Restoring landscapes across the Mount Alexander Region

Yandoit bird outing – some fine birds

Posted on 13 August, 2018 by Tanya Loos

Landholder John Carruthers recently requested a visit from some experienced birdos to conduct some benchmark bird surveys on his property off Limestone Rd, Yandoit, Victoria. Being a very fine part of the world for birding, this is where we decided to have Connecting Country’s mid-week bird walk.

At 9 am on Wednesday 18 July 2018, our small group met with John at his property. The land is a mix of open country and bush, with Kennedys Gully coursing through open paddocks, and two patches of remnant vegetation with some lovely large old trees. We conducted a 20 minute – 2 ha search, which recorded eight bird species. An area search for the rest of the morning recorded 25 species.

The links to the surveys in Birdata are:

Our intrepid bird survey group walks along Kennedy Gully

The highlights were a flock of Brown-headed Honeyeaters, a pair of Restless Flycatchers and a pair of Jacky Winters. The Restless Flycatchers and Jacky Winters are birds of open woodlands, so John’s plan to keep some areas open for grazing will be good for these birds.

A lone Yellow-tufted honeyeater was a surprise. Perhaps more of these would be present when the eucalypts are in flower. The Noisy Miners we saw are a concern. Any shrub plantings in the remnants will help discourage these bushland bullies.

While we did not see Brown Treecreepers on the survey, they have been observed at the property previously. The requirements for Brown Treecreepers include lots and lots of fallen timber, so leaving habitat woody debris on the ground will take care of them.

The presence of large old trees on the property, and the extensive native vegetation along Limestone Rd, meant the bird survey recorded a mix of open country and very valuable, threatened Box-Ironbark birds. As a baseline survey, John is starting with the bar set high!

If you already have woodland birds on your property, your restoration plan might include a goal to retain these birds, and provide them with even better habitat by planting shrubs for nesting and food resources.

Thank you, John for showing us your beautiful property, and for your very generous donation to Connecting Country.

A Restless Flycatcher calling its distinctive scissors grinder call – photo by Geoff Park.



Habitat Health Check – our new project!

Posted on 7 August, 2018 by Tanya Loos

In 2009, Connecting Country created a Biodiversity Blueprint with the help of the community and our partners. From the outset, scientific monitoring has been a high priority at Connecting Country. Without monitoring, we don’t know if we’re achieving our goal to restore habitat for native species.

Monitoring achievements

We’ve been fortunate to have a world-class landscape ecologist, Professor Andrew Bennett, assist in creating our monitoring programs for woodland birds and Brush-tailed phascogales. As of 2018 we’ve collected 23,996 individual bird records, and 1,424 records for our phascogale monitoring.

Our wonderful ‘Connecting Landscapes’ project (2013- 2017) worked with local landholders to help restore over 1,600 hectares of land. It also funded staff to establish and run our bird and nest box monitoring programs. These days, funding is more likely to be smaller amounts of money over shorter time scales. In-house monitoring by staff has become a luxury!

In the meantime, we’ve developed a team of highly-skilled and enthusiastic volunteers ready to take a more active role as ‘citizen scientists’. We’re poised to update to a new model that is more community-driven – drawing upon the power of YOU, the community, to contribute data as volunteer citizen scientists.

This change has been in the air for a while. After the success of our ‘Stewards for Woodland Birds’ project, we’re delighted to announce we have funding from the Helen Macpherson Smith Trust to support this important transition.

The new project is  ‘Habitat Health Check: empowering citizen scientists to monitor habitat health in Central Victoria.’

Male Hooded Robin. Analysis of our results shows a welcome increase of this species in the Mount Alexander region. Photo by Geoff Park.

Habitat Health Check – analysing and acting on our scientific monitoring

Habitat Health Check is a collaborative, robust, citizen science project that monitors native animals and plants in the Mount Alexander region. We will review our existing, long-term monitoring programs, and move to a new collaborative, targeted model that empowers our enthusiastic and skilled volunteers, improves scientific rigour, and promotes data sharing via the Visualising Victoria’s Biodiversity online portal.

Tanya Loos, Connecting Country’s monitoring and engagement coordinator, will deliver the project between now and 2020. Habitat Health Check will encompass BirdWatch, NestboxWatch, FrogandReptileWatch and PlantWatch.

Some expected highlights

Our scientific data will be analysed by experts from BirdLife Australia and Latrobe University, and the results shared in an exciting evening forum.

Four workshops will review our data and results, and invite the community to explore new scientific questions and methods. How can we best work with the new BirdLife Castlemaine District group? What have we learned in the past eight years? And where to from here?

We’ll collaborate closely with SWIFFT – the State-wide Integrated Flora and Fauna Teams, to share our findings and use this great online resource.

In 2019,  we’ll run a competition for the best local photographs of our favourite flora and fauna, for Connecting Country’s very first calendar!

Get ready to get involved

We will be recruiting team leaders to inform and guide our various citizen science programs – so birders, nestbox enthusiasts, plant nuts,  reptile watchers and froggers: watch this space!



Small bush bird habitat created at Bradford!

Posted on 30 July, 2018 by Tanya Loos

What a difference a couple of years makes! Last Thursday, 26 July 2018, Bonnie, Frances and Tanya had the great pleasure of visiting Kerri Peacoulakis’ property in Bradford to marvel at the growth of native plant species at their direct seeding site, and also chat about bird surveying. Below is a photo of part of the site taken in September 2016, about one year after direct seeding.

Direct seeding site – photo taken 6 September 2016

Below is the same site, taken in the same direction. Note the large eucalypt with the wide crown in the left hand side of the photo.

The same site taken July 26, 2018.

The site was direct seeded in 2015, as part of Connecting Country’s Habitat for Bush Birds project. It is amazing to think that there are many tiny young plants fighting for survival under all the prolific capeweed in the first photo! The site is a bird survey site called NW-PR-03, a northwest paddock revegetation site.  The direct seeding is even more successful looking in the other direction, towards the Blue Hills area.

In the above photo, Bonnie is using a trundle wheel and a counter to carry out a direct seeding success count. These counts measure how many plants have grown, giving a standard measure of trees/shrubs per metre count. This number is comparable from site to site, and enables us here at Connecting Country to monitor the growth of our direct seeding from year to year.

The plant species in the direct seeding included a mix of local wattles, eucalypts, she-oaks, hop bush, and hakeas.

Kerri is taking on the bird survey site, by surveying the site four times per year. During our visit, we conducted a 20 minute 2 hectare count, with Kerri entering the data on her Birdata app on her smartphone. So simple! During the survey, we saw many open country species such as Red-rumped parrots, Welcome swallows and Australian magpies. Kerri said that she had observed Superb fairy-wrens on the site – a true mark of success as these little birds are NEVER recorded in a bare, open paddock! Well done Kerri and also her partner Tusker and family for a fantastic project!

Kerri, Jane ( Kerri’s mum in-law,) Bonnie and Tanya, photo by Frances.