Restoring landscapes across the Mount Alexander Region

Sponsor a community planting day: Seeking YOUR help for 2023 National Tree Day

Posted on 31 May, 2023 by Ivan

The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago, the next best time is now, and we need your help!

We are partnering with local Landcare groups and Mount Alexander Shire Council to deliver a National Tree Day event on Sunday 30 July 2023. The day will be open to everyone to participate and will include planting indigenous plants for habitat and learning more about our local landscape.

The tree planting event aims to empower the younger generations of our community to take direct action in healing the land and tackling climate change. This is what they have asked for. Mount Alexander Shire Council recently surveyed young people in our local area. Our young people reported they want opportunities to plant trees, make homes for wildlife and to undertake practical actions to address climate change.

Photo by John Ellis


How you can help: sponsor a community planting day! 

We are raising funds to purchase local native plants and host a Community Planting Day on National Tree Day 2023, to support the Mount Alexander/ Leanganook community – young and wise – to help heal the land. Through this project, we aim to connect people of all ages with nature and restore degraded bushland.

The sponsored plants will be provided by local indigenous nurseries. You can sponsor the day by donating funds to go towards the purchase of the plants, stakes and guards. If you wish, you can attend the community planting day, get your hands dirty and plants the plants you have sponsored. However, if you can’t attend the event, your contribution will be guaranteed and the community will plant for you! Let’s work together to protect and restore our local biodiversity and nurture the land for our future generations! Donate today – click here

Photo credit: John Ellis


Degraded bushland

The Mount Alexander region of central Victoria has a long history of removing native vegetation for gold mining, agriculture, and timber and firewood harvesting, leading to many areas of degraded bushland, with little understory, or suitable habitat. In Australia, it can take hundreds of years for trees to form natural hollows. Due to the profound environmental change caused by European colonisation and the gold rush, many trees in our region are still young and have little understory or ground cover. Connecting Country has nearly two decades of experience in restoring these landscapes, and will oversee the event, to ensure the maximum benefit for our local wildlife and community.

Much of our bushland has been turned over and lacks understorey species. Photo: Asha Bannon


Donate today via our Give Now page – click here

We are reaching out to our community for support to purchase a selection of local native trees, shrubs and groundcovers, to allow us to restore bushland and support our younger generations and local community. Donating to our ‘Trees for our next generation’ campaign provides excellent value for your investment: 

  • All plants purchased using the funds raised during this campaign will be from local nurseries that specialise in indigenous plants to this region. This is vital to ensure plants are adapted to local conditions, support local wildlife whilst supporting local businesses.
  • Experienced volunteers from Landcare will be supporting the planting, making this an effective and highly efficient project.
  • Our 15-year track record of landscape restoration and monitoring demonstrates the importance and relevance of this project and the excellent outcomes for local wildlife and community education.
  • Restoring degraded bushland, which was turned upside-down during the gold rush, is an important community engagement activity and allows people who deeply care about our landscape to take direct action.
  • The project will allow donors who wish to be involved on the day to plant a local native plant on National Tree Day, as well as passionate volunteers and younger generations.
  • This project will support young people to undertake practical actions to address climate change and biodiversity loss – a key issue that young people are acutely aware will profoundly affect their generation.

Any funds raised above our target will go directly towards purchasing plants for other Landcare groups in our region.


Photo Credit: Leonie van Eyk

Donate today via our Give Now page – click here

We have a secure payment system and all donations (>$2) to Connecting Country are tax deductible.

Can’t donate? Here are some other ways you can help

  • Attend the community tree planting event, and volunteer to revegetate the sponsored plants
  • Share our campaign with your friends and networks.
  • Retain leaf litter, logs, and trees (especially mature trees) on your property, as these provide foraging and den resources for wildlife
  • Consider doing revegetation or installing nestboxes on your property
  • Contribute to restoring healthy forests by joining your local Landcare or Friends group. To find a group near you – click here


Walking Together – towards Makarrata

Posted on 29 May, 2023 by Ivan

Our friends and project partners at Nalderun have sent through a timely article, highlighting the history of native title, land rights and acknowledging country. The article was written Floria Maschek, an ally and member of Friends of Nalderun (FoN). Nalderun is a Dja Dja Wurrung word meaning “all together”. Please see the article below, provided kindly by Nalderun.


WALKING TOGETHER – towards Makarrata

Makarrata = ‘coming together after a struggle, facing the facts of wrongs and living again in peace.’

Mabo, native title, land rights and acknowledging Country

Pardalotes are busy under the newly replaced eaves outside my window. The beautiful birds may be looking to build a nest there. I consider my family’s journey to this place, struggles and privileges that brought us to Djaara Country and our impacts on land and life. Connections of ‘Country’ are inseparable from First People’s culture and lore. I think about how this relates to autonomy, community, resilience and well-being. With respect to the elders past and present, their sovereignty never ceded, I acknowledge Country.

In my second contribution to Walking Together, I revisit the topic of native title and land rights. Mabo Day on June the 3rd during Reconciliation Week, is the anniversary of a momentous turning point in the land rights movement, acknowledging First People’s ongoing connections to their lands and culture. 

The far reaching Frontier Wars that occurred after 1788 resulted in vast displacement of First Nations people. Much truth telling is needed, but awareness is building. We know First Peoples have defended their rights to their lands, waters and self determination since the beginning of colonisation. 

