Restoring landscapes across the Mount Alexander Region

Friends of the Box-Ironbark Forests AGM 12 August: Geoff Park presentation

Posted on 15 July, 2024 by Ivan

Our friends and project partners at Friends of the Box-Ironbark Forests (FOBIF) are having their Annual General Meeting (AGM) on 12 August 2024, with local ecologist Geoff Park as a guest speaker. Geoff will speak about locally extinct or rare woodland bird species and discuss what we think we know about the current situation and consider options and possibilities for future conservation efforts. It will be sure to be a great event. Please find the details below, supplied by FOBIF.

Woodland birds in central Victoria – historical observations, current status and future prospects

Woodland birds are an iconic and special element of the box-ironbark forests and woodlands of central Victoria. The impacts of European settlement, from gold-mining to agricultural intensification, have contributed to a steady decline in species diversity and populations. This decline is now being exacerbated by the clear and present effects of climate change.

Geoff’s talk will span some historical perspectives on what are now locally extinct or rare woodland bird species, discuss what we think we know about the current situation and consider options and possibilities for future conservation efforts.

When: Monday 12 August 2024 at 7.30pm

Where: Castlemaine Senior Citizens Centre, Mechanics Lane, Castlemaine VIC

Flame Robin (adult male), Rise and Shine Bushland Reserve, 26 June 2024 (Geoff Park,  Natural Newstead)

FOBIF AGM items will also be covered on the evening. There are several vacancies on the FOBIF committee, interested people are encouraged to consider joining. There is a link for nomination forms and more information here.

 

Midweek Bird Walk – Wednesday 17 July 2024, Forest Creek Trail Castlemaine

Posted on 4 July, 2024 by Ivan

Our friends and project partners at Birdlife Castlemaine District are holding another mid-week bird walk along Forest Creek to observe and discuss the range of birds that make the creek valley their home. It will be a great chance for a casual stroll along an accessible trail with knowledgeable and passionate bird watchers, and an opportunity to learn more about restoring our local landscapes.  All welcome and no prior birding experience necessary.

July Midweek Bird Walk

Wednesday 17 July 2024

Forest Creek Trail, Happy Valley, Castlemaine

Following the successful May midweek walk, we have decided to try another in July. This time we will walk along the Forest Creek Trail, Happy Valley. This track is a section of the Leanganook Track which is also known variously as the Happy Valley Walking Trail and the Goldfields Track, depending on the information source. The track is mostly flat providing easy walking.

Habitat is varied with much regeneration work also having been done by the Castlemaine Landcare Group and others. Possible sightings include various Thornbills and Honeyeaters, Pardalotes, Pied Currawong, Musk Lorikeet, Silvereye, Grey Fantail, etc. We may also come across some waterbirds in the creek.

Our walk leader will be Bob Dawson.

Where: The Trail starts at Happy Valley Rd. From the Hargraves and Forest Sts. roundabout, Happy Valley Rd is approx. 800 metres east toward Melbourne off the Pyrenees Hwy (B180). (Note: the beginning of Happy Valley Rd is marked as Burke St on Google Maps, etc., but the street sign says Happy Valley Rd). Turn left into Happy Valley Rd, then the start of the Trail is about 250 metres on the right.

GPS – 37.06874, 144.22776.

When: Meet at the Forest Creek Trail at 9:00 am.

BirdLife Castlemaine District Branch eNews November 2023 - BirdLife Australia

 

“The importance of invisible things” local event featuring Patrick Kavanagh

Posted on 1 July, 2024 by Ivan

Our friends and project partners at Newstead Landcare Group are delivering an exciting event featuring the wonderfully talented Patrick Kavanagh on Tuesday evening 16 July 2024 at Newstead Community Centre. The presentation will feature Patrick’s adventures into the secret works of invertebrates, tiny plants and fungi. It will surely be a wonderful evening from one of our region’s most talented photographers. Please find the details below, supplied by Newstead Landcare. 

Newstead Landcare July 2024 Presentation – “The importance of invisible things” by Patrick Kavanagh

Every day, we walk through another world hidden from our naked eye. A tiny world, on a scale of millimetres, best seen through a macrophotographer’s lens.

Join Newstead Landcare for a glimpse into this secret world, in the capable hands of our very own Patrick Kavanagh. Many will know Patrick from his blog posts on Natural Newstead, where he shares close-up photos of invertebrates, tiny plants and fungi, and breathtaking images of the starry night sky.

Mantis Fly in full colour and glory. Photo Patrick Kavanagh

Patrick’s talks are known as a journey of storytelling, getting to know the critters and moments in time captured through each photo. Understanding more about the intriguing lives of invertebrates and their interactions is a joyful, comedic, and yes sometimes horrifying experience akin to the drama of a soap opera!

Peeking into this micro-world underlines the importance of these tiny forms of life most of us know nothing about, some of which are completely unknown to modern science. They are the foundation food for many of our more visible wildlife that we know and love, such as birds and mammals. Their importance to our ecosystems is sometimes forgotten, due to a lack of knowledge and opportunities to connect. Here is your chance to learn just how charismatic they can be when aided by a macro lens.

