Restoring landscapes across the Mount Alexander Region

Nalderun Sorry Day and Reconciliation Week – 26 May to 5 June 2022

Posted on 25 May, 2022 by Ivan

Our friends at Nalderun have sent us some information about their events for Sorry Day and Reconciliation Week 2022. The week of events will commence with the 2022 Sorry Day commemoration at Castlemaine Botanical Gardens on Thursday 26 May 2022. Please read on for details about this important week for our first people of the land and our community.

Nalderun Education Aboriginal Corporation, with support from Friends of Nalderun present:

The 2022 Sorry Day commemoration
Where: Castlemaine Botanical Gardens, Castlemaine VIC
When: Thursday 26 May 2022 from 10.30 am

Introduction and MC: Vic Say
Smoking and Welcome to Country ceremony: Uncle Rick Nelson
Address by the Mayor: Bill Maltby and Castlemaine school captains
Speakers: Ron Murray Wamba Wamba Tatlara Man

For the full  program of events for Nalderun Sorry Day and Reconciliation Week 2022 – click here

Nalderun is a Dja Dja Wurrung word which means ‘all together’, because we believe by moving forward together we can make the change needed for our children, our mob and the wider community in the Mount Alexander Shire region of Victoria to thrive. We are Aboriginal led and run – we know what our Community needs, as we are apart of it. For 10 years we have seen our children become stronger, proud and deadly. We know our future, and the future for our children’s children is safe, having created programs and ways of being and teaching now. We want you to join this journey in this two-way learning space. We look forward to walking forward together. We invite you to support us in caring for Culture, Country and Community and to meet the needs of our mob, and the ever-increasing commitment to support these changes in the broader community, which builds respectful and reciprocal relationships for all.’

‘We have written this document in a way that most organisations – Non-Indigenous organisations – show who they are. Our way is also through this video, a collaboration of 10 years of our work: NALDERUN – ALL TOGETHER’

 

 

 

New bird walk launched at Forest Creek, Castlemaine

Posted on 7 April, 2022 by Jacqui

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

Bird of the month: Common Bronzewing

Posted on 29 March, 2022 by Ivan

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

Common Bronzewing (Phaps chalcoptera)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jane Rusden
BirdLife Castlemaine District

 

Join us ‘Bird walk for beginners’ launch – 6 April 2022

Posted on 16 March, 2022 by Ivan

Come and help us celebrate the launch of our new brochure and bird walk, ‘Bird walk for beginners’, an easy walk along Leanganook Track and Forest Creek in Castlemaine VIC. The event and bird walk brochure aim to attract new birdwatchers, as well as celebrate the excellent restoration work that volunteers have achieved over the past few decades along Forest Creek. Bird walks are an ideal way to get people out enjoying and exploring the many natural assets we are blessed with here in central Victoria.

Bird watching is a great activity that almost everyone can enjoy, and this walk aims to increase the accessibility of bird walking in our region. We also feature a video of the walk presented by some engaging local bird enthusiasts, providing an in-depth view of the walk features for those less-abled or unable to visit the walk in-person. The COVID-19 lockdown period has seen a ten-fold increase in the number of new birdwatchers around the country, with a similar trend here in central Victoria. People are craving nature and the outdoors, prompting them to start their bird watching journey and enjoy the challenges of how to differentiate some of the trickier species.

Join us for a short, guided bird walk for all ages and abilities, and explore our new ‘Bird walk for beginners’ brochure, featuring QR codes to access bird and habitat information. The brochure launch event will feature a walk with local experts from BirdLife Castlemaine, Castlemaine Landcare Group and Castlemaine Field Naturalists Club, and will highlight the excellent volunteer work along this section of Forest Creek and Leanganook Track.

The walk is approximately 1.5 km long and is located along a gently graded, well-maintained walking path.

We will stop at eight sites along the bird walk, providing excellent opportunities to visit some great bird watching spots, with experienced mentors to guide you through the morning. Participants will have a chance to ask questions and learn directly from mentors, and scan the QR codes in the brochure to learn more about the birds at each site.

When: Wednesday 6 April 2022 at 11.00 am

Where: Leanganook Track, corner of Colles Rd and Murphy St, Castlemaine VIC. To view a google map link – click here

Bookings: Bookings are essential and tickets are limited. To book please – click here

Bird watching is a great way to connect with nature and the community (photo by Frances Howe)

 

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

Please bring water and clothes for all weather to the walk, as you never know what autumn conditions may bring. All participants must adhere to health and safety requirements, including any current COVID-19 restrictions Please wear appropriate clothing and footwear and bring water and snacks, as well as binoculars if you have some. Connecting Country will provide some extra binoculars to share if needed.

Bird watching is one of the most enjoyable and satisfying ways to enjoy our natural heritage. Recording your bird observations also contributes valuable data for scientific research and informed conservation decisions. Birds are often our key connection to the landscape. They are prevalent in most environments and tell us much about our surroundings and environmental health. Central Victoria is considered a birding hotspot and they often prompt you to explore wonderful places that you never knew existed!

 

Healthy Landscapes guide – purchase a copy now

Posted on 10 March, 2022 by Ivan

We are excited to announce that we have now sold over 120 copies of our Healthy Landscapes guide. If you don’t have one yet, be sure to get your copy before the first print run sells out! They are a bargain at just $15 and perfect for people new to the region, or anyone who wants to learn more about how to protect and restore habitat for our local wildlife. Proceeds allow us to cover printing and administration costs, and support our work. 

Here’s just some of the feedback:

  • I was in Castlemaine today and suddenly remembered this item about the book being available at Stonemans. They had it at the front desk and we are reading it now back at home. It is really outstanding and very relevant. Thanks to Connecting Country for their dedication. (Welshmans Reef landholder)
  • Sensational! A must-read for anyone with a property from 1 to 1,000 acres. (Yapeen landholder/farmer)
  • I wish we’d had this guide when I first moved here 25 years ago. (Golden Point landholder)
  • Wow, what a fabulous publication. It covers all bases and is an essential read for all landowners. It has particular relevance for anyone doing due diligence before purchasing rural acreage, however big or small.  (Walmer landholder)

For more information about the Healthy Landscapes guide – click here

Copies are now on sale – when COVID-19 related restrictions allow.

To get your copy ($15) head to:

Mount Alexander Animal Welfare (MAAW) Op Shop
12 Johnstone St, Castlemaine VIC
For shop information and opening hours – click here

Castlemaine Visitor Information Centre
44 Mostyn St, Castlemaine VIC
For centre information – click here

Stoneman’s Bookroom
101 Mostyn St, Castlemaine VIC
For shop information – click here

The Book Wolf
1/26 High St, Maldon VIC
For shop information – click here

Castlemaine Vintage Bazaar
The Mill, 1-9 Walker St Castlemaine, VIC
For shop information and hours – click here

A copy of the guide has been made available free of charge to each local Landcare and environmental volunteering group in the Mount Alexander region. This project is made possible through support from the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment, through funding from Australian Government’s National Landcare Program.

