Restoring landscapes across the Mount Alexander Region

Wildlife of the Box-Ironbark Country – new edition

Posted on 8 September, 2021 by Ivan

One of our most treasured nature books by legendary nature enthusiast Chris Tzaros is about to get an update with the release of the second edition.  ‘Wildlife of the Box-Ironbark Country’ has been a bible to many living in and around box-ironbark country, with amazing imagery and detailed information on the fascinating animals that call our local forests and woodlands home.

Chris was a guest speaker at our 2020 sell-out event, ‘Tricky Birds’, and is one of the nation’s leading bird photographers and experts on the box-ironbark regions.

The second edition of ‘Wildlife of the Box-Ironbark Country’ is now available via pre-order and is due to be delivered in the coming weeks. No doubt the second edition will feature glorious imagery and a comprehensive overview of the ecologically significant Box–Ironbark habitats and their wildlife.

If you can’t wait for it to hit local bookshops, you can pre-order a copy now from CSIRO Publishing – click here

Cover image of Wildlife of the Box–Ironbark Country, second edition, featu

Overview (courtesy of CSIRO Publishing)

A comprehensive overview of the ecologically significant Box–Ironbark habitats and their wildlife. Victoria’s Box–Ironbark region is one of the most important areas of animal diversity and significance in southern Australia. The forests and woodlands of this region provide critical habitat for a diverse array of woodland-dependent animals, including many threatened and declining species such as the Squirrel Glider, Brush-tailed Phascogale, Regent Honeyeater, Swift Parrot, Pink-tailed Worm-Lizard, Woodland Blind Snake, Tree Goanna and Bibron’s Toadlet.

Wildlife of the Box–Ironbark Country gives a comprehensive overview of the ecology of the Box–Ironbark habitats and their wildlife, and how climate change is having a major influence. This extensively revised second edition covers all of the mammals, birds, reptiles and frogs that occur in the region, with a brief description of their distribution, status, ecology and identification, together with a detailed distribution map and superb colour photograph for each species.

The book includes a ‘Where to watch’ section, featuring a selection of national parks, state parks and nature conservation reserves where people can experience the ecosystem and its wildlife for themselves.

This book is intended for land managers, conservation and wildlife workers, fauna consultants, landholders, teachers, students, naturalists and all those interested in learning about and appreciating the wildlife of this fascinating and endangered ecosystem.

Features:
• Covers 267 species, each with a detailed description, high-quality colour photograph and updated distribution map
• Includes new species accounts for fauna that now reside permanently or regularly visit the Box–Ironbark region
• Provides a list of parks and reserves, including maps and descriptions of 16 locations to observe Box–Ironbark wildlife

About the author

Chris Tzaros is uniquely placed to write about the fauna of Victoria’s Box–Ironbark country. Brought up near Bendigo, he has had a passionate interest in wildlife since childhood. Chris has 25 years’experience working on wildlife research and conservation projects, largely focused on threatened woodland birds, for both government and nongovernment environmental and conservation organisations. He is an award-winning wildlife photographer and has produced the majority of the photos in this book. Chris is currently an independent wildlife ecologist and nature
photographer based in north-east Victoria but enjoys working among nature right around Australia.

 

Healthy dams delivers healthy benefits

Posted on 23 August, 2021 by Ivan

Connecting Country was delighted to hold the third event for our Healthy Landscape project on Saturday 14 August 2021, after multiple COVID-related delays. We held the event live on-farm to a virtual audience by live streaming from a stunning property in Taradale VIC, on the Coliban River.

The event was kindly hosted by Chris Burgess and Martin Shaddick, who have worked tirelessly to control weeds and revegetate the property over the last 15 years. Chris is also the president of Taradale Landcare. The property features multiple dams and wetland areas, with plentiful birdlife enjoying the revegetation when we visited, and also signs of echidnas and a wombat!

Ecologist Karl Just, who has a fascination with aquatic plants and animals, gave an engaging and thoughtful presentation. He compared the two dams on the property, their water quality, vegetation, and the aquatic life you might expect to see within them.

Karl Just provided an excellent overview of how to improve farm dams for habitat and water quality (photo: Connecting Country)

 

For those who may have missed the live stream event on the day, it’s not too late. To watch online – click here

We have also provided the following summary of the information covered in the presentation.

