Restoring landscapes across the Mount Alexander Region

Bird of the Month: Brown Goshawk

Posted on 23 January, 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 Janes’s stunning photos.

Brown Goshawk (Accipiter fasciatus)

Solid looking Brown Goshawk in Campbells Creek, showing the heavy brow, long rounded tail and middle toe is similar length to other toes. Photo by Jane Rusden

Observed one morning when walking through the bush on my block, a Brown Goshawk pursued an Australian Owlet-nightjar in a fierce dog fight, flying at full speed down the gully, dodging trees by millimetres. The Brown Goshawk managed to catch the desperate Owlet-nightjar just before they saw the two humans, then they tumbled to the ground still locked together. the poor little Owlet Nightjar looked stunned and worse for wear, while the Brown Goshawk flew up into a tree, reluctant to loose it’s prey. The Owlet-nightjar at least got a bit of a breather, before both birds went their separate ways. I have no idea if the Owlet-nightjar survived the lethal body-puncturing talons of the Brown Goshawk, but the Goshawk certainly went hungry that morning.

The Brown Goshawk is one the Australia’s most widely distributed raptors and can be found across Australia and Tasmania as well as other islands, although it not as common in the very dry areas inland. It is a very versatile predator that uses a wide range of hunting techniques and can target a wide variety of prey. It will stalk grasshoppers on the ground, pursue small birds through the air and sit unobtrusively in cover, ready to glide down to catch prey on the ground. This prey ranges from insects to quail along with small rabbits, mice, lizards and snakes as well as yabbies and at times, carrion. Prey is usually 500g or less, but items such as young rabbits and reptiles up to 1kg have been known to be taken by female goshawks which are much larger than the male. Owlet-nightjars weigh 35-65g, putting them firmly in the small bird category of prey.

Choosing dinner. A Brown Goshawk terrorising rescue aviary Cockatiels, but the Cockatiels are thankfully very safe from this fearsome predator. Photo by Jane Rusden

The Goshawk is also well known for lurking around chicken coops and aviaries looking for dinner opportunities, as well as soaring up high on the lookout for prey. It is known to be a reckless and persistent hunter, chasing birds through the undergrowth, exactly like the Goshawk chasing the Owlet-nightjar down the gully, and at times will chase prey into or under buildings. Young goshawks, in particular, have a reputation for being quite reckless at times when chasing prey, dashing through dense foliage and into chicken pens.

Although quite common and widespread in both bushland and urban areas it often goes unnoticed due to its cryptic behaviour, sitting very still in foliage and silently observing with intense yellow eyes.

The introduction and spread of the rabbit along with the opening of forests has probably led to an expansion of its range since European settlement.

Nests are built usually in the fork of a tree out of sticks and foliage. 1- 5 eggs are laid (usually 2-4) and both parents will incubate and feed the young. Adults tend to be fairly sedentary but young birds have been know to spread quite long distances in their first year, with some banding re-captures over 900km from a nest site.

Identification

The Brown Goshawk can be tricky to distinguish from the closely related Collared Sparrowhawk. Although the female Goshawk is quite a bit larger at 45-55cm in length, the female Sparrowhawk (35-38cm) is almost as large as the male Goshawk (38-45cm). Colouration and habitat tend to be similar and differentiating the two species can be hard in the field, especially when you only get a fleeting glimpse of these fast and cryptic birds.

In short, the best indicators to separate them are as follows:

Find more information on Brown Goshawk, including their calls, here.

 

Help support us!: Container recycling deposit scheme:

Posted on 23 January, 2024 by Ivan

In a world full of bad news, we’ve got some good news! How would you like to recycle your cans, cartons and bottles and support Connecting Country at the same time?  On 1 November 2023 Victoria’s Container Deposit Scheme, CDS Vic, commenced. The scheme rewards Victorians with a 10-cent refund for every eligible can, carton and bottle they return. The recycling scheme also has the option to donate to a local community group or organisation, which is a valuable fundraising opportunity, simply by recycling your drinking containers. The scheme is part of important work that is transforming Victoria’s waste and recycling system.

If you would like to donate some, or all of your money from the recycling scheme to Connecting Country, quote partner ID: C2000009164 at the return centre.

How to make a return: click here

It’s as easy as 1, 2 3:

CDS Vic provides a 10-cent refund for every eligible drink container returned at refund points across Victoria. Every bottle, can and carton you return helps divert valuable containers from landfill. 

     1. Collect eligible drink containers:

Most aluminum, glass, plastic, steel, and liquid paperboard (carton) drink containers between 150mL and 3 litres are eligible. Look for the 10c mark on the back of pack. Some drinks are not eligible, including plain milk containers, wine and spirit bottles.  Tip: Keep lids on and don’t crush your containers.

    2. Return your eligible drink containers

The interactive map makes it easy to discover refund points near you. Click here to search. The nearest refund point in our region is:

Chewton Service Station
37 Pyreness Highway, Chewton, VIC 3451

Over the Counter (OTC)

    3. Earn a refund or donate

All eligible drink containers are worth a 10-cent refund that you can either keep or donate to a community donation partner.

