Restoring landscapes across the Mount Alexander Region

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.

 

 

 

 

 

Bird of the month: Grey Shrike-thrush

Posted on 23 November, 2020 by Ivan

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

Grey Shrike-thrush (Colluricincla harmonica)

The local bush has been bustling with nesting activity, although raising chicks is not always as nurturing and wholesome as you might think. Nests get raided, eggs don’t always hatch and it’s not necessarily easy for the newly fledged chicks. You’ll hear their incessant begging for food and see parents desperately trying to keep up the flow of breakfast, lunch and dinner. It’s a time of learning as fledglings can’t always assess risks and can be a bit ‘young and dumb’, being too bold for their own good and getting confused as they try to make sense of a situation. I witnessed one such occasion during an altercation in my backyard.

Confused young Grey Shrike-thrush getting harried by an angry Fuscous Honeyeater (photo: Damian Kelly)

 

A newly fledged Grey Shrike-thrush chick had got too close to a Fuscous Honeyeater nest. The poor chick seemed totally confused about the whole situation and didn’t know which way to go. It’s parents waiting just out of harrying range whilst the Fuscous Honeyeaters were on attack level – ‘take no prisoners’! The upshot was the chick finally moved away, the honeyeaters settled down and I got some photos of the action as they were all preoccupied with bird world high stakes politics.

So let’s look at the abundant Grey Shrike-thrush. Probably one of the most familiar, varied and prettiest of songsters to be heard, which perhaps makes up for its brown and grey colouring. I call it soft and subdued but others may call it out as dull. In the past it was known as the Harmonious Thrush and its taxonomic name reflects this: Colluricincla harmonica. Interestingly, their song can exhibit different dialects from place to place.

Individuals can live up to twelve years and it’s known that pairs can reside in one place for up to five years and remain together for longer. They are largely a sedentary species, but may move between altitudes with the seasons.

Taking a really close look will reveal gorgeous black eyelash like bristles around its bill and below the eye. (Lady Gaga attempted a similar look without the nuance. Pretty rad all the same.)

Young Grey Shrike-thrush singing it’s heart out (photo: Damian Kelly)

 

Present in all but Australia’s driest deserts, it prefers undisturbed treed habitats, including gardens on occasion. It’s often seen foraging for insects and small vertebrates like frogs and lizards, where there is some understorey, tossing leaf litter to find their prey. They will also take eggs and nestlings of small birds, so it’s not surprising the Fuscous Honeyeater was so upset.

Adult Grey Shrike-thrush doing what they do best, harmoniously singing (photo: Damian Kelly)

 

To listen to the Grey Shrike-thrush call – click here

A big thank you to contributors to this edition of Bird of the Month – Jane Rusden and Damian Kelly – for their amazing knowledge and skills.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Weed management after fire webinar series starts 25 November 2020

Posted on 19 November, 2020 by Jacqui

Jump on and register for this opportunity to learn all about weed management after bushfire, delivered by the Weeds at Early Stages of Invasion (WESI) team and a wealth of expert collaborators. There are four free webinars in total, with each delivering a wealth of knowledge and useful information. It is vital to get on top of weeds after fire, as they usually are the first plants to immerge and have a blank canvas to invade and dominate in the years to come. 

Weed management after fire webinar series

After bushfire, our ecosystems are at their most vulnerable to weed invasion. Help us support indigenous flora and fauna by managing weeds in bushfire affected areas.

This webinar* series focuses on sharing practical knowledge so everyone can contribute to bushfire recovery.

Time:

Four webinars on the below dates all from 10:30 am to 12:15 pm.

Dates:

Webinar 1: Wednesday 25 November 2020 – Overview weed management after fire.

Webinar 2: Wednesday 2 December 2020 – Prioritisation of weeds after fire.

Webinar 3: Wednesday 9 December 2020 – Collaborative projects – weed management after fire.

Webinar 4: Wednesday 16 December 2020 – Weed identification and recording after fire.

