Restoring landscapes across the Mount Alexander Region

Saturday 12 August 2017: Sharing Stories around the Fire and The Other Renewables Forum

Posted on 9 August, 2017 by Tanya Loos

This Saturday the 12th August 2017 is a busy day culturally and environmentally for our community! We have the Parkrun cultural morning at the Castlemaine Botanic Gardens previously posted here and we would like to promote two more events.

Sharing Stories around the Fire: a Words in Winter event

Join the Talking Fire group this Saturday 12 August 2017 in Newstead from 4.30-8.30pm to explore stories of fire in our landscape. We’ll visit a spot in the nearby forest, for readings and to listen to the language of the forest. Back at the Arts Hub, with hearty soup in hand, we’ll share our own stories and create some new stories too. Please RSVP so we have enough soup for all! Book via Eventbrite or through Chris on 5476 2457.

This journey through place, story, memory, myth and experience is a special event offered by the Talking Fire group as part of Newstead’s Words in Winter. Bring a story to share.

For more info: CLICK HERE.

The Mount Alexander Sustainability Group (MASG) presents: The Other Renewables Forum

On Saturday the 12th August 2017, 1.30pm – 5.30pm, the Mount Alexander Sustainability Group (MASG) will be presenting ‘The Other Renewables Forum’ at the Castlemaine Town Hall, with a line-up of recognised guests working in both a local and national context in the fields of bioenergy, geothermal, mini-hydro, pumped hydro, thermal solar and soil carbon sequestration.

Speakers:
MC: Mary Blain, MASG
Presenters: Andrew Lang, Alan Pears, David Taylor, Professor Lu Aye, Dr Guillermo Narsilio, David Carre, David Stratton, Deane Belfield, Chris Corr.

Cost: $20 General | $5 Members | Students Free
Bookings: https://otherrenewablesforum.eventbrite.com.au/

For more information:
Email: info@masg.org.au
Ph: 03 5470 6978
Web: http://masg.org.au/events/other-renewables-forum/

 

We All Need A Home – Video by Chewton Primary School

Posted on 31 July, 2017 by Asha

“We All Need A Home” is a short video created by Chewton Primary School students late last year. It explains the importance of caring for our local wildlife by cleaning up rubbish and creating habitat through a very engaging story. It also includes tiles from Chewton Primary School’s reptile and frog monitoring site which students helped Connecting Country set up and monitor.

CLICK HERE or on the picture below to view the full video. There is a link to another interesting video made by students on the same page, plus a copy of the presentation that the “Coastal Ambassadors” gave on local reptile and frog conservation.

 

New Reptile and Frog Brochure Available

Posted on 28 July, 2017 by Asha

Connecting Country’s newest brochure, Reptiles and Frogs of the Mount Alexander Region, is now out in the world! CLICK HERE or on the picture to download a pdf copy. You can grab a hard copy of this brochure by dropping by our offices, or by contacting asha@connectingcountry.org.au. Our local Landcare groups will also soon have copies available to share. 

The brochure includes beautiful photos of 8 frogs and 30 reptile species found in the Mount Alexander Region, plus tips for landholders on how you can help our local reptiles and frogs. Some of these tips include creating and improving habitat on your property and on public land by:

  • Creating ground-level shelter and food sources by ensuring there are plenty of logs, sticks, rocks, and leaf litter around
  • Helping degraded land regenerate by planting indigenous species, excluding grazing, and controlling noxious weeds
  • Protecting intact native woodlands and grasslands
  • Keeping predators such as foxes, cats, and dogs under control
  • Joining your local Landcare or Friends group
  • Creating a ‘frog bog’ or retrofitting a dam to provide frog habitat
  • Refraining from using herbicides and pesticides when rainfall is predicted, and minimising or avoiding their use near wetlands and waterways

Connecting Country’s Reptile and Frog Monitoring Program is being undertaken with the support of the Ian Potter Foundation.

 

Connecting Landscapes Celebration warms hearts on a cool June night

Posted on 15 June, 2017 by Connecting Country

Last Tuesday, 6th June 2017, the Connecting Landscapes Celebration Event saw an engaged community come together to socialise, learn and commit to a future vision of a healthy landscape in the Mount Alexander Region. The celebration acknowledged the achievements of the Connecting Landscapes project over the past five years and recognized Connecting Country’s milestone tenth year. Over sixty landholders who have been part of our on-ground work program were treated to a delicious meal from Growing Abundance and deserts from the Murnong Mummas, trivia competition and an informative talk from David Cameron from Department of Environment Land Water and Planning (DELWP) .

