Restoring landscapes across the Mount Alexander Region

A team effort: monitoring biodiversity at Connecting Country

Posted on 3 December, 2019 by Jess

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 even more.

It is important we monitor local biodiversity so we can understand how our on-ground works are helping species. In past years, Connecting Country was able to employ staff members to monitor over 50 woodland bird survey sites, 450 nestboxes, and 48 reptile and frog sites.

Community members monitoring birds (photo: Connecting Country archives)

Nestbox monitoring
In recent times, the funding that once covered this monitoring has ended. 2018 was the first year our nestbox monitoring program was not funded. But that didn’t stop us! Asha, Beth, and Jess were able to incorporate nestbox monitoring into work and volunteer time. With the help of an army of volunteers, we monitored 297 of our 300 ‘core’ nestboxes. Special thanks to Beth, Asha, and Jeremy, Lori, Bev, Paul, Gayle, Carmen, Mal, Damian, Frances, Lachlan, Naomi, Claire, Meg and Naomi for providing invaluable assistance with our nestbox program.

Monitoring nestboxes (photo: Tanya Loos)

Woodland bird monitoring
Later in 2018, we received funding from the Helen Macpherson Smith Trust to review all our monitoring programs, and to support volunteer ‘citizen scientists’ to carry out the monitoring. Spring 2019 was the first year our woodland bird sites were monitored by citizen scientists. Special thanks to our keen bird monitors: Damian, Lex, Jane R, Peter, Geoff, Jennifer, Euan, Asha, Jacqui, Jane M, Kerri P, Kerrie J, Lawrie, Lou, Sue, Peter, Steve, Tanya, Angus and Bob.

Reptile and frog monitoring
Our reptile and frog monitoring program has struggled to continue without ongoing funding.  We’re going to review our reptile and frog monitoring program early next year – so watch this space! Thank you to Mike, Paul, Thea, David, Kerrie, Rob, Kim, Mark, Alex, Beth, Neville, Geraldine, Geoff, Kerri, Tusker, Peter, Helen, Leanne, Jane S, Brendan and Jane R for your efforts with this program.

Many of our landscape restoration projects target species like this juvenile Spotted Pardalote (photo: Jane Rusden)

Data entry
We’ve collected nearly 25,000 species records since 2010. This year we recognized the importance of sharing this information with government agencies, so it can be put to the best use possible. We put a call out to see if anyone would be interested in assisting us with data entry, and we were blown away by many wonderful people offering to help. Thanks to Lou, Karen, Alex, and Corey – our data entry heroes! – for coming in to Connecting Country on a weekly basis, sitting in front of a computer screen and entering our species records into the Victorian Biodiversity Atlas.

Thank you!
This year, we had a small amount of money for a humble thank-you celebration for our volunteers. We wanted to be inclusive, so we initially wrote a list of all the people who had volunteered with us in any capacity over the past 2 years. This list came to over 120 people!  As much as we would have liked to have thanked each person, this was just not possible this year. So, we limited our celebration to our monitoring volunteers.

We enjoyed celebratory drinks and nibbles in The Hub Plot garden, a short summary of our monitoring achievements over the last two years, and Connecting Country’s inaugural ‘Klop’ game championship. Thank you to everyone who came and made it a wonderful evening with great company. A special thanks to Lou, Jane R, and Duncan for setting up and helping the evening run smoothly, and to Heather and Neil for the lovely venue.

These days our monitoring programs run off the smell of an oily rag. But, because we are surrounded by an enthusiastic community, we are still able to check in on our local biodiversity and deliver our monitoring programs. If it wasn’t for your hard work, we simply would not be able to monitor our wildlife. To everyone who has helped Connecting Country: Thank you! We are so grateful for your support.

 

 

 

Butterfly monitoring for 1 December 2019 – POSTPONED!

Posted on 29 November, 2019 by Frances

Our planned Eltham Copper Butterfly monitoring this coming Sunday 1 December 2019 is postponed due to cool weather! Local ecologists and butterfly enthusiasts, Elaine Bayes and Karl Just, have advised that the weather forecast for Sunday is too cool for our special butterfly, which requires a series of warm nights to emerge. November 2019 has been cooler than last November, hence the butterflies are a little slower to appear.

Apologies to anyone who was planning to come along on Sunday. There are still plenty of opportunities to get involved and learn how to monitor this threatened species around Castlemaine. Given weather conditions, we will continue monitoring into January 2020.