To donate to us, simply quote the Connecting Country partner ID: C2000009164

 

 

Exciting news: Emerging Pardalotes

Posted on 19 December, 2023 by Ivan

We are blessed to have some of the most wonderful volunteers and supporters we could ever hope for, who help keep our restoration and monitoring programs ticking along across the central Victorian region. We love to celebrate and engage with our dedicated volunteers and were excited to receive a nice story and photos from one such volunteer, Lou Citroën. Lou is a keen bird watcher, citizen scientist and photographer, and has been observing a family of Spotted Pardalote birds in his backyard in Castlemaine. These birds have the unusual habit of nesting in burrows, and Lou was lucky enough to have them do this next to his veggie patch in spring.

Please find Lou’s observations and photos below, of a very sweet take of the young Pardalotes leaving the nest for the first time. Great capture Lou, keep up the great work and passion!

Emerging Pardalotes, by Lou Citroën

I have some exciting news.

I was over the moon to have actually witnessed (AND photographed) the two young pardalotes emerging and leaving their burrow (with some encouragement from Mum and Dad) this morning (after about 7 weeks of incubation and feeding)!

Thinking that I would not stand a chance to be able to capture this special moment in time, I was very lucky to do so and share it with you with the photos.

 

For further information about Spotted Pardalotes, courtesy of Birdlife Australia, please click here.

If you’re interested in volunteer opportunities with Connecting Country please send a brief email to anna@connectingcountry.org.au detailing your relevant experience and availability.

Connecting Country (Mount Alexander Region) Inc is an incorporated, not-for-profit community organisation restoring landscapes across the Mount Alexander region. Donations help us continue this vital work. If you are in a position to contribute, please click here for more information on how to donate.

 

Large old tree profile: Chewton’s treasured long-leaved box

Posted on 14 December, 2023 by Ivan

Over the past 12 months, Connecting Country has been asking the local community to map our precious large old trees, through our new online mapping portal. The mapping portal aims to engage with the community about the importance of the old, and often large trees of central Victoria, as part of Connecting Country’s larger project, ‘Regenerate before it’s too late’.

Anyone can access the mapping portal. The community, including landholders, Landcarers and land managers, have been vital in mapping their favourite old trees across our region so far. To date, we have mapped over 30 old trees on the database and are keen for the community to continue mapping trees that are important to them and our local wildlife.

We will be highlighting some of the extraordinary trees that have been mapped, starting with a great entry from Joel B in Chewton, who uploaded a wonderful Long-leafed Box (Eucalyptus goniocalyx) in the Post Office Hill reserve, Chewton. We asked Joel to tell us what he loved about the tree and what made it a significant tree to him and his family. Thanks Joel! Please enjoy his words and images below, and scroll further for instructions on how to map a large, old tree yourself.

The coppiced long-leaved box of Chewton

…One of my favourite trees to visit is a coppiced long-leaved box on Post Office Hill reserve, Chewton. Its story is literally etched on it – first lopped, it has regrown with multiple branches, having survived a wildfire, multiple axe wounds and sawn-off branches, this is a living example of bush resilience!

In an area of limited natural tree hollows, one large branch has a hollow that has supported generations of brush-tailed phascogales in the decade I’ve been visiting it, with continual evidence of scats and scratchings on the branches and scats falling out of the hollow onto the forest floor below.

I imagine it has been a favourite roost or hunting perch for owls, judging by the pellets found below. In the day time it supports a range of our local woodland birds, from thornbills and honeyeaters in the canopy going after lerps, seasonal flowering and insects, to the larger ravens and currawongs that can be seen perching or tearing off bark on the larger branches looking for a tasty meal.

I always look forward to visiting and like to notice any activity…

Joel B

We need your help!

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

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

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

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

The mapping portal uses BioCollect, an advanced but simple-to-use data collection tool developed by the Atlas of Living Australia (ALA) and its collaborators. BioCollect helps users collect field biodiversity data for their own projects, while allowing the data to be easily copied into the ALA, where it can be publicly available for others to use in research, policy and management. This allows individual projects to collectively contribute to ‘big science’.

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

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

 

Connecting Country featuring on award winning Saltgrass Podcast

Posted on 13 December, 2023 by Ivan

We are super excited to present our debut on the much-celebrated Saltgrass Podcast, which is now available for your listening pleasure. Saltgrass is a fortnightly MainFM radio show and podcast highlighting and celebrating what people are doing about the climate crisis in their communities. The Saltgrass podcast is created on Djaara country in Castlemaine by the very talented Allie Hanly, who has won numerous awards for the podcast including the Community Broadcasting Association of Australia Best Talk award in November this year.   Well done Allie and thanks for your support.