 

Benefits of ecological burns webinar – 8 March 2022

Posted on 22 February, 2022 by Ivan

We recently discovered a useful upcoming event on the topic of planned ecological burns. Ecological planned burning is a land management tool applied to promote positive benefits for a local environment and certainly has its place in sustainable land management, if implemented with skill and knowledge.

This online event is on Tuesday 8 March 2022 from 7 pm. Please read on for further details, courtesy of the Macedon Ranges Shire Council.

What are hazard reduction burns, are we doing enough of them, and could they have stopped Australia's catastrophic bushfires? - ABC News

Ecological burns aim to bolster growth in native plant species and prevent serious bushfires (photo: ABC News)

 

Ecological burns – the benefits

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

The talk will explore how ecological burning is undertaken in Local Government and how this can be applied to other contexts.

Zoom details will be sent to you prior to the webinar. To register – click here

The Healthy Landscapes project

The Healthy Landscapes: Practical Regenerative Agricultural Communities program aims to raise awareness in their community about sustainable land management practices that improve soil health, reduce exposure to climate risk, enhance biodiversity and increase on-farm productivity.

This program is being delivered as a partnership between Macedon Ranges Shire Council, Hepburn Shire Council, the City of Greater BendigoA Healthy Coliban Catchment project (North Central Catchment Management Authority and Coliban Water), Melbourne Water and the Upper Campaspe Landcare Network.

 

Wattles as a potential climate solution

Posted on 17 January, 2022 by Frances

The Mount Alexander region of central Victoria is home to over 20 species of acacia, from the small shrubby Gold-dust Wattle, to the spiky Spreading Wattle to the towering Blackwood. They provide essential resources for our native wildlife, and their brilliant flowers transform our winter and spring landscapes into a riot of yellow. But did you know acacias are also extremely efficient at storing carbon?

Professor Mark Adams at Swinburne University of Technology in Melbourne has measured the amount of wood laid down by various species and the amount of water required by them to do so. One of the champion genus’s is Wattle (Acacia sp.). Acacia species produce far more wood for a given amount of water than other plants and are often quick growing.

Australia once had more acacia woodland than eucalyptus. But of course, much of it was removed and became marginal grazing land. Mark Adams says ‘restoring acacia woodlands over vast areas would be a good way to benefit from acacia’s innate ability in absorbing carbon from the atmosphere’. Interestingly, they can do it without fertiliser, due to their ability to fix nitrogen from the air and transfer it to the soil.

To learn more listen to the fascinating interview on Radio National’s The Science Show, courtesy of the Australian Broadcasting Commission (ABC) – click here

To learn more about our local wattles, get a copy of the ‘Wattles of the Mount Alexander Region’ book produced by Friends of the Box-Ironbark Forests – click here

Woolly Wattle (photo by Bonnie Humphreys)

 

Gypsy and Anusheh raise money for Connecting Country!

Posted on 12 January, 2022 by Ivan

Gypsy and Anusheh at their lucky dip stall (photo by Robyn Matthews)

Gypsy and Anusheh, both in Grade 3 at Violet Street Primary School in Bendigo VIC, held a fundraiser for Connecting Country in November 2021. The girls did a fantastic job of arranging a lucky dip that cost 50 cents per dip. It was so successful they had 204 dips in the basket, which saw a line-up of students waiting for their turn, and raised an impressive total of $104!

The Connecting Country team are so proud to know these young advocates for our natural landscape. Connecting Country’s Landcare Facilitator, Hadley, interviewed the girls to find out what inspired them and what they love most about their local natural environment.

 

 

Q. What inspired you both to hold a fundraiser for Connecting Country?

Gypsy – I really like birds and native plants and basically native everything. We live in the sort of place where there is lots of native birds and stuff that I can look around at and like, and that kind of inspired me.

Anusheh – Well we get to see a lot of birds at our place. So I like the birds because they look pretty and when we go for walks I like how they sing and all of the different tress that they can go into.

Q. What do you love most about the natural environment where you live?

Anusheh – It’s probably the birds that I can see just sitting out the window in the trees and I can just look at them.

Gypsy – I like waking up to chirping birds making all different songs, it’s really relaxing. And going on walks seeing native plants, it’s really relaxing. We live on the Bendigo Coliban Water chase and there are lots of birds around the chase.

Violet Street Primary School students lining up for the lucky dip (photo by Robyn Matthews)

Q. What inspires you to look after and protect our landscapes and environment across Central Victoria?

Gypsy – I knew that Connecting Country would be the right place because they help lots of native things like native birds and native plants and native animals, and they’re really good with it. It’s important to me because I really like animals and I really like birds and I really think they should have a habitat just like we do.

Anusheh – When I got a dog she kept finding these dead birds around our house but we know she can’t catch them because she’s still a bit young to catch them. So I thought if I can help them [the birds] I think it would help and my dog won’t catch as many birds and maybe be a bit kinder to birds.

Q. What do you know about Landcare?

Gypsy – I know that my Dad is the Vice President of our local Landcare. I’ve also been to Camp out on the Mount.

Gypsy, Anusheh and another student counting the funds (photo by Robyn Matthews)

Q. Who are your role models?

Anusheh – I think it would probably be my parents, my teachers and some of my friends.

Gypsy – Asha [former Connecting Country staff member], because she’s really passionate, kind, funny, nice and I helped her at Camp out on the Mount, and my Dad.

Q. What do you hope to achieve when you grow up?

Gypsy – To be part of helping stopping climate change and the greenhouse effect, which is probably the worst effect you can get.

Anusheh – Probably to help so there won’t be as much plastic just floating around.

 

 

Q. What is your favourite bird or other animal?

Anusheh – Probably a Kookaburra

Gypsy – My favourite animals are sharks, snakes, and my favourite birds, I’ve got a lot. I can’t say all of them but a Red-tailed Black Cockatoo, a Yellow-tailed Black Cockatoo, a Long-billed Corella and a Short-billed Corella, Powerful Owl, Diamond Firetail, a Wedge-tailed Eagle and a thousand more!

The Connecting Country team send Gypsy and Anusheh a big thank you for their amazing efforts, and for taking the time to answer the interview questions. What wonderful initiative and commitment they have shown. Well done girls!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Healthy Landscapes workshops 2022

Posted on 12 January, 2022 by Ivan

It sure was a busy time for webinars in 2020 and 2021, with Connecting Country hosting no less than a dozen online events and training sessions. Many organisations moved to webinars during the period of uncertainty and changing COVID-19 restrictions, including the ‘Healthy Landscapes’ project coordinated by our neighbours at Macedon Ranges Shire Council (VIC) and their project partners.