Patrick has lived near Newstead in Strangways for over two decades and has been Newstead Landcare’s invaluable secretary for the same duration. Many of his photos are taken right at home on his bush block, showing how much biodiversity can be found in one well cared for patch.

 Tuesday 16 July at 7.30 pm

Newstead Community Centre

All are welcome to attend and gold coin donations would be appreciated

For more details on Newstead Landcare Group, please click here

 

Help us protect Large Old Trees: EOFY donation drive

Posted on 25 June, 2024 by Ivan

Looking for a great local cause to donate to at the end of this financial year? Over the next 12 months, we will be working to protect and enhance large old trees in our landscape, through our key project “Regenergeate before it’s too late“. Now is a great time to make a financial contribution to Connecting Country’s works as the end of the financial year approaches. Donating is easy – use our secure online service (click here), with all donations to Connecting Country being tax-deductible.

Thanks also to all our supporters for being part of the Connecting Country community in 2024, joining our shared vision for landscape restoration across the Mount Alexander region. The valuable work we do couldn’t happen without people like you – volunteering time to help with wildlife monitoring, joining our education events, participating in our on-ground projects, giving financial help or just being a member.

Funding for conservation is a constantly moving beast but we are determined to continue and maintain our core capacity and current projects until new project funding arrives. However, we need help to maintain the strong foundations essential to our success as a community-driven organisation and keep us focused on long-term plans. With enough support, the coming year will see us continue to help landholders with on-ground actions, prepare for climate change, maintain our long-term monitoring, and deliver events that inform, educate and inspire.

You can be assured that any financial support from you will be well spent, with 100% invested into our core work of supporting and implementing landscape restoration in our local area. We run a very lean operation and our small team of part-time staff attracts voluntary support that ensures every dollar goes a long way. We have produced a video below, which highlights the importance of caring for large on trees on farms, and why these landowners value their large old trees. 

As a Connecting Country supporter, you’ve already contributed to some amazing successes. Since beginning in 2007 we have:

  • Helped protect and restore 15,000 ha of habitat across the Mount Alexander region, which equates to around 8.1% of the shire.
  • Delivered more than 245 successful community education events.
  • Installed more than 450 nestboxes for the threatened Brush-tailed Phascogale.
  • Maintained a network of 50 long-term bird monitoring sites.
  • Secured funding to deliver more than 65 landscape restoration projects.
  • Supported an incredible network of over 30 Landcare and Friends groups.

 

Bird of the Month: Australasian Grebe

Posted on 19 June, 2024 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.

Australasian Grebe (Tachybaptus novaehollandiae)

Australasian Grebes hold a special place in my heart, simply because they have such cute fluffy bums and can often be seen on dams. They are seemingly half fish, spending their lives on or under water. They nest on rafts and can spend long periods under the water foraging. On land they are quite ungainly and walk very awkwardly. And then there’s the chicks, the cutest striped balls of fluff riding on a parent’s back, tucked safely away in a bed of living feathers.

The Australasian Grebe is too cute for words.  Photo Damian Kelly

Appearance can vary quite a bit. In the breeding season, both males and females have a glossy-black head with a chestnut stripe on the face extending from behind the eye through to the base of the neck and a distinctive yellow patch below the eye. In contrast, the non-breeding plumage of both sexes is dark grey-brown above with silver-grey below and lacks the distinctive yellow patch. Juveniles are quite different again, with camouflage-type black stripes on grey plumage.

Juveniles are quite different again, with camouflage-type black stripes on grey plumage. Photo: Damian Kelly

They are adaptable and can be found in varying habitats from small farm dams to larger bodies of water. Food includes fish, snails and aquatic arthropods usually collected by diving. Grebes are also known to eat their downy feathers and feed feathers to their young. Various reasons have been suggested for this behaviour ranging from aiding digestion to assisting the formation of pellets to help eject fish bones, but definitive reasons are yet to be determined.

Grebes are known to be quite mobile and will fly to new areas as water levels change. Flight is generally undertaken at night. They have also colonized New Zealand in recent times.

The Australasian grebe is common on freshwater lakes and rivers in greater Australia, New Zealand and on nearby Pacific islands. Photo: Damian Kelly

Nests are a floating mound of vegetation that is usually attached to a submerged branch or other fixed object. Over a season, two or three clutches of 3-5 eggs are laid. At times two females may lay in the same nest.  Young can swim from birth and are fed by both parents. However, if a second clutch is laid the young of the previous brood are driven away.

To hear the call of the Australasian Grebe, please click here

 

Help us thrive in 2024/2025: EOFY donation drive

Posted on 17 June, 2024 by Ivan

Looking for a great local cause to donate to at the end of this financial year? Now is a great time to make a financial contribution to Connecting Country’s work, if you can afford to, as the end of the financial year approaches. Donating is easy – use our secure online service (click here), with all donations to Connecting Country being tax-deductible.

We appreciate all your financial support, whether large or small, one-off or regular.

Thanks also to all our supporters for being part of the Connecting Country community in 2024, joining our shared vision for landscape restoration across the Mount Alexander region. The valuable work we do couldn’t happen without people like you – volunteering time to help with wildlife monitoring, joining our education events, participating in our on-ground projects, giving financial help or just being a member.