Eltham Copper Butterfly monitoring

There will be two more monitoring events over the next few weeks, covering different areas around Castlemaine, with a another event in January 2020:

  • 12.00 – 4.00 pm on Sunday 15 December 2019. Location: Parking spot just north of where Mount Alexander golf course intersects with Kalimna Tourist Road, Kalimna Park, Castlemaine VIC – click here for map.
  • 12.00 – 4.00 pm on Saturday 28 December 2019. Location: Corner of Vanstan Road and Lawson Parade, behind Castlemaine Secondary College, Castlemaine VIC – click here for map.
  • January 2020: date and location to be advised.

If you’d like to get involved in Eltham Copper Butterfly monitoring, please come along to a monitoring event, or for further information contact Ivan at Connecting Country (ivan@connectingcountry.org.au).

 

Exploring the colour of wildflowers (and the joy of surprises)

Posted on 19 November, 2019 by Ivan

Getting out and about reminds us of just how many lovely wildflowers and things there are happening in the bush, even as the weather warms up! We are blessed to live in a region with large tracts of public land with woodland wonders aplenty, and now is a great time to get out and see some of the vivid and subtle colors our bushland has to offer. One of our Landscape Restoration Coordinators, Bonnie Humphreys, has kindly outlined some of the native species that may still be flowering and on show over the next few weeks, including a few surprises below!

  • Bush Peas (Pultenaea sp.) and Parrot Peas (Dillwynia sp.) are flowering.
  • Silver Wattle (Acacia dealbata) is laden with pods at the moment, hinting at a good year for seed production.
  • Black Wattle (Acacia mearnsii) is in flower with lemony yellow blooms. Some can be seen from the Forest Creek bridge on Duke St, on the right hand side as you head towards Chewton.
  • Chocolate Lilies (Arthropodium strictum) and Sticky Everlastings (Xerochrysum viscosum) are looking spectacular.
  • Look out for beautiful white flowers from Sweet Bursaria (Bursaria spinosa) and White Marianth (Rhytidosporum procumbens).
  • Creamy Candles (Stackhousia monogyna) are flowering. These have a lovely perfume which is most prevalent at night indicating a preference for night pollinator such as moths.
  • Cats Claw Grevillea or Alpine Grevillea (Grevillea alpina), some plants are still flowering away. There are many different colour forms in this plant including green, yellow, red, and then mixes of combinations.

There are many great places for bushwalking on public land in our region, including Kalimna Park (just a short walk from Castlemaine town centre), Rise and Shine Bushland Reserve (Sandon), Monk Track in the Dry Diggings National Park (Chewton), Muckleford State Forest, and Guildford Bushland Reserve.  View excellent ground-truthed maps of many of these areas by local cartographer Jase Haysom by clicking here. Local bird expert Damian Kelly’s book Castlemaine Bird Walks is another great resource for bird and wildlife outings in the bush.

Before the heat takes the color and vibrancy out of these treasures, be sure to explore some of the abundant nature hotspots in our region. Scroll down to see pictures below of some colourful characters from our local bush.

 

Cats Claw Grevillea (Grevillea alpina). Photo: Bonnie Humphreys

Shingle Back Lizard. Photo: Bonnie Humphreys

Creamy Candles (Stackhousia monogyna). Photo: Bonnie Humphreys

Chocolate Lilies (Arthropodium strictum) and Sticky Everlastings (Xerochrysum viscosum). Photo: Bonnie Humphreys

Twining Fringe-lily (Thysanotus patersonii). Photo: Bonnie Humphreys

Muckleford bush with Parrot Pea (Dillwyina sp.), Cats Claw Grevillea (Grevillea alpina), Murnong or Yam Daisy (Microseris walteri), Grey Everlasting (Ozothamnus obcordatus) and Chocolate Lilies (Arthropodium strictum). Photo: Bonnie Humphreys

Keep an eye out for nesting birds. Here’s an Owlet Nightjar fledgling checking out the world! Photo: Bonnie Humphreys

 

 

 

 

Be involved with butterfly monitoring – Saturday 16 November 2019

Posted on 14 November, 2019 by Ivan

This Saturday will be the first of four Eltham Copper Butterfly monitoring events for 2019, with local ecologists and enthusiasts Elaine Bayes and Karl Just training volunteers in how to conduct the vital monitoring needed to help this threatened species.

This is a fantastic opportunity to get out in the bush, learn more about your local environment, and collect some really important data to help protect this beautiful threatened species. You might even discover a new population of this special butterfly!

Castlemaine’s Kalimna Park is home to the largest remaining population of the threatened Eltham Copper Butterfly in the world. However, we don’t know how many butterflies there currently are, and its entirely possible that other, undiscovered populations exist around the Castlemaine area. The aim is to support interested community members to learn how to monitor with expert guidance, conduct more monitoring and (hopefully) discover new populations.

