Restoring landscapes across the Mount Alexander Region

How to Create Frog Friendly Habitats

Posted on 16 November, 2015 by Connecting Country

Renowned local ecologists, Elaine Bayes and Damien Cook have produced two terrific youtube videos:’Frogs and their Calls’  and ‘Frogs and their Habitats’. The information is well presented and relevant to our local area. Each goes for about 30 minutes. Click on each image below to view:




Geology of a Special Place – 14 November 2015

Posted on 7 November, 2015 by Connecting Country

Did you know that one side of the Muckleford Valley is older than the other side? And that the reason is a geological fault line running right through it? Have you ever seen the MucklIMGP1688eford Gorge, where the creek carves a ravine between the a basalt plateau and an upturned Ordovician seabed?

Muckleford is a place of special geological interest and the Muckleford Catchment Landcare group would like to take you on a guided tour with expert geologist Brian Cuffley to explore its unique land forms. Brian will use his special expertise to impart a deeper understanding of the place where we live.

Brian has worked as a mineral exploration geologist in various parts of Australia and overseas. He has also worked for the State Rivers and Water Supply Commission and the Soil Conservation Authority. He studied Environmental Management at LaTrobe University where the subject of his thesis was dryland salinity.

The tour will travel the valley, starting at Mount Gaspard in the north, taking in Chinaman’s Creek valley and conclude at Muckleford Gorge in the south.  Participants will be provided with explanatory maps to take home.

A couple of short walks are involved so it is advisable to wear solid shoes/boots, maybe sock protectors and of course bring a hat and water.

When: Saturday, November 14, 2015
1.30pm – 4 pm.
Muckleford Community Centre, Muckleford-Walmer Road (south of the Castlemaine-Maldon Road).
Paul Hampton on 0408 566 909 or go to

Places are very limited so please let Paul know if you are attending. Click here to download a flyer.

The Muckleford Catchment Landcare will be conducting its AGM prior to the bus tour at 11.30am, followed by lunch. All interested community members are welcome to attend.




Farewell to a comrade on Muckleford Creek

Posted on 19 October, 2015 by Connecting Country

Connecting Country Works Crew Member, Ned Brook, shares a moment from out on the job on the Muckleford Creek…

The Connecting Country Works Crew are out fencing along Muckleford Creek. The nearby cows are restless, they’ve been restless all morning. They’re young cows, perhaps they are just a little jittery. But these cows have been on this property for a while now, something is up.

Ned's cows

Ned’s cows

“Do you know what’s wrong?”

We say to one another.

“No, but they seem really uneasy.”

“I know, they’ve been like this all morning.”

“Yeah, I think something’s wrong, I just don’t know what.”

I continue with my work, fencing off these very cows from the creek bank that they use. Cows are lovely creatures but they are not selective; they will eat anything that’s green. The grass on the creek banks is usually greener, and stays greener for longer. So the cows will continuously graze until the grass, using all its energy to grow and stay alive, has had enough.

All of a sudden, the cows move through a gap in the fence where they can cross the creek. Their hard hooves and immense weight pass over the now bare soil on the creek bank. They push it further down, compacting it, and at times collapsing whole sections. If the situation persists the soil will slowly degrade and become weak and vulnerable.

The cows pass through the unhappy creek. You can tell it is unhappy because it hasn’t seen water for a long time, aside from the floods that carve whole sections off the vulnerable bank. Now the trees seem upset too with their gnarled roots exposed. This is why we are fencing this creek off, to give it a chance to rehabilitate and be happy again.

The cows move further away into the property, then take a sweeping left turn and move back toward the creek and stop. They all stop at once. I also stop, and stare.

In groups of two or three the cows move slowly forward, stare a long time at something on the ground, sniff some, then return to the group. It takes a while for me to realise what they are doing. One of their friends, their comrades, has fallen, passing away in the night due to some ailment. The cows have come to farewell a friend.


