Restoring landscapes across the Mount Alexander Region

Connecting Landscapes Celebration warms hearts on a cool June night

Posted on 15 June, 2017 by naomi

Last Tuesday, 6th June 2017, the Connecting Landscapes Celebration Event saw an engaged community come together to socialise, learn and commit to a future vision of a healthy landscape in the Mount Alexander Region. The celebration acknowledged the achievements of the Connecting Landscapes project over the past five years and recognized Connecting Country’s milestone tenth year. Over sixty landholders who have been part of our on-ground work program were treated to a delicious meal from Growing Abundance and deserts from the Murnong Mummas, trivia competition and an informative talk from David Cameron from Department of Environment Land Water and Planning (DELWP) .

Connecting Country President, Brendan Sydes, gives a short history and summary of plans for the future.

Brendan Sydes,  President of Connecting Country’s Committee of Management,  kicked off the evening with an Acknowledgement of Country and a brief overview of Connecting Country history to date. He also launched our new Biodiversity Hub project to be delivered in partnership with DELWP, Trust for Nature, Parks Victoria and Dja Dja Wurrung.

Connecting Landscapes project coordinator, Jarrod Coote, gave an overview of the achievements of our Connecting Landscapes project, the staff, and what is next for Connecting Country. Funded through the Australian Government, Connecting Landscapes has been Connecting Country’s major project for the last five years. It has seen huge gains for the environment through our on-ground works, monitoring and community engagement programs.

With our targets for the Connecting Landscapes project successfully it reached, we have:

  • Protected 1200 ha (3,000 acres) of native bushland on private land
  • Revegetated 400 ha (1,000 acres) of “greenfield” sites – i.e. paddocks
  • Treated rabbits and weeds over 1600 ha
  • Built 40km of fences
  • Developed 25 Landholder Management Plans
  • Delivered our successful education and monitoring programs

This table speaks volumes about our overachiever tendencies with actual results outstripping our targets in each of the five areas of on-ground works activity.

Tanya Loos,  Connecting Country Woodland Birds Project Coordinator, gave an overview of the monitoring component of the program. This included highlighting the various types of ecological monitoring undertaken by Connecting Country and acknowledging the many different groups of people involved including volunteers, landholders, experts and students. A highlight was the results for nest box monitoring with increases in occupation of the boxes for Sugar Gliders and Tuans.

An overall increase in numbers of Tuans and Sugar Gliders occupying nest boxes across the shire is encouraging.

Dinner was served and attendees collaborated on trivia questions which tested their natural resource management knowledge. Well done to the winners of the quiz; with only one question amiss, they secured a nest box each and some plants and guards. Free nest boxes were also given out to lucky door prize ticket holders.

All tables put in a great effort on the quiz.

The final part of the evening was a talk by David Cameron, Senior Botanist and curator of the state Flora Database with DELWP. His extensive knowledge about plants and, in particular, important weed species of the future was welcomed by the audience as useful advice for what to focus on their properties.

David Cameron talked about plant identification and weeds to look out for in the future given the likely effects of Climate Change.

Desert was served with many happy faces exchanging conversation in the cool of a June night. We would like to acknowledge the funding from the Australian Government which made this evening and the Connecting Landscapes project possible. We would also like to warmly thank all of our landholders and groups who have been involved in Connecting Country projects so far – every little bit of change we create helps biodiversity across our landscape. We look forward to more exciting projects like this in the future.

 

Nature News – 6th June 2017 Master spinners of silk; the Orbweavers

Posted on 8 June, 2017 by naomi

For this month’s Nature News (also on page 28 of this week’s Midland Express), local writer Dr. Lynne Kelly shares her love of spiders and knowledge of two local species of Orbweavers commonly found in the Castlemaine region.

Left: Garden orbweaver in her web at night. Photo taken by: Dr Lynne Kelly

“I adore spiders. I used to be an arachnophobe but knowledge cures an irrational fear, slowly at first. Then one day I watched an orbweaver spin her web from start to finish. That was the day I became a spider-obsessive. In the Mount Alexander Shire two varieties of orbweavers dominate – the large golden orbweavers who stay on their webs all day and the slightly smaller garden orbweavers that spin in the evening and scamper to hide in the foliage at dawn.

