Restoring landscapes across the Mount Alexander Region

Help with identifying local frogs

Posted on 29 July, 2021 by Jacqui

With some better rainfall in our region over the past few months, you may be noticing frogs calling in our local creeks, dams and wetter areas.

If you hear a frog call that you can’t identify, the FrogID App can be handy with identifying tricky frog calls of our region.

FrogID is Australia’s first national citizen science frog identification initiative – a project led by the Australian Museum in partnership with Australia’s leading natural history museums and IBM. It is free but you do need to create a profile to record frog calls which then uploads the records to the Australian Museum frog experts for species verification.

One of the reasons to use the FrogID app is to ensure that all frog records are verified prior to entering records into the Atlas of Living Australia (ALA), the largest database of flora and fauna records in Australia. Records entered directly in the ALA are not verified, and it was recently discovered that there were some incorrect records of frog species entered in the Mount Alexander region. The ALA contains a number of sightings in our area of Striped Marsh Frog, which was previously rare in this region. However, upon closer assessment by frog experts, they suspect the frog recordings are actually the Spotted Marsh Frog (Limnodynastes tasmaniensis), not the Striped Marsh Frog (Limndoynastes peroni). The two calls are similar and easily confused.

This is an important case study of how incorrect identification can potentially affect distribution datasets. This is not the case with the Victorian Biodiversity Atlas, as every record submitted by users is verified for possible errors or mistaken identification.

The frog recordings submitted via the FrogID app are often verified in less than 24 hours, and it is a great resource to improve your skills and learn a lot more about frogs along the journey.

In just one year, FrogID generated the equivalent of 13% of all frog records collected in Australia over the last 240 years – an amazing effort! The submitted recordings have resulted in over 66,000 validated calls and detected 175 of Australia’s 240 known native frogs.

The data has provided information about:

  • Impacts of climate change and pollution on Australia’s frogs including the first evidence of the decline in Sydney of the Australian Green Tree Frog.
  • Spread of the invasive Cane Toad.
  • Breeding populations of 28 globally threatened and 13 nationally threatened frog species.

The FrogID science blog has some interesting articles on frog ID and what happens for frogs in urbanised environments.

To download the FrogID App – click here

Location of all frog records for the first year of FrogID in Australia (image: ALA)

 

Lets celebrate our region’s wonderful Landcare: new video launched

Posted on 29 July, 2021 by Ivan

We love our Landcare community! We are forever grateful for the restoration and revegetation projects Landcare and Friends groups have achieved over the past decades and all of the volunteers hours they dedicate to our natural landscape. This needs to be celebrated!

Connecting Country is excited to announce that we have recently completed our ‘Landcare Celebration’ video, a tribute to our hardworking and passionate groups across the Mount Alexander region in central Victoria. 

The video features a number of Landcare volunteers talking about why Landcare is important to our community and the vast diversity of projects across our region. Landcare is for everyone, including the natural landscape and all its diversity, and is a great way to meet your neighbours and make new friends.

We could have made a few full-length movies about our wonderful Landcare groups if the budget was unlimited, but we have had to settle on a 5-minute video. We also have a shorter version of the video, for promotion and social media.

To watch the full 5-minute version of the Landcare Celebration video, please click here.

To watch the 1-minute version of the Landcare Celebration video, please click here.

(Please note that we are hoping to add subtitles as soon as we can.)

“I have seen first-hand what community groups can achieve and the real difference they make on the ground every day,” says Asha Bannon, Mount Alexander Region Landcare Facilitator. “We hope that this video will give our broader community a snapshot of the opportunities that Landcare can give you to help care for our precious local environment, while also having some fun!”

The video would not have been possible on our budget without co-sponsorship from our favorite film-media company, MRL Media, who have generously funded part of the video production. We really enjoyed working with Steve and his team on the development and production and would like to thank them for helping us out make this project happen with professional outcomes.

This project was funded through the Mount Alexander Shire Council Community Grants Program, which contributed to the costs associated with making the video, as well as some hours for our amazing Community Engagement Coordinator, Ivan Carter.

Connecting Country would like to say a heartfelt thank you to the many community members who played crucial roles in making this video special, including Beth Mellick, Uncle Rick Nelson, Ian Higgins, Marie Jones, Drew Marshall, Jane Rusden, Brian Bainbridge, and the Landcare Steering Group.

Landcare in our region

Landcare is about caring for your land and your local area so it continues to support our community and natural resources for generations to come. This volunteer movement began in Victoria in 1986 and there are now more than 600 Landcare Groups in Victoria, with around 30 in the Mount Alexander region surrounding Castlemaine.

Landcare and Friends Groups care for our land through practical actions like revegetation, weed and pest control, erosion control, improving water quality, and helping farmers be more sustainable. They also engage and support community members through workshops, interpretive signs, recording history, building walking tracks, and more.

Intrepid Landcare working bee with Ian Higgins from Friends of Campbells Creek. Photo: Asha Bannon.

Get involved

Joining a Landcare or Friends group is a great way to actively help your local environment and get to know local people. You can get involved at any level, from dropping in to a working bee occasionally to taking a management role.

Visit the Landcare page on our website to learn more about local Landcare and how to contact your nearest group – click here

 

Online event: ‘The Sleepy Lizard’, Friday 9 July 7.30pm

Posted on 8 July, 2021 by Ivan

Our friends at Castlemaine Field Naturalists Club are hosting a wonderful online event called ‘Behavioural ecology of the Sleepy Lizard: when life gets tough, monogamy has its advantages’

The event is via the Zoom platform and features guest speaker, Dr Greg Kerr, from the Nature Glenelg Trust. Greg will be talking about the Shingleback or Stumpytail Lizard, also known as the Sleepy Lizard, and its unique behaviour and habitat requirements.

