Restoring landscapes across the Mount Alexander Region

‘Future-proof your restoration’ seminars

Posted on 6 September, 2018 by Tanya Loos

The recent ‘Future-proof your restoration’  seminars brought the local community together with relevant experts to discuss and share the issues we face in landscape restoration, especially the challenge of our changing climate. Seminar one (Friday 24 August 2018) explored ‘Weeds to watch’. Seminar two (Friday 31 August 2018) addressed ‘Planting for the future’.

Our excellent guest speakers shared a wealth of knowledge and experience, and their expertise was warmly received by an enthusiastic audience at both events.

Thank you to everyone who helped make these seminars successful, including our presenters, the Landcare Steering Group, and volunteers who helped behind the scenes. The seminars were funded by the North Central Catchment Management Authority, through the Victorian Landcare Program, and organised by Asha Bannon, Connecting Country’s Landcare Facilitator.

Everyone gathered to listen to our guests speak about ‘Weeds to watch’

Read on for short summaries of each event, and click on the presentation titles to download a copy of the slides. Keep an eye out for another blog post coming soon, with links to copies of the resources we had available at the events.

Weeds to watch

David started us off by talking about the ecology of weeds, and how they affect us and the environment. He gave useful advice about the most strategic ways to manage weeds effectively. David encouraged us to look at ‘absences’ of weeds on our properties and project areas, to learn to appreciate what we have achieved rather than be overwhelmed by the weeds we have yet to control. John then shared information about grassy weeds – those that are  a problem now, and those that are likely to become a bigger issue with climate change. He stressed the importance of early detection and eradication of new and emerging weeds, plus better practices to reduce their spread in the first place. For details see:

 

Planting for the future

The three presentations were very different and complemented each other beautifully! Jeroen spoke passionately about the urgent need for large-scale landscape restoration, based on his work on Bush Heritage properties in the Wedderburn and St Arnaud area – particularly the Nardoo Hills. Sacha clearly outlined a practical way to approach revegetation that buffers the changing climate, and uses scientific monitoring to guide us in that approach.  Brian took us down to the square metre level as he recounted the tale of the restoration of an urban waterway, and the return of bush birds such as Brown Thornbills to the Merri Creek. Brian also talked about the struggle many of us face when it comes to accepting and adapting to the new approaches needed to future-proof our restoration.

From left to right: Chris from Connecting Country, Jeroen, Sacha, Brian and Asha.

For details see:

 

Baringhup Birds on Farms Workshop – Sunday 9 September

Posted on 22 August, 2018 by Tanya Loos

Join us with Baringhup Landcare and others interested in habitat restoration at Roy and Caroline Lovel’s property to explore the benefits of birds on farms
The Lovels live on a beautiful 60 hectare property at Baringhup, north of Maldon. Over the past 25 years they’ve revegetated much of the property, with a strong emphasis on supporting and sustaining bird habitat.

Research shows that increasing bird populations and diversity enhances productivity of crops, orchards and grazing land. Birds contribute to the long term health of old paddock trees, sustain native vegetation, and bring joy with their colour and song.

  • Roy and Caroline Lovel will introduce you to their property and their motivation and vision.
  • Colin Jennings will speak about his experience as a landholder with responsibility for private land within Bells Swamp, wildlife corridors, and efforts to balance farm production and the environment.
  • Tanya Loos from Connecting Country will take participants on a bird walk visiting the long term bird monitoring site on the Lovel’s property.
  • Chris Timewell, coordinator of the Birds on Farms project at BirdLife Australia, will discuss various approaches to improving woodland bird habitat on rural properties.

White-plumed honeyeaters are commonly seen in River Red Gum paddock trees. In this photo by Geoff Park, a honeyeater adds cobweb to a delicate cup nest in a eucalypt sapling.

 Donations are always welcome, and feel free to bring a plate of nibbles to share.

When: Sunday 9 September from 9:30 am – 2:30 pm
Where: 49 Hayes Rd, Baringhup VIC
This is a free event. We will serve a light lunch of soup and rolls.

