Restoring landscapes across the Mount Alexander Region

1,000 plants for climate change resilience

Posted on 18 August, 2022 by Ivan

What could be more satisfying than planting 1,000 Silver Banksia (Banksia marginata) and Sweet Bursaria (Bursaria spinosa) in the middle of winter? Knowing that the plants will form two climate future plots right here in Mount Alexander region that will create seed production areas and provide climate-adapted seed for use in future revegetation projects!

We have been very busy over the past few months creating 1,000 sturdy wire trees guards, laying out the plots, planting, and labelling each plant so we can identify individuals and provenances most suited to survive in our changing climatic conditions. It has been a mammoth job, that is now completed through the combined efforts of dedicated volunteers, staff and contractors.

Each plot has been carefully set out to allow tracking of each plant into the future.  Mixing up provenances within the plot will increase the likelihood they will share pollen between plants when they flower and reproduce. This sharing of this genetic information may help the plants adapt as our climate changes. Once the plants are established, monitoring will allow us to assess plant growth and success.

The two climate future plots are located near Castlemaine and Metcalfe, with one having 500 Sweet Bursaria and the other 500 Silver Banksia. Both are key species for our local woodlands and landscape.

Silver Banksia plot near Metcalfe (photo by Bonnie Humphreys)

 

500 Silver Banksia planted at the plot near Metcalfe (photo by Bonnie Humphreys)

 

Sweet Bursaria plot near Castlemaine (photo by Bonnie Humphreys)

 

500 Sweet Bursaria planted at the plot near Castlemaine (photo by Bonnie Humphreys)

 

A massive thanks to Connecting Country’s volunteers, staff, contractors and landholders for making our climate future plots a reality. We’d especially like to thank Bonnie, Duncan, Anna and Richie for going the extra mile to get the precious plants safely in the ground and protected.

We have sourced plants from a variety of provenances, from local populations as well as further away. We started by looking at the Bureau of Meteorology’s climate predictions for our region, and selected seed from areas that are anticipated to match our predicted future local climate, focusing on areas that are hotter and drier. However, we also included seed from areas that are cooler and wetter. We aimed to include genetics from a wide range of environments, as we don’t know what will be important in the future. There may be other genetic information stored within a particular provenance, such as the ability to survive insect attack or frost resilience, that plants from hotter and drier areas do not have. We then paired these climate predictions with species distribution and the availability of seed or plants, to make our final plant selection.

We are thrilled to have our plants in the ground, during a moist period over winter, and protected by 1.5 m high wire guards. We will be holding a tour of the climate future plots over the coming year, once the plants are established.

The Silver Banksia and Sweet Bursaria prior to planting (photo by Ivan Carter)

 

We thank the Ross Trust for their generous funding for this important project. The Ross Trust is a perpetual charitable trust with a vision to create positive social and environmental change so Victorians can thrive.

 

To learn more about climate future plots visit:

 

Celebrate National Tree Day at events near you!

Posted on 27 July, 2022 by Hadley Cole

Sunday 31 July 2022 is National Tree Day – a day for the whole country to come together and celebrate the indigenous plants of the nation.

Established in 1996, National Tree Day has grown into Australia’s largest community tree planting and nature care event. The program is a call to action for all Australians to get their hands dirty and give back to their community.  Each year, around 300,000 people volunteer their time to engage in environmental activities that educate Australians about the world around them. 

Local Landcare groups often celebrate National Tree Day with planting events across the region. If you are keen to get involved see below for events (including the Castlemaine Landcare Group planting we posted about yesterday), happening across the Mount Alexander region this coming Sunday 31 July 2022. 

Castlemaine Landcare Group planting 

When: Sunday 31 July 2022, 10:00am

Where: You can access the site from Happy Valley Road – see access point E2 on our website https://castlemainelandcare.org.au/where-we-work/

What to bring: As per usual practice – don’t come if you have any COVID symptoms, maintain social distance, wear stout footwear and gloves, plus sun-protection.
Bring your own cup and drinking water.

How to register: Please register at clgvolunteers99@gmail.com with the heading WORKING.

For more information visit the Castlemaine Landcare Group website – here or their Facebook page – here

Friends of Campbells Creek

When: Sunday 31 July 2022, 10:00am – 12:00pm

Where:  here on the walking trail near Yandell Street, Castlemaine for a 10:00 a.m. start.  There is plenty of space for car parking at the east end of Yandell Street here.

What to bring: Light gloves, sturdy clothing suited to the weather and footwear appropriate for wet ground: gumboots are strongly advised! And your own drinking water if needed.

RSVP: Please email info.focc.org.au@gmail.com for catering purposes. There will be a barbecue provided at midday.

For more information head over to the Friends of Campbells Creek website – here

Tarrangower Wheel Cactus Control Group

Planting trees and other indigenous plants are definitely an important part of building species diversity and ecosystem resilience. However, weed management is just as important in the protection of our native species. This National Tree Day the Tarrangower Wheel Cactus Control Group aka The Cactus Warriors are hosting a field day to demonstrate how to destroy Wheel Cactus.

When: Sunday 31 July 2022, 10:30am and end with an enjoyable BBQ and friendly chat.

Where: The location is on a property a few kms north of Maldon in Baringhup Road, just after the turn off from Bridgewater Road (the route will be signposted).

What to bring: Sturdy foot ware and warm clothing

RSVP: via the website www.cactuswarriors.org

National Tree Day is a fun opportunity to take on-ground action in the protection of our region’s biodiversity. Your action on this day (and every other day of the year) goes a long way in establishing more native and indigenous species in the region which contribute greatly to healthy ecosystems and happy flora and fauna communities!

 

Look at Me: The ants keeping an endangered butterfly alive

Posted on 14 July, 2022 by Ivan

Look at Me‘ is a much-loved podcast series featuring weird and wonderful tales of Australian wildlife. It’s hosted by award-winning science journalist Rae Johnston and ecologist Chris McCormack, and is produced in conjunction with our talented friends at Remember the Wild.

We’re not talking about the usual koalas and kangaroos. This podcast delves into the more bizarre but fascinating creatures that most Australians probably haven’t even heard of!

