Restoring landscapes across the Mount Alexander Region

Climate change resilience workshops in Castlemaine

Posted on 27 February, 2020 by Ivan

Our fabulous Castlemaine Community House is offering a series of three workshops to assist individuals and families to develop resilience around the climate crisis. The workshops will be facilitated by Dr Susie Burke, environmental psychologist and therapist, and member of Psychology for a Safe Climate.

  • Where: Castlemaine Community House, 30 Templeton St, Castlemaine VIC
  • When: Please refer to times and dates for each workshop below
  • Cost: $15, or $10 concession (or if booking for more than one person)
  • How to book:  Please book directly with Castlemaine Community House online via the website links below.

Further information regarding the workshops is available from Castlemaine Community House via their website (click here) or by telephone at (03) 5472 4842

Coping with Climate Change

Date: Wednesday 11 March 2020
Time: 6.30 pm – 8.30 pm
To book: click here

An experiential workshop to help people deal with grief and anxiety, come to terms with the climate emergency, and stay engaged in solutions.

This workshop is for anyone who is deeply concerned about the impacts of climate change on the things they love and care about, and would like to explore with others how to come to terms with the climate crisis and cope with distressing thoughts and feelings.

Participants will learn techniques for making room for uncomfortable feelings, free themselves from self-defeating thoughts and urges, cultivate a perspective of active hope, and increase their capacity to be present and focus on what matters in the context of the climate emergency.

Deep Adaptation to Climate Change

Date: Monday 23 March 2020
Time: 6.30 pm – 8.30 pm
To book: click here

A workshop to help people start to come to terms with the climate emergency, and stay engaged in solutions.

In this workshop participants will discuss and begin to work out what ‘Deep Adaptation’ could mean (and what it doesn’t).  Four questions guide the work on Deep Adaptation:

  • Resilience: what do we most value that we want to keep and how?
  • Relinquishment: what do we need to let go of so as not to make matters worse?
  • Restoration: what could we bring back to help us with these difficult times?
  • Reconciliation: with what and whom shall we make peace as we awaken to our mutual mortality?

Parent Workshop – Talking with Children about Climate Change

Date: Monday 30 March 2020
Time: 6.30 pm – 8.30 pm
To book: click here

A workshop which aims to help parents think through the impact of climate change on their children, cope with that knowledge themselves, whilst at the same time supporting their children to cope with climate change now and in the future.

By attending this workshop participants will be able to:

  • Think through how they, as parents, can respond to the current reality of climate change and the threat of worse impacts to come.
  • Learn strategies for coping with the ‘uncomfortable truths’ of climate change
  • Gather ideas about how to support their children to cope with it.
  • Learn about the skills and capacities that our children, the next generation, will need for engaging in efforts to restore a safe climate, and for adapting to the inevitable changes ahead.

 

Facilitator: Dr Susie Burke PhD FAPS
Dr Susie Burke is an environmental psychologist, therapist, climate change campaigner and parent, currently working in private practice in Castlemaine.  She is a Fellow of the Australian Psychological Society, and author of the Climate Change Empowerment Handbook and other articles and resources on the psychology of climate change.  She consults, and runs workshops and individual sessions to help people cope with and come to terms with climate change, with a particular interest in how to raise children in and for a climate altered world.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What scat is that? – take the quiz

Posted on 27 February, 2020 by Ivan

Have you ever been out walking and wondered ‘what scat is that?’ You can call it scat, faeces, or just plain poo, but if you’re not too squeamish, you can learn a lot from animal poo. Wild animal poo is known as scat, and it can be very useful in working out what species are nearby because each type of scat is different. It is a fascination among the scientific world and the broader community alike.

Of course, some scat will begin to dry out and look different with age, so if you really know your business, you’ll be able to tell how long ago the animal was there. It is well known that Koala poo, for example, goes from a moist green to something that looks more like dried out grass pellets. Regardless of the name you give it, most people go out of their way to avoid digested animal waste – but not the most dedicated scientists and animal lovers.

If you’re interested in finding out more about the animal world, identifying scats can tell you a lot about a creature, including what they eat, where they go and even how they live. The ABC has created a fun ‘What scat is that’ online quiz, which has excellent images and questions to assist learning. It is part of the ABC’s ‘How to Summer’ science series, which covers a variety of topics including ants, sea-creatures and scats.

Take the scat quiz to test your skills and learn a bit more about another survey technique and potential curiosity wonder!

To take the quiz – click here

Cube-shaped faeces

Around two centimetres wide and high, this scat forms almost a perfect cube. Which animal left it? (photo: ABC)

 

New factsheets proving popular

Posted on 20 February, 2020 by Ivan

One of our most popular pages on the Connecting Country website is the home of our new factsheets, covering the topics of weeds, pest animals, nest boxes and revegetation. These were developed by Connecting Country staff to give practical, local information on the key topics we get the most questions about. They cover the latest locally-relevant information about managing invasive species and creating habitat for our unique biodiversity of the region. Land owners and managers comment they enjoy the local content because it’s more relevant than the generic information available elsewhere.