During the 19th and 20th centuries many were forced onto missions, stations and reserves, working under horrendous conditions. There were many deaths and family separations. Culture and language were usually disallowed. This occurred under government ‘protection’ boards. Forced into these areas, some eventually obtained land leases as happened locally in the 1840s in Franklinford. However almost all that lived here were then moved onto Coranderrk Aboriginal Reserve.

In 1966 hundreds of Gurindji Peoples walked off Wave Hill Station in the Northern Territory in protest. In 1975 the commonwealth government transferred land to them in a historic first. The Northern Territory Aboriginal Land Rights Act was established, leading to further hand backs. Some states followed, introducing land rights legislations, though greatly limiting lands that could be claimed. 

In 1992 The Mabo Case, mounted by five Torres Strait Islander Meriam People including Eddie ‘Koiki’ Mabo, was successful in overturning the myth of ‘Terra Nullius’ (Land belonging to no one). The High Court recognised they had lived on their lands for thousands of years according to their own laws and customs. In 1993 the Native Title Act was passed with a promise to ‘rectify past injustices’. 

In the years that followed, a series of High Court decisions tested the implementation of Native Title legislation. Claims proved to be very difficult. Those that had been removed off their lands now had to demonstrate their People’s continuous practice of lore and customs there since pre-colonisation.

In 1996 in response to the Wik Peoples of Cape York Peninsula, the High Court Wik Decision ruled pastoral leases of crown land could co-exist with Native Title. These leases could now be more easily preserved over the rights of First Peoples. The extinguishment regime was furthered in the Native Title Amendment Act of 1998 and the 10 point plan. 

The Timber Creek decision of 2019 was the first time the High Court considered and confirmed how compensations should be assessed for cultural and economic losses from violation of native title rights. 

The South West Native Title Settlement was approved by the Noongar Nation in Western Australia. It was described by some as ‘Australia’s first treaty’, being the most comprehensive and largest native title settlement yet, commencing in 2021. Here is a mere glimpse into a very complex history. The ideals of Mabo are yet to be fully recognised. I centre my acknowledgements, hopes and efforts in the truth of Mabo. 

I am always moved by the strength of First Peoples and the love poured into self determination and community. Here locally, Nalderun, with the support of Friends of Nalderun and the broader community, are an inspiration as they strengthen connections throughout many areas of community, culture, grow proud generations, connect to the land and waters and nurture Country. I look forward to sharing more as I learn. 

Mabo day is on the last day of Reconciliation Week running from 27th May – 3rd June. Sorry Day – May 26th. Look out for the guide offering many locally run Nalderun events. The Reconciliation Week stall and exhibition will be on again this year at the Castlemaine Market Building.  


Floria Maschek is an ally and member of Friends of Nalderun (FoN). FoN members are guided by Nalderun Education Aboriginal Corporation and are diverse individuals and representatives of many local community networks, supporting Nalderuns visions and work. Nalderun Education Aboriginal Corporation supports the Aboriginal Community and is led by Aboriginal people while providing many learning and cultural opportunities to the broader community. Nalderun is a Dja Dja Wurrung word meaning “all together”. 

More information can be found at


Check out this cute as a button Phascogale (and thank you Arborcam!)

Posted on 29 May, 2023 by Jess

Here at Connecting Country, we are very grateful to all who donate their time or hard-earned cash to Connecting Country. It really takes a village to get things done!

We use remote cameras to supplement our volunteer nestbox monitoring program and to check any nest boxes that we can’t quite reach with a ladder.

We recently took our monitoring cameras to the manufacturer, Arborcam, for repairs and were delighted that Blair kindly donated us the newest model! You can see some of the fantastic, clear (and adorable) footage of our favourite dasyurid marsupial, the Brush-tailed Phascogale (or Tuan) that Blair provided using the Arborcam  Mk 3 (our cameras are pre-mk 1).


Thank you for your generous donation Arborcam!  We can’t wait to put them into action.

We loan our cameras out to Connecting Country and Landcare members in our local area for nest box monitoring. Or, they can be purchased from Arbocam: Click Here

For more about our monitoring program,  how to get involved or to donate to the program, please Click Here



2023 Landcare Link-up – sharing stories in Taradale

Posted on 24 May, 2023 by Hadley Cole

The 2023 Landcare Link-up is coming up on Saturday 17 June 2023 and everyone is welcome!

As part of Connecting Country’s ongoing support for Landcare groups in the Mount Alexander/ Leanganook region, we coordinate an annual Landcare Link-up to provide groups with an opportunity to get together, learn, share and connect.  It’s also a great opportunity for anyone not yet engaged in Landcare to learn more about what’s involved.

The theme for this years Link-up event is ‘Sharing Stories’ and will be held in Taradale, starting with gentle walk through Barkly Park followed by afternoon tea at the Taradale Hall.

Taradale Landcare Group are kindly co-hosting the event and will walk us through their Rediscover Barkly Park project.  Barkly Park is public land with hidden conservation values and offers a wonderful space for Landcare activities and for the wider community to connect with nature.

The group has been working hard to promote Barkly Park through educational and engaging walks throughout 2022/23 and a mini celebration festival earlier this year.   They have plans to care for and restore the site for both community and animals to enjoy for years to come.  We will hear from group President, Brian Bainbridge, who will present the plans and processes behind the Rediscover Barkly Park project.   Brian has decades of experience in restoring landscapes and connecting people with nature through various volunteer and paid roles.  It’s sure to be an interesting and engaging event.

Barkly Park, Taradale VIC. Photo by Taradale Landcare. 




