Restoring landscapes across the Mount Alexander Region

Come to our Acacia workshop – or get your SGM proxy form now!

Posted on 15 August, 2019 by Ivan

Connecting Country is holding a Special General Meeting and Acacia workshop, The Wonderful World of Wattles, at 2.00 pm on Saturday 24 August 2019 at Campbells Creek Community Centre. Come along for brief meeting formalities and then learn all about identifying our amazing local Acacias with special guest and local legend, Ian Higgins and Rod Orr!

We would like to remind members of Connecting Country to please fill out a Proxy Form if you cannot attend the special general meeting. This will help us obtain sufficient member numbers to conduct the formalities of the special meeting and fulfill our legal obligations in changing auditors. 

To see our official notice and fill out the attached proxy form for the meeting – click here

Please return your completed proxy form by email to info@connectingcountry.org.au or or post to the Connecting Country office.

For more information on the interactive Acacia workshop, please see our flyer below. To download a copy of the flyer – click here

To RSVP please visit TryBooking – click here

This Acacia workshop is made possible by generous funding support from the North Central Catchment Management Authority and our wonderful volunteers Ian Higgins and Rod Orr.

 

Video on Communities Listening for Nature Castlemaine

Posted on 14 August, 2019 by Ivan

Fresh off the press! We have received Museum Victoria’s published video summary of the fascinating ‘Listening to Nature Citizen Science Video’, which has been mapping out the sounds of our local bushland. Scientific wildlife surveys are essential for reporting and managing biodiversity, and researchers now listen as well as look.

During 2018, a group of volunteers began a project to monitor nocturnal birds in the Mount Alexander region of central Victoria using song meter recorders. This ‘Communities Listening for Nature’ project was run by Victoria National Parks Association (VNPA) in partnership with Museums Victoria and Connecting Country.

The Communities Listening to Nature project uses automated sound recorders to monitor birds in their natural environments. The song meters recorded bird calls at many sites over long time periods. Partnering with local groups, the VNPA  installed recorders at several locations, including Mount Worth State Park and surrounding district, Bunyip State Park, Mount Alexander region and the Wombat State Forest.

Each location has its own study design, which has been developed with input from local groups and land managers, and scientists from Museums Victoria. The recorded nature calls will help them learn more about Victoria’s nature. The recordings are also added to the public library of Victorian bird sounds managed by Museums Victoria and available to everyone from their online collections. Communities The project was supported with funding from the Helen Macpherson Smith Trust.

For more information on the Listening to Nature Program, please click here.

The video contains interviews with the volunteers and participants of the project and gives a great summary of why the project is vital to our future work. The Listening to Nature project uses spectrograms,  a visual representation of an audio signal, with the pitch or frequency displayed vertically, and the time horizontally. High frequencies (like those made by bats) are near the top of the image, while lower frequencies are near the bottom of the image. To learn more about some of the wildlife sounds recorded during the project in our region, please click here.

The filmmakers acknowledge the elders of the Dja Dja Wurrung community and their forebears as the traditional owners of Country in this region.

 

Where have all the Greater Gliders Gone? – 31 August 2019

Posted on 13 August, 2019 by Jess

Join the Upper Campaspe Landcare Network and Macedon Ranges Shire Council for a discussion about the threatened Greater Glider with mammal experts Peter Menkhorst and Jemma Cripps. Hear about the findings of a recent citizen science project to search for Greater Gliders, Brush-tailed Phascogales and Powerful Owls in the local region. An interactive session with audience participation will follow. Afternoon tea is included.

When: 3.00 to 4.30 pm on Saturday 31 August 2019

Where: Newham Mechanics Institute, 1292 Rochford Road, Newham VIC 3442

To book: Bookings required – click here

For more information: Contact Robin (Landcare) on 0438 271 108

 

Safe Cat, Safe Wildlife

Posted on 8 August, 2019 by Jacqui

The Safe Cat, Safe Wildlife blog is dedicated to keeping cats and wildlife safe

To celebrate International Cat Day, held on 8 August each year, and the unique wildlife of the Mount Alexander region, we are pleased to share a initiative called Safe Cat, Safe Wildlife from Melbourne Zoo and the RSPCA.