We have a demonstrated track record of fifteen years of successful landscape restoration and strategic landscape planning for the future. However, in the current situation, it’s extremely difficult to secure funding for on-ground environmental projects. The post-COVID-19 pandemic has caused our government and many philanthropic organisations to freeze or delay grant opportunities.

We are determined to survive and maintain our core capacity and current projects until new project funding arrives. However, we need help to maintain the strong foundations essential to our success as a community-driven organisation and keep us focused on long-term plans. With enough support, the coming year will see us continue to help landholders with on-ground actions, prepare for climate change, maintain our long-term monitoring, and deliver events that inform, educate and inspire.

You can be assured that any financial support from you will be well spent, with 100% invested into our core work of supporting and implementing landscape restoration in our local area. We run a very lean operation and our small team of part-time staff attracts voluntary support that ensures every dollar goes a long way.

As a Connecting Country supporter, you’ve already contributed to some amazing successes. Since beginning in 2007 we have:

  • Helped protect and restore 15,000 ha of habitat across the Mount Alexander region, which equates to around 8.1% of the shire.
  • Delivered more than 245 successful community education events.
  • Installed more than 450 nestboxes for the threatened Brush-tailed Phascogale.
  • Maintained a network of 50 long-term bird monitoring sites.
  • Secured funding to deliver more than 65 landscape restoration projects.
  • Supported an incredible network of over 30 Landcare and Friends groups.

Thanks again for your support for Connecting Country. Making our vision a reality is only possible with strong community support. Please enjoy this gallery snapshot of some of our 2023-24 activities.

 

Confirm your support for Connecting Country’s work: EOFY

Posted on 4 June, 2024 by Ivan

A huge thank you to our many amazing supporters who have been generously donating via our online service over the past year. Now is a great time to make a financial contribution to Connecting Country’s work, if you can afford to, as the end of the financial year approaches. Donating is easy – use our secure online service (click here), with all donations to Connecting Country being tax-deductible.

We appreciate all your financial support, whether large or small, one-off or regular.

Thanks also to all our supporters for being part of the Connecting Country community in 2024, joining our shared vision for landscape restoration across the Mount Alexander region. The valuable work we do couldn’t happen without people like you – volunteering time to help with wildlife monitoring, joining our education events, participating in our on-ground projects, giving financial help or just being a member.

We have a demonstrated track record of fifteen years of successful landscape restoration and strategic landscape planing for the future. However, in the current situation, it’s extremely difficult to secure funding for on-ground environmental projects. The post-COVID-19 pandemic has caused our government and many philanthropic organisations to freeze or delay grant opportunities.

We are determined to survive, and maintain our core capacity and current projects until new project funding arrives. However, we need help to maintain the strong foundations essential to our success as a community-driven organisation and keep us focused on long-term plans. With enough support, the coming year will see us continue to help landholders with on-ground actions, prepare for climate change, maintain our long-term monitoring, and deliver events that inform, educate and inspire.

You can be assured that any financial support from you will be well spent, with 100% invested into our core work of supporting and implementing landscape restoration in our local area. We run a very lean operation and our small team of part-time staff attracts voluntary support that ensures every dollar goes a long way.

As a Connecting Country supporter, you’ve already contributed to some amazing successes. Since beginning in 2007 we have:

    • Helped protect and restore 15,000 ha of habitat across the Mount Alexander region, which equates to around 8.1% of the shire.
    • Delivered more than 245 successful community education events.
    • Installed more than 450 nestboxes for the threatened Brush-tailed Phascogale
    • Maintained a network of 50 long-term bird monitoring sites
    • Secured funding to deliver more than 65 landscape restoration projects.
    • Supported an incredible network of over 30 Landcare and Friends groups.

Thanks again for your support for Connecting Country. Making our vision a reality is only possible with strong community support. Please enjoy this gallery snapshot of some of our 2023-24 activities.

 

Bird of the Month: Rufous Whistler

Posted on 21 May, 2024 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.

Rufous Whistler (Pachycephala rufiventris)

The Rufous Whistler is a renowned songster, but it’s also one of those species who you can hear calling but have a lot of trouble locating exactly where the bird is. They have a knack for throwing their call so you can’t pinpoint them, despite their beautiful rufous breast and striking white throat banded on black for the male. Often the female will be lurking nearby, but her cryptic colouring makes her even more difficult to find. Luckily, they will sit on an obvious branch, where we can both see and hear their gorgeous and varied song.

Male Rufous Whistler, photo by Damian Kelly

Males and females are quite different in appearance. The male has the distinctive rufous underparts with a black band and white throat. The female lacks the bold black and white markings of the male and the underbody is distinctly streaked. Second-season immature males have very similar colouring to the females which makes identification tricky.

Female Rufous Whistler, showing her much more cryptic colouring. Photo by Damian Kelly

They can be found in a wide variety of habitats ranging from mallee to open forests and shrub lands as well as being adapted to urban areas. In Castlemaine their distinctive calls can be heard in home gardens from early spring. I have heard blackbird mimicry of their calls in our garden in town which can be confusing at times! Their distribution covers much of Australia including a lot of the drier inland. However, they are more common on the east coast and in south-west Western Australia compared to the drier inland zones.