This includes a very special local animal close to our hearts: the Eltham Copper Butterfly. As our regular readers know, the largest remaining population of this threatened species lives in Kalimna Park, right next door to Castlemaine in central Victoria. The podcast features interviews with local ecologist Elaine Bayes, who has worked tirelessly to document, monitor and protect our local Eltham Copper Butterfly population.

Look at Me: The ants keeping an endangered butterfly alive

Imagine outsourcing childcare to a nest of ants? This may not be the best idea for humans but a certain insect is making it work. Now the Eltham copper butterfly’s amazing use of surrogate ant parents has attracted human fans who are using a song to try to save it from extinction.

To listen to the Eltham Copper Butterfly podcast – click here

To find more exciting episodes of the Look at Me podcast – click here

Eltham Copper Butterfly on flowering Sweet Bursaria (photo by Elaine Bayes)

 

Volunteers outperform on climate future plots

Posted on 30 June, 2022 by Ivan

We have been busy preparing to plant our climate future plots over the past few months, and have been excited by the enthusiasm of volunteers keen to help us with this vital new project. Community has always been at the core of what we do at Connecting Country. In recent years, it’s been increasingly difficult to source funding for environmental projects. In this new phase, we’ve had to rely on our community and volunteers even more.

It is important we acknowledge and thank the wonderful volunteers that help make Connecting Country a success in delivering on-ground landscape restoration, wildlife monitoring, Landcare support and environmental education. Since beginning in 2007 we’ve clocked up over 12,000 hours of volunteer time, and we’ve have had a particularly strong flow of volunteers over the past few months to help us deliver our key projects.

Our most recent team of volunteers have put in a stellar effort to produce over 1,000 wire tree guards for our climate future plots, which will protect our recently-arrived Silver Banksia and Sweet Bursaria plants currently at the Connecting Country depot. The plants have arrived from locations all over southeastern Australia, as part of our ‘Future-proof our forests’ project. In 2021 Connecting Country secured funding support from the Ross Trust to establish two climate future plots of 500 plants each, right here in Mount Alexander region during 2021-23. The sturdy wire guards will protect our precious plants for many years to come.

Under the guidance of Bonnie and Jess (Connecting Country staff), the wonderful team of climate future plot volunteers has been led by Duncan Gibson, with assistance from John Carruthers, Kevin Cato, Huntly Barton and Frances Howe, plus our hardworking contactor, Anna Senior. Cutting wire and assembling plant guards in cold and damp conditions is not the most glamourous work, but our committed volunteers have put in an incredible effort to make this project happen.

A special mention has to go Duncan and Frances, who have also spent countless volunteer hours setting out and  drilling 550 holes for the Sweet Bursaria climate future plot. The site is now ready to plant out, once the remaining tree guards have been assembled over the coming weeks. We have seen ideal weather for planting and soil preparation, with a moist autumn and winter 2022 to date.

Drilling 550 holes in preparation for planting the Sweet Bursaria climate future plot (photo by Frances Howe)

 

Our climate future plots will focus on two species from our local area, Silver Banksia (Banksia marginata) and Sweet Bursaria (Bursaria spinosa). Both are key species for our local woodlands and landscape. We have sourced a variety of plant provenances of these plants, from local populations as well as some from further away. We started by looking at the Bureau of Meteorology’s climate predictions for our region and selected seed from areas that are anticipated to match our climate into the future, focusing on areas that are hotter and drier.

A huge thank you!

We are surrounded by an enthusiastic community that allows us to deliver our programs and bring the community along with us. If it wasn’t for your hard work, we simply would not be able to deliver all of our projects and key commitments. To everyone who has helped Connecting Country: THANK YOU! We are so grateful for your support.

We would also like to thank the Ross Trust for their generous funding for this important project. The Ross Trust is a perpetual charitable trust with a vision to create positive social and environmental change so Victorians can thrive.

Learn more about climate future plots

For more information on climate future plots, see:

 

A warm welcome: climate future plants arrive

Posted on 22 June, 2022 by Ivan

We would like to extend a warm welcome to our 1,000+ recent arrivals of Silver Banksia and Sweet Bursaria plants at the Connecting Country depot. The plants have arrived from locations all over southeastern Australia, as part of our ‘Future-proof our forests’ project. In 2021 Connecting Country secured funding support from the Ross Trust to establish two climate future plots of 500 plants each, right here in Mount Alexander region during 2021-23.

We are focusing on two species from our local area, Silver Banksia (Banksia marginata) and Sweet Bursaria (Bursaria spinosa). Both are key species for our local woodlands and landscape. We have sourced a variety of plant provenances of these plants, from local populations as well as some from further away. We started by looking at the Bureau of Meteorology’s climate predictions for our region and selected seed from areas that are anticipated to match our climate into the future, focussing on areas that are hotter and drier.

However, we also included seed from areas that are cooler and wetter. We aimed to to include genetics from a wide range of environments, as we don’t know what will be important in the future. There may be other genetic information stored within a particular provenance, such as the ability to survive an insect attack, or frost resilience, which plants from the hotter and drier area do not have.

We then paired these predictions with species distribution and the availability of seed or plants, to make our final plant selection.

Connecting Country’s Landscape Restoration Coordinator, Bonnie Humphreys, said ‘The aim of our two climate future plots is to create seed production areas and provide climate-adapted seed for use in future revegetation projects. They may also help us identify provenances most suited to survive in our changing climatic conditions’. ‘We are excited to have reached the stage of planting at the climate future plots, and look forward to watching them grow over and monitoring their progress over coming seasons,’ said Ms Humphreys.

The plants will be delivered from the depot to the climate future plot sites in the coming weeks, and guarded by sturdy wire plant guards. Each plot has been carefully set out to allow tracking of each plant into the future.  Mixing up provenances within the plot will increase the likelihood they will share pollen between plants when they flower and reproduce. This sharing of this genetic information may help the plants adapt as our climate changes. Once the plants are established, monitoring will allow us to assess plant growth and success.

Stayed tuned for more updates once the plants are in the ground and protected with plant guards. We will be holding a tour of the climate future plots in coming months.