As the name suggests, Safe Cat, Safe Wildlife raises awareness of the threats to cats and wildlife when cats are able to roam freely. It aims to to build a community of cat owners who have the tools to provide their cat with the longest and happiest lives possible by keeping them safe and enriched at home. It helps cat owners with all aspects of cat care through an informative blog with hacks designed to keep cats entertained, healthy and happy indoors.

You can find out more and sign up to receive their newsletter on the Safe Cat, Safe Wildlife website – click here.

Birdlife and Wildlife Victoria are official campaign collaborators, and many local councils, veterinary clinics and wildlife networks have jumped on board to support the campaign. We note our local Castlemaine Veterinary Clinic has signed up as a supporter. To see the full list of supporters click here, scrolling to the bottom of the page.

At Connecting Country’s recent community bird monitoring workshop, participants identified the impact of cats on local birds as a priority for the community. Some local Landcare groups have also been working on managing issues of cats and local wildlife.

Photo from Safe Cat, Safe Wildlife

 

Tim Low on ‘The New Nature’ – 6 September 2019

Posted on 8 August, 2019 by Frances

Connecting Country and Newstead Landcare Group are delighted to host a presentation by well-known author and biological scientist Tim Low.

Tim will speak on his book ‘The New Nature’. Although controversial when first published in 2002, the book was recently updated and its themes are now more relevant than ever. Following Tim’s presentation there will be an opportunity for questions and answers, then a cuppa and cake.

Tim Low talk on ‘The New Nature’
When: 7.30 pm on Friday 6 September 2019
Where: Newstead Community Centre, Lyons St (Pyrenees Hwy) Newstead, VIC

All welcome. A gold coin donation will help us cover costs. Bookings not required. 

For our event flyer – click here

This event is supported by funding from North Central Catchment Management Authority and Friends of the Box-Ironbark Forests.

Tim Low
Tim Low is a biologist and best-selling author of seven books about nature and conservation. ‘Where Song Began’ won several prizes, including the Australian Book Industry Award for best general non-fiction. It was praised in the New York Review of Books and recommended by Scientific American. ‘The New Nature’ was praised by Time magazine and listed by Who magazine as one of the books of the year. ‘Feral Future’ inspired the formation of a conservation group, the Invasive Species Council. Tim’s articles have appeared in Australian Geographic, The Weekend Australian Magazine, The Guardian and many other places. He works partly as an environmental consultant, and has a lizard named after him. He recently returned from a visit to Manchuria as a guest of the China Writer’s Association.

‘The New Nature’
The conservation movement talks about declining species, as it should, but this leaves many people unaware that some animals and plants are doing better today than ever before, because they have found ways to exploit us. Australia has winners as well as losers. Animals don’t have any concept of ‘natural’ or ‘unnatural’ so they don’t automatically recoil from cities and farms. Sometimes they can do better in cities than in forests – Australian cities and towns are gaining animals over time. Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane now have peregrine falcons nesting on skyscrapers. Some urbanising species, notably corellas and flying foxes, are becoming sources of conflicts that need to be carefully considered. The notion of wilderness can get in the way of understanding all this because it implies that nature is authentic only when there is no human influence. But animals and plants have been benefiting from humans ever since Aboriginal people began burning the ‘wilderness’ to manage it.

You can read more about Tim Low and view his Blog and website – click here

 

Natural Newstead: A proper soaking and then woodland birds

Posted on 31 July, 2019 by Asha

If you love birds and our natural heritage, hopefully you’ve already discovered the Natural Newstead blog. The blog is a wealth of knowledge and expert observations of flora, fauna and landscape in central Victoria. With nearly 2,000 subscribers, it contains some of the best nature photography you will see anywhere. It is run by Newstead resident and local ecological identity Geoff Park, with contributions from other knowledgeable locals. Geoff Park has worked in various roles with the North Central Catchment Management Authority and in the private sector, and is very passionate about biodiversity conservation and on-ground biodiversity outcomes.