Patterns of movement vary – some are sedentary whilst others move north for winter, returning in spring. Not a lot is known of their movements in many areas. Banding studies have shown that some birds return each year to the same area. It can be a long-lived species with some individuals being identified 14-15 years after first banding.

Breeding is normally in pairs and pairs are usually monogamous with the same pairs breeding each year. Unlike some other Australian birds there are no helpers at the nest. Nests are defended from others and both birds incubate and feed the young. They build an open, cup-shaped nest out of twigs and are often lined with grass that may be in a tree fork or foliage and sometimes in mistletoe. Usually, 2-3 eggs are laid.

This species is largely insectivorous and will take a wide range of prey. They tend to forage higher than other whistler species and are often observed 5-15m above ground. Food may be gleaned from foliage and tree trunks as well as being caught on the wing in short flights. Unlike other whistler species, they rarely feed on the ground.

As the days grow shorter and winter is almost upon us, we can look forward to the heralding of spring in the Rufous Whistlers call. In the meantime, keep an ear out for the Golden Whistler, also a magnificent songster. For more on Golden Whistler, from the wonderful Geoff Park, click here.

To hear the call of the Rufous Whistler, please click here

 

Celebrating our wonderful volunteers: National Volunteer Week

Posted on 20 May, 2024 by Ivan

This week, 20-26th May, is National Volunteer Week, Australia’s largest annual celebration of volunteering, highlighting the important role of volunteers and inviting people not currently volunteering to give it a go.

This years theme is ‘Something for Everyone’ and Connecting Country would like to take this moment to say a massive thank you to our amazing volunteers from our many projects and programs.

Connecting Country could not do what we do without our volunteers. Our management committee is run by volunteers, our monitoring programs rely on skilled citizen scientists, our landholders ensure landscape restoration is maintained, and others help with events, Landcare, engagement and in countless other ways. We love our volunteers and appreciate their dedication to our vision of increasing, enhancing, and restoring biodiversity across central Victoria.

National Volunteer Week 2024 will recognise the diverse passions and talents everyone brings to the act of volunteering. It’s also an invitation to explore the myriad of opportunities available, emphasising that there’s a place for everyone in the world of volunteering. We have plenty of opportunities to apply your skills as a volunteer and have had so many talented volunteers assist us over the recent years.

Our projects run off very tight budgets, with funding opportunities few and far between, so we rely on volunteers more and more to help us achieve our mission of landscape restoration within the Mount Alexander region. The community has always been at the core of what we do at Connecting Country. In this new phase, we’ve had to rely on our community even more.

Because we’re surrounded by an engaged and enthusiastic community, we’re still able to check in on our local biodiversity and deliver monitoring, engagement, Landcare support and landscape restoration across our region. If it wasn’t for your hard work, we simply would not be able to continue our valuable long-term biodiversity monitoring, engage our community in caring for our local landscapes, or empower landowners to manage their land as wildlife habitat.

To everyone who has helped Connecting Country over the past two decades: a big thank you! We are so grateful for your support.

To find out more about volunteer opportunities at Connecting Country, please visit our website – click here

National Volunteer Week Events will take place from 20-26 May 2024, to say thank you to the millions of  Australians who volunteer their time. We invite you to join in the events across the country.

 

Castlemaine Landcare present: Recovery plan for native fish with Dr Peter Rose

Posted on 15 May, 2024 by Lori

Castlemaine Landcare Group are hosting a fascinating presentation about a recovery plan to return native fish to the environment as part of their upcoming Annual General Meeting (AGM).  All welcome.

Recovery plan for native fish presentation

Peter Rose from NCCMA

Dr Peter Rose, North Central Catchment Management Authority.

Aquatic ecologist, Dr Peter Rose, from the North Central Catchment Management Authority (NCCMA), will explain a recovery plan for native fish at the AGM of Castlemaine Landcare Group (CLG).  CLG invite anyone interested to come along to Castlemaine Community House (30 Templeton St) on Wednesday 22 May at 7.30pm.

 

 

Peter will describe the work underway – riparian protection and enhancement; water for the environment; construction of fishways, and captive breeding and release of threatened fish. He will also discuss recent complementary work to identify and protect aquatic refugia in upland unregulated streams and establishment of ‘surrogate’ fish habitats in farm dams to re-stock waterways. The presentation will highlight existing partnerships with Landcare groups, and possible future avenues for Landcare groups to become more active in fish recovery projects.

Dr Peter Rose is an aquatic ecologist with over 20 years’ experience within the government, university, and private sectors.  Peter works at NCCMA as the Project Manager for the Native Fish Recovery Plan – Gunbower and Lower Loddon  He is also the Recovery Reach Coordinator for the Mid-Murray Floodplain Recovery Reach.  Peter manages large-scale restoration native fish projects including fishway design and construction, instream woody habitat reinstatement, riparian protection and enhancement, wetland rehabilitation, and floodplain-specialist fish conservation projects.

It promises to be a very interesting evening!