Connecting Country President, Brendan Sydes, gives a short history and summary of plans for the future.

Brendan Sydes,  President of Connecting Country’s Committee of Management,  kicked off the evening with an Acknowledgement of Country and a brief overview of Connecting Country history to date. He also launched our new Biodiversity Hub project to be delivered in partnership with DELWP, Trust for Nature, Parks Victoria and Dja Dja Wurrung.

Connecting Landscapes project coordinator, Jarrod Coote, gave an overview of the achievements of our Connecting Landscapes project, the staff, and what is next for Connecting Country. Funded through the Australian Government, Connecting Landscapes has been Connecting Country’s major project for the last five years. It has seen huge gains for the environment through our on-ground works, monitoring and community engagement programs.

With our targets for the Connecting Landscapes project successfully it reached, we have:

  • Protected 1200 ha (3,000 acres) of native bushland on private land
  • Revegetated 400 ha (1,000 acres) of “greenfield” sites – i.e. paddocks
  • Treated rabbits and weeds over 1600 ha
  • Built 40km of fences
  • Developed 25 Landholder Management Plans
  • Delivered our successful education and monitoring programs

This table speaks volumes about our overachiever tendencies with actual results outstripping our targets in each of the five areas of on-ground works activity.

Tanya Loos,  Connecting Country Woodland Birds Project Coordinator, gave an overview of the monitoring component of the program. This included highlighting the various types of ecological monitoring undertaken by Connecting Country and acknowledging the many different groups of people involved including volunteers, landholders, experts and students. A highlight was the results for nest box monitoring with increases in occupation of the boxes for Sugar Gliders and Tuans.

An overall increase in numbers of Tuans and Sugar Gliders occupying nest boxes across the shire is encouraging.

Dinner was served and attendees collaborated on trivia questions which tested their natural resource management knowledge. Well done to the winners of the quiz; with only one question amiss, they secured a nest box each and some plants and guards. Free nest boxes were also given out to lucky door prize ticket holders.

All tables put in a great effort on the quiz.

The final part of the evening was a talk by David Cameron, Senior Botanist and curator of the state Flora Database with DELWP. His extensive knowledge about plants and, in particular, important weed species of the future was welcomed by the audience as useful advice for what to focus on their properties.

David Cameron talked about plant identification and weeds to look out for in the future given the likely effects of Climate Change.

Desert was served with many happy faces exchanging conversation in the cool of a June night. We would like to acknowledge the funding from the Australian Government which made this evening and the Connecting Landscapes project possible. We would also like to warmly thank all of our landholders and groups who have been involved in Connecting Country projects so far – every little bit of change we create helps biodiversity across our landscape. We look forward to more exciting projects like this in the future.

 

Nature News – 6th June 2017 Master spinners of silk; the Orbweavers

Posted on 8 June, 2017 by Connecting Country

For this month’s Nature News (also on page 28 of this week’s Midland Express), local writer Dr. Lynne Kelly shares her love of spiders and knowledge of two local species of Orbweavers commonly found in the Castlemaine region.

Left: Garden orbweaver in her web at night. Photo taken by: Dr Lynne Kelly

“I adore spiders. I used to be an arachnophobe but knowledge cures an irrational fear, slowly at first. Then one day I watched an orbweaver spin her web from start to finish. That was the day I became a spider-obsessive. In the Mount Alexander Shire two varieties of orbweavers dominate – the large golden orbweavers who stay on their webs all day and the slightly smaller garden orbweavers that spin in the evening and scamper to hide in the foliage at dawn.

We have a few species of garden orbweavers. They are all in the Eriophora genus, distinguished by two prominent projections near the front of the abdomen. Garden orbweavers usually remove most of their web before dawn, re-absorbing the protein in the silk to use again. A single reinforced strand is left across the gap between bushes or trees in the hope that it will still be there the following evening. If that strand is broken, the spider will point her abdomen skyward and release a fine filament of silk. In even the slightest breeze, this silk will catch on foliage and she will rush across, back and forward, to reinforce the mainstay of her web. She will then drop to the ground and attach an anchor. She’ll rush up again to spin the radials and a spiral outwards. From the edge of her nearly complete web, she will then circle back towards the centre laying down the sticky spiral. Having worked tirelessly for nearly an hour, she will rest, head down, waiting for her prey.