We would like to thank the Ross Trust for their generous funding for this important project. The Ross Trus is a perpetual charitable trust with a vision to create positive social and environmental change so Victorians can thrive.

Learn more about climate future plots

For more information on climate future plots, see:

 

A successful Landcare Link-up for winter 2022

Posted on 22 June, 2022 by Hadley Cole

On 2 June 2022 Connecting Country hosted a Landcare Link-up with the theme of ‘Getting to know Connecting Country’. Our Landcare Link-ups provide an opportunity for Landcare and Friends groups of the Mount Alexander region to come together and share information, knowledge and experience. Historically, Connecting Country hosts a Landcare Link-up twice a year.

The event was held at the lovely historical Chewton Town Hall on a cold winters evening. Attendees came far and wide from Sutton Grange, Nuggety and Redesdale and represented eight Landcare groups from the region. Frances Howe and Brendan Sydes from Connecting Country gave a brief presentation on the work Connecting Country is involved in outside of Landcare, which covers community engagement, landscape restoration, and biodiversity monitoring.

Attendees enjoyed the opportunity to understand more about Connecting Country as an organisation and meet some of the staff and committee members who make all the work happen. It was also a great chance for neighbouring Landcare groups to discuss some of the restoration challenges they have on the ground and compare notes on the various landscapes they are working across.

We all enjoyed a hot and tasty vegetable soup and crusty bread for dinner followed by cakes and biscuits for dessert, which were all made possible by generous donations from wonderful local businesses Green Goes the Grocer, Sprout Bakery and Maxi IGA Castlemaine. It is heartwarming to know that local business will dig deep when it comes to supporting our local Landcare groups who do an amazing job in protecting and enhancing biodiversity in the Mount Alexander Region.

A special thank you to Hadley, Marie and Bonnie for setting up the venue and making the soup!

If you would like to connect with your local Landcare or Friends group – click here

To find out more about Landcare in the region, please contact our local Landcare Facilitator, Hadley – hadley@connectingcountry.org.au

 

Bird of the month: Long-billed and Little Corella

Posted on 21 June, 2022 by Ivan

Welcome to our 26th Bird of the month, a partnership between Connecting Country and BirdLife Castlemaine District. Each month we’re taking a close look at one special local bird species. We’re excited to join forces to deliver you a different bird each month, seasonally adjusted, and welcome suggestions from the community. We are blessed to have both the brilliant Damian Kelly and talented Jane Rusden from BirdLife Castlemaine District writing about our next bird of the month, accompanied by their stunning photos.

Long-billed Corella (Cacatua tenuirostris) and Little Corella (Cacatua sanguine)

Damian Kelly on wild Corellas

The story of Corellas in Australia is one of boom, bust and boom. And along the way some hard lessons have been learnt about misguided control measures that had exactly the opposite impact to what was intended.

Back in 1878 in the Kimberley in Western Australia one estimate put a flock of Little Corellas at 50,000 birds. The noise of their calls was unbearable as anyone who has been close to a flock would appreciate. Many very large flocks have been recorded across various parts of the inland.

The Little Corella has been used as a reliable guide to the presence of water by both the local Aboriginal groups and the later European settlers. Little Corellas are seldom found far from permanent water sources as they drink each day and occupy communal roosts near water in wooded farmlands, tree-lined water courses and nearby scrublands

Unlike northern Australia, in Victoria Little Corellas were first recorded in the dry north-west of the state in 1951. Steady expansion of their range occurred so that by the early 1970s flocks were common throughout the north-west. By 1978 they were recorded near Melbourne, probably assisted by accidental or deliberate releases of captive birds.

First records in Tasmania were in 1982, most likely from releases of captive birds. They experienced a spectacular spread in South Australia from the 1950s. Little Corellas have adapted with ease to the changing environment of farms throughout inland Australia.

Right from the early days they were kept as pets partly because they they are good talkers. There are even early records of some birds speaking in local Aboriginal dialects. They will readily breed in captivity and are also known to hydridise with Galahs and Pink Cockatoos in captivity. Hybrids with Galah have also been recorded in the wild

Long-billed Corellas originally were generally confined to south-eastern Australia. However, feral populations are now established in all states. They prefer wetter habitats compared to the Little Corella.

Long-billed Corella in the wild displaying the very long bill, pink face and stripe across the base of the neck (photo by Damian Kelly)

 

As a salutary lesson in messing with nature, in the early 1970’s large numbers of Long-billed Corellas were trapped by government agencies in grain growing areas. These birds were then sold into the pet trade. However, these wild birds proved to be totally unsuited to being pets and many were subsequently released, adding to feral populations. This impact of human intervention has only served to aid the spread of the birds. Big flocks continue to cause damage to crops in many areas as well as big roosting groups denuding their roost trees.

Life expectancy for both species is around 20 years with some individuals living much longer. So once a mob is established in an area they will be around for a long time.

Jane Rusden on captive rescue Corellas

Interestingly, Damian’s research lead us to the realisation that my sweet aviary rescue bird, ‘Bird’, may well have been one of the Long-billed Corellas captured in the 1970s. His language indicates he’s about that age … I won’t enlighten you on his full phrase, but ‘grouse’ is the cleanest word, a word commonly used in the 1970s. Also, his leg band indicates he was taken from a nest during a cull.

Bird, the Long-billed Corella aviary rescue, who wanted my phone as I photographed him! (photo by Jane Rusden)

 

Both Corella species are very long lived –  70 years is expected, hence they often outlive owners. This can be a problem as they are very emotional birds who can become very attached to their humans. Their needs are much like those of a human child, but they also have distinctly bird needs as well. If these are not met by their owners, it can lead to a miserable, and sometimes aggressive bird. They are intelligent and crafty. Bird is an excellent escape artist, requiring padlocks on his aviary, which he can open if a key is left in them.

‘Chookie’ is my Little Corella aviary rescue. He is charismatic, loving, has amazing language, and is very adept at undoing quick links. He bites with pressures over 300 pounds per square inch (PSI). Despite trying, I can’t meet his needs and have the physical scars to show for it. He is about to join a large aviary flock, where we hope he will be happier with a mob of his own kind.

