Restoring landscapes across the Mount Alexander Region

I spy…baby goannas in Shelbourne!

Posted on 16 January, 2020 by Asha

Can you see the young Tree Goanna (Varunus varius, aka Lace Monitor) in the photo below?

Many thanks to Newton Hunt for sending through these observations from his property in Shelbourne, Victoria. Newton said the one pictured is about 0.6 m long, but two larger goannas of 1.2 m and 1.5 m also visit the property regularly.

An interesting fact from the Bush Heritage website about Tree Goannas is that they ‘will dig holes into the side of termite mounds to lay their eggs. This is clever as the termites then rebuild the nest around the eggs, keeping them safe and at a constant temperature. When the young hatch the mothers return to help dig them out.’

Young Tree Goanna in Shelbourne (photo by Newton Hunt)

Newton also sent us these two photos of Wedge-tailed Eagle chicks he watched being reared in 2019:

 

BirdWatch Spring 2019: results are in!

Posted on 23 December, 2019 by Jess

Connecting Country’s long-term bird monitoring program was established to investigate the effects of habitat restoration on woodland birds. This was the first year our sites were monitored by our team of amazing volunteers. The 2019 monitoring season was supported by funding from the Helen Macpherson Smith Trust as part of our Habitat Health Check project.

We’re excited to present the following short report summarising the findings of our 2019 monitoring program.

We’re also on the lookout for more volunteer bird monitors! If you have bird identification skills and are interested in joining our bird monitoring program, please email our Monitoring Coordinator, Jess Lawton (jess@connectingcountry.org.au).

 

Bird walk in the Wombat with Tanya Loos – 4 January 2020

Posted on 19 December, 2019 by Frances

We are super fortunate to have our very own local BirdLife branch: BirdLife Castlemaine District.

Monthly bird walks

BirdLife Castlemaine holds bird walks on the first Saturday morning of each month. All ages and birding abilities are welcome – they are a friendly and inclusive bunch! If you’d like to learn how to record your bird lists using Birdata, or brush up on your survey skills, they aim to do at least one survey each bird walk.

Meet on the first Saturday of the month, for an 8:30 am departure outside Castlemaine Community House (30 Templeton St, Castlemaine VIC) to tag along, car share or get a lift. Alternatively meet at the start of the walk as advertised. For further details see the BirdLife Castlemaine District Facebook page (click here), their eNews or their events page on the BirdLife website (click here).

Please note walk details times can vary from time to time according to weather conditions, etc., so please check details prior to the walk.

You will need, water, snacks, sun protection including a hat, sturdy shoes, long trousers, binoculars if you have them. Please dress appropriately for the weather.

Walks are cancelled if the temperature is above 35 degrees, it’s a fire ban or a severe weather warning has been issued.

January bird walk in the Wombat

GG2

Gang Gang Cockatoo (photo by Geoff Park)

The first walk for 2020 is on Saturday 4 January 2020 in the Wombat State Forest with a very special leader: Tanya Loos (formerly of Connecting Country, now with BirdLife Australia!).

Join Tanya on a wander through the wet ferny gullies and peppermint ridges of the Wombat Forest. We will do the Whipstick Creek Loop walking track which takes 3 – 4 hours. Those who wish to do part of the walk can retrace their steps. On our walk we are likely to see local special species such as Rufous Fantail, Crescent Honeyeater, Gang Gang Cockatoo and Blue-winged Parrot. We might also see Rose Robin, Bassian Thrush and Square-tailed Kite.

Meet at the former Continuing Education building at 30 Templeton St Castlemaine VIC at 8.30 am sharp, to car pool. Alternatively, meet at Garden of St Erth car park, 189 Simmons Reef Rd Blackwood, VIC at 9.30 am.

Garden of St Erth is one of The Diggers Club’s properties and a fantastic perennial and fruit garden, with a cafe and nursery – well worth a look!

Wombat Forest bird walk
When:   Saturday 4 January 2019 at 8.30 am to car pool or 9.30 am to join walk
Where:  to carpool meet at 30 Templeton St Castlemaine VIC
               to join walk meet at Garden of St Erth car park, 189 Simmons Reef Rd Blackwood, VIC
Bring:    sturdy shoes, hat, insect repellent, sunscreen, water, snacks, binoculars

 

 

Restoration site in Taradale takes off!

Posted on 17 December, 2019 by Jess

We’ve just wrapped up our spring bird monitoring season for 2019. Connecting Country’s bird monitoring program was established in 2010 to investigate the effects of habitat restoration on woodland birds. 2019 was the first year our sites were monitored entirely by our team of amazing volunteers. Some of our current and former staff members also volunteered to do bird surveys.