Right: Golden orbweaver in her web by day with a tiny male approaching from above. Photo taken by: Dr Lynne Kelly

Unlike the garden orbweavers, the huge golden orbweavers stay on the web all day, constantly repairing and reinforcing it. It is not the spider which is golden but the glow of the silk when it catches the sun. All the individuals I’ve seen locally are the Australian Golden Orbweaver (Nephila edulis). Discarded debris is left in the web above the spider to confuse the birds. Male garden orbweavers are only marginally smaller than their females but the males of the golden orbweavers are tiny by comparison [see above photo on right]. Although the males of most spider species will survive their sexual encounters, the Nephila males sacrifice themselves in their final act. Having produced a golden egg sac, the female will then die with the first frost.”

For further reading, Lynne’s book, “Spiders: learning to love them” (Allen & Unwin, 2009) is an excellent resource for those interested in finding out more about these amazing creatures.

 

Help Little Heroes Plant New Habitat

Posted on 29 May, 2017 by Connecting Country

Little Habitat Hero, Sophie Haythorne, looks forward to planting on the 17th of June 2017.

A new story is being woven into the site of the Old Silkworm Farm on Leanganook, within the Mount Alexander Regional Park, this month, as a group of families and Landcare groups join together for the Little Habitat Heroes planting day on Saturday the 17th of June 2017, 9am-1pm. Open to all to participate, this ongoing initiative envisions 10 hectares of habitat regenerated on this historic site over the next few years.

Initiated by a group of new mothers in Castlemaine in 2016, Little Habitat Heroes, was a successful fund-raising campaign aimed at restoring native bush in honour of the region’s newest residents. Over $3,000 was raised by families and individuals, who were keen to see a beloved child in their life have the opportunity for a personal connection with nature.

This was matched with equivalent support from VicRoads to allow over 900 seedlings to be propagated ready for a wet winter start. Committed volunteers from Barkers Creek and Harcourt Landcare Groups, Connecting Country, and Little Habitat Heroes families and friends are providing their time generously to see the project succeed, with support from Parks Victoria.

“It’s amazing what a small group of committed people can achieve”, says Connecting Country Director Krista Patterson-Majoor. “From the start, when we were approached by the mothers’ group, we could see how closely aligned the project idea was with our organisation’s core objectives. We have been delighted to support the initiative, and we look forward to welcoming everyone to the planting day, it will be a lot of fun.”

For many, especially the nearly-two year olds, the planting day will be their first-ever tree planting experience, and an opportunity to see a habitat emerge that will support charismatic fauna such as sugar gliders and woodland birds. The location is exciting to local ecologists too, as it is uniquely suited to trial the return of indigenous species such as the Silver Banksia which once occurred on Mt Alexander and large areas through central Victoria before the gold rush.

“Just by living their lives, our children will no doubt contribute to environmental loss, so this is a chance for us to give something back,” says Little Habitat Heroes mother Meg Barnes, “The planting day will also offer a way to meet like-minded people and spend time at a gorgeous site.”

Little Habitat Heroes Planting Day Details: 9am-1pm, Saturday 17 June, meet at Leanganook Picnic Ground in the Mount Alexander Regional Park. Everyone and all ages welcome. Morning tea provided, BYO picnic lunch which we’ll eat together. More information visit www.littlehabitatheroes.org. To join the planting day or learn more, RSVP to littlehabitatheroes@gmail.com.

 

Exploring the possibilities of gully restoration

Posted on 26 May, 2017 by Connecting Country

Cassia and Deirdre ask participants do think about what they would do in the gully.

On Friday the 19th of May 2017, Barb Guerin, Cassia Read and Deirdre Slattery from the Victoria Gully Group led a fascinating workshop about seeing possibilities and setting priorities for the ecological restoration of the gully. This session was designed to help people to make decisions about land use and habitat creation in low-lying areas and had an emphasis on restoration in public land.

On a day which was forecast heavy rain, sixteen hardy attendees heard firsthand about how volunteers in environmental groups can make difference to habitat values on public land. Fortunately no-one got wet and lots was learnt  – for a full write up and additional resources please click here.