Little Corella, one of a small mob resident at an artificial water supply – a water tank in the South Australian desert – displaying the totally white bird, except for a blush of pink on the face, between the bill and eye (photo by Jane Rusden)

 

 

 

Wilderlands platform launched to stakeholders

Posted on 8 June, 2022 by Ivan

Connecting Country attended the stakeholder launch of the much anticipated ‘Wilderlands’ project in Kyneton on 2 June 2022. This ambitious project promises to make investing in biodiversity  easier for the community and businesses alike. Wilderlands provides people with the ability to protect Australia’s biodiversity through the purchase of Biological Diversity Units which each represent one square meter of land protected in-perpetuity.

Wilderlands was created right here in central Victoria by Paul Dettmann, Ash Knop and the team at Cassinia Environmental. It aims to combat one of the world’s major environmental issues: biodiversity loss. The launch focused on the aims of the project and the importance of addressing the loss of habitat and species, which are irreversible. 

The Wilderlands platform aims to bring investors, community and landowners together to make permanent protection of land for nature a reality. The goal is to contribute to reaching the United Nations’ target of 30% of global land being preserved for nature by 2030, at an affordable cost.

Please read on for more information about how Wilderlands works, courtesy of the Wilderlands project. To learn more, visit the Wilderlands website and sign up for their e-news, which will update you on when the platform is open to the public for investment – click here 

How Wilderlands works

Make a direct and lasting impact on Australia’s biodiversity. For less than the cost of a cup of coffee you can ensure the permanent protection of a specific area of land. Wilderlands is a pioneering marketplace which facilitates scalable and lasting investment into biodiversity conservation. This enables businesses and individuals to make a direct and lasting impact on the world’s natural habitats and threatened species. Wilderlands has created a platform which sells biodiversity units to businesses and individuals. For each unit sold, the customer is protecting one square metre of Australia’s fauna and flora.

Research

We work with landholders of properties that have high conservation value following assessment by accredited ecologists as part of the government conservation plans in states across Australia.

Plan

These assessments quantify the ecological units that can be protected and develop a detailed management plan to ensure the protection of the biodiversity on these properties which may include threatened species habitat and ecological communities.

Protect

The landholder enters into an agreement (covenant) with a statutory authority to conserve and protect this land in-perpetuity. This contract is recorded on the land title and the covenant permanently controls land use and management.

Register

The site and its ecological (biological) units are then recorded on independently managed registers. This process replicates the well established carbon market and ensures integrity and transparency of impact and ownership of units.

Impact

Wilderlands provides you with the opportunity to purchase these geotagged units and help protect Australia’s biodiversity in perpetuity, watching as nature flourishes thanks to your support.

About Wilderlands

Wilderlands provides individuals and organisations with the ability to protect Australia’s biodiversity through the purchase of Biological Diversity Units which each represent 1sqm of land protected in-perpetuity.

The platform offers a practical solution to a complex problem and is partnering with landholders to provide a marketplace where those individuals seeking to make protecting the planet a priority can engage with projects having impact and track their progress over time through geo-tagged units and regular reporting on the conservation work happening at each location.

The platform provides users with the opportunity to customise their impact, ranging from the landscapes and locations they wish to support through to their preference for supporting with options including subscription or one-off contribution.

Wilderlands is a response to the need for greater investment in nature, aiming to develop a solution that is both accessible and scalable by aligning the interests of landowners, conservationists, consumers, and large corporates making protecting the planet possible.

From the Wilderlands website

 

Bees and mosses with Castlemaine Field Nats – 10 & 11 June 2022

Posted on 7 June, 2022 by Ivan

As a monthly tradition, our friends and project partners at Castlemaine Field Naturalists Club (CFNC) hold a meeting with a guest speaker on the second Friday of the month, followed by a group excursion or field trip the following day. The Castlemaine Field Naturalists Club have provided the following details about their June 2022 meeting and excursion, which both sound fascinating. All are welcome to attend. For more information on CFNC, please visit their website – click here

Monthly meeting: Friday 10 June 2022 at 7.30pm via Zoom

‘What’s on a bee’s mind? Understanding the behaviours of native and introduced bees’ with Dr Scarlett Howard (Deakin University)

How do we ask a bee a question? Can you train a bee? What types of tasks can they solve? Can they acquire concepts? What is the limit of intelligence in a miniature brain?

Scarlett will answer these questions and more using examples from the European honeybee and Australian native bees. We’ll discuss how you can train a bee, how training differs between species, and how to treat bees as individuals. We will learn how understanding learning, memory and cognition in insects informs us about pollination. And we’ll delve into how we’re pushing the limits of what a miniature bee brain is capable of.

If you have registered for our previous webinar meetings you will be sent the link for registering with Zoom. If you have not joined before and wish to attend, please email Peter Turner at munrodsl@iinet.net.au

Excursion: Saturday 11 June 2022 at 10 am

Moss Foray at Clinkers Hill with Cassia Read

Cassia will take us for a slow walk in the Clinkers Bushland reserve and nearby, exploring the variety of moss species along the way. She will give us clues for distinguishing mosses from lichens and point out the features useful for identification of different moss species including the habitat where they are growing. She will explain the importance of mosses in our ecosystem and their role as colonisers after fire and soil disturbance.

Meet: 10.00am at the Octopus (Duke St, Castlemaine VIC, opposite the Castle Motel) or 10.10 am at the top end of Preshaw Street, Castlemaine where the tar turns to dirt road.

Bring: Water, snacks, sturdy shoes and hat. There will be some hand lenses available, but bring a hand lens if you have one. If it’s a dry day it would be good for a few people to bring a spray bottle of water.

The field trip will be cancelled in extreme weather conditions.

 

 

Bursaria for butterflies: a new Connecting Country project for 2022-23

Posted on 1 June, 2022 by Ivan

We are thrilled to announce that Connecting Country was successful in securing a priority threatened species grant from the Australian Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment. The grants are part of the Australian government’s Environment Restoration Fund and Threatened Species Strategy Action Plan, targeting a number of priority threatened species across the country. Our successful grant will focus on the Eltham Copper Butterfly (Paralucia pyrodiscus lucida) and will aim to protect and enhance the priority habitat for the Eltham Copper Butterfly through practical on-ground actions. The grant program provides funding to undertake activities that will protect, enhance, rehabilitate, recover and/or restore priority species and their habitats.

