Restoring landscapes across the Mount Alexander Region

What is the Victorian Biodiversity Atlas and why should we use it?

Posted on 16 January, 2020 by Ivan

We often get questions from the community and land owners asking about the Victorian Biodiversity Atlas (VBA) and why it is important. We also get questions about where people should add their surveys, and sightings of flora and fauna, to ensure government agencies can access and consider the records. The VBA uses consistent data standards in recording species observations and conservation efforts, and contains over seven million records across the state of Victoria.

The VBA is the web-based information system designed to manage information about native and naturalised species occurring in Victoria. The system includes species attribute information, including origin and conservation status, along with more than six million records of species distribution and abundance. All published records have been through the verification process including review by a panel of Victorian experts. The VBA includes data submitted to Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP) from external sources as well as the Department’s own data collections from systematic surveys and general observations. The VBA replaces several legacy systems, including the Victorian Flora Site Database, Atlas of Victorian Wildlife, Aquatic Fauna Database and Victorian Rare or Threatened Plant Population monitoring (VROTPop) systems.

Connecting Country enters the data from our monitoring program onto the VBA. With amazing volunteer helpers, we are currently entering all historical data from our surveys and observations. This will assist the government agencies in planning and reporting on biodiversity outcomes. We hope it will result in better planning and management outcomes for biodiversity. The data from the VBA feeds into the Atlas of Living Australia, but not vice-versa, so Connecting Country recommend that all flora and fauna data is entered onto VBA first and foremost, as it will also be added to the Atlas of Living Australia. Stay tuned for our upcoming blog post about the Atlas of Living Australia.

Here is a summary of how the VBA works from the DELWP website, including how users can register to enter data and contribute to statewide biodiversity planning. Click on the links for further information.

What is the Victorian Biodiversity Atlas?

The VBA species observations are a foundation dataset that feeds into some of the many biodiversity tools used in DELWP’s everyday decision making – showing where wildlife is now and how this has changed over time.  This makes it a core input to the majority of the governments processes and programs that impact native species.

It is used in conservation status assessments, Habitat Distribution Models (HDMs) that feed into the Strategic Management Prospects and Native Vegetation Removal Regulations and into our public land management, research activities and State of the Environment reporting.

You can use the atlas to search and map species from across the state, check for threatened species in your area. Also, by sharing your observations in the VBA format you can help us measure the progress to meeting the Biodiversity 2037 targets.

Victorian Biodiversity Atlas

Adding your records to the VBA is your main way to influence a range of government investment, regulation and management decisions.

The VBA includes a dynamic list of all species found in Victoria and provides information including conservation status. Currently there are more than seven million records of species distribution and abundance collated from many different data providers.

We have also released a mobile, simplified version for recording your general observations called VBA Go. Click on the link for more details, videos and help guides to get you started.

For more information on the VBA, please click here.

 

Turtle wisdom – slow down and watch the dam

Posted on 16 January, 2020 by Ivan

It was turtle time in Chewton last week, with local legends Marie Jones and John Ellis sending in some excellent photographs of a family of Long-Necked Turtles living in their dam. The dam has turned out to be important habitat for a family of turtles, with the larger creeks and rivers mostly dry in the long hot summers of central Victoria. The Eastern Long-necked Turtle is an east Australian species of snake-necked turtle that inhabits a wide variety of water bodies and is an opportunistic feeder. It is a side-necked turtle, meaning that it bends its head sideways into its shell rather than pulling directly back. Please enjoy the words below from Marie and John, who were kind enough to send in the observation and good news story. Feel free to send us your incidental observations of nature and wildlife – we’re always keen to share them with our friends and supporters.

‘We knew we had the odd interesting swimmer living in our dam – one had already been in the January Chewton Chat (last photo). But it was a social visit by staff from Connecting Country that really opened our eyes. They spotted long-necked turtles of varying sizes, maybe a family.

The dam is now a prime focus and counting the heads a daily routine. Seven heads up at the same time is the current record. A dam lot of interesting life out there…’

 

Butterfly Monitoring 28 December 2019 – POSTPONED!

Posted on 27 December, 2019 by Ivan

Due to the extreme weather forecast on the 28 December 2019, we have decided to move the Eltham Copper Butterfly Monitoring Session to the 31 of December 2019 (10am to 2pm). The new location is listed on the booking page below, if you are able to attend. 

We have cancelled the monitoring session due to the fact that the Eltham Copper Butterflies will not be out once the temperature is this warm, so monitoring on these days would be a waste of time. Our monitoring consultants have suggested the change in dates and locations and we are excited to have two remaining sessions to find some new populations of this precious and endangered butterfly.

We have created a new booking session if you are able to help us on the 31st of December from 10am to 2pm. The temperature is forecast to be mid to high 20s, so perfect for the Eltham Copper Butterfly. Alternatively, there is a final session on 3 January 2020.

