be totally unsuited to being pets and many were subsequently released, adding to feral populations. This impact of human intervention has only served to aid the spread of the birds. Big flocks continue to cause damage to crops in many areas as well as big roosting groups denuding their roost trees.

Life expectancy for both species is around 20 years with some individuals living much longer. So once a mob is established in an area they will be around for a long time.

Jane Rusden on captive rescue Corellas

Interestingly, Damian’s research lead us to the realisation that my sweet aviary rescue bird, ‘Bird’, may well have been one of the Long-billed Corellas captured in the 1970s. His language indicates he’s about that age … I won’t enlighten you on his full phrase, but ‘grouse’ is the cleanest word, a word commonly used in the 1970s. Also, his leg band indicates he was taken from a nest during a cull.

Bird, the Long-billed Corella aviary rescue, who wanted my phone as I photographed him! (photo by Jane Rusden)

 

Both Corella species are very long lived –  70 years is expected, hence they often outlive owners. This can be a problem as they are very emotional birds who can become very attached to their humans. Their needs are much like those of a human child, but they also have distinctly bird needs as well. If these are not met by their owners, it can lead to a miserable, and sometimes aggressive bird. They are intelligent and crafty. Bird is an excellent escape artist, requiring padlocks on his aviary, which he can open if a key is left in them.

‘Chookie’ is my Little Corella aviary rescue. He is charismatic, loving, has amazing language, and is very adept at undoing quick links. He bites with pressures over 300 pounds per square inch (PSI). Despite trying, I can’t meet his needs and have the physical scars to show for it. He is about to join a large aviary flock, where we hope he will be happier with a mob of his own kind.

Little Corella, one of a small mob resident at an artificial water supply – a water tank in the South Australian desert – displaying the totally white bird, except for a blush of pink on the face, between the bill and eye (photo by Jane Rusden)

 

 

 

Wilderlands platform launched to stakeholders

Posted on 8 June, 2022 by Ivan

Connecting Country attended the stakeholder launch of the much anticipated ‘Wilderlands’ project in Kyneton on 2 June 2022. This ambitious project promises to make investing in biodiversity  easier for the community and businesses alike. Wilderlands provides people with the ability to protect Australia’s biodiversity through the purchase of Biological Diversity Units which each represent one square meter of land protected in-perpetuity.

Wilderlands was created right here in central Victoria by Paul Dettmann, Ash Knop and the team at Cassinia Environmental. It aims to combat one of the world’s major environmental issues: biodiversity loss. The launch focused on the aims of the project and the importance of addressing the loss of habitat and species, which are irreversible. 

The Wilderlands platform aims to bring investors, community and landowners together to make permanent protection of land for nature a reality. The goal is to contribute to reaching the United Nations’ target of 30% of global land being preserved for nature by 2030, at an affordable cost.

Please read on for more information about how Wilderlands works, courtesy of the Wilderlands project. To learn more, visit the Wilderlands website and sign up for their e-news, which will update you on when the platform is open to the public for investment – click here 

How Wilderlands works

Make a direct and lasting impact on Australia’s biodiversity. For less than the cost of a cup of coffee you can ensure the permanent protection of a specific area of land. Wilderlands is a pioneering marketplace which facilitates scalable and lasting investment into biodiversity conservation. This enables businesses and individuals to make a direct and lasting impact on the world’s natural habitats and threatened species. Wilderlands has created a platform which sells biodiversity units to businesses and individuals. For each unit sold, the customer is protecting one square metre of Australia’s fauna and flora.

Research

We work with landholders of properties that have high conservation value following assessment by accredited ecologists as part of the government conservation plans in states across Australia.

Plan

These assessments quantify the ecological units that can be protected and develop a detailed management plan to ensure the protection of the biodiversity on these properties which may include threatened species habitat and ecological communities.

Protect

The landholder enters into an agreement (covenant) with a statutory authority to conserve and protect this land in-perpetuity. This contract is recorded on the land title and the covenant permanently controls land use and management.

Register

The site and its ecological (biological) units are then recorded on independently managed registers. This process replicates the well established carbon market and ensures integrity and transparency of impact and ownership of units.

Impact

Wilderlands provides you with the opportunity to purchase these geotagged units and help protect Australia’s biodiversity in perpetuity, watching as nature flourishes thanks to your support.

About Wilderlands

Wilderlands provides individuals and organisations with the ability to protect Australia’s biodiversity through the purchase of Biological Diversity Units which each represent 1sqm of land protected in-perpetuity.

The platform offers a practical solution to a complex problem and is partnering with landholders to provide a marketplace where those individuals seeking to make protecting the planet a priority can engage with projects having impact and track their progress over time through geo-tagged units and regular reporting on the conservation work happening at each location.