Eltham Copper Butterfly monitoring
When: 12.00 -4.00 pm on Saturday 16 November 2019
Where: Kalimna Park Rotunda, top of Urquhart Street, Kalimna Tourist Road, Castlemaine VIC – click here for map
Bring: water, a hat, suitable clothing (long pants, sturdy shoes and weather-appropriate gear) and snacks to keep you going

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

There is no need to book, just come along.

Everyone is invited to get involved. Monitoring isn’t difficult but you will need:

  • A reasonable level of physical fitness, as monitoring involves walking off-track through the bush, often in warm weather.
  • A positive attitude and willingness to learn.
  • Ability to read maps, follow simple procedures and record sightings.

To learn more about this wonderful and interesting small butterfly, including ecology, distribution and information on how to identify this species from similar look-alike butterflies – click here.

It would be terrific to find some new populations in our region and this is the perfect opportunity to survey some excellent butterfly habitat.

There will be three more over the next few weeks, covering different areas around Castlemaine:

  • 12.00 -4.00 pm on Sunday 1 December 2019. Location: Water tank on Hunter Track, top end of Hunter Street, Kalimna Park, Castlemaine VIC – click here for map.
  • 12.00 -4.00 pm on Sunday 15 December 2019. Location: Parking spot just north of where golf course intersects with Kalimna Tourist Road, Kalimna Park, Castlemaine VIC – click here for map.
  • 12.00 -4.00 pm on Saturday 28 December 2019. Location: Corner of Vanstan Road and Lawson Parade, behind Castlemaine Secondary College, Castlemaine VIC – click here for map.

You don’t need to attend all these events to be a monitor. Once you understand the monitoring method and feel confident you can identify an Eltham Copper Butterfly, you’re welcome to do your own monitoring and report sightings.

If you’d like to get involved in Eltham Copper Butterfly monitoring, please just come along to a monitoring event, or for further information contact Ivan at Connecting Country (ivan@connectingcountry.org.au).

 

Eltham Copper Butterfly talk in Castlemaine – Friday 8 November 2019

Posted on 7 November, 2019 by Frances

Castlemaine and Bendigo host the largest known area of Eltham Copper Butterfly (ECB) habitat in the world. Given the global decline in insects, it is critical that we protect our Australian species such as the endangered Eltham Copper Butterfly.

Local ecologists Elaine Bayes and Karl Just are guest speakers at the November meeting of the Castlemaine Field Naturalists Club. They will discuss the current distribution of ECB, the amazing relationship ECB has with Notoncus ants and the host plant Sweet Bursaria, and the local butterfly monitoring program. There has been little research on the central Victorian populations of ECB over the last decade. Elaine, Karl, and Julie Radford are trying to change this by leading the community in searching for new ECB populations and mapping colonies so we can protect them from planned burns and other threats.

The beauty of the Eltham Copper Butterfly (photo by Elaine Bayes)

Upcoming opportunities for the local community to be involved in studying and saving this species will be provided. Monitoring ECB also provides a great excuse to walk through our stunning bushlands over the summer months when ECB are flying and mating.

The monthly Castlemaine Field Naturalists Club meeting will start at 7.30 pm on 8 November 2019. This month the meeting will be held in the chapel behind the Uniting Church on Lyttleton St, Castlemaine VIC (next door to the Castlemaine Art Museum). All members are all encouraged to attend and, as always, visitors are also very welcome.  There is no cost for entry and no need for bookings.

 

If you are interested in helping Karl and Elaine with the monitoring of this amazing local butterfly over November and December 2019, please click here

 

Platypus survey in Campbells Creek

Posted on 7 November, 2019 by Ivan

Our partners and good friends at Friends of Campbells Creek Landcare Group have arranged for the Australian Platypus Conservancy (APC) to conduct a Platypus survey at six locations along Campbells Creek, Victoria,  in mid-November 2019.

The survey has been funded by Coliban Water. The survey will commence on the evening of Friday 15 November 2019 (depending on appropriate weather conditions), and finish early on Saturday morning. The APC team will be based at the Campbells Creek Community Centre. The first inspection of the nets will be at around 10 pm and continue throughout the night, approximately every two hours.

On Saturday morning at around 7.30 am, the results of the survey will be discussed at the Campbells Creek Community Centre (45 Elizabeth St, Campbells Creek VIC). Interested community members are welcome to join in and see the results. Tea and coffee will be available. In 2020 the APC team will return to conduct a citizen science workshop to present information on the biology and conservation considerations of Platypus and Rakali (native water rat), followed by a practical session on Campbells Creek. We will keep you informed of this event.