They have delivered an exciting array of sustainable land management webinars over the past two years, which are now all online for catch-up viewing. We particularly liked the soil health and grass identification workshops and video series, which include an overview of how to support soil health and use native pasture grasses for long-term sustainability.

The workshops tapped into some immense local knowledge, and allowed it to be shared and enjoyed across the nation. There are also four new webinars planned for 2022. Please read on for details from the project.

To listen to the 2020 and 2021 Healthy Landscapes workshops on regenerative land management – click here

Webinars have proved to be popular over the past two years (photo: Macedon Ranges Shire Council)

Healthy Landscapes workshops in 2022

Visit the Macedon Ranges Shire Council website (click here) for more information on these upcoming workshops:

Horses – How to graze them in a sustainable way – Ashbourne
Sunday 6 February 2022 | 10:00 am to 12:00 pm
Do you have horses? Come along to a field day in Ashbourne
Click here for bookings and further information

Movable fencing and water for stock – Gisborne
Thursday 3 March 2022 | 07:00 pm to 09:00 pm
Join a farm visit on a property in Gisborne to learn about movable fence and trough systems.
Click here for bookings and further information

Movable fencing and water for stock – Kyneton
Friday 4 March 2022 | 10:30 am to 12:30 pm
Join a farm visit on a property in Kyneton to learn about movable fence and trough systems.
Click here for bookings and further information

Ecological burns – the benefits
Tuesday 8 March 2022 | 07:00 pm to 10:00 pm
Learn about planned burning as a land management tool to promote positive benefits for a local environment.
Click here for bookings and further information

 

Getting into nature with Chewton Primary School

Posted on 20 December, 2021 by Ivan

 

The Grade 3/4 class with their teacher Mikaylah, and Hadley and Asha from Connecting Country (Photo by Chewton Primary School)

Connecting Country had the great pleasure of coordinating four sessions of nature activities for the grade three and four class at Chewton Primary school during 2022. The first session was an introduction for the students, discussing the history of our landscapes and what has shaped the land around us. We went for a walk in the local bush to look at plants and birds, did a ‘sit and listen’ activity, and shared nature observations from around school and home.

 

In the second session we talked about the importance of tree hollows as habitat, and how nest boxes can help provide artificial homes for wildlife when tree hollows are missing. The kids learnt all about Brush-tailed Phascogales, Krefft’s/Sugar Gliders and the many birds, bats, and other animals that need tree hollows to shelter and raise their families. They learnt about the importance of mature, old growth trees and the habitat they provide for many of Central Victoria’s wonderful creatures. The kids learnt about the value of installing nest boxes in fragmented habitats where there are few hollows, and how the nest boxes can provide hollow-like homes for many animals.

The kids using Connecting Country’s native plants brochure to identify local flora (Photo by Connecting Country)

In the third session, the wonderful Jane Rusden from BirdLife Castlemaine District engaged the kids about bird watching, talking in detail about many of our special local species and their quirks. Jane ran a nature journaling activity to help the kids develop their observational skills in the natural world, prompting them to look for things of certain colours and look for ‘mini-worlds’ through paper telescopes. At the end we distributed a lovely selection of plants from Newstead Natives for students to plant at home and around the school.

The final session was a great success when Ray Stevens, representing Nalderun, came and spoke with the kids about the local Dja Dja Wurrung culture and First Nations perspectives. Ray took the kids for a bush walk through Post Office Hill Reserve where he opened our eyes to the history of the local bush and the many culturally significant markings and places in the local area.

 

As part of this final session, we also asked students to share ‘something they had learned about and would like to help take care of’. Answers included phascogales, gliders, Powerful Owls and other birds, cats (hopefully meaning to keep them away from wildlife!), trees, Chocolate Lilies, other native plants that were taken home, and many other delightful answers.

Ray (representing Nalderun) explaining rock wells (Photo by Connecting Country)

Arkie in Grade 4 from Chewton Primary School wrote:

Over the past few weeks the grade 3/4s have been doing Connecting Country with Asha from Connecting Country and other great guests. We had a lot of fun doing outside and inside activities. Today we were joined by Ray who taught us all about local Aboriginal culture!

We have been going out into the bush and looking at plants and listening to the birds in the bush behind the school. It has been so fun learning about Phascogales and bird boxes, we also were each given a native plant from a Connecting Country. We had so much fun learning about this topic and I personally really enjoyed it.

 

This project was made possible thanks to a donation from a generous local donor.

 

 

Healthy landscapes guide – gift a copy now!

Posted on 9 December, 2021 by Ivan

Looking for a healthy and sustainable Christmas gift this festive season? We still have copies of Connecting Country’s Healthy Landscapes guide for sale.

Healthy Landscapes is a practical guide to caring for land in the Mount Alexander region of Central Victoria. It is targeted to local landholders and Landcarers, or anyone interested in caring for our special local environment.

Here’s just some of the feedback:

  • Sensational! A must-read for anyone with a property from 1 to 1,000 acres. (Yapeen landholder/farmer)
  • I wish we’d had this guide when I first moved here 25 years ago. (Golden Point landholder)
  • Wow, what a fabulous publication. It covers all bases and is an essential read for all landowners. It has particular relevance for anyone doing due diligence before purchasing rural acreage, however big or small.  (Walmer landholder)
  • I was in Castlemaine today and suddenly remembered this item about the book being available at Stonemans. They had it at the front desk and we are reading it now back at home. It is really outstanding and very relevant. Thanks to Connecting Country for their dedication. (Welshmans Reef landholder)

For more information about the Healthy Landscapes guide – click here

To get your copy ($15) head to:

Mount Alexander Animal Welfare (MAAW) Op Shop
12 Johnstone St, Castlemaine VIC
For shop information and opening hours – click here

Castlemaine Visitor Information Centre
44 Mostyn St, Castlemaine VIC
For centre information – click here

Stoneman’s Bookroom
101 Mostyn St, Castlemaine VIC
For shop information – click here

The Book Wolf
1/26 High St, Maldon VIC
For shop information – click here

A copy of the guide has been made available free of charge to each local Landcare and environmental volunteering group in the Mount Alexander region. This project was made possible through support from the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment, through funding from Australian Government’s National Landcare Program.

 

Last chance to book: Woodland birds of Wildflower Drive with DJAARA – 4 December 2021

Posted on 3 December, 2021 by Ivan

Connecting Country is thrilled to announce we have five further tickets for our second of four free events in partnership with Djaara.