If you’re not familiar the blog, check it out here: https://geoffpark.wordpress.com

We particularly enjoyed Geoff’s recent post about woodland birds enjoying the wetter conditions this winter. To read this post on the Natural Newstead website, click here, or continue reading below.

A proper soaking and then woodland birds
Posted on 1 July 2019 by Geoff Park

We’re in the depths of winter and celebrating wonderful rainfall over the weekend.

Hopefully we move slowly now into a ‘typical’ spring that enables some recovery of woodland bird populations across the region. I was pretty chuffed to see some familiar faces at Muckleford Gorge, especially a pair of Hooded Robins. Along with the Crested Shrike-tit and Jacky Winter we encountered numerous Flame Robins, a Golden Whistler, Restless Flycatchers and Brown Treecreepers.

Crested Shrike-tit (adult male), Muckleford Gorge, 30th June 2019. Photo: Geoff Park

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Crested Shrike-tit (adult male), Muckleford Gorge, 30th June 2019. Photo: Geoff Park

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hooded Robin (male). Photo: Geoff Park

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jacky Winter on a branch. Photo: Geoff Park

 

 

 

A prickly reminder to watch the Wheel Cactus

Posted on 18 July, 2019 by Ivan

What is Wheel Cactus (Opuntia robusta)? A plant native to Mexico, this cactus is most commonly called Wheel Cactus in Australia, and believed to be introduced into our country as a ‘hardy’ garden plant. This cactus species has a distinct blue/green colour and large, flat, round pads with many short and long spines. The pads are circular like a wheel, different to the shape of Prickly Pear. The plant is erect and can grow to 3 metres tall. It has yellow flowers and dark red fruit in spring/summer, each containing approximately 500 seeds which are spread by animals and water. This weed has become widely established in central Victoria, western NSW and south-eastern and eastern SA. It particularly likes to grow on granite outcrops, but also infests woodlands and pastures.

The Tarrangower Cactus Control Group (TCCG) has been battling the prickly problem that is Wheel Cactus (Opuntia robusta) for many years now, ensuring the community and landowners are always on the look out for Wheel Cactus invading the landscape. Three excellent videos from TCCG (see below) have helped the community to easily access the library of information on Wheel Cactus and how to best remove this troublesome plant from the landscape, no matter the level of knowledge.

The three videos cover a variety of topics, such as what Wheel Cactus is and why it is an issue, who the Cactus Warriors are, management options for treating Wheel Cactus and some great footage of the warriors at work. We think the videos are an excellent resource for anyone wanting to know more about managing Wheel Cactus and how devastating it can be on agriculture and the environment alike.

TCCG consists of Landcare volunteers dedicated to the eradication of Wheel Cactus. The group holds friendly and informal 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.

Please contact the TCCG via their website at www.cactuswarriors.org if you have any queries.  Click on the videos below to watch each video and learn about the incredible success the TCCG have achieved and how to remove plants correctly.

 

 

 

 

 

Listening to Nature: a sonic landscape

Posted on 20 June, 2019 by Ivan

Hot off the press! The first video featuring nocturnal bird calls from the Mount Alexander region using song meter audio recorders.

During 2018, a group of volunteers conducted a project to monitor nocturnal birds in the Mt Alexander region, Central Victoria, using Song Meter recorders. This was a ‘Communities Listening for Nature’ project run by Victoria National Parks Association (VNPA) in partnership with Museums Victoria and assistance from Connecting Country.

The Communities Listening to Nature project uses automated sound recorders to monitor birds in their natural environments. The recorder recorded bird calls at many sites over long time periods. Partnering with local groups, the VNPA have been installing recorders at several locations, including Mount Worth State Park and surrounding district, Bunyip State Park, Mount Alexander region and the Wombat State Forest.

Each location has its own study design, which has been developed with input from local groups and land managers, and scientists from Museums Victoria. The recorded bird calls will help them learn more about Victoria’s birds. The recordings are also added to the public library of Victorian bird sounds managed by Museums Victoria and available to everyone from their online collections. Communities Listening for Nature is being carried out in partnership with Museums Victoria and with generous support from the Helen Macpherson Smith Trust.