Monitoring dates and locations:

  • 10-2 pm Tuesday 31 December 2019.  Location: Water tank on Hunter Track, top end of Hunter Street, Kalimna Park, Castlemaine VIC, Australia.
  • 12-4 pm Friday 3 January 2020.  Location: Corner of Vanstan Road and Lawson Parade, behind Castlemaine Secondary College, Castlemaine VIC, Australia.

Please book for these events – click here

Everyone is invited to become involved. Monitoring isn’t difficult but you will need:

  • A reasonable level of physical fitness, as monitoring involves walking off-track through the bush, often in warm weather.
  • A positive attitude and willingness to learn.
  • Ability to read maps, follow simple procedures and record sightings.

To learn more about this wonderful and interesting little butterfly click here. It would be terrific to find some new populations in our region and this is the perfect opportunity to survey some excellent butterfly habitat. You don’t need to attend all these events to be a monitor. Once you understand the monitoring method and feel confident you can identify an Eltham Copper Butterfly, you’re welcome to do your own monitoring and report sightings.

Sorry for the inconvenience and hopefully you can attend another session. The weather sure is extreme at the moment and we thank you for your patience. If you’d like to get involved in Eltham Copper Butterfly monitoring, please come along to a monitoring event.

Karl Just and Elaine Bayes educate the community on how to identify the precious Eltham Copper Butterflies. Photo: Ivan Carter

 

ARI subscriptions for environmental research updates

Posted on 12 December, 2019 by Ivan

We received an interesting update from Landcare Victoria and the Arthur Rylah Institute for Environmental Research (ARI) this week, regarding a new subscription service to stay in touch with ARI’s key biodiversity and ecological projects on land. Connecting Country has partnered with research organisations in the past and used some of the research that ARI has funded over the years. The following update describes ARI ‘s project update opportunities and how to subscribe.

Arthur Rylah Institute

The Arthur Rylah Institute for Environmental Research (ARI) in Heidelberg VIC is the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning’s leading centre for applied ecological research. ARI has some exciting updates to science subscriptions, and they’re completely free! As a government research institute, ARI prides itself in making its science accessible and highlighting how its latest research is informing both policy and management to better support Victoria’s biodiversity.

ARI’s team of 90+ researchers work all across Victoria (and sometimes internationally) on science that matters, directly informing policy and environmental management. ARI staff work across a range of ecosystems (alpine, estuarine, grassland, forest and freshwater systems) and have expertise in fish ecology, threatened species, monitoring programs and geospatial modelling.

New subscription

ARI recently launched a new subscription, the Terrestrial Quarterly Update (click here), and it’s now easier for you to subscribe and manage your subscription preferences from a single place (click here)

The latest achievements from their terrestrial ecology team includes research on:

  • Threatened flora and fauna.
  • Fire ecology.
  • Spatial modelling (including machine learning).
  • Environmental watering.
  • Vegetation ecology.
  • Ecological risk assessment.
  • Pest and wildlife management (including translocations).

The Terrestrial quarterly update joins ARI’s other long running services. Click on the following links for more information:

  • ARI seminar series: ARI’s regular one hour seminars on Mondays features researchers from ARI and scientists from around the world (also available via a free webinar stream).
  • ARI eNews: ARI’s flagship newsletter highlighting new projects, latest scientific publications, new fact sheets and videos, and other notable events.
  • Aquatic Quarterly update: two updates; one providing detail on current projects, events and publications from ARI’s aquatic ecology researchers, the other offering an insight into how research is influencing management.
  • YouTube: ARI’s video playlist on DELWP’s channel shares some of the stories from their research.
  • ARI website: regularly updated repository of ARI’s project summaries, publications, fact sheets, guides and videos.

 

Help monitor our endangered copper butterfly – Sunday 15 December 2019

Posted on 12 December, 2019 by Ivan

This Sunday will be the second of four Eltham Copper Butterfly monitoring events for 2019-20, with local ecologists and butterfly enthusiasts Elaine Bayes and Karl Just training volunteers in how to conduct the vital monitoring needed to help this threatened species.

This is a fantastic opportunity to get out in the bush, learn more about your local environment, and collect some really important data to help protect this beautiful threatened species. You might even discover a new population of this special butterfly!

Castlemaine’s Kalimna Park is home to the largest remaining population of the threatened Eltham Copper Butterfly in the world. However, we don’t know how many butterflies there currently are, and its entirely possible that other, undiscovered populations exist around the Castlemaine area. The aim is to support interested community members to learn how to monitor with expert guidance, conduct more monitoring and (hopefully) discover new populations.

