Restoring landscapes across the Mount Alexander Region

Platypus mysteries to be revealed – Baringhup Landcare Group

Posted on 15 July, 2021 by Asha

See below information about Baringhup Landcare Group’s exciting upcoming event with the Australian Platypus Conservancy:

The platypus is one of the world’s most amazing animals.  This furry, warm-blooded mammal lays soft-shelled eggs like a lizard, uses its bill to navigate underwater, and sorts out arguments with the help of venomous spurs.  The platypus is also among the most popular of Australia’s animal icons – a great flagship species for freshwater conservation.  But what about the platypus’s own environmental needs?  How is the species faring in the wild?  And what needs to be done to ensure that populations survive in our local rivers and creeks?

Baringhup Landcare Group has arranged for Geoff Williams from the Australian Platypus Conservancy to share his knowledge of this amazing monotreme on Tuesday 3 August 2021 at Baringhup Community Hall starting at 7.00pm.  Visitors are welcome. Bookings essential (see below).

Geoff will highlight the features that make the platypus so special, explain its conservation needs and how to go about helping these animals. He’ll then give some hints on how to spot platypus in the wild and outline the possibilities of becoming involved in ‘citizen science’ programs to monitor local populations.

Geoff Williams has been studying platypus since 1994 when he helped found the Australian Platypus Conservancy, an organisation dedicated to researching platypus conservation needs.  Prior to his work with the APC, Geoff was Director of Healesville Sanctuary for five years from 1988 to 1993 and, before moving to Victoria, was Assistant Director of Sydney’s Taronga Zoo from 1985 to 1988. Geoff has presented numerous public talks on platypus at venues throughout Australia, including various universities, the National Museum in Canberra and the Melbourne Museum (on behalf of Australian Geographic).

Please note: To help manage COVID restrictions please booking via www.trybooking.com/BSPNW or contact Di Berry using the details below. COVID limits and regulations will apply. Bookings essential.

For further information, please contact:

Baringhup Landcare:

Diane Berry (Sec) 0403 020 663

Email: dianejberry@hotmail.com

Australian Platypus Conservancy:

Geoff Williams 03 5416 1478/0419 595939

Email: platypus.apc@westnet.com.au

 

Wattles of the Mount Alexander Region – Friends of the Box-Ironbark Forests

Posted on 15 July, 2021 by Ivan

We are at the beginning of wattle season, with some of the early flowering wattles already in bloom in our region. There are few things more colourful in our landscapes than the wattle blooming crazy, also often a wonderful scent accompanies. We thought it would be a good time to revisit Friends of the Box-Ironbark Forest’s (FOBIF) excellent publication, Wattles of the Mount Alexander Region. We love this guide, with excellent photographs, descriptions and information about each of the local wattles, and some interesting facts about their preferred habitat and ecological value. The book was written by Bernard Slattery, Ern Perkins and Bronwyn Silver and is a tribute to the talent of these local, knowledgeable ecologists and the FOBIF community.

Please find details below, including where to purchase and what to expect in the beautiful developed guide.

Acacia, known in Australia as wattle, is one of the largest genus of plants in the country — nearly 1000 species! Its brilliant flowers transform winter and spring landscapes. Our sporting teams wear its green and gold colours. Sprigs of wattle flowers adorn official events, and Golden Wattle is our national floral emblem.

But how many wattle species can the average citizen name and recognise?

This 112 page guide, Wattles of the Mount Alexander Region, helps the beginner to make a start. In plain language, and generously illustrated, it presents 21 species which flourish in the Mount Alexander region of central Victoria. And a general introduction explains different features of wattles, helping in identification and appreciation of these tenacious and beautiful plants.

The book is published by Friends of the Box-Ironbark Forests in association with Castlemaine Field Naturalists Club and Connecting Country. The authors are Bernard Slattery, Ern Perkins and Bronwyn Silver.

Golden Wattle (Acacia pycnantha) sample pages from ‘Wattles of the Mount Alexander region’

  • Recommended Retail Price: $10.00 plus $3 postage and handling ($13)
  • Price for buyers outside Australia: $18.00 (includes postage and handling)

To purchase your copy through the FOBIF website, visit www.fobif.org.au/wattles-of-the-mount-alexander-shire       

or click here to download an order form to pay by cheque or bank transfer.

Wattles of the Mount Alexander Region

 

Rakali sighting at Expedition Pass Reservoir

Posted on 15 July, 2021 by Ivan

The gorgeous Rakali keeps a low profile in our community, with few sightings and some misconceptions about what is often called our ‘native otter’ or ‘Australian water-rat’. The Rakali is the largest native rodent and is a very attractive animal weighing up to 1.3 kilograms – as big as a medium-sized platypus. The Rakali’s ancestors are believed to have originally dispersed to Australia from New Guinea, where several closely related species are found today.

Connecting Country has been delighted to receive a sighting and video footage of a Rakali bathing in the glorious sunshine at our local Expedition Pass Reservoir. This is hugely impressive and important, as it validates a healthy waterway and restoration works for habitat and biodiversity. The footage was taken by local Chewton legends John Ellis and Marie Jones, who have been involved in many environmental and social projects in our region over the past decades. Marie said, “We stopped at Expedition Pass Reservoir to take a photo of a plant leaf to send to my daughter this morning and a rakali came along at the place where people tend to enter the water.  John luckily had his camera ready and this is the result. It made me feel as though we must be doing something right with the work we do – but then again perhaps it shows how versatile and adaptable these little creatures are!”

Please enjoy the footage below from John and Marie, uploaded to our Vimeo Channel. Further details about the Rakali and their distribution are also provided below, courtesy of the Australian Platypus Conservatory.

https://vimeo.com/573806062

Rakali distribution

The scientific name of the Australian water-rat is Hydromys chrysogaster, which translates as “golden-bellied water mouse”. Early European settlers sometimes referred to this animal as a beaver rat, though it’s actually much more like an otter than a beaver in both its appearance and behaviour. Since the early 1990s the water-rat has also been referred to as Rakali – the name used by the Ngarrindjeri Aboriginal people in the lower Murray River and Coorong region of South Australia.

Rakali occupy a wide variety of natural and man-made freshwater habitats, including swamps, ponds, lakes, rivers, creeks and irrigation channels. They also inhabit brackish estuaries and sheltered ocean beaches, and may populate ephemeral rivers and lakes in inland Australia when these fill with water after periods of unusually heavy rain. They tend to be most active in places where thick grass, low-growing shrubs, reed beds or large rocks provide plenty of cover on or near the banks. As shown below, water-rats are widely distributed on both the Australian mainland and Tasmania and also inhabit many offshore islands.