For more information on the Listening to Nature project, please click here.

The video was produced by RMIT University student Charlie, who worked as an intern with Sera Blair at VNPA for a few weeks. One of his projects was to prepare a video based on the Listening for Nature Song Meter recordings. They selected segments from recordings from a local Sandon property and Charlie then blended these together to make a night-time story.

Thanks to local legend Jennifer Rolland for annotation and habitat images, and to Andrew Haysom for Eastern Yellow Robin and Superb Fairy-wren images.

The project uses spectrograms. Spectrograms are a visual representation of an audio signal, with the pitch or frequency displayed vertically, and the time horizontally. High frequencies (like those made by bats) are near the top of the image, while lower frequencies are near the bottom of the image.

 

A foray in fungal realms with Alison Pouliot – Friday 14 June 2019

Posted on 13 June, 2019 by Asha

The Castlemaine Field Naturalists Club have once again engaged a great guest speaker for their monthly general meeting.

From the Castlemaine Field Naturalists Club blog:

Hygrocybe sp. HYG8103 © Alison Pouliot

Alison has worked as a scientific photographer and ecologist for almost three decades. She has presented over 350 workshops and seminars on environmental and conservation themes in Australia and internationally – more details at alisonpouliot.com    

Throughout history, fungi have confounded humans with their strange appearances, peculiar habitats and dubious connotations. Yet without fungi, life as we know it would be radically different. Fungi regulate the biosphere and support the earth’s ecological functioning. They provide us with food, wine and medicine.

Alison will take us deep into the fungal kingdom, showcasing the aesthetics of these perplexing yet enchanting organisms, and explore some of their natural and cultural curiosities.

The talk is open to both members and visitors – bring along friends and family. The evening will commence from 7.30 pm on Friday 14 June 2019 at the Fellowship Room, behind the Uniting Church on Lyttleton St, Castlemaine VIC (next door to the Castlemaine Art Museum). Tea and snacks available afterwards. There is no cost for attendance.

If you need further information please contact Castlemaine Field Naturalists Club.

 

Sights and sounds from the Camp Out 2019

Posted on 6 June, 2019 by Asha

If you couldn’t make it to the Camp Out on the Mount 2019, we now have available an audio recording of the panel and song from the Sunday morning. Or you may have come along but enjoyed it so much you’d like to listen again! Many thanks to Leonie van Eyk and the Little Habitat Heroes for recording this and putting it together to be shared.

The audio features a Welcome to Country from Uncle Michael Bourke, followed by further welcomes from Connecting Country, Little Habitat Heroes, Harcourt Valley Landcare, and Maree Edwards MP. Local legend George Milford then facilitates a discussion between local experts, including Terri Williams (Bendigo TAFE), Michael Bourke (Dja Dja Wurrung Clans Aboriginal Corporation), Ian Braybrook and Marilyn Bennet (authors of ‘Sarah’s search – a silk odyssey’). They speak about the values of the mount from the perspectives of the environment, culture, and heritage. It finishes with local musician Eva Popov singing her song, ‘Seeds that grow’.

Click here to listen, or click the ‘play’ button below.

Also, please enjoy these lovely photos of some of the kids who went down to the revegetated area at Old Silk Worm Farm after the panel. Leonie and the Little Habitat Heroes helped them find new plants that had grown to the same height as them, to take their photo with!

Harvey and Gulliver Ward with a revegetated Hakea decurrens (photo by Leonie van Eyk)

Ted Macarthy with a revegetated Acacia (photo by Leonie van Eyk)

 

Nestbox monitoring with Muckleford Catchment Landcare – 19 May 2019

Posted on 14 May, 2019 by Asha

Want to find out who’s hiding in the nestboxes in Walmer? Join Muckleford Catchment Landcare this Sunday to look for threatened Brush-tailed Phascogales and other wildlife. They will use a special camera to do a live-stream of what’s inside the nestboxes, and enter data into the Atlas of Living Australia.