Connecting Country’s Bonnie Humphries and Hadley Cole feature on the episode discussing community involvement in landscape restoration and why genetic diversity is important to plant resilience in a time of climate change. This episode also features excerpts from our event called ‘Revegetation Success in a Changing Climate’ featuring Sasha Jellinek from the University of Melbourne and Melbourne Water, Oli Moraes from DJAARA and Tess Greives from the North Central Catchment Management Authority (NCCMA).

S5 E18 Connecting Country

Guests:

Bonnie Humphries – Connecting Country – Landscape Restoration Specialist

Hadley Cole – Connecting Country – Landcare Facilitator

Sasha Jellinek – the University of Melbourne and Melbourne Water

Oli Moraes – DJAARA

Tess Greives – North Central Catchment Management Authority (NCCMA)

Summary:

00:00 Introduction

02:28 Acknowledgement of Country

03:22 Hadley Cole and Bonnie Humphries in conversation about Connecting Country and Landcare

17:30 Excerpts from event: ‘Revegetation Success in a Changing Climate

17:53 Sascha Jellinik – climate impact and importance of genetic diversity

21:14 Oli Moraes – The Role of Djaara in landscape restoration and climate strategies

25:36 Tess Greives – Climate ready Reveg projects

28:07 Bonnie and Hadley on the Importance of Genetic Diversity in Ecosystems

31:35 The Role of Climate Future Plots in Ecosystem Restoration

43:09 The Importance of Community Involvement in Ecosystem Restoration

46:03 Conclusion and Final Remarks

 

Give the gift of hope for woodland birds this Christmas

Posted on 11 December, 2023 by Ivan

It’s never been more important to act on landscape restoration and provide critical habitat for our woodland birds of central Victoria. This Christmas, give the gift of hope to our threatened woodland bird population. 

With every gift, you are helping Connecting Country to plant vital habitat and restore our degraded woodlands. As well as removing carbon from the atmosphere, these woodlands create habitat and ecosystems for our most treasured birds and other endangered wildlife. Do more than wish for change this Christmas. Take action to continue this important work today and restore our landscapes for your loved ones and future generations.

Today we are launching our ‘Christmas Gift for Woodland Birds’ campaign and asking our community to give the gift of habitat for our local wildlife this Christmas.

$20 plants 2 habitat and food plant to support woodland birds

$50 plants 5 habitat and food plants to support woodland birds

$150 purchases and installs a nest box for wildlife

$500 supports the establishment of a habitat corridor

$1000 can support landscape-scale carbon sinks and habitat corridors

Click here to make a gift contribution this Christmas

The Diamond Firetail is a small threatened bright finch with a black band of white diamond spots. Photo Geoff Park

Thank you for supporting our shared vision for landscape restoration across the Mount Alexander region of central Victoria. 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 lean operation and our small team of part-time staff attracts voluntary support that ensures every dollar goes a long way.

Over the past ten years, we have:

  • Restored 13,000 ha of habitat across the Mount Alexander region, which equates to around 7.5% of the shire.
  • Delivered more than 225 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 60 landscape restoration projects.
  • Supported an incredible network of over 30 Landcare and Friends groups.

Connecting Country has a long-established track record of revegetation success. Photo: Connecting Country

We should all be proud of what we’ve achieved. However, there’s much more to do.

Click here to make a gift contribution this Christmas

 

Attracting native pollinators to your garden: new indigenous plant guide

Posted on 7 December, 2023 by Ivan

Ever wondered how you can attract more native pollinators to your garden, and which plants would be the most suitable for our region’s climate? Well, hot off the press is our latest brochure, ‘Attracting Pollinators to your Garden in the Mount Alexander region‘, which is now ready for download or print and it looks fabulous. 

Pollinators can range from bees, butterflies, flies, wasps, moths, birds and even bats and are crucial to the successful reproduction and conservation of many of Australia’s native plant species. With reports of decline of pollinators across the globe due to land clearing and climate change, now is the time to plant, create and nurture habitat for our local native pollinators.  

Throughout 2023, Connecting Country has been rolling out The Buzz project: promoting pollinators of central Victoria. The project is a Connecting Country project funded by the North Central Catchment Management Authority (NCCMA) through the 2022 Victorian Landcare grants, that aims to celebrate and expand community knowledge on the smaller heroes of our local ecosystems, the insect pollinators.

In the brochure, you’ll find gorgeous images from some wonderful local photographers, as well as a summary of why it is important to create habitat for our native pollinators. You will also find a table containing our favourite twenty indigenous plants that will be sure to attract some native pollinator heroes to your garden.

Click here to download your very own copy, or drop into the office and we can print you a hardcopy. We’d love to hear feedback on our brochure and any other information you may require into the future.

Special thanks to our generous volunteer photographers – Geoff Park and Bonnies Humphreys – who freely donated their images. Without your help and generous donations, such a professional product would not be possible.

The Buzz Project is funded by the 2022 Victorian Landcare Grants through the North Central Catchment Management Authority.

