Restoring landscapes across the Mount Alexander Region

Promoting native pollinators from property to landscape – 24 February 2023

Posted on 31 January, 2023 by Hadley Cole

In 2023 Connecting Country is hosting a series of events celebrating the pollinators of our region as part of The Buzz Project: promoting pollinators of central Victoria. We launch the project with a presentation with Dr Mark Hall (Senior Biodiversity Officer at City of Greater Bendigo) in Campbells Creek VIC on Wednesday 15 February 2023. Following the launch, we will host a field trip in Harcourt VIC with Mark on Friday 24 February 2023. Mark completed his PhD on how the composition of wooded habitat in modified landscapes affects bird and pollinator assemblages and has also investigated pollinator diversity, health, management and contribution to crop production. To learn more about Mark – click here

We will spend a morning out in the field with Mark to meet local pollinators, explore their habitat, and learn to identify some of the local pollinator heroes. This event will be at a private property in Harcourt VIC.

 

Join us for a fascinating morning out where will explore both a garden and bush setting in search for pollinators and their homes.

Field trip: Promoting native pollinators from property to landscape
When: Friday 24 February 2023, 10.00 am to 12.00 pm
Where: Dja Dja Wurrung Country, Harcourt VIC (details will be provided on booking)

Bookings are essential as spaces are limited. To book your free ticket – click here

BYO morning tea and drinking water. We will be outside for the whole two hours so please wear sturdy shoes, hat, sunscreen and insect repellent.

If you haven’t yet booked your free ticket for the presentation with Dr Mark Hall on ‘Native pollinators on your property: who, where and what they do’, there are still spaces available. To learn more and book – click here

The Buzz project is funded by the North Central CMA through the 2022 Victorian Landcare grants.

 

                 

 

Native pollinators on your property: who, where and what they do?

Posted on 25 January, 2023 by Hadley Cole

In 2023 Connecting Country is excited to present ‘The Buzz project: promoting pollinators of central Victoria‘. This project celebrates the pollinators of our ecosystems and encourage us all to learn more about our local pollinator heroes. Globally we have seen a serious decrease in pollinators, which has implications for ecosystems, agriculture and in turn the food we eat. There is still much to learn about the pollination services insects and other pollinators provide for food crops and the natural environment. However, we understand that fragmentation of habitat leads to a decline in pollinator activity.

To launch the Buzz project, Connecting Country is pleased to present ‘Native pollinators on your property: who, where and what they do‘, a presentation by Dr Mark Hall, Senior Biodiversity Officer at City of Greater Bendigo.

Dr Mark Hall (Senior Biodiversity Officer, City of Greater Bendigo)

Dr Mark Hall completed his PhD in 2018 on how the composition of wooded habitat in modified landscapes affects bird and pollinator assemblages, under the supervision of Andrew Bennett (La Trobe University) and Dale Nimmo (Charles Sturt University). He has since investigated pollinator diversity, health, management and contribution to crop production. Since 2020 Mark has partnered with the Upper Campapse Landcare Network to identify habitat and floral preferences of pollinators (bees, flies, wasps, butterflies and beetles), and guide effective restoration across the Upper Campaspe region in central Victoria. He is currently the Senior Biodiversity Officer with the City of Greater Bendigo.

 

Join us for an evening to learn about this fascinating topic, and find out which pollinators you might see across our region and the many ecosystem services they provide for our natural landscape.

When: Wednesday 15 February 2023, 6.00 pm to 8.00 pm

Where: Dja Dja Wurrung Country, Campbells Creek Community Centre, 60 Elizabeth St, Campbells Creek VIC 

Bookings are essential. To book please – click here

Supper will be provided and you will also receive a free copy of the ‘Insects of central Victoria’ booklet thanks to the Mount Alexander Shire Council.

The Buzz project is funded by the North Central CMA through the 2022 Victorian Landcare grants.

 

           

 

 

Critically endangered butterfly appears right on cue

Posted on 24 January, 2023 by Ivan

Our recent Eltham Copper Butterfly workshop received a surprise visit from three flirty Eltham Copper Butterflies, with the enthusiastic crowd delighted to see the special butterfly ‘in-person’ at the Castlemaine Botanical Gardens (Castlemaine VIC) on Saturday 14 January 2023. It was the first occasion most participants had seen an actual real-life Eltham Copper Butterfly, and was a tribute to the advocacy and management practices progressed by local ecologists to protect this iconic species.

The education workshop was delivered by the wonderful and passionate Elaine Bayes from the Wetland Revival Trust, and included a guided walk exploring the native woodland north of the botanicial gardens. Elaine delivered an informative and engaging presentation on the fascinating biology of the threatened 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 if we continue monitoring.

It was a very hot day, and Elaine warned us we were unlikely to see any butterflies on our short walk. However, within minutes of us entering their habitat, three Eltham Copper Butterflies miraculously appeared! They appeared unfazed by our presence, providing excellent photo opportunities.

The Eltham Copper Butterfly (Paralucia pyrodiscus lucida) is only found in Victoria, Australia and is restricted to only a handful of locations. Until recently it was only found at several sites around Castlemaine, Bendigo, Kiata (near Nhill) and Eltham. It is a small and attractive butterfly with bright copper colouring on the tops of its wings visible during the summer flight season.

It is one of the rare good news stories within the extinction crisis in Australia. The Eltham Copper Butterfly was considered extinct in the 1950s until rediscovered at Eltham in 1986. This butterfly has a fascinating ecological relationship with Sweet Bursaria plants and Notoncus ants, and lives in bushland at several locations around the township of Castlemaine.