For more information and to register for these free webinars: CLICK HERE

Collaborators:

  • State Wide Integrated Flora and Fauna Teams (SWIFFT)
  • Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP) including:
    • Weeds at the Early Stage of Invasion (WESI)
    • Bushfire Biodiversity Response and Recovery (BBRR)
    • Natural Environment Program (NEP)
    • Connecting Communities Program (CCP)
    • Weeds and Pests on Public Land (WPPL)
  • Parks Victoria
  • East Gippsland Catchment Management Authority (EGCMA)
  • Weed Society of Victoria (WSV)
  • Gunaikurnai Land and Waters Aboriginal Corporation (GLaWAC)
  • Landcare Victoria
  • Trust for Nature
  • Regional Roads Victoria
  • Department of Jobs, Precincts and Regions (DJPR)
  • Australian Association of Bush Regenerators (AABR)
  • Foundation for National Parks & Wildlife (FNPW)

* These webinars are funded by the Victorian Government’s $22.5 million Bushfire Biodiversity Response and Recovery program. For more information on the BBRR program, visit www.wildlife.vic.gov.au/home/biodiversity-bushfire-response-and-recovery

 

Last chance for ‘Birdwatching for beginners’ – 17 October 2020

Posted on 15 October, 2020 by Ivan

We would like to remind our members and bird-loving community that limited tickets are available for this weekend’s ‘Birdwatching for Beginners’ event. The event aims to attract new birdwatchers and bird survey volunteers, and get people out enjoying and exploring the natural assets we are blessed with in central Victoria. We’re thrilled at the enthusiastic response so far! 

The practical field session quickly sold out, but you’re still welcome to register for the theory session.

Connecting Country is excited to have local author and bird enthusiast Damian Kelly present an overview and introduction to bird watching. Damian is the author of the terrific book Castlemaine Bird Walks.  We’ve had a sneak preview of Damian’s presentation and it looks fantastic! It includes input and beautiful drawings from local artist and bird guru, Jane Rusden.

The beginner’s event will take part over two sessions: an online presentation with Damian Kelly from 11 am to 12 pm, followed by a practical session* in person in the afternoon, from 1.30 pm to 4 pm. The practical session will involve a team of 4-5 beginners teaming up with an experienced local birdwatcher to conduct some field bird surveys on public land across our region. This is an excellent opportunity to visit some great bird watching sites, with an experienced mentor to guide you through the afternoon. Participants will have a chance to ask questions and learn directly from mentors.

When: Saturday 17 October 2020

Theory session with Damian Kelly: 11:00 am to 12.00 pm 

  • 500 tickets available
  • Online event
  • All welcome
  • Targeted to adults but suitable for all ages and abilities
  • To book – click here, a link to the theory session event will be emailed to registered participants prior to the event

*Practical session with mentor: 1.30 pm to 4.00 pm *(SOLD OUT)

  • Sold out – 40 tickets
  • Field event
  • Targeted to participants 15 years and older who are keen to learn bird watching in a small group setting
  • Requires a basic level of fitness and involves walking over uneven ground
  • Copies of Connecting Country woodland birds brochure and ‘Castlemaine Bird Walks’ book available for attendees

Cost: both sessions are free of charge

This event is part of our ‘Community for bush birds’ project supported by the Australian Government under the Communities Environment Program.

A link to the online event will be emailed to registered participants prior to the event, along with details and locations for the practical session.

 

AGM 2020 a roaring success: download available

Posted on 1 October, 2020 by Ivan

On Saturday 26 September 2020, a large crowd of people gathered on their computers, tablets and phones, to enjoy Connecting Country’s first ever online Annual General Meeting (AGM) and hear from two excellent guest speakers: Jess Lawton and Jacinta Humphrey. We sold a total of 98 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 went very smoothly, given the steep learning curve and technology required to run an AGM online.

We also celebrated the hard work and achievements of Connecting Country through a presentation by our Director, Frances Howe, as well as updating the audience on our current funding situation. We would like to warmly thank our presenters and all the committee members, staff and volunteers who assisted with the event, which has generated extremely positive feedback.

The two biggest stars of the show were the amazing young scientists, and PhD candidates, Jess and Jacinta, who both gave enthralling presentations on ecological monitoring. Jess presented on the topic of Connecting Country’s ten years of ecological monitoring, which included birds surveys, nest box monitoring, and of course, phascogales! Jacinta covered her research into the impact of urbanisation on birds, which showed some surprising findings about how some birds adapt to life in the suburbs, and ideas about what might help urban birds and humans coexist. Jacinta also entertained the audience with an impressive Lego video. To view Jacinta’s engaging video summarising her project – click here

Our AGM was short and sweet, and all of our dedicated committee of management 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. It is very impressive that the committee have all committed for another year, providing stability in these uncertain times.

Elected members of Connecting Country’s 2020-21 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. If you would like a copy of Connecting Country’s annual report for 2019-20 – click here.

If you missed the presentations and AGM, see the video of the event below, featuring each of the presentations and the formal proceedings. Please click play below and enjoy. Note the audio starts at 16 seconds.

  • Click here to download the 2020 financial audit report

If you have any questions, please email info@connectingcountry.org.au or call (03) 5472 1594.