When: 12.00 -4.00 pm on Sunday 15 December 2019

Where: Parking spot just north of where golf course intersects with Kalimna Tourist Road, Castlemaine, VIC – click here for map

Bring: water, a hat, suitable clothing (long pants, sturdy shoes and weather-appropriate gear) and snacks to keep you going

Please book for this event – click here

Everyone is invited to get involved. Monitoring isn’t difficult but you will need:

  • A reasonable level of physical fitness, as monitoring involves walking off-track through the bush, often in warm weather.
  • A positive attitude and willingness to learn.
  • Ability to read maps, follow simple procedures and record sightings.

To learn more about this wonderful and interesting small butterfly, including ecology, distribution and information on how to identify this species from similar look-alike butterflies – click here.

There will be two more over the next few weeks, covering different areas around Castlemaine:

  • 12-4 pm Saturday 28 December 2019. Location: Corner of Vanstan Road and Lawson Parade, behind Castlemaine Secondary College, Castlemaine VIC – click here for map.
  • 12-4 pm Friday 3 January 2020. Location: Corner of Vanstan Road and Lawson Parade, behind Castlemaine Secondary College, Castlemaine VIC – click here for map.

If you’d like to get involved in Eltham Copper Butterfly monitoring, please just book in and come along to a monitoring event, or for further information contact Ivan at Connecting Country (ivan@connectingcountry.org.au).

 

Connecting Country brochure reaches far afield

Posted on 5 December, 2019 by Ivan

We recently received an email from one of our valued members that gave us insight into the influence Connecting Country’s brochures can have on the broader community and even further afield. The email was from the lovely Kerrie Jennings, a long-time supporter and volunteer with Connecting Country. Kerrie included some photographs of Japanese students reading our brochures and learning about the Central Victorian landscape and the biodiversity within. It is heartening to know where our educational materials can travel, and what impact it might have on future connections to our unique landscape.

Here is the message and photos from Kerrie:

‘Here is a couple of pics taken by the Loddon River at Baringhup of students visiting from Japan. They stayed with their host family in Castlemaine and traveled out to the farm and also our neighbors’ farms to see sheep, cattle and hay. This group visited the Baringhup Landcare picnic site by the river where we chatted about the restoration of the area over afternoon tea. The booklets in their hands are from Connecting Country and will be a great memory and indicator of local wildlife as well as our efforts to know and care for our part of the world.’

Cheers and many thanks

Kerrie’

If you have a relevant local story, interesting observation, great photograph or blog idea, please email us (ivan@connectingcountry.org.au) and we can create a blog to share with our community.

 

BirdLife Castlemaine walk at Leanganook – Saturday 7 December 2019

Posted on 4 December, 2019 by Ivan

Our partners at Birdlife Castlemaine have provided the following information regarding their final bird walk for the busy 2019 year. It will be at the Leanganook Camping Ground loop track. Please see the details below, or click here to learn more about their monthly bird walks.

BirdLife Casltemaine’s final bird walk for 2019 will be on Saturday 7 December 2019 at Mount Alexander where we will walk the Leanganook Camping Ground loop track.  The walk will commence at 9.00 am at the camping ground accessed via Joseph Young Drive or meet outside Castlemaine Community House(30 Templeton Street, Castlemaine, VIC) at 8.30 am to car pool.

The habitat is open with Manna Gums, grassy woodland and scattered wattles. Birds that may be seen included Eastern Yellow and Scarlet Robins, Thornbills, White-throated Treecreepers, Yellow-faced Honeyeaters and Striated Pardalotes.

To celebrate a successful year for BirdLife Castlemaine District Branch, the walk will be followed by morning tea so please bring some food to share plus your preferred beverage.

Standard things to bring along to each walk include water, binoculars, hat, sunscreen, sturdy shoes, long pants during snake season, and other weather-appropriate gear.

Please note: Walks will be canceled if, during the walk period, the temperature is forecast to be 35 degrees or more, severe weather warnings are in place, persistent rain is forecast, or if the day has been declared a Total Fire Ban day.

Please check your email on the evening before the event to find out if it has been canceled.

Crimson Chat imitating Christmas (photo: Jane Rusden)

 

 

 

Copper Butterfly monitoring update: 28 December 2019 and 3 January 2020

Posted on 28 November, 2019 by Ivan

Although the early summer weather was unfavourable for our beloved Eltham Copper Butterfly, butterflies have now been spotted out and about in Kalimna Park (Castlemaine VIC). Local ecologists and butterfly enthusiasts Elaine Bayes and Karl Just have been busy training enthusiastic volunteers in how to conduct the vital monitoring needed to help this threatened species.

In addition to the planned butterfly monitoring on Saturday 28 December 2019,  Karl and Elaine have now scheduled a further monitoring day on Friday 3 January 2020.