Healthy dams

Actions for a healthy dam

For a healthy dam consider the following actions where possible:

  • Exclude stock from the water and where possible create an off-dam stock watering point. Less access for stock reduces added nutrients and disturbance. Excessive nutrient levels can be bad for the water as they can lead to algal blooms which suck out dissolved oxygen, depleting this resource for plants and animals.
  • Create buffering vegetation between nutrient sources and water – the wider the better. Adding a diversity of plants increases filtering capacity. The more plant diversity the more habitat value and animals will use the resource. If you have a choice about the direction of the buffering vegetation, choose the western side of the dam to block prevailing winds and reduce evaporation.
  • Include as many different habitat elements as possible such as plants, logs and rocks. Even old roofing tiles can also be useful. Place logs both vertically and horizontally. Horizontally to trap sediments and seeds, and create micro climates for plants to grow and vertically to increase access to water for animals. Logs that have some branches emerging from the water that offers perches for birds too.
  • If building a new dam, keep in mind that the flatter the gradient the more different plants and animals will be able to use it. There will be less variation in water depth for plants and it will create shallow nursery sites for animals. It is also useful to wait and observe a new dam for 12 months to see what natural regeneration happens. Fauna can bring in different plants, and you can get an idea of high and low water levels, helping to determine where the different zones are and where to plant.


Aquatic zones

The layers or zones of aquatic vegetation:

  • Submerged aquatics (below 400 mm from normal top water level) – such as pond weed, eel grass.
  • Deep marsh zone (250-500 mm below normal top water level) – such as water ribbons, milfoils, tall spike sedge, river club sedge.
  • Shallow marsh zone (edge of water to 250 mm below normal top water level) – such as spike sedge, swamp crassula.
  • Riparian edge zone (plants can handle inundation but also seasonal drying) – such as sedges, rushes.

The second dam on the host property was a useful case study, with Karl suggesting practical actions to improve its habitat value (photo: Connecting Country)

 

Revegetation considerations

If want to start dam revegetation, start with the riparian edge as this is the easiest and most diverse strata. Source tubestock from local indigenous nursery.

Be aware steep sides can be difficult to revegetate because they dry/flood more quickly. For this reason, the best time to plant around the riparian edge is late winter or spring, as dams are usually at full capacity, giving the plants some time to establish before drying, and less chance of getting flooded. Plants that grow quickly such as sedges and rushes filter water and create habitat more quickly.

Plant deeper aquatics when the dam is at a lower capacity. These can be a little harder to establish but worth a try.

Plant shrubs in winter. However, avoid putting woody trees and shrubs on the dam’s retaining banks as the roots can create pathways for water to flow, and this can undermine your dam. Where this is not an issue (on high side of dam) you could try planting Yellow Box, Candlebark, River Red-gums and Wattles, lots of wattles such as Blackwood, Black Wattle, Silver Wattle, Lightwood or other shrubs such as Prickly Tea-tree, River Tea-tree, River bottlebrush or Hop Bush. These provide landing sites and refuge for animals to get close to the water and have a drink.

Useful resources on plant identification

Flora of Victoria – click here
Flora of Castlemaine – click here

Answers to audience questions during the presentation 

How do you plant in the water?

You can push plants into the mud. In tough clay soils, it can be tricky to dig. Some plants such as water ribbons might need some protection for birds, such as ducks. You can use wire or netting, making sure that you check regularly to ensure no birds and other fauna become trapped.

Are yabbies and leeches bad?

Yabbies and leeches occupy a variable range of conditions of waterways and are not an indicator of poor or good health. Look for diversity of bugs to get a measure of water quality. There are lots of resources online or get involved in your local waterwatch – click here

How do a learn more about the little bugs in my dam?

Take a look at this resource from La Trobe University on macroinvertebrates – click here

Fish! Do you have any advice?

Make sure you don’t have European Carp! Try and remove if they are present as they will eat, animals and vegetation and stir up the water. Native fish that will grow to around 10 cm, have more chance of coexisting with tadpoles. Try small-bodied indigenous native fish such as Obscure/Mountain Galaxias or Southern Pygmy Perch. See the fish guide developed by the North Central Catchment Management Authority – click here

For more information on improving the water quality and habitat value for dams, as well as sustainable land management, please buy a copy of our Healthy Landscapes guide.

Copies of the guide will be offered to Landcare and community groups, and available for general sale (around $15 per copy) in Castlemaine through the Castlemaine Visitor Information Centre, Stoneman’s Bookroom and Mount Alexander Animal Welfare (MAAW) Op Shop. Please do not hesitate to contact us if you have any questions, or would like further information.