When: Wednesday 22 May 2024 at 7.30pm

Where: Castlemaine Community House, 30 Templeton Street Castlemaine VIC 3462

Inquiries: castlemainelandcaregroupinc@gmail.com

This is a free event hosted by Castlemaine Landcare Group.

 

Midweek Bird Walk – Wednesday 15 May 2024, Campbells Creek Trail

Posted on 30 April, 2024 by Ivan

Our friends and project partners at Birdlife Castlemaine District are holding a mid-week bird walk to showcase the ecological restoration along Campbells Creek and observe the native birds that have returned to the landscape. It will be a great chance for a casual stroll along an accessible trail with knowledgeable and passionate bird watchers, and an opportunity to learn more about restoring our local landscapes. 

Birdlife Castlemaine Midweek Bird Walk – Campbells Creek Trail

Castlemaine Birdlife second mid-week walk is to be held at the Campbell’s Creek Trail in Castlemaine on the 15th May 2024. The trail runs from the Camp Reserve along Barkers and Campbells Creeks to the Campbells Creek township. The track is mostly flat providing easy walking and is wheelchair accessible. The walk runs partly through some areas of houses and commercial buildings but has good riparian vegetation thanks largely to the Campbells Creek Land Care group. Possible sightings include Pied Currawong, Musk Lorikeet, Silvereye, Grey Fantail, Golden and Rufous Whistler and various Thornbills and Honeyeaters. Our walk leaders will be Jane Rusden and Bob Dawson.

Where: The walk starts from the beginning of the trail which is off Forest Road just by the bridge over Barkers Creek, opposite Camp Reserve.

From the roundabout at the corner of Hargreaves and Forest Streets, travel west along Forest Street for about 500 meters, under the railway bridge and over Barkers Creek then park either in Gaulton or Forest Streets then walk back along the south side of Forest Creek toward the creek. We will be at the start of the Trail. GPS -37.06648, 144.21305.

When: Meet at the Campbells Creek Trail at 9:00am.

Bring: Water, snacks, binoculars, sunscreen, hat, and we also strongly recommend that you wear long trousers and closed-in sturdy shoes.

More info: Jane Rusden, 0448 900 896, Judy Hopley 0425 768 559 or Bob Dawson 0417 621 691.

BirdLife Castlemaine District Branch eNews November 2023 - BirdLife Australia

Birdlife Castlemaine acknowledges the Traditional Owners of the land where we are holding our walk, the Dja Dja Wurrung people and we pay our respects to their Elders past and present. We recognise and are grateful for the immense contribution of Indigenous people to the knowledge and conservation of Australia’s birds.

Please note that walks will be cancelled if severe weather warnings are in place, persistent rain is forecast, the temperature is forecast to be 35C or above during the walk period, and/or a Total Fire Ban is declared. Please check our Facebook page the day before the event in case there is a cancellation.

 

2024 Victorian Landcare Forum: 9 and 10 May in Bendigo

Posted on 24 April, 2024 by Ivan

Connecting Country has employed a local Landcare Facilitator since early 2012 to support the important work of community land management groups in the Mount Alexander region. Landcare is a massive part of our program and we love the work that our dedicated volunteers and community champions do across the region. The statewide Landcare Forums offer opportunities to learn what other groups are doing as well as some of the latest research and practices.  This years’ forum is just up the road in Bendigo! Tickets are now available for the two-day event, with an interesting lineup of guest speakers and presentations. Full details below.

2024 Victorian Landcare Forum & Professionals Forum

In 2024, the Landcare forums will be held in the North Central Region, at the Bendigo Exhibition Centre (Prince of Wales Showgrounds) from 8 – 10 May.

Landcare Professionals Forum: Thriving in Change – Wednesday, 8 May

Victorian Landcare Forum: Growing Landcare – Thursday, 9 May and Bus Tours – Friday, 10 May.

Tickets to the Victorian Landcare Forum are available to purchase now! You can view the full program for the forum by visiting Landcare Victoria Inc.’s website – click here

The 2024 Victorian Landcare Forum provides an engagement opportunity for the Landcare community to promote best practice and share stories, and to grow Landcare across the state.

Day one – Thursday, 9 May: Forum – topics will include collaborating and combining management practices, aggregating action for landscape scale impacts, water in the landscape and learning from our peers.

Day two – Friday, 10 May: Bus tours – showcasing Landcare projects and collaborations in the Bendigo region. You will be able to choose from two different bus tour options.

Dinner – Thursday 9 May from 6pm. 

The dinner following the Victorian Landcare Forum will be held at the All Seasons Resort Hotel. This event will include a presentation from special guest Geoff Park on the Moolort Wetlands project.

To purchase your tickets to the Victorian Landcare Forum click here.

The 2024 Victorian Landcare Forum is is hosted by Landcare Victoria Inc.

 

Talking turtles: Bendigo family sustainability day Saturday 20 April

Posted on 18 April, 2024 by Ivan

Looking to learn more about our terrific turtles this coming weekend? Our project partners at the Bendigo City Council are putting on two events in Bendigo, a fabulous day of sustainable fun and information themed around turtles, wildlife and biodiversity. There is a talk on at the Bendigo Library at 1.30pm, followed by a walk and talk at Kennington Reservoir, home to many turtle species in central Victoria. Please find more details, including booking information and what to expect below.