What to bring:
*Shoes and clothing appropriate for walking outside in the bush.
*Binoculars if you have them (we’ll also provide some).
RSVP: Bookings and enquiries to Tanya Loos tanya@connectingcountry.org.au or call our office on 5472 1594

 

 

‘Future-proof your restoration’ seminars

Posted on 7 August, 2018 by Asha

Golden Wattle, by Tanya Loos

Come along and learn about how we can prepare our environment for a changing climate at two upcoming seminars. This is a chance to hear from experts in the field, share ideas, and browse through useful resources.

We have some truly amazing guest speakers lined up to talk about topics that are relevant to Landcare groups and landholders working to restore their land for the environment.

SEMINAR 1: WEEDS TO WATCH

Guest speakers:

  • David Cheal – ‘Weed attack strategies and plans’
  • John Morgan (LaTrobe University) – ‘Perennial grass weeds that will threaten nature’

When: Friday 24 August 2018, 5:30 pm – 8:30 pm

Where: Campbells Creek Community Centre, 45 Elizabeth St, Campbells Creek VIC

RSVP: by Monday 20 August for catering purposes to asha@connectingcountry.org.au

SEMINAR 2: PLANTING FOR THE FUTURE

Guest speakers:

  • Jeroen VanVeen (Bush Heritage) – ‘Woodland stress: signs of times to come?’
  • Sacha Jellinek (Greening Australia) – ‘Developing guidelines for Climate Future Plots in Victoria’
  • Brian Bainbridge – ‘Taking actions from modelling to reality’

When: Friday 31 August 2018, 5:30 pm – 8:30 pm

Where: Campbells Creek Community Centre, 45 Elizabeth St, Campbells Creek VIC

RSVP: by Monday 27 August for catering purposes to asha@connectingcountry.org.au

CLICK HERE to download the flier, or contact Asha on (03) 5472 1594 or at asha@connectingcountry.org.au for more information.

This event is funded by the North Central Catchment Management Authority, through the Victorian Landcare Program.

 

Habitat Health Check – our new project!

Posted on 7 August, 2018 by Tanya Loos

In 2009, Connecting Country created a Biodiversity Blueprint with the help of the community and our partners. From the outset, scientific monitoring has been a high priority at Connecting Country. Without monitoring, we don’t know if we’re achieving our goal to restore habitat for native species.

Monitoring achievements

We’ve been fortunate to have a world-class landscape ecologist, Professor Andrew Bennett, assist in creating our monitoring programs for woodland birds and Brush-tailed phascogales. As of 2018 we’ve collected 23,996 individual bird records, and 1,424 records for our phascogale monitoring.

Our wonderful ‘Connecting Landscapes’ project (2013- 2017) worked with local landholders to help restore over 1,600 hectares of land. It also funded staff to establish and run our bird and nest box monitoring programs. These days, funding is more likely to be smaller amounts of money over shorter time scales. In-house monitoring by staff has become a luxury!

In the meantime, we’ve developed a team of highly-skilled and enthusiastic volunteers ready to take a more active role as ‘citizen scientists’. We’re poised to update to a new model that is more community-driven – drawing upon the power of YOU, the community, to contribute data as volunteer citizen scientists.

This change has been in the air for a while. After the success of our ‘Stewards for Woodland Birds’ project, we’re delighted to announce we have funding from the Helen Macpherson Smith Trust to support this important transition.

The new project is  ‘Habitat Health Check: empowering citizen scientists to monitor habitat health in Central Victoria.’

Male Hooded Robin. Analysis of our results shows a welcome increase of this species in the Mount Alexander region. Photo by Geoff Park.

Habitat Health Check – analysing and acting on our scientific monitoring

Habitat Health Check is a collaborative, robust, citizen science project that monitors native animals and plants in the Mount Alexander region. We will review our existing, long-term monitoring programs, and move to a new collaborative, targeted model that empowers our enthusiastic and skilled volunteers, improves scientific rigour, and promotes data sharing via the Visualising Victoria’s Biodiversity online portal.

Tanya Loos, Connecting Country’s monitoring and engagement coordinator, will deliver the project between now and 2020. Habitat Health Check will encompass BirdWatch, NestboxWatch, FrogandReptileWatch and PlantWatch.

Some expected highlights

Our scientific data will be analysed by experts from BirdLife Australia and Latrobe University, and the results shared in an exciting evening forum.

Four workshops will review our data and results, and invite the community to explore new scientific questions and methods. How can we best work with the new BirdLife Castlemaine District group? What have we learned in the past eight years? And where to from here?