One of our Landscape Restoration Coordinators and volunteer bird monitor, Jacqui Slingo, surveyed one of our revegetation sites in Taradale, Victoria. This was a paddock site that was direct seeded in 2014.  As you can see from the photos below, revegetation by direct seeding can take a number of years to take off depending on the conditions and rainfall in the years following. Jacqui was delighted to find that the direct seeding is now going great guns, with many Wattles now over 2m tall. With the increased cover of vegetation many smaller native birds are starting to use the vegetation, where previously they had only been heard in neighbouring bush.

Direct seeding at the Taradale site 3 years after seeding in February 2017.

 

Revegetated species starting to emerge in 2017, including: Golden Wattle (Acacia pycnantha), Silver Wattle (Acacia dealbata), Spreading Wattle (Acacia genistifolia), and Grey Box (Eucalyptus microcarpa).

Direct seeding at Taradale beginning to take off November 2019. Photo: Jacqui Slingo.

The birds observed during the survey starting to use the new vegetation included: Yellow-faced Honeyeaters, Grey Fantails, Black-faced Cuckoo-shrike, and teams of Yellow-rumped Thornbills, Striated Thornbills and Buff-rumped Thornbills.

It’s always rewarding to see wildlife benefiting from our restoration work!

If you are interested in increasing or enhancing native vegetation on your property within Mount Alexander Shire in central Victoria, feel free to fill in an expression of interest form (click here). We will keep your details on file for the next opportunity when it arises.

If you have skills and interests in bird monitoring and are interested in joining our bird program, please email our Monitoring Coordinator, Jess Lawton (jess@connectingcountry.org.au). We are always on the lookout for skilled bird watchers to join our monitoring program!

Golden Wattle (Acacia pycnantha) with developing seed pods. Photo: Jacqui Slingo

 

What’s that bird? Ask Merlin

Posted on 10 December, 2019 by Ivan

Local bird enthusiast, author and photographer, Damian Kelly, has introduced us to a very special personal assistant. Meet Merlin, a smartphone app that helps identify bird species from our region and all over the world. We hope you enjoy Damian’s following introduction to the Merlin app.

The Merlin Bird app has been around for a while, but until recently lacked any Australian data. This has now changed and it has data sets covering regions of Australia, as well as an entire Australia data set. The app is free and works on both Apple and Android devices.

The data sets are based on information and images collected via eBird. If you have been an eBird contributor you have been part of it all. From the Apple app store or Google Play Store, just download the app and the relevant data files for our region. The data files are quite large and can take a while to download.

Unlike the other available bird apps, Merlin provides two very useful functions that provide assistance with identification:

  • Photo ID – identification of a bird directly from a photo.
  • Bird ID – a keying-out procedure where you answer questions and the possibilities are quickly narrowed down, which makes identification much easier.


Photo ID

You don’t need to have the image on your phone. It works on images displayed on your camera back or a hard copy.

Having tested the app on photos on my phone, camera back images and even the cover of my book I can say that the results are impressive, although not yet 100%. Oddly, it failed to identify a clear image of an Owlet Nightjar, but correctly identified many species that I threw at it, such as robins, thornbills, a Barking Owl and even a mixed image of a Powerful Owl with downy chick.

If it can’t identify an image it offers to let you assist with your suggested identification and sharing of your images if you wish. In this way it will gradually become more accurate, based on the input of a range of people.

You can download data sets for different regions of Australia. It pays to make sure you have set your location as this helps with the accuracy of the app. The large data download ensures the ability to use the software without a network connection, which is handy when you are in more remote areas.

Bird ID

When you don’t have a photo, you can answer questions about a bird. These include:

  • Location – you can use GPS on your phone, enter a location manually or select from a map.
  • Date – helps with migratory species.
  • Size – a comparison set of outlines is provided.
  • Colour – main colour that you select from a palette.
  • General habitat and behaviour – fence or wire, trees, bushes and such like.

Then Merlin provides a list of potential species along with images, calls, distribution and general information. Again, you can confirm the accuracy, which helps improve the app.

Although not a full taxonomic key, the keying-out process is simple and easy to use. It should help beginners get going, as well as assist more experienced birders to narrow down possibilities.

What else can I say? It works as expected, is quite accurate and will quickly become more so as increasing numbers of people contribute. More significantly, it demonstrates the power of citizen science in producing very useful tools.