 

Family Sustainability Day

Family Sustainability Day

As part of the Kennington Reservoir Fish Habitat Project, we are excited to have Graham Stockfeld from Turtles Australia presenting at 2 events on Saturday 20th April.

 

Event 1: Talkin’ Turtles at the Bendigo Library

1:30 – 2:30pm in the Performance Space as part of the Library’s Sustainable Saturday event

Come along to meet some live turtles and learn about turtle biology, ecology, threats and what we can do to protect them.

 

Event 2: Talkin’ Turtles at Kennington Reservoir

3pm – 4pm

Graham will share his knowledge on turtles, talk about the project at Kennington Reservoir and about what we can do to manage and protect them.

 

For anyone interested, more info on the project can be found here: https://go.bendigo.vic.gov.au/kenningtonfishhabitat

Please share the info with anyone that you think might be interested.

For bookings: CLICK HERE

 

 

 

 

Bird of the Month: Laughing Kookaburra

Posted on 16 April, 2024 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.

Laughing Kookaburra (Dacelo novaeguineae)

The sausage thief, Laughing Kookaburra mug shot. Photo by Jane Rusden

As we all know, the logistics of picnicking can be challenging when there’s a hungry, daring and intelligent Laughing Kookaburra around. I’ve watched a group of young kids cook sausages on the BBQ while camping, getting thoroughly bullied by a Kookaburra as they attempted and failed, to protect their cooking food. The bird dropped off a perch, wings out and gaining speed to dart deftly between the children, and snatch a fat sausage off the BBQ plate in its powerful bill. The poor kids were helpless against the crafty Kookaburra, what’s more the bird knew it, as did the kids. 

Laughing Kookaburra, the blue on the wing and rufous on the tail and rump is clearly visible. Photo by Damian Kelly.

An iconic bird that is always identified by its loud, often communal ‘laughing’ calls that echo throughout the bush. In reality these calls are mostly about delineating territories. Originally only resident in eastern Australia, it has been introduced to Western Australia, Tasmania and King Island. Even a few birds were introduced into New Zealand. It was popular amongst the early European settlers due to its abilities in snake catching and this probably contributed to the desire to introduce it into other areas. 

Due to its adaptability, it can be found in a wide range of habitats ranging from open forest to rainforest, parks, suburban gardens, farming areas and even sugar cane fields. It has adapted quickly to altered habitats and will readily take food from humans. In some areas studies have shown that up to 75% of their diet comes from people feeding them. They also take reptiles, insects, earthworms, yabbies and rodents. Small birds and native marsupials can also be part of their diet in some areas. 

Kookaburras are usually sedentary, remaining in the same territory all year. Although they perch in trees, the bulk of their prey is caught on the ground. Sitting on an elevated tree perch, power pole or on powerlines, they sit motionless watching for movement on the ground before diving down to collect their prey.  

As well as being an adaptable predator, the Kookaburra has a complex social structure. Generally, a breeding pair are assisted by offspring from previous broods who help with feeding. Some of these helpers can stay for up to 4 years. Communal behaviour also extends to roosting at night where a whole group will roost close together on the same branch. 

Laughing Kookaburra with a skink meal. Photo by Jane Rusden

Nests are usually in tree hollows, although in suitable areas they may also utilise arboreal termite nests. Usually only one clutch of 2-4 eggs is laid each season. Asynchronous hatching in the nest results in a hierarchy in size of the nestlings and in times of food shortage some weaker birds will not survive. Unfortunately, some decline in populations has been observed as the bird is at risk from human activities ranging from pesticide use to the loss of tree hollows as a result of land clearing. 

Laughing Kookaburra emerging from a nest hollow, having fed its young. Photo by Damian Kelly

 

Find more information on the Laughing Kookaburra, including their calls, click here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Castlemaine Field Naturalists Club: April 2024 talk

Posted on 10 April, 2024 by Ivan

As a monthly tradition, our friends at Castlemaine Field Naturalists Club (CFNC) hold a meeting with a guest speaker on the second Friday of the month, followed by a group excursion or field trip the following day. Castlemaine Field Nats provided the following details about their April 2024 meeting, which look very interesting and exciting. All are welcome to attend. For more information on CFNC, please visit their website – click here

 

Monthly Meeting:  Friday 12th April, 7.30pm, Uniting Church Fellowship Room, Lyttleton St. Castlemaine

Speaker: Professor Tim Entwisle, “Evergreen and Entwisleia: a botanical life, and a seaweed”

Professor Tim Entwisle is an author, botanist and former director of botanic gardens in Melbourne, Sydney and London. He also lived for a few years at Yapeen and completed his final years of secondary school at Castlemaine High School. In 2022, Tim published a memoir called “Evergreen: the Botanical Life of a Plant Punk” (Thames & Hudson), and this will be the subject of his talk for us on 12 April.

He will explain why he became a botanist (and phycologist) and some of the highlights of his three decades working in, and visiting, botanic gardens around the world. Tim will also share with us the story of a seaweed (an alga) called Entwisleia bella, and how this came to be named after him. (Tim will bring some books for sale and signing).