Capture map

Map courtesy of R. Strahan. (1995). The Mammals of Australia, 2nd edition. (Reed Books: Chatswood NSW)

Size and appearance

w-rat KangLake 2018 Aug (James Pettit) K1__3067 15%Adult Rakali measure up to 35 centimetres in length from their nose to rump, with a slightly shorter tail. Adult males typically weigh 0.8 kilograms (up to 1.3 kg) and adult females typically weigh 0.6 kilograms (up to 1.0 kg). Animals living in different places often vary in colour. Most commonly, the head and back will be dark brown (with golden-yellow belly fur) or a lighter shade of brown, reddish-brown or grey (with fawn- to cream-coloured belly fur). However, apart from animals born near Shark Bay in Western Australia, virtually all individuals have a distinctive white tail tip.

Rakali fur is moulted twice a year, becoming thicker in winter. Like platypus fur, it consists of fine dense underfur covered by coarser guard hairs. However, Rakali fur is much less effective than platypus fur at keeping its owner warm – Rakali cannot efficiently maintain their body temperature in water below 20°C and therefore need to exit colder water periodically in order to warm up in a burrow or other sheltered site.

Please click on the link below for further images and details about the Rakali:

https://platypus.asn.au/rakali/

 

Online event: ‘The Sleepy Lizard’, Friday 9 July 7.30pm

Posted on 8 July, 2021 by Ivan

Our friends at Castlemaine Field Naturalists Club are hosting a wonderful online event called ‘Behavioural ecology of the Sleepy Lizard: when life gets tough, monogamy has its advantages’

The event is via the Zoom platform and features guest speaker, Dr Greg Kerr, from the Nature Glenelg Trust. Greg will be talking about the Shingleback or Stumpytail Lizard, also known as the Sleepy Lizard, and its unique behaviour and habitat requirements.

Please read on for details from Castlemaine Field Naturalists Club website.

Monthly Meeting – Friday 9 July, 7.30pm, by Zoom

Guest speaker: Dr Greg Kerr, Nature Glenelg Trust

“Behavioural ecology of the Sleepy Lizard: when life gets tough, monogamy has its advantages”

Victorians will know the Sleepy Lizard as the Shingleback or Stumpytail. For our July monthly meeting, Dr Greg Kerr, Senior Ecologist, Nature Glenelg Trust, will give fascinating new insight into the social behaviour of this species. In mammal and bird species there are many advantages of monogamy, particularly where parental care is critical to successful reproduction.

Sleepy lizards are socially monogamous and a male will closely follow a female for many weeks prior to mating. Greg’s research into the behavioural ecology of sleepy lizards leads to a rejection of the old idea that males are guarding the females, but rather suggests that it is the female who wears the pants in this relationship!

The meeting will be held by Zoom. If you have not joined earlier webinars and wish to attend, please email Peter Turner at munrodsl@iinet.net.au

Not so Sleepy Lizards! Learn more at our July meeting. (photo: Jenny Rolland)

 

Seeking birdwatchers for surveys in 2021

Posted on 6 July, 2021 by Jess

Connecting Country’s bird monitoring program allows us to see if all our hard work restoring habitat is actually making a difference, and to assess the status of our woodland birds in the Mount Alexander region of Central Victoria. Back in 2010, with help from experts, we carefully set up a bird monitoring program at selected locations across the region. Every year we go back to survey theses sites, providing valuable information to guide future decisions.

These days, our surveys are done entirely by volunteers – our community champions.

Volunteers survey birds in the Mount Alexander area (photo by: Frances Howe)

We’re now looking for more people local to the Mount Alexander area to be part of this program and assist with our bird surveys.

To be involved in this program you will need to:

  • Be able to confidently identify bird species in the Mount Alexander area by sight as well as from their call
  • Have a reasonable level of fitness and able to traverse rough ground
  • Know how to conduct a 2 ha 20 min area search (we can help with this)
  • Liaise with private landholders
  • Be comfortable navigating to and from survey sites using a GPS on your phone (we can help with this)
  • Attend an online induction
  • Follow safety protocols and adhere to current COVID-19 restrictions

We will support you, and can provide training on conducting surveys and navigation if required. However, having great bird ID skills is essential.

If you’re keen to be involved please email Jess Lawton (Monitoring Coordinator) including a brief description of any experience you have with bird identification and surveys, and a phone number: jess@connectingcountry.org.au

Jess will then get in touch to discuss and provide more information.

 

 

Victorian Landcare Awards – nominations close Sunday 11 July

Posted on 6 July, 2021 by Jacqui

Nominations for the 2021 Victorian Landcare Awards close this Sunday 11 July.

Newsletter Closing

In 2019, local winners were celebrated at Government House in Melbourne. They included:

  • Malmsbury District Landcare Group – Winner of the Australian Community Media Landcare Community Group Award.
  • Harcourt Valley Landcare Group – Highly Commended for the Australian Community Media Landcare Community Group Award.
  • Ian Grenda – Highly Commended for the Australian Government Individual Landcarer Award.

Read on to find out more about the Victorian and National Categories.

About the 2021 Victorian Landcare Awards

The State and Territory Landcare Awards are coordinated nationally by Landcare Australia, with each state and territory coordinating their own awards ceremony.  The Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning through the Victorian Landcare Program coordinates the Victorian Landcare Awards ceremony.

In addition to the eight national award categories, Victoria awards additional categories which are independently sponsored at a state level.

The Awards are a celebration of the significant work undertaken by groups, networks and individuals who contribute their time and care to the conservation of Victoria’s land, water and biodiversity.

The Victorian Government is proud to support and celebrate the efforts of those environmental volunteers who are working to the protect our land, water and wildlife, and the communities who love and depend of them.

Nominations close 11 July 2021. To submit your application – please visit https://landcareaustralia.org.au/landcare-awards-2021/  

2021 VICTORIAN ONLY CATEGORIES

  • Dr Sidney Plowman Travel and Study Award ($4,000)
  • Heather Mitchell Memorial Fellowship ($4,000)
  • Environmental Youth Action Scholarship ($2,000)
  • Landcare Network Award ($500)
  • Environmental Volunteering Award ($500)
  • Urban Landcare Award ($500)
  • Joan Kirner Landcare Award ($1,000)

2021 NATIONAL CATEGORIES

  • Australian Government Individual Landcarer Award ($500)
  • Australian Government Partnerships for Landcare Award ($500)
  • Australian Government Landcare Farming Award ($500)
  • Coastcare Award ($500)
  • Landcare Community Group Award ($500)
  • Woolworths Junior Landcare Team Award ($500)
  • Indigenous Land Management Award ($500)
  • Young Landcare Leader Award ($500)

 

Castlemaine Copper Butterfly upends city rail plan

Posted on 1 July, 2021 by Ivan

Our beautiful Eltham Copper Butterfly (aka Castlemaine Copper Butterfly, as we do have the largest population in the world!) has been in the news again! The Endangered butterfly has been discovered next to a suburban railway near Eltham, VIC, and has triggered a change in the large railway infrastructure project, to ensure the population is not threatened. The Age newspaper featured a large writeup on the community discovery and subsequent revision of the railway project, due to the Endangered listing of the butterfly under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999.