Our second event is titled ‘Woodland Birds of Wildflower Drive with DJAARA‘ and is a collaboration between Dja Dja Wurrung Clans Aboriginal Corporation, BirdLife Castlemaine and Connecting Country. The event will feature a bird talk and walk with local bird gurus, Damian Kelly and Jane Rusden of BirdLife Castlemaine, and an exploration of cultural and landscape awareness with Harley Douglas of DJAARA. It will be held at the lovely Wildflower Drive, which is part of the Greater Bendigo National Park, VIC.

This event is the second of four events in the coming months funded through Dja Dja Wurrung Clans Aboriginal Corporation. Two further events in March 2022 will focus on nest boxes and providing habitat for marsupials.

During the event we will:

  • Learn about Dja Dja Wurrung country and the woodland birds of Wildflower Drive, Greater Bendigo National Park.
  • Explore the Wildflower Drive environment with local cultural and ecological guides.
  • Hear about how Wildflower Drive is managed for biodiversity, cultural preservation and woodland birds.

We will have the opportunity to explore the landscape with members of the Djaara community and hear about the significance that birds play in the broader landscape of Greater Bendigo National Park.

The Mount Alexander and Greater Bendigo region is home to some special woodland birds.  Connecting Country has embraced woodland birds as a focus for landscape restoration.

We focus on birds because:

  • Different bird species tend to use different habitats, hence their presence or absence can tell us about habitat type and quality.
  • Birds are relatively easy to count and can indicate whether our revegetation efforts are successful in creating habitat.
  • Woodland birds are in serious decline, with the Victorian Temperate Woodland Bird Community is listed as a threatened community under Victorian legislation.
  • Birds are engaging! BirdLife Australia has been harnessing the enthusiasm and skill of citizen scientists for decades, with great success.

 

Booking

The event will be on Saturday 4 December 2021 from 10.00 to 11.30 am in Wildflower Drive, Greater Bendigo National Park, VIC. It’s sure to be popular and tickets are limited. To book please – click here

Due to COVID-19 limitations, please bring your own refreshments. Please come equipped for potential weather extremes, wear sturdy shoes and bring adequate water and nourishment. Bring binoculars if you have some.

Live-streaming via Facebook

This event will also be streamed live on Facebook, for those who cannot make it or miss out on tickets. To watch the Facebook Live Stream, on the day please visit: facebook.com/connectingcountry

Walking Together – Balak Kalik Manya

The ‘Walking Together – Balak Kalik Manya’ project spans across four years with a focus on site-specific management plans for the two identified areas of Dja Dja Wurrung Country: Kalimna Park in Castlemaine; and Wildflower Drive in Strathfieldsaye.

The project focuses on how to:

  • Increase community connection with nature.
  • Grow visitation rates.
  • Encourage healthy use of each sites.
  • Maintain and improve diversity.

The project will also promote Djaara employment opportunities and facilitate Djaara connections with traditional and contemporary practices to improve land management outcomes.

For more information on the Walking Together Project, please – click here

 

Five tickets remaining, Woodland birds of Wildflower Drive with DJAARA – 4 December 2021

Posted on 29 November, 2021 by Ivan

Connecting Country is thrilled to announce we have five further tickets for our second of four free events in partnership with Djaara.

Our second event is titled ‘Woodland Birds of Wildflower Drive with DJAARA‘ and is a collaboration between Dja Dja Wurrung Clans Aboriginal Corporation, BirdLife Castlemaine and Connecting Country. The event will feature a bird talk and walk with local bird gurus, Damian Kelly and Jane Rusden of BirdLife Castlemaine, and an exploration of cultural and landscape awareness with Harley Douglas of DJAARA. It will be held at the lovely Wildflower Drive, which is part of the Greater Bendigo National Park, VIC.

This event is the second of four events in the coming months funded through Dja Dja Wurrung Clans Aboriginal Corporation. Two further events in March 2022 will focus on nest boxes and providing habitat for marsupials.

During the event we will:

  • Learn about Dja Dja Wurrung country and the woodland birds of Wildflower Drive, Greater Bendigo National Park.
  • Explore the Wildflower Drive environment with local cultural and ecological guides.
  • Hear about how Wildflower Drive is managed for biodiversity, cultural preservation and woodland birds.

We will have the opportunity to explore the landscape with members of the Djaara community and hear about the significance that birds play in the broader landscape of Greater Bendigo National Park.

The Mount Alexander and Greater Bendigo region is home to some special woodland birds.  Connecting Country has embraced woodland birds as a focus for landscape restoration.

We focus on birds because:

  • Different bird species tend to use different habitats, hence their presence or absence can tell us about habitat type and quality.
  • Birds are relatively easy to count and can indicate whether our revegetation efforts are successful in creating habitat.
  • Woodland birds are in serious decline, with the Victorian Temperate Woodland Bird Community is listed as a threatened community under Victorian legislation.
  • Birds are engaging! BirdLife Australia has been harnessing the enthusiasm and skill of citizen scientists for decades, with great success.

 

Booking

The event will be on Saturday 4 December 2021 from 10.00 to 11.30 am in Wildflower Drive, Greater Bendigo National Park, VIC. It’s sure to be popular and tickets are limited. To book please – click here

Due to COVID-19 limitations, please bring your own refreshments. Please come equipped for potential weather extremes, wear sturdy shoes and bring adequate water and nourishment. Bring binoculars if you have some.

Live-streaming via Facebook

This event will also be streamed live on Facebook, for those who cannot make it or miss out on tickets. To watch the Facebook Live Stream, on the day please visit: facebook.com/connectingcountry

Walking Together – Balak Kalik Manya

The ‘Walking Together – Balak Kalik Manya’ project spans across four years with a focus on site-specific management plans for the two identified areas of Dja Dja Wurrung Country: Kalimna Park in Castlemaine; and Wildflower Drive in Strathfieldsaye.

The project focuses on how to:

  • Increase community connection with nature.
  • Grow visitation rates.
  • Encourage healthy use of each sites.
  • Maintain and improve diversity.

The project will also promote Djaara employment opportunities and facilitate Djaara connections with traditional and contemporary practices to improve land management outcomes.

For more information on the Walking Together Project, please – click here

 

Ten tickets left – Woodland Birds of Kalimna Park with DJAARA – Saturday 27 November 2021

Posted on 26 November, 2021 by Ivan

We now have ten more tickets available for the first of four free events in partnership with Djaara, which will be held this Saturday 27 November 2021. Please see booking details below. 

Our first event is titled ‘Woodland Birds of Kalimna Park with DJAARA‘ and is a collaboration between Dja Dja Wurrung Clans Aboriginal Corporation, BirdLife Castlemaine and Connecting Country. The event will feature a bird talk and walk with local bird gurus, Damian Kelly and Jane Rusden of BirdLife Castlemaine, and an exploration of cultural and landscape awareness with Harley Douglas of DJAARA. It will be held at the lovely Kalimna Park in Castlemaine, VIC.