Platypus (Photo- John Bundock) 25%

The platypus has a streamlined body and a superficially duck-like bill (photo: APC)

 

For more information about Friends of Campbells Creek Landcare Group and the Platypus project, please click here.

For more information about the Australian Platypus Conservancy (APC) and the survey methods, please click here.

 

Seek and discover

Posted on 30 October, 2019 by Ivan

Have you ever wondered what that mysterious plant might be and don’t have the knowledge or time to consult with a botanical encyclopedia? Meet Seek!

The Seek app is an online social network for nature enthusiasts and is part of an ongoing attempt to involve ordinary people in citizen science projects. Similar to Shazam – an app that allows you to identify music from audio recordings – the Seek app allows you to identify plants and animals from your photos by harnessing image recognition technology. It is still in the early stages of learning many of the native species from this region, but learns from each experience it is exposed to.

The Seek app enables you to take photos of nature and have complex articifical intelligence attempt to identify them. Photo: I-Naturalist

The beauty of this app is that it encourages curious adventurers to become engaged with the wildlife around them. Fun and educational for kids and adults alike, users can earn badges while they learn about each new species they photograph.

We tried this app around Castlemaine in central Victoria to identify plants (and chickens in the community garden adjacent to our office – red jungle fowl, tick!), and found its ability to identify plants depended on the camera’s ability to focus. Moving the camera around at different angles (without taking a photo), helped it recognise exotic plants to genus level. It performed better at identifying exotic species, which is useful if you want to identify weeds. At this point in Seek’s development, it didn’t succeed at identifying any plants to species level.  We recommend patience and a good field guide, as we found the app incorrectly identified an  Early Black Wattle (Acacia decurrens – native to NSW and a weedy invader of bushland in central Victoria), as Silver Wattle (Acacia dealbata), (Acacia dealbata – a locally indigenous species.

With further development, this could be a powerful app for anyone learning to identify weeds and local native species, and also for recording observations in the landscape. Seek draws from existing data collected from wildlife observations on iNaturalist, in combination with artificial intelligence and neural network technologies. Once downloaded, users are provided with lists of commonly recorded plants, insects, birds and other animals in their area. When a new photo is uploaded, the app’s artificial intelligence analyses the photo to find a match, adds it to the user’s collection, and provides a summary of information from Wikipedia.

The app software currently recognises 30,000 species, and will continue to improve with further use. The app’s co-founder Scott Loarie explains, ‘The only way we can improve our modeling of species is to get more data, and to do that we need more people outside taking pictures’.

The Seek app doesn’t require any registration to use and doesn’t collect any user data by default, though location data is used to show you the plants and animals in your area. Alternatviely, if an app is not for you, you might be interested to have a look at the Flora of Australia website

You can read more about the Seek app, and to download it for free – click here.

 

 Eltham Copper Butterfly events 2019

Posted on 28 October, 2019 by Frances

Confused about all the exciting things happening with Eltham Copper Butterfly (ECB) around Castlemaine at the moment?

We’re delighted that Castlemaine’s local populations of this threatened butterfly are getting the attention they deserve. Here is a summary of events prepared with help from local ecologist and ECB guru, Elaine Bayes of Rakali Ecological Consulting.

  • If you would like to help protect Eltham Copper Butterflies or would simply like a purpose while walking out in the bush, then come and join us in finding where ECB are so that they can be protected from threats.
  • If you are just curious and want to learn more about Eltham Copper Butterflies then come along to the Butterfly Celebration Day, ECB monitoring education session or Castlemaine Field Naturalist talk.
  • If you would like to become an Eltham Copper Butterfly Monitor and carry out searches either with our group or on your own, then join us on the ECB Monitor Training Events, so that you can learn how to contribute to conservation of the amazing Eltham Copper Butterfly.