Damian Kelly

 

BirdLife Castlemaine walk at Leanganook – Saturday 7 December 2019

Posted on 4 December, 2019 by Ivan

Our partners at Birdlife Castlemaine have provided the following information regarding their final bird walk for the busy 2019 year. It will be at the Leanganook Camping Ground loop track. Please see the details below, or click here to learn more about their monthly bird walks.

BirdLife Casltemaine’s final bird walk for 2019 will be on Saturday 7 December 2019 at Mount Alexander where we will walk the Leanganook Camping Ground loop track.  The walk will commence at 9.00 am at the camping ground accessed via Joseph Young Drive or meet outside Castlemaine Community House(30 Templeton Street, Castlemaine, VIC) at 8.30 am to car pool.

The habitat is open with Manna Gums, grassy woodland and scattered wattles. Birds that may be seen included Eastern Yellow and Scarlet Robins, Thornbills, White-throated Treecreepers, Yellow-faced Honeyeaters and Striated Pardalotes.

To celebrate a successful year for BirdLife Castlemaine District Branch, the walk will be followed by morning tea so please bring some food to share plus your preferred beverage.

Standard things to bring along to each walk include water, binoculars, hat, sunscreen, sturdy shoes, long pants during snake season, and other weather-appropriate gear.

Please note: Walks will be canceled if, during the walk period, the temperature is forecast to be 35 degrees or more, severe weather warnings are in place, persistent rain is forecast, or if the day has been declared a Total Fire Ban day.

Please check your email on the evening before the event to find out if it has been canceled.

Crimson Chat imitating Christmas (photo: Jane Rusden)

 

 

 

Exploring the colour of wildflowers (and the joy of surprises)

Posted on 19 November, 2019 by Ivan

Getting out and about reminds us of just how many lovely wildflowers and things there are happening in the bush, even as the weather warms up! We are blessed to live in a region with large tracts of public land with woodland wonders aplenty, and now is a great time to get out and see some of the vivid and subtle colors our bushland has to offer. One of our Landscape Restoration Coordinators, Bonnie Humphreys, has kindly outlined some of the native species that may still be flowering and on show over the next few weeks, including a few surprises below!

  • Bush Peas (Pultenaea sp.) and Parrot Peas (Dillwynia sp.) are flowering.
  • Silver Wattle (Acacia dealbata) is laden with pods at the moment, hinting at a good year for seed production.
  • Black Wattle (Acacia mearnsii) is in flower with lemony yellow blooms. Some can be seen from the Forest Creek bridge on Duke St, on the right hand side as you head towards Chewton.
  • Chocolate Lilies (Arthropodium strictum) and Sticky Everlastings (Xerochrysum viscosum) are looking spectacular.
  • Look out for beautiful white flowers from Sweet Bursaria (Bursaria spinosa) and White Marianth (Rhytidosporum procumbens).
  • Creamy Candles (Stackhousia monogyna) are flowering. These have a lovely perfume which is most prevalent at night indicating a preference for night pollinator such as moths.
  • Cats Claw Grevillea or Alpine Grevillea (Grevillea alpina), some plants are still flowering away. There are many different colour forms in this plant including green, yellow, red, and then mixes of combinations.

There are many great places for bushwalking on public land in our region, including Kalimna Park (just a short walk from Castlemaine town centre), Rise and Shine Bushland Reserve (Sandon), Monk Track in the Dry Diggings National Park (Chewton), Muckleford State Forest, and Guildford Bushland Reserve.  View excellent ground-truthed maps of many of these areas by local cartographer Jase Haysom by clicking here. Local bird expert Damian Kelly’s book Castlemaine Bird Walks is another great resource for bird and wildlife outings in the bush.

Before the heat takes the color and vibrancy out of these treasures, be sure to explore some of the abundant nature hotspots in our region. Scroll down to see pictures below of some colourful characters from our local bush.

 

Cats Claw Grevillea (Grevillea alpina). Photo: Bonnie Humphreys

Shingle Back Lizard. Photo: Bonnie Humphreys

Creamy Candles (Stackhousia monogyna). Photo: Bonnie Humphreys

Chocolate Lilies (Arthropodium strictum) and Sticky Everlastings (Xerochrysum viscosum). Photo: Bonnie Humphreys

Twining Fringe-lily (Thysanotus patersonii). Photo: Bonnie Humphreys

Muckleford bush with Parrot Pea (Dillwyina sp.), Cats Claw Grevillea (Grevillea alpina), Murnong or Yam Daisy (Microseris walteri), Grey Everlasting (Ozothamnus obcordatus) and Chocolate Lilies (Arthropodium strictum). Photo: Bonnie Humphreys

Keep an eye out for nesting birds. Here’s an Owlet Nightjar fledgling checking out the world! Photo: Bonnie Humphreys

 

 

 

 

Birdlife Castlemaine November bird walk – 2 November 2019

Posted on 24 October, 2019 by Ivan

You’re invited to join our partners Birdlife Castlemaine on their next bird walk on 2 November 2019 at Muckleford Forest VIC. Here are the details.