This workshop concludes our 2017 Water in our Landscape workshop series. We would like to offer our warm thanks to all of our participants, presenters and hosts. Thanks also to Naomi Raftery for the vision and coordinating three incredibly interesting sessions. This education program was made possible with funding received from the Australian Government.

 

Exploring ecological thinning – the how’s and why’s

Posted on 8 May, 2017 by Connecting Country

Paul Foreman helps participants to hone their monitoring skills at the workshop.

Ecologist Paul Foreman and contractor David Griffiths explored the potential positives and challenges of undertaking ecological thinning in Box-Ironbark forest at our second Water in our Landscape workshop, Ecological Thinning on Bush Blocks, on Friday the 5th of May 2017.  The thirty people who attended the event at Paul Hampton’s delightful property in Muckleford developed new skills and understanding of the bush around us. A huge thanks to our enthusiastic participants, knowledgeable presenters and generous host for the delightful morning.

For a full write up of the workshop with lots of useful tips and resources about ecological thinning, please CLICK HERE.

This Water in our Landscape workshop was made possible with funding received from the Australian Government.

 

Connecting Country to showcase community conservation

Posted on 4 May, 2017 by Connecting Country

Connecting Country is excited to share the news of our successful application with Wild Melbourne for their Community Conservationists video series, supported by the Norman Wettenhall Foundation. The application process yielded 36 applications that demonstrated the breadth and diversity of conservation work being done by the Victorian community. Connecting Country was one of five organisations chosen to be showcased. For more information on the Community Conservationists video series click here and look out for our video in the future!

 

Nature News – 2nd May 2017 Stay at home Dad in Happy Valley

Posted on 3 May, 2017 by Connecting Country

For this month’s Nature News on Page 30 of the 2nd May 2017 edition of the Midland Express, local ecologist and Castlemaine Landcarer, Karl Just explains the unusual breeding biology of a locally lesser common frog species and the work of Castlemaine Landcare in helping to restore its habitat. 

Photo Caption: A male Brown Toadlet taking patient care of his eggs. Photo taken by: Damien Cook

Our local waterways sure copped a hammering during the gold-rush days. Early photos show a bleak landscape, all sludgy soil, bare of vegetation. The incredible changes that occurred to riparian habitat during those days would have removed entire communities of plants, mammals, birds, frogs and insects. But the process of recovery has well and truly begun, with the dedicated and hard work of various Landcare groups steadily restoring ecological diversity to our creeks.

Along Forest Creek, one species that would have been heavily impacted is the endangered Brown Toadlet. Now stick with me a moment, I know it has a very uninspiring name, but believe me this little critter is a true icon of the box ironbark ecosystem. Unlike our other local frogs that mostly breed during the wetter winter-spring months, the Brown Toadlet or Pseudophryne bibroni only breeds for a short period during autumn. The males set up little colonies in wet gullies and call regularly to attract a mate. When she arrives and lays the eggs, instead of hanging around she nicks off and leaves the work to the male, who will patiently sit on the eggs for many weeks or several months. This is why the species is also occasionally called a brooding frog. When rain arrives (in good years), the eggs are eventually flushed into adjacent waterholes where the tadpoles will hatch and begin their development.

Heading east into Happy Valley one autumn day, I heard the distinctive sound of the Brown Toadlet calling from the adjacent gully. Although I knew the species is fairly common in some parts of the local area, I was excited as it was the first time I had heard them in the Forest Creek valley. But the gully was a mess – the breeding site was covered in Gorse and Blackberry and there was only a sparse cover of native sedges. Something needed to be done.

Enter Castlemaine Landcare. We applied for and were successful in receiving a grant to clean up the site and also dig a new pond for the frogs to breed in. Landcare held a working bee where we planted the new frog pond with native sedges and rushes and the surrounding area with nectar rich shrubs for birds. We also put down some roofing tiles and had Toadlets sheltering and laying eggs beneath them.

In April 2017 Castlemaine received 140mm of rainfall – three times the long-term average for that month. The Toadlets responded very positively and colonised the frog pond we built last year, as well as several new sites nearby. Landcare aims to continue to restore the site and surrounding area and hope that the endangered Brown Toadlet will one day spread further throughout the Forest Creek valley.