Please read on for details from Castlemaine Field Naturalists Club website.

Monthly Meeting – Friday 9 July, 7.30pm, by Zoom

Guest speaker: Dr Greg Kerr, Nature Glenelg Trust

“Behavioural ecology of the Sleepy Lizard: when life gets tough, monogamy has its advantages”

Victorians will know the Sleepy Lizard as the Shingleback or Stumpytail. For our July monthly meeting, Dr Greg Kerr, Senior Ecologist, Nature Glenelg Trust, will give fascinating new insight into the social behaviour of this species. In mammal and bird species there are many advantages of monogamy, particularly where parental care is critical to successful reproduction.

Sleepy lizards are socially monogamous and a male will closely follow a female for many weeks prior to mating. Greg’s research into the behavioural ecology of sleepy lizards leads to a rejection of the old idea that males are guarding the females, but rather suggests that it is the female who wears the pants in this relationship!

The meeting will be held by Zoom. If you have not joined earlier webinars and wish to attend, please email Peter Turner at munrodsl@iinet.net.au

Not so Sleepy Lizards! Learn more at our July meeting. (photo: Jenny Rolland)

 

Seeds of resilience – Friday 11 June 2021

Posted on 9 June, 2021 by Ivan

Our project partners and friends at Castlemaine Field Naturalists Club are hosting an online event called ‘Seeds of Resilience – planting for the future!’

The event is via the Zoom platform and features guest speaker Julie Radford, Ecologist at Bush Heritage. Julie will be talking about Bush Heritage’s experimental revegetation project that aims to build climate resilience into the woodlands of their Nardoo Hills reserve, located near Weddeburn in north west Victoria.

The event is sure to provide some practical lessons for adapting to future climate scenarios and planning future revegetation projects. Please read on for details from Castlemaine Field Naturalists Club.

‘Seeds of Resilience’ – planting for the future!

 Friday 11 June 2021 at 7.30 pm, by Zoom

Guest speaker: Julie Radford, Ecologist, Bush Heritage

The grassy woodland habitat of the Bush Heritage Nardoo Hills Reserve in Central Victoria is important for many flora and fauna species, but especially the threatened temperate woodland bird community. Over the last 10 years, it was noticed that the hotter drier conditions due to climate change were resulting in eucalypt dieback in some areas of the reserve. Julie will tell us about the experimental revegetation project that has been implemented to build climate resilience into the woodlands of the reserve. Climate modelling is being used to predict future environmental conditions. Seeds have been collected from different provenances in more northerly regions that support eucalypts adapted to a hotter, harsher environment. With the help of volunteers, large numbers of seedlings grown from these seeds are being planted in the reserve. Julie will also describe the different strategies introduced to improve the success of the plantings.

The meeting will be held by Zoom. If you have not joined earlier webinars and wish to attend, please email Peter Turner at munrodsl@iinet.net.au

 

 

 

Healthy dams event 2021 – last chance to book!

Posted on 25 May, 2021 by Ivan

We have just SIX tickets remaining for our Healthy Dams event on 5 June 2021, which is part of our Healthy Landscape project. Book now to avoid disappointment for what will surely be a great education event.

‘Healthy dams’ will be hosted by Connecting Country and local ecologist, Karl Just, who has a natural wonder and fascination with aquatic plants and animals, and their importance to farming and biodiversity. We have planned this in-person event at a stunning private property in Taradale VIC, which fronts the Coliban River and has several farm dams.

This event is part of our ‘Healthy Landscapes’ project, funded through the Australian Government’s Smart Farms program.

The workshop will cover:

  • How to improve the health of dams and ponds.
  • Suitable plants for waterways and revegetation of aquatic areas.
  • Frogs, wildlife and improving water quality.
  • Options for stock management and nutrient management.

We will have the opportunity to tour two dams on the property and the Coliban River at the farm in Taradale.

Dams and ponds provide vital farm infrastructure, as well as habitat for many invertebrates, amphibians and birds, and sometimes even mammals. The workshop will explore how to create and maintain healthy waterways for the benefit of people, farm productivity and the natural environment.

The event will be on Saturday 5 June 2021 from 1.00 to 2.30 pm in Taradale, VIC. It’s sure to be popular and tickets are limited. To book please – click here 

Healthy farm dams can boost farm productivity while supporting native wildlife and providing clean water (photo by Australian National University)

 

Catering for this event is BYO. Please come equipped for potential weather extremes, wear sturdy shoes and bring adequate water and nourishment.

Our Healthy Landscapes project is about helping our local farmers and other landholders to manage their land sustainably for the benefit of wildlife, themselves and the broader landscape. We are also developing a Healthy Landscapes guide book, especially targeted to the Mount Alexander region of central Victoria. This event is part of a series of educational workshops for landholders on sustainable land management.

Our special presenter – Karl Just

Karl is an established ecological consultant and researcher based here in Castlemaine VIC. He has dedicated his time to providing environmental management plans for parks and reserves, conducting flora and fauna surveys and educating the community on improving our natural environment. He has a particular interest in the beautiful and threatened species, the Eltham Copper Butterfly, as well as searching for other endangered species in our region. Karl has a focus on wetlands and waterway surveys, as well as management planning.

 

 

Meet the Rakali and Platypus – 14 and 15 May 2021

Posted on 12 May, 2021 by Ivan

The Castlemaine Field Naturalists Club (CFNC) is a wonderful collection of community members interested in the natural history of central Victoria. Connecting Country has collaborated with CFNC on multiple projects, and is constantly amazed by their level of knowledge and passion for the natural world.