The largest remaining populations of this threatened butterfly are known in the public reserves around Castlemaine VIC. Survey efforts and management actions have focused on public land, yet our 15 years’ experience working with local landholders has identified potential habitat on adjoining private land. This habitat is under threat from urbanisation, fire regimes and grazing. Connecting Country will engage and educate key landholders to protect and restore priority butterfly habitat through controlling threats (weeds and rabbits) and planting vital habitat over 2022-23. Revegetation planting will focus on the butterfly’s host plant, Sweet Bursaria (Bursaria spinosa).

Who is the Eltham Copper Butterfly? 

The Eltham Copper Butterfly (Paralucia pyrodiscus lucida) is only found in Victoria, Australia, and is restricted to a several sites around Castlemaine, Bendigo, Kiata (near Nhill) and Eltham in Victoria. It is one of the rare good news stories within the extinction crisis in Australia. It was considered extinct in the 1950s until rediscovered at Eltham in 1986.

Although new populations have been discovered around the state since the Eltham discovery in 1986, the future of this special butterfly remains uncertain. It is listed as threatened under the Victorian Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act 1988 and listed as endangered under the Commonwealth Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999. This places considerable importance on the seven sites around the Castlemaine region in central Victoria, where the butterfly exists and has bred successfully.

To download Connecting Country’s useful brochure about the Eltham Copper Butterfly – click here

The Eltham Copper Butterfly is only known to exist in three general locations in Victoria (image by SWIFFT)

 

Not only is this beautiful species threatened, it also has fascinating and highly specialised ecological requirements. It cannot survive without the presence of Sweet Bursaria plants and colonies of a particular species of Notoncus ants. The largest remaining populations of the Eltham Copper Butterfly lie around the town of Castlemaine in central Victoria, with others at Bendigo, Kiata and Eltham in Victoria. They have a weird and wonderful symbiotic association with a Notoncus ant and their host plant, Sweet Bursaria.

What will we deliver? 

Through Connecting Country’s local knowledge and established networks, we will target private landholders with properties within or adjoining known butterfly habitat, who demonstrate long-term commitment to protect and restore their land. We will work with them to develop tailored management plans and deliver practical on-ground actions for long-term protection and restoration and connectivity of quality butterfly habitat on their properties. Connecting Country’s Landscape Restoration Coordinator will visit at least 20 key private landholders to identify, assess and prioritise management actions to protect, connect and enhance, existing butterfly habitat

Our project aims to:

  • Increase the connectivity and reduce threats for known butterfly populations at Castlemaine Botanic Gardens, Walmer, Dingo Park Road, and Campbells Creek with known breeding habitats by connecting public and private land habitats.
  • Protect and improve the quality and quantity of available habitat for Castlemaine’s populations of the Eltham Copper Butterfly.
  • Protect and restore more than 10 ha of butterfly habitat where Sweet Bursaria would have grown naturally.
  • Engage private landholders adjacent to known populations to commit to long-term protection and restoration of butterfly habitat on their land, reduce the risk of weeds moving into public land sites, and habitat loss due to development or ongoing degradation.
  • Engage the broader community to value and protect the Eltham Copper Butterfly and promote best-practice restoration of butterfly habitat.
  • Complement and build on recent efforts of local ecologists in identifying existing butterfly habitat around Castlemaine, and the historical monitoring conducted by the Castlemaine community.

 

Connecting Country is proud to oversee the project in collaboration with our project partners.

We are really excited about more funding for the butterfly and will begin an expression of interest process in the coming months, seeking landholders with properties near known Eltham Copper Butterfly sites. Keep an eye out for updates! 

For more information about the Eltham Copper Butterfly –  click here
You may also enjoy the following video, courtesy of N-danger-D.

 

Landcare Link-up event – getting to know Connecting Country

Posted on 26 May, 2022 by Hadley Cole

We are hosting a Landcare Link-up event for Landcarers  of  the Mount Alexander region with the theme Getting to know ConnectinCountry. Landcare group and friends group members come along and join us and learn more about the work Connecting Country does. It is also a wonderful opportunity to get together with neighbouring Landcarers in the region.

When: Thursday 2 June 2022 from 6.00-8.00 pm
Where:  Chewton Town Hall, 141 Main Rd, Chewton VIC

 

We will also hold a Landcare open mic session where you can have your say about Landcare in the region. A soup supper will be provided.

Please register your attendance via the following link before 5.00 pm on Sunday 29 May 2022:
https://www.trybooking.com/BZOGF

For more information please contact hadley@connectingcountry.org.au

We look forward to seeing you there!

 

 

Wheel Cactus community field day – Sunday 29 May 2022

Posted on 25 May, 2022 by Ivan

Old and new volunteers alike are invited to Tarrangower Cactus Control Group’s next Community Field Day on Sunday 29 May 2022 near Maldon VIC.  Read on for more details from our friends the Cactus Warriors.

Cactus killers wanted!

Tarrangower Cactus Control Group will launch its 2022 season with a community field day.

Where: Near the corner of Watersons and Tarrengower School Roads. Tarrengower VIC
When: From 10.30 am to 12.30 pm pm Sunday 29 May 2022

Come along, enjoy the fresh air, kill some cactus and then join us for a free cuppa and sausage sizzle. Everyone is welcome.

Wheel Cactus is a noxious weed that affects many landowners in our region (photo: Cactus Warriors)

 

The Tarrangower Cactus Control Group Inc. (TCCG) consists of Landcare volunteers dedicated to the eradication of Wheel Cactus (Opuntia robusta). TCCG, in conjunction with Parks Victoria, holds friendly and informal Wheel Cactus Control community field days to inform and demonstrate control techniques, on the last Sunday of the month from May to October. These field days always end with a free BBQ lunch, cuppa and cake and the opportunity to chat, exchange ideas and make contacts. It is a great opportunity to spend a rewarding morning outdoors, meeting neighbours and others who are concerned about preserving our unique environment. Everyone is welcome, no previous experience is required and all equipment is supplied. View the video below to catch the ‘cactus warriors’ in action.

