Restoring landscapes across the Mount Alexander Region

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)

 

Fun with Phascogales – Jess Lawton’s Talk

Posted on 9 November, 2017 by Asha

 At their recent AGM, Newstead Landcare invited Jess Lawton along to talk about her research on Brush-tailed phascogales (Phascogale tapoatafa). She shared some facts above about this special species, along with some interesting results from her PhD research with Andrew Bennett from La Trobe University. Jess used camera traps and habitat surveys to gather information on the habitat requirements for phascogales across central Victoria. Fifty of these sites were in the Mount Alexander region at some of Connecting Country’s nest box sites.

Brush-tailed Phascogale cartoon by Jess Lawton

Jess set up two cameras at each site, pointing towards the ground where she set up a small bait station. She collected these again after 40 days, and found she had a total of 69,611 photos to go through! These included 488 phascogale records in the Mount Alexander region. One brown treecreeper also had some fun with a camera and took 952 selfies (CLICK HERE for GIF)!

Taking into account site factors such as the amount of native forest in an area, elevation, productivity, predators, tree species, number of large trees, structural complexity, logs, and leaf litter, Jess found that phascogales were present at 82% of sites. Interestingly, she found that the amount of native forest in an area was not a big influence over whether phascogales were present at a site or not. However, this could have been due to the time of year data was collected, when males may have been using sub-optimal habitat during breeding season.

The two biggest habitat factors that Jess found influenced phascogale detection were tree species (box versus gum) and leaf litter. Sites with more box species and/or more leaf litter had more phascogale records. This is probably because these provide habitat for invertebrates, which are a critical food source for phascogales.

Jess finished with some tips for landholders who wish to help with phascogale conservation:

  • Protect existing hollows and put up nest boxes.
  • Keep it messy – leaf litter, logs, and tree stumps and all important for phascogales.
  • Help reduce predator pressure by keeping pets inside at night and walking them on a lead.
  • Care for your local bush by getting involved with your local Landcare or Friends group.

Thank you Jess and Newstead Landcare for an interesting and engaging talk. Here are some pictures Jess provided from her camera traps – well worth a look!

Phascogale Facts!

I am a small nocturnal marsupial.

I am threatened species.

My range in Victoria has contracted.

My home range area is 40-100 hectares (40-50 hectares for females and 100 hectares for males).

I rely on large tree hollows with small entrances for nesting and breeding, and will use several hollows within my range.

Females of my species give birth to eight young each year. Once weaned, the litter will weigh three times the weight of the mother.

I belong to the Dasyurid family and feed mainly on invertebrates, such as insects, spiders and centipedes.

 

 

Tuan Talk by Jess Lawton – Newstead Landcare AGM

Posted on 17 October, 2017 by Asha

This Thursday evening, 19th October 2017, Newstead Landcare Group is hosting a presentation by PhD candidate Jess Lawton. Jess is studying the Tuan or Brush-tailed Phascogale, a threatened and declining species of the Box-Ironbark country. The presentation will start at 8pm at Newstead Community Centre and all are welcome. A gold coin donation would be appreciated.  Afterwards there will be supper and a brief AGM.

Jess says,

“The Brush-tailed Phascogale is a rare, threatened species, and is declining in Victoria. Our understanding of its conservation biology is limited because it is sparsely distributed, ‘trap-shy’, and has been difficult to survey using traditional techniques. We know that this species has a rapid reproductive cycle, whereby all males die of stress and exhaustion after their first breeding season. We also know that this species often has a large home range of up to 100 ha. Therefore, the current thinking is that it requires large areas of intact forest for a population to persist. However, this species still occurs in modified habitats, such as paddock trees, roadsides, and isolated remnant patches. The aim of my study is to see if the occurrence of the Brush-tailed Phascogale in a modified landscape relates to patch size and patch connectedness.

Connecting Country set 150 nest box sites in 2010 to provide habitat for this species through the Mount Alexander Shire. They have since monitored many of these nest box sites every two years, and now have a number of years of data on this species occurrence in the region. I selected 50 of these 150 sites, stratified according to landscape context (ie. the amount of tree cover surrounding each nest box site). Between April and June 2016, while Connecting Country conducted their nest-box checks, I set two cameras at each of these 50 sites.