The Eltham Copper Butterfly is a small and attractive butterfly with bright copper colouring on the tops of its wings visible during the summer flight season. Connecting Country has been a strong advocate for the further protection of the butterfly and has facilitated surveys in our region and hosted educational events to engage our community of the importance of our regions populations. For more information about the butterfly, and why we love this fascinating beauty, click here.

Some interesting butterfly facts:

  • This unusual species 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.
  • Castlemaine region has the largest known population in the world, with suitable habitat and woodlands. Fire is the major threat to this species, as well as loss of habitat.

The Eltham Copper Butterfly is one of our regions threatened species (photo: Elaine Bayes)

 

The full article courtesy of The Age website is below, a good example of how community and citizen science can ensure better protection of remaining populations.

Butterfly flaps its wings in Montmorency – and upends $530m rail plan

Hundreds of metres of new railway tracks promised by the Andrews government in Melbourne’s north-east will no longer be built to save an endangered butterfly species.

The $530 million track duplication on the Hurstbridge line was promised before the 2018 state election. The upgrade would benefit commuters in two marginal, Labor-held seats of Eltham and Yan Yean.

The project involved duplicating about three kilometres of a single-track section between Greensborough and east of Montmorency station, and a separate 1.5 kilometre stretch between Diamond Creek and Wattle Glen.

Work started on the project late last year but was paused after a local spotted the endangered Eltham copper butterfly in remnant bushland near Montmorency station in January.

This prompted the Level Crossing Removal Authority to alert the federal Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment about the discovery.

The state government looked set to face a lengthy environmental approvals process to proceed with the works. Instead, the government ditched a section of its planned duplication that would have cut through the butterfly habitat.

Jane Oldfield and Damian Magner, who spotted the endangered butterfly in remnant bushland near Montmorency station in January (photo: The Age)

Under the revised plan, 950 metres of the rail line will no longer be duplicated east of Montmorency station on the Eltham side — where the butterfly habitat is located.

Transport Infrastructure Minister Jacinta Allan said the government had to act quickly to ensure it was following federal environmental legislation.

“We’re already hard at work delivering the Hurstbridge line duplication through this growing part of Melbourne and very soon residents will benefit from more frequent and reliable services,” she said.

The Eltham copper butterfly, which is nationally listed as endangered, is found only at several sites around Eltham and in isolated spots in Castlemaine, Bendigo and Kiata, near Nhill. It was considered extinct from the 1950s, until it was rediscovered in Eltham in 1986.

Montmorency resident Damian Magner, who spotted the butterfly in February, said it was great news that it would be spared. But he said had the government carried out proper environmental assessments before starting the project, instead of relying on residents’ intervention, “they wouldn’t have ended up in this awful mess with egg all over their faces.

“It’s appalling that local residents have had to step in and protect this crucial butterfly habitat, when multiple Victorian state and federal government agencies should have been aware of it from the beginning. They never bothered to look.”

The government counters that it had carried out all necessary environmental assessments and there was no sign of the butterfly before they were sighted in early 2021.

The government says the revised design will not reduce the service frequency it originally promised: a train on average every seven minutes from Greensborough and every 10 minutes from Montmorency and Eltham. This is due to additional signalling and power works that will now be rolled out.

Any changes to the cost of the works being carried out by an alliance of Acciona, Coleman Rail, WSP and Metro Trains Melbourne will not be significant, the government says.

Major construction is to start early next year and will be finished in late 2022. The butterfly habitat will be fenced off while the works are under way.

Public Transport Users Association spokesman Daniel Bowen said the government had to ensure no services would be sacrificed. “It certainly does compromise the duplication and they do need to make sure the rest of the project is optimised to reduce train delays,” he said.

The federal Environment Department said substantial civil or criminal penalties would apply to any person who carried out work that posed significant impact to a nationally endangered species without the proper approvals in place.

 

Tricky birds: revisiting Thornbills

Posted on 1 July, 2021 by Ivan

In August 2020, Connecting Country collaborated with birding experts Geoff Park and Chris Tzaros for our much-anticipated event, ‘Tricky Birds of central Victoria with Geoff Park and Chris Tzaros’. This online free event sold out with 500 bookings recorded the day before the event. We were absolutely thrilled to host this event with Geoff and Chris, who shared their tips for birding in central Victoria.

Geoff covered tips on raptor identification and Chris focused on the tricky topic of identifying thornbills of central Victoria, followed by an hour of interactive panel discussion and a chance to ask the experts those tricky bird watching questions. Both of the presentations were delivered with the passion and precision you would expect from leading bird experts and outstanding photographers, with many beautiful images and helpful tips about identifying these look-a-like birds that can be difficult to distinguish.

To get some further tips on identifying Thornbills, you may like to visit Geoff Park’s recent posts below, through his much-loved Natural Newstead blog. This recently published three-part blog series, is an absolute treat for anyone who loves birds, highlighting a variety of thornbill species. It features stunning photographs and an excellent overview of the tricky thornbills. Please find the three blogs below:

Part 1: Striated Thornbills

Part 2: Brown Thornbills

Part 3: Yellow Thornbills

The Striated Thornbill is a medium-sized thornbill with greenish upperparts (photo: Geoff Park)

 

To see the ‘Tricky Birds’ presentations (PDF) delivered by Geoff Park and Chris Tzaros and discover more about the Connecting Country event, please click on the link below. We sure did learn a lot and the audience was thrilled to see these two leading bird ecologists provide valuable identification skills for tricky birds. 

‘Tricky birds’ event delivered to a packed online audience

 

Whistling Kite surprises with phascogale catch

Posted on 30 June, 2021 by Ivan

(warning: graphic content of predator and prey)

Our region of central Victoria is home to numerous raptors, particularly in the vast plains to the north and west of Castlemaine, where species such as Whistling Kite, Black Kite, Brown Falcon, Kestrel and Black-shouldered Kite hunt the plains and farmland. Raptors are near the top of the avian food chain and feed on a variety of mice, rats, birds and native marsupials, as well as various roadkill species. They are excellent hunters, as well scavengers, and are often seen perched on dead trees and fences, eyeing off prey in the grasslands and pastures.

Local ecologist and author Damien Kelly has produced an excellent overview of raptors in our region. To view – click here

We were surprised by recently discovering a collection of images from a local resident, which showed a Whistling Kite grasping a captured Brush-Tailed Phascogale (Tuan). The photos show the brutal reality of the food chain and the incredible hunting skills of the Whistling kite. The photographs were taken by Helen McGeachin, and have been published here with her permission. Helen took the photographs a few years ago (June 2013) when she was working in her workshop in Elmtree Lane, Chewton VIC and looked up to see the kite (with poor little Tuan in hand ), which had landed on a nearby fence post.

