Restoring landscapes across the Mount Alexander Region

Winter in the Nuggettys – Nature News 4th July 2017

Posted on 6 July, 2017 by Connecting Country

For this month’s Nature News (also on page 15 of this week’s Midland Express), Nuggety Ranges Landcarer  Jane Mitchell writes about living on her property ‘Sunnydale’. This Nature News is dedicated to Jane’s recently departed daughter Clara Annie Patterson.

At ‘Sunnydale’ the birds are feeding off the last fruits of the year. Grey Currawong, usually too shy to come close, are attracted to the Persimmon tree near the back door along with groups of Silvereyes. The Pomegranate, planted by our European forebears, is a favourite of the Crimson Rosellas who tear at the split fruit with their strong beaks to reach the jewels inside. Then the smaller birds can follow now access has been granted.

Grey Currawong in Persimmon Tree, Sunnydale. Photographed by Jane Mitchell.

‘Sunnydale’, our home of 32 years, is in the Nuggetty Ranges which lie on the northern side of Maldon. Surrounding our land is Box-Ironbark bushland which provides habitat for over 60 species of birds and counting.

The Hedge Wattles are a favourite safe house for the Blue Wrens. Kookaburras have vantage points in the Grey Box and Yellow Gums to observe for their hunting purposes.

Overhead are Little Eagles, Wedge-tailed Eagles and Brown Falcons. There is a constant background sound-scape from Spotted Pardalotes. New Holland Honeyeaters exert their territorial rights in groups. Family groups of Red-browed Finches share the bird bath in turns returning to and fro their bush hideaway.

Then there are the seasonal visits from the male and female Scarlet Robin and Black-faced Cuckoo- shrikes who have their own particular flight habit. The thornbills twitter and flick through the taller canopy so fast they can barely be discerned.

Crimson Rosellas’ clear ringing call reaches across the valley. My special friend the Grey Shrike-thrush is a warming presence. Now the bronze-wings and Peaceful Doves are looking for any leftover Ruby Salt-bush seeds and are helping themselves to fallen pomegranates in their quiet, purposeful manner.

After the sun sinks the dark brings new visitors. A Southern Boobook call is a low, throaty sound from different vantage points. I hesitate to confirm but on a few evenings in the past the single and duet call from Barking Owls have been heard.

We are so fortunate to have this special place to live and share with our feathered friends. Each day I delight in their presence.

Silvereye in Persimmon Tree at Sunnydale. Photographed by Julie Hough


Fryerstown bird walk and workshop

Posted on 3 July, 2017 by Tanya Loos

Last Sunday, June 25 2017, Fryerstown residents and bird lovers from as far afield as Woodend and Shepherds Flat enjoyed a bird walk and gathering at the old Fryerstown School.  We were pleasantly surprised by the mild weather and yes – even sunshine!
Our group of twenty spotted 18 bird species , with Yellow-tufted Honeyeaters most definitely “bird of the day” as they were present in large numbers feeding on the flowering Yellow Gums.  Another highlight was some very good views of one of our target species, the Brown Treecreeper.  Nina Tsilikas took this lovely photograph of a Brown Treecreeper hopping about on the moss-covered ground. Out of shot is a large group of Long-billed Corellas who were digging for a bulb of some kind – the two species made quite a contrast.  They were foraging on a site known as Blue Duck Mine – soon to be the site of an exciting new project, but more on this later!


They appear to be plain brown – but the Brown Treecreeper is very beautifully patterned when seen at close quarters.

We walked along Turners Road to the Fryerstown Cemetery. Sadly the Eastern Yellow Robins who are usually there were absent, but we did get some lovely views of a male and female Galah. Nina was there again with her trusty camera – and these shots show the subtle difference between the sexes – the male has a dark brown coloured eye, and the female a pinkish red eye.

Male Galah

Female Galah

After the walk we all enjoyed sandwiches, cake and tea and coffee served by the School committee – and I gave a short presentation on woodland birds and how to help them thrive in the Fryerstown area.

Maurie Dynon from Guildford and Upper Loddon Landcare kindly stood up and gave the group an update on an exciting proposed restoration project in the Fryerstown township – the weed removal and revegetation of a patch of land known as the Blue Duck Mine. The funding is yet to be confirmed, but the land managers (Department of Environment Land Water and Planning) are  on board and so is the Fryerstown CFA, whose fire shed abuts the reserve. Fryerstown locals such as Clodagh Norwood, Helen Martin and  Bill Burris are thrilled that the Blue Duck Mine project, auspiced by the landcare group, could set in motion a number of habitat restoration projects locally.

Many thanks to the wonderful residents of Fryerstown for their generosity and enthusiasm – it was a really fun morning!

Finally, Connecting Country is  calling out for landholders who are interested in helping protect and enhance bird habitat on their property – if you are in the Fryerstown, Tarilta, Glenluce area and have remnant vegetation on your land – please fill in an expression of interest form – see Expression-Of-Interest-Form-July-2017-Connecting-Country and get in touch!

This event was generously supported by the Helen Macpherson Smith Trust. 

Watching the Brown Treecreeper




Threatened woodland birds get a bodyguard

Posted on 21 June, 2017 by Connecting Country

Threatened woodland bird populations in the Mount Alexander region are being better protected through a new collaborative Connecting Country project. Over three years, $300,000 from the Victorian Government’s Biodiversity On-Ground Action initiative will help to protect, enhance and increase critical bird habitat in Box-Ironbark Forests in the Mount Alexander area. This area is important because it provides core habitat for the Victorian Temperate Woodland Bird Community, which is listed under the Flora and Fauna Guaranteed Act and an indicator of the health of the landscape.

The Diamond Firetail is one of the threatened Woodland bird species to be targeted by the project.