This is a fantastic opportunity to get out in the bush, learn more about your local environment, and collect some really important data to help protect this beautiful threatened species. You might even discover a new population of this special butterfly!

Castlemaine’s Kalimna Park is home to the largest remaining population of the threatened Eltham Copper Butterfly in the world. However, we don’t know how many butterflies there currently are, and its entirely possible that other, undiscovered populations exist around the Castlemaine area. Our aim is to support interested community members to learn how to monitor with expert guidance, conduct more monitoring and (hopefully) discover new butterfly populations.

Monitoring dates and locations:

  • 12-4 pm Saturday 28 December 2019. Location: Corner of Vanstan Road and Lawson Parade, behind Castlemaine Secondary College, Castlemaine VIC – click here for map.
  • 12-4 pm Friday 3 January 2020. Location: Corner of Vanstan Road and Lawson Parade, behind Castlemaine Secondary College, Castlemaine VIC – click here for map.

Please book for this event – click here

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Everyone is invited to get involved. Monitoring isn’t difficult but you will need:

  • A reasonable level of physical fitness, as monitoring involves walking off-track through the bush, often in warm weather.
  • A positive attitude and willingness to learn.
  • Ability to read maps, follow simple procedures and record sightings.

To learn more about this wonderful and interesting little butterfly, including ecology, distribution and information on how to identify this species from similar look-alike butterflies – click here. It would be terrific to find some new populations in our region and this is the perfect opportunity to survey some excellent butterfly habitat. You don’t need to attend all these events to be a monitor. Once you understand the monitoring method and feel confident you can identify an Eltham Copper Butterfly, you’re welcome to do your own monitoring and report sightings.

Please enjoy the video below, courtesy of the N-danger-D Youtube Channel, that has some excellent footage of this wonderful butterfly and symbiotic ant species.

If you’d like to get involved in Eltham Copper Butterfly monitoring, please book in to a monitoring event, or for further information contact Ivan at Connecting Country (ivan@connectingcountry.org.au). 

 

 

Connecting Country launches brand-new brochure

Posted on 27 November, 2019 by Ivan

It’s been some time since Connecting Country updated our general brochure, but here we have it, hot off the press – and it looks fabulous!

Every organisation needs to share their story and give the community information about their activities, and we are no exception. How do you get involved in our projects, what do we do, why do we do it and how can you contact us? It’s all covered in our newly designed and delivered brochure.

The new brochure looks amazing, thanks to the hard work and creative magic of Jane Satchell, one of Connecting Country’s landholders, who kindly volunteered her professional graphic design skills. In the brochure, you’ll find gorgeous images from some wonderful local photographers, as well as a summary of our four key areas of work.

Click here to download your very own copy, or drop into the office to pick up a free hard copy. We’d love to hear feedback on our brochure and any other information you may require into the future.

Special thanks to Jane Satchell for all her help with the brochure, and to the generous volunteer photographers – Geoff Park, Brownyn Silver and Bernard Slattery – who freely donated their images. Without your help and generous donations, such a classy and professional product would not be possible.

Our brochure cover, showing the superb graphic design by Jane Satchell and photo by Geoff Park

 

Dear deer, we are watching you

Posted on 27 November, 2019 by Ivan

Have you seen feral deer in your local area?

DeerScan is a new free community resource for Australian landholders, community groups and pest controllers. DeerScan can be used to map deer sightings, report problems or damage caused by deer, and document control actions. It can be used to inform your neighbours and local biosecurity authorities about current deer problems. You can use DeerScan to record new (and historical) observations of deer in your local area, as this will help to build a detailed picture of deer populations.

Deer facts:

  • Feral deer are becoming a major pest species.
  • There are six species across Australia (red, fallow, rusa, sambar, chital and hog).
  • Their numbers are increasing.
  • Local authorities need your help to map populations and report problems.
  • Everyone is encouraged to report all sightings into DeerScan.

DeerScan can be used to record information on:

  • Sightings and numbers – Where have deer been seen in your local area?
  • Damage – The damage or problems deer are causing.
  • Control activities – Locations where deer control has been implemented.

For further information have a look at the Deerscan website (click here) or download the FeralScan App on your smartphone. The process for recording deer sightings is outlined below.

Step 1 Register your details

Register your details in DeerScan or simply record information with a valid email address. You do not need to register but it will make it easier for you to view your own data, and enable the FeralScan team to keep you informed about how your data is helping to control feral deer in your local area.

Step 2 Map your observations

Record wherever you see deer, what species you have seen, what problems they have caused, and control activities such as ground shooting. To enter data, zoom to your current location and place a marker on the map, then insert the details of your observation in the form provided. Smart phone users can use the App to enter data while in the field.