Our majestic paddock trees

Posted on 23 September, 2015 by Connecting Country

Connecting Country Works Crew Member, Ned Brook, shares his love to our mighty paddock trees…

I noticed you out of the corner of my eye. I wasn’t supposed to be looking for you, we were meant to have our attentions on a malfunctioning drainage pipe, but I saw you all the same.

I saw you as we were driving over toward Maldon. The area surrounded on three sides with metamorphic mountains and a depression in between. This is where I found you.

I turned, after I caught a glimpse of you, and witnessed your full majesty. Standing there, tall and strong, healthy. A Yellow box. A beacon to birds and wildlife all around you. I was so taken back by you that I couldn’t concentrate on the pipe.

Holy Goat Cheese and Sutton Grange Organic Farm

Big Yellow

I thought to myself, you stand there, tall and magnificent, providing invaluable services to all around you. To the farmer who relies on you to keep that troublesome water table down below. To the birds who you feed, in their thousands, that visit you every year. To the koalas, possums, phascogales who you protect. Not to mention the teeming insects that live within and use your trunk and bark as a home.

It impressed me how you stand and provide this service with little need or thanks. But you’re beyond that aren’t you, you’ve been here far longer than any of us.

But there is something you need, that we can help with. You have a few friends in the paddock with you, some equally aged and wise old things that I’m sure you converse with regularly. But what about the young ones? Where are your children? Who’s there to take up the reigns when you finally decide to take a final rest? What you need is a fence.

We’ve helped out some brothers and sisters of yours, in a special paddock over in Sutton Grange. We planted friends for them, young boisterous things that will settle down with age. And we fenced them in, to protect them from the wandering cattle and mischievous sheep. But we wouldn’t even need to do this for you. All you need is a fence, some room to grow, and you’d do the job yourself.


Enjoy Spring at Pilchers Bridge: a celebration of flora and fauna

Posted on 18 September, 2015 by Tanya Loos

Landholder Chris Kirwan has generously invited one and all to his magnificent Trust for Nature property on Saturday 26 September 2015.

Perched on the edge of the Pilchers Bridge Nature Conservation Reserve, Chris’s  property protects Heathy Dry Forest and Box Ironbark Forest. The vegetation provides important habitat for the endangered Lace Monitor, the vulnerable Brush-tailed Phascogale and the Powerful Owl, and listed Victorian Temperate Woodland Bird Community species such as Speckled Warbler.

Tanya Loos will be giving a short talk on the birds of the area – as Connecting Country has two monitoring sites very close to Chris’s property. She will be joined by “the moth-man”, ecologist Steve Williams who will give a short talk on moths and the understorey; Ian Higgins from North Central CMA, who will present on the local flora;  Patrick Pigott, Ecologist, Federation University who will discuss a nearby tree thinning trial,  as well as representatives from CFA, and Axe Creek Landcare.  CLICK HERE to see the flyer.

Saturday 26th September 2015

10.00 am to 4.00 pm

at 178 Huddle Road, Myrtle Creek

Sponsored by the Axe Creek Landcare Group  

Enquiries: Chris Kirwan Phone: 5439-6494   Email:

Hanging around...

A magnificent Lace Monitor – very rare these days and obviously quite at home!


When nature and culture meet

Posted on 16 September, 2015 by Connecting Country

Lauren Cogo in action fencing with the Connecting Country Works Crew

Lauren Cogo in action fencing with the Connecting Country Works Crew

Working out in the field everyday gives Connecting Country’s Works Crew a unique opportunity to experience Mount Alexander Region’s nature at its best. Crew member, Lauren Cogo shares some of her recent discoveries…

“The cultural landscape we live in harbours natural secrets that have survived despite some tough and testing times. All of our developed infrastructure, our cleared lands and the creation of our homes have sadly displaced some native flora and fauna that call our region home. However, our native birds, reptiles and mammals often find way to coincide with our cultural influences on nature throughout time.