Krista Patterson-Majoor, Connecting Country Director – Project Manager, explains; “Over recent years, we have seen a decline among most threatened species within this bird community. We are taking a team approach with this project and collaborating with Trust for Nature, Dja Dja Wurrung, North Central Catchment Management Authority, Parks Victoria, Landmate, Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP), local Landcare groups and private landholders to carry out a variety of environmental works to help protect the birds.”

Works funded will include having private land owners undertake weed control and fencing to protect remnant vegetation across 60 hectares. In exchange, the owners will set aside land for conservation for at least ten years, including stock grazing removal and pest control. This funded project aligns with our Woodland Bird Action plan which aims to stabilise and then increase the populations of local species by protecting and expanding their core habitat. Landholders who are interested in finding out more are encouraged to contact Connecting Country or fill out an  Expression-Of-Interest-Form-July-2017-Connecting-Country.

DELWP Program Manager, Biodiversity, Jill Fleming, said: “This community-led group has been working for more than 10 years to protect threatened woodland birds in the Mount Alexander region and it’s great to see them receive this funding that will help them, and all the partners, to continue this important work.” DELWP’s involvement will help to broaden the scope of the project and ensure works carried out on private land will be complemented by similar activities on 80 hectares of surrounding public land that has been strategically aligned with private landholders and woodland bird priority zones. “By controlling the weeds and removing stock grazing, we discourage non-native birds, who may displace the native ones, from using the same habitat,” Ms Fleming said.

Twenty-six large scale, multi-partner regional partnership projects totalling $7.7 million have been funded through the Regional Biodiversity On-Ground Action initiative to address major risks to threatened species and ecosystems across the state. These projects will be delivered through regional partnerships between agencies, organisations, community, landholders and traditional owners. The list of projects is available at: 

Box Ironbark East Biodiversity Hub Steering Group Members (from left) – Chris Timewell (CC), Jill Fleming (DELWP), Matt Menhennet (Landmate), Tanya Loos (CC), Steve Comte (Landmate) Deanna Marshall (TFN), Krista Patterson-Majoor (CC) Bonnie Humphreys (CC), Britt Gregory (NCCMA), Kirsten Hutchinson (TFN) and Noel Muller (PV) – at our inaugural meeting in Castlemaine. Absent are Rodney Carter (DDW), Steve Jackson (DDW) and Adrian Martins (NCCMA).


7th May 2017: Woodland Bird Spotting at Walmer

Posted on 20 April, 2017 by Tanya Loos

Follow that bird! A bit of fun in the Sandon Forest…

On Sunday the 7th May 2017, join the Connecting Country bird nerds on a bird walk, lunch and planting! Local artist Eliza Tree has graciously invited us to her beautiful 30 acre property in Walmer for our next bird survey. The property is grassy woodland adjacent to Crown land and has been awarded a Trust for Nature covenant.

We will do the bird walk, led by Eliza,  and then have a BBQ lunch. We will also spend a bit of time having a discussion about the overall conservation of the Walmer area – and identifying some projects for future funding proposals. After lunch,  there will be an understory planting session – grasses and wildflowers.

This outing is one of the monthly bird outings in the Mount Alexander area – a few hours out in the bush with like-minded people, carrying out bird surveys on private and public land. This year we have visited a private bush block on Limestone Road, and explored the wonderful Saltwater Track, Elphinstone.

The bird walks are open to everyone with an interest in birds and habitat – even for the total beginner! We can supply you with a pair of Connecting Country binoculars for the outing, and our bird group is friendly and happy to help people 1) find the bird and 2) identify it! We are all learning together – even your walk leader had to send photos of a bird of prey to Geoff Park (Natural Newstead) to confirm that the bird was indeed a Square-tailed Kite!

By identifying and counting the birds on private land such as Eliza’s block in Walmer, we gain a greater understanding of the health of our woodland bird populations; especially of our target species such as the Hooded Robin and Diamond Firetail. By attending the monthly bird walks, we hope that participants will feel confident and inspired to survey birds on their own properties, or on the various bird survey sites on public land.

There are many ways to get involved in the Stewards for Woodland Birds program – to register or to find out more, contact Tanya at  or call 5472 1594. You can;

  1. Join the Bird Survey Enews mailing list for a monthly enews with updates on our bird walks and various projects.
  2. Come along to our next bird survey – the Walmer bird and planting event on May 7 with Eliza Tree ( RSVP required for catering purposes) Eliza extends a warm invitation to camp on her land at Walmer on the Saturday night! Please contact Eliza directly on m: 0409 209707 if you would like to camp.
  3. Send in your bird sightings! See here to find out more about how.
  4. Get involved with our KBA (Key Biodiversity area) program, featured recently here.

The Stewards for Woodland Birds Program is generously supported by the Helen Macpherson Smith Trust


Guardians assemble! A new group of custodians is formed…

Posted on 22 March, 2017 by Tanya Loos

The special bird habitats of Clydesdale, Sandon and Muckleford now have a small team of Guardians! These three areas, of both private and public land, are designated as Key Biodiversity Areas (KBAs) by BirdLife International, and BirdLife Australia.

Connecting Country held a workshop on Saturday 18 March 2017 to recruit KBA guardians and provide training in filling out an Easter Heath Check form each year. Birdlife Victoria KBA coordinator Euan Moore and his wife Jenny kindly took some time out from their busy schedule to present a comprehensive introduction to KBAs, and how to become a Guardian.

The open bushland around the hall was filled with birds – despite being rather hot, we saw a Diamond Firetail, a Mistletoebird and a pair of Peaceful doves – 20 species in all!