New pond in August 2016

New pond after 65mm in April 2017

 

 

Places still available for this Friday’s Ecological Thinning on Bush Blocks workshop

Posted on 1 May, 2017 by Connecting Country

There are still a few places available for this Friday’s workshop titled “Ecological Thinning on Bush Blocks“.  This workshop is designed for those interested in the benefits, challenges, and approaches to ecological thinning in remnant vegetation. Participants will visit a four year old thinning trial in Muckleford and hear about this fascinating pilot project. A benefit of ecological is slowing water in our landscape down and can potentially enhance biodiversity on your bush block. Don’t miss out on this free event and finding out more!

Date and Time: Friday the 5th May 2017 between 9am-12pm.

Presenters: Landholder, Paul Hampton; Ecologist, Paul Foreman; and local contractor, David Griffiths

Location: Details about the location and where to meet will be provided upon booking.

Bookings: https://www.trybooking.com/270332

 

First Water in our Landscape workshop was wonderful and wet!

Posted on 26 April, 2017 by Connecting Country

Almost constant rain provided the very appropriate backdrop to our first Water in our Landscape workshop, Turning your Dam into Habitat, on Friday the 21st of April 2017. Despite the water, a full house attended the event hosted and presented by local wetland ecologist Damien Cook in Fryerstown. Participants were treated to a walk around Damien’s property where he has been working on renovating dams, creating habitat and restoring a eroding creekline.

Frances Cincotta from Newstead Natives was also at the workshop with plants to sell and lots of information to share about wetland species from our area. For a full write up of the workshop with lots of useful tips about turning dams into habitat and copies of the resources given to participants, please CLICK HERE.

 

 

Landcare Gathering at The Meeting Place

Posted on 24 April, 2017 by Asha

Gathering at The Meeting Place

Smoke drifted through the last rays of sunlight as people gathered outside at The Meeting Place in Yapeen for a Cultural Awareness Evening on Monday the 3rd of April 2017. Aunty Julie McHale and Kathryn Coff from Nalderun guided the group through a series of learning activities. The figures of Bunjil and Waa made by the Meeting Place children hung over a room packed full of people.

After the smoking ceremony, we had a game of ‘Pacman’ where Aunty Julie tested our  Aboriginal history knowledge. For example, do you know what the question was on the 1967 Referendum?

We were then given a card with a picture and a snippet of an event in Aboriginal history, and we lined them up along the floor in order to make a timeline. A few people selected a card which stood out to them and shared them with the room, ranging from the Dreamtime to the present.

The last activity for the evening focused on the Kulin Nation seasons. We moved down the hall to the classroom and split into two teams. A competition was then underway to see which team could correctly match the most natural events with the correct season – surprisingly not an easy task!

A huge thank you to Aunty Julie and Kath for their hard work and kind sharing, and to Nalderun for inviting us out to the beautiful Meeting Place. It was both a fun and enlightening evening for those who attended.

This event was made possible through the Connecting Landscapes program with support from the Australian Government.

 

7th May 2017: Woodland Bird Spotting at Walmer

Posted on 20 April, 2017 by Tanya Loos

Follow that bird! A bit of fun in the Sandon Forest…

On Sunday the 7th May 2017, join the Connecting Country bird nerds on a bird walk, lunch and planting! Local artist Eliza Tree has graciously invited us to her beautiful 30 acre property in Walmer for our next bird survey. The property is grassy woodland adjacent to Crown land and has been awarded a Trust for Nature covenant.

We will do the bird walk, led by Eliza,  and then have a BBQ lunch. We will also spend a bit of time having a discussion about the overall conservation of the Walmer area – and identifying some projects for future funding proposals. After lunch,  there will be an understory planting session – grasses and wildflowers.

This outing is one of the monthly bird outings in the Mount Alexander area – a few hours out in the bush with like-minded people, carrying out bird surveys on private and public land. This year we have visited a private bush block on Limestone Road, and explored the wonderful Saltwater Track, Elphinstone.

The bird walks are open to everyone with an interest in birds and habitat – even for the total beginner! We can supply you with a pair of Connecting Country binoculars for the outing, and our bird group is friendly and happy to help people 1) find the bird and 2) identify it! We are all learning together – even your walk leader had to send photos of a bird of prey to Geoff Park (Natural Newstead) to confirm that the bird was indeed a Square-tailed Kite!