Following the visit to Barkly Park, we will head over to the Taradale Hall to hear more interesting stories from Landcarers in the region and enjoy a lovely afternoon tea together.

Bookings are essential for catering purposes. To book your place, please -click here

For any inquiries please email: or call the Connecting Country office on: 0493 362 394

We thank the North Central Catchment Management Authority for their support of this event.


Castlemaine Landcare Group’s AGM: The fascinating history of Forest Creek

Posted on 17 May, 2023 by Ivan

Our friends and project partners, Castlemaine Landcare Group, are having their 2023 AGM on Thursday 25 May 2023 at the Northern Arts Hotel, Castlemaine VIC. Please find the details provided below about what looks like a most interesting guest speaker and topic for discussion. 

Castlemaine Landcare Group’s Annual General Meeting (AGM) with guest speaker Clive Willman, historian and geologist.

When: 7.30 pm, Thursday 25 May 2023

Where: Northern Arts Hotel, 359 Barker St. Castlemaine VIC

Local historian and geologist Clive Willman will give us new insights into the geological and cultural background of today’s Forest Creek at Castlemaine Landcare Group’s AGM.

Clive is a well-known geologist who has had a long career in government and the local mining industry. He has completed extensive geological studies of the local area for the Geological Survey of Victoria and is known for his deep knowledge of 19th century mining methods. Clive has contributed to international scientific papers and numerous books regarding Victoria’s geological history and has made educational films for the New South Wales and Victorian state governments. Clive is also a long-term member of Landcare.

Clive will speak about the ancient origins of Forest Creek and how mining and agriculture have affected the local landscape since the gold rush. He will explain how Central Victorian streams owe their origins to uplift of The Great Dividing Range, which was caused by Antarctica’s slow separation from southern Australia. Over the millennia, long-lived streams like the Loddon River, and Forest, Campbell’s and Barker’s creeks, have meandered but remained confined to remarkably persistent valleys. He will show how the latest high-tech LiDAR imagery complements 1850s surveyors’ maps, old aerial photos, and the oral histories of long-term residents. These all help to unravel the history of Forest Creek and Moonlight Flat since 1851 and show how mining, farming and Chinese market gardening have all left their imprints on the local landscape.

Drinks (beer, wine, and non-alcoholic) will be available at bar prices, and it is recommend that you purchase something to recognise the generosity of the Northern Arts Hotel for hosting. Castlemaine Landcare Group will provide a supper after the presentation. No bookings necessary. All welcome!




An ode to Landcare volunteers – Transforming local landscapes

Posted on 16 May, 2023 by Ivan

This week is National Volunteer Week (15 – 21 May 2023) and Connecting Country would like to acknowledge the hard work and dedication of our many Landcare volunteers actively working to protect and restore the natural environment across the Mount Alexander/ Leanganook region. We could not achieve what we do without you!

At its heart, Landcare is about caring for land so that it will support our society and maintain our natural resources for generations to come. Depending on where you live that might mean looking after a farm, nature strip, local bush reserve or waterway – all kinds of land. Through Landcare, individuals and communities get the support, knowledge and resources necessary to do this work. In the Mount Alexander/ Leanganook region, we are lucky to have over 30 community groups working with hundreds of volunteers, many who have been contributing for multiple decades.

In particular this year, we pay tribute to local Landcare legend, Maurie Dynon, who passed away in March 2023. Maurie was a well-respected and loved member of Guildford Upper Loddon Landcare Group for almost 30 years. He also contributed many volunteer hours to Connecting County, as a member of the founding committee and to the Landcare Steering Group. He swore by the power of a cuppa in connecting community and through his determination and many cups of tea, he recruited many Guildford and Yapeen landholders to get on board local restoration projects, helping to transform the local landscape to benefit both farmland and habitat in the local area.

Joining Landcare is a great way to meet your neighbours and get involved in grassroots environmental action that helps to build resilient landscapes. As Maurie has been quoted as saying; “Landcare is great fun! You’re meeting new people all the time with different outlooks, from different walks of life and you learn something from all of them.”

To find a group near you or find out how you could get involved, visit the Landcare page on the Connecting Country website – click here or contact the office at or ph: 0434 362 394.

Maurie Dynon and his wife Lois (both dec.) with Maurie’s beloved Landcare Ute. Photo from the Connecting Country archives.


Post Office Hill Action Group member Andrew with Chewton Primary School student Orlo, working together to revegetate Post Office Hill Reserve in Chewton VIC. Photo by John Ellis.



A tribute to Landcarer Maurie Dynon (1934 – 2023)

Posted on 19 April, 2023 by Hadley Cole

On Saturday 25 March 2023 we lost Landcare legend and Yapeen/ Guildford local, Maurie Dynon. Maurie contributed countless volunteer hours to Guildford Upper Loddon Landcare group and their restoration projects over almost 30 years. He was known affectionately by Yapeen and Guildford locals and often seen down at the local general store in his ute adorned with Landcare signage, collecting his morning paper.  After moving to Guildford around thirty years ago, Maurie signed up to Guildford Upper Loddon Landcare group and never looked back. He swore by the power of a cuppa in connecting community. Through his determination and many cups of tea he recruited many Guildford and Yapeen landholders to get on board local restoration projects.


Maurie with his beloved ute overlooking plans for the Larni Barramal Yaluk (previously Jim Crow) creek restoration project. Photo from the Connecting Country archives.