All welcome.

Tim with Entwisleia bella

 

 

 

 

Bird of the Month: Varied Sitella

Posted on 26 March, 2024 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 Damian Kelly from BirdLife Castlemaine District writing about our next bird of the month.

Varied Sitella (Daphoenositta chrysoptera)

The Varied Sitella is a small grey bird that is often hard to see, although it is widespread in our region. One distinguishable behaviour is that it often runs down a tree trunk or branch or hangs upside down as it searches for food. A gregarious species, it can usually can be seen in groups of 2 up to 20 when foraging in its preferred woodland haunts.

As the name implies, plumage can be quite variable within the species and there is extensive and complex variation in different geographical areas. DNA evidence supports a few distinct subspecies, and there is widespread hybridisation between these different subspecies – all in all a bit confusing!

The Varied Sittella is a small songbird native to Australia. Photo: Damian Kelly

It can be found across Australia (but not Tasmania) in a variety of habitats from southern Victoria all the way up to Cape York, in Western Australia and is also lightly spread throughout the inland.

At times it can be found foraging in mixed species flocks which include Buff-rumped and Striated Thornbills and occasionally Scarlet Robins. It is rarely seen on the ground, preferring to move along tree trunks and in the foliage. It tends to favour higher spots on trees compared to other bark-feeding species such as Treecreepers and Crested Shriketits and can be seen 8-14m above ground level, which of course makes observation that much more tricky.

So, if you haven’t seen them around much, this preference for high branches is probably why – coupled with an overall grey appearance that helps them blend in with their surroundings.

Diet consists mainly of insects gathered from foliage and gleaned from the cracks in rough-barked trees. Flocks keep in contact as they move through the foliage by constant calling as well as flicking their wings to reveal their distinctive coloured wing-bar (see above photo). Sitellas also roost as a group, usually along a horizontal branch, all facing the same direction.

(The Varied Sittella is usually heard before it is seen in the upper branches. Photos: Damian Kelly)

Studies have shown that this species is largely sedentary with few movements more than 10 km from local areas.

Like some other Australian species, Sitellas engage in cooperative breeding. A breeding group generally consists of a primary breeding pair and a varying number of helpers, ranging from 1-7 individuals. Helpers may be adult birds along with some juveniles from previous clutches. Nests are an open cup-shaped structure, often with a long tail making them somewhat cone-shaped. Nests are constructed of bark and spider webs, sometimes incorporating hair or fur.

Find more information on the Varied Sittella, including their calls, here.

 

Seeking volunteers: 2024 Nest Box checks

Posted on 12 March, 2024 by Anna

Monitoring local legend, the Brush-tailed Phascogale, is one of our core activities here at Connecting Country. We’re excited to be planning our nest box monitoring for Autumn 2024, with support from the Ian and Shirley Norman Foundation and the Victorian Government Nature Fund!

Connecting Country’s nest box monitoring program was established in 2010. Our 450 nest boxes across the Mount Alexander region of central Victoria allow us to collect valuable scientific data about the threatened Brush-tailed Phascogale and other arboreal mammals. For more information on our nest box monitoring – click here

A Brush-tailed Phascogale. Photo by Geoff Park

This year, our nest boxes will be surveyed by an experienced team of trained volunteer Team Leaders.

We are seeking volunteers to assist the Team Leaders in conducting nest box surveys, with feet planted firmly on the ground (i.e., not climbing ladders).

This nest box volunteer role involves: 

  • Travel within the Mount Alexander region
  • Following safety procedures
  • Carrying ladders and equipment to sites
  • Helping to navigate to sites
  • Writing observations and recording data
  • Taking photos

Fieldwork roles require working on uneven ground and carrying ladders (these are heavy!) through the bush, sometimes in hot or cold weather. Some sites require hikes through uneven terrain, or climbing over fences. Volunteers require a reasonable level of fitness and an adventurous spirit!

Volunteering on environmental projects is a great way to learn about our local environment, keep active, contribute to nature conservation, learn skills and meet new people.

If you are interested in assisting us, please send a brief email to anna@connectingcountry.org.au stating:

  • Your availability during April and May 2024
  • Why you are interested in volunteering (so we can do our best to make your volunteering experience as useful as possible, for you!)
  • Any relevant experience
  • Any questions you have

We look forward to hearing from you.

Greg helps his sister Kerrie inspect nest boxes. Photo by Kerrie Jennings

Max and Nat carry a ladder to a nest box site. Photo by Beth Mellick

Sugar Gliders in a Connecting Country nest box. Photo by Beth Mellick

 

Clean up Australia Day: Sunday 3 March 2024

Posted on 27 February, 2024 by Ivan

Clean Up Australia Day is an annual nationwide event focused on empowering local communities to clean up, fix up and conserve the natural environment. This year Clean Up Australia Day will be held on Sunday 3 March 2024.

Local Landcare and Friends groups of the Mount Alexander/ Leanganook region often host a Clean Up Australia Day event. Please see below for a list of local events happening across our region or to find events happening near you – click here .