 

Prickly plants for wildlife and community in Sutton Grange

Posted on 1 October, 2020 by Jacqui

‘Prickly Plants for Wildlife and Community’ is a project delivered by Connecting Country during 2020 in partnership with local Landcare groups, with funding from the Albert and Barbara Tucker Foundation.

The project has supported Landcare groups with specialist botanical advice, local planting lists and with planting hundreds of local-to-the-area (indigenous) understorey plants. These plants will help provide valuable food, nesting sites, and shelter for local woodland birds in the Mount Alexander region of central Victoria. Sutton Grange Landcare is one of four groups Connecting Country worked with on this project. We hope you enjoy this article about their work.

Albert Cox Wildlife Sanctuary

Sutton Grange Landcare Group has cared for the Albert Cox Wildlife Memorial Sanctuary since 1991, including working hard to control weeds and plant local native species. Their vision is to improve habitat for birds and other wildlife and they wanted to plant more indigenous shrubby plants to create more areas for birds to nest and to provide refuge and habitat.

Albert Cox Wildlife Sanctuary in Sutton Grange VIC, with large mature River Red Gums (Eucalyptus camaldulensis). Photo: Naomi Hewitt-Ware.

The sanctuary was set up for just this purpose by local school teacher and amateur naturalist Albert Cox who taught at the local school for almost half a century until 1961. He encouraged students to make a note of birds, plants and other wildlife they observed. These observations were then shared and written into the observations book he curated. Cox’s diary entry demonstrates his love of the natural world and relationship to local wildlife (from Birdlore article by BJ Coman):

 ‘…On the morning of the 26th September 1951 the thrush that had been for such a long period a friend of all at the Sutton Grange School was found dead beside the residence garden. This bird was well over thirty years old and had nested around the school residence all these years, many seasons being spent in an old billy hanging under the veranda. The bird had died of old age, being found lying with an insect still in its beak. It died in the middle of the nesting season leaving a mate to hatch out and rear a family.

Sutton Grange Landcare Group has continued Cox’s example of observation and care through working bees and hundreds of volunteer hours spent controlling weeds, planting and maintaining the plantings at the sanctuary. They often see wildlife in the reserve including echidnas, wallabies, possums and a wide variety of birds.

Naomi Hewitt-Ware and son Murray from Sutton Grange Landcare Group planted 100 plants in the sanctuary during winter 2020 as part of ‘Prickly Plants for Wildlife and Community’. The plants were locally-grown indigenous species including Lightwood (Acacia implexa), Hedge Wattle (Acacia paradoxa), Drooping Sheoak (Allocasuarina verticillata), Hop Bush (Dodonaea viscosa), Late-flowered Flax-lily (Dianella tarda), Bushy Needlewood (Hakea decurrens) and Tree Violet (Melicytus dentata). In the creek, they planted Silver Wattle (Acacia dealbata), Common Tussock-grass (Poa labillardierei) and Basket Sedge (Carex tereticaulis).

Murray at work installing guards around the plants to protect them from wallabies. Photo: Naomi Hewitt-Ware.

These will complement previous plantings by the group including Silver Banksia (Banksia marginata), a species which has become rare across our region. Group members are very happy with the guards provided for the project, which make it harder for wallabies to damage the plants. They will continue to replace guards, water, and weed around plants as necessary to give them the best chance to establish and grow. Fortunately, this year has been excellent year for planting, with ongoing rainfall.

A healthy-looking Silver Banksia (Banksia marginata). This species is now rare across our region. Photo: Naomi Hewitt-Ware.

There is a creek flowing through the reserve which has an established canopy of introduced Pine trees (Pinus sp.) and impressive old River-red Gums (Eucalyptus camaldulensis) with hollows. It is a place of refuge, made possible by the careful work of the group removing weeds such as Gorse (Ulex europaeus) and Broom (Genista monspessulana) over the years.         

A creek flows through the sanctuary and has benefited from many years of weed control by Sutton Grange Landcare Group. Photo: Jacqui Slingo.

Landcare members are very appreciative of the support from the Albert and Barbara Tucker Foundation and Connecting Country, and are especially glad at being able to plant in such a good planting year.

To find out more about Sutton Grange Landcare Group or to get involved contact Christine Brooke (Secretary) by emailing .

 

 

 

Get set for ‘Birdwatching for Beginners’ – 17 October 2020

Posted on 23 September, 2020 by Ivan

Hold onto your hats – again! Following our wildly successful advanced birdwatcher event, ‘Tricky Birds of central Victoria’, we are running a free ‘Birdwatching for Beginners’ event on 17 October 2020. The event aims to attract new birdwatchers and bird survey volunteers, and get people out enjoying and exploring the natural assets we are blessed with in central Victoria.