2019 Eltham Copper Butterfly events around Castlemaine

Date Activity Further information
Friday 8 November 2019
7.30 – 9.00 pm
Castlemaine Field Naturalists Club talk on ECB with Elaine Bayes
Hear general information on ECB biology and monitoring
Castlemaine Field Naturalists Club
click here
Saturday 9 November 2019
1.30 – 4.00 pm
Field trip to Kalimina Park with Castlemaine Field Naturalists Club
See ECB habitat and learn method of ECB search
Castlemaine Field Naturalists Club
click here
Saturday 16 November 2019
12.00 – 4.00 pm
ECB monitor training – introduction
Receive training day on how to monitor ECB
Connecting Country
click here
Sunday 17 November 2019
1.00 – 3.00 pm
Butterfly Celebration Day at Castlemaine Botanical Gardens
Attend family event with art and music and ECB habitat tours
Castlemaine Landcare Group
click here
Sunday 1 December 2019
12.00 – 4.00 pm
ECB monitor training – practical
Carry out ECB searches as a group
Connecting Country
Bookings not required
For more information click here
Sunday 15 December 2019
12.00 – 4.00 pm
ECB monitor training – practical
Carry out ECB searches as a group
Connecting Country
Bookings not required
For more information click here
Saturday 28 December 2019
12.00 – 4.00 pm
ECB monitor training – practical
Carry out ECB searches as a group
Connecting Country
Bookings not required
For more information click here


Trained ECB Monitors
are also invited to join Karl Just and Elaine Bayes on their searches throughout November and December. The following dates are scheduled but may change depending on the weather – contact elaine@rakali.com.au if you would like to be kept updated:

  • Friday 15 November 2019
  • Friday 29 November 2019
  • Thursday 19 December 2019
  • Friday 20 December 2019
  • Friday 27 December 2019

This year’s events are supported by the Wettenhall Environment Trust and Mount Alexander Shire Council. 

 

October Wheel Cactus Community Field Day – 27 October 2019

Posted on 24 October, 2019 by Ivan

Tarrangower Cactus Control Group and Parks Victoria will hold their next Community Field Day on Sunday 27 October 2019, with the group keen to get some new Cactus Warriors on board.

  • Where: Treloars Rd, Tarrangower, VIC. Follow the signs along Watersons Rd.
  • When: 10.30 am to 12.30 pm on Sunday 27 October 2019.

Come and join the Cactus Warriors and Parks Victoria for a morning in the fresh air and learn how best to destroy Wheel Cactus. The location is at a property in Treloars Rd, around the corner from Watersons Rd. The route will be well signposted. The morning’s activities finish with a delicious BBQ lunch and friendly chat. The event is family friendly but children must be accompanied by a parent at all times.

For more information on the infamous Cactus Warriors – click here.

Check out the poster below for a location map or visit www.cactuswarriors.org and subscribe for a monthly field day reminder.

 

 

Where is that weed heading?

Posted on 24 October, 2019 by Ivan

A new web-based tool developed by Macquarie University in collaboration with the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage is helping tackle the problem of weeds. It can be used by anyone but is particularly useful for land managers to help identify which weeds pose the greatest threat on their land.

Weed Futures is a web-based decision-support tool that anyone can use to find out information for over 500 weed species. The information available is a comprehensive assessment of potential weed threats for regions of interest under current and predicted future climates. It also rates weed species that are not yet invasive as having low, medium or high potential for establishment and expansion now and in the future. This tool is ideal to assist land managers in identifying those species for which detailed weed risk assessment and management are needed.

Weeds damage our environment, economy, biodiversity, threatened species and our public land. So much so that 18% of key threatening processes listed across the country are weed related. Collectively, these threats affect 54% of all threatened species and communities. To make matters worse, the interaction between weeds and other threats, such as climate change, only exacerbate the problem and can increase the invasive potential of weeds.

Weeds are often garden plants that escaped into the landscape (photo by Ivan Carter)

To tackle this pervasive issue, experts from Macquarie University, NSW Office of Environment and Heritage and others worked together through the NSW Adaptation Research Hub – Biodiversity Node to come up with some solutions. This work resulted in Weed Futures.

The Weed Futures tool can be used by anyone, but is particularly valuable to decision-makers, councils, government authorities, weeds officers, bush care groups and researchers. Weed Futures fills a significant knowledge gap about the potential distribution of weed species, an important factor in determining a weed’s risk.

Connecting Country will be using the Weed Futures mapping tool to assess the risk of many localised invasive species into the future, under a changing climate. Interestingly, the website gives predictions of potential distributions into 2035 and 2065, under a variety of climate change scenarios.

By using an informed evidence-based approach to decision-making, weed threats can be prioritised and efforts targeted to areas where the greatest benefit can be achieved. With the help of tools such as this, the combined effort of land managers and decision-makers can best target effort to reduce the impact of weeds on our environment and hopefully create a brighter future for our threatened species.

Predicted suitable habitat of Blanket Weed (Galenia pubescens) by 2065 (image by Weed Futures)

 

Become a butterfly monitor and help protect a threatened species – updated

Posted on 17 October, 2019 by Frances

Castlemaine’s Kalimna Park is home to the largest remaining population of the threatened Eltham Copper Butterfly in the world. However, we don’t know how many butterflies there currently are, and its entirely possible that other, undiscovered populations exist around the Castlemaine area.