In this study, I model the occurrence of Brush-tailed Phascogales in the Mount Alexander Shire with landscape attributes, such as the size of a forest patch, and a number of habitat attributes collected in the field, including forest productivity, forest structure, logs and leaf litter, and tree size and species.

One property near Axe Creek was home to a particularly active population of Brush-tailed Phascogales, and you can watch a video of the sort of footage we detected” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VTklMGskLyYc

 

Wetland Ecology and Training Courses: October 2017 – March 2018

Posted on 31 August, 2017 by Connecting Country

Registrations are now open for Rakali’s popular wetland courses commencing October 2017 through to March 2018. The courses are presented by SERA 2016 award winning ecologist Damien Cook and Elaine Bayes. Don’t hold off as the NEW courses may be a once off depending on level of attendance and it’s the last time the Wetland Plant ID will be held in the North Central region of Victoria. Click on the following headings to find out more:

NEW: THE WONDERFUL WETLAND ECOLOGY BUS TOUR, 12 & 13 OCT 2017

Join us on a bus tour through some of northern Victoria’s most ecologically diverse wetlands that will be looking their best because of recent rainfall and flooding. Learn how ecological drivers determine wetland ecology.  Dixie Patton, Barapa Traditional Owner will share knowledge on aboriginal uses of these amazing wetlands.  Other land managers will meet us along the way.

NEW: WETLAND RESTORATION AND MANAGEMENT, 16 & 17 NOV 2017

Learn about wetland restoration and management over 2 days with Damien Cook by visiting ‘Waterways’; a SERA 2016 award-winning wetland restoration project which he was involved in planning and implementing, followed by the 200 hectares of coastal park at the Victorian Desalination Plant, Wonthaggi.  Learn more about these projects here.

WETLAND PLANT IDENTIFICATION DAYS, STARTS OCT 2017 – MAR 2018

Learn to identify the most common wetland plants. In order to manage or restore a wetland you first have to thoroughly understand it.  Wetland plant species, condition and placement within a wetland can inform you as to what is going on. You can choose 1, 2 or all 3 days – Each day is timed to follow the wetting and drying of the stunning Reedy Lagoon at Gunbower Island or nearby wetlands so each plant guild can be seen in their splendor.

  • Day One:  Sedges, Grasses and Rushes
  • Day 2:      Aquatic Plants
  • Day 3:      Mudflat specialists.

Click here for more information and to REGISTER. Alternatively contact Elaine Bayes at  Rakali Consulting 0431 959 085 or email elaine@rakali.com.au. Each course can be done as an individual unit or as a complete package (ask Elaine about discounts).

Click here to read some articles on the importance of understanding wetland ecology and using plant knowledge for effective wetland management.

 

New Map of Wheel Cactus in Victoria

Posted on 22 August, 2017 by Asha

The Tarrangower Cactus Control Group (TCCG) has recently completed a project aimed at increasing awareness and knowledge about the noxious weed Wheel Cactus (Opuntia robusta), funded by Wettenhall Environment Trust. One of the valuable outcomes from this project is the construction a new map showing the distribution of Wheel Cactus infestations in Victoria. 

Our well-known former Landcare Facilitator, Max Schlachter, was employed as project officer by TCCG and has collated 345 recorded sites of Wheel Cactus within our state. These sites covered 105 different localities around Victoria, mostly in a band from the northwest to Melbourne, but including some surprising outliers elsewhere. The majority of the sites (69%) were new records, and the rest were existing records taken from current government maps, such as the Victorian Biodiversity Atlas.

Some alarming conclusions from this mapping exercise were that within some of these localities, for example ‘Maldon’, there are too many infestations to record, plus there are very likely many infestations that were not able to be captured. The information gathered through this project will help communities and land managers better understand how Wheel Cactus spreads and how best to manage it.