We begin our walk in a beautiful gully full of woodland birds. This is a Key Biodiversity Area. Eastern Yellow Robin, Little Lorikeet, Diamond Firetail, Rose Robin and Brown Treecreeper are all nesting in this area, along with with many parrots and honeyeaters. We will walk beside a creek, then uphill to a drier ridge where we should also see a variety of native plants. Later we will travel 1.5 km by car along the South German Track to a dam where we are likely to hear Crested Bellbird see White-browed Babbler and many cuckoos. We may have time for a morning tea at the cars before travelling to the dam.

All ages and levels of experience welcome. This is an easy walk with gentle slopes with mine shafts and a creek nearby, covering approx 4 km, finishing around midday. Leaders are Sue and Peter Boekel. Please note that there are no toilets available.

Location and directions: Travel west from Castlemaine for about 15 km along Pyrenees Hwy (B180), towards Newstead VIC. Turn right down the unsealed Mia Mia Rd – please travel slowly and see how many birds you can spy. After 1.5 m, turn left into Mia Mia Track and in 100 m, two Jacky Winters should be on your right. Travel slowly for 1.5 km and pass South German Track on your right, then in 50 m turn next left up Sullivans Track where we will park on the verge. If required, copy these GPS coordinates into Google Maps search field: -37.0806347, 144.0753035.

When: Saturday 2 November 2019. Meet at Sullivans Track, Muckleford Forest at 9.00 am, or to carpool from Castlemaine meet at 8.30 am outside Castlemaine Community House (former Continuing Ed building), 30 Templeton St, Castlemaine VIC.

Bring: water, snacks, binoculars, hat, sunscreen, sturdy shoes, long pants during snake season, and other weather-appropriate gear.

Important information about walks: Walks will be cancelled if the temperature is forecast to be 35 degrees or more during the walk period, severe weather warnings are forecast, and/or if the day has been declared a Total Fire Ban.

Questions: If you have questions about our walks program, you can email us at castlemaine@birdlife.org.au, or call Judy Hopley (0425 768 559) or Asha Bannon (0418 428 721).

Action shot of a Scarlet Robin on a dead branch (photo by Bonnie Humphreys)

 

 

Aussie Backyard Bird Count: 21-27 October 2019

Posted on 17 October, 2019 by Ivan

There’s only one week to go until the Aussie Backyard Bird Count begins. Have you registered yet?

By participating in the Aussie Backyard Bird Count, you will be helping BirdLife Australia find out about the birds that live where people live. This is especially important because even common bird species are strong indicators of the health of the environment. Think of birds as a barometer for nature.

Dusky Woodswallows at Mia Mia near Newstead VIC (photo by Geoff Park)

And if that’s not incentive enough, there are some exciting prizes on offer. With thanks to our generous supporters, you could win — a pair of Swarovski binoculars, a copy of ‘Thirteen Ways to Look at Birds’ or a Gang-gang Cockatoo pin badge. Simply submit a bird count to BirdLife from 21-27 October 2019 to be in the running!

If you have any questions about the Aussie Backyard Bird Count, please head to the FAQ page below, where you’ll find information about registering, participating and troubleshooting.

Get ready to count!

FAQ

 

Gardens and Birds of the Macedon Ranges – 24 October 2019

Posted on 17 October, 2019 by Frances

Rosemary Davies: Gardens and Birds of the Macedon Ranges – Castlemaine

Castlemaine Library is lucky enough to be hosting well-known garden author and ABC radio garden talkback personality of 35 years, Rosemary Davies. She will share insights into her latest book on gardens and birds in the Macedon Ranges as well as giving advice about your garden and landscape aspirations.

When: Thursday 24 October 2019 from 5:30 to 6:30 pm

Where: Phee Broadway Theatre – Castlemaine Library, 212 Barker St, Castlemaine, VIC

Bookings required: click here

 

Birdlife Castlemaine District celebrates its first birthday

Posted on 26 September, 2019 by Ivan

Sue, Jane, and Phil celebrate Birdlife Castlemaine District’s first birthday at a bird walk in July (photo: Birdlife Castlemaine District)

Connecting Country work with Birdlife Castlemaine District on many projects and share a common love for our regions birds and biodiversity. It was a significant effort and milestone for Castlemaine to have its own Birdlife branch, highlighting the community support and passion for our nature hotspots and wildlife. The newest branch of BirdLife Australia was officially launched at the Castlemaine Botanic Garden’s Tea rooms in July 2018, meaning they recently celebrated their first birthday!  A belated ‘Happy Birthday’ and congratulations on a fabulous first year to Birdlife Castlemaine District.