CFNC conducts monthly talks on a variety of interesting topics relevant to our region. This month’s talk and excursion will focus on the Rakali (Native Water Rat or ‘Australia’s otter’) and Platypus. The Rakali has a low profile in the community, with many landholders knowing little about this mysterious and very attractive ‘otter-like’ native rodent.

Rakali in the Loddon River, Newstead (photo by Geoff Park)

 

Please read on for more details from CFNC regarding their talk and excursion.

You may also enjoy revisiting some of our previous posts about Rakali and Platypus:

  • Escaping the trap to reduce platypus deaths – click here
  • Good news for Coliban platypus population – click here
  • Rakali: our native otter – click here
  • Some little known facts about platypus – click here

 

Friday 14 May 2021 – Monthly meeting

Guest Speaker:  Geoff Williams (Australian Platypus Conservancy) on Understanding Rakali – Australia’s ‘Otter’

The platypus is widely recognised as a uniquely Australian animal.  By comparison, relatively few people know that the Australian water-rat (Hydromys chrysogaster) is a genuine native rodent that was a natural part of our environment long before the arrival of its pest cousins – the black rat and brown rat.  The water-rat (also known as rakali) possesses a thick coat of soft fur, splendid whiskers, blunt muzzle, partly webbed hind feet and furry tail, all helping to create a resemblance to a miniature otter.  Geoff will outline the biology and key conservation requirements of this fascinating native mammal and provide tips on how to go about spotting it in local waterways.

The meeting will be held by Zoom.  If you have not joined earlier webinars and wish to attend, please email Peter Turner at munrodsl@iinet.net.au

Saturday 15 May 2021 – Excursion to  Campbells Creek Rakali and Platypus habitat

Leader: Geoff Williams

Meet at 8 am at the ‘Octopus’, opposite the Castle Motel, Duke St, Castlemaine VIC – early start for early rising animals!

Join Geoff on a field trip along Campbells Creek to learn how to look for rakali and platypus in the wild.  He will also talk about opportunities for becoming involved in the Australian Platypus Monitoring Network (APMN) to help track how these species are faring in local waterways.

Please comply with current government COVID-safe requirements on the day.

The field trip will be cancelled in extreme weather conditions.

 

 

 

Old trees draw a crowd

Posted on 28 April, 2021 by Ivan

The old trees of Harcourt North had plenty of admiration from the strong crowd of 40 people at our ‘Caring for old trees’ event on Saturday 24 April 2021 at Hillside Acres in Harcourt North, Victoria. It was a day to remember, with still mild weather and two excellent guest speakers to educate participants about the beauty, benefits, importance and biodiversity of the old trees in our region. The event was our first face-to-face event in over 12 months and formed part of our ‘Healthy Landscapes’ project, funded through the Australian Government’s Smart Farms program.

The event was hosted by two local leading naturalists, Jarrod Coote and Tanya Loos, who coincidentally both previously worked with Connecting Country. The workshop involved a tour of the lovely Hillside Acres farm in Harcourt North, including some amazing old trees that have been estimated to be 300-400 years old. The walk and talk included how to look after older trees in the landscape, why they are important to farming and biodiversity, and methods of protection and providing succession.

Guest speaker Tanya Loos explaining the importance of grazing management and protection of old trees in the landscape (photo by Ivan Carter)

 

Tanya covered some excellent points on how old trees provide vital farm infrastructure, as well as habitat for many birds, arboreal mammals, microbats, and insects. Jarrod covered some great insights about how to integrate healthy farming with a healthy landscape. He also provided practical advice on how to care for old trees so they remain part of our local landscape, and how to ensure the next generation of old trees.

The audience was fascinated to learn about the importance of Mistletoe in our landscape and the number of native animals it supports with its fruits, leaves and flowers. Also of interest was the importance of dead trees in the landscape, particularly to birds of prey and bats.

This large old Yellow Box (Eucalyptus melliodora) is estimated to be 300-400 years old (photo by Ivan Carter)

 

For those interested in local trees, Friends of the Box-Ironbark Forests (FOBIF) has developed an excellent ‘Eucalypts of the Mount Alexander Region’ book. This 90-page guide book is well suited to beginners. In plain language, and generously illustrated, it presents most of the Eucalypt species that flourish in the Mount Alexander region of central Victoria. Copies are available from Stoneman’s Bookroom in Castlemaine and via FOBIF website – click here

Many thanks to Tanya and Jarrod for their outstanding knowledge and passion for landscape restoration, and also to Jarrod and Rebecca at Hillside Acres for sharing their unique and inspiring farm.

This section of the farm has extensive revegetation planting, bringing a variety of birds back into the landscape (photo by Jacqui Slingo)

 

Our Healthy Landscapes project is about helping our local farmers and other landholders to manage their land sustainably for the benefit of wildlife, themselves and the broader landscape. We are also developing a Healthy Landscapes guide book, especially targeted to the Mount Alexander region of central Victoria. This event is part of a series of educational workshops for landholders on sustainable land management.

The next event on our education calendar will be a wetland restoration tour in early June 2021. Please stay tuned. 

 

 

Caring for old trees on 24 April 2021 – book now!

Posted on 8 April, 2021 by Ivan

Connecting Country is excited to announce that tickets are now available for the second event of our 2021 autumn workshop series. ‘Caring for old trees‘ will be hosted by two local leading naturalists, Jarrod Coote and Tanya Loos, who coincidentally both previously worked with Connecting Country. The event will be held in-person at the stunning Hillside Acres farm, in North Harcourt, Victoria.

This event is part of our ‘Healthy Landscapes’ project, funded through the Australian Government’s Smart Farms program.

The workshop will cover:

  • How to look after older trees in the landscape.
  • Why they are important to farming and biodiversity.
  • Methods of protection and providing succession.