 

 

Pollinator heroes of Central Victoria: Common Halfband Hoverfly

Posted on 30 November, 2023 by Ivan

With spring upon us, now is the perfect time to take a closer look at the smaller pollinator heroes of our region! There is plenty to see and hear across all habitats across central Victoria if you stop and pay attention to the little things. Throughout the warmer months the bees are buzzing, butterflies are fluttering, beetles are looking for mates and wasps are making nests. There is plenty to see and hear across all habitats in central Victoria if you stop and pay attention to the little things. These wonderful pollinating creatures are the heroes of the bush, grasslands, our gardens and waterways.

The Buzz project: promoting pollinators of central Victoria, is a Connecting Country project funded by the North Central Catchment Management Authority (NCCMA) through the 2022 Victorian Landcare grants, that aims to celebrate and expand community knowledge on the smaller heroes of our local ecosystems, the insect pollinators.  As part of this project, we have explored the lives of some of our most loved native pollinators from across the local region through a series of blogposts throughout November. This is the final blogpost in this series, with the hero of focus from the endearing hoverfly family.

Dr Mark Hall, local entomologist, has kindly shared his extensive knowledge on some of the local pollinator heroes that are so important to the health of our ecosystems. 

Common Halfband Hoverfly (Melangyna viridiceps)

Words by Dr. Mark Hall

Hmm, is this a bee? It certainly looks a bit like one with those bright yellow bands. And it is visiting lots of flowers. No, this is actually a fly trying to mimic a bee. Thankfully there are some tell-tale signs to tell the two apart. See those really big eyes, and the very short antennae? Unlike bees that have oval eyes on the sides of their head, fly eyes are typically much larger and rounder, sometimes taking up most of the head. And the antennae are shorter in flies, whereas bees have longer, segmented antennae. And that’s not where the differences end.

Flies are often more abundant in cooler climates, such as higher-up mountains, and can forage in colder weather (so can be more active than bees in early spring in this region). Whereas bees will often be more direct in their fight for flowers, hoverflies spend a lot of time flying above flowers, seemingly surveying for the perfect one before landing. Like bees, they feed almost exclusively on flowers (their larvae eat aphids) and are very good pollinators. They are fast flyers like bees, but they do lack the branched hairs that make bees exceptional pollen carriers.

The Common Halfband Hoverfly is a slim-bodied fly with reddish brown eyes, dark thorax and black and yellow banded abdomen. Photo by John Walter.

The Common Halfband Hoverfly can be found across most habitats in south-eastern Australia and in the southwest, including quite arid environments. They will feed on the nectar and pollen of many different types of plants and can also be confused with other hoverfly species, most typically the Yellow-shouldered hoverfly (Simosyrphus grandicornis), which is also common and abundant.

Why not take the opportunity to slow down this spring and take a look in your local bushland or garden and see what pollinator heroes you can find?

 

               

 

 

 

Pollinator heroes of Central Victoria: Resin Bee

Posted on 29 November, 2023 by Ivan

Spring is here which means the bees are buzzing, butterflies are fluttering, beetles are looking for mates and wasps are making nests. There is plenty to see and hear across all habitats in central Victoria if you stop and pay attention to the little things. These wonderful pollinating creatures are the heroes of the bush, grasslands, our gardens and waterways.

The Buzz project: promoting pollinators of central Victoria, is a Connecting Country project funded by the North Central Catchment Management Authority (NCCMA) through the 2022 Victorian Landcare grants, that aims to celebrate and expand community knowledge on the smaller heroes of our local ecosystems, the insect pollinators.  As part of this project, we will explore the lives of some of our most loved native pollinators from across the local region through a series of blog posts throughout November.

Dr Mark Hall, local entomologist, has kindly shared his extensive knowledge on some of the local pollinator heroes that are so important to the health of our ecosystems. 

 

Resin Bee (Megachile ferox)

Words by Dr. Mark Hall

One of at least 169 bee species in the family Megachilidae, which include the leaf-cutter and resin bees, Megachile ferox can be found across southern Australia.

It has a very hairy head, body, legs and abdomen that are perfect for pollen-carrying. It also has large mandibles (jaws) for chewing nest holes in wood. The bright red tip on its abdomen may be what you see first though.

Resin Bees get their name because they build their residences out of resin. Photo by John Walter

 

The Resin Bee is most active during spring and summer, particularly from November to February, visiting a range of important flowering plant species, including Eucalypts, Dillwynia and Bursaria. It nests in woody structures, such as trees and shrubs and can make a home in insect hotels in gardens if they are designed and placed correctly.

With extensive and prolonged habitat clearing occurring through much of central Victoria, this and other wood-nesting species have become less common. However, where woody nests and good floral diversity are available, this species will provide an excellent pollination service.

 

 

               

 

The Buzz project: promoting pollinators of Central Victoria, Landcare planting

Posted on 28 November, 2023 by Hadley Cole

Victoria Gully group members planting away. Photo by Victoria Gully Landcare.

Pollinators can range from bees, butterflies, flies, wasps, moths, birds and even bats and are crucial to the successful reproduction and conservation of many of Australia’s native plant species. With reports of decline of pollinators across the globe due to land clearing and climate change, now is the time to plant, create and nurture habitat for our local native pollinators. 