The Whistling Kite is a medium-sized raptor (bird of prey) with a shaggy appearance. It has a light brown head and underparts, with pale streaks, and dark sandy-brown wings with paler undersides. The underwings have a characteristic pale ‘M’ shape when open. The head and body are relatively narrow and the tail is rounded. The wings are long and well-rounded, with a wingspan of 120 cm to 145 cm.

They are often seen near water or around farms, soaring in a lazy circling flight pattern. The distinctive call of the Whistling Kite is, unsurprisingly, a clear whistle, which begins by descending down the scale, followed by an up-scale staccato chatter, given by birds as they fly overhead or when perched. During the non-breeding season, they mainly eat carrion, but during the breeding season, they take live prey, especially rabbits and hares, as well as fish, reptiles, birds, small mammals and invertebrates. They sometimes attend fires to catch fleeing prey, and they may steal food from other birds of prey.

To hear the call of the Whistling Kite – click here

 

 

Nature journaling with BirdLife Castlemaine – Saturday 3 July 2021

Posted on 24 June, 2021 by Ivan

Here is a great opportunity to practice some nature journaling through our much loved BirdLife Castlemaine District branch, exploring the natural world through art and creativity. The location will be the woodlands around the popular Crusoe Reservoir, near Kangaroo Flat, Bendigo VIC. We rarely find the time to connect deeply to landscapes in the ever-increasing realm of busyness, so here lies the perfect opportunity!

Please read on for details provided by BirdLife Castlemaine.

For inspiring photos of the wildlife spotted at the reservoir and surrounds, visit the excellent website of Friends of Crusoe Reservoir – click here

Nature journaling – Saturday 3 July 2021

Join some nature-loving creatives and aspiring creatives and explore the natural world through your chosen medium … which can be whatever you want. We will be in the bush seeking inspiration from the natural world, both from the plant and animal kingdoms.

A beautiful drawing of an Eastern Yellow Robin, that Ash Vigus is currently working on (photo: Jane Rusden)

 

All ages and abilities are welcome.

11:30 am – 1:30 pm, 3 July

Crusoe Reservoir carpark, Kangaroo Flat, Bendigo VIC

From Castlemaine. Calder Hwy (A79) then turn left into Furness Street (Harvey Norman is on the corner). Go to the end of Furness Street then turn left into Crusoe Road. Crusoe Reservoir is 500 metres on the left. We meet in the car park there.

From Maldon. Bendigo – Maldon Road (C283) then left onto Calder Alternate Hwy. After 850 metres turn right onto Crusoe Road. After 6.7 km, Crusoe Reservoir is on the right. We meet in the car park there.

There are toilets just inside the entrance, near the carpark.

Be prepared to walk a short distance on flat ground, to find a good spot to settle and create.

Bring something to sit on, lunch, water or flask, very warm clothing, binoculars if you want and have them, and most importantly, your creative materials – pen, paper, pencils, paint, camera, or whatever you need to get creative in nature. Guide books could be helpful to identify plants and animals.

You may like to join our bird walk at 9 am at the same location. For details of all our events – click here

BirdLife Castlemaine District

 

Bird of the month: Galah

Posted on 23 June, 2021 by Ivan

Welcome to our sixteenth 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 lucky to have the talented and charismatic Jane Rusden from BirdLife Castlemaine District writing about our next bird of the month, with assistance from the brilliant Damian Kelly.

Galah (Eolophus roseicapilla)

Recently I had the absolute pleasure of visiting Nature Foundation’s property, Witchelina Nature Reserve, near Marree in South Australia and I highly recommend making the effort to visit. Whilst there I saw desert birds that Victorians get very excited about because their ranges don’t extend this far south. These are birds we rarely see and birds we commonly see, like the Galah. This bird is either overlooked or labelled a destroyer of crops, but lights up in clear desert light showing off the most stunning pink face and body.

Cockatoos are known to be very intelligent the world over, and this includes the Galah. They have readily adapted to altered habitats such as farmland, particularly cropping, with accompanying water sources. I saw them at Witchelina utilising open woodland and mallee, with the exception of the driest areas. They can often be seen in mixed flocks with both Corella species and Sulphur Crested Cockatoos, feeding on any area of open ground.

However, Galahs have also learned to utilise tall forests and coastal areas, a seemingly far cry from their original dry interior ranges. Interestingly, while the Galah was known rarely in Tasmania, there is now an expanded breeding population. In another example of the ability of this species to move vast distances, in 1966 in response to drought, a flock of Galahs moved from inland areas to Maroochydore in Queensland, where they now reside and breed. Its wide distribution and abundance positions the Galah as perhaps the most successful member of the cockatoo family.

Female Galah with her pink eye (photo by Jane Rusden)

 

Due to their adaptability, Galahs have landed in the crosshairs of parties with grievances towards them. This is an extra sad dilemma as they form permanent pair bonds for the life of a bird and have complex social structures. They will often use the same nest in a tree hollow year after year, rearing young who remain dependent for several months in the nest, then another month in a creche, still being feed by their parents.

On a lighter note, studies have shown their love of what humans call mischief. Galahs can undo bindings on grain bags for a free feed, will play and swing on wires, roll down inclines and play with objects using their feet, while lying on their backs. To bathe they love to hang upside down with their wings out, in the rain. No wonder the slang for a person being a bit of a goof is ‘you’re a Galah!’

Male Galah with his dark eye (photo by Jane Rusden)

 

To listen to the call of the Galah, please visit Graeme Chapman’s website – click here

A big thank you to contributors to this edition of Bird of the Month – Jane Rusden and Damian Kelly – for their amazing knowledge and skills.

 

 

 

 

 

Wheel Cactus community field day – Sunday 27 June 2021

Posted on 23 June, 2021 by Ivan

Old and new volunteers alike are invited to Tarrangower Cactus Control Group’s next Community Field Day on Sunday 27 June 2021. 

Read on for more details from the Cactus Warriors.

The morning’s activities begin at 10:30 am and end with a delicious BBQ lunch and friendly chat around 12:30 pm. We supply all the necessary equipment, so please come and join us for a rewarding morning in the outdoors. Just make sure you wear sturdy boots and long pants and sleeves for protection.

The location for this field day is at the eastern end of Bells Lane, Eastville VIC. To get there, head north out of Maldon along Bridgewater Rd. for 9 km, then turn right into Murphys Rd. Drive another 3 km and turn right into Bells Lane, and you’ll find us another 1.5 km along, on the side of the road in Bells Lane. The route will be well marked with our ‘cactus’ boards.

These events are COVID restriction-compliant and family-friendly, but children must be accompanied by a parent at all times. If you have any queries or want to see a map for directions, please go to our website www.cactuswarriors.org  

Location: Bells Lane, Eastville VIC
15 km from Maldon via Bridgewater and Murphys Roads
Date: Sunday 27 June 2021
Time: 10.30 am to 12.30 pm

The Tarrangower Cactus Control Group Inc. (TCCG) consists of Landcare volunteers dedicated to the eradication of Wheel Cactus (Opuntia robusta). TCCG, in conjunction with Parks Victoria, holds friendly and informal Wheel Cactus Control community field days to inform and demonstrate control techniques, on the last Sunday of the month from May to October. These field days always end with a free BBQ lunch, cuppa and cake and the opportunity to chat, exchange ideas and make contacts. It is a great opportunity to spend a rewarding morning outdoors, meeting neighbours and others who are concerned about preserving our unique environment. Everyone is welcome, no previous experience is required and all equipment is supplied. View the video below to catch the ‘cactus warriors’ in action.