We’ll collaborate closely with SWIFFT – the State-wide Integrated Flora and Fauna Teams, to share our findings and use this great online resource.

In 2019,  we’ll run a competition for the best local photographs of our favourite flora and fauna, for Connecting Country’s very first calendar!

Get ready to get involved

We will be recruiting team leaders to inform and guide our various citizen science programs – so birders, nestbox enthusiasts, plant nuts,  reptile watchers and froggers: watch this space!

 

 

Nest box adventures: a community effort in 2018

Posted on 19 July, 2018 by Asha

In May 2018, Connecting Country once again completed monitoring of our nest boxes. This was the fourth time we’ve checked the boxes since they were installed the Mount Alexander region in 2010/11. This year, we were lucky enough to have help from Beth Mellick from the Wettenhall Environment Trust and Jess Lawton from Latrobe University.

Asha, Jess, and Beth getting ready to check some nest boxes

Beth, Jess, and Asha tag-teamed going out with many fabulous volunteers to check the 300 nest boxes that are part of CC’s official monitoring program. For each box, we recorded information about which species were using it, either by identifying a living animal or by looking at the nest in the box.

The boxes were installed to provide crucial habitat for Brush-tailed Phascogales, but they also attract other animals like Sugar Gliders and invasive Honeybees. We also collected data to update our existing information on the box’s context in the environment (tree size, tree species, patch size, etc.). We are working on inputting all of this data into our database for analysis so we can compile a report with some results to share.

Thank you to all of the amazing people who volunteered their time to help this year: Jeremy, Lori, Naomi, Bev, Paul, Gayle, Carmen, Mal, Damian, Frances, Lachlan, and Meg. A big thank you also to the hundred or so landholders who continue to host our nest boxes on their property, and allow us access for monitoring.

Special thanks go to Beth, Jess, the Wettenhall Environment Trust, and Latrobe University for their support and for making this year’s nest box monitoring possible.

Brush-tailed phascogales in their nest with many scats on one side of the box.

For more information about Connecting Country’s nest boxes and past monitoring, CLICK HERE.

 

Come and hear about Scientific monitoring at Connecting Country: a community effort – Friday 13 July 2018

Posted on 12 July, 2018 by Tanya Loos

Castlemaine Field Naturalists Club is hosting a guest speaker, our very own Tanya Loos, talking about Scientific monitoring at Connecting Country: a community effort.

Woodland birds, arboreal mammals, frogs and reptiles – what can these critters tell us about landscape health? Tanya Loos, Connecting Country’s Monitoring and Engagement Coordinator, talks about the organisation’s long term monitoring programs – how and why they were created, and what we have found so far. There will be a special emphasis on the contribution volunteers have made to the program’s success. 

Tanya has worked with Connecting Country for four years, and whilst mainly a birdo, is also a field naturalist and science writer. She lives on a bush block in Porcupine Ridge with her husband, dog and a number of rescue budgies and cockatiels.

The evening event will be from 7.30 pm on Friday 13 July 2018 in the Fellowship Room (behind the Uniting Church on Lyttleton St, Castlemaine VIC, next door to the Castlemaine Art Museum). There is no cost for entry, and both members and visitors of all ages are welcome and encouraged to attend. We look forward to seeing you there.

Cullen speaks to the Wild Melbourne film crew, next to wattles growing from direct seeding.

The talk will be followed by an field excursion at 1.30 pm on Saturday 14 July 2018.

The excursion will be to Cullen Gunn’s property in Otterys Scrub Rd, Walmer. Cullen’s property is a former grazing property with many large old trees, and an extensive revegetation program involving three separate projects with Connecting Country. We will be able to see direct seeding revegetation in various stages of regrowth. The site has a long term bird survey site, and has recently been colonised by a population of Brush-tailed Phascogales, a sure measure of success!

Depart at 1.30 pm from the car park opposite the Castle Motel on Duke St, Castlemaine (next to the Octopus building).  Bring afternoon tea, raincoat and suitable footwear.

 

Fungi presentation and excursion with John Walter – Friday 8 June 2018

Posted on 6 June, 2018 by Tanya Loos

The guest speaker for the June general meeting of the Castlemaine Field Naturalists Club is Drummond-based naturalist, John Walter. His presentation is about FUNGI: the rare and the where and how you can make a difference.  