Most notably were his efforts in convincing landholders along Jim Crow Creek, now known as Larni Barramal Yaluk, to join forces in the management of Willow trees and other noxious weeds. Maurie went door to door and shared many cuppas with landholders as he talked of the value of restoring the creek line. Maurie shared the bigger picture with landholders, explaining how their local actions would help ecosystems downstream and lead to improving water quality all the way to Adelaide!

Maurie also worked with Guildford Upper Loddon Landcare group and landholders along the Guildford Plateau to restore shelterbelts and wildlife corridors across private land. His enthusiasm for restoration spread among landholders across the Plateau with farmers discovering that establishing the corridors also saved their lambs from frost.


Maurie working with Asha Bannon on mapping Landcare projects in 2017. Photo from the Connecting Country archive.


Maurie giving a tour of Blue Duck Mine project site. Photo by Ivan Carter.


Over the many decades that Maurie was involved with Landcare, he worked with many government and community organisations. His ability to leverage funding from government agencies was a credit to him. He saw the big picture possibilities in expanding restoration projects to the landscape scale. Restoration at the Blue Duck Mine site in Fyerstown was another of Maurie’s favourite projects that benefited from his enthusiasm, determination and wonderful conversation skills, resulting in positive outcomes for the local landscape.


Maurie with the Connecting Country team in 2019 at the Landcare Awards. Photo from the Connecting Country archives.


Maurie sitting in a workshop at the Connecting Country Reference group meeting in 2008. Photo by Beth Mellick.


Maurie worked closely with Connecting Country since its beginning in 2008, including as a member of Connecting Country ‘s Reference group and Committee of Management from 2008 -2014. He then continued his relationship as a valued member of Connecting Country’s Landcare Steering Group for over seven years, right up until late 2022. Maurie was a welcome regular visitor to the Connecting Country office, and an inspiration to us all.

The Connecting Country team send their condolences to the beloved family and friends of Maurie. Maurie’s positivity and kindness will be greatly missed.

Comments from his Landcare friends and colleagues:

I was honoured when Maurie invited me to accompany him as his ‘date’ for the 2019 Landcare awards in Melbourne. We have much to learn from Maurie‘s gentle manner, patient determination and significant on-ground achievements.    Frances Howe

I first met Maurie when Wettenhall decided to start Connecting Country. In 2007 we got together as many ‘key’ people in the area. Maurie and Lois (Maurie’s wife) were at all the initial meetings and workshops (Maurie always wearing his signature hat), and I got to learn a lot from him.    Beth Mellick

Maurie brought humour and wisdom to every room he was in through his many stories. His love for the land and his community were evident in the way he lived his life, and the gentle but persistent ways he inspired so many others to get on board the landcare movement. I’ll always remember his kindness and his perseverance in getting landcare projects done on the smell of an oily rag.   Asha Bannon

Maurie was a wonderful conversationalist, and I will always remember his cheeky giggle, positivity and kind nature.    Hadley Cole

Down the hill and down the map
Is Guildford Upper Loddon’s patch.
The group has members far and wide,
And utes with writing on the side.
The weeds that way will wilt with worry,
Just from catching sight of Maurie.

From Max Schlachter’s Landcare poem



Bird of the month: White-fronted Chat

Posted on 18 April, 2023 by Ivan

Welcome to 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 the brilliant Jane Rusden and Damian Kelly from BirdLife Castlemaine District writing about our next bird of the month, accompanied by Damian’s stunning photos.

White-fronted Chat (Epthianura albifrons)

Despite being quite common in certain areas, I get excited when I see a White-fronted Chat because they are not so common in Mount Alexander Shire. A very striking bird, especially the male with it’s distinctive black and white colouring. The female is a bit more grey and brown, but still has the beautiful white chest and belly with the stunning black chest stripe.

The White-fronted Chat’s range extends across the southern parts of Australia, avoiding the driest areas, Tasmania and some of the larger islands in Bass Straight. Locally they can be found on the Moolort Plains, along the edges of wetlands such as Cairn Curran and Lignum Swamp. This kind of habitat is typical for them as it’s essentially open grassland around open damp and possibly saline patches of ground.

Foraging amongst seaweed on Port Fairy beeches is where Damian Kelly took a photo of this male White-fronted Chat.

So, what is it that makes White-fronted Chats attracted to open areas of habitat? That would be food of course! They wander around, but don’t hop, foraging for insects and occasionally seeds, on the ground and in low shrubs. If startled, they will fly a short distance to a prominent perch such as a branch or fence. I’ve usually seen them perched on fence wires.

White-fronted Chats usually stay in one place all year round, however weather and food availability will encourage them to move when necessary. Banding recoveries have been from less than 10km from the original site where the bird was banded, indicating they don’t move far.

Female White-fronted Chat, with her grey head, on a fence wire, a very typical perch for this species.

Interestingly, behavioural studies at Laverton Saltworks in southern Victoria, revealed that White-fronted Chats are quite an adaptable species. Often they will be in flocks of 30 or so birds, with pairs often foraging together, they also communally roost when not breeding. Cooperative breeding (where non-parent birds help raise chicks), is not apparent in this species and breeding pairs may change over the years. However, they nest semi-colonially, with several nests close together. Essentially there will be a whole lot of breeding pairs, who are a bit fluid about who they are paired to, hanging out together most of the time, but doing their own thing.

The adaptability of the White-fronted Chat is highlighted in their breeding, being opportunistic in drier country, largely in response to rain and food availability. However, in wetter coastal areas breeding is seasonal. The nest is cup-shaped and usually, three eggs are laid. Both parents will brood and feed the chicks, and hopefully, a Horsefield’s Bronze Cuckoo won’t find them, to parasitize the nest with their egg.