If you want to know more about Wheel Cactus and how to control it,  you can go along to TCCG’s next Community Field Day on Sunday 27th August, CLICK HERE for more details.

 

Flora of Castlemaine and surrounds – the online guide is launched!

Posted on 9 August, 2017 by Connecting Country

On 1st August 2017, the online edition of the Wild Plants of the Castlemaine District was formally launched.  This comprehensive guide contains details on the identification, locations, preferred habitats and history of hundreds of native and introduced plant species found in Castlemaine and surrounding areas.  It can be viewed at the following stand-alone website location – https://www.castlemaineflora.org.au.

In November 2016, local natural historian – Ern Perkins – sadly passed away.  Ern’s passion for the understanding the intricacies of natural environment was matched by his passion for sharing his knowledge with others.  A few months before his passing, he first launched this compendium of local plant species as a freely available resource via USB memory sticks.  Ern had developed this guide based on information that he and others had collected and compiled over more than 40 years.  With the support of Ern’s family since his passing, the Castlemaine Field Naturalists Club has worked with a local IT graphics firm to make this guide available as an online resource, allowing it to reach a much wider audience.  Financial contributions and other support towards this important project has also been provided by the Friends of the Box Ironbark Forests (FOBIF) and Connecting Country.  Each of these organisations will have a link to this flora guide from their websites.  A permanent link to it has been established from the Connecting Country website here.

It is intended to be a dynamic website, with updates made over time in response to taxonomic changes, new photographs and new findings.  Landholders, Landcarers, students and many other people from the Mount Alexander Shire and beyond will appreciate this valuable and easy-to-use resource.

 

Pint-sized carnivore devours a Grey Fantail

Posted on 7 August, 2017 by Tanya Loos

We love it when Connecting Country landholders send in photographs of interesting flora and fauna observations. In April 2017, Tamsin Byrne sent us an astonishing series of photos of a Yellow-footed Antechinus hunting and eating a Grey Fantail at their bird bath. Tamsin and her family live on a beautiful Trust for Nature property in Sedgwick.

For those new to the Antechinus – they are small carnivorous marsupials related to Brush-tailed Phascogales or Tuan, Eastern Quolls, Tasmanian Devils – comprising a group know as the Dasyurids. Most are nocturnal, but the Yellow-footed Antechinus is actually diurnal, and so observed by landholders and birdwatchers during the day. Geoff Park has taken some wonderful portraits of these endearing mammals on his blog Natural Newstead; CLICK HERE. With their golden colour, round ears, sweet little paws, and confiding nature, the antechinus are very sweet and well-liked by all.

However! Appearances can be deceptive, and they are actually a top level predator! Large arthropods such as centipedes, insects, eggs and nestlings are commonly listed as prey items – but now we must also add adult birds to that list. Tamsin added some great captions to the photographs – please click on each photo with your mouse to go through each photo in the set. Many thanks to Tamsin for this exciting series of photos of nature “red in tooth in claw”!

 

 

 

We All Need A Home – Video by Chewton Primary School

Posted on 31 July, 2017 by Asha

“We All Need A Home” is a short video created by Chewton Primary School students late last year. It explains the importance of caring for our local wildlife by cleaning up rubbish and creating habitat through a very engaging story. It also includes tiles from Chewton Primary School’s reptile and frog monitoring site which students helped Connecting Country set up and monitor.

CLICK HERE or on the picture below to view the full video. There is a link to another interesting video made by students on the same page, plus a copy of the presentation that the “Coastal Ambassadors” gave on local reptile and frog conservation.

 

Street Moss – a photography exhibition of our urban mosses

Posted on 31 July, 2017 by Tanya Loos

Street Moss is the subject of an exhibition of photos by Bronwyn Silver and Bernard Slattery that has just opened at Falkner Gallery, 35 Templeton Street, Castlemaine. The  show runs from 20 July to 3 September 2017 and the gallery is open each week between 11 am and 4 pm, Thursday to Sunday.