We will also have the opportunity to tour of some beautiful large old trees at Hillside Acres. Old trees provide vital farm infrastructure, as well as habitat for many birds, arboreal mammals, microbats, and insects. The workshop will explore how to ensure that old trees remain part of our local landscape, and how to ensure the next generation of old trees.

The event will be on Saturday 24 April 2021 from 10 am to 12 noon in North Harcourt, VIC. It’s sure to be popular and tickets are limited. To book please – click here 

Due to COVID-19 limitations, catering for this event is BYO. Please come equipped for potential weather extremes, wear sturdy shoes and bring adequate water and nourishment.

Our Healthy Landscapes project is about helping our local farmers and other landholders to manage their land sustainably for the benefit of wildlife, themselves and the broader landscape. We are also developing a Healthy Landscapes guide book, especially targeted to the Mount Alexander region of central Victoria. This event is part of a series of educational workshops for landholders on sustainable land management.

Our special presenters

Jarrod Coote

Jarrod is an environmental educator and practical ecologist. He runs Hillside Acres farm and has developed a sound knowledge of flora and fauna identification, ecology and habitat requirements. He has taught at education institutions and is a former Connecting Country employee. Jarrod has a passion for sustainable farming and land management, as well as birds and indigenous flora species.

Tanya Loos

Tanya is a superstar of many aspects of ecology and is best known for her ability to explain the intricacies and beauties of the natural world to the community. Tanya has previously worked with Connecting Country and Birdlife Australia, and is an expert in birds, mammals and community engagement. Her experience includes ecological consulting, project planning, client liaison and delivering training. She is also an author, blogger, and well-known advocate for environmental stewardship and sustainable land management.

 

Caring for old trees – 24 April 2021

Posted on 24 March, 2021 by Ivan

Save the date! We have announced our second education event for 2021 and it is sure to be terrific, hosted by two local leading naturalists and ecological experts, Jarrod Coote and Tanya Loos. The event will be in-person, face-to-face (for a change!) at the stunning Hillside Acres farm, in North Harcourt, Victoria.

The event is part of our ‘Healthy Landscapes’ project, funded through the Australian Government’s Smart Farms program.

Our project is about helping our local farmers and other landholders to manage their land sustainably for the benefit of wildlife, themselves and the broader landscape. We are also developing a Healthy Landscapes guide book, especially targeted to the Mount Alexander region of central Victoria. This event is part of a series of educational workshops for landholders on sustainable land management.

The event will cover topics such as how to look after old trees in the landscape, why they are important to farming and biodiversity, methods of protection and succession, and include a tour of some old trees at Hillside Acres. Old trees provide vital farm infrastructure, as well as habitat for many birds, arboreal mammals, microbats and insects. The workshop will explore how to ensure that old trees remain part of our healthy landscapes, and how to ensure the next generation of old trees.

This free event will be held on Saturday 24 April 2021 from 10 am to 12 pm in North Harcourt, VIC.

Online booking will be available shortly. There will be strict limits on booking , due to COVID restrictions. It’s sure to be very popular.

Our special presenters

Jarrod Coote

Jarrod is an environmental educator and practical ecologist. He currently runs Hillside Acres farm and has developed a sound knowledge of flora and fauna identification, ecology and habitat requirements. He has taught at education institutions and is a former Connecting Country employee . Jarrod has a passion for sustainable farming and land management, as well as birds and indigenous flora species.

Tanya Loos

Tanya is a superstar of many aspects of ecology and is best known for her ability to explain the beauties of the natural world to the community. Tanya has previously worked with Connecting Country and Birdlife Australia, and is an expert in birds, mammals and community engagement. Her roles include ecological consulting, project planning, client liaison and delivering training. She is also an author, blogger, and well-known advocate for environmental stewardship and sustainable land management.

Stay tuned for further details coming soon!

 

Healthy dams as habitat event, a healthy success

Posted on 24 March, 2021 by Ivan

On 18 March 2021, a large crowd of people gathered on their computers, tablets and phones, to enjoy Connecting Country’s ‘Healthy dams as habitat’ online event. The event was hosted by Connecting Country and presented by local wetland consultant, Damien Cook. The free online event featured a presentation by Damien on how to create and improve dams to supply clean water and habitat for a variety of native plants and animals. The event was part of our ‘Healthy Landscapes’ project, funded through the Australian Government’s Smart Farms program.

This was the first of three educational events for the autumn 2021, with two further events planned for April and May 2021. The aim of the workshop series is to help our local farmers and other landholders to manage their land sustainably for the benefit of wildlife, primary production and the broader landscape. We will also develop a Healthy Landscapes guide book, especially targeted to the Mount Alexander region of central Victoria, which will be delivered in the coming months.

We were excited to sell a total of 201 tickets to the event, but it was difficult to tell exactly how many people attended, due to attendees sharing a screen with family members. The event finished with a 15 minute ‘Q and A’ session, which delivered further discussion around beneficial fauna in dams, how to filter water before entering a dam using plants, and also where to purchase common wetland species suitable for dams. There was plenty of interest in the event, with further requests for a recording of the event, plant lists and advice regarding wetland creation.

If you missed the ‘Healthy dams as habitat event’ a recording is now available on Vimeo – click here

Our evaluation survey indicated that attendees were keen for more information on how to create clean water and habitat in their existing dams, so we are providing some additional information. We will follow up with an aquatic plant list for our region and further videos in another post in the near future.