For more information visit www.cactuswarriors.org

 

North Central CMA Regional Roundtable in Campbells Creek – 15 June 2022

Posted on 25 May, 2022 by Ivan

Do you have an interest in the management of our local waterways and broader landscape? Here is your chance to be involved with the North Central Catchment Management Authority’s (CMA) regional roundtable engagement. Connecting Country has partnered with North Central CMA on many projects and has recently delivered property assessments on thier behalf. The regional round tables are a great way to learn more about the next decade of environmental planning and restoration and how you can be part of it. Connecting Country will be attending and we encourage local groups and individuals to come along and discuss local environmental priorities.

Please read on for details, courtesy of the North Central CMA website. 

NCCMA Regional Roundtable in Campbells Creek

When: Wednesday, 15 June 2022 –5:45 pm to 8:00 pm
Where: Campbells Creek Community Centre, 60 Elizabeth St, Campbells Creek VIC
Cost: Free
RSVP for dinner by 10 June 2022 on info@nccma.vic.gov.au or (03) 5448 7124

Do you live or work in Macedon Ranges Shire, Hepburn Shire, Mount Alexander Shire or the City of Greater Bendigo?

Are you interested in Natural Resource Management?

If so, come along to our next Regional Roundtable where you can:

  • Hear about current projects in your local area from the organisations involved.
  • Discuss local environmental priorities.
  • Identify opportunities to work together in the future.

Former North Central CMA staff member, Ian Higgins, engaging with the next generation (photo: North Central CMA)

 

 

Benefits of ecological burns: webinar recording available

Posted on 19 May, 2022 by Ivan

If you missed the recent webinar on ‘The benefits of ecological burning’, you can now find it online to watch its entirety via YouTube. Ecological planned burning is a land management tool applied to promote positive benefits for a local environment, and certainly has its place in sustainable land management if implemented with appropriate skill and knowledge.

The webinar was delivered and recorded online on 8 March 2022, courtesy of the Macedon Ranges Shire Council as part of their larger ‘Healthy Landscapes’ project. The webinar explored how ecological burning is approached by local government and how this can be applied to other contexts. This well-attended event and was well received in the community.

 

Ecological burns – the benefits

These benefits include stimulating dormant seed banks in the soil profile, reducing the vigour or eliminating weeds, nutrient cycling and the removal of biomass….all of which promote biodiversity and ecosystem health. There are a range of factors that influence when and how an ecological planned burn can be conducted, but essential to the process is a clear understanding of what you are trying to achieve and how to moderate fire behaviour and extent.

Healthy Landscapes project

The Healthy Landscapes: Practical Regenerative Agricultural Communities project aims to raise awareness in their community about sustainable land management practices that improve soil health, reduce exposure to climate risk, enhance biodiversity and increase on-farm productivity. It is being delivered as a partnership between Macedon Ranges Shire Council, Hepburn Shire Council, the City of Greater BendigoA Healthy Coliban Catchment project (North Central Catchment Management Authority and Coliban Water), Melbourne Water and the Upper Campaspe Landcare Network.

 

Intrepid Landcare take a walk at Leanganook 15 May 2022

Posted on 9 May, 2022 by Hadley Cole

Intrepid Landcare  – Mount Alexander region is a local group for 18 – 35 year olds looking to connect with Country and care for our environment here in central Victoria. Their monthly activities include working bees, educational sessions, nature walks and outdoor adventures.

Join Intrepid Landcare on Sunday 15 May 2022 for an informal walk up on Leanganook (Mount Alexander) from Leanganook Picnic Ground to Dog Rocks. We’ll meet near the toilet block at 11.00 amBYO picnic lunch and thermos if you’d like to stay for lunch afterwards. No RSVP is needed.

If you like birding, bring your binoculars!

Be sure to dress warmly and wear sturdy walking shoes, the rocks on the Mount can be very slippery. Here is a photo from our walk up there in 2019, where we scored bonus snow!

 

Intrepid Landcarers enjoying a nature walk (photo by Asha Bannon)

 

Leanganook is a beautiful and culturally important place. Here’s a great video with Uncle Trent Nelson sharing insights about its significance from Djaara perspective: click here

 

If you have any questions, text or call Asha on 0418 428 721 or email intrepidlandcaremar@gmail.com.

As with all Intrepid Landcare activities, this is a COVID-safe event. All attendees are asked to be fully vaccinated and follow any current COVID-19 restrictions. This is a child-friendly event, noting that kids must be under parent/carer supervision at all times.

 

Research confirms: planting brings back woodland birds

Posted on 4 May, 2022 by Frances

Connecting Country works with landholders and community groups to restore landscapes across the Mount Alexander region of central Victoria, with a focus on restoring habitat for woodland birds on both public and private land. Our key actions include fencing to protect remnant vegetation, changing grazing regimes, controlling pest plants and animals, planting revegetation and nurturing natural regeneration.

We focus on restoring woodlands and degraded landscapes for the benefit of our woodland birds and other wildlife. Through Connecting Country’s long-term bird monitoring program, we have a solid database that allows us to assess changes in woodland bird populations over time. Analysis indicates that our landscape restoration efforts are having a positive impact on woodland birds.

We were heartened to recently discover some robust scientific research that supports our observations: revegetation with suitable indigenous plants really does bring back woodland birds! The new research was published in the Journal of Applied Ecology, and shows planting trees and shrubs brings woodland birds back to farms, from superb fairy-wrens to spotted pardalotes. The research was conducted by a team of respected academics, including Professor Andrew Bennett, who is a long-term friend of Connecting Country and helped design our bird monitoring program.

Revegetation of degraded woodlands is a key focus of Connecting Country (photo by Gen Kay)

 

The research also concluded that scattered trees are valuable habitat features for birds. These large old trees act as stepping stones that help birds move across the landscape, and provide foraging and nesting habitat for species such as Brown Treecreeper, Laughing Kookaburra and Eastern Rosella. They found individual patches of revegetation have the greatest value for birds when they include a diverse range of trees and shrubs, are close to or connected with native vegetation, and are older (meaning the plants have had more time to grow).