Bronwyn and Bernard are well placed to present a photography exhibition on moss, as both contributed to the very popular Guide to Mosses of Dry Forests in Eastern Australia which was published in 2014.  More recently, Bronwyn and Bernard, along with Ern Perkins, co-wrote Eucalypts of the Mount Alexander Region. These books are both fantastic achievements and contribute considerably to the understanding and appreciation of nature in our region.

Below are some words from Bernard to introduce the fabulous photos of “Street Moss”…

Moss never sleeps

The paved streets of our towns and cities are imperfect coverings of a nature always ready to stage a comeback. We’re all familiar with scenes of deserted settlements rapidly growing over with weeds, streets cracked by emerging shrubs and trees. But even bustling towns actively cleaned by teams of usually underpaid workers show signs that humanity is really just holding nature at bay.

The margins of manholes, the gaps between gutter paving stones, the shady neglected corners of industrial sites, all harbour active plant colonies ever ready to expand and undo the work of the bitumen and concrete industries.

The vanguards of these saboteurs of neatness and order are usually moss species. They can bide their time in the town’s narrowest cracks for implausibly long periods of dusty sterility, to flourish suddenly with the first shower of rain. Modest, apparently fragile, improbably beautiful: given time, they could bring down the cloud capped towers of the industrial world!

 And they’re great to look at, too.

Street moss grid by Bronwyn Silver

and another beautiful photo…

Parker Street 3. by Bernard Slattery, 2017

 

 

New Reptile and Frog Brochure Available

Posted on 28 July, 2017 by Asha

Connecting Country’s newest brochure, Reptiles and Frogs of the Mount Alexander Region, is now out in the world! CLICK HERE or on the picture to download a pdf copy. You can grab a hard copy of this brochure by dropping by our offices, or by contacting asha@connectingcountry.org.au. Our local Landcare groups will also soon have copies available to share. 

The brochure includes beautiful photos of 8 frogs and 30 reptile species found in the Mount Alexander Region, plus tips for landholders on how you can help our local reptiles and frogs. Some of these tips include creating and improving habitat on your property and on public land by:

  • Creating ground-level shelter and food sources by ensuring there are plenty of logs, sticks, rocks, and leaf litter around
  • Helping degraded land regenerate by planting indigenous species, excluding grazing, and controlling noxious weeds
  • Protecting intact native woodlands and grasslands
  • Keeping predators such as foxes, cats, and dogs under control
  • Joining your local Landcare or Friends group
  • Creating a ‘frog bog’ or retrofitting a dam to provide frog habitat
  • Refraining from using herbicides and pesticides when rainfall is predicted, and minimising or avoiding their use near wetlands and waterways

Connecting Country’s Reptile and Frog Monitoring Program is being undertaken with the support of the Ian Potter Foundation.

 

Get your hands dirty on National Tree Planting Day – Sunday 30th July 2017

Posted on 24 July, 2017 by Asha

This happy tree was planted by Baringhup Landcare in 2016

If there’s one day a year to go out and plant some trees, this is it! Two of our local Landcare groups are running National Tree Planting Day working bees this year: Castlemaine Landcare Group and Friends of Campbells Creek Landcare. The events are free and everyone is welcome. Make sure you bring sturdy shoes, warm clothes, water, and some work gloves if you have them.

Castlemaine Landcare has prepared a site at Happy Valley to plant 750 seedlings, followed by a free BBQ lunch and hot soup. You can plant your special tree and come back to visit it over time to watch it grow.
When: 10am, Sunday 30th July 2017
Where: Happy Valley Road at Moonlight Crossing (CLICK HERE for map).
More information: follow them on Facebook (CLICK HERE), or contact Christine on 0418 325 350 or Sally on 5470 6340.

Friends of Campbells Creek Landcare will be planting in the Honeycomb Bushland Reserve in Campbells Creek. It’s a 10 minute walk from car parking to the site, along an bush trail used by recreational walkers, with interesting features along the way. The planting will be followed by a free BBQ lunch for all, catering for a range of dietary needs.
When: 10am – 1pm, Sunday 30th July 2017 
Where: 
Meet at the Honeycomb Bushland Reserve, Campbells Creek, where Honeycomb Road meets the gravel trail (CLICK HERE for map).
More information: follow them on Facebook (CLICK HERE), go to their website (CLICK HERE) or contact Shona on 0408 724 699

Happy planting!