Historically, survey efforts and management actions have focused on public land. However, we know there is potential Eltham Copper Butterfly habitat on adjoining private land around Castlemaine. This habitat is under threat from urbanisation, weeds, rabbits, changed fire regimes and grazing. Connecting Country is currently working with local landholders around local butterfly populations to help protect remnant vegetation, control weeds and rabbits, and revegetate with Sweet Bursaria and other plants used by the butterfly.

Some interesting Eltham Copper 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.

The workshop was funded by the Australian Department of Industry, Science and Resources as part of the Environment Restoration Fund and Threatened Species Strategy Action Plan.

It was exciting to have the opportunity to learn about the latest monitoring results from Elaine and  see some Eltham Copper Butterflies in the field. We have received some terrific photos of the exciting sightings from Jo Douglas and Malcolm Mars, which we have included below. Thank you Jo and Malcolm, and well done to everyone who attended.

 

Contractor wanted: Seeking landscape restoration contractor for 2023

Posted on 23 January, 2023 by Ivan

Connecting Country is seeking expressions of interest for contractors to deliver on-ground actions for our 2023 projects on private land across the Mount Alexander region and surrounds.

We are looking for someone with skills to:

  • Plant tubestock and install coreflute guards and stakes.
  • Conduct plant maintenance watering.
  • Control weeds, with a focus on woody weeds such as gorse and blackberry.
  • Control rabbits.
  • Install fencing and exclusion fencing.

We currently have funding for around 50 days of contract work for planting, weed and rabbit control, plus 2 km of fencing, during 2023. There is also scope for more work subject to contractual arrangements.

Key requirements

Our ideal contractor(s) will have:

  • An Australian Business Number (ABN).
  • Demonstrated interest in landscape restoration in central Victoria.
  • Clear communication skills and ability to cultivate positive working relationships with staff and landholders.
  • Attention to detail and ability to follow instructions.
  • Good time management skills and understanding of project schedules.
  • Experience in revegetation planting with tubestock and guards.
  • Basic weed and plant identification skills.
  • Experience in weed control methods, including herbicide use, with appropriate training.
  • Experience in rabbit control methods such as baiting and warren fumigation.
  • Experience in farm fencing.
  • Solid understanding of health and safety systems and requirements.
  • Access to a suitable reliable vehicle and equipment.
  • Good availability throughout the 2023 planting season (April to July).

Plants and guards will be provided by Connecting Country. The contractor will be responsible for sourcing other materials such as herbicides and fencing materials.

We are keen to hear from both established businesses and keen individuals with relevant interests and skills. We may be able to provide some training and equipment to the right candidate.

If you are interested or have any questions, please contact us via email (info@connectingcountry.org.au) by COB Friday 3 February 2023.

Please provide us with the following information in your email:

  • Your interest in working with Connecting Country.
  • A brief outline of your relevant experience and qualifications.
  • Your schedule of rates (cost per day) for planting, weed control, rabbit control and/or fencing. A quote for specific tasks will be agreed before starting work.
  • Your availability during 2023.
  • Your contact details.

 

We look forward to hearing from you!

 

 

Bird walk for beginners – try the interactive walk now!

Posted on 12 January, 2023 by Ivan

Thank you for the positive feedback we’ve received since our recent launch of the ‘Bird walk for beginners’ along Forest Creek, Castlemaine VIC. We can report that over 100 people have accessed the new bird walk for beginners since our 2022 launch, but we want to see the numbers grow into 2023! If you haven’t tried the new interactive walk yet, now is a great time for a casual stroll along some great bird habitats. Mornings and evenings are a perfect time to see birds and avoid the heat on hotter days.

We are pleased to announce the printed birdwalk brochure is now available from Castlemaine Visitor Information Centre (44 Mostyn St, Castlemaine VIC).

You can also download a copy – click here

Our ‘Bird walk for beginners’ brochure allows the community to access an easy, self-guided bird walk. The walk starts on Forest Creek in Wesley Hill and follows a gently-graded, maintained walking path for around 1.5 km. There are eight stops along the bird walk, providing excellent opportunities to visit some great bird-watching spots, with QR codes in the brochure help you learn about the sites, identify birds and link to further information.

Here is some of the lovely comments so far:

  • Congratulations on a very successful launch of the bird walk! A wonderful project, well executed. – Jenny
  • Well done to Connecting Country for creating this great idea and delivering it. You certainly showed the value of partnerships in the Shire … I hope the brochure takes off and that Landcare work can continue to help build up areas of interest for the community to enjoy. Thanks for all the work and liaising. It melts the borders between organisations. – Christine
  • This is a wonderful project – we downloaded and printed the brochure in b&w. We used our mobile phone to read the QR code and were delighted with the information and photos we saw. We look forward to doing the walk soon. Thanks to all involved. – Judy
  • A wonderful project, professionally executed as usual and a great launch. I know what I’m doing with the grandchildren over Easter. – Chris

 

Some of the dedicated contributors and supporters who played a role in creating the ‘Bird walk for beginners’ along Forest Creek in Castlemaine (photo by Eve Lamb)

 

Creation of the bird walk was a collaboration between Castlemaine Landcare Group, BirdLife Castlemaine District, Castlemaine Field Naturalists Club and Connecting Country, with support from Parks Victoria and Mount Alexander Shire Council.

Our ‘Birding for beginners’ project was funded by the Victorian Government through Parks Victoria’s Volunteering Innovation Fund.