Throughout 2023 Connecting Country has been rolling out The Buzz Project: promoting pollinators of Central Victoria. During the winter months, while the pollinators were lying low, Landcare groups from across the region were busy planting pollinator-attracting plants at their sites. Connecting Country distributed 240 plants to Landcare groups from the region, including species such as; Chocolate Lily, Matted Flax-lily, Narrow-leaf Bitter-pea and Sticky Everlasting-daisy.

Landcare groups added the plants to their existing sites, adding a greater diversity of flowering plants and encouraging our native pollinators to move through the landscape.

Victoria Gully Landcare Group considered sites across the gully carefully when finding a home for the pollinator-attracting plants. They looked for areas that were protected from kangaroos, sites that provided dappled shade and were protected from recreational activities as well as having reasonable soil, and manageable weeds. The group planted within the protection of a 4m diameter temporary chicken wire fence and chose to plant nice and early in the planting season to give the plants the best chance of survival. 

Muckleford Catchment Landcare tackle grazing pressure with large wire guards. Photo by Muckleford Catchment Landcare.

Group members of Muckleford Catchment Landcare Group planted the pollinator species across properties in the groups’ area including Walmer, adding a diversity of understory plants to their existing work. To protect the plants from the grazing of curious animals, the planters used large chicken wire guards to give the plants the best chance of thriving.

Local Aboriginal Landcare group Tabilk Mooroopook Upper Loddon Landcare Group, who are auspice by Nalderun, planted their pollinator plants at Me-Mandook Galk, Nalderun’s ancestor tree property in Chetwon. They reported a successful planting day with Nalderun’s young First Nation leaders.

 “Many thanks from us here at Nalderun (and from the native pollinators at Me-Mandook Galk!) for the plants. They were planted by our School-based trainees (SBATs) out at the Ancestor Tree, both in and around the Bush Tucker beds, on one of their TAFE days studying Certificate II in Horticulture. The students had only just finished creating bee-hotels the week before, so we’re looking forward to attracting & hosting lots of amazing pollinators out there!

Photos below show the Nalderun First Nations youth planting pollinator species at Me-Mandook Galk, in Chewton. Photos by Nalderun.

Harcourt Valley Landcare group added their pollinator plants to an existing work site along Barkers Creek in Harcourt. Volunteers enjoyed a chilly morning out planting at one of their treasured sites on Barkers Creek in Harcourt. The pollinator-attracting plants added value to existing understorey plantings the group have been carrying out over the years at this site. The group noticed Eastern Yellow Robins and Grey Shrike Thrush at the site on the day of the planting and they also spent a little time learning how to identify the local River Red Gums.

Photos below show the Harcourt Valley Landcare group members busily planting along Barker Creek in Harcourt. Photos by Bonnie Humphreys.

Elphinstone Land Management Association planted their pollinator plant species at a new experimental site along a seasonal creek in Elphinstone. The group have formed a ‘Cool Places Project’ where they are aiming to restore sites that already provide shade and protection from the heat with indigenous plants. As the site is along a creek line there are challenges with Gorse and Blackberry invasion, however, the group are working slowly to get rid of the weeds and replace them with indigenous flora, 10 square meters at a time by trialling solarisation of the weeds. The aim over time is to build the biodiversity at the site by adding layers of indigenous flora to fill the ground cover, lower and middle stories.

We are delighted to see local Landcare and friends groups volunteering to plant and provide food sources and habitat for our local native pollinators across the region. By planting local indigenous plants we can provide greater biodiversity and connectivity of pollinator corridors that will see our local pollinators thrive and survive. And when they are doing well so are many of our other local fauna and flora! Thank you to all the groups who volunteered their time to plant these pollinator species across the region. We look forward to watching these plants grow, recruit and continue their ecological cycles.

The Buzz Project is funded by the 2022 Victorian Landcare Grants through the North Central Catchment Management Authority.

 

 

 

Pollinator heroes of Central Victoria: Elegant Hairy-Cellophane Bee

Posted on 23 November, 2023 by Hadley Cole

With spring upon us, now is the perfect time to take a closer look at the smaller pollinator heroes of our region! There is plenty to see and hear across all habitats across central Victoria if you stop and pay attention to the little things. These are the heroes of the bush, grasslands, our gardens and waterways.

The Buzz project: promoting pollinators of central Victoria, is a Connecting Country project funded by the North Central Catchment Management Authority (NCCMA) through the 2022 Victorian Landcare grants, that aims to celebrate and expand community knowledge on the smaller heroes of our local ecosystems, the insect pollinators.  As part of this project, we will explore the lives of some of our most loved native pollinators from across the local region through a series of blogposts throughout November.

Dr Mark Hall, local entomologist, has kindly shared his extensive knowledge on some of the local pollinator heroes that are so important to the health of our ecosystems. 