John writes:
‘I have an extensive library and will bring some of my collection of fungi books with me for members to examine. I would also like to demonstrate some of the web-based resources available for people to use.  FungiMap has a focus on some rare or rarely seen species and I have been fortunate enough to make some very interesting fungal finds so they will form a key part of the presentation and I will also show some of the incredible fungal diversity to be seen in our region.’

Parasol Mushroom, Macrolepiota clelandii, photographed by Tanya Loos.

John’s presentation is on Friday 8 June from 7.30 pm in the Fellowship Room on Lyttleton St, Castlemaine VIC (behind the Uniting Church, next door to the Castlemaine Art Museum). There is no cost for entry, and both members and visitors of all ages are welcome and encouraged to attend.

John will also kindly lead the excursion the following day, to search for fungi in the field. The destination is likely to be at Blackwood, but this is to be confirmed at the meeting on Friday evening.

The excursion will depart on Saturday 9 June at 1.30 pm sharp from the Octopus U3A building on Duke St, Castlemaine (opposite the Castle Motel). Car pooling will be available, and please bring along some afternoon tea. Again, visitors and members all welcome and encouraged.

For further information please contact Castlemaine Field Naturalists Club.

 

Painted Button-quails in the garden

Posted on 29 May, 2018 by Tanya Loos

Connecting Country staff member Bonnie Humphreys has seen small, quail-like birds wandering around her garden for weeks, even on her doorstep. Until now, they’ve escaped Bonnie’s efforts to capture a photo and confirm identification as Painted Button-quail! The two birds seen here were resting quietly together.

Button-quails are a truly Australian group of birds. Although they look a lot like quails, DNA analysis suggests that button-quails are quite distant from all living groups of birds. Their behaviour is certainly very unusual!

Unlike most birds, it’s the brightly coloured female who calls, and attracts a male. They are polyandrous, with one female mating with several males in an area. After mating, the female builds a domed nest near the ground in a shrub or grass tussock, and lays three or four small white eggs. The male then incubates the young until hatching. Once hatched, the tiny little chicks fledge right away and the male feeds them for the next ten days or so. After this, the young button-quails can fend for themselves.

The birds pictured above could be either males, or immature birds. In females, the reddish patch is brighter. However, the depth of the colour red is quite variable according to light conditions and the position of the bird. Hence it’s quite tricky to identify the sex of the bird. (Happy to hear local birder expert opinion on this one!)

Bonnie’s visiting button-quails are a group of three birds, and the Handbook of Australian and New Zealand birds says they are most often seen in small family groups. At this time of year, breeding has finished, so maybe they are just being companionable and foraging together until the female starts her ‘booming’call.

Their foraging technique is also most unusual. Painted button-quails often feed in pairs, in grasses and leaf litter on the ground. They scratch and glean, spinning on alternate legs to create distinctive circular depressions, known as platelets. Platelets are often the only visible sign that the bird is present. The photo below shows the typical look of platelets in bushland with plenty of leaf litter.

There’s been extensive feeding activity in leaf litter and lawn areas at Bonnie’s place. It was hard to capture on camera the sheer extent of the ground being worked over by these enthusiastic little birds.

 

Painted button-quails are a member of the threatened Victorian Temperate Woodland bird Community. They are notoriously difficult to capture during typical (20 minute, 2 ha) bird surveys, so we welcome any sightings and observations. You can download a sightings sheet here, and let us know where and when you’ve seen button-quails, or their platelets.

In 2011, Echidna Walkabout Tours captured this amazing footage of a Painted Button-quail foraging in leaf litter in urban Port Melbourne! Do watch the whole video because at the end the female puffs herself up like a frog and starts calling her booming call. The low frequency call is difficult to hear on the video, but you can see the amazing behaviour!

 

Come frogging for World Environment Day – 5 June 2018

Posted on 23 May, 2018 by Tanya Loos

Celebrate World Environment Day 2018 with local ecologist Karl Just and Connecting Country on a special evening ‘frogging’ workshop.  

Karl Just will share his extensive knowledge of our local frogs, and help participants learn how to identify frogs by their calls, and by sight. The evening will also cover how we can look after frogs and their habitat. The workshop is free, and includes hot drinks and snacks and a frog identification guide.