This event is the first of four events in the coming months funded through Dja Dja Wurrung Clans Aboriginal Corporation. A second Woodland Birds event is scheduled for Saturday 4 December 2021 at Wildflower Drive, Strathsfieldsaye, near Bendigo.

During the event we will:

  • Learn about Dja Dja Wurrung country and the woodland birds of Kalimna Park in Castlemaine VIC.
  • Explore Kalimna Park with local cultural and ecological guides.
  • Hear about how Kalimna Park is managed for biodiversity, cultural preservation and woodland birds.

We will have the opportunity to explore the landscape with members of the Djaara community and hear about the significance that birds play in the broader landscape of Kalimna Park.

The Mount Alexander region is home to some special woodland birds.  Connecting Country has embraced woodland birds as a focus for landscape restoration.

We focus on birds because:

  • Different bird species tend to use different habitats, hence their presence or absence can tell us about habitat type and quality.
  • Birds are relatively easy to count and can indicate whether our revegetation efforts are successful in creating habitat.
  • Woodland birds are in serious decline, with the Victorian Temperate Woodland Bird Community is listed as a threatened community under Victorian legislation.
  • Birds are engaging! BirdLife Australia has been harnessing the enthusiasm and skill of citizen scientists for decades, with great success.

 

Booking

The event will be on Saturday 27 November 2021 from 10.00 to 11.30 am in Kalimna Park, Castlemaine, VIC. It’s sure to be popular and tickets are limited. To book please – click here

Due to COVID-19 limitations, please bring your own refreshments. Please come equipped for potential weather extremes, wear sturdy shoes and bring adequate water and nourishment. Bring binoculars if you have some.

Live-streaming via Facebook

This event will also be streamed live on Facebook, for those who cannot make it or miss out on tickets. To watch the Facebook Live Stream, on the day please visit: facebook.com/connectingcountry

Walking Together – Balak Kalik Manya

The ‘Walking Together – Balak Kalik Manya’ project spans across four years with a focus on site-specific management plans for the two identified areas of Dja Dja Wurrung Country: Kalimna Park in Castlemaine; and Wildflower Drive in Strathfieldsaye.

The project focuses on how to:

  • Increase community connection with nature.
  • Grow visitation rates.
  • Encourage healthy use of each sites.
  • Maintain and improve diversity.

The project will also promote Djaara employment opportunities and facilitate Djaara connections with traditional and contemporary practices to improve land management outcomes.

For more information on the Walking Together Project, please – click here

 

Book now for Woodland birds of Wildflower Drive with DJAARA – 4 December 2021

Posted on 15 November, 2021 by Ivan

Connecting Country is thrilled to announce tickets are now available for our second of four free events in partnership with Djaara.

Our second event is titled ‘Woodland Birds of Wildflower Drive with DJAARA‘ and is a collaboration between Dja Dja Wurrung Clans Aboriginal Corporation, BirdLife Castlemaine and Connecting Country. Th

e event will feature a bird talk and walk with local bird gurus, Damian Kelly and Jane Rusden of BirdLife Castlemaine, and an exploration of cultural and landscape awareness with Harley Douglas of DJAARA. It will be held at the lovely Wildflower Drive, which is part of the Greater Bendigo National Park, VIC.

This event is the second of four events in the coming months funded through Dja Dja Wurrung Clans Aboriginal Corporation. Two further events in March 2022 will focus on nest boxes and providing habitat for marsupials.

During the event we will:

  • Learn about Dja Dja Wurrung country and the woodland birds of Wildflower Drive, Greater Bendigo National Park.
  • Explore the Wildflower Drive environment with local cultural and ecological guides.
  • Hear about how Wildflower Drive is managed for biodiversity, cultural preservation and woodland birds.

We will have the opportunity to explore the landscape with members of the Djaara community and hear about the significance that birds play in the broader landscape of Greater Bendigo National Park.

The Mount Alexander and Greater Bendigo region is home to some special woodland birds.  Connecting Country has embraced woodland birds as a focus for landscape restoration.

We focus on birds because:

  • Different bird species tend to use different habitats, hence their presence or absence can tell us about habitat type and quality.
  • Birds are relatively easy to count and can indicate whether our revegetation efforts are successful in creating habitat.
  • Woodland birds are in serious decline, with the Victorian Temperate Woodland Bird Community is listed as a threatened community under Victorian legislation.
  • Birds are engaging! BirdLife Australia has been harnessing the enthusiasm and skill of citizen scientists for decades, with great success.

 

Booking

The event will be on Saturday 4 December 2021 from 10.00 to 11.30 am in Wildflower Drive, Greater Bendigo National Park, VIC. It’s sure to be popular and tickets are limited. To book please – click here

Due to COVID-19 limitations, please bring your own refreshments. Please come equipped for potential weather extremes, wear sturdy shoes and bring adequate water and nourishment. Bring binoculars if you have some.

Live-streaming via Facebook

This event will also be streamed live on Facebook, for those who cannot make it or miss out on tickets. To watch the Facebook Live Stream, on the day please visit: facebook.com/connectingcountry

Walking Together – Balak Kalik Manya

The ‘Walking Together – Balak Kalik Manya’ project spans across four years with a focus on site-specific management plans for the two identified areas of Dja Dja Wurrung Country: Kalimna Park in Castlemaine; and Wildflower Drive in Strathfieldsaye.

The project focuses on how to:

  • Increase community connection with nature.
  • Grow visitation rates.
  • Encourage healthy use of each sites.
  • Maintain and improve diversity.

The project will also promote Djaara employment opportunities and facilitate Djaara connections with traditional and contemporary practices to improve land management outcomes.

For more information on the Walking Together Project, please – click here

 

Woodland Birds of Kalimna Park with DJAARA – 27 November 2021

Posted on 10 November, 2021 by Ivan

Connecting Country is thrilled to announce tickets are now available for our first of four free events in partnership with Djaara, with 10 tickets still remaining.

Our first event is titled ‘Woodland Birds of Kalimna Park with DJAARA‘ and is a collaboration between Dja Dja Wurrung Clans Aboriginal Corporation, BirdLife Castlemaine and Connecting Country. The event will feature a bird talk and walk with local bird gurus, Damian Kelly and Jane Rusden of BirdLife Castlemaine, and an exploration of cultural and landscape awareness with Harley Douglas of DJAARA. It will be held at the lovely Kalimna Park in Castlemaine, VIC.

This event is the first of four events in coming months funded through Dja Dja Wurrung Clans Aboriginal Corporation. A second Woodland Birds event is scheduled for Saturday 4 December 2021 at Wildflower Drive, Strathsfieldsaye, near Bendigo.