When: Sunday 19 May 2019 at 10.00 am
Where: Walmer Conservation Reserve (Muckleford-Walmer Road, Walmer VIC)
More information: call Beth on 0431 219 980

Sugar Gliders in a Connecting Country nestbox (photo by Beth Mellick)

 

Maldon ‘Living Treasures’ walk – 1 June 2019

Posted on 13 May, 2019 by Asha

Maldon Urban Landcare Group (MULGA) is holding a walk around some of Maldon’s ‘Living Treasures’ on Saturday 1 June 2019 at 9.30 am, starting at the rotunda in Maldon Shire Gardens in High St, Maldon VIC. This is your chance to discover some of Maldon’s very old trees, and also learn how to identify local indigenous eucalypts. It will be an easy walk to Bill Woodfull Reserve and Maldon Primary School, followed by morning tea. The walk will be cancelled if it’s raining.

CLICK HERE to learn more about MULGA’s work mapping and protecting Maldon’s ‘Living Treasures’.

For more information, contact MULGA Secretary Bev Phillips by phone (0407 770 350) or email (maldonurbanlandcare@gmail.com)

Yellow Box (Eucalyptus melliodora) at Bill Woodfull Reserve, estimated age 530 years (photo by Bev Phillips)

 

Online tools for accessing and sharing biodiversity information – Friday 22 March 2019

Posted on 7 March, 2019 by Ivan

Connecting Country is excited to host an interactive workshop in conjunction with the Centre for eResearch and Digital Innovation on Friday 22 of March in Castlemaine.

Hooded Robins are a key species for our monitoring program (photo by Geoff Park)

This interactive workshop is part of Connecting Country’s Habitat Health Check project (click here for more information), funded by the Helen Macpherson Smith Trust over the next two years. This project aims to review our long-term monitoring programs, to shift to a monitoring model that empowers our community to conduct robust biodiversity monitoring, and, importantly, to ensure that the data we collect is being shared and used appropriately.

To meet this third goal, we are working with the Centre for eResearch and Digital Innovation (CeRDI) at Federation University Australia. CeRDI has developed many award-winning web-based spatial information and knowledge portals that provide public access to data sets that are often hidden from view. The team at CeRDI have great resources that are relevant to us at Connecting Country and are well worth checking out.

The interactive workshop will cover two important databases in detail:

  • State Wide Integrated Flora and Fauna Teams (SWIFFT) – a knowledge sharing network for biodiversity conservation and threatened species
  • Visualising Victoria’s Biodiversity (VVB) – a web portal containing spatial information on environmental values, conservation activities and research

At the workshop we will:

  • Showcase projects run by community groups and researchers
  • Participate in an interactive session about sharing and accessing biodiversity data
  • Explore ways to improve knowledge sharing through online platforms
  • Network with other biodiversity organisations and community groups in your region

Please come and join us at the lovely Garden Room within the grounds of Buda Historic Home and Garden for this free workshop. Workshop numbers are limited, so please book.

Workshop: Online tools for accessing and sharing biodiversity information
When: Friday 22 March 2019 from 9.30 am to 2.30 pm
Where: Buda Garden Room, 42 Hunter St, Castlemaine VIC
Bookings: to book online please click here

For further details please contact Ivan Carter at Connecting Country on 03 5472 1594 or email ivan@connectingcountry.org.au

 

Visualising Victoria’s Biodiversity workshop

Posted on 21 February, 2019 by Tanya Loos

Connecting Country’s major monitoring project over the next two years is our Habitat Health Check (click here for more information), funded by the Helen Macpherson Smith Trust. This project aims to review our long-term monitoring programs, to shift to a monitoring model that empowers our community to conduct robust biodiversity monitoring, and, importantly, to ensure that the data we collect is being shared and used appropriately.

To meet this third goal, we will be working with Centre for eResearch and Digital Innovation (CeRDI) at Federation University Australia. CeRDI has developed many award-winning web-based spatial information and knowledge portals that provide public access to data sets that are often hidden from view. The team at CeRDI have two great resources that are relevant to us at Connecting Country and are well worth checking out.