A Spotted Marsh Frog (Limnodynastes tasmaniensis) photographed by Peter Robertson

When: Tuesday 5 June 2018 from 4:30 to 7:30 pm

Where: Meet out the front of Newstead Community Centre (9 Lyons St, Newstead VIC) and carpool to a private property in Strangways

What to bring: Sturdy shoes, long pants, warm and weather-appropriate clothes, torch (as it will be dark around 5:30 pm)

The workshop will be strictly limited to fifteen participants so make sure you book!

RSVP: to Asha by Monday 4 June to asha@connectingcountry.org.au

Enquiries: (03) 5472 1594

 

Swift Parrot surveys on 19 and 20 May 2018

Posted on 10 May, 2018 by Tanya Loos

Swift Parrot survey season is upon us again, with a monitoring weekend coming up on 19 and 20 May. BirdLife Australia’s Swift Parrot monitoring program is essential for assessing where our beloved swifties are, what resources they are feeding upon, and their numbers.

Our regional coordinator for swift parrot surveys is Beth Mellick from Wettenhall Environment Trust. If you would like to be involved in this Autumn’s swift parrot count, contact Beth via email to be assigned a site (email: beth@wettenhall.org.au). And regular watchers – don’t forget to let Beth know where you are surveying so we can make sure we cover our whole region!

This beautiful Swift Parrot was photographed by Connecting Country member Micheal Gooch, visiting his bird bath in Clunes (www.outsidefourwalls.com)

 

Chris Timewell (formerly of Connecting Country and now with BirdLife Australia) provided this update on Swift Parrot (and Regent Honeyeater) surveys:

We are again seeking volunteers to search for both species across Victoria, NSW, ACT and Queensland, as Swift Parrots make their way up to the mainland from Tasmania and Regent Honeyeaters move about the landscape in search of flowering Eucalypt trees to feed on. The May 2018 Swift Parrot and Regent Honeyeater survey weekend is coming up soon on May 19th and 20th. As always, we are happy for people to undertake their searches up to a week on either side of the survey weekend. Opportunistic sightings from any time of the year are also welcomed. 

So far this season there have been scattered Swift Parrot sightings from across its mainland range – with the highest clusters around the north-eastern fringes of metropolitan Melbourne and returning birds to favourite haunts such as Mt Majura (ACT) and the Cessnock forests of the Lower Hunter (NSW). There are Spotted Gums noted flowering on the South Coast of NSW (e.g., Marramarra National Park), Coastal Grey Box is flowering in the Lower Hunter and Swamp Mahogany is starting to flower in coastal areas – each of which are attracting large number of lorikeets and other nectar-feeders. 

If you are new to the plight of this Critically Endangered parrot, the BirdLife website has a profile on swift parrots here.

 

Volunteers needed for nest box checks

Posted on 12 April, 2018 by Asha

Connecting Country is once again monitoring our nest boxes. These boxes were installed across the shire in 2010-11 to provide habitat for Brush-tailed Phascogales.

The boxes have all been monitored at least once during autumn in the survey periods of 2011, 2012, 2014 and 2016. A summary of the results to date across the whole of the survey periods, and other information about the monitoring program, are available on the Connecting Country website – click here.

Please contact us if you are interested in assisting as a volunteer with the nest box checks by emailing asha@connectingcountry.org.au. You won’t be climbing trees or ladders, or handling animals, rather helping with carrying equipment and recording data. It is a great opportunity to see some interesting and special places in our local landscape, and learn more about phascogales and other species.

Updates on the nest box monitoring program will be provided after the autumn monitoring. For further info on our nest box program, see our  monitoring page of our website – click here.

Connecting Country nest box

 

Have you got gorse? – Victorian Gorse Taskforce survey 2018

Posted on 22 February, 2018 by Asha

The Victorian Gorse Taskforce (VGT) has developed a survey to gain an understanding of the types of support that communities need from VGT to manage gorse in their local area. The VGT uses government investment to establish and support community-led projects, which aim to eradicate gorse where possible across Victoria. Gorse is a highly invasive weed.  It can adversely impact on agriculture, waterways, amenity and native vegetation, as well as harbour pests such as, rabbits and foxes. 

In Victoria, gorse is:

  • Regionally prohibited in the East Gippsland catchment.
  • Regionally restricted in the Mallee catchment.
  • Regionally controlled in all other Victorian catchments.