There are over 300 KBAs in Australia – and the Easter Health Check is a means to working out which KBAs are in danger – so that lobbying can be done and funding procured. For example, recently the Murray-Sunset and Hattah KBA was saved from an inappropriate burning regime that had reduced the population of tiny,  rare birds called emu-wrens by such a drastic degree that they had become critically endangered.

In the case of our Key Biodiversity Areas,  the Easter Health check is a means for locals to come together and try to quantify the threats facing our woodland birds and their habitats. Each KBA has what are known as “trigger species” – the key species that are under threat in that habitat – in our area, the trigger species are the Diamond Firetail and Swift Parrot.  During the workshop there was much discussion around what these threats are, and the rate that they are causing declines in the Diamond Firetail. A fascinating process! Drought featured heavily, as did grazing, and pest animals such as European Rabbits, Red Foxes, and cats, both feral and domestic.

This young Diamond Firetail faces an uncertain future. Photo by Geoff Park

Connecting Country’s Stewards for Woodland Birds project is delighted to support the Easter Health Check initiative. The Health Checks filled in by our guardians will form the basis for a series of community plans for each area – Clydesdale, Sandon and Muckleford.

If you were unable to make it to the workshop but would still like to be involved – contact us! Not only birdos are needed for this process – anyone with understanding of our local habitats, the trials faced, and the communities working to address these threats is welcome to take part. At the workshop it was decided to form a small Guardians email list so that people can stay in touch – let Tanya know if you wish to be added to the list. Email or call 5472 1594.

Thanks to Euan and Jenny for an inspiring and informative workshop – and many thanks to the enthusiastic participants! For more information on KBAs, see BirdLife’s overview: click here

The KBA workshop and the Stewards for Woodland Birds Program are supported by the Helen Macpherson Smith Trust.


The Big Twitch on a smaller scale

Posted on 2 March, 2017 by Connecting Country

A Weebill – one of the smaller woodland birds on David’s “to get” list on his web page. Photographed by Geoff Park.

Those who attended Connecting Country’s 2015 AGM will recall Sean Dooley’s amusing recollections on his attempts to break the record for the most bird species seen in Australia within a calendar year.  He also wrote a self-deprecating book recounting this crazy adventure that he undertook in 2002 – The Big Twitch – which was popular among both birders and non-birders.  Tongue-in-cheek, the back cover of the book described Dooley’s efforts as possibly ‘the most pathetic great achievement in Australian history’!

Dooley’s book has inspired many other ‘twitchers’ to either attempt to break his Australian record, or to set new records for the most birds seen within state boundaries. (For example, Tim Dolby saw a then-record 345 species in Victoria during 2009 – click here to read of Tim’s journey).

However, as far as we are aware, no one has yet claimed the record for the most bird species seen within the boundaries of the Mount Alexander Shire in a calendar year.  However, that is all set to change, with local birdwatcher David Wilson deciding to undertake a big year in a small area.  After recently moving with his family to the Castlemaine area, David has taken on the challenge in 2017 as a fun way to get to know the forests, wetlands, waterways and other habitats of the shire.  As at the 22 February 2017, he had seen 104 different bird species.  Over the past four decades, the Castlemaine Field Naturalist Club members have recorded more than 230 species from the shire and surrounds – although many of these were very rare visitor or accidental vagrants, and not all within the shire boundaries.  At least one species has gone extinct from the local area in this time – the last known Grey-crowned Babblers from the shire sadly disappeared in the early 2000s. David is not sure how many species he will get within the year – but an impressive 200 species seems within the realms of possibility.

If you would like to see how David is tracking, the rules he has set himself, which species he has seen so far and where, and what he has left to go – you can visit his website (click here – scroll down on each webpage to see the details).  David has also asked us to pass on the following message – “‘As the end of the year gets closer, I’ll be looking for any hints on where to find those missing species. So keep your eyes open – you may know where a key species is that I still need to see”.

Good luck David!



An opportunity to be a part of a global conservation initiative: locally!

Posted on 1 March, 2017 by Tanya Loos

BirdLife Australia is looking for people in each of the Key Biodiversity Areas to complete an “Easter health check” for their local area. Connecting Country has invited Euan Moore from BirdLife Victoria to come up to Clydesdale on Saturday the 18th of March to take us through the process for our part of the Bendigo Box Ironbark area.

The KBA boundaries are outlined in blue, and include Muckleford Forest, Rise and Shine Bushland reserve and the Sandon State forest. And a lot of private land too!

As you may know, Connecting Country is an affiliate organisation of BirdLife Australia. And BirdLife Australia is aligned with one of the biggest conservation networks in the world – BirdLife International. BirdLife International has designated hundreds of areas of conservation importance around the world known as Key Biodiversity Areas (KBA).  And we have one here on our very own doorstep – we are part of the Bendigo Box Ironbark area.   Our part of the KBA has been designated especially for the Diamond Firetail and Swift Parrot, and covers both public and private land. Your property could be of international importance! For more information on the KBA and the Easter Health check process click here.

This annual check is about assessing habitat and its threats so anyone with a interest in landscape restoration would be most welcome. In fact, the KBA’s used to be known as IBA’s: Important Bird areas – but they changed the Important Bird to Key Biodiversity to reflect the importance of the areas for the whole ecosystem, not just birds! We encourage you to attend this workshop whether you live in the areas highlighted in the map or would simply like to visit the beautiful bushlands.

  • A Swift Parrot surveys its woodland home, photo by Chris Tzaros.

    When: Saturday, 18 March, 2017

  • Time: 10-2pm with lunch provided
  • Where: Clydesdale Hall, Locarno Rd
  • RSVP is essential for catering purposes to Tanya on or 5472 1594
  • Please wear outdoor appropriate footwear and clothing as we will be going to the nearby Rise and Shine Bushland Reserve for some of the workshop. Click  here for a workshop flyer.