 

Putting a dollar figure on threatened species

Posted on 16 June, 2021 by Ivan

We are both lucky and unlucky to have our share of threatened species calling our region of central Victoria home. Plants and animals are driven to the edge for a variety of reasons. Habitat loss and invasive species are recognised as the two largest factors in species decline and extinction. The Mount Alexander region offers a safe haven for some species, but also an abundance of invasive weeds and pest animals.

If money rules the world (which we hope it doesn’t!), then perhaps we need a dollar value to represent threatened species and their plight for survival.

Thankfully, a major research project has explored putting a dollar figure on threatened species. Dr Ram Pandit of the University of Western Australia (UWA), Dr Kerstin Zander of Charles Darwin University (CDU), and their colleagues are taking a close look at how people value threatened species, with some surprising and heartening results.

To learn more, please read the following article, provided courtesy of the Threatened Species Recovery Hub.

To read the full article on the Threatened Species Recovery Hub website – click here

Eltham Copper Butterfly is one of our region’s threatened species (photo: Elaine Bayes)

 

The economics of threatened species

What price persistence? Dr Ram Pandit of the University of Western Australia (UWA), Dr Kerstin Zander of Charles Darwin University (CDU), and several researchers from both UWA and CDU are taking a close look at how people value threatened species, with some surprising – and heartening – results. Here they share their insights into what it means to Australians to avert extinction of vulnerable species.

There is a common misconception that economics is about money. It is not. Economics is the science of allocating scarce resources and making decisions – whether about allocating money or anything else. The total economic value of something includes not just how much money one can get for it on the open market but many other values that do not involve money at all. Dollar values help people understand the worth of something in monetary terms, but they are only one small part of the story in making decisions.

The value of persistence

Threatened species illustrate this point beautifully. The fact that you cannot trade boggomoss snails does not mean that Australian people do not value them. Most respondents will never get the tiniest monetary gain from the snail’s persistence – they will never sell one, eat one, photograph one or visit one of the few boggy mossy springs where they persist in Queensland’s Dawson Valley. Yet, respondents to our species-specific surveys said they were willing to pay around $47 per year to make sure boggomoss snails are not lost forever, with 69% of respondents willing in principle to pay something for the snail to survive. Multiplied across the country’s population, that’s a pretty high existence value. Even when respondents had to choose how much they are willing to pay among three or five threatened species, they were willing to give $0.33 and $0.20 per year, respectively, to make sure the snail no longer qualifies for the threatened species list.

The Critically Endangered boggomoss snail is found only in the Dawson River catchment, in the Brigalow Belt Bioregion of Queensland (photo: John Stanisic)

 

In fact, what we discovered was that the dollar value of a species increases substantially as it approaches extinction. That effectively says that threatened species are beyond dollar value. This was consistent with another of our surveys, in which 70% of respondents thought extinction should be prevented regardless of the cost. Some might think that impractical – except that the US Endangered Species Act aims “to halt and reverse the trend toward species extinction, whatever the cost”, as the US Supreme Court put it.

That’s not to say that people do not value some species more than others. So long as extinction is avoided, the amount people would be willing to pay for conservation varied by species. In contrast to general perception that birds and charismatic species are valued more than the others, we found that charisma-challenged species like skinks are also valued highly. In our multiple species valuation study, we found that people are willing to pay $3.12 per year to conserve the great desert skink and about $0.37 per year to conserve the eastern bristlebird. We also assessed the community’s values for threatened ecosystems like salt pans ($0.10/year) or Sandstone Shrubland Complex ($0.93/year). Much of our research was quite new – nowhere in the world have multiple species been assessed simultaneously, ecological communities been valued, or anyone tried to uncover the community’s values for anything other than high-profile species.

The Christmas Island blue-tailed skink would be extinct if not for the time and care of dedicated staff and captive breeding facilities provided by Parks Australia and Taronga Park Zoo (photo: Parks Australia)

 

As a result, we can work out some general rules for determining a species’ non-market value that will help policy-makers estimate the cost to the public if a development increases the probability of species extinction, or the benefits that can arise from habitat restoration. Such values represent the benefits to society of conserving species, and help to make decisions about species conservation while considering the costs.

Management – and trust

In another study, we assessed how the worth of threatened species was affected by their management. We asked whether people would pay less if a species were kept in a zoo, if feral animals were killed as a part of threat management or if a species’ genetic makeup were managed to avoid inbreeding effects. Somewhat to our surprise, the killing of feral animals was embraced by a large proportion of respondents. They were more cautious about genetic management, but only actually opposed active manipulation of genes.

In all the valuation studies, what came through was a trust of the scientists. If scientists were concerned a species might go extinct, and proposed a process to make sure that would not happen, most respondents were willing to make a contribution. As we know, such trust places a great responsibility on those who are trusted, and can easily be lost.

bridled nail tail wallaby

Saving a species can require a major long-term commitment.

 

The bridled nail-tail wallaby was widespread across eastern Australia at the time of European arrival, but foxes, cats and land clearing drove major declines. The species was thought extinct until a single small population was found in central Queensland in 1973. To prevent the extinction of the species, Taunton National Park (Scientific) was established at the site and feral predator control and other conservation actions have been put in place since that time to conserve and support its recovery. Image: Nicolas Rakotopare / Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service

On the money

A final part of our work did also look at the monetary economy and threatened species. For instance, many species may survive only if they are kept in zoos or behind large fences. To help planning for such expenditure, the country’s zoos provided estimates of the costs of keeping different types of animals – and mammals and birds are much more expensive to keep than other, smaller animals. We costed the different types of fencing that are increasingly being erected to protect native mammals from feral predators. For a sample of species, we also calculated the institutional costs of threatened species management. Rangers erecting nest boxes can only do their job if there are people in offices arranging their weekly pay or training them how to climb trees. Such costs are almost never calculated in threatened species budgets, which fall short as a result.

However, not all costs are outlays. Threatened species managers often live in rural and remote communities; their children go to local schools; they buy food from the local shops. For every dollar invested in such a community, there are flow-on benefits in terms of jobs and local investment. That information is being fed into an analysis of threat management needs across the country to allow calculation of at least some of the monetary benefits that communities can derive from hosting threatened species and their managers.

Economic analysis is critical to most policy-making by government. Our work aims to ensure that the very real values Australians place on threatened species, the values that explain the existence of the Threatened Species Recovery Hub, and of the legislation aimed at protecting threatened species, are given a seat at the decision-making table. If boggomoss snails could cheer, we are sure they would.