 

Elegant Hairy-Cellophane Bee (Trichocolletes venustus)

Words by Dr. Mark Hall

Perhaps the most striking thing about this larger bee is the vivid gold bands on its abdomen that glint in the sunlight as it flies between Hardenbergia flowers. Along with the golden orange hairs across the rest of its body and head, this is a far more attractive bee than the European Honeybee, which it may be mistaken for. And this species is native! It also sounds quite different once you learn to recognise its buzz. That hairy body is perfect for carrying the pollen of many native pea species, such as Daviesia ulicifolia and Gompholobium huegelii, and the orchid Diuris maculata among others.

 

Elegant Hairy-Cellophane Bee pollinating a native pea. Photo by Karen Retra.

The Elegant Hairy-Cellophane Bee is one of 40 species of Trichocolletes, an endemic bee genus, occurring nowhere else except the southeast of Australia, Tasmania and Western Australia. It is active from July to January, so can be one of the earlier bees seen visiting flowers in early spring. It nests in the ground, often in groups but with each bee having a separate nest entrance and looking after its own eggs. Perhaps there is simply safety in numbers, or good real estate is hard to come by? And as its name suggests, it produces a cellophane-like substance which it uses to seal its nest to protect its precious cargo from pests and parasites.

Why not slow down and take a look in your local bushland or garden and see what pollinator heroes you can find?

 

               

 

Pollinator heroes of Central Victoria: Imperial Jezebel

Posted on 21 November, 2023 by Ivan

It’s springtime and the flowers are blooming, the bees are buzzing, butterflies are fluttering, beetles are looking for mates and wasps are making nests. There is plenty to see and hear across all habitats across central Victoria if you stop and pay attention to the little things. These are the heroes of the bush, grasslands, our gardens and waterways.

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

The project has been running throughout 2023 and has included a presentation with local entomologist Dr Mark Hall covering ‘Native pollinators on your property: who, where and what they do?’ followed by a field trip that took a further look into ‘promoting native pollinators from property to landscape.’

During November, we will explore the lives of our most loved native pollinators from across the local region. Dr Mark Hall, local entomologist, has kindly shared his extensive knowledge on some of our local pollinator heroes that are so important to the health of our ecosystems. 

Imperial Jezebel (Delias harpalyce)

Words by Dr. Mark Hall

With Christmas approaching, you may hear the familiar tune of “I saw mommy kissing Santa Claus, underneath the mistletoe…”. And while that particular type of mistletoe is not native to Australia (and in fact is an environmental weed), there are a number of plants we call mistletoe in Australia that are native and have another species “kissing” underneath them at this time of year. The mistletoes in question are a group of semi-parasitic shrubs, often associated with Eucalypts – Amyema, Muellerina and Dendrophthoe species. The faunal species in question is the Imperial Jezebel butterfly (among others).

The Imperial Jezebel, is a gorgeous Delias butterfly. Photo: John Walter

This spectacular butterfly species can be found across the south-east of Australia in all sorts of habitats where there are mature trees with mistletoe hanging and flowers to feed from. It is an early spring emerger and most active between August and November, where it mates and lays its eggs on the mistletoes, but can be active across all warmer months. The hairy black larvae (caterpillar) then feed on the mistletoe leaves, which not only help them grow, but also makes them taste pretty bad to predators – a win-win!

The large adult butterfly is almost entirely white (or greyish in some regions) on top of its wings, with some black edging and white spots on the outer wings. But it is the underside that is really captivating. In flight or when at rest with wings folded up, the black and grey wings, punctuated with bright red and yellow bands, are clearly visible. At this time you may also notice the hairy body and long clubbed antennae. The Imperial Jezebel is a great pollinator and certainly a hero of our gardens and bushland.

 

                   

 

 

Last chance! Connecting Country AGM this Saturday 18 November 2023

Posted on 16 November, 2023 by Ivan

We still have 25 tickets available for our AGM this Saturday 18 November 2023 and require a few more members to come along to make a quorum for our AGM formalities. 

Please join us for this special free event on Saturday 18 November 2023 at 11.00 am for brief AGM formalities, our special guest presenter and a yummy lunch. We are thrilled to have Dr Jess Lawton, former Connecting Country superstar, present the findings from her recent PhD study into Phascogales and how we can take action to help them thrive once again.

 

The presentation event is part of a larger project, ‘Habitat trees for Phascogales’, which aims to provide habitat stepping stones for the Brush-tailed Phascogale and other native fauna by protecting and enhancing large old trees in the landscape, particularly in grazing land.

For catering and logistical purposes, please register your attendance – click here

Dr Jess Lawton is an ecologist with a passion for understanding the threats facing native fauna and ecosystems, and how we can take action to address these issues. Jess was the Connecting Country Monitoring Coordinator for the past five years and is one of the leading knowledge brokers on citizen science and monitoring our landscapes and wildlife. Jess has recently submitted her PhD thesis at LaTrobe University, where she studied our wonderful Brush-Tailed Phascogale. She relishes collaborative ecological work and is passionate about empowering communities to conserve and recover local biodiversity. Jess loves exploring the outdoors, playing music and camping.