State Wide Integrated Flora and Fauna Teams

Firstly, The State Wide Integrated Flora and Fauna Teams (SWIFFT) is a network for knowledge sharing and information exchange that supports conservation and management of threatened species, biodiversity and the natural environment across Victoria. You can explore a map displaying the range projects that are part of the network (click here), or see a list of their projects (click here). As part of Habitat Health Check we will be making sure that Connecting Country has a presence on this fantastic website.

Visualising Victoria’s Biodiversity

Secondly, CeRDI has developed the Visualising Victoria’s Biodiversity (VVB) tool (click here). VVB consolidates access to spatial environmental datasets and information – created and managed by government agencies, organisations, community groups and individuals – into a user friendly and interactive platform. You could use this platform to view, for example, records of mammals or birds near your property. CeRDI is one of many places for sharing and visualising nature data in Victoria – you can see a wonderful infographic on how these interact by clicking here.

Want to know more?  We’ll be running a workshop with CeRDI (Date to be confirmed) to learn about the power of the Visualising Victoria’s Biodiversity tool.

More information to come soon – watch this space!

 

Camp Out on the Mount 2019

Posted on 14 February, 2019 by Asha

It’s that time of year again! Details of the sixth Camp Out on the Mount are now available and registrations are open. Please join Connecting Country, Little Habitat Heroes and local Landcare groups to celebrate the beautiful Leanganook (Mount Alexander) and the fabulous work that Landcare and Friends groups do all year round.

This free event is supported by funding from the North Central Catchment Management Authority through the Victorian Landcare Program, as well as Mount Alexander Shire Council, Friends of the Box-Ironbark Forests, and Little Habitat Heroes. We will have guest presenters from Dja Dja Wurrung Clans Aboriginal Corporation, Parks Victoria and Bendigo TAFE, along with local authors and artists. Yummy food will also be provided by the Harcourt Lions Club, Murnong Mummas, and the Camp Out Damper Team.

Camp Out on the Mount 2018 (photo by Tegan Benham-Bannon)

CLICK HERE to visit the booking website

CLICK HERE to download the flier

When: Saturday 6 – Sunday 7 April 2019
Where: Leanganook Camping Ground, Joseph Young Drive, Mount Alexander Regional Park, Faraday VIC
What to bring: Camping gear and supplies, food for Sunday breakfast, gold coin donation or Saturday night BBQ, weather-appropriate clothes, sturdy shoes and sun protection.

Below is a run-down of the Camp Out on the Mount 2019 program. You are more than welcome to attend some or all of the activities. Please let us know through the booking website which activities you plan to attend, as this will help us in planning how many people to cater for.

If you have any questions, please call Asha on (03) 5472 1594 or email asha@connectingcountry.org.au

Please note: activities will be cancelled in the case of severe weather.

SATURDAY 6 APRIL

5:30 pm  Welcome to Country

6:00 pm  Lions Club BBQ and damper (gold coin donation)

7:30 pm  Night walk with Parks Victoria ranger

OVERNIGHT CAMP OUT (BYO camping gear and supplies)

SUNDAY 7 APRIL

9:30 am   Bus down to Old Silk Worm Farm site

10:00 am Welcome and morning tea

10:30 am  Panel of local experts talk about the Mount, including Rebecca Phillips (Dja Dja Wurrung Clans Aboriginal Corporation), Terri Williams (Bendigo TAFE), and Ian Braybrook and Marilyn Bennet (authors of ‘Sarah’s search – A silk odyssey’), facilitated by George Milford

11:30 am  ‘Seeds that grow’ song performed by Eva Popov

11:45 am  ‘Make you own native seed balls’ activity

12:30 pm  Bus back to camp site

Gathered around the fire at the 2018 Camp Out on the Mount (photo by Asha Bannon)

 

Hollows, habitat and nest boxes: design and installation tips

Posted on 2 January, 2019 by Frances

Following Connecting Country’s highly popular nest box workshops during autumn 2018, we’ve compiled some nest box design and installation tips. These tips were compiled by Connecting Country’s Tanya Loos from our workshops with local ecologist and nest box builder, Miles Geldard.