Connecting Country extends a big thank you to Chris Burgess and Martin Shaddick for hosting this event, and to Karl Just for sharing his knowledge and enthusiasm for healthy wetlands. We also acknowledge the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment, through funding from Australian Government’s National Landcare Program, for supporting this project.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Great Southern Bioblitz: 22-25 October 2021

Posted on 19 August, 2021 by Ivan

For several years the iNaturalist citizen science platform has run the City Nature Challenge – a gentle competition between cities and regions around the world to see which location can collect and identify the most sightings of life-forms in their area over a week-long period each March.

In 2020 the Great Southern Bioblitz was born. This is a similar event to City Nature Challenge but held in October (southern hemisphere spring) when more plants are flowering, animals are more active and fungi are still plentiful. This year, the Castlemaine Field Naturalists Club is hosting the Great Southern Bioblitz for our region of central Victoria, i.e., the Mount Alexander Shire and the eastern half of Hepburn Shire.

All are welcome and encouraged to contribute. You simply photograph as many plants and animals as you can within the region during the Bioblitz period, 22-25 October 2021, and load your sightings into iNaturalist via your phone or computer. Even if you are unable to record your own sightings you can still contribute by identifying the observations that others have uploaded.

Great Southern hemisphere bioblitz is a chance to engage with nature (photos: Euan Moore)

 

The Great Southern Bioblitz is not only fun, but an important way of recording the life-forms that are present in our area. Once you add a sighting to iNaturalist, others can help with or verify the identification. Data are then fed into repositories such as Atlas of Living Australia and state biodiversity databases such as Victorian Biodiversity Atlas.

To find out more:

  • Visit the Great Southern Bioblitz website – click here
  • Check out the 71 groups (10 in Victoria) taking part so far – click here

To download the iNaturalist app to your device or create an account on your computer – click here

The Great Southern Bioblitz is coming from 22-25 October 2021 (photo: Great Southern Bioblitz)

 

Training workshops

The Great Southern Bioblitz organising team has scheduled some training workshops to help people learn how to use iNaturalist and how to take part in the Bioblitz. This training will be useful beyond the Bioblitz as it will enable you to submit sightings from anywhere at any time.

Register for training at the following links:

  • A beginners guide for using iNaturalist
    Tuesday 17 August 2021 from 8:30 – 9:30 pm AEST
    To register – click here
  • Advanced tips for using iNaturalist
    Tuesday 7 September 2021 from 8:30 – 9:30 pm AEST
    To register – click here
  • A beginners guide for using iNaturalist
    Tuesday 28 September 2021 from 8:30 – 9:30 pm AEST
    To register – click here

 

A big thank you Euan Moore from the Castlemaine Field Naturalists Club for the text and photographs for this article. To learn more about Castlemaine Field Naturalists Club – click here

 

Hot off the press: Healthy Landscapes guide

Posted on 11 August, 2021 by Ivan

It has been nearly a year in the making, and we are super-happy to announce that Connecting Country’s Healthy Landscapes guide has arrived fresh from the printers! And, it looks amazing (in our humble opinion!). The 44-page guide has been developed to assist our local farmers and landholders to manage their land for multiple outcomes, benefiting wildlife, property and landscape health. It is targeted to the Mount Alexander region of central Victoria, which makes it unique to our special local area. It forms part of Connecting Country’s Healthy Landscapes project, a Smart Farms project that delivers a series of educational workshops and a land management guide for landholders.

The Healthy Landscapes guide provides background context on our region’s natural assets, as well as eight concise sections on actions landholders can take to protect and restore habitat on their properties in central Victoria.

Topics included in the guide are:

  • Protecting remnant vegetation.
  • Make a plan.
  • Control weeds.
  • Control rabbits.
  • Revegetate your land.
  • Help hollow-using wildlife.
  • Manage your dam as habitat.
  • Care for paddocks.

 

The guide features a variety of stunning images, such as these on the front cover from Bronwyn Silver (bush sunset), Jane Satchell (gnarly wood) and Geoff Park (Yellow-footed Antechinus).

 

‘Landholders often ask us about where they can find information relevant to our region on how to manage their land to benefit the environment and farming,’ said Jacqui Slingo (Landscape Restoration Coordinator at Connecting Country). ‘We are thrilled to have produced a guide that allows landholders, especially the many new property owners in our region, to get started with caring for their property by protecting native vegetation and wildlife habitat through actions like weed and rabbit control.’