When: Saturday 18 November 2022 at 11.00 am

Where: Guildford Community Hall, 30 Fryers St Guildford

Everyone is welcome!

 

For catering and logistical purposes, please register your attendance – click here


AGM formalities

The following Connecting Country AGM 2023 documents are available for download:

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

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

Thank you to the State Government of Victoria for their funding support and ‘Habitat Trees for Phascogales’ project.

 

Pollinator Week 11-19 November 2023

Posted on 13 November, 2023 by Hadley Cole

This week marks 2023’s Australian Pollinator Week. Australian Pollinator Week acknowledges our important and unique insect pollinators. It is a designated week when community, business and organisations can come together to raise awareness of the importance of pollinators and support their needs. As we are now in the full swing of Spring weather, it is a perfect time to take a moment in nature to pay attention to the smaller creatures in our ecosystems. There are a number of events across the state celebrating Pollinator Week, including a pollinator discovery walk with Dr. Mark Hall in Heathcote VIC on Saturday 18 November and an online webinar hosted by the Wheen Bee Foundation on ‘integrated pest and pollinator management’ on Wednesday 15 November. For more information on events – click here

Common Halfband (hoverfly). Photo by John Walter.

Throughout the week (November 11 to 19) you can also take part in a ten minute pollinator count and record the pollinator life forms you observe in your garden, favourite nature place or Landcare site. For more information on how to take part in the pollinator count -click here

Taking part is quick and easy. You simply need to observe some flowers for 10 minutes, record the pollinators you see and register your results.

Follow the three step process below to get started.

  1. Learn
  2. Test
  3. Count

How to take part:

 

 

Book now! Connecting Country AGM this Saturday 18 November 2023

Posted on 13 November, 2023 by Ivan

Please join us for this special free event on Saturday 18 November 2023 at 11.00 am for brief AGM formalities, our special guest presenter and a yummy lunch. We are thrilled to have Dr Jess Lawton, former Connecting Country superstar, present the findings from her recent PhD study into Phascogales and how we can take action to help them thrive once again.

 

The presentation event is part of a larger project, ‘Habitat trees for Phascogales’, which aims to provide habitat stepping stones for the Brush-tailed Phascogale and other native fauna by protecting and enhancing large old trees in the landscape, particularly in grazing land.

For catering and logistical purposes, please register your attendance – click here

Dr Jess Lawton is an ecologist with a passion for understanding the threats facing native fauna and ecosystems, and how we can take action to address these issues. Jess was the Connecting Country Monitoring Coordinator for the past five years and is one of the leading knowledge brokers on citizen science and monitoring our landscapes and wildlife. Jess has recently submitted her PhD thesis at LaTrobe University, where she studied our wonderful Brush-Tailed Phascogale. She relishes collaborative ecological work and is passionate about empowering communities to conserve and recover local biodiversity. Jess loves exploring the outdoors, playing music and camping.

When: Saturday 18 November 2022 at 11.00 am

Where: Guildford Community Hall, 30 Fryers St Guildford

Everyone is welcome!

 

For catering and logistical purposes, please register your attendance – click here


AGM formalities

The following Connecting Country AGM 2023 documents are available for download:

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

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

Thank you to the State Government of Victoria for their funding support and ‘Habitat Trees for Phascogales’ project.

 

2023 Great Southern BioBlitz November 24-27

Posted on 9 November, 2023 by Hadley Cole

The Great Southern BioBlitz, is an international event held in Spring each year that aims to record biodiversity across the Southern Hemisphere through citizen science. This year the event will run over four days in late November.

Nature lovers can upload observations to the iNaturalist app and contribute to biodiversity data across the globe! Castlemaine Field Naturalist Club host a project on iNaturalist that users can contribute to over the four days of surveying. The Great Southern Bioblitz Castlemaine region iNaturalist project covers the Mount Alexander Shire and parts of the Hepburn Shire, and offers a wonderful snap shot into local biodiversity across the region. You can record all living species from plants, to insects, fungi, reptiles, mammals, birds and more! For more information on how to get involved please see the below flyer courtesy of Castlemaine Field Naturalist Club.

To celebrate the 2023 Great Southern BioBlitz, our friends at Castlemaine Field Naturalist Club and Castlemaine Landcare Group are hosting two separate events over the weekend of the 25 and 26 November. Please see the flyer below for more details.

 

 

The Buzz project: iNaturalist workshop success

Posted on 6 November, 2023 by Hadley Cole

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

The project has been running throughout 2023 and has included a presentation with local entomologist Dr Mark Hall covering ‘Native pollinators on your property: who, where and what they do?’ followed by a field trip that took a further look into ‘promoting native pollinators from property to landscape.’

Eager participants focussed on Euan’s presentation. Photo by Connecting Country.

The final event for the year was held in early October 2023 and was an iNaturalist workshop with local naturalist Euan Moore. This was the perfect opportunity for pollinator enthusiasts to learn how to record their data on the online iNaturalist platform.