Further information

Ram Pandit
ram.pandit@uwa.edu.au

Kerstin Zander
kerstin.zander@cdu.edu.au

Stephen Garnett
stephen.garnett@cdu.edu.au

 

Threatened Species Recovery Hub

 

Platypus encounters: make your sightings count

Posted on 16 June, 2021 by Ivan

We love our most unusual mammal, the platypus, and are lucky enough to have some low but viable populations in the rivers and waterways of central Victoria, including our very own Campbells Creek. Monitoring key species can teach us about the health of local ecosystems and alert us to changes in the environment.

Our friends at the Australian Platypus Conservancy encourage all community members to report all platypus sightings via the APC website, which will then feed the data into the national biodiversity databases. This is vitally important for decision-makers and funding bodies. Please read on for details from APC regarding the importance of reporting platypus sightings and how to complete this task.

To learn more about the Australian Platypus Conservancy – click here
To
read the May 2021 issue of ‘Platypus News & Views’, the APC newsletter – click here

The platypus is listed as ‘Near Threatened’ in Australia and on the International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List (photo: APC)

 

Make your sightings count

Recent efforts to assess the platypus’s national conservation status have highlighted the value of having a reliable set of platypus sightings records that can be used to help analyse population trends across the species’ range.

Backed by considerable federal funding, the Atlas of Living Australia (ALA) was launched in 2010 with the worthy aim of consolidating reliable Australian flora and fauna records from available sources – including state and territory wildlife databases, museum records and ‘citizen science’ sightings reported directly to ALA or via co-operating online platforms.

The Australian Platypus Conservancy began routinely recording the details of platypus sightings made by its own staff or other persons in 1994, and extended this program to include reports of rakali (aka Australian water-rats) in 2004. All of the APC’s past records for both species have now been shared with ALA, with more recent reports uploaded on a regular quarterly basis. Around 21% of the approximately 13,500 platypus records currently held by ALA (dating back to the 1830s) have been contributed by the Conservancy. Likewise, the Conservancy has provided just over 27% of the nearly 8,000 rakali records held by ALA dating back to the 1840s.

As shown below, the Conservancy’s contribution to national wildlife reporting has also grown through time, comprising 46.5% of platypus records (left pie chart) and 50.5% of rakali records (right pie chart) held by ALA for the period from 2010 to 2019. This partly reflects the success of APC initiatives specifically designed to boost the number of reported sightings, such as the community-based visual surveys for rakali carried out in Victoria in 2016/17 and the ACT in 2018/19 (supported by the Wettenhall Environment Trust) and the campaign to obtain platypus sightings in the Goulburn River catchment conducted in partnership with the Goulburn Broken CMA in 2018/19.

These projects, featuring public information sessions and extensive media coverage, boosted sightings not only in the nominated time period but also in subsequent years. They thereby provide a model of how useful additional sightings records can be harvested cost-effectively for the national database.

Importantly, the Conservancy has always accepted that an essential aspect of recording platypus and rakali sightings for posterity is to identify reports that are likely to be in error. In some cases, details of an animal’s appearance or behaviour may apparently differ from those of the species nominated in the report. Other records may be suspect due to a species having been seen at a location well outside its current known range. To resolve these discrepancies, a Conservancy biologist immediately contacts whoever made the report for more information – e.g., the distance to the animal, length of time it was observed, prevailing light conditions and whether it was seen by more than one observer – to provide a factual basis for assessing the sighting’s merit.

Although visual records certainly have some limitations when used to characterise a species’ distribution and status, they nonetheless are of real interest. We therefore encourage anyone lucky enough to see a platypus or rakali in the wild to report the details via the APC website (www.platypus.asn.au) so this information can be added to the national database.

Australian Platypus Conservancy

 

Loddon Mallee climate ready plan 2021 – last chance to have your say

Posted on 10 June, 2021 by Ivan

Adapt Loddon Mallee is keen to hear feedback from the community on their recently drafted Climate Ready Plan, which aims to ensure the Loddon Mallee region is climate-ready, thriving and prosperous. The ADAPT Loddon Mallee network brings together people from all walks of life across the region to learn, share knowledge, and build networks to support communities in becoming climate-ready.

There is no doubt climate change is one of the greatest challenges ever faced by society, natural landscapes, and our native plants and animals. Despite the efforts of governments, community groups and individuals, it is certain we will experience a trend of warmer and drier conditions here in central Victoria, with erratic and unstable weather patterns. Adapting to these changes and providing resilient landscapes and communities is a vital step in being climate-ready.

Adapt Loddon Mallee is inviting feedback on their draft Climate Ready Plan for our region. Please read on for details from Adapt Loddon Mallee about how to provide feedback on the draft plan.

Connecting Country has been regenerating the landscape, with the added benefit of carbon capture, for over a decade (photo by Connecting Country)

What is ADAPT Loddon Mallee?

Climate change impacts are already being felt in communities across the region. The pressure is being felt in sectors like local water, food production, and health and wellbeing.

While it is important that we all take steps to reduce our emissions to mitigate against further future climate impacts, such as embracing renewable energy, we also need to reduce our current and future vulnerability by taking adaptation action.

The ADAPT Loddon Mallee network brings together people from all walks of life across the region to learn, share knowledge, and build networks to support communities in becoming climate ready.

Adapting to climate change involves taking practical actions to manage current impacts and future risks to build resilient communities and systems across the region.

Successful adaptation is a shared responsibility. Individuals, communities, businesses and governments at all levels have a part to play. The challenge is too big to anyone to act alone – to ensure thriving communities in the future we need to work together.

ADAPT Loddon Mallee will focus on the following areas under three categories identified in the 2018 Regional Gap Analysis:

  • People: Traditional Owners, youth, elderly, and volunteers.
  • Places: Small townships, rural cities, places of natural and cultural significance.
  • Sectors: Agriculture, biodiversity (flora and fauna), manufacturing, tourism, and health and human services.

Climate Ready Plan

ADAPT Loddon Mallee want to hear from you on what’s important in climate change adaptation in the Loddon Mallee region for the next five years.

 To read the draft plan and provide comments, please – click here

Thanks kindly
ADAPT Loddon Mallee

 

 

Our forgotten woodland plants

Posted on 2 June, 2021 by Ivan

Hats off to anyone who has been working hard to restore and replenish our treasured landscapes. We love where we live, and we especially appreciate efforts to restore our fragmented natural woodlands and increase habitat for our local wildlife. It is pleasing to see the return of many trees and shrubs through numerous revegetation efforts, and also from natural regeneration following removal of livestock grazing.

The powerhouses of our current landscape are often the mighty Eucalyptus trees of multiple species. Often the focus of revegetation and restoration efforts, Eucalypts provide enormous habitat value to many animals large and small. However, they are only part of a healthy ecosystem. A recent update to the article titled ‘Forgotten woodlands, future landscapes‘ (originally published in 2013) by Ian Lunt reminded us of the missing elements of our current day woodlands. Ian points out that historical evidence shows us other plant species once dominated our local environment in central Victoria.