On a local scale, we can see changes that the native fauna is becoming adapting to these modifications to their home. As a works crew member I have witnessed these changes, throughout my time working with Connecting Country.

Trees and other flora are a highly valuable means to provide birds with shelter, a reliable food source for insects and hollows for mammals. But what happens when humans interfere, and use them for fence posts?

On one occasion I observed a nocturnal microbat using a timber log fence post as its very own roosting site, wedged in the folds of old hard bark, it flew out just as we were replacing the wire fence. It may have also been using this site for feeding on a range of insects that also live in the timber post, such as spiders, ants and moths. This repurposed timber is still useful in the landscape, despite it not standing proud and tall in its previous natural state.

A Eastern Bearded Dragon found under an old fence post

An Eastern Bearded Dragon found under an old fence post on a Connecting Country works site.

An old fence post, knocked down to be replaced, created the perfect shelter for the Eastern Bearded Dragon, Pogona barbata, currently listed as vulnerable on the Advisory List of Threatened Vertebrate Fauna in Victoria. During late winter, it was in a relaxed hibernation mode, known as torpor, and utilized the old timber post for shelter on the ground. They can also be found using your old tiles to bask on, old corrugated iron sheets to relax under and your large hollow trees for shelter.

On another occasion I spotted an uncommon Yellow- Footed Antechinus, Antechinus flavipes, moving rapidly over fallen timber and leaf litter within the Muckleford Creek and acting as the unlikely hero as it thrives in its threatened Box Ironbark Forest habitat around Central Victoria. Unlike many other Australian mammals, the Antechinus is diurnal so they can be seen using tree hollows and logs for habitat; day or night. They can also use our buildings to nest in, so watch out, you may have some company.

This gives me hope that the changes we’ve made to the landscape won’t stop our native critters from ensuring they have safe habitat to live in and a food source to survive. So whether your out in the paddocks, sitting by a creek or at home, keep an eye out for one of natures secrets, they may just knock on your door.”

By crew member, Lauren Cogo.



Spring brings new opportunities with Connecting Country

Posted on 14 September, 2015 by Connecting Country

As winter comes to an end, so does the planting season for revegetation.

Jarrod Coote out checking the growth of one of our direct seeding sites.

Jarrod Coote checking the growth at one of our direct seeding sites.

It’s been a busy few months for the Connecting Country team, who have been planting and direct seeding indigenous species on private lands around the Mount Alexander Shire. Our work aims to creating better links for wildlife movement between the existing important habitat areas.

This year brought a new team of crew members – Lauren, Ned and Jason. The crew, which turns over each year in order to make the opportunity available to as many local people as possible, have been focused on planting, weed and rabbit control and the installation of protective fencing – while also receiving formal and in-house training in a range of natural resource management techniques.

‘Often the diversity is there in the landscape ready and waiting – we just need to give the seeds a chance. Fenced off land allows not only the trees to establish and grow, but also those bushes and ground herbs and grasses that are such important wildlife habitat’ says Alex Schipperen, team leader of the works crew.

‘The beauty of this program is that we have funding available to partner with landholders and create habitat solutions that suit the landholder, and have great outcomes for biodiversity. Bringing areas of native vegetation onto a property also increases productivity by providing shade and shelter for stock, and increased protection for crops, so it’s a win-win situation.’

With the winter rush over, the team are now starting to plan the next round of projects. Land owners across the region who would like to see if their property is well placed to become part of these projects are encouraged to get in touch with Jarrod, Bonnie or Mel at the Connecting Country office on 5472 1594 or send an email to .

This project has been supported by Connecting Country, through funding from the Australian Government.


Investigating biodiversity and its value across all scales

Posted on 7 September, 2015 by Connecting Country

Steve introduces us to a moths "super-food" - Cassinia.

Steve Williams introduces us to a moth “super-food” – Cassinia.

