Restoring landscapes across the Mount Alexander Region

Taking the Big Picture

Posted on 16 April, 2014 by Connecting Country

The past informs the future. The natural and social history – and their interconnections – of this region have had an important, and often negative, impact on our natural environment.

Understanding where you and your property fit within these contexts means you can be more informed to make positive decisions and actions to address declining biodiversity. This was the background to our first workshop session, “The Big Picture” (Sunday April 6th), held at Welshmans Reef.

Thanks to property holders Brian and Robin Rebbechi for providing an ideal location to interpret and discuss the history and potential future for this site.

Guided by Deirdre Slattery and Ian Higgins, we moved between scales; from the broader landscape, down to the property level, and back, exploring the landuse history and vegetation changes over time at Welshmans Reef.

More information, photos and links from the session as well as Jules Walsh’s summary of the session can be found here

Ian Higgins discusses vegetation classes for the property

Ian Higgins discusses vegetation classes for the property

Deirdre Slattery guides participants through the complex history of the property

Deirdre Slattery guides participants through the complex history of the property

For more information: or 5472 1594.


Weed Watch – Gazania

Posted on 8 June, 2012 by Connecting Country

The following information was originally published by Geraldine Harris in the Castlemaine Naturalist newsletter, and has been kindly re-written by her for the Connecting Country website.

Some plants become environmental weeds when they escape from our gardens into the surrounding countryside and start competing with local native indigenous species. I want to look at how some of these infestations can be controlled and which native plants can be used in their place.

Our native plants cannot be expected to perform as vigorously as pest plants that have been selectively bred for survival over hundreds of years. However, getting rid of pest plants and replacing them with native species will help preserve the integrity of our local habitats, attracting and providing resources for more native birds and other animals.

Gazania linearis
Gazanias are the large daisy-type yellow flowers that are escaping from private gardens and appearing more and more abundantly along our local roadsides and in bushland throughout Victoria, South Australia, Western Australia and New South Wales.

These very showy plants originated in South Africa and are being promoted in many plant nurseries as a tough drought resistant species. Many hybrids have been developed in cultivation between Gazania linearis and a closely related environmental weed species Gazania rigens. These plants produce abundant wind-blown seeds that can be dispersed many kilometres from the source, producing ever-increasing patches of gazania that compete with locally indigenous species. Gazanias also have the ability to re-grow from their bare roots, which enables them to spread into our bushland by the dumping of garden waste containing the tuberous root systems of these plants. Native animals tend not to eat them as they are low in nutritional value. Continue Reading »


13 April – A Nature Photographers Delight

Posted on 10 April, 2012 by Connecting Country

The Castlemaine Field Naturalists Club are very excited to be hosting Carol Hall as the guest speaker at their monthly general meeting on Friday 13 April 2012.  Carol is a member of Ballarat Camera Club, The Field Naturalists’ Club of Ballarat and is currently President of The Victorian Nature Photography Group. She has given illustrated talks to community groups in Ballarat and western Victoria, drawing on her professional background as well as her hobbies.

Carol will be showing slides and talking about her recent overseas adventures.  “A Touch of Ice”  will take the audience to Spitsbergen and Greenland  for a look at the geography of the region, its climatic influences, glacial geomorphology and wildlife as seen from the deck of Aurora Expeditions’ ship  “Polar Pioneer”, and walks on the tundra.

The free talks, as always, are open to both members and the general public. All are welcome and encouraged to attend.  The meeting commences at 7.30pm, and is being held in the hall behind the Uniting Church in Lyttleton St, Castlemaine.  Further information on the Castlemaine Field Naturalists is available from their website (click here).


Update on Nest Box Monitoring

Posted on 1 June, 2011 by Connecting Country

This season’s monitoring of nest boxes has now been completed by Connecting Country’s Project Officer, Bryan McMullan. He has written the following account of the progress of this program:

“It is May 30 and Connecting Country nest box monitoring has finished for the season. All our little arboreal friends will now settle in and test their fecundity over the winter period. By late September, depending on environmental conditions, young should be observable leaving their nest(s). Landholders with nest boxes who observe such movements are encouraged to complete our methodology and data sheet located on the Connecting Country website.

“If you are landholder who has nest boxes on their property and you have not seen me during the inspection period in April and May, I have not forgotten you.  With the requirements for timing and landsystem units identified in the nest box monitoring strategy, it was not possible to visit all nest boxes.

“From the outset the nest box program was an ambitious one and Connecting Country has been able to install over 380 boxes and develop an important relationship with over 100 landholders. Nest boxes were placed to achieve an even distribution across the Mt Alexander Shire region (152 895 ha).  Nest box construction has been biased towards small arboreal animals and this appears to have been a success, thanks to the good design work of Miles Geldard at Wildlife Nestboxes. A total of 132 Sugar Gliders (often in groups)  were observed using the boxes (figure 1) and the most exciting news is that 11 Brush-tailed Phascogales (see fig. 2) were observed.