The results from this survey will help the VGT identify opportunities where they can provide better support to you or your networks. If you know or suspect gorse on your property please take five minutes to fill out the survey so the VGT can work to provide the right support.

The survey should not take any more than 5 to 10 minutes to complete, and you can go in the draw to win 1 of 3 $50 Woolworths vouchers.

The survey can be accessed via this link: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/VGTsurvey

The survey closes 5 pm on Tuesday 13 March 2018.

 

Rabbit Buster Month

Posted on 21 February, 2018 by Asha

February is Rabbit Buster Month. Now is the time to strike!

John ‘Rabbit Buster’ Matthews (Biosecurity Manager, Agriculture Victoria) tells us:

‘The right time, using the right tools, to the correct standards will ensure your investment and effort into rabbit control results in long term control’.

John’s key points include:

  • Collect baseline information. You need to know the scale of your problem before you try to manage it.
  • Know your goal. Rabbits can seriously impede regeneration of many native species.
  • Support and learn from your peers. Local knowledge is powerful. Take some time to learn from your neighbours, landcare group and even local contractors.

Success will come from a committed and coordinated community working simultaneously, using best practice techniques, with high rates of participation at a landscape scale.

CLICK HERE to download the North Central Chat February Newsletter and read a more detailed account of how to ‘Hop On Board’ with rabbit control.

CLICK HERE for more information about rabbit monitoring and control options.

 

Wallabies at the bird bath – Nature News 7 February 2018

Posted on 12 February, 2018 by Tanya Loos

For this month’s Nature News, local landholder Jane Rusden talks about the many animals, both feathered and furred, that use the bird baths at her bush block in Campbells Creek. This article was featured in the Midland Express on 7 February 2018.

Birdbaths are very popular right now.

Birdbaths are a win-win for both the native animals enjoying the water, which is so important in this blistering hot weather, and the humans that get to watch them. I have several sizes of bird baths in different locations on my bush block, suiting different species of birds and other animals.

The pedestal bird bath with gently sloping edges is very popular with the small to medium sized bush birds. It’s so attractive because there are shrubs nearby that the birds can dart into if feeling threatened or unsure. Everything enjoys a drink as well as a good wash and swim:  from all twelve White-winged Choughs in a family group trying to cram in at once, to tiny Striated Thornbills. Surprisingly, the Yellow-footed Antechinus also favours this bath, with the vertical pedestal and the underside of the concrete bowl no obstacle to their agility.

On the ground there is a ceramic birdbath, with gently sloping sides to provide a gradient of water depth, and a small shrub or two nearby. It is preferred by the ground foraging Common Bronzewing, but Crimson Rosellas, Brown-headed and Yellow-faced Honeyeaters use it for drinking and swimming as well.

All the waterweed in the trough has been eaten by the hungry wallabies!     Photo by Jane Rusden.

The deeper cattle trough in the shady courtyard is frequently visited by the echidna, who enjoys a long drink by sticking its nose in up to its eyes and blowing bubbles. In this extremely hot weather, Magpies and Fuscous Honeyeaters will stop by for a drink and a rest in the cool, while the wallabies have taken to jumping right in and sitting there while they cool down and drink at the same time.

We don’t have a TV, but don’t wish for one, as we can spend hours watching the local wildlife use the different birdbaths in their own unique way.

For more on birds and bird baths, see our recent blog post bird-baths-tips-for-keeping-birds-cool-and-safe

 

Lovely large lizards on the prowl – seeking monitor sightings

Posted on 11 January, 2018 by Tanya Loos

In the last couple of years we have received several reports of very large lizards on people’s properties in the northern parts of the Mount Alexander Shire. They could be two different types of goannas, also known as monitors: the Lace Monitor (Varanus varius) and the Sand Goanna (Varanus gouldii).

A magnificent looking creature – with a heavy banded snout and huge feet with massive claws. Photo from Wikipedia Commons.

The Lace Monitor is listed as Endangered on the Victorian Threatened Species Advisory List (2013), so it’s great to hear of sightings from Baringhup, Shelbourne and Axe Creek. These lizards can grow up to 2.1 metres long, and once they are adults have few predators. Unfortunately the small striped young are eaten by foxes, so much so that in some areas it is feared that only old lizards are left.