Step 3 Submit your record

Submit your record and view the details in the All Sightings or My Data tabs. View other observations in your local area entered by other community members. You can also upload your photos to the Photo Gallery and they will display on the website.

 

 

Information you enter about feral deer and their impacts in your local area will help local biosecurity authorities to manage feral deer populations to reduce the damage they are causing. Feral deer are becoming a major pest throughout Australia so your input is important!

 

Sounds, celebrities and fine food – our 2019 AGM!

Posted on 21 November, 2019 by Ivan

On Saturday 16 November 2019, 75 people gathered at Campbells Creek Community Centre to enjoy an afternoon of formalities and hear an excellent presentation from local soundscape ecologist and environmental thinker, Andrew Skeoch. We celebrated the hard work and achievements of Connecting Country’s past decade with presentations from staff and our chairperson Brendan Sydes, as well as updating the audience on our current funding shortfall. We would like to warmly thank our presenters and all the committee members, staff and volunteers who assisted with the event, which was very well received based on feedback.

By far the biggest star of the show, was the amazing and intriguing presentation from celebrity scientist Andrew Skeoch (yes, he has given a TEDx talk! – click here). Andrew is one of our best-known nature sound recordists and works from a desire to address the fundamental question of our human relationship with the living biosphere. Andrew presented some interesting patterns in birdsong and provided the keen audience with some extraordinary spectrograms.

Image result for Spectrograms bird andrew skeoch"

Andrew presented what birdsong looks like in real-time stereo spectrograms (photo: Sarah Koschak)

 

Our AGM was short and sweet, and all of our committee members were re-elected for another year! The hard-working Connecting Country committee must be thanked for their considerable strategic and practical contributions to our organisation.

Elected members of Connecting Country’s 2019-20 committee of management are:

  • President:                   Brendan Sydes
  • Vice President:          Saide Gray
  • Treasurer:                   Max Kay
  • Secretary:                    Marie Jones
  • Ordinary member:    Karoline Klein
  • Ordinary member:    Malcolm Trainor
  • Ordinary member:    Christine Brooke
  • Ordinary member:    Deborah Wardle

 

AGM minutes will be circulated to members and available on request. Stay tuned for an upcoming blog post with more details from Andrew’s talk. If you would like a copy of Connecting Country’s annual report for 2018-19 – click here.

Please enjoy this gallery of some of the smiling faces at our AGM. Special thanks to Johnny Baker for generously donating their delicious pastries, Vicki Edwards for the photos, and all the volunteers that generously helped with preparations, food and packup.

 

Cactus Warriors AGM and Plains-Wanderer talk: 24 November 2019

Posted on 20 November, 2019 by Ivan

Our partners, the Tarrangower Cactus Control Group, are holding their Annual General Meeting along with a talk on the critically endangered, fascinating Plains-Wanderer bird. Here are further details provided by the Cactus Warriors. 

The Cactus Warriors have, yet again, had a very rewarding year destroying many thousands of Wheel Cactus plants in our local environment and increasing awareness about this noxious weed in our community. The Tarrangower Cactus Control Group would like to thank the many landowners and volunteers for their dedicated work and wonderful results.

The Cactus Warriors are holding an end of year celebration to reward our ‘warriors’, including an exciting presentation and free lunch. The guest speaker, committee member Bec James, is a Natural Environment Program Officer with the Department Environment, Land, Water and planning, and Secretary of the Victorian Weed Society. And for something completely different, Bec will present about the project she’s currently working on to help save the critically endangered Plains-Wanderer bird in Northern Victoria.

We invite all past, present and future ‘cactus warriors’ to join us at 11:30 am on Sunday 24 November 2019 to hear our special guest speaker, followed by a delicious lunch. No RSVP is required. Please join us in the Band Room, Maldon Community Centre, 6 Francis St, Maldon VIC. We’ll have a very quick AGM at 11.00 am, before the presentation, which everyone is also welcome to attend.

For more information about Wheel Cactus, and how to control this invasive species, please watch the video below from the Cactus Warriors.

End-of-Year Celebration for all Cactus Warriors

 

Exploring the colour of wildflowers (and the joy of surprises)

Posted on 19 November, 2019 by Ivan

Getting out and about reminds us of just how many lovely wildflowers and things there are happening in the bush, even as the weather warms up! We are blessed to live in a region with large tracts of public land with woodland wonders aplenty, and now is a great time to get out and see some of the vivid and subtle colors our bushland has to offer. One of our Landscape Restoration Coordinators, Bonnie Humphreys, has kindly outlined some of the native species that may still be flowering and on show over the next few weeks, including a few surprises below!

