Restoring landscapes across the Mount Alexander Region

Charismatic rakali (native water rat) talk on 1 March 2018

Posted on 15 February, 2018 by Tanya Loos

Australian water rats are completely aquatic rats that are more like small otters than anything ratty.

They have very little in common with the rats that are found in the chook shed or behind the pantry – in fact, many people prefer to call water rats by the name Rakali.  Rakali are attractive native mammals that are excellent indicators of ecosystem health. They are an apex predator of our waterways, feasting on fish, yabbies and sometimes even ducks!

Rakali have webbed feet and come in many colours, this one in a very fetching apricot and chestnut brown.


Goldfields Library Corporation contacted us at Connecting Country seeking a speaker for their Big Ideas series. As Tanya had recently researched the ecology, evolution and conservation of these lovely animals, she jumped at the chance. Please come along to find out more about Rakali, and how you can help them thrive in the dams and waterways of the Castlemaine region.

When:  Thursday 1 March 2018 at 5:30 – 6:30 pm

Where:  Castlemaine Library (212 Barker St, Castlemaine)

Bookings:  Attendance is free, but please register here

Fun facts about rakali:

  • Based on anecdotal reports, rakali will travel several hundred metres across dry land to dine on delicacies, such as pet food left out regularly on a back porch.
  • Rakali thrive in both freshwater and seawater environments. They may be observed in environments as varied as beneath a busy pier in Geelong, or in a quiet freshwater stream in the mountains, or even in concrete lined lakes and ponds in public gardens.



Summer’s feathered migrants – Nature News November 7 2017

Posted on 20 November, 2017 by Tanya Loos

For this month’s Nature News, Newstead naturalist and photographer Geoff Park writes about the feathered migrants that are characteristic of our region in the summer months. This article was featured in the Midland Express on November 7, 2017.

Sacred Kingfishers are one of my favourite spring migrants, their loud ‘kek kek’ call may be heard anytime from late August around Newstead. The kingfishers return faithfully to favourite nesting sites along the Loddon River and in the surrounding forests. This species nests in earthen tunnels and tree hollows, with the first fledglings appearing around Christmas most years. Observers can delight in watching the kingfishers as they first stake out territories, refurbish nests and then commence feeding youngsters from late November onwards. The sight of Sacred Kingfishers bringing a selection of cicadas, yabbies, fish and reptiles to their hungry brood is one of the ‘sights of summer’.

My absolute favourite though is the Rainbow Bee-eater. This extraordinarily beautiful bird can be seen year round in northern Australia – but they are not the same individuals. Small flocks of Rainbow Bee-eaters make a twice yearly migration up and down the east coast, with some birds moving as far north as Papua New Guinea and New Caledonia. The birds we see around Newstead may well spend their winter on Cape York where they are replaced by international travellers during the northern summer, as the ‘Newstead’ individuals migrate south.

Rainbow Bee-eaters nest in small colonies, perhaps most notably near the Newstead Cemetery, but also at various locations along the Loddon River. The sound of the first trills of this species can be heard anytime from early October as they gather above their breeding grounds and make spectacular display flights. As spring progresses they descend to their tunnels, usually in a vertical bank of an eroded gully or riverbank and clean their nests in preparation for egg-laying. Not all nests sites are used each year, but some of these special spots must have been used for centuries by successive generations of magnificent ‘rainbowbirds’.

Other summer migrant specialties, such as the Square-tailed Kite, appear to be increasing in numbers.  Flocks of woodswallows (Masked and White-browed Woodswallows) arrived on the first warm northerlies in October. We can also expect to see waders arrive from the northern Hemisphere, such as Red-necked Stints and Sharp-tailed Sandpipers. These tiny birds use Cairn Curran Reservoir (most years) and the Moolort Plains wetlands (if they are wet!) to fuel up before flying 10,000 kilometres back to their Siberian breeding grounds!

Look out too for the rarities that may visit each summer. Last year we had a Common Koel in Newstead and this year a spectacular small red honeyeater known as a Scarlet Honeyeater has been visiting the region in unprecedented numbers.

For more information contact Geoff Park at Natural Newstead

A Rainbow Bee-eater. Photo by Geoff Park


Now is the best time to try out Landcare!

Posted on 31 August, 2017 by Asha

Tanya on a walk with some excited ‘nature detectives’ at the 2017 Camp Out on the Mount

Landcare Week is coming up next week: September 4th – 10th 2017. It’s the perfect time to get outside, get your hands dirty, and connect with other community members. We have over 30 groups in the Mount Alexander region alone, so it’s easy to find an event or working bee that’s near you and suits your interests.

Landcare and Friends groups are always looking for extra hands to help and are keen to share their knowledge of our beautiful local plants and animals. During September, there are more than eleven events being run by Landcare groups, including nature walks to learn from experts and soak up the bush, and working bees to develop some hands-on skills and help improve habitat for native species.

CLICK HERE to visit our page with information about all of the Landcare events happening in the Mount Alexander region in September 2017.