Local ecologists Elaine Bayes and Karl Just will be running four Eltham Copper Butterfly monitoring sessions around Castlemaine VIC over November and December 2019, when the adult butterflies are out and about. The aim is to support interested community members to learn how to monitor with expert guidance, conduct more monitoring and (hopefully) discover new populations.

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

This is a fantastic opportunity to get out in the bush, learn more about your local environment, and collect some really important data to help protect this beautiful threatened species. You might even discover a new population of this special butterfly!

Everyone is invited to get involved. Monitoring isn’t difficult but you will need:

  • A reasonable level of physical fitness, as monitoring involves walking off-track through the bush, often in warm weather.
  • A positive attitude and willingness to learn.
  • Ability to read maps, follow simple procedures and record sightings.
  • Please bring water, a hat and suitable clothing, and snacks to keep you going.


Monitoring dates and locations are:

  • 12-4 pm Saturday 16 November 2019. Location: Kalimna Park Rotunda, Kalimna Tourist Road, Castlemaine – click here for map.
  • 12-4 pm Sunday 1 December 2019. Location: Water tank on Hunter Track, top end of Hunter Street, Castlemaine – click here for map.
  • 12-4 pm Sunday 15 December 2019. Location: Parking spot just north of where golf course intersects with Kalimna Tourist Road, Castlemaine – click here for map.
  • 12-4 pm Saturday 28 December 2019. Location: Corner of Vanstan Road and Lawson Parade, behind Castlemaine Secondary College, Castlemaine – click here for map.

You don’t need to attend all these events to become a monitor. Once you understand the monitoring method and feel confident you can identify an Eltham Copper Butterfly, you’re welcome to do your own monitoring and report sightings.

If you’d like to get involved in Eltham Copper Butterfly monitoring, please just come along to a monitoring event, or for further information contact Ivan at Connecting Country (ivan@connectingcountry.org.au).

 

Our small endangered butterfly pulls a big crowd

Posted on 17 October, 2019 by Ivan

Our Eltham Copper Butterfly education event was a delightful success over the past weekend, with an enthusiastic crowd of 40 people attending to learn about this unique and threatened butterfly. The event was held at the Tea Room in the Castlemaine Botanical Gardens (Castlemaine VIC) and included a guided walk with local experts Elaine Bayes and Karl Just, exploring the native woodlands north of the gardens. Karl and Elaine delivered an informative and engaging presentation on the fascinating biology of the Eltham Copper Butterfly and its symbiotic relationship with Notoncus ant species. It was warming to hear Elaine’s enthusiasm about the mating cycles of this butterfly and her excitement that more populations may exist around our region, and could be discovered during monitoring over the next few months.

The Eltham Copper Butterfly is a small and attractive butterfly with bright copper colouring on the tops of its wings visible during the summer flight season.

Some interesting butterfly facts:

  • This unusual species due has a close symbiotic association with a group of ants from the genus Notoncus and the shrub Sweet Bursaria (Bursaria spinosa).
  • Adult butterflies lay their eggs on the roots and stems of Sweet Bursaria. Once the eggs hatch, the ants guard the caterpillars (providing protection from predators), ushering the larvae to and from the ant nest at the base of the shrub, to feed on the Sweet Bursaria leaves at night.  In return the ants feed on the sugar secretions exuded from the body of the caterpillar.
  • The butterfly prefers open flight paths and receiving direct sunlight. It likes vegetation with an open middle and understorey.

Karl and Elaine will be conducting Eltham Copper Butterfly monitoring sessions around Castlemaine over November and December 2019. We encourage interested people to come along, learn how to monitor and get involved with protecting this special butterfly.

If you’d like to get involved in monitoring please see our relevant blog post (click here) or contact Ivan at Connecting Country (ivan@connectingcountry.org.au)

Here are some photos from our recent event from Ivan Carter, and some lovely Eltham Copper Butterfly photos from Elaine Bayes:

 

Community trained in early invaders

Posted on 9 October, 2019 by Ivan

The Weeds at the Early Stage of Invasion (WESI) Project, together with Connecting Country, had a strong turnout for their training event last Thursday 3 October 2019 in Newstead VIC. The education event, part of our Habitat Health Check project, focused on identifying environmental weeds that are not yet established in our region, but have the potential to grow their distribution.