How you can be involved with Birdlife Castlemaine District:

‘Like’ their Facebook page: CLICK HERE 

Email castlemaine@birdlife.org.au if you would like to be added to their eNews list.

Become a member of BirdLife Castlemaine District by joining their parent, BirdLife Australia: CLICK HERE 

 

 

 

 

Spring railway walk with Nuggetty Land Protection Group – 22 September 2019

Posted on 11 September, 2019 by Jess

Nuggetty Land Protection Group is planning a walk along the Nuggetty to Shelbourne Railway line. This was a branch line from Maldon through Nuggetty and Bradford and ends at the Shelbourne Station complex. The old railway line traverses farmland and Bradford Nature Conservation Reserve. The line was closed in 1960 after due to major fire damage. There will be a stop for lunch at the reserve to look at local birds, orchids and other flora. Binoculars, tea, coffee and water will be available.

Jacky Winter (photo by Kerrie Jennings)

Spring railway walk

When: Sunday 22 September 2019 from 9:30 am

Where: Park at Nuggetty Peace Monument, Nuggetty School Rd, Nuggetty VIC (turn right off Shelbourne Rd north of Maldon). A community bus will transport walkers to start of walk.

Bookings preferred: Jane Mitchell (0457 729 132) or Christine Fitzgerald (0419 347 408)

The walk is approximately 13 km. Bus will meet at intersections of roads if lift required and return you to your car or take you to next section of the walk. Please bring own lunch and water, and wear walking shoes, weather appropriate clothing and hats. The event will be cancelled if weather inclement. Please leave pets at home.

 

Join Connecting Country’s Bird Watch program

Posted on 5 September, 2019 by Ivan

Observing nature over time provides evidence of landscape changes. Rigorous, long-term monitoring is essential to determine if threatened species are declining, or if landscape restoration efforts are effective in improving habitat for our at-risk species. In 2010, Connecting Country began monitoring woodland birds across the Mount Alexander region, as indicators of biodiversity and ecosystem health. With help from scientists, we established a long-term monitoring program, targeting members of the threatened Victorian Temperate Woodland Bird Community. From 2010 to 2017, field surveys were completed by experienced, and well-respected birders such as Garry Cheers, Tanya Loos and others.

We now have a rare and incredibly valuable database of rigorous, long-term results that can tell us how our woodland birds are faring in response to climatic events, and if habitat restoration is really helping them. However, fluctuating resources put our future monitoring program at risk. At the same time we’ve recognised that engaging community is central to successful biodiversity conservation.

We’ve been developing a new, community-driven model, where community members direct the research questions, and committed volunteers collect the data on the ground. Connecting Country is working to support a rich resource of skilled, committed and enthusiastic volunteers who are collecting scientifically rigorous data.

We plan to reinvigorate the program by monitoring all 50 of our key sites twice each in spring 2019. From then on, we’ll ideally monitor each site four times a year – twice in winter and twice in spring. With our current network of volunteers, we currently have capacity to survey about half of our 50 established sites. It would be wonderful if we could survey more of these sites this spring, and into the future.

If you are a skilled and experienced local birdwatcher, we would be delighted if you can help us to monitor local birds. To register your interest, please contact Jess Lawton (Monitoring Coordinator – Connecting Country) at jess@connectingcountry.org.au  or 03 5472 1594 as soon as possible.

We’d like to know:

  • If you’re available to assist with our bird surveys.
  • Your capacity (amount of time) to assist with bird monitoring in spring (September to November) 2019, or the number of sites you’d be willing to take on.
  • If your capacity is likely to continue into the future.
  • Where you are located and/or would like to survey – a location near you, or elsewhere in the Mount Alexander region.

 

 

Castlemaine BirdLife walk at Pilchers Bridge – 7 September 2019

Posted on 5 September, 2019 by Ivan

Fancy a lovely walk through the Pilchers Bridge Nature Conservation Reserve (near Sutton Grange), led by local enthusiasts Jenny Rolland and Euan Moore? Please see the monthly Birdlife Castlemaine walk details below, from their e-newsletter.