We would like to send a huge thanks to the many wonderful contributors in our community, including photographers, volunteer reviewers and experts who generously contributed their time and talents to the guide. Thank you! Thanks also to Jane Satchell, who illustrated and designed visual aspects of the guide, and led us through the layout process through to printing.

Connecting Country would like to thank the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment, through funding from Australian Government’s National Landcare Program, for supporting this project.

Copies of the guide will be offered to Landcare and community groups, and available for general sale (around $15 per copy) in Castlemaine through the Castlemaine Visitor Information Centre, Stoneman’s Bookroom and Mount Alexander Animal Welfare (MAAW) Op Shop. Please do not hesitate to contact us if you have any questions, or would like further information.

To read more about the Healthy Landscapes project – click here

 

Mysterious stockpiling frenzy hits the bush!

Posted on 5 August, 2021 by Ivan

We have all heard about the shortage of toilet paper across the nation, but it appears to have reached new levels in the bush blocks of Muckleford! We received a series of intriguing images from Connecting Country’s very own President and advocate, Brendan Sydes, showing some baffling theft of toilet paper courtesy of an unknown animal. We have a mystery to solve! Who took the roll of toilet paper from the outdoor toilet, to their home?  Let us play a game of ‘guess who stole the toilet paper’, revealing the clues in each image, and letting our audience guess the clever, resourceful and likely beautiful culprit.

A big thank you to Brendan for capturing this interesting mystery and sending us the photographs. Brendan noted that ‘The blue stuff in the box is a puppy chew toy which has also been commandeered by the occupant. The nest box has been there for about seven years and has been occupied by various native animals and bees before its present occupants’.

Let us know your thoughts and insights!

 

Help with identifying local frogs

Posted on 29 July, 2021 by Jacqui

With some better rainfall in our region over the past few months, you may be noticing frogs calling in our local creeks, dams and wetter areas.

If you hear a frog call that you can’t identify, the FrogID App can be handy with identifying tricky frog calls of our region.

FrogID is Australia’s first national citizen science frog identification initiative – a project led by the Australian Museum in partnership with Australia’s leading natural history museums and IBM. It is free but you do need to create a profile to record frog calls which then uploads the records to the Australian Museum frog experts for species verification.

One of the reasons to use the FrogID app is to ensure that all frog records are verified prior to entering records into the Atlas of Living Australia (ALA), the largest database of flora and fauna records in Australia. Records entered directly in the ALA are not verified, and it was recently discovered that there were some incorrect records of frog species entered in the Mount Alexander region. The ALA contains a number of sightings in our area of Striped Marsh Frog, which was previously rare in this region. However, upon closer assessment by frog experts, they suspect the frog recordings are actually the Spotted Marsh Frog (Limnodynastes tasmaniensis), not the Striped Marsh Frog (Limndoynastes peroni). The two calls are similar and easily confused.

This is an important case study of how incorrect identification can potentially affect distribution datasets. This is not the case with the Victorian Biodiversity Atlas, as every record submitted by users is verified for possible errors or mistaken identification.

The frog recordings submitted via the FrogID app are often verified in less than 24 hours, and it is a great resource to improve your skills and learn a lot more about frogs along the journey.

In just one year, FrogID generated the equivalent of 13% of all frog records collected in Australia over the last 240 years – an amazing effort! The submitted recordings have resulted in over 66,000 validated calls and detected 175 of Australia’s 240 known native frogs.

The data has provided information about:

  • Impacts of climate change and pollution on Australia’s frogs including the first evidence of the decline in Sydney of the Australian Green Tree Frog.
  • Spread of the invasive Cane Toad.
  • Breeding populations of 28 globally threatened and 13 nationally threatened frog species.

The FrogID science blog has some interesting articles on frog ID and what happens for frogs in urbanised environments.

To download the FrogID App – click here

Location of all frog records for the first year of FrogID in Australia (image: ALA)

 

Lets celebrate our region’s wonderful Landcare: new video launched

Posted on 29 July, 2021 by Ivan

We love our Landcare community! We are forever grateful for the restoration and revegetation projects Landcare and Friends groups have achieved over the past decades and all of the volunteers hours they dedicate to our natural landscape. This needs to be celebrated!