  • Bush Peas (Pultenaea sp.) and Parrot Peas (Dillwynia sp.) are flowering.
  • Silver Wattle (Acacia dealbata) is laden with pods at the moment, hinting at a good year for seed production.
  • Black Wattle (Acacia mearnsii) is in flower with lemony yellow blooms. Some can be seen from the Forest Creek bridge on Duke St, on the right hand side as you head towards Chewton.
  • Chocolate Lilies (Arthropodium strictum) and Sticky Everlastings (Xerochrysum viscosum) are looking spectacular.
  • Look out for beautiful white flowers from Sweet Bursaria (Bursaria spinosa) and White Marianth (Rhytidosporum procumbens).
  • Creamy Candles (Stackhousia monogyna) are flowering. These have a lovely perfume which is most prevalent at night indicating a preference for night pollinator such as moths.
  • Cats Claw Grevillea or Alpine Grevillea (Grevillea alpina), some plants are still flowering away. There are many different colour forms in this plant including green, yellow, red, and then mixes of combinations.

There are many great places for bushwalking on public land in our region, including Kalimna Park (just a short walk from Castlemaine town centre), Rise and Shine Bushland Reserve (Sandon), Monk Track in the Dry Diggings National Park (Chewton), Muckleford State Forest, and Guildford Bushland Reserve.  View excellent ground-truthed maps of many of these areas by local cartographer Jase Haysom by clicking here. Local bird expert Damian Kelly’s book Castlemaine Bird Walks is another great resource for bird and wildlife outings in the bush.

Before the heat takes the color and vibrancy out of these treasures, be sure to explore some of the abundant nature hotspots in our region. Scroll down to see pictures below of some colourful characters from our local bush.

 

Cats Claw Grevillea (Grevillea alpina). Photo: Bonnie Humphreys

Shingle Back Lizard. Photo: Bonnie Humphreys

Creamy Candles (Stackhousia monogyna). Photo: Bonnie Humphreys

Chocolate Lilies (Arthropodium strictum) and Sticky Everlastings (Xerochrysum viscosum). Photo: Bonnie Humphreys

Twining Fringe-lily (Thysanotus patersonii). Photo: Bonnie Humphreys

Muckleford bush with Parrot Pea (Dillwyina sp.), Cats Claw Grevillea (Grevillea alpina), Murnong or Yam Daisy (Microseris walteri), Grey Everlasting (Ozothamnus obcordatus) and Chocolate Lilies (Arthropodium strictum). Photo: Bonnie Humphreys

Keep an eye out for nesting birds. Here’s an Owlet Nightjar fledgling checking out the world! Photo: Bonnie Humphreys

 

 

 

 

‘Hearing our place’ with Andrew Skeoch and AGM 2019 – BOOK NOW!

Posted on 13 November, 2019 by Ivan

Andrew Skeoch listening to nature (photo from Listening Earth website)

We would like to remind our valued Connecting Country members and the wider community to book now for our 2019 Annual General Meeting this weekend. Our very special guest, Andrew Skeoch, will speak about ‘Hearing our place’ in nature.

Frances Howe, Connecting Country Director, says ‘Andrew Skeoch is an educator, naturalist, environmental thinker and one of Australia’s best-known nature sound recordists. From his bush home near Newstead, he has journeyed over the last 25 years to remote locations in Asia, India, America, Europe, Africa and the Pacific in search of some of our planet’s most beautiful and fascinating sounds.

Combining this field experience with a deep curiosity, Andrew explores the crucial role of sound and communication in nature and evolution. He weaves the latest scientific understandings into a fascinating celebration of the natural soundscape around us.

His intriguing presentation will focus on our box ironbark birdsong and natural soundscapes, and will have you appreciating our local bushlands from an entirely fresh perspective.’

The AGM will include a brief presentation from staff and committee members about Connecting Country’s achievements over the last decade, to allow supporters old and new to hear what Connecting Country does and our plans for the coming year.

Crimson Spider Orchid (photo from Connecting Country archives)

This free event is at 4.00 – 6.00 pm on Saturday 16 November 2019 at Campbells Creek Community Centre (45 Elizabeth St, Campbells Creek VIC).

Afternoon tea will be provided from 3.30 pm.

Please RSVP online (click here) by 13 November 2019 for catering purposes. If you have any questions, please email asha@connectingcountry.org.au or call (03) 5472 1594.

Click here to download the flier.
Click here to download a committee nomination form.
Click here to download a membership application.

 

Eltham Copper Butterfly talk in Castlemaine – Friday 8 November 2019

Posted on 7 November, 2019 by Frances

Castlemaine and Bendigo host the largest known area of Eltham Copper Butterfly (ECB) habitat in the world. Given the global decline in insects, it is critical that we protect our Australian species such as the endangered Eltham Copper Butterfly.

