Restoring landscapes across the Mount Alexander Region

Baringhup Birds on Farms workshop – a great partnership event

Posted on 13 September, 2018 by Tanya Loos

On 9 September 2018 about forty people gathered on a beautiful property in Baringhup to learn about Birds on Farms. The day was a joint workshop by Connecting Country and Baringhup Landcare, and the participants ranged from Connecting Country regular workshop enthusiasts, bird survey volunteers, farmers from in and around the Baringhup area and Landcare members.

Two bird surveys were conducted down on the bird survey area. Curiously each survey recorded 13 birds, though each time the species composition was different! The surveys may be seen here and here. A few new species were recorded on the day – including the Grey Fantail.

Many thanks to Roy and Caroline Lovel for being such wonderful hosts, and all the many helpers on the day, especially Jackie Brown who helped Roy wash up all the bowls and cups!

Attendee Liz Burns wrote this wonderful summary of the day. Thanks Liz!

 Birds On Farms workshop

As a long-term attender of Connecting Country’s field days, it was a pleasure to take up Tanya’s request for someone to write up today’s events. In fact, I could write a book with all the detailed notes that I’ve taken over the years.

As usual, this one hit the mark and maintained the usual high standard.

As a full-time biological farmer who relies upon our native birds for pest control and even some pollination services, and a keen lifelong observer of all the complex relationships in nature, this is a subject dear to my heart. It was even more heartening to meet other like-minded farmers with the added bonus of passionate  protectors of very old trees.

 To read Liz’s detailed notes of the speakers’ presentations click Birds-On-Farms-Field-Day-write-up

After lunch we did separate farm and birds walks: Roy led a group up to the top of the property, and Tanya and Chris conducted a bird survey on a lower restoration area.

I would like to see the Connecting Country model rolled out across the State, as the best value for money blending of agriculture, environment and Indigenous history, especially as 70% of the State is in private hands and the State does not manage Crown Land very well (in my opinion). If farmers could be helped with managing their land, incorporating environmental and cultural values, we could maximise biodiversity and future food production with a three-way partnership with farmers, environmentalists and Traditional owners.

As usual, the catering, the company and weather was of the highest standard.

Grateful thanks must go to Connecting Country and all involved, but in particular Tanya Loos for yet another fascinating and informative day.

Liz Burns, Trewella Farm, Musk

Please scroll through the following gallery of photos from the day.

 

 

‘Future-proof your restoration’ seminars

Posted on 6 September, 2018 by Tanya Loos

The recent ‘Future-proof your restoration’  seminars brought the local community together with relevant experts to discuss and share the issues we face in landscape restoration, especially the challenge of our changing climate. Seminar one (Friday 24 August 2018) explored ‘Weeds to watch’. Seminar two (Friday 31 August 2018) addressed ‘Planting for the future’.

Our excellent guest speakers shared a wealth of knowledge and experience, and their expertise was warmly received by an enthusiastic audience at both events.

Thank you to everyone who helped make these seminars successful, including our presenters, the Landcare Steering Group, and volunteers who helped behind the scenes. The seminars were funded by the North Central Catchment Management Authority, through the Victorian Landcare Program, and organised by Asha Bannon, Connecting Country’s Landcare Facilitator.

Everyone gathered to listen to our guests speak about ‘Weeds to watch’

Read on for short summaries of each event, and click on the presentation titles to download a copy of the slides. Keep an eye out for another blog post coming soon, with links to copies of the resources we had available at the events.