 

Seeking landscape restoration contractor for 2023

Posted on 22 December, 2022 by Ivan

Connecting Country is seeking expressions of interest for contractors to collaborate with us to deliver on-ground actions for our 2023 projects on private land across the Mount Alexander region and surrounds.

We are looking for someone with skills to:

  • Plant tubestock and install coreflute guards and stakes.
  • Conduct plant maintenance watering.
  • Control weeds, with a focus on woody weeds such as gorse and blackberry.
  • Control rabbits.
  • Install fencing and exclusion fencing.

 

We currently have funding for around 50 days of contract work for planting, weed and rabbit control, plus 2 km of fencing, during 2023. There is also scope for more work subject to contract arrangements.

Key requirements

Our ideal contractor(s) will have:

  • An Australian Business Number (ABN).
  • Demonstrated interest in landscape restoration in central Victoria.
  • Clear communication skills and ability to cultivate positive working relationships with staff and landholders.
  • Attention to detail and ability to follow instructions.
  • Good time management skills and understanding of project schedules.
  • Experience in revegetation planting with tubestock and guards.
  • Basic weed and plant identification skills.
  • Experience in weed control methods, including herbicide use, with appropriate training.
  • Experience in rabbit control methods such as baiting and warren fumigation.
  • Experience in farm fencing.
  • Solid understanding of health and safety systems and requirements.
  • Access to a suitable reliable vehicle and equipment.
  • Good availability throughout the 2023 planting season (April to July).

 

Plants and guards will be provided by Connecting Country. The contractor will be responsible for sourcing other materials such as herbicides and fencing materials.

We are keen to hear from both established businesses and keen individuals with relevant interest and skills. We may be able to provide some training and equipment to the right candidate.

If you are interested or have any questions, please contact us via email (info@connectingcountry.org.au) by Monday 29 January 2023.

Please provide us with the following information in your email:

  • Your interest in working with Connecting Country.
  • A brief outline of your relevant experience and qualifications.
  • Your schedule of rates (cost per day) for planting, weed control, rabbit control and/or fencing. A quote for specific tasks will be agreed before starting work.
  • Your availability during 2023.
  • Your contact details.

 

We look forward to hearing from you!

 

 

Mapping our old trees of central Victoria: we need your help!

Posted on 20 December, 2022 by Ivan

We are excited to announce the arrival of our new mapping portal, aimed at helping 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‘ that engages the community about the importance of old trees and how to protect them.

Over the next three years (2023-25), we will continue to host community workshops and develop engagement resources such as the mapping portal and a video. We will also help local landholders with 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 of 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 ‘big science’.

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 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)

 

 

Eltham Copper Butterfly workshop and walk – 14 January 2023

Posted on 6 December, 2022 by Ivan

Did you know Central Victoria is home to the largest known population of the endangered Eltham Copper Butterfly in the world? The Eltham Copper Butterfly (Paralucia pyrodiscus lucida) is only found in Victoria, Australia, and is restricted to several sites around Castlemaine, Bendigo, Kiata (near Nhill) and Eltham.

It is one of the rare good news stories within the extinction crisis in Australia. The Eltham Copper Butterfly was considered extinct in the 1950s until rediscovered at Eltham in 1986. This butterfly has a fascinating ecological relationship with Sweet Bursaria plants and Notoncus ants, and lives in bushland at several locations around the township of Castlemaine.

Connecting Country is teaming up with local butterfly lover Elaine Bayes, from the Wetland Revival Trust, to deliver an Eltham Copper Butterfly event on Saturday 14 January 2023 at 9.30 am. Come along and learn about our very special local butterfly and what we can do to help this threatened species. Elaine will give a presentation about the unique life cycle and importance of this species and an update on her latest butterfly monitoring results, followed by a guided walk through some Eltham Copper Butterfly habitat. Adult Eltham Copper Butterflies are active during warm weather, so if we’re lucky we may see one.

You will:

•    Hear all about the incredible life cycle of Eltham Copper Butterfly from local ecologist Elaine Bayes.
•    Learn about how to identify this species from similar butterflies.
•    Find out about butterfly monitoring and how you can help.
•    Join a guided walk through butterfly habitat at the Botanical Gardens Bushland Reserve.

Bookings are essential – click here

This is a free event with morning tea provided. Numbers are limited, so please book early to avoid disappointment!

When: Saturday 14 January 2023, 9.30 to 11.30 am
Where: Tea Rooms, Castlemaine Botanical Gardens: Downes Rd, Castlemaine VIC
Bring: Sturdy shoes, water, a hat, sunscreen and weather-appropriate clothing.

To book: click here

Bursaria for butterflies project

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

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

Historically, survey efforts and management actions have focused on public land, yet we know there is potential Eltham Copper Butterfly habitat on adjoining private land. This habitat is under threat, particularly from urbanisation, weeds, changed fire regimes and grazing.

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

Enjoy these beautiful pictures of our Eltham Copper Butterfly taken by Elaine Bayes. To learn more about the Eltham Copper Butterfly – click here

 

 

Bird of the month: Tawny Frogmouth

Posted on 6 December, 2022 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 their stunning photos.

Tawny Frogmouth (Podargus strigoides)

For BirdLife Castlemaine District’s November 2022 bird walk, bird of the day was a Tawny Frogmouth, who patiently let 30-odd birdwatchers have a good look at it. The bird was found by our local young gun of a birder, the extremely sharp-eyed Tavish. I gather Tavish spotted a tree that didn’t quite look right, and it turned out that that odd-looking branch was a Tawny Frogmouth.