Local ecologists Elaine Bayes and Karl Just are guest speakers at the November meeting of the Castlemaine Field Naturalists Club. They will discuss the current distribution of ECB, the amazing relationship ECB has with Notoncus ants and the host plant Sweet Bursaria, and the local butterfly monitoring program. There has been little research on the central Victorian populations of ECB over the last decade. Elaine, Karl, and Julie Radford are trying to change this by leading the community in searching for new ECB populations and mapping colonies so we can protect them from planned burns and other threats.

The beauty of the Eltham Copper Butterfly (photo by Elaine Bayes)

Upcoming opportunities for the local community to be involved in studying and saving this species will be provided. Monitoring ECB also provides a great excuse to walk through our stunning bushlands over the summer months when ECB are flying and mating.

The monthly Castlemaine Field Naturalists Club meeting will start at 7.30 pm on 8 November 2019. This month the meeting will be held in the chapel behind the Uniting Church on Lyttleton St, Castlemaine VIC (next door to the Castlemaine Art Museum). All members are all encouraged to attend and, as always, visitors are also very welcome.  There is no cost for entry and no need for bookings.

 

If you are interested in helping Karl and Elaine with the monitoring of this amazing local butterfly over November and December 2019, please click here

 

Platypus survey in Campbells Creek

Posted on 7 November, 2019 by Ivan

Our partners and good friends at Friends of Campbells Creek Landcare Group have arranged for the Australian Platypus Conservancy (APC) to conduct a Platypus survey at six locations along Campbells Creek, Victoria,  in mid-November 2019.

The survey has been funded by Coliban Water. The survey will commence on the evening of Friday 15 November 2019 (depending on appropriate weather conditions), and finish early on Saturday morning. The APC team will be based at the Campbells Creek Community Centre. The first inspection of the nets will be at around 10 pm and continue throughout the night, approximately every two hours.

On Saturday morning at around 7.30 am, the results of the survey will be discussed at the Campbells Creek Community Centre (45 Elizabeth St, Campbells Creek VIC). Interested community members are welcome to join in and see the results. Tea and coffee will be available. In 2020 the APC team will return to conduct a citizen science workshop to present information on the biology and conservation considerations of Platypus and Rakali (native water rat), followed by a practical session on Campbells Creek. We will keep you informed of this event.

Platypus (Photo- John Bundock) 25%

The platypus has a streamlined body and a superficially duck-like bill (photo: APC)

 

For more information about Friends of Campbells Creek Landcare Group and the Platypus project, please click here.

For more information about the Australian Platypus Conservancy (APC) and the survey methods, please click here.

 

Free disposal of Wheel Cactus at Maldon Transfer Station

Posted on 30 October, 2019 by Ivan

Here is an update from the Tarrangower Cactus Control Group regarding the disposal of the invasive plant Wheel Catcus (Opuntia robusta) in the Mount Alexander region of central Victoria.

Thanks to renewed funding from Mount Alexander Shire Council, Wheel Cactus plants can again be disposed of FREE at the Maldon Transfer Station. This is a great incentive to dig up Wheel Cactus plants while they’re still small and before they’ve started producing fruit and seeds. Hopefully it will also encourage everyone to remove any outlying plants they see starting to grow in new areas.

Small Wheel Cacti are really easy to dig up because they are very shallow-rooted plants. To help, digging hoes and buckets can be borrowed from the Tarrangower Cactus Control Group. Digging up small plants also reduces the need for the chemical herbicides required when plants are left to grow to maturity.

Alas, there is a limit of one trailer load per property each financial year, because the funding is limited and Wheel Cactus infestations are so widespread across so many properties. However, if you do have more Wheel Cactus plants you’d like to dig up, an alternative solution is to dig a big hole on your property, and dump and bury the weeds on site (also saving you the time, effort and cost of carting to the tip).

What is Wheel Cactus?

A plant native to Mexico, this cactus (Opuntia robusta) is most commonly called Wheel Cactus in Australia. It was probably introduced into our country as a hardy garden plant. This cactus species has a distinct blue-green colour and large, flat, round pads with many short and long spines. The plant is erect and can grow to 3 m tall. It has yellow flowers and dark red fruit in spring-summer, each containing approximately 500 seeds that are spread by animals and water.

This weed is widely established in central Victoria, western New South Wales, and south-eastern and eastern South Australia. It particularly likes to grow on granite outcrops, but also infests woodlands and pastures.

For more information on Wheel Cactus and how to control this invasive species, please click here

A large fruiting wheel catcus plant (photo: Tarrangower Cactus Control Group)

 

 

Seek and discover

Posted on 30 October, 2019 by Ivan

Have you ever wondered what that mysterious plant might be and don’t have the knowledge or time to consult with a botanical encyclopedia? Meet Seek!