During the event we will:

  • Learn about Dja Dja Wurrung country and the woodland birds of Kalimna Park in Castlemaine VIC.
  • Explore Kalimna Park with local cultural and ecological guides.
  • Hear about how Kalimna Park is managed for biodiversity, cultural preservation and woodland birds.

We will have the opportunity to explore the landscape with members of the Djaara community and hear about the significance that birds play in the broader landscape of Kalimna Park.

The Mount Alexander region is home to some special woodland birds.  Connecting Country has embraced woodland birds as a focus for landscape restoration.

We focus on birds because:

  • Different bird species tend to use different habitats, hence their presence or absence can tell us about habitat type and quality.
  • Birds are relatively easy to count and can indicate whether our revegetation efforts are successful in creating habitat.
  • Woodland birds are in serious decline, with the Victorian Temperate Woodland Bird Community is listed as a threatened community under Victorian legislation.
  • Birds are engaging! BirdLife Australia has been harnessing the enthusiasm and skill of citizen scientists for decades, with great success.

 

Booking

The event will be on Saturday 27 November 2021 from 10.00 to 11.30 am in Kalimna Park, Castlemaine, VIC. It’s sure to be popular and tickets are limited. To book please – click here

Due to COVID-19 limitations, please bring your own refreshments. Please come equipped for potential weather extremes, wear sturdy shoes and bring adequate water and nourishment. Bring binoculars if you have some.

Live-streaming via Facebook

This event will also be streamed live on Facebook, for those who cannot make it or miss out on tickets. To watch the Facebook Live Stream, on the day please visit: facebook.com/connectingcountry

Walking Together – Balak Kalik Manya

The ‘Walking Together – Balak Kalik Manya’ project spans across four years with a focus on site-specific management plans for the two identified areas of Dja Dja Wurrung Country: Kalimna Park in Castlemaine; and Wildflower Drive in Strathfieldsaye.

The project focuses on how to:

  • Increase community connection with nature.
  • Grow visitation rates.
  • Encourage healthy use of each sites.
  • Maintain and improve diversity.

The project will also promote Djaara employment opportunities and facilitate Djaara connections with traditional and contemporary practices to improve land management outcomes.

For more information on the Walking Together Project, please – click here

 

Endangered butterfly finds new hope in central Victoria

Posted on 29 September, 2021 by Ivan

We recently received a great article from the newly formed ‘Wetland Revival Trust‘, highlighting our beloved Eltham Copper Butterfly and the search for new habitat in our region. The trust has been setup by Damien Cook and Elaine Bayes, who are co-directors and ecologists at Rakali Ecological Consulting, which has been operating since 2012. The article gives us hope, that threatened species can return from the brink, with support from the community and government, and adequate habitat managed for its ecological values. Please enjoy the article below, developed by Connecting Country on behalf of the Wetland Revival Trust.

Endangered butterfly: New hope in central Victoria

The endangered Eltham Copper Butterfly (Paralucia pyrodiscus lucida) represents one of the most fascinating stories both due to its co-dependency in nature and how people have rallied for this species.  This is a rare, good news story within the extinction crisis across Australia, proving we can save species from the brink with the right care and resources.

It is a story of lost and found and lost and found again. The little butterfly was formally described in 1951 having been collected from several sites around Eltham (then north east of Melbourne) during 1923-56.  Subsequent lack of records over the next 37 years, combined with vegetation clearing for housing development where they once thrived (Tallarook, Murtoa, Dimboola, Keilor, Broadmeadows and Yarrambat), lead scientists to conclude the butterfly had become extinct. Then the butterflies were rediscovered at Eltham in 1987 on a property about to be subdivided. Community campaigning for this tiny insect resulted in the purchase and protection of eight hectares of land around Eltham and Greensborough. The 1987 discovery also triggered funding of a state-wide search. Nine colonies were discovered in 1988, including two in new regions: Castlemaine (central Victoria) and the Kiata-Salisbury area (western Victoria).

Finding where a threatened species lives is the first step in conserving it, but protecting it from threats is the key to survival.  Sadly, since 1988 three known populations were lost through housing development in Melbourne’s north eastern suburbs (Montmorency and Eltham) and from grazing and weed invasion in western Victoria (Salisbury).  It is likely that butterfly populations were also lost from other areas where they were not yet discovered.

The Eltham Copper Butterfly is only the size of a ten cent piece (photo by Elaine Bayes)

However, bursts of effort over the decades have led to the discovery of new populations, mostly in north central Victoria. In 2011, a 3,000 ha search found eight new populations around Bendigo and Castlemaine.  All the newly-discovered populations are very localised. Although the populations are located within a larger area of what looks like suitable butterfly habitat, the butterfly only occurs in 3-25% of habitat. Numbers of butterflies within these areas are also small, with populations of around 50 butterflies peppered across an area.  Why they are found in some areas and not others is unclear, and what makes good butterfly habitat appears very complex.

Eltham Copper Butterfly is a small attractive butterfly with bright copper colouring on the tops of its wings and lives in dry open woodlands. A member of the blue butterfly family, it has a fascinating ecological dependency with two other species – a Notoncus ant and the Sweet Bursaria plant (Bursaria spinosa), which is the sole food source for the butterfly larvae. It’s survival also relies on an unknown array of environmental factors including availability of food for the ants, relationships with predators, site aspect and soil type.

The symbiotic relationship works like this. The adult Eltham Copper Butterflies lay their eggs on or at the base of Sweet Bursaria plants. The eggs hatch and the larvae make their way to the ant nest where they are tended and guarded by Notoncus ants.  This amazing service is achieved through a mixture of trickery and treats. Trickery in that the larvae of this family butterflies are believed to give off chemicals and make noises that can pacify ant aggression, mimic ant brood hormones, and attract and alert ants if the butterfly larvae is alarmed. Treats in that the butterfly larvae produces sugary secretions from their body in proportion to how many ants they need to guard them. These nocturnal ants then lead the butterfly larvae out at night to browse on the Sweet Bursaria leaves, and defend them from the many nocturnal predators that see the larvae as a juicy snack. Larvae pupate in or near the ant nest, with adult butterflies emerging from October to March each year, peaking from November to January. The adults then feed on nectar of Sweet Bursaria flowers, before they lay their eggs at the base of the plant, and on the cycle begins again.

The Eltham Copper Butterfly emerges in December on days over 25 degrees. Photo: Elaine Bayes

Elaine Bayes is one of the leading ecologists championing the future survival of the Eltham Copper Butterfly in northern Victoria. Elaine has conducted numerous surveys for the butterfly and its preferred habitat over the past decade, along with her colleague ecologist Karl Just and a team of citizen scientists, uncovering new populations along the way. Elaine recently obtained funding through the Victorian Government’s Biodiversity On-ground Action Program to map and monitor current known populations, and conduct further surveys for suitable habitat across central and western Victoria. Elaine is excited about the chance of finding further populations of the special butterfly. ‘We have the opportunity to conduct surveys in locations that we have not previously surveyed, but we know have great habitat potential. The next six months will see our team survey locations around Castlemaine, Chewton and Kiata, with the hope of discovering new populations, which is very exciting and vital to the survival of this endangered species.’ noted Ms Bayes.