To listen to the call of the White-fronted Chat – click here

Jane Rusden
Damian Kelly


‘Our land at contact’ event: Tuesday 18 April 2023

Posted on 13 April, 2023 by Ivan

Our friends and project partners at the Newstead Landcare Group are excited to be hosting Professor Barry Golding at an event on 18 April 2023 on the environment around Newstead at the time of European contact. The event will be an intriguing exploration of historical and early botanical records that may be vital in our restoration efforts and planning of revegetation works. Please see details below, provided by Newstead Landcare Group.

Our land at contact

Last October, we were very excited about Prof. Barry Golding’s presentation on the environment around Newstead at the time of European contact. Alas, a lot of rain and rising floodwaters meant a last minute cancellation. We are now very pleased to announce that Barry will be presenting on this subject for us this April. Barry has combed through historical records to put together a vivid and moving picture of how the land around Newstead and its environs may have looked prior to contact.

The arrival of Europeans in Australia produced profound changes across the continent. It can be hard to know exactly what the landscape looked like before this dramatic upheaval. The documents left by the earliest intruders can give us a few clues. Professor Barry Golding of Federation University has combed through historical records to put together a picture of how the land around Newstead and its environs may have looked prior to contact. From the extensive permanent ponds on the Loddon containing literally tonnes of Murray Cod to the vast meadows of Yam Daisies (Myrnong), some of the descriptions Barry has found give us a glimpse of the extraordinary richness of our neck of the woods.

Ancient River Red Gum (Eucalyptus camaldulensis). Photo Barry Golding

Come along to our presentation on Tuesday April 18th when Barry will present what he’s learned about the extraordinarily rich and diverse vegetation communities that once adorned our landscape and the marvellous wildlife on this land and in the rivers.

The presentation will start at 7.30pm at Newstead Community Centre. All are welcome to attend, gold coin donations appreciated.


2023 Victorian Landcare and Junior Landcare grants are now open!

Posted on 6 April, 2023 by Hadley Cole

2023 Victorian Landcare Grants

The 2023 Victorian Landcare grants are now open! Landcare grants of up to $20 000 are available to Landcare and environmental volunteer groups for on-ground works, education, and capacity building projects that protect, enhance, and restore our land and natural environment.

The grants are open to environmental volunteer groups, including Landcare groups and networks, Friends groups, Conservation Management Networks, Committees of Management, and Aboriginal groups to support the important work they do in protecting and restoring our land and environment.

There are also support grants of up to $500 available to Landcare and environmental volunteer groups for help with administration and running costs.

Applications close on Tuesday 16 May 2023.

For more information and to read the grant guidelines – click here

2023 Victorian Junior Landcare grants

Victorian Junior Landcare grants are now open! The Victorian Junior Landcare and Biodiversity Grants provide funding for projects that involve and educate young people in valuing and actively caring for Victoria’s biodiversity and natural environment. These grants provide young Victorians with an opportunity to participate in biodiversity focused hands-on projects and/or learning activities.

The grants offer up to $5000 and are open to all schools, kindergartens, childcare centres, Scouts, Girl Guides, youth groups, and Junior Landcare groups in Victoria.

Applications close Friday 12 May 2023.

For more information and to read the grant guidelines – click here

If you have any queries regarding the Landcare grants please contact Hadley our Landcare Facilitator by email: or call the Connecting Country office 0493 362 294.


The Buzz project: promoting pollinators of central Victoria

Posted on 14 March, 2023 by Hadley Cole

The Buzz project: promoting pollinators of central Victoria, is a Connecting Country project funded by the 2022 Victorian Landcare grants, that aims to celebrate and expand community knowledge on the smaller heroes of our local ecosystems, the insect pollinators.

The project was launched with a presentation from local entomologist and bee specialist Dr Mark Hall, Senior Biodiversity Officer at the City of Greater Bendigo, on Wednesday 15 February 2023 at the Campbells Creek Community Centre. The presentation focussed on the various native pollinators we may see in the local area and was titled ‘Native pollinators on your property: who, where and what they do?’

We had a wonderful turnout to the presentation with up to forty enthusiastic attendees who came along with fantastic questions. Mark spoke of the many pollinators present across the landscape from native bees, to flies, butterflies, moths, and beetles. He spoke of the importance of connectivity between gardens, roadsides, and bushland of native vegetation to help build corridors for pollinators to move and plenty of wooded areas for them to nest in. We learnt of the specific adaptations native bees have formed to pollinate indigenous plants and how introduced insects such as honey bees cannot perform the same pollination service as efficiently as the native pollinators.

Following the presentation, we then went out on a field trip with Mark to a private property in Harcourt on Friday 24 February 2023. The field trip was titled ‘promoting native pollinators from property to landscape.’ Thirteen enthusiastic participants came along to learn of the various monitoring techniques we can use to investigate the pollinators occuring on our properties, Landcare sites and in our backyards. The beautiful property of Lois from Barkers Creek Landcare and Wildlife group did not dissapoint! Although it is late in the season for many insects, we discovered a range of insect pollinators in Lois’s garden and the bushland on her property. A couple of species of Blue banded bees were on show, as well as the Imperial Jezebel (Delias harpalyce) butterfly that feeds on misstletoe, a few dragonflies were noted however were very difficult to catch with the net as they zip about so fast! The most exciting discovery was a Cuckoo Bee (Thyreus) found in one of the insect traps. As the cuckoo part of the name suggests, the native Cuckoo Bee will take over the nests of Blue Banded Bees by laying their eggs in with those of the Blue Banded Bees. Although the Cuckcoo bees are not the friendliest of bees they are very beautiful and Mark reassured us that they appear to exist in smaller numbers than many of the other native bees.