Did you know that Cassinia is a super-food for native moths? Or that lichens are actually the result of an algae and fungi working symbiotically? Twenty-four eager participants learnt this and so much more at Connecting Country’s Biodiversity in the Paddock workshop on Sunday 30th August 2015.

A huge thank you to landholders Peter Hansen and Sally Roadknight for inviting the Connecting Country team to their beautiful property at the foot of Mt Tarrengower to hear from presenters Cassia Read (on moss and lichens), Steve Williams (on moths) and Karl Just and Gordie Scott-Walker (on native flora).   Geoff Park (from Natural Decisions and Natural Newstead) expertly kept the flow, whilst highlighting the stunning bird life to be found all around in the property.

A farm tour allowed participants to see for themselves the impressive impact of tubestock planting, natural regeneration through removing grazing, and the effects of erosion control on the creek which funnels run-off from Mt. Tarrengower through their property. Gordie provided us with a detailed list of the reptiles and amphibians, and the hundreds of birds and plant species that he has observed on his parents property, reminding everyone of the gains to be had from regenerating land.

The message of the day from all four presenters was the huge value of biodiversity in the paddock, from the mosses and lichens which hold soil together, to the beautiful variety of moths which feed from and live on all kinds of plants – never has Cassinia arcuata (‘coffee bush’) appeared such a fascinating and valuable plant in the landscape.

Click here for more information and resources from this session.

Also, there are a few places remaining for our next workshop on Sunday 13 September on Conservation Fencing – click here for more information.

The education program is supported by Connecting Country through funding from the Australian government.


Our Crew: Working towards the bigger picture

Posted on 2 September, 2015 by Connecting Country

2015 Works Crew: From left Crew Leader Alex Schipperen, Lauren Cogo, Jason Burgoyne and Ned Brook

2015 Works Crew from left: Team Leader Alex Schipperen, Lauren Cogo, Jason Burgoyne and Ned Brook

In April, Connecting Country’s 2015 Works Crew commenced. Our team leader, Alex Schipperen has been mentoring three new crew members; Lauren Cogo, Ned Brook and Jason Burgoyne in developing skills in conservation and land management. These skills have seen the crew complete some 730 hectares of work including 20 kilometres of fencing, 5,000 tubestock plantings and 319 hectares of pests and weeds treated across eleven properties in the Mount Alexander Region. We’ve asked Jason to share some of his experiences from his time with the Works Crew…

While working, the crew loves to talk and our chats brought up the importance of biodiversity. It got me thinking about how the work we have accomplished will contribute to biodiversity in the Mt. Alexander region in the longer term.
Our projects have included fencing off remnant vegetation and creek lines to exclude stock allowing these areas to natural regenerate. The 5,000 indigenous trees and shrubs we’ve planted will provide a framework for other flora and fauna to establish in the future. Finally, through removing rabbits and weeds we are reducing the competition allowing native plants to establish.


Ned and Lauren adjust an end assembly for a fence line

The properties where we’ve worked are carefully selected with the aim of reconnecting the landscape; they link neighbouring properties and other existing vegetation in the surrounding area. This provides corridors and stepping-stones to allow flora and fauna to move throughout the landscape.


Looking back to April, I can visualise how the properties piece together on a localised and regional scale. For example, one property has a reserve of remnant vegetation at the rear, we fenced off three areas on the property and planted 400 natives linking the reserve to the roadside corridor. Scarlet and Flame Robins have already been seen using the tree guards as a perch to find their next meal! Proof that it doesn’t take a long to see the positive effects in the landscape.”
By crew member, Jason Burgoyne

Connecting Country currently has opportunities available to provide subsidised support for projects like these on new properties.  If you’re a local landholder and are interested in learning if your property is eligible, contact Jarrod Coote on 03 5472 1594 or to discuss further.  Also please forward this onto any neighbours, friends or others you think might be interested received help from the Connecting Country Works Crew on a restoration project on their properties.