A citizen science event in Castlemaine in 2019 attracted a strong crowd and interest in the Eltham Copper Butterfly (photo by Frances Howe)

Although there are several known populations around the state, the future of this special butterfly remains uncertain. It is listed as threatened under the Victorian Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act 1988 and as endangered under the Commonwealth Environmental Conservation and Biodiversity Act 1999. This places considerable importance on managing the small number of known population sites and locating any potential new sites so they can be protected from threats.

‘Land clearing and fire are two of the main one threats to this species. It is critical that we search for unrecorded populations so they can be protected, particularly from planned burns. The habitat around butterfly populations is vital and must be protected from over burning for the butterfly and their complex ecological relationships to survive,’ said Ms Bayes. Recent surveys from ecologists and the community have resulted in important changes to fuel reduction burns, allowing land managers to still reduce fuel load but ensure vital habitat is maintained for butterfly breeding.

Larvae pupate in or near the ant nest (photo by Elaine Bayes)

 

How can you help?

To contribute, get involved in the protection, conservation and management of remnant bushland on your property or in your local area, as there are increasingly rare and threatened species living within them. In particular, retain and restore any native understorey plants on your property, and if appropriate to your area, plant Sweet Bursaria.

For updates about the butterfly population in Eltham-Greensborough and associated volunteer events, there is a Facebook page – click here

For the Eltham Copper Butterfly populations in northern Victoria, get involved locally in management, monitoring or raising awareness. From early November to January, walk through areas where Sweet Bursaria grows and look for the copper sparkle of flying adult butterflies.

You can report sightings of this elusive butterfly on the new and amazing Butterfly Australia App. For information visit – www.butterflies.org.au

This 2021 Eltham Copper Butterfly project is funded by the Victorian Government’s Biodiversity On-ground Action Program.

 

Bird of the month: Kestrel

Posted on 27 September, 2021 by Ivan

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

Australian Kestrel (Falco cenchroides)

A member of the Falco genus which includes Peregrines and Hobbies, Kestrels are widespread across the world, with 13 species recognised. A few overseas species migrate with the seasons, but most are non-migratory, although they will move about depending on food availability. Their diet includes small birds, mice, reptiles, locusts and grasshoppers along with some other insects, spiders and other terrestrial invertebrates. They will readily move to areas of abundance during mouse and locust plagues. Within Australia, many areas have resident pairs. Juveniles spread widely after fledging and may move long distances.

Kestrels often hover in one spot searching for a variety of prey including insects and rodents (photo: Ash Vigus)

 

Australia has one species – the Australian or Nankeen Kestrel. It can be found all over the Australian mainland and on some outlying islands including Tasmania, most Bass Straight islands as well as Christmas, Norfolk and Lord Howe islands. It has occasionally been recorded as a non-breeding visitor to Papua New Guinea, the Torres Strait islands, New Zealand and Java. It is likely that they have expanded in both population and distribution with the clearing of forests for farmland, as they prefer open country. They have also readily adapted to taking the introduced House Mouse as well as the Common Starling, which often comprise a significant part of their diet.

It is the smallest Australian Falcon with a length of 30-35 cm and a weight range of 165 g for males to 185 g for females. They are great fliers, soaring and hovering with ease. Quite spectacular to watch.

Generally, breeding occurs between August to December. Australian Kestrels are quite adaptable and will utilise tree hollows, cliffs, old nests of other birds, nest boxes and even the broken tops of anthills. There are also records of them using sinkholes in the ground and mine shafts. They are known to use the nests of White-winged Chough, Australian Magpie, Whistling Kite, crows and ravens and even the top of Chestnut-crowned Babbler nests. Certainly very adaptable!

Clutches of eggs range from 1 to 6, but usually 2-3. Most of the incubation is done by the female with the male feeding her. Upon hatching the female generally feeds the young, often with food brought to the nest for her by the male.

There are some remarkable records of fostering, with young kestrels being reared by Black-breasted Buzzards and even a Black Falcon feeding young kestrels at the nest.

To hear the call of an Australian Kestrel, please – click here

Jane Rusden
BirdLife Castlemaine District

 

 

Wildlife of the Box-Ironbark Country – new edition

Posted on 8 September, 2021 by Ivan

One of our most treasured nature books by legendary nature enthusiast Chris Tzaros is about to get an update with the release of the second edition.  ‘Wildlife of the Box-Ironbark Country’ has been a bible to many living in and around box-ironbark country, with amazing imagery and detailed information on the fascinating animals that call our local forests and woodlands home.

Chris was a guest speaker at our 2020 sell-out event, ‘Tricky Birds’, and is one of the nation’s leading bird photographers and experts on the box-ironbark regions.

The second edition of ‘Wildlife of the Box-Ironbark Country’ is now available via pre-order and is due to be delivered in the coming weeks. No doubt the second edition will feature glorious imagery and a comprehensive overview of the ecologically significant Box–Ironbark habitats and their wildlife.

If you can’t wait for it to hit local bookshops, you can pre-order a copy now from CSIRO Publishing – click here

Cover image of Wildlife of the Box–Ironbark Country, second edition, featu

Overview (courtesy of CSIRO Publishing)

A comprehensive overview of the ecologically significant Box–Ironbark habitats and their wildlife. Victoria’s Box–Ironbark region is one of the most important areas of animal diversity and significance in southern Australia. The forests and woodlands of this region provide critical habitat for a diverse array of woodland-dependent animals, including many threatened and declining species such as the Squirrel Glider, Brush-tailed Phascogale, Regent Honeyeater, Swift Parrot, Pink-tailed Worm-Lizard, Woodland Blind Snake, Tree Goanna and Bibron’s Toadlet.

Wildlife of the Box–Ironbark Country gives a comprehensive overview of the ecology of the Box–Ironbark habitats and their wildlife, and how climate change is having a major influence. This extensively revised second edition covers all of the mammals, birds, reptiles and frogs that occur in the region, with a brief description of their distribution, status, ecology and identification, together with a detailed distribution map and superb colour photograph for each species.

The book includes a ‘Where to watch’ section, featuring a selection of national parks, state parks and nature conservation reserves where people can experience the ecosystem and its wildlife for themselves.

This book is intended for land managers, conservation and wildlife workers, fauna consultants, landholders, teachers, students, naturalists and all those interested in learning about and appreciating the wildlife of this fascinating and endangered ecosystem.