Saturday 7 September 2019 at Pilchers Bridge Nature Conservation Reserve

Join us for a spring-time walk in the beautiful Pilchers Bridge Nature Conservation Reserve, led by Jenny Rolland and Euan Moore. We will walk down Andrews Track through mixed box forest to the dam where we will sit and watch the birds as we have a morning tea break (a small mat would be useful for sitting on by the dam). Then we will walk eastwards along Andrews Track (undulating), head north off-track and return to Andrews Track along the creek lines. The terrain here will be open and relatively flat but the ground could be uneven. We will then walk back up the hill to the cars. This walk is based on a walk from Damian Kelly’s ‘Castlemaine Bird Walks’ book (page 75).

We should see several honeyeater and thornbill species, Treecreepers, Scarlet Robin, Rufous Whistler, Grey Fantail, Crimson Rosella, and if we are lucky, Speckled Warbler and Hooded Robin.

All ages and levels of experience welcome. This is an easy walk covering approx 3 km, finishing at around midday. Please note there are no toilets at the Reserve.

Location and directions: From Harcourt, travel southeast along the old Calder Highway (Harmony Way) for about 6 km and turn left along Faraday-Sutton Grange Road. After about 9 km, turn left along the Bendigo-Sutton Grange Road and after about 7 km turn right into Huddle Road (unsealed). After about 1.5 km, look for a small unsealed track on the right – Andrews Track. Park at this junction or at the lay-by about 50 m before the junction. If you reach the sealed road, you have gone too far.

Time: Meet at the junction of Huddle Road and Andrews Track in the Pilchers Bridge Nature Conservation Reserve at 8:45 am, or to carpool from Castlemaine meet at 8:00 am outside Castlemaine Community House (formerly Continuing Ed), Templeton Street, Castlemaine VIC.

Important information about walks: Bring water, snacks, binoculars, hat, sunscreen, sturdy shoes, long pants during snake season, and other weather-appropriate gear.

Walks will be cancelled if the temperature is forecast to be 35 degrees or more during the walk period, severe weather warnings are forecast, and/or if the day has been declared a Total Fire Ban.

Questions? If you have questions about BirdLife Castlemaine’s walks program, you can email at castlemaine@birdlife.org.au, or call Judy Hopley (0425 768 559) or Asha Bannon (0418 428 721).

Jacky winter perched on a dead branch (photo by Peter Turner)

 

Wattle walk and talk well received

Posted on 29 August, 2019 by Ivan

The wattles were blooming like crazy for the strong crowd of nearly 50 people at our ‘Wonderful World of Wattles’ event on Saturday 24 August at Campbells Creek in central Victoria. It was a day to remember, with sunny weather and two excellent guest speakers to educate participants about the beauty, benefits and biodiversity of the Acacia (wattle) species in our region. Connecting Country, Friends of Campbells Creek Landcare and Friends of the Box-Ironbark Forests partnered to deliver the event, which was part of our larger ‘Prickly plants for wildlife’ project funded through the North Central Catchment Management Authority.

The event kicked off indoors with retired academic and botanist Rod Orr, who has spent many years volunteering at the Bendigo Field Naturalists Club. Rod provided an excellent overview on the ecology and biological function of wattles. The audience was fascinated to learn that wattles can produce their own nitrogen fertiliser through nodules in their roots, allowing them to live in extremely low-nutrient soils. This explains why they are so useful in colonizing disturbed sites and degraded landscapes, like central Victoria!

The second part of the educational event was a walk and talk with Campbells Creek identity Ian Higgins, through the Campbells Creek Reserve at the end of Honeycomb Road. This site proved perfect for the keen audience to test their skills in identifying the large array of Acacia species that had been re-established at the site. Ian pointed out some of the finer skills in how to differentiate between species. He also gave the group a lesson in growing Acacias from seeds, and managed to get the audience to complete some direct seeding in a site dominated by Phalaris grass!

For those who could not attend, Friends of the Box-Ironbark Forests have developed an excellent 112 page book for sale, suited to beginners. In plain language, and generously illustrated, it presents 21 Acacia species that flourish in the Mount Alexander region of central Victoria. A general introduction explains different features of wattles, helping in identification and appreciation of these tenacious and beautiful plants.

Many thanks to Gen Kay, who generously volunteered her photography skills to capture the following images on the day.

 

Safe Cat, Safe Wildlife

Posted on 8 August, 2019 by Jacqui

The Safe Cat, Safe Wildlife blog is dedicated to keeping cats and wildlife safe

To celebrate International Cat Day, held on 8 August each year, and the unique wildlife of the Mount Alexander region, we are pleased to share a initiative called Safe Cat, Safe Wildlife from Melbourne Zoo and the RSPCA.