 

 

Wombat numbers on the rise

Posted on 21 July, 2017 by Tanya Loos

Wombats thrive in Western Victoria: Staff member Tanya Loos, who lives 7km north of Daylesford,  shares a story about our burgeoning wombat population.

Coming home from work a week or two ago, I was just a couple of kilometres from my house. The car in front of me slowed to a stop. A medium sized mammal with a distinctly square bum ambled in front of their car and disappeared into the dark forest.
A wombat! A Common Wombat – also known as the Bare-nosed Wombat – in Porcupine Ridge! There are plenty of Wombats around Trentham, Glenlyon, and throughout the Wombat Forest, but in 15 years of living in Porcupine Ridge I had accepted the fact that while we have koalas, the wombats didn’t occur this far north. However, it seems the fortunes of wombats in western Victoria are changing!
In early 2016, a wombat caused quite a stir as it was photographed in the Gunbower forest, literally hundreds of kilometres from the nearest population. Peter Menkhorst, from the Arthur Rylah Institute was contacted to comment and he stated “The most westerly population of wombats on the Great Dividing Range is around Trentham and Daylesford, where the Campaspe begins”. He believed the wombat may have been an orphan pouch young that was released far from where it was rescued. Read the article in the Bendigo Advertiser here.

A healthy wombat, photographed by Connecting Country’s wildlife cameras at his or her burrow in Sutton Grange.  (Ignore the date on the photos – it was taken in 2014)

After seeing my Porky Ridge wombat, I searched online and found a fantastic website called WomSAT. This website is an initiative of the University of Western Sydney, and encourages people Australia-wide to record their wombat sightings. The map is really is easy to use, and enables you to note down whether the wombat was dead or alive, and if it suffered from mange. You can also record burrows. The WomSAT website can be accessed here.

On this map, there were at least eight sightings of living wombats between Bendigo and Daylesford from 2015- 2016, in Harcourt, south of Bendigo in Sedgwick and a big concentration in the Baynton area to the east.

I had a chat with my Connecting Country work colleagues Bonnie and Jarrod who have been documenting an increase in wombat sightings all through the Harcourt and especially Sutton Grange area – one property had a network of burrows with 50-60 entrances!

The same wombat having a little scratch

So what is going on?! My Mammals of Victoria book, also by Peter Menkhorst, states that wombat distribution on a local level is ‘probably most dependent on the availability of suitable burrow sites in association with food supply’.  The wombats do not like very dense forest, but any open habitat seems to do – with habitats ranging from alpine heathland, to wet forests, dry forests and coastal scrub and tea tree heath. Most of the burrows noted by Bonnie and Jarrod have been on creeklines which are tributaries of the Coliban River, and surrounded by open forest or woodland.

Wombats were declared vermin in 1906, and there was a bounty on them from 1925 – 1966. This put the already diminishing western Victorian populations on an even deeper downward spiral and they disappeared from the volcanic plains and indeed, anywhere north of the Great Dividing Range.

Anecdotally, the recent increase in wombat numbers has been noticed after the Redesdale fires in early 2009, part of the devastating Black Saturday fires. The fires may have caused a dispersal of the wombats into previously unoccupied territory.

So if you are in open forest along a creekline north of Daylesford and south of Bendigo, keep an eye out, a wombat family could be your new neighbours!

If you are logging sightings on WomSAT or sending us in a sighting on our Special-Species-Sightings-Sheet-2017, make a note whether the Wombat is healthy or not. Sarcoptic mange is a hideous parasite that Wombats catch from foxes. The mites cause the most severe mange affected skin and swelling around the eyes – and the wombat gets very sick indeed, and eventually dies. More information on wombat mange can be found here. Happily,  wombat lovers and advocates have discovered that they can add a pesticide ointment to a flap on an affected wombat’s burrow and this treatment saves the wombat without it having to be captured and taken to a shelter.