You can also get in touch with your local Landcare group to see if they are hosting a 2024 event by finding your local group on the Connecting Country website – click here

Friends of Campbells Creek 16th annual clean-up event:

Help to clean up rubbish along the creeks and trails, followed by a social morning tea.

Meet: We’ll meet here at the bus shelter next to Winters Flat Footbridge, Johnstone Street (Midland Highway), Castlemaine, and then spread out to various locations to gather rubbish and return to Winters Flat.

Early Start: We’ll start early (8:00 am) to avoid the heat of the day and finish work at 10:00 am.

We’ll provide: collection bags, rubbish skip (courtesy of the Council), tea/coffee and biscuits.

Wear: hats, gloves, sturdy clothing, enclosed boots/shoes

Bring sun protection, a rake if you have one, your own water (and a friend)

Hope to see you there!

For more details – click here

 

Sutton Grange Landcare Group 

Where: Meet at the Sutton Grange Hall, Faraday – Sutton Grange Rd. Sutton Grange VIC 

When:  Sunday 3 March 2024, 9.00 am – 10.30 am

What to bring: Hats, sunscreen, sturdy footwear, water bottle, gloves and a friend!

It is anticipated that they will finish at 10.30 a.m. with refreshments and the opportunity to exchange thoughts on what you would like our group to concentrate on in 2024.

 

Golden Point Landcare Group

Where: Meet at Expedition Pass Reservoir (The Res), Golden Point Rd. Golden Point VIC

When: Sunday 3 March 2024, 10.00 am – 12.00 pm

What to bring: Hats, sunscreen, sturdy footwear, water bottle, gloves and a friend!

 

You can also register your own local clean-up event on the Clean Up Australia Day website – click here

 

Save the date: Natural Capital Forum 13 June 2024

Posted on 27 February, 2024 by Ivan

Our friends and project partners at the North Central Catchment Management Authority (NCCMA) are hosting an interesting forum in June 2024 on Natural Capital and how it might assist landowners balance biodiversity and potential income. Save the date for now, 13 June 2024, and if interested, please see the details below, including how to request an invite. We are excited to see how the Natural Capital space can assist landowners in our region manage their land with further incentive to restore the landscapes for ecological benefits.

Natural Capital Forum: Balancing the books between nature, productivity, and people

Join representatives from NCCMA on June 13, 2024, in Bendigo for the Natural Capital Forum and discover how you can harness the power of natural capital to drive success.

Learn about the wealth of natural assets like soil, air, and biodiversity that provide essential benefits to humans and see how you can make natural capital work for you.

Tailored for land managers, primary producers, farmers, and supporting organisations.

Stay tuned for more details or request an invite at info@nccma.vic.gov.au.

Don’t miss this opportunity to unlock the potential of natural capital for your success at the North Central Natural Capital Forum.

Location:
The Capital Theatre, Bendigo
Contact:
Request an invite at info@nccma.vic.gov.au.

 

Focus on trees: Tree photography workshop opportunity

Posted on 19 February, 2024 by Ivan

Our friends and project partners at Biolinks Alliance are hosting a large old trees photography workshop with the wonderful Alison Pouliot. Alison is a leading expert and holder of knowledge regarding nature photography, conservation, fungi and deep ecosystem understanding.

Connecting Country are requesting our community and supporters to map significant old trees in our region, through our project here.  Well captured photography can contribute greatly to recording and telling their story.

Please see details about the event below, including how to book tickets.

Focus on Trees – Tree Photography Workshop with Alison Pouliot

Large old trees are vital keystone structures in rural and urban landscapes. However, the value of these trees is often overlooked in planning such as road and fire management. Documenting these trees visually is important both as a scientific record and in drawing attention to their significance and conservation.

This workshop specifically focuses on assisting participants to improve both their technical and creative skills in photographing trees. Tree photography provides many challenges and each of these will be discussed and techniques for overcoming them demonstrated throughout the workshop. This is a very hands-on, interactive workshop combining theoretical, critique and practical sessions. It begins with a discussion of participants’ interest in photographing trees as well as any challenges or issues they may have experienced. This is followed by a session where participants’ pre-submitted images will be constructively critiqued by the group (during which participants are free to remain anonymous), followed by a field trip to put techniques into practice. Participants will be provided with supplementary printed notes to reinforce principles covered in the workshop.

Large old tree Photography workshop with Alison Pouliot

Participant Requirements

Participants are asked to wear appropriate clothing and sturdy footwear for the field trip, which will go ahead regardless of weather. They are reminded to bring their cameras/phones including additional batteries, battery charger and instruction manual. Participants are encouraged to submit two images (as per guidelines that will be provided to participants) prior to the workshop for constructive critique during the workshop.

Book here

https://www.eventbrite.com.au/e/large-old-tree-photography-workshop-with-alison-pouliot-tickets-824888623077?aff=oddtdtcreator

This event is being held as part of Biolinks Alliance’s Large Old Trees project and is made possible through the generous support of the TAP fund, Lindy Shelmerdine, David Moffatt and Lady Marigold Southey. You can find out more about this project here: https://biolinksalliance.org.au/hero-tree