Features:
• Covers 267 species, each with a detailed description, high-quality colour photograph and updated distribution map
• Includes new species accounts for fauna that now reside permanently or regularly visit the Box–Ironbark region
• Provides a list of parks and reserves, including maps and descriptions of 16 locations to observe Box–Ironbark wildlife

About the author

Chris Tzaros is uniquely placed to write about the fauna of Victoria’s Box–Ironbark country. Brought up near Bendigo, he has had a passionate interest in wildlife since childhood. Chris has 25 years’experience working on wildlife research and conservation projects, largely focused on threatened woodland birds, for both government and nongovernment environmental and conservation organisations. He is an award-winning wildlife photographer and has produced the majority of the photos in this book. Chris is currently an independent wildlife ecologist and nature
photographer based in north-east Victoria but enjoys working among nature right around Australia.

 

Healthy dams delivers healthy benefits

Posted on 23 August, 2021 by Ivan

Connecting Country was delighted to hold the third event for our Healthy Landscape project on Saturday 14 August 2021, after multiple COVID-related delays. We held the event live on-farm to a virtual audience by live streaming from a stunning property in Taradale VIC, on the Coliban River.

The event was kindly hosted by Chris Burgess and Martin Shaddick, who have worked tirelessly to control weeds and revegetate the property over the last 15 years. Chris is also the president of Taradale Landcare. The property features multiple dams and wetland areas, with plentiful birdlife enjoying the revegetation when we visited, and also signs of echidnas and a wombat!

Ecologist Karl Just, who has a fascination with aquatic plants and animals, gave an engaging and thoughtful presentation. He compared the two dams on the property, their water quality, vegetation, and the aquatic life you might expect to see within them.

Karl Just provided an excellent overview of how to improve farm dams for habitat and water quality (photo: Connecting Country)

 

For those who may have missed the live stream event on the day, it’s not too late. To watch online – click here

We have also provided the following summary of the information covered in the presentation.

Healthy dams

Actions for a healthy dam

For a healthy dam consider the following actions where possible:

  • Exclude stock from the water and where possible create an off-dam stock watering point. Less access for stock reduces added nutrients and disturbance. Excessive nutrient levels can be bad for the water as they can lead to algal blooms which suck out dissolved oxygen, depleting this resource for plants and animals.
  • Create buffering vegetation between nutrient sources and water – the wider the better. Adding a diversity of plants increases filtering capacity. The more plant diversity the more habitat value and animals will use the resource. If you have a choice about the direction of the buffering vegetation, choose the western side of the dam to block prevailing winds and reduce evaporation.
  • Include as many different habitat elements as possible such as plants, logs and rocks. Even old roofing tiles can also be useful. Place logs both vertically and horizontally. Horizontally to trap sediments and seeds, and create micro climates for plants to grow and vertically to increase access to water for animals. Logs that have some branches emerging from the water that offers perches for birds too.
  • If building a new dam, keep in mind that the flatter the gradient the more different plants and animals will be able to use it. There will be less variation in water depth for plants and it will create shallow nursery sites for animals. It is also useful to wait and observe a new dam for 12 months to see what natural regeneration happens. Fauna can bring in different plants, and you can get an idea of high and low water levels, helping to determine where the different zones are and where to plant.


Aquatic zones

The layers or zones of aquatic vegetation:

  • Submerged aquatics (below 400 mm from normal top water level) – such as pond weed, eel grass.
  • Deep marsh zone (250-500 mm below normal top water level) – such as water ribbons, milfoils, tall spike sedge, river club sedge.
  • Shallow marsh zone (edge of water to 250 mm below normal top water level) – such as spike sedge, swamp crassula.
  • Riparian edge zone (plants can handle inundation but also seasonal drying) – such as sedges, rushes.

The second dam on the host property was a useful case study, with Karl suggesting practical actions to improve its habitat value (photo: Connecting Country)

 

Revegetation considerations

If want to start dam revegetation, start with the riparian edge as this is the easiest and most diverse strata. Source tubestock from local indigenous nursery.

Be aware steep sides can be difficult to revegetate because they dry/flood more quickly. For this reason, the best time to plant around the riparian edge is late winter or spring, as dams are usually at full capacity, giving the plants some time to establish before drying, and less chance of getting flooded. Plants that grow quickly such as sedges and rushes filter water and create habitat more quickly.

Plant deeper aquatics when the dam is at a lower capacity. These can be a little harder to establish but worth a try.

Plant shrubs in winter. However, avoid putting woody trees and shrubs on the dam’s retaining banks as the roots can create pathways for water to flow, and this can undermine your dam. Where this is not an issue (on high side of dam) you could try planting Yellow Box, Candlebark, River Red-gums and Wattles, lots of wattles such as Blackwood, Black Wattle, Silver Wattle, Lightwood or other shrubs such as Prickly Tea-tree, River Tea-tree, River bottlebrush or Hop Bush. These provide landing sites and refuge for animals to get close to the water and have a drink.

Useful resources on plant identification

Flora of Victoria – click here
Flora of Castlemaine – click here

Answers to audience questions during the presentation 

How do you plant in the water?

You can push plants into the mud. In tough clay soils, it can be tricky to dig. Some plants such as water ribbons might need some protection for birds, such as ducks. You can use wire or netting, making sure that you check regularly to ensure no birds and other fauna become trapped.

Are yabbies and leeches bad?

Yabbies and leeches occupy a variable range of conditions of waterways and are not an indicator of poor or good health. Look for diversity of bugs to get a measure of water quality. There are lots of resources online or get involved in your local waterwatch – click here

How do a learn more about the little bugs in my dam?

Take a look at this resource from La Trobe University on macroinvertebrates – click here

Fish! Do you have any advice?

Make sure you don’t have European Carp! Try and remove if they are present as they will eat, animals and vegetation and stir up the water. Native fish that will grow to around 10 cm, have more chance of coexisting with tadpoles. Try small-bodied indigenous native fish such as Obscure/Mountain Galaxias or Southern Pygmy Perch. See the fish guide developed by the North Central Catchment Management Authority – click here

For more information on improving the water quality and habitat value for dams, as well as sustainable land management, please buy a copy of our Healthy Landscapes guide.

Copies of the guide will be offered to Landcare and community groups, and available for general sale (around $15 per copy) in Castlemaine through the Castlemaine Visitor Information Centre, Stoneman’s Bookroom and Mount Alexander Animal Welfare (MAAW) Op Shop. Please do not hesitate to contact us if you have any questions, or would like further information.

Connecting Country extends a big thank you to Chris Burgess and Martin Shaddick for hosting this event, and to Karl Just for sharing his knowledge and enthusiasm for healthy wetlands. We also acknowledge the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment, through funding from Australian Government’s National Landcare Program, for supporting this project.