Lace Monitors need large, well-connected areas of bushland with lots of woody debris and large hollows to shelter in when the weather is cold. As an apex predator, monitors need healthy woodland habitats filled with abundant insects, reptiles, young birds and eggs. We were delighted to see this photo from Heather and Newton Hunt of two monitors on their property in Shelbourne.

Two large Lace Monitors. Photo by Heather Hunt.

The Sand Goanna is another large lizard that may be found in the area. It is not a threatened species. Sand Goannas may be distinguished from the Lace Monitor by the the stripe it has running through its eyes, rather than prominent bands around the snout. They are also smaller in size.

A Sand Goanna. Photo from Wikipedia Commons.

These large lizards are excellent indicators of ecosystem health, so if you see them on your block or favourite bushland area, let us know!  Reports of young monitor lizards would be fantastic, providing hope that these lizards will be stalking our woodlands for generations to come.

To submit a record of monitors, download a Special Sightings sheet here or email us at info@connectingcountry.org.au

 

A batty visitor to a phascogale nest box

Posted on 4 January, 2018 by Tanya Loos

Elevated Plains landholder, Richard Pleasance sent us some fantastic video footage of a small bat or microbat visiting his nest box. I posted the footage online to the Field Naturalists Club of Victoria Facebook page and a bat expert identified the bat as a type of long-eared bat;  either a Lesser Long-eared or a Gould’s Long-eared bat, both of which are common in this area. Please click on the link below to view the bat movie – the bat arrives several seconds in…

Bat-video-RPleasance-01-2018

These two bat species live on insects, and use their incredible ears and skills in echolocation  help them locate crickets, moths, grasshoppers and other prey.  Both species roost in a range of locations, such as peeling bark, small hollows and, in the case of Lesser Long-eared bats, disused Fairy Martin nests, old coats or under piles of bricks in sheds!  Come breeding season, the females live in maternity colonies, which may be in hollow trees or sometimes in houses.

A Lesser Long-eared bat, by Matt Clancy

This bat was probably a single male, as they often roost alone. Richard built the box himself, using recycled materials, with the aim of attracting Brush-tailed Phascogales. Below is a photo of a phascogale inspecting the box. According to Richard ‘the box is on a stringy bark located in lovely bush close to a ridge but still a bit protected from weather’ and it faces south east.

A wildlife camera captures an evening visitor…

Richard doesn’t carry out any manual inspections of his nest boxes, preferring to set up wildlife cameras to monitor usage. This is a great option as it is safer than using a ladder to inspect, and minimises disturbance to the creatures within. And there is more! This nest box was also visited by a third species: a Sugar Glider (see below).

What a wonderful fluffy tail!

If you would like to monitor your nest boxes this summer, you could try wildlife cameras. We have a small number at the office to lend to landholders, or you could try another non-invasive technique known as stagwatching. A stag is an old dead tree with hollows, but the stagwatching process may be used to check nest boxes too. Stagwatching involves using the natural light at dusk to check the box usage, simply by waiting quietly by the box for some time. A very meditative experience, provided you cover up adequately against mosquitoes!

To found out more about nest boxes and how to stagwatch, see our website here and download the guide: NestboxFieldGuide

Many thanks to Richard for the wonderful footage and photos.

 

A gallery of photos to say Merry Christmas from the Connecting Country team

Posted on 21 December, 2017 by Tanya Loos

It has been quite a year at Connecting Country! We would like to warmly thank all of our friends and supporters, our landholders and volunteers, the many groups we work with, and our funders for their ongoing involvement and support of Connecting Country.

We have some exciting on ground works and community engagement programs planned for 2018, and we very much look forward to announcing these early next year.

Bonnie and Tanya have compiled a gallery of flora and fauna pics from the year to scroll through. Many of these photos have been sent in to us by you, our subscribers (thank you!).  The beauty, colour and variety of these photos is a testament to the rich and abundant landscape we live in, and to our enthusiasm for capturing this beauty.

We wish you all a very Merry Christmas, a peaceful holiday season, and a wonderful 2018…

 

Landcare Adapting to Change – Site Visits

Posted on 19 December, 2017 by Asha

As part of Connecting Country’s ‘Landcare Adapting to Change’ project, our resident botanist Bonnie teamed up with Landcare Facilitator Asha to do ten site visits with local Landcare groups. The aim was to offer Landcare groups access to additional knowledge to help identify specific plants, and answer any questions about priority weed control actions, choosing plants for revegetation, and other areas of land management for conservation.