Funding for this workshop has been generously provided by the Helen Macpherson Smith Trust, as part of the Stewards for Woodland birds project. 





2016 bird monitoring – painting a picture of our woodland birds

Posted on 19 December, 2016 by Tanya Loos

People most often ask – how are the birds doing? Are there more birds, and more ‘good’ birds as we have revegetated the landscape?  This is a really valid question, and the reason why we have put so much time and energy into our monitoring programs. It is a difficult question to answer. But we can say that we now know more than EVER before about the distribution of woodland birds across the landscape.  Monitoring began in 2010, and has combined both an in-house program (click here) and our citizen science program (click here).

I am just about to export some 8,473 bird records to BirdLife Australia, as part of our data-sharing agreement. These records are from the period May 27, 2015 to November 11, 2016.  This means the BirdLife Australia Bird Atlas is about to get a large injection of information from this part of the world – including 406  surveys carried out by myself, and 91 surveys from our Group Sites and landholder citizen science program. Well done team! This data gives us valuable information on how our woodland birds are faring across the landscape – including their distribution, and a beginning of an idea about their population sizes.


In this fascinating map above, we can see the distribution of the Brown Treecreeper. The white circles show where surveys have been carried out and the Treecreepers were not recorded. The green coloured dots show that the Brown Treecreepers  have been recorded there. The number next to the dot shows not the number of individual birds but occurrences – so a number two means that any number of Brown Treecreepers have been recorded on two separate occasions. The large ovals are the priority habitat zones as identified in our Ten Year Woodland Bird Action Plan.

For more exciting information from our recent monitoring results – see our updated website page here.

These maps have been generated for each member of the feathered five – and Cara Byrt, our database expert extraordinaire has just re-jigged the database so that we can create similar maps for any bird species! If you would like a map similar to the map above of your favourite bird species – email Tanya Loos and she will be happy to oblige!

On a final note: whether you enjoy birdwatching in a group, on your own, or from the comfort of your own property – there is a place for you in our bird program! Please do not hesitate to get in touch either by email ( or calling the Connecting Country Office on 5472 1594.


Owlet-nightjar paparazzi at the Christmas break-up. A lot of fun!



Fine food and owlet-nightjar magic at our December bird walk

Posted on 7 December, 2016 by Tanya Loos

Our last bird outing of 2016 was a little bit different – 17 of us met at Jane Rusden’s bush block at Campbells Creek. After a fairly humid walk, we returned to Jane’s home where she had prepared a incredibly delicious festive morning tea! But let’s talk about birds first – and, in particular, our thrilling sighting of a owlet-nightjar.

Jane and Martin’s property is 40 acres of heathy dry/ valley grassy forest that runs along a gully line. Their property was included in our 2016 Connecting Landscapes on ground works program, with weed and rabbit control, some planting and the erection of a number of exclosures to keep out hungry browsing wallabies. The property is a hotspot for woodland birds such as Australian Owlet-nightjar, Speckled Warbler and Painted Button-quail. In fact, on Monday Jane excitedly contacted us reporting an adult Painted Button-quail with three large chicks!

Our walk on the 4th December 2016 was rather quiet, with only 18 bird species observed over a couple of hours. We travelled up Hawkins Rd into the surrounding Castlemaine National Heritage Diggings Park, and then looped around to walk up the gully on Jane’s block. The highlight was when Greg Waddell called out to our group –  an owlet-nightjar had been disturbed by our presence!

after being flushed, the owlet-nightjar returned to its cosy hollow in a broken off tree stag. Pic by Peter Turner.

After being flushed-out, the owlet-nightjar returned to its cosy hollow in a broken off tree stag. Pic by Peter Turner.

The Australian Owlet-nightjar is a surprisingly small bird, and so special it is in a bird family all on its own! There is just the one species in Australia, and six species in Papua New Guinea. For many of us (including me!) it was the first time we had laid eyes on this enchanting bird.

The owlet-nightjar is considered to be a good indicator of ecosystem health – their penchant for using many small hollows tells us that there are plenty of hollows in that part of the bush.

Despite the forest being reasonably quiet we all had a chance to brush up on our bird calls – with many learning the calls of the Spotted Pardalote and the White-throated Treecreeper for the first time.

As we headed into the gully, some of us observed a Yellow-footed Antechinus – a quick glimpse of this small charismatic native mammal.

After our walk we returned to Jane’s. I was a little late as I had to get some feathered five maps from the car, and as I went up the stairs all I could hear was ecstatic ‘oohs and ahs’ at the food Jane had so kindly prepared!

The feast was our way to thank everyone for their participation on the monthly bird walks, and for sending in their bird sightings.  The dairy-free Mango Celebration Cake, Lime Macadamia Balls and Fruit Cake were highlights and those who subscribe to the Bird Survey Enews will get the amazing cake recipe as requested!

Huge thanks to Jane for the feast and inviting us into her home, Greg Waddell for spotting the owlet-nightjar, and Peter Turner for photographing it! Thanks also to the Helen MacPherson Smith Trust who support our Stewards for Woodland Bird program.

Our monthly bird walks will continue in 2017 on the first Sunday of the month. Contact Tanya Loos for more information: or phone 5472 1594.




Connecting Country’s monthly bird walks – Metcalfe, Sunday 6 November 2016

Posted on 2 November, 2016 by Connecting Country


Hedge wattle (acacia paradoxa), perfect habitat for Thornbills. Photo by Geoff Park

Connecting Country’s Habitat for Bush Birds Project OfficerTanya Loos is running free monthly bird walks.  These walks are for those folk interested in practicing and improving their birding skills, regardless of skill level. The next walk is at Metcalfe Nature Conservation Reserve “The Common” on Sunday 6th November 2016

Local landcarer Debbie Farmer will be on hand to co-lead. Debbie is the secretary of Metcalfe Landcare. Beginner birdwatchers are most welcome!