Wetland Plants Identification Course with Damian Cook

Posted on 25 August, 2015 by Connecting Country

The Mount Alexander Shire is indeed fortunate to have so many specialists in natural history in its midst.  Two of the best are Damian Cook and Elaine Bayes, and Connecting Country is lucky to have them on our Expert Advisory Group.

Through their business – Rakali Consulting – they are running three one-day courses in the identification of  wetlands plants.   Elaine and Damian have told us, “This course is aimed at anyone interested in wetland plant identification and ecology. The course will run over 3 days and each day will focus on a different wetland habitat (water’s edge, deep marsh and mudflat) and be timed so as to follow the wetting and drying of the stunning Reedy Lagoon at Gunbower Island.  Participants can elect to do 1, 2 or all 3 days. ….. [Each] day will be divided between being outside observing plants in their natural habitat and collecting specimens and class time using field guides, keys and microscopes.  There will also be discussion and presentation time. Notes and identification keys will be provided.  Lunch, morning and afternoon tea provided.”

Day 1 Wed 11 November 2015 (Spring) Water edge/shallow marsh – identifying grasses, sedges and rushes (gum boot depth)
Day 2 Wed 24 February 2016 (Summer) Deep Marsh/Floating and submerged aquatics (waders)
Day 3 Wed 20 April 2016 (Autumn) Mud flat specialists (gum boot depth)

The course is being held at Treetops, Spencer’s Bridge Road (off Cohuna-Koondrook Rd), Cohuna, Victoria which is located on the banks of Gunbower Creek.  Field work will be conducted at Reedy Lagoon and timed to follow environmental water delivery to ensure wetland plants are at their peak.  The cost per day is $319 (inc. GST) or $880 (inc GST) for all three days.

More information on the course, and details on how to register, are available on the Rakali Consulting website (click here).


Australian Bird Index launched

Posted on 17 July, 2015 by Tanya Loos

On Wednesday (15 July 2015), BirdLife Australia launched the Australian Bird Index. This ground-breaking research measures the health of Australia’s terrestrial bird populations.  For the first time, vast quantities of data collected by volunteers and researchers have been analyzed to produce indices that help track Australia’s current state of biodiversity.

Just as the Consumer Price Index is a useful tool to evaluate the nation’s economy, The Australian Bird Index is a tool to quantify the overall health of the environment – using birds as the barometer.

The Bird Index has come about thanks to 15 years of citizen science data collection: comprising 14 million records and 900,000 surveys from across Australia – including many from the Mount Alexander region.

Purple-crowned Lorikeet 1854 lr

A Purple-crowned Lorikeet by Chris Tzaros – pic from Connecting Country’s Woodland Bird Brochure

Now that Connecting Country is an affiliated organization with BirdLife Australia, both the data we collect for our long term monitoring program, and the data you submit,  will be shared with BirdLife to assist in this important work.

So how are we faring? In order to make sense of the data, the Australian Bird Index breaks Australia up into nine regions: for example, the Mount Alexander Shire occurs entirely within the South-east Mainland region.  In the South-east Mainland, dry woodland and forest dependent parrots are showing distinct downward trends over the last 13 years. These species include Purple-crowned, Musk and Little Lorikeets, Crimson Rosella and Yellow-tailed Black-cockatoo.

But we see Crimson Rosellas all the time, I hear you say – this is the tricky thing about analyzing the data over a large area – in some areas the rosellas may actually be steady or even increasing, whereas across other areas, rosellas are dropping out of the  picture entirely. As such, BirdLife researchers plan to carry out further research for the comprehensive State of Australia’s Birds report planned for early release in 2016. For more on the Australian Bird Index and the upcoming report:  see here

The Australian Bird Index can tell us that the Purple-crowned Lorikeet has declined markedly, but not why this beautiful little bird has been reported as declining.  Again – further research is required to tease out some answers. My guess is that the changing weather patterns are playing havoc with the flowering of the eucalypts that these tiny blossom nomads rely upon.