Additional resources

Damien mentioned a number of useful resources during the event, which provide great starting resources for improving the habitat value of a dam:

  • Farm Dams – Planning, Construction & Maintenance. Landlinks Press. CSIRO Publishing. Lewis B (2002)
  • Wildlife on Farms: how to conserve native animals. CSIRO Publishing. Lindenmeyer D, Claridge A, Hazell D, Michael D, Crane M, MacGregor C and Cunningham R (2003)
  • Flora of Melbourne: Guide to the Indigenous Plants of the Greater Melbourne Area, 4th Edition

 

Enhancing farm dams

We also recommend ‘Enhancing farm dams’, a booklet produced by the Australian National University and an excellent resource for anyone starting improvements to their existing dams.

To download your copy –  click here

The ‘Enhancing farm dams’ brochure includes the following illustration highlighting some achievable actions and beneficial dam improvements.

 

 

 

 

 

2021 bird walks with BirdLife Castlemaine

Posted on 4 March, 2021 by Ivan

Our friends and project partners at BirdLife Castlemaine District have shared their latest ‘Bird Walks Calendar 2021’, which sets out all the excellent monthly bird walks they have planned for the rest of 2021. If you have not attended one of their bird walks, then make 2021 the year to enjoy the pleasure of a guided bird walk with friendly local experts. Please read on for details, provided by BirdLife Castlemaine District.

March 2021 bird walk

Date: Saturday 6 March 2021 at 9 am
Leader: Damian Kelly
Location: Glamorgan Reef Bushland Reserve, Yandoit VIC

Monthly bird walks can be a healthy stroll with lovely people, with birds providing a natural bonus (photo by Frances Howe)

Dear members and friends,

Please find attached the BirdLife Castlemaine District Branch 2021 Calendar with brief details of our monthly bird walks and the bird camp to be held in September.

Full details about each walk will be posted on the BirdLife Castlemaine District. Facebook page and included in our eNews prior to each walk.  If you are interested in the bird camp, contact details are on the calendar.

Thanks to Bob Dawson, BCD’s Bird walk coordinator and to those who have already led walks or will be doing so as the year progresses. All levels of experience welcome – walks are a great chance to learn from and have fun with fellow birdwatchers. Full details about each walk will be posted on the BirdLife Castlemaine District Facebook page and included in our eNews prior to each walk.

Walks will be cancelled if, during the walk period, severe weather warnings are in place; temperatures over 35oC or persistent rain is forecast; a Total Fire Ban has been declared for the day. Please check your email and/or Facebook on the evening before a walk, in case the event has been cancelled.

For more information, please email castlemaine@birdlife.org.au or call/text Jane Rusden (0448 900 896), Judy Hopley (0425 768 559) or Bob Dawson (0417 621 691). Please also note that walks or other activities will need to follow all Victorian Government Covid-19 restrictions and recommendations and will only go ahead if the restrictions permit.

To download BirdLife Castlemaine’s 2021 calendar – click here

 

Healthy dams for habitat 2021 – more tickets now available

Posted on 4 March, 2021 by Ivan

Sold out in a week! We did not expect the 100 tickets for our ‘Healthy dams for habitat’ event to book out so quickly, but they did. So we have upgraded our Zoom account and now have another few hundred tickets available.

To book – click here

Healthy dams for habitat‘ is hosted by local leading naturalist and wetland expert, Damien Cook. The free online event will feature a presentation by Damien on how to create and improve dams to supply clean water and habitat for a variety of native plants and animals. The event is part of our ‘Healthy Landscapes’ project, funded through the Australian Government’s Smart Farms program.

The event will aim to help our local farmers and other landholders to manage their land sustainably for the benefit of wildlife, primary production and the broader landscape. We will also develop a Healthy Landscapes guide book, especially targeted to the Mount Alexander region of central Victoria, and deliver two further educational workshops for landholders on sustainable land management.

The online event will be held on Thursday 18 March 2021 from 7-8 pm. It’s sure to be popular and tickets are limited. To book – click here 

Damien Cook

Damien has been a keen naturalist for 30 years and has developed a sound knowledge of flora and fauna identification, ecology and habitat requirements. He is a recognised expert in wetland, riparian and terrestrial ecology, particularly in the factors affecting the establishment and management of aquatic and wetland plants, and also the revegetation of terrestrial ecosystems. Damien is also Co-director of Rakali Ecological Consulting, a company based in central Victoria that specialise in ecological assessment (flora and fauna), mapping and land management planning for a variety of ecosystems, including wetland and terrestrial vegetation in south-eastern Australia. Damien’s roles include ecological consulting, project planning, client liaison and delivering training. Damien is also a shareholder in Australian Ecosystems Pty Ltd, an ecological restoration company with its own large scale indigenous plant nursery.

There are excellent examples of healthy dams in our region (photo by Bonnie Humphreys)

 

Feral photo and video competition: now open

Posted on 11 February, 2021 by Ivan

Here is a call out to the photographers in our region, who might be interested in snapping some invasive plants and animals for the Centre of Invasive Species Solutions, who are running a photo and video competition. The Centre for Invasive Species Solutions is Australia’s collaborative research, development and extension organisation formed to tackle the ongoing threat from invasive vertebrate pests, and weeds. They concentrate on developing smarter tools to prevent and detect new invasions, advanced and tactical tools to strengthen integrated management strategies and knowledge.

The competition entries will be published on their website, and will feature some pretty amazing prizes for the lucky winners. Please see the full provided details below, from their website.

The popular Feral Photo and Video Competition is being reignited by the Centre for Invasive Species Solutions with some amazing prizes on offer thanks to our competition collaborators Animal Trap SolutionsCSIRO Publishing and Outdoor Cameras Australia.

Submit your images and video footage which showcase invasive species in Australia. This might include pest animals, weed infestations, exotic insects and/or the damage these species cause. Remote camera images and footage is allowed.

Entry is free and you can enter as many times as you’d like, noting each time you enter you will have to fill out the complete form.