So far The Buzz project has been a wonderful success, bringing together community members, nature enthusiasts and Landcarers with a common focus of learning more about the various native pollinators occurring across the local landscape, where they live, how they behave and the types of pollination services they provide.

Connecting Country would like to thank Dr. Mark Hall for his brilliant contributions to The Buzz project. The knowledge he has shared with us all will go a long way to building a greater understanding of the native pollinators of the region. A big thank you also goes to Lois and Geoff for sharing their beautiful property in Harcourt for the field trip.

If you or your Landcare group are interested in learning more on how to monitor and survey insects across the region please get in touch by emailing

We will host one final event later in the year in Spring to wrap up The Buzz project, so stay tuned for more details!

This project was funded through the Victorian Landcare Grants and the North Central Catchment Management Authority.



Wheel Cactus hinders fire fighting

Posted on 14 March, 2023 by Ivan

Our friends and partners at the Tarrangower Cactus Control Group Inc. (TCCG) have recently published a media article highlighting the firefighting issues caused by infestations of the invasive plant wheel cactus (Opuntia robusta). Please find the article below which gives landholders yet another reason to control and remove infestations of this devastating noxious weed.

Patches of wheel cactus grow densely, forming an impenetrable barrier.   In some instances the plant was used as hedging. Where established, the weed is most likely to restrict human access and have impacts on the environment and agriculture. The barbed bristles of the wheel cactus are sharp, readily penetrating human skin causing severe irritation and are difficult to remove.

Wheel Cactus hinders fire fighting

Many of us are familiar with the destructive environmental impact of wheel cactus in Mount Alexander Shire. Some have volunteered for years in controlling this weed and take responsibility on their own and other properties. However, there are still properties in our area with significant infestations of wheel cactus.

Possibly, some landowners may not have considered the problems created by wheel cactus in a fire situation.

In a recent fire emergency in Baringhup, CFA volunteers were confronted with a situation made difficult due to the rocky and hilly terrain.  Equally confronting were the many large mature wheel cactus plants on one of the properties.  This dense infestation of wheel cactus created a dangerous situation for the CFA volunteers.  Combined with smoke affecting visibility and high-pressure hoses, the wheel cactus infected terrain became highly slippery and very challenging for the volunteers.

As CFA Captain Brendan McKnight commented “Wheel cactus is an OH&S issue for the CFA.  It is another risk factor in a situation that is already full of risk; just ask the poor bloke who fell onto a large wheel cactus while we were dealing with the fire”.

This fire incident has highlighted yet another reason why landowners need to control infestations of wheel cactus of their property.  We encourage all landowners to keep their property safe as well as environmentally healthy.

Tarrangower Cactus Control Group are available to provide advice and assistance to local land holders. Please contact us via our website

Tarrangower Cactus Control Group consists of Landcare volunteers dedicated to the eradication of Wheel Cactus (Opuntia robusta). 




Apply now for the North Central CMA Board

Posted on 14 March, 2023 by Ivan

Our friends and project partners at the North Central Catchment Management Authority (NCCMA) have an opportunity open to join their board and assist in achieving their vision of sustainably managed land, water and biodiversity resources in a changing climate. Each CMA board has a maximum of nine members including the Chairperson. The Board is responsible for the strategic planning of the authority and ensuring that the CMA fulfils its statutory functions consistently with its overall governance framework and is renumerated accordingly. Please find the details on how to apply below, courtesy of the NCCMA.

North Central Catchment Management Authority Board: Now Open

We are encouraging people from the North Central CMA region with diverse backgrounds and differing environmental perspectives to #GetonBoard. Applications for positions on the North Central Catchment Management Authority (CMA) Board have recently opened.

The Victorian Government is committed to increasing diversity on CMA Boards to encourage new ideas and reflect the rich diversity of the Victorian community.

Our Chair, Julie Miller Markoff, leads a well-established, dynamic, and knowledgeable Board that guides an energised and dedicated natural resource management team to achieve our vision of sustainably managed land, water and biodiversity resources supporting productive and prosperous communities in a changing climate.

Alongside the strategic and regional perspective that the Board brings to the diverse work of the North Central CMA, they also have a sharp focus on supporting Traditional Owner self-determination and tracking new opportunities in natural capital and environmental markets for the region.

More information Member, Victorian Catchment Management Authority Board |

Applications close at 11.59pm on Monday 27 March.

If you would like to discuss in more detail the role of the North Central CMA Board or have a question regarding the application process, please contact our Chair Julie Miller Markoff on 0407 819 066 or email


Kaweka Wildflower Sanctuary – AGM – call for new members!

Posted on 9 March, 2023 by Lori

        Kookaburra at Kaweka Sanctuary

Kaweka Wildflower Sanctuary is a beautiful ‘hidden gem’ in Castlemaine.   People often confuse Kaweka with Kalimna, but they are two different places!

The welcoming entrance to the reserve is visible from the intersection of Hargreaves and Turner Streets.  The 8ha stunning wildflower reserve was given to the people of the district over fifty years ago and has been lovingly looked after by locals ever since.

On Wednesday March 15 the Kaweka committee is having its Triennial AGM at 5.00pm.  Would you like to join this congenial group of nature-lovers?  They are a small group, definitely in need of new members in order to remain active.