Connecting Country is excited to announce that we have recently completed our ‘Landcare Celebration’ video, a tribute to our hardworking and passionate groups across the Mount Alexander region in central Victoria. 

The video features a number of Landcare volunteers talking about why Landcare is important to our community and the vast diversity of projects across our region. Landcare is for everyone, including the natural landscape and all its diversity, and is a great way to meet your neighbours and make new friends.

We could have made a few full-length movies about our wonderful Landcare groups if the budget was unlimited, but we have had to settle on a 5-minute video. We also have a shorter version of the video, for promotion and social media.

To watch the full 5-minute version of the Landcare Celebration video, please click here.

To watch the 1-minute version of the Landcare Celebration video, please click here.

(Please note that we are hoping to add subtitles as soon as we can.)

“I have seen first-hand what community groups can achieve and the real difference they make on the ground every day,” says Asha Bannon, Mount Alexander Region Landcare Facilitator. “We hope that this video will give our broader community a snapshot of the opportunities that Landcare can give you to help care for our precious local environment, while also having some fun!”

The video would not have been possible on our budget without co-sponsorship from our favorite film-media company, MRL Media, who have generously funded part of the video production. We really enjoyed working with Steve and his team on the development and production and would like to thank them for helping us out make this project happen with professional outcomes.

This project was funded through the Mount Alexander Shire Council Community Grants Program, which contributed to the costs associated with making the video, as well as some hours for our amazing Community Engagement Coordinator, Ivan Carter.

Connecting Country would like to say a heartfelt thank you to the many community members who played crucial roles in making this video special, including Beth Mellick, Uncle Rick Nelson, Ian Higgins, Marie Jones, Drew Marshall, Jane Rusden, Brian Bainbridge, and the Landcare Steering Group.

Landcare in our region

Landcare is about caring for your land and your local area so it continues to support our community and natural resources for generations to come. This volunteer movement began in Victoria in 1986 and there are now more than 600 Landcare Groups in Victoria, with around 30 in the Mount Alexander region surrounding Castlemaine.

Landcare and Friends Groups care for our land through practical actions like revegetation, weed and pest control, erosion control, improving water quality, and helping farmers be more sustainable. They also engage and support community members through workshops, interpretive signs, recording history, building walking tracks, and more.

Intrepid Landcare working bee with Ian Higgins from Friends of Campbells Creek. Photo: Asha Bannon.

Get involved

Joining a Landcare or Friends group is a great way to actively help your local environment and get to know local people. You can get involved at any level, from dropping in to a working bee occasionally to taking a management role.

Visit the Landcare page on our website to learn more about local Landcare and how to contact your nearest group – click here

 

Online event: ‘The Sleepy Lizard’, Friday 9 July 7.30pm

Posted on 8 July, 2021 by Ivan

Our friends at Castlemaine Field Naturalists Club are hosting a wonderful online event called ‘Behavioural ecology of the Sleepy Lizard: when life gets tough, monogamy has its advantages’

The event is via the Zoom platform and features guest speaker, Dr Greg Kerr, from the Nature Glenelg Trust. Greg will be talking about the Shingleback or Stumpytail Lizard, also known as the Sleepy Lizard, and its unique behaviour and habitat requirements.

Please read on for details from Castlemaine Field Naturalists Club website.

Monthly Meeting – Friday 9 July, 7.30pm, by Zoom

Guest speaker: Dr Greg Kerr, Nature Glenelg Trust

“Behavioural ecology of the Sleepy Lizard: when life gets tough, monogamy has its advantages”

Victorians will know the Sleepy Lizard as the Shingleback or Stumpytail. For our July monthly meeting, Dr Greg Kerr, Senior Ecologist, Nature Glenelg Trust, will give fascinating new insight into the social behaviour of this species. In mammal and bird species there are many advantages of monogamy, particularly where parental care is critical to successful reproduction.

Sleepy lizards are socially monogamous and a male will closely follow a female for many weeks prior to mating. Greg’s research into the behavioural ecology of sleepy lizards leads to a rejection of the old idea that males are guarding the females, but rather suggests that it is the female who wears the pants in this relationship!

The meeting will be held by Zoom. If you have not joined earlier webinars and wish to attend, please email Peter Turner at munrodsl@iinet.net.au

Not so Sleepy Lizards! Learn more at our July meeting. (photo: Jenny Rolland)

 

Seeds of resilience – Friday 11 June 2021

Posted on 9 June, 2021 by Ivan

Our project partners and friends at Castlemaine Field Naturalists Club are hosting an online event called ‘Seeds of Resilience – planting for the future!’