By identifying and counting the birds on private land such as Eliza’s block in Walmer, we gain a greater understanding of the health of our woodland bird populations; especially of our target species such as the Hooded Robin and Diamond Firetail. By attending the monthly bird walks, we hope that participants will feel confident and inspired to survey birds on their own properties, or on the various bird survey sites on public land.

There are many ways to get involved in the Stewards for Woodland Birds program – to register or to find out more, contact Tanya at tanya@connectingcountry.org.au  or call 5472 1594. You can;

  1. Join the Bird Survey Enews mailing list for a monthly enews with updates on our bird walks and various projects.
  2. Come along to our next bird survey – the Walmer bird and planting event on May 7 with Eliza Tree ( RSVP required for catering purposes) Eliza extends a warm invitation to camp on her land at Walmer on the Saturday night! Please contact Eliza directly on m: 0409 209707 if you would like to camp.
  3. Send in your bird sightings! See here to find out more about how.
  4. Get involved with our KBA (Key Biodiversity area) program, featured recently here.

The Stewards for Woodland Birds Program is generously supported by the Helen Macpherson Smith Trust

 

9am Tues 11 April 2017: Paul Foreman on the radio

Posted on 10 April, 2017 by Connecting Country

Paul Foreman presenting at a 2015 workshop for Connecting Country.

Tune in to 94.9 MAINE fm between 9-11am this Tuesday 11 April 2017 for the Hear Say program when local ecologist and presenter at the  Ecological Thinning on Bush Blocks workshop, Paul Foreman chats with Suzanne Donisthorpe about the workshop and all things local ecology. There are still some places left for the thinning workshop, to book click here.

 

 

2017 Camp-Out – Camping and Connecting with Country

Posted on 6 April, 2017 by Connecting Country

The beautiful Leanganook Campground on Mount Alexander set the scene for the Camp Out on The Mount over the weekend of 1-2 April 2017. Hosted by Connecting Country with Harcourt Valley Landcare and Friends of the Box-Ironbark Forests, over eighty children and adults enjoyed a packed weekend of free environmental and cultural heritage education activities. Check out lots of fun photos at the end of this post!

To start the weekend, Trent Nelson of the Dja Dja Wurrung Clans Aboriginal Corporation gave a Welcome to Country and Mount Alexander Shire Counsellor, Bronwen Machin, officially opened the Camp Out by cutting the pine tree ribbon.

A keen team of volunteer ‘Pine Assassins’ then headed down the road to Dog Rocks to treat feral pine trees. Experienced assassins mentored some new apprentices in drilling-and-filling and cutting-and-painting, and together they continued the work done at past Camp Outs controlling pines.

Back at the campground, families took part in engaging activities aimed at increasing understanding about the environment and Aboriginal culture. Parks Victoria ranger, Brendan Smith, ran through the importance of soils and showed how to propagate local indigenous plants, Aunty Julie McHale from Nalderun Aboriginal Services shared  Aboriginal kids games, and Jirrahlinga Koala & Wildlife Sanctuary held kids in awe with their wild animal display.

Ahead of lunch Aunty Julie told the creation story of Bunjil and answered questions about Aboriginal language, stories, and food sources. Everyone then focused on setting up their tents, having a rest in the sun, and soaking in the beautiful place. Later, George Milford from Harcourt Valley Landcare Group did a wonderful job of entertaining adults and children alike with stories about the history of the Mount, both geological and human.

Harcourt Lions Club provided a delicious BBQ dinner and Muckleford Landcarers Beth, Neville, Nioka, Maisy, and Theo prepared damper for all the kids to cook on the communal campfire. A big thank-you to Juliet Walsh and Jenny and Paul Leishman for donating the firewood.

Brendan’s walk along the Great Dividing Trail allowed us to see, hear and smell the bush at night while looking for animals with nocturnal habits. We spotted one or two Brush-tailed Possums and heard a few bats flying overhead.

It was a chilly night for those who camped out, but well worth it for the beautiful sunrise on Sunday morning. Early risers were treated to a bird and nature walk with Connecting Country’s Tanya Loos. They learnt how to be ‘bush detectives’ by sneaking quietly and looking closely, and how to tell your Grey Fantail from a White-eared Honeyeater.