The platform provides users with the opportunity to customise their impact, ranging from the landscapes and locations they wish to support through to their preference for supporting with options including subscription or one-off contribution.

Wilderlands is a response to the need for greater investment in nature, aiming to develop a solution that is both accessible and scalable by aligning the interests of landowners, conservationists, consumers, and large corporates making protecting the planet possible.

From the Wilderlands website

 

Bees and mosses with Castlemaine Field Nats – 10 & 11 June 2022

Posted on 7 June, 2022 by Ivan

As a monthly tradition, our friends and project partners at Castlemaine Field Naturalists Club (CFNC) hold a meeting with a guest speaker on the second Friday of the month, followed by a group excursion or field trip the following day. The Castlemaine Field Naturalists Club have provided the following details about their June 2022 meeting and excursion, which both sound fascinating. All are welcome to attend. For more information on CFNC, please visit their website – click here

Monthly meeting: Friday 10 June 2022 at 7.30pm via Zoom

‘What’s on a bee’s mind? Understanding the behaviours of native and introduced bees’ with Dr Scarlett Howard (Deakin University)

How do we ask a bee a question? Can you train a bee? What types of tasks can they solve? Can they acquire concepts? What is the limit of intelligence in a miniature brain?

Scarlett will answer these questions and more using examples from the European honeybee and Australian native bees. We’ll discuss how you can train a bee, how training differs between species, and how to treat bees as individuals. We will learn how understanding learning, memory and cognition in insects informs us about pollination. And we’ll delve into how we’re pushing the limits of what a miniature bee brain is capable of.

If you have registered for our previous webinar meetings you will be sent the link for registering with Zoom. If you have not joined before and wish to attend, please email Peter Turner at munrodsl@iinet.net.au

Excursion: Saturday 11 June 2022 at 10 am

Moss Foray at Clinkers Hill with Cassia Read

Cassia will take us for a slow walk in the Clinkers Bushland reserve and nearby, exploring the variety of moss species along the way. She will give us clues for distinguishing mosses from lichens and point out the features useful for identification of different moss species including the habitat where they are growing. She will explain the importance of mosses in our ecosystem and their role as colonisers after fire and soil disturbance.

Meet: 10.00am at the Octopus (Duke St, Castlemaine VIC, opposite the Castle Motel) or 10.10 am at the top end of Preshaw Street, Castlemaine where the tar turns to dirt road.

Bring: Water, snacks, sturdy shoes and hat. There will be some hand lenses available, but bring a hand lens if you have one. If it’s a dry day it would be good for a few people to bring a spray bottle of water.

The field trip will be cancelled in extreme weather conditions.

 

 

Bursaria for butterflies: a new Connecting Country project for 2022-23

Posted on 1 June, 2022 by Ivan

We are thrilled to announce that Connecting Country was successful in securing a priority threatened species grant from the Australian Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment. The grants are part of the Australian government’s Environment Restoration Fund and Threatened Species Strategy Action Plan, targeting a number of priority threatened species across the country. Our successful grant will focus on the Eltham Copper Butterfly (Paralucia pyrodiscus lucida) and will aim to protect and enhance the priority habitat for the Eltham Copper Butterfly through practical on-ground actions. The grant program provides funding to undertake activities that will protect, enhance, rehabilitate, recover and/or restore priority species and their habitats.

The largest remaining populations of this threatened butterfly are known in the public reserves around Castlemaine VIC. Survey efforts and management actions have focused on public land, yet our 15 years’ experience working with local landholders has identified potential habitat on adjoining private land. This habitat is under threat from urbanisation, fire regimes and grazing. Connecting Country will engage and educate key landholders to protect and restore priority butterfly habitat through controlling threats (weeds and rabbits) and planting vital habitat over 2022-23. Revegetation planting will focus on the butterfly’s host plant, Sweet Bursaria (Bursaria spinosa).

Who is the Eltham Copper Butterfly? 

The Eltham Copper Butterfly (Paralucia pyrodiscus lucida) is only found in Victoria, Australia, and is restricted to a several sites around Castlemaine, Bendigo, Kiata (near Nhill) and Eltham in Victoria. It is one of the rare good news stories within the extinction crisis in Australia. It was considered extinct in the 1950s until rediscovered at Eltham in 1986.

Although new populations have been discovered around the state since the Eltham discovery in 1986, the future of this special butterfly remains uncertain. It is listed as threatened under the Victorian Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act 1988 and listed as endangered under the Commonwealth Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999. This places considerable importance on the seven sites around the Castlemaine region in central Victoria, where the butterfly exists and has bred successfully.