 

 

Dams to Wetlands Workshop – Muckleford Catchment Landcare

Posted on 17 July, 2017 by Asha

Workshop attendees will visit dams like this one in Muckleford (photo by Beth Mellick).

Join Muckleford Landcare to visit two dams and discuss ways in which to improve their function for biodiversity. Everyone is welcome to come along and learn how to turn your dam into a thriving wetland.

The workshop is on this Sunday 23rd July, from 9.30am to 12 noon. Meet at the end of Lyndham Road (off Golf Links Road).  For any questions, contact Beth on 0431 219 980 or bethmellick@gmail.com.

 

Threatened woodland birds get a bodyguard

Posted on 21 June, 2017 by Connecting Country

Threatened woodland bird populations in the Mount Alexander region are being better protected through a new collaborative Connecting Country project. Over three years, $300,000 from the Victorian Government’s Biodiversity On-Ground Action initiative will help to protect, enhance and increase critical bird habitat in Box-Ironbark Forests in the Mount Alexander area. This area is important because it provides core habitat for the Victorian Temperate Woodland Bird Community, which is listed under the Flora and Fauna Guaranteed Act and an indicator of the health of the landscape.

The Diamond Firetail is one of the threatened Woodland bird species to be targeted by the project.

Krista Patterson-Majoor, Connecting Country Director – Project Manager, explains; “Over recent years, we have seen a decline among most threatened species within this bird community. We are taking a team approach with this project and collaborating with Trust for Nature, Dja Dja Wurrung, North Central Catchment Management Authority, Parks Victoria, Landmate, Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP), local Landcare groups and private landholders to carry out a variety of environmental works to help protect the birds.”

Works funded will include having private land owners undertake weed control and fencing to protect remnant vegetation across 60 hectares. In exchange, the owners will set aside land for conservation for at least ten years, including stock grazing removal and pest control. This funded project aligns with our Woodland Bird Action plan which aims to stabilise and then increase the populations of local species by protecting and expanding their core habitat. Landholders who are interested in finding out more are encouraged to contact Connecting Country or fill out an  Expression-Of-Interest-Form-July-2017-Connecting-Country.

DELWP Program Manager, Biodiversity, Jill Fleming, said: “This community-led group has been working for more than 10 years to protect threatened woodland birds in the Mount Alexander region and it’s great to see them receive this funding that will help them, and all the partners, to continue this important work.” DELWP’s involvement will help to broaden the scope of the project and ensure works carried out on private land will be complemented by similar activities on 80 hectares of surrounding public land that has been strategically aligned with private landholders and woodland bird priority zones. “By controlling the weeds and removing stock grazing, we discourage non-native birds, who may displace the native ones, from using the same habitat,” Ms Fleming said.

Twenty-six large scale, multi-partner regional partnership projects totalling $7.7 million have been funded through the Regional Biodiversity On-Ground Action initiative to address major risks to threatened species and ecosystems across the state. These projects will be delivered through regional partnerships between agencies, organisations, community, landholders and traditional owners. The list of projects is available at: www.environment.vic.gov.au/biodiversity/biodiversity-on-groundaction 

Box Ironbark East Biodiversity Hub Steering Group Members (from left) – Chris Timewell (CC), Jill Fleming (DELWP), Matt Menhennet (Landmate), Tanya Loos (CC), Steve Comte (Landmate) Deanna Marshall (TFN), Krista Patterson-Majoor (CC) Bonnie Humphreys (CC), Britt Gregory (NCCMA), Kirsten Hutchinson (TFN) and Noel Muller (PV) – at our inaugural meeting in Castlemaine. Absent are Rodney Carter (DDW), Steve Jackson (DDW) and Adrian Martins (NCCMA).