This bird walk will conclude at the Metcalfe Shire hall with a presentation on the birds of the Metcalfe area. Bring your lunch and have a bite to eat while Tanya takes you through the local birds, their habitat use and calls. The presentation will take an hour including questions.

How to get there:

  • If you are from Castlemaine and surrounds – meet at 8:20 am outside the Continuing Ed building, Templeton Street, to car pool to the site. If the event needs to be cancelled, someone will be there at 8:20am to let you know.
  • Metcalfe and Taradale locals – meet at the Metcalfe Shire Hall at 8.50 and then car pool to the Reserve.

There is no need to book for these walks, but let Tanya know if you would like to borrow some Connecting Country binoculars. If you would like to subscribe to Tanya’s email list for these walks please contact her


Celebrate Bird Week and the Aussie Backyard Bird Count

Posted on 18 October, 2016 by Tanya Loos

From 17-23 October 2016, thousands of people from across the country are heading out into their backyards, local parks or favourite open spaces to take part in the third annual Aussie Backyard Bird Count!    

On Saturday, October 15 2016, Connecting Country’s Woodland Bird Project Coordinator Tanya Loos and BirdLife Australia’s  Sean Dooley kicked off Bird Week and the Aussie Backyard Bird Count  with a joint presentation in the Macedon Ranges .

tanya-and-seanSean spoke passionately about growing up with birds in the Melbourne suburbs of Seaford, and his love for imperiled woodland birds such as the Grey-crowned babbler. He showed us how simple bird surveys conducted by citizen scientists all over Australia have enabled some alarming trends to be picked up – such as the decline of Laughing Kookaburras which are down some 40% in recent years.

Tanya then followed with an overview of the extensive on ground works program of Connecting Country, and how this work will help woodland birds and in particular the feathered five. She shared some exciting graphics which show the results of the citizen science program in the area – in particular for the Diamond Firetail and Brown Treecreeper. (Coming soon!)

Sean then took us outside and we used the Aussie Backyard Bird Count app to do a simple twenty minute survey, the highlight of which was a Sacred Kingfisher sitting on a little gate above a dam next to the Newham Mechanics Institute. The app is so easy to use! For those without a smart phone – the website is also very simple and really aesthetically pleasing.

To get involved all you need is 20 minutes, your ‘green patch’ of choice, and some keen eyesight (or binoculars!) And it doesn’t matter if you’re a novice or an expert—we’ll be there to help you out along the way! Simply record the birds you know and look up those you don’t on our ‘Aussie Bird Count’ app or the website. You’ll instantly see live statistics and information on how many people are taking part near you and the number of birds and species counted not just across your neighbourhood but the whole of Australia!

Not only will you get to know your feathered neighbours, but you’ll be contributing to a vital pool of information from across the nation that will help us see how Australian birds are faring.  Check out the results from the 2015 Aussie Backyard Bird Count here.

Any questions about the Aussie Backyard Bird Count? Get in touch with Tanya at the Connecting Country office at

The Rainbow Lorikeet was the most commonly recorded bird in 2015. By Andrew Silcocks.

The Rainbow Lorikeet was the most commonly recorded bird in 2015. By Andrew Silcocks.


15 October 2016: Tanya heads south to talk birds

Posted on 13 October, 2016 by Connecting Country

Connecting Country supporters from ‘down south’ will be thrilled to hear that Tanya is presenting in Newham from 2 to 3.30 pm on Saturday the 15th of October 2016. She will be speaking alongside Sean Dooley from Birdlife Australia about the challenges faced by local woodland birds. More information in the flyer below.



Maldon Open Landcare Day: Boneseed and birds

Posted on 19 September, 2016 by Tanya Loos


On the look out for birds. Photo by Jane Mitchell

As part of the  Landcare Open Day events on 11 September 2016, the Nuggetty Land Protection Group and Maldon Urban Landcare Group (MULGA) joined with Connecting Country for a woodland bird walk and boneseed pull.

Despite the grey and glary day, we were treated to views of some thirty bird species as we walked from the Maldon Cemetery to the rock covered hillside known as The Common. We had some very experienced birdwatchers in attendance who spotted for the group some usually hard-to-see birds such as the Fan-tailed Cuckoo and the Shining Bronze-cuckoo. Small birds such as Striated Pardalotes, Thornbills and Grey Fantails were in great numbers, and the Scarlet Robin pairs we saw gave everyone great views, with or without binoculars. A Little Eagle soaring overhead went into a dramatic hunting dive at one point! Whilst walking the Common, many young Boneseed plants were located and pulled out, as were small Wheel Cactus. Luckily, staff from Parks Victoria have recently pulled out many of the larger Boneseed plants, as the flowering period has begun.


Small Boneseed plants were pulled along the way. Prevention is better than cure! Photo: Jane Mitchell

Jane Mitchell from Nuggetty Landcare shared some of the history of the Common, and Ian Grenda from MULGA gave a short talk on the weed known as Boneseed, and how to recognise its distinctive leaf. Ian also provided some samples of Bridal Creeper with a biological control known as ‘rust’ to take home for any home infestations.

Tanya, the Woodland Bird Project Coordinator from Connecting Country, explained that weeds such as Boneseed and Bridal Creeper grow prolifically and smother the leaf litter and branches where small birds such as Hooded Robins and Painted Button-quails nest and feed. This is one of the reasons why weed control is so very important for protecting Woodland Birds.


Tanya talks about why weed control is important. Photo: Jane Mitchell

After our walk we were treated to a fantastic barbecue and sandwiches – thanks to Ian and Bev for cooking! Tanya then distributed a short survey about the values and threats of the bird habitats in the region. These surveys will be used to generate some project ideas for future funding opportunities in the region.