Fifteen eager participants came along to the workshop armed with cameras and laptops for a four-hour workshop. Euan talked us through the basics of the iNaturalist platform such as how to create an account, how to upload an observation, and how to have your observations verified by experts from across the globe. We then investigated how to join iNaturalist projects where users have the opportunity to contribute to local projects such as the Castlemaine Field Naturalists Club project or the 2023 Great Southern Bioblitz: Castlemaine region, or nationwide projects such as Wild Pollinator Count Australia.

We took some time to wander around the Castlemaine Community House garden and gather images of pollinators to upload onto our iNaturalist accounts. Euan talked us through the important aspects to include in our photos to provide ample visual information for iNaturalists users to identify the species in question.

Participants searching for pollinators to photograph. Photo by Connecting Country.

 

Participants Frances and Bev chat with Euan the workshop presenter. Photo by Connecting Country.

Participants reported that they enjoyed a lovely day of learning and some were very eager to get out there and record their local sightings!

Connecting Country would like to give a huge thank you to Euan Moore for his time and dedication in teaching community members these wonderful iNaturalist skills.

This event was made possible due to funding through the 2022 Victorian Landcare Grants. We are grateful to our funders for making this interesting event possible.

 

 

Wilderhoods: rewilding urban neighbourhoods presentation

Posted on 2 November, 2023 by Hadley Cole

Our friends at Maldon Urban Landcare Group (MULGA) are hosting a presentation by Dr. Cassia Read which will delve into a project she has been delivering across the Mount Alexander Shire on rewilding urban neighbourhoods. The event will follow the groups Annual General Meeting (AGM) and is on Saturday 11 November 2023, 10am at the Maldon Community Centre.

Dr. Cassia Read, plant ecologist, writer, educator and garden designer.

Cassia will be talking about Wilderhoods, an urban greening initiative of the Castlemaine Institute that empowers neighbours to work together to create thriving neighbourhoods for people and wildlife in a changing climate. Cassia will provide an overview of the Wilderhoods Process for neighbourhood engagement in habitat creation, and learnings from their pilots that ran in the West End and South Side neighbourhoods of Castlemaine in 2022 and 2023 respectively. Cassia Read is an ecologist, educator and garden designer, and is the Principal Ecologist and Co-Founder of the Castlemaine Institute. Wilderhoods has been developed with her colleague and fellow ecologist, Ada Nano. This is a wonderful opportunity to hear from Cassia on the actions that neighbourhoods can take to provide wildlife habitat in an urban environment.

When: Saturday 11 November 2023, 10.00am

Where: Maldon Community Centre, Francis St. Maldon VIC

Cost: Free

Contact: Bev Phillips, ph. 0407 770 350 or email maldonurbanlandcare@gmail.com for information.

No bookings required.

 

Shaking the shed for Connecting Country: help support us!

Posted on 19 October, 2023 by Ivan

We’ve got some good news! How would you like to enjoy a tasty pale ale and support Connecting Country at the same time? Shedshaker Brewing’s Keg for Good is a new initiative aimed at providing local groups with a valuable fundraising opportunity, simply by having a beer!

Sales of the Frailty Pale Ale on the two designated nights are donated to a different group each month. So far, Shedshaker has donated money to Red Box Animal Shelter, Castlemaine Community House’s Food Pantry and Mount Alexander Animal Welfare (MAAW), with Connecting Country being the next recipient of the big fundraising opportunity.

The dates to visit Shedshaker Brewing and support Connecting Country are Tuesday 24 and Wednesday 25 October 2023. We are hoping the sun is shining and the weather sweet and a few supporters can get down and enjoy a well-deserved beer!

Opened in April 2016 at the Mill complex in northern Castlemaine, the Taproom is open six days a week serving delicious beverages, yummy food, outstanding live music and beaucoup conviviality.A big thanks to Shedshaker for making this happen, we hope you can enjoy an ale for us and enjoy all that we both have to offer

 

The Hidden Life of Skinks with Dr. Anna Senior

Posted on 16 October, 2023 by Hadley Cole

Our friends at Newstead Landcare are holding their Annual General Meeting this coming Tuesday 17 October 2023 and to celebrate will host special guest Dr. Anna Senior who will present on The Hidden Life of Skinks.

So many small things make our world tick, all interacting and keeping ecology in balance. Often hidden under a rock or small plant, or darting between cover, skinks play a pivotal role in our natural systems, but we rarely get a glimpse into their lives. Local ecologist Dr. Anna Senior will present on the fascinating world of skinks with a special focus on two threatened species that were the subject of her thesis. One of these, the Mountain Skink was recently discovered in the Wombat Forest.

When: Tuesday 17 October, 7.30pm

Where: Newstead Community Centre, 9 Lyons Street, Newstead VIC

All are welcome to attend and gold coin donations are appreciated. No bookings required.

 

Mount Skink. Image by Gayle Osborne.