They have irregular seasonal working bees and occasional meetings.  The meetings are enjoyable and quick, and the working bees are for weeding, planting, watering and other general maintenance.  They especially try to keep the plant identification signs up to date.

The committee is in danger of having to go into recess/hibernation – they need new people!  They need you!  It is a great opportunity to get involved in restoring our natural environment, learning from experienced members and gain group management skills, all while having fun!

The meeting will be at the main entrance next to the beautiful big rock.  Please feel free to come along, even if just curious to meet the group.

If you can’t make it but are interested in getting in touch, please contact and we can connect you.

Photos:  1. Kaweka Sanctuary entrance and 2. kookaburra –  Kaweka Committee


Wetland Revival Trust discovers new Eltham Copper Butterfly population in the Wimmera

Posted on 28 February, 2023 by Ivan

Connecting Country has partnered with local ecologist Elaine Bayes (Wetland Revival Trust) over many years to help monitor and conserve the critically endangered Eltham Copper Butterfly. We have delivered education programs and coordinated monitoring events in central Victoria, with Elaine tirelessly leading the campaign to improve land management practices and promote the survival of this iconic and fascinating species.

Elaine and her team at the Wetland Revival Trust recently reported some great news: they discovered the largest population of Eltham CopperButterfly and the largest area of habitat ever found! The new population is at Gerang Gerung, in the Wimmera region of northwest Victoria.

We congratulate Elaine and the team on their perseverance and recent exciting discovery!

The full media release is provided below, courtesy of the Wetland Revival Trust.


Wetland Revival Trust discovers National treasure in the Wimmera with the largest population of the Eltham Copper Butterfly found at Gerang Gerung

Wetland Revival Trust’s (WRT) long term butterfly project in northern Victoria discovered the largest population of the nationally endangered Eltham Copper Butterfly (ECB) (Paralucia pyrodiscus lucida) in the Wimmera, at two Gerang Gerung nature reserves.

Elaine Bayes, an ecologist from Wetland Revival Trust, a not-for-profit environmental charity, has been involved in the protection of this tiny butterfly since 2009.

Elaine started a search and find mission in 2019 in north central Victoria, where there are several ECB populations. The search spread to the Wimmera which may be the prime location for this species. Elaine said, ‘ECB numbers at the two very small known populations in the Wimmera were at much higher densities than in the north central where we had been searching.’

‘This year, our team searched 1,600 hectares of public land for the butterflies, 1,400 ha of which was in the Wimmera. And we were certainly rewarded for the effort, with around 500 ECB seen between the two Gerang Gerung reserves. To give perspective, in north central Victoria last year, we searched 1000 ha and found a total of 43 ECB peppered across a large area. To see 500 ECBs in one season is exceptional, and so far, this is the largest number of ECB and the largest area of ECB habitat ever found.’

This search was funded thanks to the Victorian Government Biodiversity On-ground Action Program (Icon Species Projects) which supports actions to protect nationally endangered species like ECB. ECB were first found in the Wimmera in 1988 at Salisbury Bushland Reserve and in a small area of Kiata Flora Reserve. In 2011, another tiny population (6 hectares) was found on a Wail roadside by local entomologist Fabian Douglas. In the intervening years, the Salisbury population became extinct, believed to be caused by sheep grazing out the butterfly’s food plants. The two remaining populations at Kiata and Wail are separated by a sea of agriculture, with nowhere for their young to disperse to.

There is no way for the populations to move around as environmental conditions change, and no corridors of native vegetation for the butterflies to move along so they can share DNA to make them more resilient. Also being small the sites are under threat from pests, weeds and roadworks.

Elaine believes that part of the reason ECB is rarely seen is that they require very specific conditions. As well as being dependent on one plant species to feed their larvae, the Sweet Bursaria (Bursaria spinosa), they require one specific ant species (Notoncus ectatommoides) to act as a bouncer for their larvae, scaring off predators that would otherwise feast on their juicy bodies. Their other very specific needs are that these delicate little butterflies are solar powered and only fly when it is 20-30 degrees with no wind or rain. The adults only emerge when there is abundant nectar around November and December usually peaking at Christmas and New Year (with a smaller emergence in March and April). Finding field staff to search for ECB at Christmas and New year is as rare a thing as finding the ECB themselves!

To find this elusive species you first find the one and only plant species it relies on, Sweet Bursaria (Bursaria spinosa) which is much easier to map as it is large, stays still and is present all year round! Previous searches have shown that ECB only occur where Sweet Bursaria plants are dense (more than 30 plants in a ¼ hectare). So, the first part of the plan is to search for and map dense Bursaria patches. The second part is to search those dense patches for ECB during their flying period.

Given the cool start to summer this year the number of days that ECB were flying before it became too hot for them was less than fourteen. WRT had ten field staff and several volunteers out searching the 1400 hectares. Ten very dedicated people who put this conservation work before summertime at the beach. The team searched areas including Gerang Gerung Mallee Dam, Gerang Gerung South Reserve. Glenlee NCR, Barrett NCR, Lierschs NCR, Coker Dam Wildlife Reserve and Lil Lil Dam and at a few locations in Castlemaine.

This work builds on WRT searches between 2019 and 2021 and a similar search in 2011, when large areas were mapped and collectively thirteen new populations around Central Victoria and at one at Wail were found. The new populations were very localised with the butterfly only occurring in 3-25 per cent of suitable habitat (where the ant and the host plant are present). This is reflected in this year’s survey where, out of 1400 ha, ECB was only found on 36 hectares.