Geoff Park has recently posted some stunning photos of the Purple-crowned Lorikeet (click here)  and it is great to hear that readers of his blog have reported seeing this species in good numbers.

Report from Tanya Loos, Habitat for Bush Birds Coordinator


Golden times in the sun (with slideshow)

Posted on 5 December, 2014 by Connecting Country

One of the most threatened species to occur in the Mount Alexander shire and surrounds is the Golden Sun Moth (Synemon plana).  This day-flying moth is considered to be ‘critically endangered’ on Federal legislation and ‘threatened‘ on state legislation.  Its preferred habitat is native grasslands and grassy woodlands, but it is also occasionally seen flying over agricultural paddocks that still contain a good cover of native grasses – particularly wallaby grass (Austrodanthonia spp.).

This moth has an unusual life history – the full details of which are still being discovered.  The adult female moth rarely, if ever, flies.  Instead, she will mostly perch on the bare ground between grass tussocks on warm-to-hot days during the months of November to January, displaying her golden-coloured hind wings.  The male moths (which have reddish-coloured hind wings) fly low over the sparse grassy vegetation, on the look-out for the female moths.  After mating, it is believed that the female lays her eggs near the base of grass tussocks.  The larvae then emerge from the eggs, and burrow down into the soil to feed; maybe on the roots of the grasses – or perhaps they feed on the mycorrhizal fungi that grows on the roots.  After one or more years underground feeding, the larvae then pupate and emerge as adults moths to begin the cycle again.  The adult moths have no mouthparts at all – and as such they only live for a maximum of 3-4 days after emerging, which is as long as their stored energy allows.

The adults moths will also often emerge en masse.  It is suspected that this is part of a strategy to overwhelm predators such as spiders and robber flies.  Certainly for these predators, the annual emergence of Golden Sun Moths represents a major feeding opportunity.

Adult Golden Sun Moths have been seen in Walmer, Barkers Creek and Taradale over the past couple of weeks by Connecting Country staff member Chris.  Last season they were also seen near Castlemaine, Sandon and Sutton Grange.

A local landholder to the north of Castlemaine provided Connecting Country with the following incredible series of photos of adult moths that she took from her property last summer (2013-14).



Woodland Bird Brochure launch next Monday (8 Dec)

Posted on 2 December, 2014 by Tanya Loos

It has been a couple of years in the making…
Connecting Country are thrilled to announce that the “Woodland Birds of Central Victoria” brochure is printed and ready to be released into the world.

When: Monday, December 8th 2014 from 5.30pm until about 6.30pm
In the Hub garden, on corner of Barker St and Templeton St (enter via gate on Templeton St)
RSVPs are preferred as we will be supplying drinks and nibbles. RSVP to me, Tanya Loos, on 5472 1594 or

The brochure was initially developed by past Connecting Country Woodland Bird Coordinator Kerryn Herman and a team of local naturalists and photographers.  As part of my role of Habitat for Bush Birds Coordinator – I re-ignited the project and added in information on our focal woodland bird species, the feathered five; Diamond Firetail, Hooded Robin, Painted Button-quail, Jacky Winter and Brown Treecreeper.  The subtitle of the brochure is “An identification and habitat management guide” because the birds are ordered into the particular kind of woodland bird habitat we might expect to see them in.

Geoff Park – well known for numerous local biodiversity activities, including his popular Natural Newstead website – is one who has generously contributed photographs to the brochure. He has also kindly agreed to speak at the launch about the brochure and its value – and of course, about our woodland birds!

We hope that landowners, landcare groups, schools and budding bird enthusiasts enjoy the Woodland Birds of Central Victoria brochure.  One free copy of the brochure will be available on the day for each attendee, with a gold coin donation for any additional copies.  All funds raised will go towards future reprints of the brochure.  And for those of you looking for nature-orientated Christmas gifts, copies of Friends of Box-Ironbark’s Mosses of dry forests of south eastern Australia and Tanya’s book Daylesford Nature Diary will be available for purchase.