Thirty-five people attended, and many of these people had not previously been to a Landcare event. Many thanks to all those that helped organise this enjoyable and informative event!



Winter bird survey highlights

Posted on 1 September, 2016 by Tanya Loos

Tanya has just completed our 2016 winter bird surveys - a grand total of 100 individual surveys - with some interesting results.

Tanya has just completed our 2016 winter bird surveys – a grand total of 100 individual 20-minute surveys – with some interesting results.

After our very dry Spring in 2015 we have had a very wet winter in 2016 – what a relief! Bird activity this winter has seemed to mirror the strange weather patterns – with large numbers of some species, unusual breeding behaviour, and increased numbers of ‘out-of-towner’ visitors!

For the Winter bird survey, I visit our fifty sites in both morning and afternoon which we have been monitoring since 2010. These sites are a mix of paddock sites, restoration sites and intact sites in bushland areas. For more on this monitoring program, follow this link HERE. The sites are located on both public and private land, however I have also included some observations of species seen whilst traveling around from site to site.

The numbers and distribution of our ‘Feathered Five’ seem to be unchanged this winter, with our Hooded Robins of Muckleford and Blue Hills remaining steady, Diamond Firetails in small numbers around Yapeen, Newstead and Clydesdale, and not a single Painted Button-quail observed during surveys! One of these elusive button-quails was  recorded and photographed by a local birdwatcher – great shot David Adam and thanks for permission to use the pic.  Happily, Brown Treecreepers were recorded in the southerly farmland areas of Metcalfe for the first time – a thrilling result as there are no database records for them in the Metcalfe or Taradale Conservation Reserves. With new areas of private land being enhanced for conservation, we may see more of these birds on this eastern side of Castlemaine.

david adam PBQ

A Painted Button-quail on Mia Mia Track, 23/07/2016, by Victorian Birders Group member David Adam.

Silvereyes have been around this winter in big numbers – I have seen flocks of thirty birds!  There are two populations of these lovely little birds – our locals with silvery buff and light rufous underparts, and some winter visitors from Tasmania with a deeper richer version of this lovely reddish colour on their flanks. Geoff’s blog Natural Newstead has more on these attractive birds (CLICK HERE).

I noted large flocks of the brightly coloured European Goldfinch in the Harcourt area, and flocks of about thirty Common Mynas (also known as Indian Mynas) just west of Newstead. Happily, I also noticed a LOT of small native birds, with large numbers of Spotted Pardalotes, Striated Pardalotes and Weebills busily feeding on the flowering Yellow Box.

The Little Corella, a smaller cousin of the Long-billed Corella with a little more blue and less pink around the face, is moving southwards with sightings in Sutton Grange and Baringhup. Pied Currawongs are in greater numbers this year, and not only in town. For the first time since surveys began, Pied Currawongs have been recorded in bushland during surveys. Another bird that is increasing  locally is the Grey Butcherbird, with a few sightings in Castlemaine and also in Walmer. A large  honeyeater may also be increasing locally – the Blue-faced Honeyeater, with sightings around town (including the Castlemaine Botanic Gardens) and in Maldon. Again, check out Geoff’s blog here for more on this species.

I observed Noisy Miners mating in Maldon in May which is quite late in Autumn to commence breeding! But after a poor spring in 2015, perhaps it seemed like a good idea. These aggressive native birds do not seem to be at the high numbers that they are elsewhere such as Bendigo and outer Melbourne, but their local populations are definitely worth keeping an eye on if we are to keep all our abundant bush birds.

I was surprised to see a pair of Scarlet Robins busily building a nest in Barkers Creek in late July, as it was still a very fresh 5 degrees celcius at 10:44am! Getting in early for a good Spring, I suspect. I would have to say though that the highlight of the Winter Bird Surveys was a most unusual visitor – a very confiding and lovely Olive Whistler. The Whistler was recorded by myself and volunteer Jane Rusden on the first survey of Winter at the magnificently regenerating Forest Creek in Golden Point. He or she hopped along the transect for nearly the whole twenty minutes, affording us excellent views.

A special winter visitor: an Olive Whistler. Pic by Francesco Veronesi from Italy (Olive Whistler - Victoria_S4E5352) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

A special winter visitor: an Olive Whistler. Pic by Francesco Veronesi (Olive Whistler – Victoria_S4E5352) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

 We have Rufous and Golden Whistlers in the region, but the last record of an Olive Whistler to this region was reported in the Castlemaine Field Naturalists News in the 90’s – and they are usually in the Otways or the dense forests east of Melbourne!

If you have noticed unusually high numbers of certain species, or new species visiting your area – we would love to hear from you!

Email or call me at the office 5472 1594

Our Woodland Bird Monitoring program is supported by Connecting Country’s Connecting Landscapes program, through funding from the Australian Government.

By Tanya Loos, Woodland Birds Coordinator.


Nature News – August 2016: Brown Treecreeper Super-Group

Posted on 2 August, 2016 by Connecting Country

For this month’s Nature News, Connecting Country’s Woodland Birds Coordinator, Tanya Loos, celebrates the cooperative spirit of the Brown Treecreeper. You can read it in print on page 34 in the August 2nd 2016 edition of the Midland Express.

Some birds are so rare and hard to find that it is a delight to catch a glimpse of them, such as the Painted Button-quail or Powerful Owl. Other birds are classified as rare, but where they occur they are noisy and noticeable, and present in good numbers. A good example of this is the locally abundant, but threatened, Brown Treecreeper.