The event is via the Zoom platform and features guest speaker Julie Radford, Ecologist at Bush Heritage. Julie will be talking about Bush Heritage’s experimental revegetation project that aims to build climate resilience into the woodlands of their Nardoo Hills reserve, located near Weddeburn in north west Victoria.

The event is sure to provide some practical lessons for adapting to future climate scenarios and planning future revegetation projects. Please read on for details from Castlemaine Field Naturalists Club.

‘Seeds of Resilience’ – planting for the future!

 Friday 11 June 2021 at 7.30 pm, by Zoom

Guest speaker: Julie Radford, Ecologist, Bush Heritage

The grassy woodland habitat of the Bush Heritage Nardoo Hills Reserve in Central Victoria is important for many flora and fauna species, but especially the threatened temperate woodland bird community. Over the last 10 years, it was noticed that the hotter drier conditions due to climate change were resulting in eucalypt dieback in some areas of the reserve. Julie will tell us about the experimental revegetation project that has been implemented to build climate resilience into the woodlands of the reserve. Climate modelling is being used to predict future environmental conditions. Seeds have been collected from different provenances in more northerly regions that support eucalypts adapted to a hotter, harsher environment. With the help of volunteers, large numbers of seedlings grown from these seeds are being planted in the reserve. Julie will also describe the different strategies introduced to improve the success of the plantings.

The meeting will be held by Zoom. If you have not joined earlier webinars and wish to attend, please email Peter Turner at munrodsl@iinet.net.au

 

 

 

Healthy dams event 2021 – last chance to book!

Posted on 25 May, 2021 by Ivan

We have just SIX tickets remaining for our Healthy Dams event on 5 June 2021, which is part of our Healthy Landscape project. Book now to avoid disappointment for what will surely be a great education event.

‘Healthy dams’ will be hosted by Connecting Country and local ecologist, Karl Just, who has a natural wonder and fascination with aquatic plants and animals, and their importance to farming and biodiversity. We have planned this in-person event at a stunning private property in Taradale VIC, which fronts the Coliban River and has several farm dams.

This event is part of our ‘Healthy Landscapes’ project, funded through the Australian Government’s Smart Farms program.

The workshop will cover:

  • How to improve the health of dams and ponds.
  • Suitable plants for waterways and revegetation of aquatic areas.
  • Frogs, wildlife and improving water quality.
  • Options for stock management and nutrient management.

We will have the opportunity to tour two dams on the property and the Coliban River at the farm in Taradale.

Dams and ponds provide vital farm infrastructure, as well as habitat for many invertebrates, amphibians and birds, and sometimes even mammals. The workshop will explore how to create and maintain healthy waterways for the benefit of people, farm productivity and the natural environment.

The event will be on Saturday 5 June 2021 from 1.00 to 2.30 pm in Taradale, VIC. It’s sure to be popular and tickets are limited. To book please – click here 

Healthy farm dams can boost farm productivity while supporting native wildlife and providing clean water (photo by Australian National University)

 

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 presenter – Karl Just

Karl is an established ecological consultant and researcher based here in Castlemaine VIC. He has dedicated his time to providing environmental management plans for parks and reserves, conducting flora and fauna surveys and educating the community on improving our natural environment. He has a particular interest in the beautiful and threatened species, the Eltham Copper Butterfly, as well as searching for other endangered species in our region. Karl has a focus on wetlands and waterway surveys, as well as management planning.

 

 

Meet the Rakali and Platypus – 14 and 15 May 2021

Posted on 12 May, 2021 by Ivan

The Castlemaine Field Naturalists Club (CFNC) is a wonderful collection of community members interested in the natural history of central Victoria. Connecting Country has collaborated with CFNC on multiple projects, and is constantly amazed by their level of knowledge and passion for the natural world.

CFNC conducts monthly talks on a variety of interesting topics relevant to our region. This month’s talk and excursion will focus on the Rakali (Native Water Rat or ‘Australia’s otter’) and Platypus. The Rakali has a low profile in the community, with many landholders knowing little about this mysterious and very attractive ‘otter-like’ native rodent.

Rakali in the Loddon River, Newstead (photo by Geoff Park)

 

Please read on for more details from CFNC regarding their talk and excursion.