To download Connecting Country’s useful brochure about the Eltham Copper Butterfly – click here

The Eltham Copper Butterfly is only known to exist in three general locations in Victoria (image by SWIFFT)

 

Not only is this beautiful species threatened, it also has fascinating and highly specialised ecological requirements. It cannot survive without the presence of Sweet Bursaria plants and colonies of a particular species of Notoncus ants. The largest remaining populations of the Eltham Copper Butterfly lie around the town of Castlemaine in central Victoria, with others at Bendigo, Kiata and Eltham in Victoria. They have a weird and wonderful symbiotic association with a Notoncus ant and their host plant, Sweet Bursaria.

What will we deliver? 

Through Connecting Country’s local knowledge and established networks, we will target private landholders with properties within or adjoining known butterfly habitat, who demonstrate long-term commitment to protect and restore their land. We will work with them to develop tailored management plans and deliver practical on-ground actions for long-term protection and restoration and connectivity of quality butterfly habitat on their properties. Connecting Country’s Landscape Restoration Coordinator will visit at least 20 key private landholders to identify, assess and prioritise management actions to protect, connect and enhance, existing butterfly habitat

Our project aims to:

  • Increase the connectivity and reduce threats for known butterfly populations at Castlemaine Botanic Gardens, Walmer, Dingo Park Road, and Campbells Creek with known breeding habitats by connecting public and private land habitats.
  • Protect and improve the quality and quantity of available habitat for Castlemaine’s populations of the Eltham Copper Butterfly.
  • Protect and restore more than 10 ha of butterfly habitat where Sweet Bursaria would have grown naturally.
  • Engage private landholders adjacent to known populations to commit to long-term protection and restoration of butterfly habitat on their land, reduce the risk of weeds moving into public land sites, and habitat loss due to development or ongoing degradation.
  • Engage the broader community to value and protect the Eltham Copper Butterfly and promote best-practice restoration of butterfly habitat.
  • Complement and build on recent efforts of local ecologists in identifying existing butterfly habitat around Castlemaine, and the historical monitoring conducted by the Castlemaine community.

 

Connecting Country is proud to oversee the project in collaboration with our project partners.

We are really excited about more funding for the butterfly and will begin an expression of interest process in the coming months, seeking landholders with properties near known Eltham Copper Butterfly sites. Keep an eye out for updates! 

For more information about the Eltham Copper Butterfly –  click here
You may also enjoy the following video, courtesy of N-danger-D.

 

Landcare Link-up event – getting to know Connecting Country

Posted on 26 May, 2022 by Hadley Cole

We are hosting a Landcare Link-up event for Landcarers  of  the Mount Alexander region with the theme Getting to know ConnectinCountry. Landcare group and friends group members come along and join us and learn more about the work Connecting Country does. It is also a wonderful opportunity to get together with neighbouring Landcarers in the region.

When: Thursday 2 June 2022 from 6.00-8.00 pm
Where:  Chewton Town Hall, 141 Main Rd, Chewton VIC

 

We will also hold a Landcare open mic session where you can have your say about Landcare in the region. A soup supper will be provided.

Please register your attendance via the following link before 5.00 pm on Sunday 29 May 2022:
https://www.trybooking.com/BZOGF

For more information please contact hadley@connectingcountry.org.au

We look forward to seeing you there!

 

 

Wheel Cactus community field day – Sunday 29 May 2022

Posted on 25 May, 2022 by Ivan

Old and new volunteers alike are invited to Tarrangower Cactus Control Group’s next Community Field Day on Sunday 29 May 2022 near Maldon VIC.  Read on for more details from our friends the Cactus Warriors.

Cactus killers wanted!

Tarrangower Cactus Control Group will launch its 2022 season with a community field day.

Where: Near the corner of Watersons and Tarrengower School Roads. Tarrengower VIC
When: From 10.30 am to 12.30 pm pm Sunday 29 May 2022

Come along, enjoy the fresh air, kill some cactus and then join us for a free cuppa and sausage sizzle. Everyone is welcome.

Wheel Cactus is a noxious weed that affects many landowners in our region (photo: Cactus Warriors)

 

The Tarrangower Cactus Control Group Inc. (TCCG) consists of Landcare volunteers dedicated to the eradication of Wheel Cactus (Opuntia robusta). TCCG, in conjunction with Parks Victoria, holds friendly and informal Wheel Cactus Control community field days to inform and demonstrate control techniques, on the last Sunday of the month from May to October. These field days always end with a free BBQ lunch, cuppa and cake and the opportunity to chat, exchange ideas and make contacts. It is a great opportunity to spend a rewarding morning outdoors, meeting neighbours and others who are concerned about preserving our unique environment. Everyone is welcome, no previous experience is required and all equipment is supplied. View the video below to catch the ‘cactus warriors’ in action.

For more information visit www.cactuswarriors.org