Combining environmental education with on-ground action and an appreciation of the local forests is something the Camp Out has managed to do each year. A small army of volunteers made this event happen and for this great effort we thank everyone who gave up their time and energy to provide an active and informative experience at Leanganook.

Connecting Country is looking forward revisiting the mount on Saturday 17th June 2017 for the Little Habitat Heroes planting day. We hope to see more young families learn about and look after nature on Mount Alexander.

Camp-out on the Mount 2017 was made possible with support from the Australian Government, the Victorian Landcare Initiative, the Harcourt Lions Club, Harcourt Valley Landcare Group, and the Friends of the Box-Ironbark Forest.

 

 

Nature News March 2017 – Feng Shui in the Muckleford Bush

Posted on 5 April, 2017 by Connecting Country

For this month’s Nature News on page 42 of this week’s (4th April) Midland Express, Muckleford Landcarer Beth Mellick describes her family’s journey of living with nature they settle into life on a ten acre bush block in Muckleford – birds, plants and all.

A few years ago we found a beautiful wooded property in Muckleford and had a rammed earth house built so that it nestles into the bush. We’ve since grown to love the dry forest, the crackling leaf litter underfoot, and the fields of wildflowers in spring.

Many properties like ours have dams that are no longer used for stock or irrigation. These dams now act as wetlands to support biodiversity, and there are simple things that can be done to increase habitat for frogs and birds, as well as protecting the edges and caring for water quality.

Despite our freshly filled dam drying out fast, we’ve had groups of White-necked herons appearing on dusk, we’ve seen the illusive Painted Button-Quail running around, and several families of ducks have bred up there.  A healthy, wildlife-vibrant dam is good ‘feng shui’ for your property.

Another delight is a birdbath tucked under a Cherry Ballart that we can watch from the dining table. Busy little Thornbills, Weebills, Pardalotes, Silvereyes, and Wrens love the mornings, while Wattlebirds, Rosellas, Choughs, and Bronzewings fight for space in the evenings. It is so popular a drinking spot that we’ve had to place a second birdbath underneath to keep everyone happy.

Coming up to planting season this year, we are preparing to put in some small shrubs like tree violets and a little Sheoak and Banksia grove – all important species that have ‘dropped out’ of the system.

My family and I are lucky to work with terrific local groups like the Castlemaine Field Naturalists Club, Friends of the Box Ironbark Forests, Connecting Country, and Muckleford Landcare who all run field days and workshops, and produce useful resources about the box ironbark forest in which we live.

We’re a pretty busy family, and it’s hard to do everything.  But we know it’s crucial to make time to take care of the bush. Landowners have a duty of care for the land – to ensure that what native habitat we have left is protected and enhanced to support a whole range of critters.  Clearing properties leaves you with an ugly slab of dirt and, eventually, a lot weeds to combat – certainly not good property ‘feng shui’!

Muckleford Landcare will be running a workshop on how to restore habitat in wetland areas soon. CLICK HERE to  see their website for more details. You could also attend Connecting Country’s Water in our Landscape workshop series in April and May. CLICK HERE for more information and bookings.

Beth’s kids enjoying the dam almost as much as the White-necked Herons do. Photo taken by: Beth Mellick

 

 

Water in our Landscape workshops – registrations now open!

Posted on 28 March, 2017 by Connecting Country


Water can have a powerful impact on our landscape. If we can slow flows and retain water for longer we can improve soil fertility, habitat quality and reduce erosion. How we might achieve this is the theme for Connecting Country’s 2017 ‘Water in our Landscape’ education program. Three workshops will explore habitat creation in dams, ecological thinning, and gully restoration.

The free Friday morning workshops are being held on public and private land in late April and early May. They are likely to be popular with rural landholders, bush block owners, and local Landcarers. Numbers are limited and booking is essential.