The session targeted identification of some early-invader environmental weeds relevant to the Mount Alexander region, including Asparagus fern (Asparagus scandens), White Spanish Broom (Cytisus multiflorus), Broad kernel Espartillo (Achnatherum caudata), Dropping Tree-Pear (Opuntia monacantha), Buffel Grass (Cenchrus ciliaris) and Old Man’s Beard (Clematis vitalba).

Early invaders are plants that have naturalised and started to spread. When spread has just begun, such plants are localised and generally encountered only by chance. Coordinated management intervention (i.e., eradication or containment) is feasible at this stage, due to their highly restricted distributions.

The training did an excellent job in alerting all attendees to the threats of many common garden varieties that can escape under the right conditions and impact surrounding landscapes. All 30 participants learned how to identify these plants, how to record and photograph them, and how to treat and survey the area.

The session also provided samples of another 25 plants that are invasive plants in our region, with attendees getting a chance to get up close and personal to the specimens and learn how to identify them from look-a-likes. Kate Blood and Bianca Gold, from the WESI-DEWLP team, showed passion and precision throughout the day and enlightened all who attended in the emerging threats to the regions biodiversity and agriculture. It was heartening to see attendees from the Mount Alexander Shire Council, Coliban Water, Parks Victoria, Landmate, North Central Catchment Management Authority, and many Landcare and community groups from across our region.

The WESI Project focuses on high risk invasive species at the early stage of invasion that threaten biodiversity. The WESI project works mainly with Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP) and Parks Victoria staff looking after public land and biodiversity across Victoria, but also trains community groups and landowners in identifying early invaders.

For more information on the WESI training, please click here. If you would like to be involved in Connecting Country’s monitoring program, please click here.

Here are some photos from the training by Ivan Carter (Connecting Country) and Kate Blood (DELWP).

 

Birdlife Castlemaine District celebrates its first birthday

Posted on 26 September, 2019 by Ivan

Sue, Jane, and Phil celebrate Birdlife Castlemaine District’s first birthday at a bird walk in July (photo: Birdlife Castlemaine District)

Connecting Country work with Birdlife Castlemaine District on many projects and share a common love for our regions birds and biodiversity. It was a significant effort and milestone for Castlemaine to have its own Birdlife branch, highlighting the community support and passion for our nature hotspots and wildlife. The newest branch of BirdLife Australia was officially launched at the Castlemaine Botanic Garden’s Tea rooms in July 2018, meaning they recently celebrated their first birthday!  A belated ‘Happy Birthday’ and congratulations on a fabulous first year to Birdlife Castlemaine District.

How you can be involved with Birdlife Castlemaine District:

‘Like’ their Facebook page: CLICK HERE 

Email castlemaine@birdlife.org.au if you would like to be added to their eNews list.

Become a member of BirdLife Castlemaine District by joining their parent, BirdLife Australia: CLICK HERE 

 

 

 

 

Looking after parks across Victoria – your chance to help!

Posted on 26 September, 2019 by Asha

Parks Victoria are developing a state-wide Land Management Strategy to guide and inform future planning and decision-making across the parks estate. The Strategy is intended to respond to key challenges – including climate change, population growth, changing community needs, increased visitation, invasive pest species, accessibility requirements and more.

Parks Victoria are now inviting communities and stakeholders to provide their feedback on the draft Aspiration and Guiding Principles that will form the basis of the Land Management Strategy.

You can provide feedback online at www.engage.vic.gov.au/lms until midnight Sunday 29 September 2019. Parks Victoria have also prepared an Engagement Park document (click here to download), to support groups promote the engagement and hold conversations.

If you have further questions, you can contact parkstrategymailbox@parks.vic.gov.au

The Victorian National Parks Association (VNPA) have also offered support and advice through their website: CLICK HERE.

Parks play an important role for biodiversity and habitat refuge. Photo: Alison Pouliot

 

 

Walking together towards Reconciliation: Weather knowledge of the KULIN Nations

Posted on 17 September, 2019 by Ivan

In some regions the Kulin Nations observed and named seven seasons of varying length in a year; each season happens when certain stages are reached in the natural world. The local Dja Dja Wurrung clans of the Kulin Nation, however, divided the year into six seasons.

The name Poorneet, meaning tadpoles, is given to the time in September and October when temperatures are rising, although there is still plenty of rain. Tadpoles are found in the water holes, and Pied Currawongs are louder and cheekier than ever. Days and nights are of equal length.

Plants like the Murnong (Yam Daisy) are flowering, so it’s time to dig for the yam tubers. Murnong, once abundant all over Victoria, rapidly became scarce after colonists brought what were soon vast numbers of sheep into the region.