Tawny Frogmouth at Pennyweight Flat during the BirdLife Castlemaine November 2022 bird walk. (Photo by Jane Rusden)

Personally I’ve spent hours and hours wandering through bush looking for them, but they are so brilliant at hiding in plain sight, I rarely see them. Not only are their feathers like tatty tree bark, but they strike a pose that makes them look like a dead branch that is not worth noticing. Their huge yellow eyes close to cryptic slits, as they watch potential threats and curious bird watchers wander by in oblivion.

Tawny Frogmouth at night, pretending to be a dead branch (Photo by Damian Kelly)

 

Bright lights attract insects and towns attract mice, which in turn can lure nocturnal Tawny Frogmouths into urban environments, and sometime unfortunately and fatally in front of moving cars. I have witnessed one doing their classic hunting behaviour of perching on a low support, in this case a star picket, and pouncing on moths that were drawn to the light spilling from a window. Their diet consists of insects and mice, and also spiders, frogs and even small rats. Such incredibly cryptic feathers help the stealthy wait for unsuspecting prey to wander within striking distance, either on the ground or in the air.

Despite being nocturnal and hunting by stealth on silent wings, they are not an owl. Tawny Frogmouths belong to the frogmouth family, which include a few other species close by in Papua New Guinea. David Fleay (a pioneering Australian scientist and conservationist) described Frogmouth nests as a crude and crazy fabrication of sticks – often across the fork of a horizontal bough. Both female and male birds will sit on the eggs and feed the chicks – usually two chicks, but sometimes three or four. It’s currently the middle of their breeding season, which is usually August to December.

Tavish, I haven’t forgotten I owe you and your friend a chocolate frog for spotting the bird of the day.

After dusk Tawny Frogmouths are sometimes heard calling, their repeated ‘oom, oom, oom, oom, oom’ calls carrying through the night air (Photo by Damian Kelly)

 

To listen to the call of the Tawny Frogmouth – click here

 

Stories beneath our feet: new book by Leon Costermans

Posted on 30 November, 2022 by Ivan

We are excited to see the well-known botanist and author, Leon Costermans, teaming up with Fons VandenBerg to deliver a new 660-page book titled ‘Stories beneath our feet: exploring the geology and landscapes of Victoria and surrounds’. Leon is known for his work on the identification of eucalypts, including illustrating and publishing his best-selling and well-loved book ‘Native trees and shrubs of south-eastern Australia‘.

‘Stories beneath our feet’ is intended for land managers, teachers and senior students of environmental subjects, ecologists, naturalists, tour group leaders, outdoor activity leaders, or simply interested travellers. It examines the stories behind the wide range of landforms, rock types and life forms through geological time, and emphasises geological influences in ecosystems.

Stories beneath our feet makes suggestions for field activities suitable for various age groups (photo by Costermans Publishing)

 

Leon Costermans was born in Melbourne in 1933. Although his schooling was city-based, he developed an early love of the bush, and spent many weekends and holidays hiking and camping. After some years in the fields of motion picture production and engineering, which took him throughout Australia, he joined the Victorian Education Department and studied science at the University of Melbourne. He majored in geology and geomorphology, and taught science and mathematics at country high schools.

The book includes over 1870 photos, digital images, geological maps and diagrams. It has a comprehensive glossary, user-friendly index and other supplementary descriptive lists.

Local booksellers Muckleford Books are selling copies of this intriguing book, which could make a good Christmas gift.

For more information about the book – click here
To order online
from Muckleford Books – click here

 

Large old trees draw a large crowd: our AGM 2022

Posted on 22 November, 2022 by Ivan

On Saturday 19 November 2022, around 50 people gathered at Campbells Creek Community Centre to enjoy an afternoon of formalities and hear an excellent presentation from ecologist and PhD awarded, Chris Pocknee. We celebrated the hard work and achievements of Connecting Country’s past year with presentations from our Director Frances Howe and President Brendan Sydes, and heard an update on our finances from Treasurer Max Kay. We would like to warmly thank our presenters and all the committee members, staff and volunteers who assisted with the event, which was very well received based on feedback.

Caring for large old trees

The ‘Caring for large old trees’ event was part of our project, Regenerate before its too late, which engages the community about the importance of large old trees and how to protect them. The project is funded by the Ian & Shirley Norman Foundation and over three years (2022-25) we will host a series of workshops and produce communication materials. We will also help local landholders with practical on-ground actions to protect their large old trees and ensure the next generation of large old trees across the landscape.

A strong crowd attended the event despite the cold and rainy weather (photo by Ivan Carter)

 

The biggest star of the show was a fascinating presentation from ecologist Chris Pocknee. Chris discussed the complex interaction between old trees and the wildlife that depend on them, and the role old trees play in agricultural productivity and habitat connectivity. Chris’s passion and understanding of the threats facing old trees, and native animals and ecosystems they support, were tied in with how we can address these issues to conserve old trees.

Chris is a Landscape and Biodiversity Conservation Ecologist with our project partner, Biolinks Alliance. He grew up in the south-eastern suburbs of Melbourne and completed his MSc at the University of Melbourne in 2017 before completing an internship with the Australian Wildlife Conservancy in NSW. Chris recently submitted his PhD thesis at the University of Queensland, where he studied the impacts of fire and feral cats on the endangered northern betting.

A highlight of the presentation was a summary of recent academic studies that concluded that some woodland birds depend upon old scattered trees across the landscape more than dense vegetation belts. He concluded that we need to do more to protect and manage old trees in the landscape, and that we have lost far too many even in recent decades.