You may also enjoy revisiting some of our previous posts about Rakali and Platypus:

  • Escaping the trap to reduce platypus deaths – click here
  • Good news for Coliban platypus population – click here
  • Rakali: our native otter – click here
  • Some little known facts about platypus – click here

 

Friday 14 May 2021 – Monthly meeting

Guest Speaker:  Geoff Williams (Australian Platypus Conservancy) on Understanding Rakali – Australia’s ‘Otter’

The platypus is widely recognised as a uniquely Australian animal.  By comparison, relatively few people know that the Australian water-rat (Hydromys chrysogaster) is a genuine native rodent that was a natural part of our environment long before the arrival of its pest cousins – the black rat and brown rat.  The water-rat (also known as rakali) possesses a thick coat of soft fur, splendid whiskers, blunt muzzle, partly webbed hind feet and furry tail, all helping to create a resemblance to a miniature otter.  Geoff will outline the biology and key conservation requirements of this fascinating native mammal and provide tips on how to go about spotting it in local waterways.

The meeting will be held by Zoom.  If you have not joined earlier webinars and wish to attend, please email Peter Turner at munrodsl@iinet.net.au

Saturday 15 May 2021 – Excursion to  Campbells Creek Rakali and Platypus habitat

Leader: Geoff Williams

Meet at 8 am at the ‘Octopus’, opposite the Castle Motel, Duke St, Castlemaine VIC – early start for early rising animals!

Join Geoff on a field trip along Campbells Creek to learn how to look for rakali and platypus in the wild.  He will also talk about opportunities for becoming involved in the Australian Platypus Monitoring Network (APMN) to help track how these species are faring in local waterways.

Please comply with current government COVID-safe requirements on the day.

The field trip will be cancelled in extreme weather conditions.

 

 

 

Old trees draw a crowd

Posted on 28 April, 2021 by Ivan

The old trees of Harcourt North had plenty of admiration from the strong crowd of 40 people at our ‘Caring for old trees’ event on Saturday 24 April 2021 at Hillside Acres in Harcourt North, Victoria. It was a day to remember, with still mild weather and two excellent guest speakers to educate participants about the beauty, benefits, importance and biodiversity of the old trees in our region. The event was our first face-to-face event in over 12 months and formed part of our ‘Healthy Landscapes’ project, funded through the Australian Government’s Smart Farms program.

The event was hosted by two local leading naturalists, Jarrod Coote and Tanya Loos, who coincidentally both previously worked with Connecting Country. The workshop involved a tour of the lovely Hillside Acres farm in Harcourt North, including some amazing old trees that have been estimated to be 300-400 years old. The walk and talk included how to look after older trees in the landscape, why they are important to farming and biodiversity, and methods of protection and providing succession.

Guest speaker Tanya Loos explaining the importance of grazing management and protection of old trees in the landscape (photo by Ivan Carter)

 

Tanya covered some excellent points on how old trees provide vital farm infrastructure, as well as habitat for many birds, arboreal mammals, microbats, and insects. Jarrod covered some great insights about how to integrate healthy farming with a healthy landscape. He also provided practical advice on how to care for old trees so they remain part of our local landscape, and how to ensure the next generation of old trees.

The audience was fascinated to learn about the importance of Mistletoe in our landscape and the number of native animals it supports with its fruits, leaves and flowers. Also of interest was the importance of dead trees in the landscape, particularly to birds of prey and bats.

This large old Yellow Box (Eucalyptus melliodora) is estimated to be 300-400 years old (photo by Ivan Carter)

 

For those interested in local trees, Friends of the Box-Ironbark Forests (FOBIF) has developed an excellent ‘Eucalypts of the Mount Alexander Region’ book. This 90-page guide book is well suited to beginners. In plain language, and generously illustrated, it presents most of the Eucalypt species that flourish in the Mount Alexander region of central Victoria. Copies are available from Stoneman’s Bookroom in Castlemaine and via FOBIF website – click here

Many thanks to Tanya and Jarrod for their outstanding knowledge and passion for landscape restoration, and also to Jarrod and Rebecca at Hillside Acres for sharing their unique and inspiring farm.

This section of the farm has extensive revegetation planting, bringing a variety of birds back into the landscape (photo by Jacqui Slingo)

 

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.

The next event on our education calendar will be a wetland restoration tour in early June 2021. Please stay tuned. 

 

 

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 for 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 for 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 for 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.