We have a few species of garden orbweavers. They are all in the Eriophora genus, distinguished by two prominent projections near the front of the abdomen. Garden orbweavers usually remove most of their web before dawn, re-absorbing the protein in the silk to use again. A single reinforced strand is left across the gap between bushes or trees in the hope that it will still be there the following evening. If that strand is broken, the spider will point her abdomen skyward and release a fine filament of silk. In even the slightest breeze, this silk will catch on foliage and she will rush across, back and forward, to reinforce the mainstay of her web. She will then drop to the ground and attach an anchor. She’ll rush up again to spin the radials and a spiral outwards. From the edge of her nearly complete web, she will then circle back towards the centre laying down the sticky spiral. Having worked tirelessly for nearly an hour, she will rest, head down, waiting for her prey.

Right: Golden orbweaver in her web by day with a tiny male approaching from above. Photo taken by: Dr Lynne Kelly

Unlike the garden orbweavers, the huge golden orbweavers stay on the web all day, constantly repairing and reinforcing it. It is not the spider which is golden but the glow of the silk when it catches the sun. All the individuals I’ve seen locally are the Australian Golden Orbweaver (Nephila edulis). Discarded debris is left in the web above the spider to confuse the birds. Male garden orbweavers are only marginally smaller than their females but the males of the golden orbweavers are tiny by comparison [see above photo on right]. Although the males of most spider species will survive their sexual encounters, the Nephila males sacrifice themselves in their final act. Having produced a golden egg sac, the female will then die with the first frost.”

For further reading, Lynne’s book, “Spiders: learning to love them” (Allen & Unwin, 2009) is an excellent resource for those interested in finding out more about these amazing creatures.

 

Help Little Heroes Plant New Habitat

Posted on 29 May, 2017 by krista

Little Habitat Hero, Sophie Haythorne, looks forward to planting on the 17th of June 2017.

A new story is being woven into the site of the Old Silkworm Farm on Leanganook, within the Mount Alexander Regional Park, this month, as a group of families and Landcare groups join together for the Little Habitat Heroes planting day on Saturday the 17th of June 2017, 9am-1pm. Open to all to participate, this ongoing initiative envisions 10 hectares of habitat regenerated on this historic site over the next few years.

Initiated by a group of new mothers in Castlemaine in 2016, Little Habitat Heroes, was a successful fund-raising campaign aimed at restoring native bush in honour of the region’s newest residents. Over $3,000 was raised by families and individuals, who were keen to see a beloved child in their life have the opportunity for a personal connection with nature.

This was matched with equivalent support from VicRoads to allow over 900 seedlings to be propagated ready for a wet winter start. Committed volunteers from Barkers Creek and Harcourt Landcare Groups, Connecting Country, and Little Habitat Heroes families and friends are providing their time generously to see the project succeed, with support from Parks Victoria.

“It’s amazing what a small group of committed people can achieve”, says Connecting Country Director Krista Patterson-Majoor. “From the start, when we were approached by the mothers’ group, we could see how closely aligned the project idea was with our organisation’s core objectives. We have been delighted to support the initiative, and we look forward to welcoming everyone to the planting day, it will be a lot of fun.”

For many, especially the nearly-two year olds, the planting day will be their first-ever tree planting experience, and an opportunity to see a habitat emerge that will support charismatic fauna such as sugar gliders and woodland birds. The location is exciting to local ecologists too, as it is uniquely suited to trial the return of indigenous species such as the Silver Banksia which once occurred on Mt Alexander and large areas through central Victoria before the gold rush.

“Just by living their lives, our children will no doubt contribute to environmental loss, so this is a chance for us to give something back,” says Little Habitat Heroes mother Meg Barnes, “The planting day will also offer a way to meet like-minded people and spend time at a gorgeous site.”

Little Habitat Heroes Planting Day Details: 9am-1pm, Saturday 17 June, meet at Leanganook Picnic Ground in the Mount Alexander Regional Park. Everyone and all ages welcome. Morning tea provided, BYO picnic lunch which we’ll eat together. More information visit www.littlehabitatheroes.org. To join the planting day or learn more, RSVP to littlehabitatheroes@gmail.com.