To download a copy of Chris’s presentation on caring for large old trees – click here

The presentation further validated our important work to engage the community to value large old trees and support landholders to adopt sustainable environmental practices that protect their trees. Connecting Country will be helping landholders fence to exclude stock, control weeds and pest animals, install nest boxes, and revegetate to restore diversity and ensure the next generation of paddock trees.

In response to an audience question about estimating tree age, Bev Phillips provided a brief overview of the work of Maldon Urban Landcare Group (MULGA) to document, age and protect large old trees in the Maldon area. To contact MULGA email maldonurbanlandcare@gmail.com. To read more about MULGA’s work on large old trees – click here

Annual general meeting 2022

Our AGM was short and sweet, and most of our committee members were re-elected for another year. We are excited to welcome new member, Stephen Oxley, to the committee. Stephen and his family recently moved to the Guildford area from Canberra. He brings a most useful background from his career in senior government roles, including with the Australian Department of the Environment. The hard-working Connecting Country committee are volunteers and must be thanked for their considerable strategic and practical contributions to our organisation.

Connecting Country’s Director, Frances Howe, describing some our highlights for 2021-22 (photo by Ivan Carter)

 

Members of Connecting Country’s committee of management  for 2022-23 are:

  • President:                  Brendan Sydes
  • Vice President:         (vacant)
  • Treasurer:                  Max Kay
  • Secretary:                  Marie Jones
  • Ordinary member:    Malcolm Trainor
  • Ordinary member:    Christine Brooke
  • Ordinary member:    Deborah Wardle
  • Ordinary member:    Stephen Oxley

Brendan thanked outgoing committee members Saide Gray and Karoline Klein for their contribution, and  invited anyone with relevent experience who is interested in joining the committee of management to contact us.

AGM minutes will be circulated to members and available on request. Stay tuned for upcoming events in 2023, including visits to some large old trees in our region.

After the presentation we enjoyed a convivial afternoon tea with delicious food from the Dove Cafe.

To read Connecting Country’s annual report for 2021-22 – click here

Special thanks to Chris Pocknee for his time and passion, and all the volunteers that generously helped with preparations, food and packup.

Thank you to the Ian & Shirley Norman Foundation for their invaluable support of our ‘Caring for large old trees’ project and this event. To read about their excellent work – click here

 

Managing natural assets: shelterbelts guide now available

Posted on 16 November, 2022 by Ivan

Native shelterbelts are great for providing stock with shelter and shade, and can also help mitigate erosion, control pests and support native wildlife. Connecting Country has long advocated for the use of native shelterbelts in our landscape, as they provide a variety of services for agriculture and the environment. We are excited to have access to a recently published guide by the Sustainable Farms program at the Australian National University (ANU) on planting and managing native shelterbelts. It is an excellent resource for farmers and other landholders. Please read on for details and the link to the guide.

Planting native shelterbelts on farms is a significant act of land stewardship, one that also delivers demonstrated productivity and biodiversity benefits.

Shelterbelts are generally linear strips of vegetation, intended to provide shelter, shade and wind breaks. Well-managed and diverse native shelterbelts can have productivity benefits for cropping and grazing enterprises while supporting hundreds of species of birds, mammals, invertebrates, frogs and reptiles.

This management guide details the science behind shelterbelts and outlines how to create effective shelterbelts on farms.

Shelterbelts  can be a strip of newly planted trees and shrubs, or can involve the restoration of existing remnant vegetation. Shelterbelts can also incorporate other landscape features such as paddock trees, farm dams, creeks and rocky outcrops. All forms of shelterbelts can significantly improve on-farm biodiversity and deliver productivity benefits to livestock, crops and pastures.

About 85% of the original woodland vegetation has been lost across southeast Australia, and in some regions just 3% remains, predominantly on farms. Planting shelterbelts is one way to help restore this native vegetation cover, and improve habitat connectivity for wildlife.

Australian research indicates that the total amount of native vegetation across a property or the broader landscape is more important than the size of individual patches or plantings. Even small shelterbelts can make a worthwhile contribution to biodiversity. Livestock and wool productivity gains, increases in crop and pasture production, more pollinators, and reductions in costly crop and pasture pests, such as red-legged earth mites, have all been associated with the introduction of shelterbelts on farms.

To download a copy of the ANU’s new guide to shelterbelts – click here

Managing natural assets: Shelterbelts

 

Last chance! AGM and Caring for large old trees – Saturday 19 November 2022

Posted on 14 November, 2022 by Ivan

Last chance to book for our special free event on this coming Saturday 19 November 2022 at 2.00 pm. Join us for brief AGM formalities, yummy afternoon tea and our special guest presenter.

Learn about how to care for local old trees, and their incredible value as biodiversity hotspots in our landscape.

Australian Owlet-nightjars need large old trees (photo by Geoff Park)

The iconic big trees that dominate our rural landscapes are silently disappearing, dying out from age, drought, disease, disturbance and climate change. Without action they will not survive or regenerate. We will lose these islands of biodiversity so essential to wildlife and farm productivity.

Connecting Country is working to engage the community to value large old trees and support landholders to adopt sustainable environmental practices that protect their trees, helping them fence to exclude stock, control weeds and pest animals, install nest boxes, and revegetate to restore diversity and ensure the next generation of paddock trees.

Our very special guest speaker is Chris Pocknee, an experienced wildlife ecologist from Biolinks Alliance, speaking on caring for large old trees.

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

Everyone is welcome!
For catering and logistical purposes, booking is required – click here


AGM formalities

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

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

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

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

 

Restoring the wonderful wetlands of northern Victoria – 16 November 2022

Posted on 9 November, 2022 by Frances

Our friends at Newstead Landcare Group are hosting a special presentation by Damien Cook, local wetland expert and ecologist with Wetland Revival Trust.