The social Brown Treecreeper can be spotted in the forests around Castlemaine. Photo by Geoff Park

Brown Treecreepers may be seen in most patches of forest and woodland in the Castlemaine region, especially in Muckleford and Newstead. They are tubby brown birds which hop along the ground, scamper along fallen logs, and creep up trees in the manner of treecreepers. Their call is a strident ‘spink spink’ and as the treecreepers are very social, you may hear lots of calls and see wing-fluttering as the birds sort out who is who in the flock.

Brown Treecreepers are particularly frisky at the moment, as the year’s breeding has begun! This species breeds cooperatively, that is, the young from previous years help the parents raise the young. These family groups usually number from three to eight birds. And then, in a totally cool twist – these family groups will team up with neighbouring family groups to form a super-group! A super-group or clan is a large group where most males from any group will help at any of the nests of the super-group.

If you are lucky enough to have a super-group on your bush block, you might wonder why these birds are considered rare! Brown Treecreepers are widespread across our region, but in neighbouring areas such as the Ballarat region, they have become locally extinct. Their habitat needs are quite specific, and if the changes in the landscape are too great, they simply disappear from that area.

Brown Treecreeper families have home ranges that may be as large as twelve hectares, and they need this patch to be continuous, good quality habitat. Even a gap of one kilometre is too far for them to cross!  Their patch needs to have plenty of large old trees, logs on the ground, an abundance of fallen timber and leaf litter, and grass tussocks.  Heavily burnt public land or very sparse cleared private land does not have the habitat complexity these birds need to find food and raise their young.

To find out more about Brown Treecreepers and the other members of the Feathered Five, see Connecting Country’s woodland birds section on our website (CLICK HERE).


Bird monitoring workshop at Yapenya ( Mount Barker)

Posted on 17 June, 2016 by Tanya Loos

By Jane Rusden, Connecting Country volunteer

On 26 May 2016, Tanya Loos lead a wonderful scientific bird survey workshop on the slopes of Yapenya, known to many as Mt Barker, with our hosts the Dja Dja Wurrung on the Clans Aboriginal Corporation property. Twenty one intrepid and enthusiastic participants, of which two were Dja Dja Wurrung Clan members and two were Djandak employees; enjoyed the grey wintery day and braved the inclement weather.

As we sheltered in the Dja Dja Wurrungs shed, drank tea and ate biscuits, Ron Kerr gave us a warm welcome followed by an outstanding DVD by Gerry Gill, “The Meaning of The Stones”, giving us background information on the significant Dja Dja Wurrung cultural heritage of the area. Tanya then gave us a fascinating bird ID talk and introduction to the environmental management of the property. So we were primed and ready to brave the wild weather for our bird survey, a first for many in the group.

The 20 minute 2Ha area search is quite specific, but with a few simple rules to follow. We got the hang of it fairly quickly and set out spotting birds. Our transect followed a magnificent stand of River Red Gums, providing important habitat for the 6 species of woodland birds we saw. Of note, we also saw a stunning Wedge-tailed Eagle or Bunjil, the male Flame Robin with its crazy bright orange breast, and the hard to identify and confusing thornbills, the Brown Thornbill and Yellow-rumped Thornbill. We also saw a flock of Silvereyes foraging on the ground which is unusual for this species.

Having worked up an appetite battling the wild weather and working hard at bird spotting and identification, we enjoyed a BBQ lunch provided by the Dja Dja Wurrung and cooked by Ron. An informative and fun day out in a special and fascinating landscape, concluded with full tummies.




All rugged up as we searched for birds along the river red gum part of the property.







Bird outing to Karrook at Kalimna Park

Posted on 24 May, 2016 by Tanya Loos

By Tanya Loos.

Saturday 14 May 2016 had a magical Autumn morning and our group of 25 bird observers was ably led by Jules Walsh and Geoff Hannon from Friends of Kalimna Park. Jules and Geoff are locals in the area and were able to share with the group some of the history of the site known as Karrook. Thanks Jules and Geoff!

It was very quiet at first, with our group seeing few birds. But by the time we got to the gully/ dam area, the bushland was alive with Scarlet Robins (6!!), thornbills, White-throated Treecreepers and a very healthy looking male Golden Whistler. Another highlight was a Little Eagle soaring overhead!

We also saw an Eastern Spinebill –a small, much-loved honeyeater, most often seen in gardens so great to see in the bush! One of you (I think it was Lynette!) asked me if the female had a grey crown,  and I most mistakedly said  “oh no, that difference is the difference between White-eared male and female honeyeaters”. Well,  I am happy to say that as a birdwatcher one is learning all the time and I was very wrong! Geoff Park did a lovely blog post on Natural Newstead on these birds which points out that the female spinebill does indeed have a grey crown (as in the picture by Geoff below, and read more on this post HERE).

Our outing was during the annual mainland Australia Swift Parrot survey count weekend. While we did not see any Swifties, we have nevertheless  submitted a survey form,  as knowing where they are NOT is also very important. I have attached a word copy of the completed survey form (WL_-_Swift_Parrot-Regent_Honeyeater_survey_sheetConnectingCountry).

If you would like to be on the email list for bird surveys in the area – drop me an email at

A female eastern Spinebill, by Geoff Park

A female eastern Spinebill, by Geoff Park

Our bird walk also happened to fall upon the Global Big Day Out 2016 – a massive worldwide event that encourages users of eBird to record their sightings. eBird is an online recording tool that can be downloaded as an app, or used online.  To see our survey as it looks in the eBird program go HERE.

Don’t worry if you have never heard of eBird – it is a great tool, and fun to check out but not essential. Sometime this year BirdLife Australia will finish their smartphone app and online recording tool or portal – we’re expecting that this will be more useful and relevant to us than eBird, as it is locally-based and uses exactly the same bird surveying methods.