Figure 1. Four Sugar Gliders cosy and warm inside a nest box. This box was located in Sandon along a creek line (therefore a gully) and installed upon a very mature Yellow Box.

Figure 2. Brush-tailed Phascogale at Welshmans Reef trying its hardest not to be seen. The green tape had been used to indicate the location of the nest box and was taken from a nearby tree. Phascogales are known to adorn their nests with objects such as bale twine, sheep wool and feathers.

“Within the 9 months that the nest boxes have been installed (some later than others), the uptake has been a success. In locations where no animal was observed, signs and traces indicated that a further 53 boxes contained glider nests (see fig. 3) and 6 others contained phascogale nest material (see fig. 4). It is exciting to know that future juveniles, when leaving the nest, will have opportunity to explore and colonise other boxes that have been made available through this initiative. It is my belief and hope that the nest box program will facilitate successful migration of the target species and provide safe refuge in woodlands that would otherwise be absent of suitable nesting habitat.

Figure 3. A typical Sugar Glider nest consists of gum leaves. Note the spherical, egg like shape of the nest. Gliders tend to keep a neater nest compared with Phascogales.

Figure 4. A phascogale nest found in Muckleford South. Look closely and you will see a pile of scat to the right of the image, which the phascogale uses as a territorial message to potential competitors. The feathers in this nest are believed to be from a Guinea Fowl. There is a phascogale under all those furnishings.

“It is important now for the nest boxes to be left undisturbed so that the breeding season may be a success. In March/April 2012 a follow up survey will occur and we will be well on our way to establishing a significant set of biodiversity improvement indicators. This will assist Connecting Country by demonstrating the achievement of key objectives under its arrangements with funding bodies.

“Finally I must point out how rewarding my role has been so far at Connecting Country, especially when working with such robust communities as exists in the Mt Alexander region. I have mentioned to many in the field that I am happy to receive reports on phascogale sightings and can provide further information as requested. The immediate aim of the monitoring initiative is to strengthen the outcomes of the nest box program with follow up vegetation, habitat and bird surveys. More on this to come.

“I would like to thank everyone involved including Fritz Hammersley for his assistance in the field, every landholder for their hospitality and their enthusiasm for the project and to Marie Jones and Geoff Park for their guidance.

Bryan McMullan
Connecting Country
Project Support Officer
03 5472 1594


A new wildlife freeway – Treeway – in Muckleford

Posted on 8 December, 2009 by Connecting Country

An innovative biolink project in Creasys Road, Muckleford was celebrated on Saturday by members of the Muckleford Catchment Landcare Group.  The project involves the planting of some 6300 trees and bushes in a 2.3 ha strip along Creasys Road and Turners Lane, together with a linking  section to Chinamans Creek.

Planting was undertaken by members of Muckleford Landcare in September and October after extensive site preparation, including collapsing of rabbit warrens and deep ripping by Yeomans plow.  The majority of planting has been undertaken on private land which has now been fenced off to protect the new vegetation from grazing and pests.  Three landholders along Creasys Road agreed to set aside portions of their land for this project.

Further information about the activities of the Muckleford Catchment Landcare Group can be found at or by contacting the Secretary Paul Hampton, on 5474 2189.

creasys launch 205

L – R: David Griffiths (Project Officer) , Sue Slaytor (Project Manager & participating landowner), David Whillas (participating landowner) and Cr Christine Henderson.


Maryborough Field Naturalists’ Club Forum

Posted on 30 October, 2009 by Connecting Country

Maryborough Field Naturalists’ Club invite all interested people to a community forum next Monday night, 2nd November, at which two specialists will speak.

Firstly, Ms Eloise Seymour, a researcher from Charles Sturt University will present her results of a recent survey regarding the Moolort Wetlands. Following Ms Seymour, Dr Lindy Lumsden, Principal Research Scientist from the Arthur Rylah Institute, who specializes in the study of bats, will inform us about the various bat species found within our local Box ironbark forests.

The Forum will be held in the Field Naturalists’ Club rooms, Dundas Road, Maryborough (adjacent to the 80 km sign). Supper will follow.

For more information please contact Lorraine O’Dal on 0417 142 489 or Brian Johns on 5461 2755


New Publication by Stephen Murphy

Posted on 5 June, 2009 by Connecting Country

“Recreating the Country” by Stephen Murphy is a book for landholders and land managers filled with practical information about restoring habitat and protecting flora and fauna.  Murphy urges people to re-think current revegetation strategies as many plantings lack the qualities necessary for wildlife.  For more information and to order a copy go to The Australian Forest Growers website.


Loddon River Planning

Posted on 4 March, 2009 by Connecting Country

Planning day at the Loddon River, Newstead, 4th of March.