The winning entries will be completely decided by you, the audience, through a popular vote (details on how to vote below). The entries with the most votes will be notified by phone to receive one of the four major prizes listed below.

So share your entry far and wide via social media or email, to get as many votes as possible.

You can list a list of the entries so far, by clicking here. Below is our favourite entry to date, from Sandy Horne.

Squabble in the stubble. Sandy Horne entry to the feral photo competition.

Key dates:

Entries open: Tuesday February 2nd, 2021 – 6am AEDT

Entries close: Friday April 30th, 2021 – 12pm AEST

Voting open: Tuesday February 2nd, 2021 – 6am AEDT

Voting closes: Friday May 14th, 12pm AEST

Prize winners notified: Week beginning May 17th 2021

For more details, please click here

 

 

Rabbit Buster Month with North Central CMA

Posted on 28 January, 2021 by Ivan

Rabbits are a persistent landscape pest in our region, particularly in the granitic soils around Mount Alexander in central Victoria. Many landholders and Landcare groups have implemented rabbit control programs over the past decades, with some excellent outcomes across the region. It is estimated that approximately 200 million feral rabbits inhabit Australia, a staggering number, but considerably less than the numbers prior to the introduction of the biological control viruses.

February is the North Central Catchment Management Authority’s (CMA) ‘Rabbit Buster’ month, when landholders and communities are encouraged to revisit their rabbit control plans. Connecting Country strongly encourages landholders to participate in this program. Persistence is a vital aspect of rabbit control, especially when numbers are relatively low.

To view Connecting Country’s fact sheet dedicated to rabbit control – click here

Rabbits can impact native vegetation, revegetation and pastures alike (photo: Pest Smart CRC)

 

Here is an from the North Central CMA, regarding their Rabbit Buster month 2021.

Whilst Rabbit Buster field days have been postponsed until later in 2021, there is plenty to be done now. While the grass is dry and prior to autumn rains, numbers are usually at their lowest.

The Victorian Rabbit Action Network published the ‘Rabbit Recipe’ in October 2020, advocating the following steps:

  • Make an assessment of the rabbit population = the size of your problem.
  • Following this, undertake and monitor a baiting program.
  • Baiting should be followed by ripping. The deeper the better.
  • Warren destruction is the key to effective rabbit control ‘Destroy the warren, Destroy the rabbit’.*
  • Continue monitoring on an ongoing basis to detect and treat any re-infestation of your property.

*It is noted that dozer ripping is site-specific and can only be done where practical and culturally safe to do so.

Resources to support you…

Agriculture Victoria

Ag Vic has a wealth of information to help you start or support your rabbit control program.

‘Rabbit control is most cost-effective in late summer and early autumn as breeding has generally paused at this time. Biological control and naturally harsh environmental conditions can cause added stress on the rabbit population and may lead to longer-lasting results.’

Controlling rabbit populations when they are low is the most cost-effective control and efforts are more likely to be sustained. Agriculture Victoria Biosecurity Officers are always willing to discuss rabbit control options with you.

For more detailed information on Victoria’s research and best practice integrated rabbit control methods – click here 

Victorian Rabbit Action Network (VRAN)

VRAN are committed to promoting community led action on rabbit management in Victoria and supporting people to work together for more effective and sustainable rabbit control.

VRAN can help you through:

  • Running training and mentoring programs, delivering workshops on best-practice rabbit control, and supporting people and organisations to collaborate on rabbit action.
  • Occasional funding grants to support community learning, innovation, and rabbit management (See Funding Opportunities section of their website).
  • Short, easy to view YouTube Videos on all aspects of a rabbit control program – click here

You may even have a VRAN mentor or leader in your area, to check, get in touch with Heidi Kleinert: VRAN Exec Officer via heidi.kleinert@agriculture.vic.gov.au

RabbitScan

RabbitScan remains one of the most user-friendly tools to record rabbit populations. RabbitScan is a free resource for landholders, Landcare groups, community groups, local Councils, professional pest controllers and biosecurity groups. It has been designed by landholders for communities, and it is very easy to use.

What to record:

  • Rabbit activity (such as sightings and warrens).
  • Damage, such as soil erosion.
  • Control activities (such as warren ripping).
  • Disease in rabbit populations (such as RHDV).

The RabbitScan website has all the information you need to use the webpage, download the app, and includes supporting resources – click here

You can even speak with a member of the RabbitScan team to organise some training for your local community.

 

 

Understanding your soil

Posted on 19 January, 2021 by Ivan

Connecting Country has been putting together practical information about how to restore and manage land for central Victorian landholders for over a decade. We now have a pretty useful collection of resources for learning about local soils on the Connecting Country website. Learning more about your property, local landscape and soils is a great basis to successfully plan for repairing and revegetating your property. Knowing about your soil type, and its limitations and qualities can be important in making a property management plan.

Geology of the Mount Alexander region

In the centre of the Mount Alexander Region, Castlemaine township is situated on low sedimentary undulations and hills of the dissected uplands. Much of the surrounding area is hills and wooded slopes with rocky outcrops common and granitic boulders visible.

To the northeast, Mount Alexander forms a prominent granitic ridge rising 250 metres above the surrounding land. To the southeast, the Calder Highway follows the sedimentary terraces and floodplain of the Coliban River. To the north, rolling sedimentary hills and valley slopes form fertile ground for the Harcourt apple orchards.

Undulating and low rolling sedimentary hills occur in several areas to the west and southwest of Castlemaine. These are characterised by rocky low hills and gentler, rock – free slopes and depressions. Most of these areas have been cleared for grazing. To the far west of the shire we have flat volcanic plains. This is some of the best land for agriculture in central Victoria.