Bird watching is a great activity that almost everyone can enjoy. The COVID-19 lockdown period has seen a ten-fold increase in the number of new birdwatchers around the country, with a similar trend here in central Victoria. People are craving nature and the outdoors, prompting them to navigate their way through the maze that is bird watching and enjoying the challenges of how to differentiate some of the trickier species.

Connecting Country is excited to have local author and bird enthusiast Damian Kelly present an overview and introduction to bird watching. Damian is the author of the terrific book Castlemaine Bird Walks. Copies of this book will be available to participants.

The beginner’s event will take part over two sessions: an online presentation with Damian Kelly from 11 am to 12 pm, followed by a practical session in person in the afternoon, from 1.30 pm to 4 pm. The practical session will involve a team of 4-5 beginners teaming up with an experienced local birdwatcher to conduct some field bird surveys on public land across our region. This is an excellent opportunity to visit some great bird watching sites, with an experienced mentor to guide you through the afternoon. Participants will have a chance to ask questions and learn directly from mentors.

When: Saturday 17 October 2020

Theory session with Damian Kelly: 11:00 am to 12.00 pm

  • 500 tickets available
  • Online event
  • All welcome
  • Targeted to adults but suitable for all ages and abilities
  • To book – click here

Practical session with mentor: 1.30 pm to 4.00 pm**

  • 30 tickets available
  • Field event
  • Targeted to participants 15 years and older who are keen to learn bird watching in a small group setting
  • Requires a basic level of fitness and involves walking over uneven ground
  • Copies of Connecting Country woodland birds brochure and ‘Castlemaine Bird Walks’ book available for attendees
  • **This session is sold out, to join the waitlist – click here

Cost: both sessions are free of charge

This event is part of our ‘Community for bush birds’ project supported by the Australian Government under the Communities Environment Program.

A link to the online event will be emailed to registered participants prior to the event, along with details and locations for the practical session.

All participants in our practical field session must adhere to health and safety requirements, including current COVID-19 restrictions such as social distancing, face masks and limits on group size. Please wear appropriate clothing and footwear and bring water and snacks, as well as binoculars if possible. Connecting Country will provide some extra binoculars to share among the groups if required.

Bird watching is one of the most enjoyable and satisfying ways to enjoy our natural heritage. Bird surveys also contribute valuable data to science and for informed decision-making. Birds are often our key connection to the landscape. They are prevalent in most environments and tell us much about our surroundings and environmental health. Central Victoria is considered a birding hotspot, with birds of all shapes and colours, highlighted by the following spectacular images from Geoff Park’s Natural Newstead blog. They often bring you to explore wonderful places that you did not even know existed!

 

Biological controls as a weed management tool – 6 October 2020

Posted on 17 September, 2020 by Jacqui

Biological control is the practice of managing a weed or pest animal by the deliberate use of one or more natural enemies (biocontrol agents) that suppress it. Land managers, landholders and citizen scientists can each play a role in establishing and monitoring populations of identified biocontrols.  Once established, populations of biocontrol agents can build up to very high levels within a weed infestation. Eventually their numbers can build up to slow the spread or reproduction of a weed, allowing more time for other control methods to be used.

Connecting Country is pleased to support this free online workshop about weed biocontrols hosted by DELWP’s Weeds at the Early Stage of Invasion (WESI) project with Tarrengower Cactus Control Group and the Weed Society of Victoria.

The workshop will feature Dr Raelene Kwong and Greg Lefoe, Senior Research Scientists from Agriculture Victoria’s Research Division. They will explain the ins and outs of what is involved with biological controls as part of your weed management tool kit, and how you can be involved in your patch.

Special local guest presenter, Lee Mead, President of the Tarrangower Cactus Control Group, will provide an exciting local case study. Their community group has used biological controls to combat Wheel Cactus (Opuntia robusta) around Tarrengower and Maldon in Central Victoria.

Biocontrols can play an important role as part of an integrated weed management approach. For tips on getting started with weed control see Connecting Country’s fact sheet – click here

If you want to learn more about biocontrols and get a hands-on community perspective, register for the workshop via the link below. More information about biocontrols is also available via the Bio Control Hub website, a portal set up specifically for biocontrol projects within the Atlas of Living Australia – click here

Date: Tuesday 6 October 2020 from 10.00 – 11.30 am

Location: Online with link provided on registration

To register visit: click here

For more information contact: Rebecca James (rebecca.james@delwp.vic.gov.au)

After this event you have the option to also join the Weed Society of Victoria’s 2020 Annual General Meeting, from 11.30 am. All are welcome.