The article is an excellent read, well-researched, and points out that two hundred years ago, another group of trees – Honeysuckle, Oak, Lightwood and Cherry – formed extensive woodlands across many parts of south-east Australia. Today we call these trees Silver Banksia (Banksia marginata), Drooping Sheoak (Allocasuarina verticillata), Wild Cherry (Exocarpos cupressiformis), and Lightwood (Acacia implexa) or Blackwood (A. melanoxylon).

This work supports Connecting Country’s evidence-based approach to landscape restoration. Many of our on-ground projects over the past decade have worked to rebalance our woodlands, and return the missing shrubs and prickly plants that once were prevalent in the landscape. These small trees and shrubs provide essential food, nesting sites, and shelter from predators for our threatened woodland birds and other small animals.

Please read on for an extract of the article, courtesy of Ian Lunt.

Detail from an 1854 map of central Victoria showing the northern end of Mount Alexander (photo by Ian Lunt)

 

Forgotten woodlands, future landscapes

Picture a gorgeous woodland in the early 1800s. What do you see? Majestic gum trees with bent old boughs, golden grasses, a mob of sheep or kangaroos, and a forested hill in the distance? The luminous landscape of a Hans Heysen painting, perhaps.

It’s an iconic Aussie landscape. But something’s missing. The trees are wrong. Or at least, they aren’t all there.

Two hundred years ago, another group of trees – Honeysuckle, Oak, Lightwood and Cherry – formed extensive woodlands across many parts of south-east Australia. Today we call these trees Silver Banksia (Banksia marginata), Drooping Sheoak (Allocasuarina verticillata), Wild Cherry (Exocarpos cupressiformis), and Lightwood (Acacia implexa) or Blackwood (A. melanoxylon).

Did you picture a woodland dominated by any of these species? If not, I wonder why. Do we picture eucalypt woodlands because eucalypts now dominate our local bush? In doing so, did we forget the felled species and remember the hardy and persistent?

Indigenous Australians and early white explorers and settlers knew these woodlands well. William Howitt extolled the beautiful Sheoak and Banksia woodlands near Melbourne:

… nearly all the trees were shiacks [she oaks], — not the eternal gum-trees, — and these, interspersed with Banksias, now in fresh foliage, and new pale yellow cones, or rather bottle-brushes, with a sprinkling of gums and golden wattles, gave what you rarely see in that country, a variety of foliage and hue. (HOWITT 1858, P. 206)

Early surveyors inscribed combinations of ‘oak, honeysuckle and gum’ across many survey plans, as on this early map of Mount Alexander in central Victoria. Mount Alexander is still covered by bush, but it’s now dominated by eucalypts, not Silver Banksia. I wonder how many honeysuckles survive on the range, and how far away the nearest large population might be?

To read the full article on Ian Lunt’s website – click here

 

 

Healthy dams event 2021 – last chance to book!

Posted on 25 May, 2021 by Ivan

We have just SIX tickets remaining for our Healthy Dams event on 5 June 2021, which is part of our Healthy Landscape project. Book now to avoid disappointment for what will surely be a great education event.

‘Healthy dams’ will be hosted by Connecting Country and local ecologist, Karl Just, who has a natural wonder and fascination with aquatic plants and animals, and their importance to farming and biodiversity. We have planned this in-person event at a stunning private property in Taradale VIC, which fronts the Coliban River and has several farm dams.

This event is part of our ‘Healthy Landscapes’ project, funded through the Australian Government’s Smart Farms program.

The workshop will cover:

  • How to improve the health of dams and ponds.
  • Suitable plants for waterways and revegetation of aquatic areas.
  • Frogs, wildlife and improving water quality.
  • Options for stock management and nutrient management.

We will have the opportunity to tour two dams on the property and the Coliban River at the farm in Taradale.

Dams and ponds provide vital farm infrastructure, as well as habitat for many invertebrates, amphibians and birds, and sometimes even mammals. The workshop will explore how to create and maintain healthy waterways for the benefit of people, farm productivity and the natural environment.

The event will be on Saturday 5 June 2021 from 1.00 to 2.30 pm in Taradale, VIC. It’s sure to be popular and tickets are limited. To book please – click here 

Healthy farm dams can boost farm productivity while supporting native wildlife and providing clean water (photo by Australian National University)

 

Catering for this event is BYO. Please come equipped for potential weather extremes, wear sturdy shoes and bring adequate water and nourishment.

Our Healthy Landscapes project is about helping our local farmers and other landholders to manage their land sustainably for the benefit of wildlife, themselves and the broader landscape. We are also developing a Healthy Landscapes guide book, especially targeted to the Mount Alexander region of central Victoria. This event is part of a series of educational workshops for landholders on sustainable land management.

Our special presenter – Karl Just

Karl is an established ecological consultant and researcher based here in Castlemaine VIC. He has dedicated his time to providing environmental management plans for parks and reserves, conducting flora and fauna surveys and educating the community on improving our natural environment. He has a particular interest in the beautiful and threatened species, the Eltham Copper Butterfly, as well as searching for other endangered species in our region. Karl has a focus on wetlands and waterway surveys, as well as management planning.

 

 

Community Cactus Warriors field day – POSTPONED DUE TO COVID-19 RESTRICTIONS

Posted on 25 May, 2021 by Ivan

Our friends and partners at the Tarrangower Cactus Control Group Inc. (TCCG) are having a Community Cactus Field Day on Sunday 30 May 2021, at the eastern end of Bells Lane, Eastville (north-west of Maldon, VIC). The morning’s activities begin at 10.30 am and end with a delicious BBQ lunch and friendly chat around 12:30 pm. TCCG supply all the necessary equipment, so please come and join them for a rewarding morning in the outdoors.

Tarrangower Cactus Control Group consists of Landcare volunteers dedicated to the eradication of Wheel Cactus (Opuntia robusta). TCCG, in conjunction with Parks Victoria, holds friendly and informal Wheel Cactus Control community field days to inform and demonstrate control techniques, on the last Sunday of the month from May to October. These field days always end with a free BBQ lunch, cuppa and cake and the opportunity to chat, exchange ideas and make contacts.

It is a great opportunity to spend a rewarding morning outdoors, meeting neighbours and others who are concerned about preserving our unique environment. Everyone is welcome, no previous experience is required and all equipment is supplied.

To catch the ‘cactus warriors’ in action on video – click here.

Please find read on for more details from TCCG regarding the field day.

Cactus warrior volunteers at work on a community field day (photo by Lee Mead)

 

The Tarrangower Cactus Control Group sincerely thank all the volunteers who have helped control local Wheel Cactus infestations. Many community members have contributed to maintaining our ‘war on Wheel Cactus’ over the past years.