Volcanic and granitic soils are a feature of our region’s farming districts (photo by Bonnie Humphreys)

 

Other areas exhibit moderate to steep slopes with shallow and stony soils, especially on the upper slopes and crests. Many of these areas have retained their native vegetation due to the steep and rocky nature of the terrain and the low fertility and low water holding capacity of the soils.

Soils

The health of the land is intimately linked to the health of the soil. Our region has a great diversity of soil types that reflect differences in parent material, topography, climate, organic activity, age and degree of weathering. For agricultural purposes, many of these soils have some chemical and physical limitations (such as sodicity) which require careful management. A good way to learn about soils is to visit the website Victoria Resources Online website, which provides interactive maps and descriptions of each soil types. The chances are your property has already been mapped for its soil type, providing a good starting point.

To access the Victoria Resources Online web page on soils in the North Central region – click here

Healthy soils form the basis of farm and ecosystem productivity. Issues such as erosion, salinity, soil carbon sequestration, nutrient run-off and acidification can all be addressed through understanding soil structure, biology and chemistry. To find out more about improving the soils on your land – click here

Other useful references

  • Costermans Native Trees and Shrubs of South-eastern Australia (1994) – Chapter 2 (page 5-18) provides a useful basic introduction to geology.
  • Palaeozoic geology and resources of Victoria (1998)
  • Geology Society of Australia – Victoria
  • Geology of Victoria
  • Earth resources online  – The Victorian government has digitised the main Victorian geological map series and made them available free of charge to the public. This includes historical geological surveys, geological reports, gold field mapping, regolith, geophysical and hydro geological maps.
  • GeoVic – Explore Victoria Online – Data sets that can be viewed and interrogated include mineral, petroleum and extractive industries tenements, land-use and airborne geophysical survey boundaries, gravity, magnetic and radiometric images, borehole and well data, surface geochemistry results, mines and mineral occurrences, and geological maps and interpretations at various scales.
  • Victorian geological map sheets – Free- downloadable raster versions of all geological sheet maps ever produced of Victoria, from 1:50:000 – 1:250,000 scale.

 

Fallen timber and leaf litter for healthy landscapes

Posted on 19 January, 2021 by Ivan

We have recently had some positive discussions with local landholders about the return of insects, reptiles and birds to their properties during 2020, especially with the higher rainfall and cooler conditions we’re experiencing this summer. We really enjoy hearing stories from landholders about what is happening on the ground. It keeps us motivated and passionate about providing support and advice for healthy landscapes. Both landholders noted that parts of their farms had sections of fallen timber, woody debris and leaf litter, which they retained as a deliberate action to increase the biodiversity and health of their farms. A diverse range of insects and birds are beneficial for pest control and for pollinating many important plants on farms, as well as forming part of the food chain that is beneficial to a healthy landscape.

The Sustainable Farms initiative has produced a comprehensive fact sheet about the importance of retaining dead trees, fallen timbers and leaf litter in landscapes. Sustainable Farms is an Australian National University initiative supported by philanthropic organisations, industry groups and government.

Fallen dead wood provides important habitat for a suite of invertebrate species dependent on decaying wood for their survival. These species play an important role in recycling nutrients in forest and woodland ecosystems. They include a range of species that feed, breed, or shelter in dead wood, or may be predators, or parasitoids dependent on species that live on dead wood. Birds and reptiles feed on these insects, as well as other small marsupials and mammals. Standing dead trees, whether killed deliberately from ringbarking or by bushfires, form a critical resource for fauna, especially following intense wildfire. Connecting Country has been working with landholders for over a decade to convey the importance of keeping some undeveloped areas of their properties as wildlife habitat.

Leaf litter and wooden debris are vital to birds and many other animals on farms (photo: David Adam)

 

There is always a fine balance between keeping places wild and healthy, and managing bushfire risk, so obviously careful planning is required around houses and buildings in certain settings, such as heavily forested properties.

For further information please read the ‘Keep your fallen timber and dead trees’ fact sheet from Sustainable Farms – click here

 

 

Celebrating Landcare with Connecting Country’s new grant

Posted on 14 January, 2021 by Ivan

Connecting Country is excited to announce we were successful in obtaining a small community grant from the Mount Alexander Shire Council (MASC), allowing us to produce a video celebrating the amazing achievements of our local Landcare groups from across the Mount Alexander region in central Victoria. Our 2021 Celebrating Landcare project will highlight the variety of on-ground landscape restoration and other Landcare activities from across our region that contribute to a healthy and more sustainable landscape. We love our volunteers and this is a chance to recognise their significant achievements in a visual format, using a combination of interviews, footage from on the ground, and project information.

We are very fortunate to have around 30 active Landcare and Friends Groups in our region, which will be very hard to capture in a short video, but we will do our best! We are forever grateful for their passion and array of skills, which has resulted in the recovery of many degraded landscapes across our region.

This project will also aim to attract new members to our Landcare groups, and show the many benefits of volunteering and being part of a bigger picture of landscape restoration. Current members and volunteers include over 1,300 residents from a diverse mix of cultural and demographic backgrounds, genders and age groups. These groups collectively own or manage a significant proportion of the private land throughout our shire.

We hope our video will support and acknowledge over 10,000 hours of incredible work our Landcare volunteers contribute to the region annually, all in five minutes of video! A big ask we know, but we are determined to deliver a great project within the modest budget.

We expect to have the video completed late in the second half of 2021 and will keep the community updated on its progress.

In the meantime, please enjoy our five minute video highlighting our restoration and bird monitoring programs, produced by our partners at Remember The Wild. We would like to thank the MASC for the community grant funding and acknowledge their contribution towards delivery of this project.