To read a news article about the research, courtesy of The Conversation website – click here
To read the full scientific article in the the Journal of Applied Ecology – click here

Connecting Country have been providing plants for landholder revegetation projects for over a decade (photo by Jacqui Slingo)

 

Connecting Country has established many successful restoration projects, including returning biodiversity to degraded paddocks (photo by Connecting Country)

 

Castlemaine Field Naturalists Club: May 2022 events

Posted on 4 May, 2022 by Ivan

As a monthly tradition, our friends at Castlemaine Field Naturalists Club (CFNC) hold a meeting with a guest speaker on the second Friday of the month, followed by a group excursion or field trip the following day. Castlemaine Field Nats provided the following details about their May 2022 meeting and excursion, which look very interesting and exciting. All are welcome to attend. For more information on CFNC, please visit their website – click here

Monthly meeting: Friday 13 May 2022 at 7.30 pm Uniting Church Fellowship Room, Lyttleton St, Castlemaine VIC

Feral deer – managing and monitoring
with
Peter Jacobs (Deer Project Officer for the Invasive Species Council)

Peter will talk about the emerging problem of feral deer in Victoria. The talk will discuss the identification and distribution of the 4 main feral deer species in Victoria, the economic, social and environmental impacts they are having, and the cost to the community.

Peter will also present on Victoria’s laws that protect feral deer as a game species and what strategic and tactical options there are for feral deer control in Victoria. This will include an overview of the control programs that are currently in place as well as what we need in the future to control this serious pest.

Our May monthly meeting will be held in person again. Members and guests can arrive at the hall from 7.15 pm and are welcome to stay after the meeting for supper and a chat. Please sign in on arrival.

Our guest speaker will follow the usual ‘observations’ session when members can share recent interesting sightings with an option to show a photo or two. If you have photos for the meeting, please email JPEG file(s) to Euan Moore at calamanthus5@bigpond.com by noon on the day of the meeting.

Excursion: Saturday 14 May 2022 from 10 am ALL DAY – Seeding Victoria and La Gerche trail, Creswick VIC

Seeding Victoria’s seed bank

Seeding Victoria Inc. is a not for profit, charitable organisation that manages several seed banks in Victoria. For our May excursion, we will be privileged to have a tour of Seeding Victoria’s seed bank at Creswick as recently featured in the ABC’s Gardening Australia. Dan Frost who manages this seed bank will explain how seed is appropriately sourced and maintained under strict conditions to supply revegetation projects. We will also learn how Seeding Victoria not only provides provenance-based seed sales but also a consultancy service for collection and caring for seed as well as site assessment and direct seeding advice.

The tour of the seed bank and discussion will take about 1.5 hours after which we will have a picnic lunch and a walk along the La Gerche Trail in the afternoon.

The La Gerche Trail is a 2.2 km long, easy walking track in the Creswick State Forest. The trail commemorates the work of John La Gerche, the first bailiff for the forest charged with halting the rampant cutting of trees for mining and fuel-wood and allowing regeneration of the forest. The trees planted by La Gerche are now over 100-years old and include a large variety, both native and introduced for experimental purposes. There are interpretative signs along the way.

La Gerche Gully Loop is a fascinating trial through exotic and native forests (photo: Parks Victoria)

 

Meet at the Octopus (Duke St, opposite the Castle Motel, Castlemaine VIC) at 10 am, or at the Seed Bank (co-located with the Parks Victoria complex in Sawpit Rd, Creswick VIC) at 10.50 am. We will meet at the old oak tree in the gardens near the Seed Bank. Bring lunch, chairs, sturdy shoes and water.

The field trip will be cancelled in extreme weather conditions or if there is a high fire risk.

 

New bird walk launched at Forest Creek, Castlemaine

Posted on 7 April, 2022 by Jacqui

Forest Creek in Castlemaine was abuzz with activity this week, as 35 bird walkers came together to celebrate the official opening of ‘Bird walk for beginners’, a brochure-guided walk along a 1.5 km stretch of the Leanganook Track at Forest Creek in Castlemaine VIC. The birdwatchers ranged from absolute first-time beginners to more experienced birders from BirdLife Castlemaine and Castlemaine Field Naturalists Club. 

The group heard from local experts and volunteers: Christine Kilmartin from Castlemaine Landcare Group, Euan Moore and Jenny Rolland from Castlemaine Field Naturalists Club, and Jane Rusden and Damien Kelly from BirdLife Castlemaine. All had a hand in producing the brochure with us, ensuring their decades of experience with local birdlife and vegetation was captured in the bird walk brochure and online content for all to enjoy.

Councillor Gary McClure from Mount Alexander Shire Council and Noel Muller from Parks Victoria were among our special guests there to help launch the walk with our celebratory morning tea on 6 April 2022.

Christine highlighted the transformation of Forest Creek over the past decades, thanks to thousands of hours of volunteer work from Castlemaine Landcare Group. Their incredible work has seen the creek reappear after removal of massive infestations of gorse and other weeds, and planting out with a diversity of locally-native understorey plants.

This ongoing process has created a much more diverse habitat that supports a range of native birds and other wildlife. We know this because dedicated and experienced volunteers have been doing bird surveys along the creek during the transformation, to monitor the changes and return of bird species over time. These bird surveys complement Connecting Country’s network of 50 long-term bird survey sites across our region, which are monitored each year by Connecting Country volunteers, with the aim of monitoring change as land is restored through weed control and strategic revegetation.

Our new ‘Birdwalk for beginners’ brochure allows the community to access an easy, guided bird walk, with QR Codes along the way to learn about the sites, and links to further bird information and bird calls. This project aims to attract new birdwatchers, as well as celebrate the excellent restoration work that volunteers have achieved over the past few decades along Forest Creek. Bird walks are an ideal way to get people out enjoying and exploring the many natural assets we are blessed with here in central Victoria.

The printed birdwalk brochure will be available from Connecting Country and Castlemaine Visitor Information Centre (44 Mostyn St, Castlemaine VIC), or you can download a copy – click here

The walk is approximately 1.5 km long (one-way) and is located along a gently graded, well-maintained walking path suited to a range of abilities. There are eight sites along the bird walk, providing excellent opportunities to visit some great bird-watching spots, with a species list for each site on tap via the QR Codes in the brochure.