Photographs and guidance for the brochure were provided by Nigel Harland, Damian Kelly, Greg and Jeanette License, Geoff Park, Chris Tzaros, Debbie Worland, Beth Mellick, Brendan Sydes and Ern Perkins.  Support for the brochure project came from the Victorian Government’s Communities for Nature program and from generous private donations to Connecting Country.

Weebill 9691

This photograph of a Weebill, a species often found within regenerating woodland habitat, was taken by Chris Tzaros.

Brochure pic

The brochure on display next to a very old Wombat skull.




Back from the Brink

Posted on 14 October, 2014 by Connecting Country

Landcare works on weeds and riparian zonesWhich weed is your main bane?

Participants at our sixth workshop session on October 5th 2014 reeled off a lengthy list. The most despaired over were spiny rush, gorse, blackberry, bridal veil creeper, bent grass, crack and basket willows, quaking grass, wheel cactus, capeweed, and all manner of thistles. The list may have lengthened as the day progressed, but at the end of the session we certainly had a greater understanding of their ecology, control and management, if not an overall view of the place of weeds in the restoration story.

Whilst the noisy hot rods and ‘chopped’ vehicles did laps of the nearby Newstead racecourse, our group visited three local sites to look at “before” and “after” weed control sites and heard some of the challenges of working with riparian zones and creek-lines. These sites are usually the most compromised sites, but also the most potential value for biodiversity.  Farmer Adrian Sartori and Landcare stalwart Maurie Dynon (Guildford-Upper Loddon Landcare), Pat Radi-Mansbridge (Bushco Land Management), Patrick Kavanagh (Newstead Landcare) and Botanist David Cameron (Arthur Rylah Institute, DEPI) shared their experiences and practical knowledge of weed ecology and management with us.

_DSC0020_0927Thanks to all our presenters, the Sartori family for hosting us at the Strangways site and to Newstead Landcare Group’s Patrick Kavanagh for introducing us to two significant Newstead sites. Also thanks to the Newstead Mens’ Shed who manned the Rotunda park BBQ for us.

To find out more about the session, including a view of the day from participant Deb Wardle, go to the corresponding page in the Education Program, where you will also find resources and images from the day. For more information, contact or 5472 1594.

This was the last session of the 2014 series. Thanks to all who contributed, either in planning, participating, presenting, assisting and hosting. We will be running the program, in a similar format, again next year.


Is it possible to manage for fire and biodiversity?

Posted on 10 July, 2014 by Connecting Country

What do you feel when you think about managing the fire risk on your property?

“Confused … worried … fearful … ignorant … confident … conflicted … overwhelmed …”

These were some of the responses from participants at the latest Connecting Country ‘Improving Biodiversity on Your Property’ session on Sunday 6 July 2014.

By far the most common response was confusion – about the messages put out by various agencies, and about whether it’s actually possible to have a property that provides a healthy habitat for wildlife, yet is also a relatively low fire risk.

By the end of the session, those initial responses had changed:

” informed … empowered … reassurred … more aware …”

With facilitator Chris Johnston guiding the discussions, presenters Owen Goodings (CFA, Statewide Vegetation Team Leader), fire ecologist David Cheal (ex-DEPI, now Federation University), field ecologist Julie Whitfield (ex-DEPI now Amaryllis Environmental) and landholders Team and Christine Henderson shared their expertise and experiences – each through their own particular lens.

A summary of the session and follow up resources are can be found here:  Workshop 4: Fire & Biodiversity.

Thanks to Team and Christine for offering their beautiful Taradale property for the session, a perfect venue to explore the issues at both a property and landscape level.

Mid-winter might not be the best conditions for a workshop in the field, but it is a good time to be thinking, observing and planning around fire and biodiversity.