Phascogale in nest box at Welshmans Reef (photo by Jess Lawton)

All animals need to meet their basic needs of something to eat and somewhere to live. Australia’s fauna is particularly reliant on hollows for shelter and breeding – possums, gliders, bats, kookaburras, parrots, treecreepers, reptiles such as geckos and even frogs need hollows.

Hollows are a highly limited resource in today’s Box-Ironbark forests. The sheer scale of clearing and removal of large old trees for timber in our region is almost unbelievable. Trees were logged for railway sleepers, mine shaft infrastructure, baker’s ovens, boilers, heating and construction. Only 15% of the Box-Ironbark forests remain and virtually no old growth patches are left.

Hollows may begin to form in any aged tree, even relatively young trees if the conditions are right. In some countries, woodpeckers create hollows in trees.

Here in Australia, the bark needs to be damaged in some way – either by wind, lightning, fire or by animals (such as galahs) – so that termite or fungal activity may begin to create a hollow. In Box-Ironbark forests, termites do most of the hollow formation, whereas in wet forests it is fungi. Galahs and other parrots love to chew bark. Are they ecosystem engineers creating hollows for the future, or just larrikins sharpening their bills?

Miles has reviewed scientific papers on our local hollow-using fauna’s habitat needs and preferences. He uses this information when designing and installing nest boxes considering internal hollow dimensions, size of entrance, tree type, location on tree and orientation.

Miles suggests installing as many nest boxes as you can manage to install and maintain. Many hollow-dependent animals use multiple nesting sites located across their home range.

For Connecting Country’s full notes with nestbox design and installation tips: click here

The Victorian Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning also recently published some useful general information about nestbox use (click here) and monitoring (click here).

 

Good riddance to deadly opera house yabby nets

Posted on 12 December, 2018 by Frances

The dams and waterways of central Victoria are perfect for catching yabbies over summer. However, poorly designed yabby nets also catch native wildlife like platypus, turtles and rakali (native water rat). Sadly, these air-breathing animals can become trapped in the nets and drown.

Opera house style yabby nets are believed to kill hundreds of platypus each year. In January 2018, the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP) recorded that 13 platypus died after drowning in illegally set opera house nets in Victoria. DELWP urged Victorians not to use enclosed traps such as opera house nets, and only use platypus-safe alternatives. Senior Wildlife Investigator Mike Sverns said, ‘Platypus are an iconic Australian species that are declining. To lose 13 platypus in one year is tragic’.

Opera house nets are banned in all waters throughout Victoria from 1 July 2019. Opera house nets have been phased out and replaced with new open-top lift nets, which are more wildlife friendly. Unlike opera house nets, open-top nets feature a 20 x 20 cm gap at their top, which enables air-breathing animals like platypus to escape. The Victorian Fisheries Authority has conducted trials and shown open-top lift nets are very effective yabby catchers.

When announcing the ban, Minister for Agriculture Jaala Pulford said, ‘Opera house nets have been placing our platypus population at risk and so it’s time for us to embrace different fishing gear that will catch just as many yabbies without impacting our precious wildlife’.

Many people who have purchased opera house nets to fish for yabbies are unaware of the risks they present to wildlife, and that these nets have long been banned in Victorian public waters. From 1 July 2019 the ban will extend to include all private waters.

If you have an opera house net you should dispose of it and replace it with an open-top lift net. We recommend dismantling old opera house nets, as even on land they can still entangle terrestrial wildlife, leaving them to a slow and painful death.

Major fishing equipment suppliers and responsible retailers have already removed opera house nets from sale, with some participating in a yabby net swap program. However, a few retailers continue to sell opera house nets despite the wildlife risk and imminent ban.

Image result for opera house net banUnder the Victorian Wildlife Act 1975 there are penalties associated with taking or being in possession of protected wildlife or using prohibited equipment which is up to a maximum of $38,0562, and/or 24 months imprisonment. To report crimes against wildlife you can call Crime Stoppers confidentially on 1800 333 000 or online at https://www.crimestoppersvic.com.au/report-a-crime/

 

Open mic at Castlemaine Field Nats! – 14 December 2018

Posted on 12 December, 2018 by Asha

As per Castlemaine Field Naturalists tradition, their December 2018 general meeting is a chance for any member (or visitor) to make a short presentation. People are encouraged to talk for up to five minutes about a topic related in some way to natural history. It might be photos from a holiday to an exotic location, video footage of birds in your backyard, an analysis of recent weather patterns, or reciting a poem about a forest. It is only limited by your imagination. There will be a projector, PC laptop and screen available for use.