 

 

Ugg boots to the rescue: Phascogale adventures

Posted on 7 January, 2021 by Ivan

How does one catch a Brush-tailed Phascogale on the run in your house? Easy – with an Ugg boot apparently!

We received a video from a local landholder, Brodi, who rescued this Brush-tailed Phascogale from their house in Sutton Grange using a sheepskin boot in late 2020. Doesn’t get much cuter than that!

The Brush-tailed Phascogale (Phascogale tapoatafa tapoatafa), also known as the Tuan, is a small, nocturnal, carnivorous marsupial, a little larger than a domestic rat. In Victoria, the Brush-tailed Phascogale was once widespread, but now has a fragmented distribution. It’s found to the east and north-east of Melbourne, central Victoria (around Ballarat, Heathcote and Bendigo), north-eastern Victoria, and far western Victoria (from Mount Eccles to Apsley).

The Brush-tailed Phascogale is a threatened species listed under the Victorian Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act 1988 and considered Vulnerable in Victoria.

Thanks Brodi for sending us this video. Please enjoy!

To learn more about Brush-tailed Phascogales and their conservation, check out our blog post below. To get involved in our monitoring program for Brush-tailed Phascogale, please email info@connectingcountry.org.au

Fun with Phascogales – Jess Lawton’s Talk

 

Bird walk at Eganstown: Saturday 9 January 2021

Posted on 7 January, 2021 by Ivan

BirdLife Castlemaine’s beloved bird walks are commencing again with a leisurely stroll down through the Deep Creek Streamside Reserve, Eganstown, ten minutes drive west of Daylesford in central Victoria. It is the first walk for 2021, with 2020’s walks being interrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic. The Deep Creek Streamside Reserve has some excellent stands of mature grassy woodlands and herb-rich foothill forests, and will no doubt provide some excellent bird watching opportunities. Please see the details below, kindly provided by Birdlife Castlemaine.

Bird Walk – Saturday 9 January 2021 – Deep Creek Streamside Reserve, Eganstown

Hopefully, if the COVID-19 situation allows we will be able to have a full round of Bird Walks in 2021! Our 2021 program begins on Saturday 9 January (note – this is the second Saturday rather than the usual first Saturday of the month). We will walk along the road by Maclachlan Creek through manna gum streamside forest until we reach the reserve at the end of the road. Then along wide paths to the old spring. If there is time and the weather is good we will then walk through the bush – lovely messmate forest! Last time there blue-winged parrots were seen! Snakes are active in the area at the moment so long pants and boots a must – and bring snake kits if you have them (we will also have first aid kits with snake bite bandages).  There will be some uneven ground and walking through the forest but those feeling less up for a walk could easily walk down the road and then picnic down by the creek. Our walk leader is Tanya Loos. All welcome!

Where: Deep Creek Streamside Reserve, Eganstown VIC. Turn onto Deep Spring Road from the Midland Highway, approximately 9 km west of Daylesford and park near the Nowland Track which is about 600 m from the Highway. Coordinates: -37.350353, 144.074929

When: Meet at Deep Creek Streamside Reserve at 9:00 am. Walks last for approximately 2 hours.

Bring: Water, snacks, binoculars, sunscreen, hat, sturdy shoes. Long trousers are advised during snake season.

More info: Jane Rusden, 0448 900 896 or Judy Hopley 0425 768 559. To discover more about Deep Creek Streamside Reserve – click here

Please note that walks will be canceled if severe weather warnings are in place, persistent rain is forecast, if the temperature is forecast to be 35 degrees or above during the walk period, and/or a Total Fire Ban is declared.

Steep gorges and volcanic outcrops are on offer at Deep Spring Reserve (photo: Birdlife Castlemaine)

 

Celebrating our volunteer heroes at Connecting Country

Posted on 17 December, 2020 by Ivan

Connecting Country could not do what we do without our volunteers. Our management committee is run by volunteers, our monitoring programs rely on skilled citizen scientists, our landholders ensure landscape restoration is maintained, and others help with events, Landcare, engagement and in countless other ways. We love our volunteers and appreciate their dedication to our vision of increasing, enhancing, and restoring biodiversity across central Victoria.

This year, we were fortunate to receive a very generous donation from a local family to support our woodland bird monitoring, including providing a humble thank-you celebration for our volunteers on the evening of Monday 14 December 2020 at The Hub Plot, behind our office in Castlemaine, Victoria.

We enjoyed COVID-safe celebratory drinks and snack packs in the leafy Hub Plot garden. Our Monitoring Coordinator, Jess Lawton, provided a short summary of our monitoring achievements over the last year, followed by plenty of chatting and Connecting Country’s second annual ‘Klop’ game championship. Thank you to everyone who came and made it a wonderful evening with great company. Special thanks to Lou, Jane R, and Duncan for setting up and helping the evening run smoothly, and to Heather and Neil for the lovely venue.

These days our projects run off very tight budgets, with funding opportunities extremely few and far between. Community has always been at the core of what we do at Connecting Country. In this new phase, we’ve had to rely on our community even more.

Because we’re surrounded by an engaged and enthusiastic community, we’re still able to check in on our local biodiversity, and deliver monitoring, engagement, Landcare support and landscape restoration across our region. If it wasn’t for your hard work, we simply would not be able to continue our valuable long-term biodiversity monitoring, engage our community in caring for our local landscapes, or empower landowners to manage their land as wildlife habitat.

To everyone who has helped Connecting Country in 2020: a big thank you! We are so grateful for your support.

To find out more about volunteer opportunities at Connecting Country, please visit our website – click here

Please enjoy the following photos by Lou Citroen and Ivan Carter, capturing the beauty of our volunteer celebration on a balmy summer’s evening in Castlemaine.