Yams may make a comeback as a food source, since Aboriginal communities in East Gippsland and the NSW south coast have begun experimenting with yam cultivation. In his book Dark Emu, Bruce Pascoe tells how the very first records of European explorers and pioneers give evidence that Aboriginal people were farming the land. But to the newcomers, for whom the crops and agricultural methods were totally different from the familiar ones of home, they meant very little. All too soon, grain stores, tilled land, eel traps, houses and wells returned to the soil from which they had come.

Many thanks to Nalderun for this article. Nalderun is a service that supports the Aboriginal Community, led by Aboriginal people. Many people and organisations in the Mount Alexander Shire contribute  to Nalderun; the name is a Dja Dja Wurrung word meaning ‘all together’. More information can be found at www.nalderun.net.au

 

Spring railway walk with Nuggetty Land Protection Group – 22 September 2019

Posted on 11 September, 2019 by Jess

Nuggetty Land Protection Group is planning a walk along the Nuggetty to Shelbourne Railway line. This was a branch line from Maldon through Nuggetty and Bradford and ends at the Shelbourne Station complex. The old railway line traverses farmland and Bradford Nature Conservation Reserve. The line was closed in 1960 after due to major fire damage. There will be a stop for lunch at the reserve to look at local birds, orchids and other flora. Binoculars, tea, coffee and water will be available.

Jacky Winter (photo by Kerrie Jennings)

Spring railway walk

When: Sunday 22 September 2019 from 9:30 am

Where: Park at Nuggetty Peace Monument, Nuggetty School Rd, Nuggetty VIC (turn right off Shelbourne Rd north of Maldon). A community bus will transport walkers to start of walk.

Bookings preferred: Jane Mitchell (0457 729 132) or Christine Fitzgerald (0419 347 408)

The walk is approximately 13 km. Bus will meet at intersections of roads if lift required and return you to your car or take you to next section of the walk. Please bring own lunch and water, and wear walking shoes, weather appropriate clothing and hats. The event will be cancelled if weather inclement. Please leave pets at home.

 

Landcare Week 2019 is next week!

Posted on 29 August, 2019 by Asha

Ready to get outside and enjoy the sunshine? Want to make a difference and help our local environment? CLICK HERE to see some of the Landcare events happening over the next month. Anyone is welcome to come along to these to give Landcare a try and ask questions.

Connecting Country and the Landcare Steering Group are also running four stalls for Landcare Week from 1 to 8 September 2019. We’ll be at Castlemaine Farmers Market, Castlemaine Maxi IGA, Wesley Hill Market and Maldon Market, so please come by for chat and pick up some free brochures!

 

Wattle walk and talk well received

Posted on 29 August, 2019 by Ivan

The wattles were blooming like crazy for the strong crowd of nearly 50 people at our ‘Wonderful World of Wattles’ event on Saturday 24 August at Campbells Creek in central Victoria. It was a day to remember, with sunny weather and two excellent guest speakers to educate participants about the beauty, benefits and biodiversity of the Acacia (wattle) species in our region. Connecting Country, Friends of Campbells Creek Landcare and Friends of the Box-Ironbark Forests partnered to deliver the event, which was part of our larger ‘Prickly plants for wildlife’ project funded through the North Central Catchment Management Authority.

The event kicked off indoors with retired academic and botanist Rod Orr, who has spent many years volunteering at the Bendigo Field Naturalists Club. Rod provided an excellent overview on the ecology and biological function of wattles. The audience was fascinated to learn that wattles can produce their own nitrogen fertiliser through nodules in their roots, allowing them to live in extremely low-nutrient soils. This explains why they are so useful in colonizing disturbed sites and degraded landscapes, like central Victoria!

The second part of the educational event was a walk and talk with Campbells Creek identity Ian Higgins, through the Campbells Creek Reserve at the end of Honeycomb Road. This site proved perfect for the keen audience to test their skills in identifying the large array of Acacia species that had been re-established at the site. Ian pointed out some of the finer skills in how to differentiate between species. He also gave the group a lesson in growing Acacias from seeds, and managed to get the audience to complete some direct seeding in a site dominated by Phalaris grass!

For those who could not attend, Friends of the Box-Ironbark Forests have developed an excellent 112 page book for sale, suited to beginners. In plain language, and generously illustrated, it presents 21 Acacia species that flourish in the Mount Alexander region of central Victoria. A general introduction explains different features of wattles, helping in identification and appreciation of these tenacious and beautiful plants.

Many thanks to Gen Kay, who generously volunteered her photography skills to capture the following images on the day.

 

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.