 

Connecting Landscapes Celebration warms hearts on a cool June night

Posted on 15 June, 2017 by Connecting Country

Last Tuesday, 6th June 2017, the Connecting Landscapes Celebration Event saw an engaged community come together to socialise, learn and commit to a future vision of a healthy landscape in the Mount Alexander Region. The celebration acknowledged the achievements of the Connecting Landscapes project over the past five years and recognized Connecting Country’s milestone tenth year. Over sixty landholders who have been part of our on-ground work program were treated to a delicious meal from Growing Abundance and deserts from the Murnong Mummas, trivia competition and an informative talk from David Cameron from Department of Environment Land Water and Planning (DELWP) .

Connecting Country President, Brendan Sydes, gives a short history and summary of plans for the future.

Brendan Sydes,  President of Connecting Country’s Committee of Management,  kicked off the evening with an Acknowledgement of Country and a brief overview of Connecting Country history to date. He also launched our new Biodiversity Hub project to be delivered in partnership with DELWP, Trust for Nature, Parks Victoria and Dja Dja Wurrung.

Connecting Landscapes project coordinator, Jarrod Coote, gave an overview of the achievements of our Connecting Landscapes project, the staff, and what is next for Connecting Country. Funded through the Australian Government, Connecting Landscapes has been Connecting Country’s major project for the last five years. It has seen huge gains for the environment through our on-ground works, monitoring and community engagement programs.

With our targets for the Connecting Landscapes project successfully it reached, we have:

  • Protected 1200 ha (3,000 acres) of native bushland on private land
  • Revegetated 400 ha (1,000 acres) of “greenfield” sites – i.e. paddocks
  • Treated rabbits and weeds over 1600 ha
  • Built 40km of fences
  • Developed 25 Landholder Management Plans
  • Delivered our successful education and monitoring programs

This table speaks volumes about our overachiever tendencies with actual results outstripping our targets in each of the five areas of on-ground works activity.

Tanya Loos,  Connecting Country Woodland Birds Project Coordinator, gave an overview of the monitoring component of the program. This included highlighting the various types of ecological monitoring undertaken by Connecting Country and acknowledging the many different groups of people involved including volunteers, landholders, experts and students. A highlight was the results for nest box monitoring with increases in occupation of the boxes for Sugar Gliders and Tuans.

An overall increase in numbers of Tuans and Sugar Gliders occupying nest boxes across the shire is encouraging.

Dinner was served and attendees collaborated on trivia questions which tested their natural resource management knowledge. Well done to the winners of the quiz; with only one question amiss, they secured a nest box each and some plants and guards. Free nest boxes were also given out to lucky door prize ticket holders.

All tables put in a great effort on the quiz.

The final part of the evening was a talk by David Cameron, Senior Botanist and curator of the state Flora Database with DELWP. His extensive knowledge about plants and, in particular, important weed species of the future was welcomed by the audience as useful advice for what to focus on their properties.

David Cameron talked about plant identification and weeds to look out for in the future given the likely effects of Climate Change.

Desert was served with many happy faces exchanging conversation in the cool of a June night. We would like to acknowledge the funding from the Australian Government which made this evening and the Connecting Landscapes project possible. We would also like to warmly thank all of our landholders and groups who have been involved in Connecting Country projects so far – every little bit of change we create helps biodiversity across our landscape. We look forward to more exciting projects like this in the future.

 

27-30 October 2017- Victorian Botany workshop in Licola

Posted on 2 June, 2017 by Connecting Country

This interesting 4 day live-in workshop is being organised by a group of senior professional botanists on a not-for-profit basis and is aimed at students and early career botanists. The workshop will include two days of field surveys at 2–3 sites representing different vegetation types (subalpine and lowland). Participants will contribute to the collection of floristic data using a number of survey techniques while learning identification characters of different plant groups. There will be opportunity during evenings to use microscopes and reference material, to further skills in laboratory techniques.

Workshop leaders will give short presentation, run focus activities with smaller groups and demonstrate methods in field botany. The workshop will predominantly deal with plant classification and identification with some additional content on ecology and vegetation classification. Day trips will depart around 8 am each day and return mid-afternoon. A timetable will be provided by email prior to the workshop.

To register and to find out more: https://www.registernow.com.au/secure/Register.aspx?E=25471