The Seek app is an online social network for nature enthusiasts and is part of an ongoing attempt to involve ordinary people in citizen science projects. Similar to Shazam – an app that allows you to identify music from audio recordings – the Seek app allows you to identify plants and animals from your photos by harnessing image recognition technology. It is still in the early stages of learning many of the native species from this region, but learns from each experience it is exposed to.

The Seek app enables you to take photos of nature and have complex articifical intelligence attempt to identify them. Photo: I-Naturalist

The beauty of this app is that it encourages curious adventurers to become engaged with the wildlife around them. Fun and educational for kids and adults alike, users can earn badges while they learn about each new species they photograph.

We tried this app around Castlemaine in central Victoria to identify plants (and chickens in the community garden adjacent to our office – red jungle fowl, tick!), and found its ability to identify plants depended on the camera’s ability to focus. Moving the camera around at different angles (without taking a photo), helped it recognise exotic plants to genus level. It performed better at identifying exotic species, which is useful if you want to identify weeds. At this point in Seek’s development, it didn’t succeed at identifying any plants to species level.  We recommend patience and a good field guide, as we found the app incorrectly identified an  Early Black Wattle (Acacia decurrens – native to NSW and a weedy invader of bushland in central Victoria), as Silver Wattle (Acacia dealbata), (Acacia dealbata – a locally indigenous species.

With further development, this could be a powerful app for anyone learning to identify weeds and local native species, and also for recording observations in the landscape. Seek draws from existing data collected from wildlife observations on iNaturalist, in combination with artificial intelligence and neural network technologies. Once downloaded, users are provided with lists of commonly recorded plants, insects, birds and other animals in their area. When a new photo is uploaded, the app’s artificial intelligence analyses the photo to find a match, adds it to the user’s collection, and provides a summary of information from Wikipedia.

The app software currently recognises 30,000 species, and will continue to improve with further use. The app’s co-founder Scott Loarie explains, ‘The only way we can improve our modeling of species is to get more data, and to do that we need more people outside taking pictures’.

The Seek app doesn’t require any registration to use and doesn’t collect any user data by default, though location data is used to show you the plants and animals in your area. Alternatviely, if an app is not for you, you might be interested to have a look at the Flora of Australia website

You can read more about the Seek app, and to download it for free – click here.

 

October Wheel Cactus Community Field Day – 27 October 2019

Posted on 24 October, 2019 by Ivan

Tarrangower Cactus Control Group and Parks Victoria will hold their next Community Field Day on Sunday 27 October 2019, with the group keen to get some new Cactus Warriors on board.

  • Where: Treloars Rd, Tarrangower, VIC. Follow the signs along Watersons Rd.
  • When: 10.30 am to 12.30 pm on Sunday 27 October 2019.

Come and join the Cactus Warriors and Parks Victoria for a morning in the fresh air and learn how best to destroy Wheel Cactus. The location is at a property in Treloars Rd, around the corner from Watersons Rd. The route will be well signposted. The morning’s activities finish with a delicious BBQ lunch and friendly chat. The event is family friendly but children must be accompanied by a parent at all times.

For more information on the infamous Cactus Warriors – click here.

Check out the poster below for a location map or visit www.cactuswarriors.org and subscribe for a monthly field day reminder.

 

 

Connecting Country’s new factsheets for landholders

Posted on 24 October, 2019 by Ivan

Landholders and managers now have access to four new factsheets from Connecting Country. The factsheets are tailored to suit the needs of the Mount Alexander region of central Victoria, and include local information about invasive species management and creating habitat for our unique biodiversity.

The four factsheets clear and practical information about:

  • Weed control.
  • Nestboxes for wildlife.
  • Invasive pest animals.
  • Revegetation planting with tubestock.

The advantage of these factsheets is they were developed and produced specifically for our region’s landscape, biodiversity and local conditions. They cover invasive animals that you are likely to see in this region and give an overview of the landowner responsibilities for invasive animals and plants. Managing invasive species is an important step to restoring our local habitat and biodiversity. Invasive species was listed as the number two threat for threatened species, with only habitat loss having a larger impact on our threatened species.

These factsheets were made possible by funding from the North Central Catchment Management Authority, as part of our project called ‘Prickly plants for wildlife on small properties’. Through this project we’ve helped numerous local landholders with smaller areas of remnant vegetation to protect and improve habitat on their land. We’ve supported landholders with on-ground actions such as revegetation planting, weed and rabbit control, and nestbox installation, as well as delivering three popular community education events.

A lot of people contact Connecting Country regarding how to best revegetate the landscape using native species in tubestock. There are many factors to consider when using this technique, such as when to plant, how to prepare the soil, what to plant, and how to protect your plantings. The new revegetation planting factsheet covers all these topics and more to help you give your precious native plants the best start in life.

To view the four factsheets – click here

Following best practice will give your tubestock planting the best chance of long-term success (photo by Ivan Carter)