Having said that I think the idea of a simultaneous worldwide bird count is a lot of fun! The results of the Global Big Day Out are in: 6,199 species recorded by 15,446 people all over the world! In Australia, 487 species were recorded in 944 checklists by just 309 people! Our humble contribution was 20 species! I encourage you to explore the Global Big Day website (click HERE)  – it is really inspiring and has a lovely picture of a map of birds all over the world to download.

Big Day stats

The statistics for the Global Big Day Out


Swift Parrot count this weekend

Posted on 11 May, 2016 by Tanya Loos

Fans of the Swift Parrot are pleased to hear that the “swifties” are back in the Mount Alexander region, with a small flock of adults and juveniles reported on Geoff Park’s blog Natural Newstead (click here). These precious and declining migratory parrots visit the area every year in Autumn and winter. BirdLife Australia coordinates counts across the birds’ range, and we encourage you to participate this weekend (14-15 May 2016)! The Swift Parrot surveys can be undertaken in a couple of different ways.

Swift Parrot feasting on blossom, a beautiful photo by Chris Tzaros.

Swift Parrot feasting on blossom, a beautiful photo by Chris Tzaros.

  1. Join me on an outing to Kalimna Park this Saturday 14 May 2016. Kalimna Park is not renowned for a lot of Swiftie sightings but it is good to know where the birds are not occurring, as well as where they are. This walk is a rescheduled outing from last week which was cancelled due to bad weather. Please call or email to book a place and for further details. Phone 0400 458 910 or
  2. Head out on a survey yourself! The form to use is very easy and can be downloaded from the Birdlife website (click here). Elizabeth (Beth) Mellick from the Norman Wettenhall Foundation is coordinating the various Swiftie survey locations in our region, so if you are carrying out a survey, please email Beth at  The Muckleford-Newstead area is usually the best place to go to see some Swift Parrots!  However, some other potential locations that are not yet covered by birdwatchers include: Harcourt, Nuggetty, Welshmans Reef, and if you wish to go further south, Campbelltown and Talbot.

From Tanya Loos,
Coordinator of Connecting Country’s Woodland Bird Projects


Autumn bird breeding and a pardalote nest box

Posted on 20 April, 2016 by Tanya Loos

From Tanya Loos, Woodland Birds Project Coordinator.

The summer of 2015 – 2016 has been a strange one; long and hot and mostly very dry. While some of the signs of Autumn are here, such as the arrival of Eastern Spinebills and other autumn migrants (as noted on the Natural Newstead blog), in other cases birds are still behaving as if it is summer!  Patrick Kavanagh (Newstead Landcare)  photographed this beautiful Common Bronzewing on the nest at the Rise and Shine Reserve on March 19. This is a very late time to breed.

This is a male Common Bronzewing. The female's colours are more muted. Pic by Patrick Kavanagh

This is a male Common Bronzewing, the female’s colours are more muted. Pic by Patrick Kavanagh

Patrick also reports frenzied activity around his Striated Pardalote nestbox – could they be going for brood number four at his place?! Pardalotes usually breed around September to February, with some records of breeding as late as March. Patrick has some beautiful photos of his Striated Pardalotes on the Natural Newstead blog here.

Frances Cincotta from Newstead Natives and Newstead Landcare has kindly sent in photos and building instructions for her Striated Pardalote nest box  – an ingenious use of recycled materials, and such a simple design, I think even I could make this box!

photo of nest for Spotted Pardalote, made by Ric Higgins for FrancesAccording to Frances:  “The pardalote ‘box’ is made of heavy duty cardboard roll…and so needs to be placed under the eaves, out of the rain.

It was designed and made by Ric Higgins who has apartment blocks of them under the eaves at his place at Yandoit, all occupied by Striated Pardalotes in the springtime.  You often see designs with a perch near the entrance home but it is not necessary.”

The design is featured below, and followed by a photo of the Striated Pardalotes gathered around the nestbox at Frances’s place in Newstead. Who knows – if you are quick and get this delightful home up and running, you might have a brood of Autumn pardalotes at your place!

Drawing by Ric Higgins

Drawing by Ric Higgins









Newstead (184)

Pardalotes at the nest box, pic by Bonnie Humphreys






Feathered Five Inspire Art, Song and Research

Posted on 10 March, 2016 by Connecting Country

hannah birds

Hooded Robins by Hannah Vellacott

The Feathered Five inspire many people – and our Feathered Five Festival showcases some of the resulting work ranging from artists, singing groups and scientists.

For local artist Hannah Vellacott, they have inspired a series of paintings titled ‘Diamond In The Woods”. These paintings will be on show during the Feathered Five Festival at the Corner Store Merchants (220 Barker St Castlemaine) from the 12 March until 9 April 2016.

Hannah describes her work: “In these paintings I aim to capture the beauty and fragility of the feathered five, through detail and the gentle wash of colour that is unique to watercolour painting. The use of white space is inspired by traditional Japanese ink paintings. I like the way the objects appear to float on the paper and your eye is drawn to the details in the bird or flowers.

For local singing group, the Chat Warblers, they have inspired a new song! Written by Judith Tregear and mixed by Jane Thompson, the song will debut at our evening forum on Saturday the 19th of March. We cannot wait to hear it!

For world renowned ecologist, Andrew Bennett,  woodland birds have inspired his long-standing research interests in landscape ecology and conservation biology, with a particular focus on understanding how human land-use and landscape change affect native wildlife and ecological processes. At the evening forum, Andrew will share the results from his recent research into woodland birds in Central Victoria and lead a topical discussion about “Drought then flooding rains: how do woodland birds respond to climatic change?”

Spots are still available for the evening forum, but are filling fast. CLICK HERE for more information and to make a booking. Bookings close on the 17th of March 2016.