As the name suggests, Safe Cat, Safe Wildlife raises awareness of the threats to cats and wildlife when cats are able to roam freely. It aims to to build a community of cat owners who have the tools to provide their cat with the longest and happiest lives possible by keeping them safe and enriched at home. It helps cat owners with all aspects of cat care through an informative blog with hacks designed to keep cats entertained, healthy and happy indoors.

You can find out more and sign up to receive their newsletter on the Safe Cat, Safe Wildlife website – click here.

Birdlife and Wildlife Victoria are official campaign collaborators, and many local councils, veterinary clinics and wildlife networks have jumped on board to support the campaign. We note our local Castlemaine Veterinary Clinic has signed up as a supporter. To see the full list of supporters click here, scrolling to the bottom of the page.

At Connecting Country’s recent community bird monitoring workshop, participants identified the impact of cats on local birds as a priority for the community. Some local Landcare groups have also been working on managing issues of cats and local wildlife.

Photo from Safe Cat, Safe Wildlife

 

Hooded Robin walk with BirdLife Castlemaine – 3 August 2019

Posted on 31 July, 2019 by Asha

BirdLife Castlemaine District is going searching for Hooded Robins!

Hooded Robins are one of Connecting Country’s special ‘Feathered Five’. They’re known to frequent a certain spot in Shelbourne. Locals Jane MitchellKerri Peacoulakis and Kerrie Jennings will lead a bird walk with Asha Bannon.

The group will do a 20 minute 2 hectare survey using the Birdata app. The location is near one of Connecting Country’s monitoring sites in the Blue Hills. The walk may continue south along the railway line on the edge of the Blue Hills.

As well as the walk, all are invited to check out the successful direct seeding done by Connecting Country on Kerri and Tus’ property nearby. The revegetation is growing well, and providing habitat for Hooded Robins and other woodland birds. After the walk, please bring your picnic lunch and gather on the veranda at Jane’s place nearby in Shelbourne Rd, Shelbourne VIC. Jane will put the kettle on!

When:    Saturday 3 August 2019 from 9.30 am to 1.00 pm

Where:  Lakeys Rd and Railway line walk, Shelbourne (approximately 14 km north of Maldon)

Meet at the start of the walk at 9:30 am. For those who would like to carpool from Castlemaine, meet outside Castlemaine Community House (previously Continuing Ed) at 30 Templeton St, Castlemaine VIC at 8:45 am.

Directions: Park next to the disused Shelbourne-Maldon branch railway line along Lakeys Road in Shelbourne (soon after the dip in the road). Look out for the walk leaders who will be waiting at the parking spot. Call 0418 428 721 if you get lost.

Bring: Please bring binoculars, water, snacks, weather-appropriate clothing, and wear sturdy shoes and long pants during snake season.

Safety: The walk is approximately 4 km along an easy track. The walk will be cancelled if severe weather warnings are forecast, or if the day has been declared at Total Fire Ban.

Further information: Email castlemaine@birdlife.org.au or contact Asha Bannon (BirdLife Castlemaine District bird walk’s coordinator) on 0418 428 721.

The meeting point is circled on the following map.

 

Natural Newstead: A proper soaking and then woodland birds

Posted on 31 July, 2019 by Asha

If you love birds and our natural heritage, hopefully you’ve already discovered the Natural Newstead blog. The blog is a wealth of knowledge and expert observations of flora, fauna and landscape in central Victoria. With nearly 2,000 subscribers, it contains some of the best nature photography you will see anywhere. It is run by Newstead resident and local ecological identity Geoff Park, with contributions from other knowledgeable locals. Geoff Park has worked in various roles with the North Central Catchment Management Authority and in the private sector, and is very passionate about biodiversity conservation and on-ground biodiversity outcomes.

If you’re not familiar the blog, check it out here: https://geoffpark.wordpress.com

We particularly enjoyed Geoff’s recent post about woodland birds enjoying the wetter conditions this winter. To read this post on the Natural Newstead website, click here, or continue reading below.

A proper soaking and then woodland birds
Posted on 1 July 2019 by Geoff Park

We’re in the depths of winter and celebrating wonderful rainfall over the weekend.

Hopefully we move slowly now into a ‘typical’ spring that enables some recovery of woodland bird populations across the region. I was pretty chuffed to see some familiar faces at Muckleford Gorge, especially a pair of Hooded Robins. Along with the Crested Shrike-tit and Jacky Winter we encountered numerous Flame Robins, a Golden Whistler, Restless Flycatchers and Brown Treecreepers.