Restoring the wonderful wetlands of northern Victoria
Wednesday 16 November 2022 from 7.30 – 8.30 pm
Newstead Community Centre, 9 Lyons St, Newstead VIC

All are welcome. Entry is by donation to Wetland Revival Trust to aid purchase of Wirra-Lo wetlands near Kerang, home to many threatened species including the Growling Grass Frog.

Read on for more details from Newstead Landcare Group.

Wonderful Wetlands

On Wednesday 16th November Damien Cook from Wetlands Revival Trust will be giving a very interesting presentation on his work restoring the wonderful wetlands of Northern Victoria.

President of Newstead Landcare, Asha Bannon says, ‘Damien is an excellent presenter with over 30 years experience in restoring and managing wetlands. Everyone is welcome to join us at Newstead Community Centre at 7.30 pm. The talk will go for about an hour with a cuppa afterwards’.

‘Gold coin donations on the night will go towards a fund to purchase and manage a very special group of wetlands called Wirra-Lo which is 160 km or so downstream from us on the Loddon.’

Damien Cook, Restoration Ecologist and Director of Wetland Revival Trust

 

Damien has been a keen naturalist for 35 years and has developed a sound knowledge of flora and fauna ecology, identification, and habitat requirements. He is a recognised expert in wetland, riparian and terrestrial ecology, particularly in the factors affecting the establishment and management of aquatic and wetland plants, and the revegetation of terrestrial grassland and woodland ecosystems.

The Wetland Revival Trust has been working with the current owners Ken and Jill Hooper since 2014 to repair and preserve the precious wetlands of Wirra-Lo, one of the last strongholds of the nationally vulnerable Growling Grass Frog in northern Victoria and its wetlands support breeding habitat for the endangered Australasian Bittern.

Damien adds, ‘The woodlands at Wirra-Lo are home to Grey-crowned Babblers, another threatened species. To date 127 species of wildlife, including 100 species of birds, 12 species of reptiles and 8 species of frogs, and 126 species of indigenous plants have been observed at Wirra-Lo.’

The Trust for Nature covenanted property is also of high cultural significance, supporting an Aboriginal oven mound. The Trust engages with the local Aboriginal community to provide training and employment through restoration and management activities.

Frances Cincotta
Newstead Landcare Group

To download a flyer about the Wirra-lo wetlands – click here
For more information on Wetland Revival Trust – click here

 

Fabulous phascogales with Baringhup Landcare – 20 November 2022

Posted on 9 November, 2022 by Ivan

Our friends and volunteers at Baringhup Landcare Group are delivering a fascinating November 2022 excursion to check nest boxes at a property in Baringhup VIC. They hope to find the elusive Brush-tailed Phascogale in the next boxes, and increase awareness of this threatened species. Baringhup Landcare are a community group that aims to provide knowledge to help sustainably manage our land, resources and environment. They encourage active community participation in environmental improvement and protection. Please read on for more information from Baringhup Landcare Group.

Fabulous Phascogales event: survival in a modified landscape

If you live in or around Baringhup, you may have been lucky enough to encounter the elusive Brush-tailed Phascogale, or Tuan. This medium-sized marsupial has a large, black, bottlebrush tail and is listed as ‘threatened’ in Victoria.

For our November excursion, we will join Connecting Country’s Jess Lawton in checking nest boxes at a property in Baringhup. We will meet at the Baringhup Supper Room (Baringhup Hall, Cnr Alfred St and Willis St, Baringhup VIC) on Sunday 20 November 2022 at 9.30 am, where we’ll travel in convoy to a property nearby in the hope that we can find a Brush-tailed Phascogale at home!

Jess will explain the monitoring process and discuss how landscape attributes influence Phascogale occurrence. On return to the Supper Room we’ll hear from Jess on the biology and ecology of the Brush-tailed Phascogale, her research on the occurrence of this species in a modified environment, and how you can help this threatened species to persist.

Brush-tailed Phascogale (photo by Jess Lawton)

 

Please bring sunhat, block-out, hand sanitiser, water and wear stout walking shoes (as there will be some walking over uneven ground).

All welcome! Tea and coffee provided. RSVP would be appreciated on the numbers below. The trip will be cancelled in extreme weather conditions.

Connecting Country has installed 450 nest boxes to provide habitat for the Brush-tailed Phascogale through the Mount Alexander Shire. The boxes are monitored every two years, and volunteers are being sought to assist with continuing this important collection of data on the species’ occurrence. More information on Connecting Country’s nest box program – click here

For further info contact Baringhup Landcare’s Kerrie Jennings (0400 102 816) or Diane Berry (0403 020 663). RSVP welcomed to help with planning.

Baringhup Landcare Group

 

Landcare Sticky Beak Tour October 2022 – Victoria Gully Landcare Group

Posted on 27 October, 2022 by Hadley Cole

As part of the Landcare sticky beak tour in October 2022 we will be celebrating the work of Landcare and friends groups across the Mount Alexander / Leanganook region of central Victoria.

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

Victoria Gully Landcare Group comprises residents who live close to to Victoria Gully, which starts in the Castlemaine Diggings National Heritage Park south of Castlemaine and meets Forest Creek at Greenhill Avenue, Castlemaine VIC. The group formed in 2010 and hold working bees that aim to restore the gully to a more natural state and provide a bushland connection from Forest Creek to the National Heritage Park. 