Weeds to watch

David started us off by talking about the ecology of weeds, and how they affect us and the environment. He gave useful advice about the most strategic ways to manage weeds effectively. David encouraged us to look at ‘absences’ of weeds on our properties and project areas, to learn to appreciate what we have achieved rather than be overwhelmed by the weeds we have yet to control. John then shared information about grassy weeds – those that are  a problem now, and those that are likely to become a bigger issue with climate change. He stressed the importance of early detection and eradication of new and emerging weeds, plus better practices to reduce their spread in the first place. For details see:

 

Planting for the future

The three presentations were very different and complemented each other beautifully! Jeroen spoke passionately about the urgent need for large-scale landscape restoration, based on his work on Bush Heritage properties in the Wedderburn and St Arnaud area – particularly the Nardoo Hills. Sacha clearly outlined a practical way to approach revegetation that buffers the changing climate, and uses scientific monitoring to guide us in that approach.  Brian took us down to the square metre level as he recounted the tale of the restoration of an urban waterway, and the return of bush birds such as Brown Thornbills to the Merri Creek. Brian also talked about the struggle many of us face when it comes to accepting and adapting to the new approaches needed to future-proof our restoration.

From left to right: Chris from Connecting Country, Jeroen, Sacha, Brian and Asha.

For details see:

 

Castlemaine Bird Walks – a recommended resource

Posted on 29 August, 2018 by Tanya Loos

In April 2018, local birder and photographer Damian Kelly published the wonderful book Castlemaine Bird Walks: A guide to walks and birds in the Castlemaine district. The book has been warmly received by the local community, selling over 500 copies, and is now in its third reprint.

As our supporters know, we’re very much into birds here at Connecting Country. Hence we thought it timely to review this useful resource for our bird survey volunteers, or anyone interested in local birds.

Castlemaine Bird Walks is a comprehensive guide to walking and birding in the Castlemaine district. There are over 200 pages covering more than 40 walking sites plus a section on ephemeral swamps. For each walk, information includes a site description, how to get there, walking guide, distance and difficulty, detailed map, likely birds, and site notes.

The Forest Creek at Golden Point site (on page 35) has been surveyed four times a year since 2010 as part of Connecting Country’s long term monitoring program, so I’m very familiar with the site and the birds there. It was great to read the history of the site, as well as accurate descriptions of the habitat of this wonderfully revegetated site. I was thrilled to see a photo of the Olive Whistler at the site, as Jane Rusden and I spotted that highly unusual sighting!

The photos are very natural and show birds as you would see them in the field, with a lot of habitat context and natural light, providing a useful identification tool. Damian has used these to great effect in a section called ‘Birds and how to identify them’. Thornbills, robins, and honeyeaters are covered comprehensively. 

This is a book written by a birdwatcher for birdwatchers! The section ‘Bird watching – tricks of the trade’ provides some helpful hints about time of day, weather, and other phenomena such as flowering and thermals.

What about data?! I was glad to see the book covers data collection in two sections: ‘Contributing to our knowledge of birds’ and ‘Record keeping’. Here Damian lists eBird and Birdata as useful tools, and highlights the benefits of collecting data for conservation purposes. On the companion website to the book, the ins and outs of exploring and recording data on both these sites is described clearly. 

This wonderful photo of a Rufous Whistler cooling off on a hot day is on Damian’s excellent companion website.

A short and informative section on ‘Gardens and birds’ is at the end of the book, which Damian has updated and extended on the companion website

I have not had a chance to test-run any of the walks, but they look accurate and easy to interpret. Local birder Chris Timewell played a considerable role in assisting Damian in the site selection and creation of the maps.

Castlemaine Bird Walks also has an ‘accessibility guide’, which describes in detail which walks are suitable for those with limited mobility, or who use an electric scooter.

 

Damian has already been a walk leader for Friends of Box Ironbark Forests on a very enjoyable outing to Gower. 

In short, whether you are an experienced birdwatcher, or a total beginner this book is ideal. It is chock-full of helpful hints, beautifully illustrated and is an essential item for your bookshelf. For those electronically minded, subscribe to the blog of the Castlemaine bird walks companion website for updates and more great photos.

The book is available at Stonemans Bookroom, and the Castlemaine Visitors Centre, as well as online via this link.

Congratulations to Damian for this wonderful contribution to the birding community of Castlemaine!