Turning your Dam into Habitat – 21st of April 2017
This workshop features local ecologist, Damien Cook, who will discuss the possibilities and practical steps of turning farm dams into habitat. Participants will learn how to reap the benefits of establishing more wetland plants and animals on their properties. For bookings please visit: https://www.trybooking.com/257169

Ecological Thinning on Bush Blocks- 5th of May 2017
This workshop is designed for those interested in the benefits, challenges, and approaches to ecological thinning remnant vegetation. Participants will visit a four year old thinning trial in Muckleford and will hear from ecologist, Paul Foreman, and local contractor, David Griffiths, about this fascinating pilot project. For bookings please visit: https://www.trybooking.com/270332

Creating Frog ponds and Habitat Corridors – 19th of May 2017
This workshop highlights the approach of the Victoria Gully Group in seeing possibilities and setting priorities for the ecological restoration of the gully. This session is designed to help people to make decisions about land use and habitat creation in low-lying areas. For bookings please visit: https://www.trybooking.com/270312

CLICK HERE for more information about the workshops or CLICK HERE to download a copy of the poster.

 

Guardians assemble! A new group of custodians is formed…

Posted on 22 March, 2017 by Tanya Loos

The special bird habitats of Clydesdale, Sandon and Muckleford now have a small team of Guardians! These three areas, of both private and public land, are designated as Key Biodiversity Areas (KBAs) by BirdLife International, and BirdLife Australia.

Connecting Country held a workshop on Saturday 18 March 2017 to recruit KBA guardians and provide training in filling out an Easter Heath Check form each year. Birdlife Victoria KBA coordinator Euan Moore and his wife Jenny kindly took some time out from their busy schedule to present a comprehensive introduction to KBAs, and how to become a Guardian.

The open bushland around the hall was filled with birds – despite being rather hot, we saw a Diamond Firetail, a Mistletoebird and a pair of Peaceful doves – 20 species in all!

There are over 300 KBAs in Australia – and the Easter Health Check is a means to working out which KBAs are in danger – so that lobbying can be done and funding procured. For example, recently the Murray-Sunset and Hattah KBA was saved from an inappropriate burning regime that had reduced the population of tiny,  rare birds called emu-wrens by such a drastic degree that they had become critically endangered.

In the case of our Key Biodiversity Areas,  the Easter Health check is a means for locals to come together and try to quantify the threats facing our woodland birds and their habitats. Each KBA has what are known as “trigger species” – the key species that are under threat in that habitat – in our area, the trigger species are the Diamond Firetail and Swift Parrot.  During the workshop there was much discussion around what these threats are, and the rate that they are causing declines in the Diamond Firetail. A fascinating process! Drought featured heavily, as did grazing, and pest animals such as European Rabbits, Red Foxes, and cats, both feral and domestic.

This young Diamond Firetail faces an uncertain future. Photo by Geoff Park

Connecting Country’s Stewards for Woodland Birds project is delighted to support the Easter Health Check initiative. The Health Checks filled in by our guardians will form the basis for a series of community plans for each area – Clydesdale, Sandon and Muckleford.

If you were unable to make it to the workshop but would still like to be involved – contact us! Not only birdos are needed for this process – anyone with understanding of our local habitats, the trials faced, and the communities working to address these threats is welcome to take part. At the workshop it was decided to form a small Guardians email list so that people can stay in touch – let Tanya know if you wish to be added to the list. Email tanya@connectingcountry.org.au or call 5472 1594.

Thanks to Euan and Jenny for an inspiring and informative workshop – and many thanks to the enthusiastic participants! For more information on KBAs, see BirdLife’s overview: click here

The KBA workshop and the Stewards for Woodland Birds Program are supported by the Helen Macpherson Smith Trust.

 

Nalderun Cultural Awareness Evening

Posted on 20 March, 2017 by Asha

Uncle Rick Nelson, Aunty Julie McHale, and Kath Coff are inviting community members and Landcare groups to The Meeting Place on Monday the 3rd April 2017 to learn about local Aboriginal culture, history, and land management. Hosted by Connecting Country and Nalderun, this will be a unique evening for learning and understanding.

Nalderun is a local service that supports the Aboriginal Community, lead by Aboriginal people, through Castlemaine District Community Health. It is named after a Dja Dja Wurrung word meaning “Altogether”.

  • When: Monday April 3rd 2017 from 5:00pm – 7:00pm
  • Where: The Meeting Place (old Yapeen School site), Yapeen School Lane, Yapeen
  • Bring: a plate of supper to share, drinks will be provided

RSVP to asha@connectingcountry.org.au if you would like to attend, or call (03) 5472 1594 and ask for Asha if you have any questions.

Looking out from Dja Dja Wurrung property Yapenya at Connecting Country’s Cultural Awareness Landcare Link-up in Feb 2017