Affectionately known by locals as the ‘the gully’, Victoria Gully accommodates a range of recreation and aesthetic needs including children’s play, walking and bike riding. From the south the gully starts as a narrow, deeply-incised channel then widens to an open, grassed valley with a jumbled topography resulting from historical gold sluicing. This valley is home to a large mob of kangaroos and an intermittent unnamed creek runs along the east side.   

The south head of the gully contains good quality box-ironbark forest, including Clinkers Hill Bushland Reserve, where the group has focused on cleaning up rubbish, removing large weeds, and regular removal of English Broom seedlings.  Mature Yellow Box trees dominate on the sluiced alluvial gravels. Landcare work here is evident in the absence of broom, resulting in the slow return of wattles, peas such as Pultenaea and Daviesia, and other native plants.  

In 2010 the open valley was a nightmare of gorse, broom, blackberries, thistles and rubbish. The Department of Environment Land Water and Planning (DELWP) has responded to the group’s interest interest in the gully with substantial weed and rubbish removal over the years. This has enabled Victoria Gully Landcare Group to concentrate on planting and maintaining two exclusion plots and a frog pond enclosure.

The Victoria Gully Landcare team working hard in ‘the gully’ (photo from the Connecting Country archive)  

DELWP has supported the group’s efforts by providing plants, materials and the frog ponds fencing.  In 2020 DELWP installed a further large exclusion plot along the east side of the valley, near the railway line, and kept responsibility for planting and maintenance. The group’s plans for the future include nest box installation, and dispersed planting in hollows and banks of the central alluvial mining area that kangaroos are unlikely to access. 

Victoria Gully can be accessed from the west via Dawson St off Preshaw Street, or from the east via Dawson Street off Ross Drive, in Castlemaine VIC. Please see the following map for details.

From the south, Clinkers Hill Bushland Reserve (not included in the map) can be accessed via Preshaw Street.  

Map of Victoria Gully Landcare Group’s sites in Castlemaine VIC

 

To find the contact details for Victoria Gully Landcare Group (or your local Landcare group) head over to the Landcare groups contact page on Connecting Country’s website – click here

 

During October 2022, get out there and explore your local neighbourhood and see what plants and animals you can find in your local Landcare group’s sites! You never know what you might discover.

The Landcare sticky beak tour was made possible through a Victorian Landcare Grant with North Central Catchment Management Authority.

 

                          

 

Landcare sticky beak tour 2022 – Sutton Grange Landcare Group

Posted on 26 October, 2022 by Hadley Cole

As part of the Landcare sticky beak tour in October 2022 we will be celebrating the work of Landcare and friends groups across the Mount Alexander / Leanganook region of central Victoria.

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

Sutton Grange Landcare Group was formed in 1990. As well as committee meetings they hold general meetings, which often include a guest speaker. The group puts together a wonderful quarterly newsletter that covers great information on natural resource management issues in the local area.  

 

The group has a popular free tree program where anyone who is a member is entitled to 40 free trees per year. This year the group decided to hold a planting day during the winter 2022 school holidays, encouraging families to bring their kids along to take part in the plantings. To read more information on the wonderful success of their planting day – click here

Sutton Grant Landcare Group members enjoying a planting day (photo by Todd Ware)

Sutton Grange Landcare Group have worked to reintroduce native plant species to the Albert Cox Memorial Sanctuary in Sutton Grange VIC, since 1991. The memorial site was previously a school pine plantation, which was then cleared for timber harvesting. The current Landcare members have worked on pest control and replanting the former plantation and an adjacent area under the guidance of a local member and Connecting Country. During winter 2022 they planted another 300 trees in the adjacent area to revegetate a disused road. Sutton Grange Landcare Group also works in partnership with Mount Alexander Shire Council to maintain an area of threatened native grasses and herbs around the nearby Sutton Grange War Memorial.

Take yourself for a stroll out at Sutton Grange and see some of the wonderful work this group have been doing to protect and conserve local flora and wildlife habitat. To make your way to the Albert Cox Memorial Sanctuary, head to the corner of Sutton Grange Redesdale Rd and Bendigo-Sutton Grange Rd in Sutton Grange VIC. Please see the following map for further directions.

 

Map of Sutton Grange Landcare work sites (image provided by Sutton Grange Landcare)

During October 2022, get out there and explore your local neighbourhood and see what plants and animals you can find in your local Landcare group’s sites! You never know what you might discover.

The Landcare sticky beak tour was made possible through a Victorian Landcare Grant with North Central Catchment Management Authority.

 

            

 

Landcare sticky beak tour 2022 – Post Office Hill Action Group

Posted on 24 October, 2022 by Hadley Cole

As part of the Landcare sticky beak tour in October 2022 we will be celebrating the work of Landcare and friends groups across the Mount Alexander / Leanganook region of central Victoria.

Today we will have a little sticky beak into the wonderful work of Post Office Hill Action Group. 

Post Office Hill Action Group (POHAG) manages 22.6 hectares of public land on behalf of the community, with a focus on preserving the cultural and historical features of the Post Office Hill Reserve in Chewton VIC. They work to complement the natural regeneration of indigenous plants through weed control, improve wildlife habitat by installing nesting boxes and shelter plantings, and improve access for the general public.

POHAG meets on the second Sunday of the month. Meetings are usually followed by a walk, and visitors are always welcome. They are a welcoming and energetic group who enjoy the opportunity to work outside together and connect with the local bush.