Volunteers have helped clear Maldon Historic Reserve of major infestations, helping to preserve our native plants and animals and restore our stunning park. Many local property owners have been assisted over the years by the cactus warriors giving valuable assistance and advice. There’s also been many devoted and passionate volunteers who have served on our committee, bringing an amazing range of skills and talent – thanks to all of you.

Old and new volunteers are all invited to our next Community Field Day on Sunday 30 May 2021. The morning’s activities begin at 10:30 am and end with a delicious BBQ lunch and friendly chat around 12:30 pm. We supply all the necessary equipment, so please come and join us for a rewarding morning in the outdoors.

The location for this field day is at the eastern end of Bells Lane, Eastville VIC. To get there, head north out of Maldon along Bridgewater Rd for 9 km, then turn right into Murphys Rd. Drive another 3 km and turn right into Bells Lane, and you’ll find us another 1.5 km along, on the side of the road in Bells Lane. The route will be well marked with our ‘cactus’ boards.

These events are Covid-safe and family friendly, but children must be accompanied by a parent at all times. If you have any queries or want to see a map for directions, please go to our website at www.cactuswarriors.org

Tarrangower Cactus Control Group Inc

 

Bird of the month: Buff-rumped Thornbill

Posted on 19 May, 2021 by Ivan

Welcome to our fifteenth 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 lucky to have the talented and charismatic Jane Rusden from BirdLife Castlemaine District writing about our next bird of the month, with assistance from the brilliant Damian Kelly.

Buff-rumped Thornbill (Acanthiza reguloides)

Thornbill species are some of the most difficult local birds to identify, and the Buff-rumped Thornbill is no exception. If you can get a good view, you may be able to see it has a very pale, almost white eye. But this is not easy as they are constantly on the move, flitting about in the cover of shrubs and trees, or on the ground amongst fallen timber. A bit easier to see is its buff-coloured rump, which is also a giveaway with identifying this species. Other diagnostic features are its creamy-coloured body fading to a gently yellow hue low on its belly, and the black tail. Usually, I hear them before I see them. I liken their call to a Brown Thornbill with a touch of Grey Fantail. It’s a typical Thornbill call but with more melody than most.

To add to the confusion, Buff-rumped Thornbills are very fond of company, both their own species and other small woodland birds like Grey Fantails, Striated and Yellow-rumped Thornbills, Speckled Warblers (you would do a happy dance of triumph on seeing one of these), Scarlet Robins and other species. Rarely seen on their own or in pairs, they like a party and can be in flocks of up to 20.

Buff-rumped Thornbills are found in the drier, more open forest regions of coastal eastern Australia (photo by Damian Kelly)

 

Like many Australian birds, there are observations of them breeding cooperatively. The 2-4 eggs in a dome-shaped nest are tended by the parents with assistance from their sons, who feed the new hatchlings and their parents. Once fledged, the females tend to disperse, with their brothers often staying home. This means that Buff-rumped Thornbills are generally a sedentary resident in their range.

A mixed flock moving though the foliage can be exciting and tricky to identify, but satisfying, especially if you manage to sort out the Thornbills that are often present. Use your ears and your eyes … and good luck!

Buff-rumped Thornbills inhabit grassy woodlands and feed mostly in small flocks among the lower levels of the vegetation (photo by Damian Kelly)

 

To listen to the call of the Buff-rumped Thornbill, please visit Graeme Chapman’s website – click here

A big thank you to contributors to this edition of Bird of the Month – Jane Rusden and Damian Kelly – for their amazing knowledge and skills.

 

Key Biodiversity Area (KBA) health check: volunteers required

Posted on 19 May, 2021 by Ivan

The Key Biodiversity Areas (KBAs) program is a global partnership of leading conservation groups with the aim to sustain the most important sites for nature. KBAs are nature hotspots, and we are blessed to have some in our own backyard, including the Bendigo Box-Ironbark Region KBA. This expanse of land covers Muckleford, Newstead, Strangways, Sandon and Strathlea, to the west of Castlemaine VIC.

Over 300 KBAs have been declared in Australia, mainly based on their importance for birds. These places also support over 60% of all threatened species in the country. To see all of the KBAs across Australia – click here

Dedicated teams of volunteers conduct yearly ecological health checks on the KBAs. One local coordinator and volunteer is Greg Turner, a passionate bird watcher with an excellent insight into the health of our region’s natural assets. Greg’s role is to target and promote volunteer action for these special places and the species that depend on them.

Greg contacted us seeking assistance with outstanding KBA assessments for 2021 in the Maryborough-Dunolly Box-Ironbark Woodlands KBA.

If you are in a position to assist with an assessment of the Maryborough-Dunnolly Box-Ironbark Woodlands KBA, please consider volunteering.  For further information, read the following message from Greg Turner or contact him via email (gregturner1956@gmail.com).

Australian Owlet-nightjar at the Rise and Shine Bushland Reserve, part of the Box-Ironbark KBA (photo by Geoff Park)

 

Key Biodiversity Area Health check 2021

Maryborough Dunolly Box Ironbark Woodlands Key Biodiversity Areas (KBA)

Each Easter KBA Guardians have been submitting assessments on the condition of KBAs across the country. Victoria has 41 KBAs. Due to a range of reasons including Covid-19, only 9 were assessed in 2019-20.

This is an appeal to your members to help do more this year. The words below are from BirdLife Australia’s National KBA Coordinator, Golo Maurer. I believe some of your members would be able to fill out the form in under an hour because they know these areas.

If this is not the case, perhaps you could suggest some people who could help me.

Thank you

Greg Turner

gregturner1956@gmail.com

You can find all of the previous Easter Health Checks on this link.

https://portal.birdlife.org.au/kba-health-check

(Please note, you may run into trouble with your password this year, as our system provider just changed the rules, what an Easter egg that is! But essentially it is the simple standard process: 1. Click on Forgot password. 2. E-mail yourself a link to create the new password. 3. Submit a new 12-character password with letters, numbers and special characters. 4. Log into the portal with the new password.)

On much more pleasant note the 2020 Easter Health-Check was the first to crack the milestone of 100 KBAs assessed in Australia! Great work everyone. Thank you! We were also able to welcome Health-checks from KBAs that have been declared for species other than birds in the portal and Guardians can now print out a word document summarising their Health-check to take into account conversations with landholders, agency staff, volunteers etc.

Let’s make sure we can keep growing our knowledge on KBA Health in 2021.

If you need support with the portal Golo Maurer the National Coordinator is only an e-mail or phone call away: kba@birdlife.org.au , 0467 444 114 or contact your Victorian KBA Coordinator – Greg Turner. (see below).

Here are some tips for completing the Health-check:

Thanks again for your help improving the places that matter most for wildlife in Australia!

Best Wishes

Greg Turner

Victorian State KBA Coordinator

I live overseas at the moment. If you wish to call me, leave your phone number and I will call you on Skype.