Bird watching is a great activity that almost everyone can enjoy, and this walk aims to increase the accessibility of bird walking in our region. The COVID-19 lockdown period has seen a ten-fold increase in the number of new birdwatchers around the country. People are craving nature and the outdoors, prompting them to start their bird watching journey and enjoy the challenges of how to differentiate some of the trickier species.

Central Victoria is considered a birding hotspot and we find birds often prompt you to explore wonderful places that you never knew existed!

The group was ready to test out the bird walk (photo by Frances Howe)

 

Christine Kilmartin from Castlemaine Landcare Group shares the story of the transformation of Forest Creek in recent decades (photo by Ivan Carter)

 

We extend a big thank you to Castlemaine Landcare Group, BirdLife Castlemaine, Castlemaine Field Naturalists Club, Parks Victoria and Mount Alexander Shire Council for supporting this project.

This event was part of Connecting Country’s ‘Birding for beginners’ project supported by the Victorian Government through Parks Victoria’s Volunteering Innovation Fund.

 

Volunteer opportunity with Needle Grasses in Castlemaine

Posted on 4 April, 2022 by Jacqui

Volunteer opportunity in Castlemaine!

If you would to learn more about managing Needle Grasses and  attend a working bee, please contact Margaret Panter for details on where to meet and what to bring on (03) 5470 5072 (7 am-7 pm). Margaret is holding a socially-distanced working bee in the Castlemaine Botanic Gardens this Thursday 7 April 2022 starting at 9.30 am. No experience necessary, and volunteers are welcome to attend all or part of the session, as their availability allows.

Needle grasses, and in particular, Chilean Needle Grass (Nassella neesiana), are an increasingly serious pasture and environmental weed in central Victoria. They are very invasive and form dense infestations in pastures, bushland and roadsides. They can tolerate drought and will seed prolifically, including self-pollinated seed in the stem and base of the plant! This allows them to easily spread via equipment and machinery.

It has been estimated that the potential distribution for Chilean Needle Grass alone exceeds 40 million hectares across Australia. There are at least a few introduced Needle Grasses and many look-a-like native grasses in our region. For where to start with telling them apart see our earlier post – click here

 

Bird of the month: Common Bronzewing

Posted on 29 March, 2022 by Ivan

Welcome to our 23rd Bird of the month, a partnership between Connecting Country and BirdLife Castlemaine District. Each month we’re taking a close look at one special local bird species. We’re excited to join forces to deliver you a different bird each month, seasonally adjusted, and welcome suggestions from the community. We are lucky to have the talented and charismatic Jane Rusden from BirdLife Castlemaine District, and the brilliant Damian Kelly, sharing their writing and images about our next bird of the month.

Common Bronzewing (Phaps chalcoptera)

This month we are looking at the Common Bronzewing, simply because they are resident at my place and are really quite odd! Regularly seen foraging and using the bird baths, for such a flighty shy bird, they have become quite used to us. It was a female having a prolonged bathe, for about 20 minutes, that drew my attention. She sat low in the water and rolled on her side, wing in the air (see photo), having a good soak, as if having a luxury spa. Pedicure next? I’ve seen Emus do similar, but they are enormous with such crazy long legs, so what else are they going to do? Common Bronzewings also clap, not so much in applause, but when flushed. They will usually fly from the ground up into a tree. As they take off, they clap their wings a few times, and once landed, will bob their heads as they look at you from a safe perch.

The Common Bronzewing is exactly as its name suggests, having bronze colours under the wing and being common throughout most of Australia from coasts to the Mallee. However, they were not always common as they were once illegally shot for food and sport. Thankfully, now they are easily found in Central Victoria, favouring wooded areas. They can also be found in suburban gardens, which is an indication of their adaptability. Their diet consists mainly of seeds, with occasional leaves and invertebrates. I see the resident ‘Bronzies’ foraging on the ground or in low bushes, singularly or in groups of two or three, mostly in the morning or at dusk. They visit my bird baths for a drink, most often at dawn or early morning and dusk. This is typical behaviour for the species.

Although not the only bird to compete in the scrappiest nest award, they are up there with the best. There’s a considerable pile of fine Casuarina twigs on the ground that I need to sweep up, which is the remains of a nest building attempt on top of the fire shutter housing above our windows. There’s far more twigs on the ground than ever makes it into their questionable nest building. In fact eggs roll out on a regular basis. I often carry on about how intelligent birds are, but I’m not so convinced when it comes to Bronzies. Don’t tell anyone I said that about a bird!

However, when the iridescent patch on their wings lights up, throwing flashes of golden yellow through teal green, magenta and purple colours, they are quite stunning and majestic. Their soft pinky brown chests, grey upper body and creamy white forehead on the males set off their bright pink feet beautifully. They can be easily confused with the darker and less iridescent Brush Bronzewing, which can be see along Forest Creek on occasion. Also confusing is their deep booming call, with repeated long notes that can easily be confused with the Painted Button-quail, who favours the same habitat. Damian and I have nearly confused them when heard in Kalimna Park, for example.

There’s a lot to say about this beautiful species. They fly quite fast, with speed measured from vehicles at 58-60 km/hour, and a maximum of 67 km/hour. Movement in response to food and water availability is a regular occurrence for at least part of the population, with distances up to 360 km being recorded.

Another fun fact about the Common Bronzewing is they can safely feed on Gastrolobium bilobum, commonly known as heart-leaved poison, which is a highly toxic plant common in western and northern Australia. This may explain why, in at least some areas, they are not particularly hunted by cats and dogs, who would normally find a largely ground dwelling bird easy prey.

Common Bronzewing on its scrappy nest, high up on a roller shutter housing (photo by Damian Kelly)

Female Common Bronzewing lying on its side and having a good soak in a bird bath (photo by Jane Rusden)

A stunning image showing the bronze wings of the Common Bronzewing (photo by Damian Kelly)

Jane Rusden
BirdLife Castlemaine District