Post Office Hill Reserve surrounds Chewton Primary School, and for the winter 2022 planting season POHAG members teamed up with Chewton Primary School students to revegetate sections of the creek line behind the school. The planting days were a wonderful success, with the local students learning much about the surrounding reserve. To read more on one of these planting days – click here

Andrew from POHAG working with Orlo from Chewton Primary School. (photo by John Ellis)

Post Office Hill Reserve was once covered in natural vegetation before being practically denuded during the 1852 gold rush. Thousands of enthusiastic souls from all over the world flocked to the Forest Creek diggings hoping to make their fortune. The land was up turned and folded on itself and left as ‘upside-down country’. POHAG’s work across the reserve encourages biodiversity to return to the landscape.

To keep up to date with what’s happening at POHAG, head over to their Facebook page – click here

You can also read of their latest adventure via the Chewton Chat (Chewton’s local newspaper) – click here

It is well worth having a look at Post Office Hill Reserve, especially during these spring months, and taking a walk through the reserve and see what wildflowers are on show. To find your way through the various walking tracks head to the corner of Mitchell St and Railway St in Chewton VIC, where you will find an information board about the reserve put together by POHAG.

During October 2022, get out there and explore your local neighbourhood and see what plants and animals you can find in your local Landcare group’s sites! You never know what you might discover.

The Landcare sticky beak tour was made possible through a Victorian Landcare Grant with North Central Catchment Management Authority.

         

 

Landcare Sticky Beak Tour October 2022 – Barkers Creek Landcare & Wildlife Group

Posted on 21 October, 2022 by Hadley Cole

As part of the Landcare sticky beak tour in October 2022 we will be celebrating the work of Landcare and friends groups across the Mount Alexander / Leanganook region of central Victoria.

Today we will have a little sticky beak into the wonderful work of Barkers Creek Landcare & Wildlife Group. 

Barkers Creek Landcare  & Wildlife Group (BCL&WG) work to protect and restore their local natural environment. The group is committed to celebrating and building their sense of belonging to the Barkers Creek community.

They maintain a balance between working on public and private land and members properties. The primary focus is ‘on ground works’ (monthly working bees) together with a ‘splash’ of educational and social activities.

Barkers Creek Landcare & Wildlife Group members. Photo from Barkers Creek Landcare Facebook page.

The group established in 1996 and has a vibrant mix of members  and there are often half a dozen or so children at each working bee which not only adds to the fun but instills a belief in the next generation of landcarers.

 

 

 

 

The group are currently working to put together the third management plan for a bushland reserve called the Natural Features Bushland Reserve in in the heart of Barkers Creek. They are hoping to achieve a significant ‘ecological’ restoration of this 35.5 ha parcel of bush, working closely with land managers Parks Victoria and other local community and environment groups. 

Join Barkers Creek Landcare & Wildlife Group on Sunday 23 October at 9.30 am at the Peelers Rd entrance to the Natural Features Bushland Reserve, Barkers Creek VIC (please see the map below for more details) for a working bee or just a sticky beak to see what the group are up to!

 

Map of Natural Features Bushland Reserve, Barkers Creek VIC. Photo from Barkers Creek Landcare & Wildlife Group website.

 

For more information on the group’s projects or to get in contact with them head over to their website – click here or their Facebook page – click here

During October 2022, get out there and explore your local neighbourhood and see what plants and animals you can find in your local Landcare group’s sites! You never know what you might discover.

The Landcare sticky beak tour was made possible through a Victorian Landcare Grant with North Central Catchment Management Authority.

 

       

 

Landcare sticky beak tour 2022 – Muckleford Catchment Landcare Group

Posted on 20 October, 2022 by Hadley Cole

As part of the Landcare sticky beak tour in October 2022 we will be celebrating the work of Landcare and friends groups across the Mount Alexander / Leanganook region of central Victoria.

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

Muckleford Catchment Landcare, also known as Muckleford Landcare, take a holistic approach to caring for the land. They work to improve water quality in the Muckleford Creek and its tributaries, conserve soil in the Muckleford Creek catchment, and create a healthy and viable balance between farming and biodiversity. They also encourage co-operation between landholders within the catchment, as well as harnessing local knowledge and expertise to improve the environment.

30 m wide habitat corridor created by Muckleford Landcare (photo by Beth Mellick)

Recently Muckleford Landcare has been working with a Muckleford landholder to build a 30 metre wide habitat corridor that connects a bush block on one side of the property to a bushland reserve on the other side. The project involved some fencing, as well as ripping the site in preparation for planting. To read more about this project head over to the July 2022 edition of the North Central Chat, published by the North Central Catchment Management Authority – click here 

To check out the site of this ‘Building habitat across the landscape’ project, head out for a drive to Muckleford School Rd, Muckleford VIC, and you will see the work that has been completed opposite the Muckleford Bushland Reserve. Please see the map below for more details.

Muckleford Landcare work to assist landholders to access funding for land improvement projects on their properties. They have a wealth of information on the costs involved for improving biodiversity and building habitat corridors on your property.

For more information please contact Muckleford Landcare via email ( or mucklefordlandcare@gmail.com).

Building Habitat across the Landscape, Muckleford Landcare project map.

 

Wildflower walk

On Sunday 23 October 2022, Muckleford Landcare are heading out for a wildflower walk from 10.00 am – 11.30 am. To join the walk, meet at the end of Sinclairs Lane, Muckleford VIC. This is a perfect opportunity to get out and meet the group while enjoying the wildflowers. For more information head over to the Muckleford Catchment Landcare website – click here

During October 2022, get out there and explore your local neighbourhood and see what plants and animals you can find in your local Landcare group’s sites! You never know what you might discover.

The Landcare sticky beak tour was made possible through a Victorian Landcare Grant with North Central Catchment Management Authority.