The evening commences from 7.30 pm on Friday 14 December in the Fellowship Room behind the Uniting Church on Lyttleton St, Castlemaine VIC (next door to the Castlemaine Art Museum). Members and visitors of all ages are welcome, and entry is free.

If you’d like, bring along a plate of food to share with everyone afterwards.

For further information on Castlemaine Field Naturalists Club see their website here.

 

Citizen scientists sought – testing new wildlife monitoring technology

Posted on 12 December, 2018 by Asha

Deakin University, in collaboration with Land for Wildlife, is seeking volunteers to participate in a citizen science project called Wildlife to Wellbeing. The project will trial new camera technology to monitor and identify wildlife on properties registered with the Land For Wildlife program in Victoria.

This is an exciting opportunity to be part of a project that tests new video technology developed at Deakin University, and being used for the first time anywhere in the world! The technology enables 24-hour, continual monitoring of wildlife and will capture video recordings of a greater proportion of animals than existing wildlife cameras.

The cameras will operate for up to three months from the time of set up in January/February 2019. Deakin Uni will collect the cameras at the end of the project to reuse in future projects.

To participate, your property needs to have heathy dry forest or grassy dry forest ecological vegetation classes (EVCs). You may qualify if your property is located in central Victoria, within the rough area of Bacchus Marsh – Ballarat – Ararat – Maryborough – Dunolly – Bendigo – Elmore – Rushworth – Seymour – Yea – St Andrews – Whittlesea – Sunbury.

Getting involved

For more information about getting involved, go to http://bit.ly/Wildlife_To_Wellbeing

Or contact Jason Major by email at j.major@deakin.edu.au or phone (during business hours) on 0455 288 309.

 

Butterfly count at Kalimna Park – 25 November 2018

Posted on 7 November, 2018 by Tanya Loos

Join ecologists Elaine Bayes and Karl Just on a walk searching for the endangered Eltham Copper Butterfly, hosted by Friends of Kalimna Park.

An adult butterfly, by Elaine Bayes

The Eltham Copper Butterfly was once distributed around Victoria. Now the largest surviving population of this little butterfly lives in Castlemaine – it could very well be called the Castlemaine Copper Butterfly!

Karl and Elaine will lead us on a guided walk through the bushland at Kalimna Park on the edge of Castlemaine, and show us how to look for the adult butterflies. Friends of Kalimna Park members will explain how to help the habitat of these beautiful insects.

Friends of Kalimna Park’s Annual General Meeting will be at 12.00 – 12.30 pm, followed by a light lunch, with the butterfly walk and talk starting at 1.00 pm.

When: Sunday 25 November at 12.00 noon – 3.00 pm
Where: Kalimna Point Rotunda, Kalimna Road, Castlemaine VIC
RSVP: Numbers are limited – so book now! Contact Tanya Loos, (Monitoring and Engagement Coordinator at Connecting Country) by email at tanya@connectingcountry.org.au or call our office on (03) 5472 1594.

All welcome! Please wear shoes and clothing appropriate for walking outside.

An Eltham Copper butterfly caterpillar being attended by  ants (photo by Elaine Bayes)

Elaine writes:
The reason I am fascinated with Eltham Coppers is because like many of the Blue butterfly family they have a weird and wonderful and totally dependent (obligate) three-way relationship with Notoncus ant species and Sweet Bursaria plants (Bursaria spinosa).  Notoncus ants are nocturnal ants which live underground including at the base of Sweet Bursaria plants. Eltham Coppers lay their eggs at the base of a Sweet Bursaria plant and once hatched the larvae is guided into the ant nest and protected. The larvae overwinters in the nest and ants lead them out to graze at night exclusively on the leaves of Sweet Bursaria. In return, the ants feed on sugars which are excreted by the larvae’s honeydew gland.