The butterfly is listed as critically endangered under the Victorian Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act 1988 and as endangered under the Commonwealth Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999. This places considerable importance on managing the small number of known population sites and locating any potential new sites so they can be protected from threats.

The threats to this species in the Wimmera are numerous. Given the amount of historical land clearing in the Wimmera you can be confident that any quality remnant vegetation has a high likelihood of containing rare species, including insects, orchids and other plants and animals. Management and protection of these sites will bring benefits to multiple species as well as places of recreation and learning for future generations, impacts on local climate etc. Next year funding applications are in for weed and pest management, signage, translocations and more.

According to Elaine, it is undoubtable there will be ECB populations on private land where remnant vegetation occurs.

‘It is easy to check if you have any. First search your property or nearby bushland for dense patches Sweet Bursaria plants (easiest to see when flowering in December). Then look for the copper sparkle of flying adults in December on still days that are between 20-30 degrees. Tap each plant with a stick, which will cause them to fly and be more easily seen. Use the fact sheet and butterfly look alike sheet from the Eltham Copper Butterfly website ( Sightings can be reported on this site, the inaturalist app ( or on the Butterfly Australia app (’

Landholders can help protect this and other rare species by retaining and restoring native understorey plants on their properties.

Wetland Revival Trust
January 2023

Please enjoy the following photographs provided by the Wetland Revival Trust, showing the beauty and size of this national treasure.


We need your help! Mapping our old trees of central Victoria

Posted on 28 February, 2023 by Ivan

We are excited to announce the arrival of our new mapping portal, that aims to assist community citizen scientists to map the old, and often large, trees of central Victoria. The interactive mapping portal is part of Connecting Country’s larger project, ‘Regenerate before it’s too late‘ which aims to engage the community on the importance of old trees across the landscape and how to protect them. Within the mapping portal you will also find an updated species list that will assist with the identification process of the large old trees.

Over the next three years (2023 – 2025), we will continue to host community workshops and develop engagement resources such as the mapping portal and a video. We will also work with local landholders to implement practical on-ground actions to protect their large old trees and ensure the next generation of large old trees across the landscape.

The community, including landholders, Landcarers and land managers, will be vital in mapping their favourite old trees across our region. Anyone can access Connecting Country’s new online mapping portal. The portal uses BioCollect, an advanced but simple-to-use data collection tool developed by the Atlas of Living Australia (ALA) and its collaborators. BioCollect helps users collect field biodiversity data for their own projects, while allowing the data to be easily copied into the ALA, where it can be publicly available for others to use in research, policy and management. This allows individual projects to collectively contribute to a larger science database.

We need your help!

The mapping portal is now open for any community member to record the old trees in your area. You will need to register with the Atlas of Living Australia (its easy and free), then upload a photo and enter the field details needed for the survey. The portal will ask you simple questions about the tree location, size, species, age (if known), health status and habitat value.

Trees can be tricky to identify, especially eucalypts. If you are unsure about the identification of the tree species, you can:

  • Use the to iNaturalist app to assist with identification –  click here
  • Refer to a good guidebook, like those published by Friends of the Box-Ironbark Forests – click here
  • Visit the Castlemaine Flora website – click here

To record your large old tree, or view the field survey questions and required measurements – click here

By recording large old trees you will help build our understanding of the large old trees in our region, and contribute to the largest biodiversity database in our country. As the database grows, you can also access the portal to learn about other wonderful large old trees in our area and view the photos.

We are most grateful for our generous project support from the Ian & Shirley Norman Foundation. The foundation aims ‘To encourage and support organisations that are capable of responding to social and ecological opportunities and challenges.’ To learn more about Ian & Shirley Norman Foundation – click here

Euan, Jenny and Peter with a large old tree (photo by Beth Mellick)



FOBIF exhibition opening this Saturday: Newstead Arts Hub

Posted on 21 February, 2023 by Ivan

Our friends and project partners at Friends of the Box-Ironbark Forests (FOBIF) are turning 25 and to celebrate are opening their photography exhibition this Saturday at the Newstead Arts Hub. The show will feature an incredible array of nature-based photographs from community members and FOBIF supporters. We would like to thank and congratulate FOBIF on 25 years of campaigning for better management of our natural assets and educating the community of their significance.

FOBIF photography exhibition opening: Saturday 25 February 2023

Friends of the Box-Ironbark Forests (FOBIF) is holding an exhibition at the Newstead Arts Hub (8A Tivey Street, Newstead, Vic) to mark 25 years of campaigning for a better future for our forests and promoting their value.

There will be 20 nature photos by members and supporters, historical material about FOBIF, drawings by Chewton Primary School students, and a geological display.

A seventy-page catalogue of the exhibition with extra historical material will be available for sale as well as FOBIF’s six published books and nature cards. All photos will be for sale with proceeds going to FOBIF. 

The exhibition will be open over 3 weekends, (25 & 26 February, 4 & 5 March, 11 & 12 March 2023) and Labour Day (13 March 2023) between 10 am and 4 pm. 

Alison Pouliot, well known fungi expert and engaging speaker, will open the exhibition at 10.30 on 25 February 2023. One of FOBIF’s founding members, Phil Ingamells, will also speak. Everyone is welcome and refreshments will be provided. 

You can find out more about the exhibition on the FOBIF website ( or ring Bronwyn Silver 0448 751 111.

Jane Rusden. Crested Shrike-tit