A well placed fence can do wonders

Posted on 6 June, 2014 by Connecting Country

fencing 007

the ‘fence affect’ on jan’s grassy plot is pretty evident here!

It’s not quite on the scale of Mount Rothwell, but Jan Hall’s  property at McKenzies Hill is making a difference at a local biodiversity level by ‘fencing in’ a raft of plants to protect them from the heavy grazing of rabbits, wallabies, kangaroos and sheep. Exclusion Fencing was the topic for our latest Workshop Session on Sunday June 1 2014 and Jan’s property, which has a number of types and sizes of exclusion plots, was a perfect setting for the session.

Peter Morison (ex DEPI and Land for Wildlife) shared his considerable expertise and experience, outlining the role of exclusion fences in conservation projects and the practicalities of building and maintaining them, including monitoring the results.

And if you want to completely ‘fence in’ or at least protect your block from future land use changes or development, then a Covenant could also be the way to go. Parts of Jan’s property are covered by a Conservation Covenant through Trust For Nature which means these areas will be protected and conserved for perpetuity under a legally binding agreement. This gives Jan confidence that all her work in excluding pest plants and animals and bringing back biodiversity won’t be in vain.

damp but undeterred; peter outlines fencing

damp but undeterred; peter outlines fencing

To read more about the session, access resources on the topic and see photos from the (slightly damp) day, visit this page. You’ll also find workshop participant Kerrie Jennings’s views on the day.

For more info on the 2014 Workshop Program, email


All things great and small

Posted on 15 May, 2014 by Connecting Country

A gully at Baringhup, with remnant bulokes and other trees, provided us with shelter from the biting wind and a chilly autumn day for our second workshop session, “Biodiversity in the Paddock”  on Sunday May 4th 2014. The spot also provided a more permanent home to an array of flora and fauna, all contributing to local biodiversity on the property.

Thanks to property holders Jacqui and Lachlan Brown for providing their farm as an ideal location to explore concepts around biodiversity, productivity and restoration.

Guided by Lachy, Jacqui and our expert ecologists we moved between scales; from the broader landscape, down to the property and paddock level and back, to identify what makes up ‘biodiversity’ and how we can improve and monitor the health of a landscape.

Cassia Read, Karl Just, Bonnie Humphreys and Chris Timewell led us through a hands-on foray for the obvious to the often overlooked – in this case plants, birds, mosses and lichens, ants.

Jim Radford talks species, genetics, processes

Jim Radford takes us on a journey of species, genetics, processes

Karl, Bonnie, Cassia, Lachy, Jacqui and Chris

Karl, Bonnie, Cassia, Lachy, Jacqui and Chris

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

For more information: email ( or call Janet on 5472 1594.


Registrations Open for Box-Ironbark Ecology Course 2014

Posted on 15 May, 2014 by Connecting Country

We have been informed by the organisers that registrations are open for the 17th Box-Ironbark Ecology Course. This five-day residential course in Nagambie commences on Monday 6th October and concludes on Friday 10th October, 2014.

The course is for those interested in gaining a general understanding of ecological processes and principles specific to Box-Ironbark Country, as is complementary to the workshops being run locally be Connecting Country.

The course involves five absorbing days of field studies and is taught by a number of expert ecologists including: Cathy Botta (soil), Andrea Canzano (insects), Garry Cheers (birds), Paul Foreman (plants), Lindy Lumsden (wildlife), David Meagher (mosses and liverworts) and Neville Rosengren (geology).

Have a look at their course flyer for more information on the location and topics.  Note that this is not a Connecting Country event.  Contact Kate Stothers ( if you are interested in attending.

This area of Box-Ironbark Forest has a Grey Box (Eucalyptus microcarpa) and Red Ironbark (Eucalyptus tricarpa) overstorey. Not all ‘Box-Ironbark’ forest contains these two eucalypt though.



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 »