Crested Shrike-tit (adult male), Muckleford Gorge, 30th June 2019. Photo: Geoff Park

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Crested Shrike-tit (adult male), Muckleford Gorge, 30th June 2019. Photo: Geoff Park

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hooded Robin (male). Photo: Geoff Park

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jacky Winter on a branch. Photo: Geoff Park

 

 

 

Nature Hotspot: Mega-Sign launched at Castlemaine Information Centre

Posted on 9 July, 2019 by Ivan

The Honorable State Government member for West Bendigo, Maree Edwards MP, launched our wonderful ‘Key Biodiversity Areas: Nature Hotspots’ sign at the Castlemaine Market Building Information Center, Castlemaine, Victoria, on Tuesday 25 June 2019, in front of a solid crowd of dedicated volunteers and members.

The sign aims to educate the community and visitors to the region about the internationally significant nature hotspots to the west of Castlemaine, which are part of the greater Box-Ironbark Key Biodiversity Area (KBA). The sign has some stunning pictures of five bird species that you might see in the KBA area and aims to encourage people to explore and connect with these important landscapes, which include the forests and woodlands around: 

1. Clydesdale-Strangways
2. Sandon/Strathlea
3. Muckleford-Newstead

The five bird species highlighted in the sign are the Swift Parrot, Powerful Owl, Painted Button Quail, Hooded Robin and the local darling, the Diamond Firetail, all of which rely on the KBA area to provide habitat, biodiversity and ecosystem function to ensure their survival in our region. The photographs featured in the sign were generously donated by local photographers Geoff Park, Chris Tzaros and Alison Pouliot, with the incredible graphic design donated by the talented Jane Satchell.

The sign design for “Caring for our Key Biodiversity Areas”. Photo: Jane Satchell

The sign was funded through the ‘Caring for Key Biodiversity Areas in Central Victoria’ project, which included working with seven volunteer landholders within the KBA to restore and protect habitat on their properties.  The participating landholders will play a vital part in ensuring the habitat remains viable and in good health for all species that are present throughout the seasons.  The project also included education events to raise the awareness of KBAs through community-run Easter Health Checks of these habitats.

Connecting Country held a series of workshops in partnership with BirdLife Australia, to recruit bird survey volunteers known as ‘KBA guardians’ and provided training in how to complete the annual ‘Easter Heath Check’ form. You can read about those workshops here. The Easter Health checks will continue to occur in our KBA landscape, despite the project finishing up shortly, with the community keen to monitor these areas. This will inform Birdlife Australia of the threats and management actions required to keep these precious woodlands and forests in good health.

Diamond Firetails are declining in our region and feature prominently on the signage. Photo by Geoff Park

We would like to thank all of those who have been involved in development of information, design, and proofing of the sign, there are so many of you and your help has made such a beautiful and lasting sign possible.

For further information about Key Biodiversity Areas, please click here. If you would like to be involved in the Easter Health check for these landscapes, please contact the KBA coordinator at Birdlife australia: kba@birdlife.org.au

 

Bird walk at Tipperary Springs, Daylesford – Saturday 6 July 2019

Posted on 3 July, 2019 by Ivan

Here are details from BirdLife Castlemaine about their special bird walk this weekend at Tipperary Springs, Daylesford VIC

Join us at Tipperary Springs, Daylesford for a winter bird walk, led by Daylesford local, Tanya Loos. The walk will go for about three hours. Please be aware there are narrow paths along the creek with some hilly/rocky sections. We will also celebrate our one year birthday! Bring a thermos and snacks to share. Beginners very welcome.

Location and directions: Meet at Tipperary Springs in Daylesford VIC (follow Tipperary Springs Road). Follow this link for a map: click here

Time: Meet at Tipperary Springs at 9:00 am, or to carpool from Castlemaine meet at 8:30 am outside Castlemaine Community House (former Continuing Ed building), 30 Templeton St, Castlemaine VIC.

Important information about walks: Bring water, snacks, binoculars, hat, sunscreen, sturdy shoes, long pants during snake season, and other weather-appropriate gear.

Walks will be cancelled if the temperature is forecast to be 35 degrees or more during the walk period, severe weather warnings are forecast, and/or if the day has been declared a Total Fire Ban.

Questions? If you have questions about BirdLife Castlemaine’s walk program, you can email them at castlemaine@birdlife.org.au, or call Judy Hopley (0425 768 559) or Asha Bannon (0418 428 721).

Diamond Firetail (photo by Bridget Farmer)