Here is a gallery of photos from the site visits – hover your mouse over the right hand side of the picture and click on the arrow to move through the gallery.

If any other Landcare or Friends groups are interested in a site visit with Bonnie in 2018, please contact asha@connectingcountry.org.au or call 5472 1594.

 

Bird Baths – tips for keeping birds cool and safe

Posted on 14 December, 2017 by Tanya Loos

Bird baths – there are mosaic ones, terracotta ones, deep ones, shallow ones. What makes a great bird bath, and how do we best care for them?

Types of baths – for a variety of  bathing styles 

Very small birds like thornbills stand in shallow water, crouch down and then flutter their wings at unbelievable speed to bathe. Honeyeaters and fairy-wrens seem to dip into to deeper baths and almost swim through the water. Larger birds like rosellas wade in to a deep bath and create a massive splashy mess to their great enjoyment!

White-throated treecreepers creep up the side of a nearby log or branch, and then back into the bath. You can almost hear the reversing beep!

I have three baths of differing depths and heights, and each are used by different birds. As the bird bath enthusiasts among us know, bird baths are also used as baths and a source of clean drinking water by animals such as echidnas, wallabies, kangaroos, and frogs and reptiles.  Occasionally a bird bath is used as a clever lure for the hunters among us – see the stunning images from the Yellow-footed antechinus and Grey fantail story here.

Location of the bath(s)

The placement of the bath is important for a few reasons. If it is in full sun, it will get too hot, and the birds are too exposed to aerial predators such as goshawks. Birds also need a place to perch and preen their feathers after their bath.

Pardalotes are very cautious at my place. They wait until the bath is jam-packed with happy visitors and then come down to the bath, checking for danger at many different perch heights as they approach. They visit the bath that is located under a a tall fruit tree and protective shrub.  The White-browed scrubwrens and fairy-wrens share the deep mosaic bath on the ground with the rosellas.

Another reason to have plenty of perching spots around the bath area is that queues form on very hot days! Birds will wait nearby until there is enough room to fly down and have their turn.

Safety for the bathers

Ensure the bath is beyond the reach of cats – hang it from a tree or use a pedestal bath if cats are around. If you have a pedestal bird bath, some dead branches placed across the bath may make it more attractive for smaller birds.

Keep the water cool, fresh and clean. It’s a good idea to locate bird baths near your plants that need watering on hot days, so you can water your plants and refill the bird baths easily at the same time.  It’s best to keep the bath clean by giving it a regular scrub with a brush, to avoid the spread of diseases such as Beak and Feather disease, which affects parrots.

If the bath is bucket shaped or deep, always provide a sturdy stick or series of stepping stones for small animals to climb out. I have seen skinks and young rosellas drowned in water that was too deep with smooth sides.

Finally, if you are going away,  ask your neighbour to refill your bird bath, so your birds and other creatures don’t lose their water supply.

Here is a series of images from our staff member Bonnie Humphreys. Bonnie has three baths at her property in Barkers Creek. Note how clean and fresh the water is! Click on the arrow on the right hand side to move through the images…  Thanks Bonnie!

 

Say Cheese! – New Reptile and Frog Photo Gallery

Posted on 23 November, 2017 by Asha

Large Striped Skink in Welshmans Reef (Photo by Linda Craig)

Jacky lizards, geckos, pobblebonks, and ‘Tuk’ the turtle are all stars of our new reptile and frog photo gallery. CLICK HERE to go to the page, where we share photos of reptiles and frogs sent in by community members. Most of these photos are from landholders involved in Connecting Country’s reptile and frog monitoring program (CLICK HERE to read more), which uses ceramic roof tiles as artificial habitat for reptiles and frogs. Tile monitoring is fantastic, but these photos also capture species that don’t use tiles as habitat, like goannas.

Thank you to everyone who shared their photos!

If you have any interesting photos of reptiles or frogs that you would like to share in our photo gallery, please send them to asha@connectingcountry.org.au

Pobblebonk in Elphinstone (Photo by Sylvia Reeves)

Baby Common Long-necked Tortoise in Strangways, dubbed “Tuk” (Photo by Leanne Crisp)