Following best advice on revegetation will give your plants the best chance of survival (photo by Gen Kay)

We developed the factsheets courtesy of funding from the North Central Catchment Management Authority. The factshets form part of our ‘Prickly plants for wildlife on small properties‘ project, which targeted landowners with smaller properties who are keen to manage their land as wildlife habitat, but were excluded from previous projects. Through this project we’ve helped numerous local landholders with smaller areas of remnant vegetation to protect and improve habitat on their land. We’ve supported landholders with on-ground actions such as revegetation planting, weed and rabbit control, and nest box installation, as well as delivering three popular community education events.

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

Here is a brief outline of each of the four factsheets:

  • Weed control. Weeds, or invasive plants, are one of the main extinction threats to Australia’s native plants and animals. Some weeds were introduced initially as garden plants, and others accidentally introduced and spread through seeds or plant material. Some native species become weeds if they spread aggressively beyond their natural range. To download – click here.
  • Nest boxes for wildlife. A nest box is an artificial enclosure provided for hollow-dependent animals to live and nest in. Providing a well constructed and maintained nest box on your property can provide a supplementary home for native animals where natural tree hollows are missing. To download: click here
  • Invasive pest animals. Invasive animals are a major threat to biodiversity and agriculture. They can cause long-term damage to ecosystems and have resulted in dramatic extinction rates of species across Australia. To download: click here
  • Revegetation planting with tubestock. Planting within or next to existing bush land to provide habitat for native animals can be a satisfying endeavour. Taking time to plan and prepare your revegetation will give you the best chance of seeing your plants survive to maturity. To download: click here

Further information and factsheets on a variety of restoration topics can be found on the Connecting Country website – click here.

 

Platypus citizen science workshop: Sunday 15 March 2020

Posted on 20 February, 2020 by Ivan

Our friends and partners at Friends of Campbells Creek are organising a FREE public workshop on Sunday 15 March 2020 in Campbells Creek, VIC. Experts from the Australian Platypus Conservancy will highlight the conservation needs of these animals and outline ways the community can help monitor their populations in local rivers, creeks and lakes.

The platypus rarely uses sight when underwater – its eyes normally close automatically as soon as it dives (photo: Australian Platypus Conservancy)

A practical demonstration in nearby Campbells Creek will follow the formal presentation.

Bookings can be made online – click here

For the event flyer – click here

The platypus is listed as ‘Near Threatened’ in Australia and on the International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List. For more information and maps of distribution – click here.

More details about the event are provided below, courtesy of Friends of Campbells Creek.

Community skills monitoring project

Monitoring key species of fauna and flora can teach us about the health of local ecosystems and alert us to changes in the environment. This workshop will help Landcare groups, other environmental organisations and interested individuals focus on how citizen science methods can be used to collect data about platypus and rakali populations. However, the principles involved can be applied more broadly for monitoring other species.

Presenters: Drs Melody Serena and Geoff Williams of Australian Platypus Conservancy

Proposed timetable and format:

1.00 pm Arrival, registration and welcome
1.30 pm Presentation 1: Platypus biology and conservation considerations
2.30 pm Presentation 2: Rakali biology and conservation considerations
3.15 pm Questions and afternoon tea
3.45 pm Presentation 3: Platypus and rakali spotting hints and research/monitoring techniques
4.30 pm Questions, Final summary and briefing for field session

Field-based practical session (optional extra activity for interested participants)
4.45 pm Travel to selected local field site
5.00 pm On-site briefing regarding observation session
5.15 pm Observation session
6.00 pm Debrief
6.15 pm Finish

For inquiries and email bookings: please contact Thea King on: info@focc.org.au

 

Bird of the month: the chatty Crimson Rosella

Posted on 13 February, 2020 by Ivan

Welcome to our first-ever Bird of the month, a partnership between Connecting Country and BirdLife Castlemaine District. Each month we’ll be taking a close look at one special local bird species. We’re excited to be joining forces to deliver you a different bird each month, seasonally adjusted, and welcome any suggestions from the community and our supporters. We are lucky enough to have the talented Jane Rusden from BirdLife Castlemaine District writing about the first-ever bird of the month. We know you’ll be familiar with the first bird off the ranks. We thank Jane for the following words, the first of many posts to come.

Crimson Rosella (Platycercus elegans)  

Recently I returned from a month-long conservation volunteer hiking trip pulling weeds in coastal south-west Tassie. As I sat looking out on the bush from my living room, a Crimson Rosella flew in to drink from one of the many freshly fill birdbaths around my home. It walked in that funny fashion parrots do which is slightly pigeon-toed, up to the rim of the pot base holding water and dipped its head for a drink. Using it’s incredibly dexterous foot, it then scratched its head, turned and flew off.

A mature Crimson Rosella (above) and two immature Crimson Rosellas (below) showing the different coloring (photos by Jane Rusden)

There are various races (forms, often denoted by color variation), but let’s take a look at our local Crimson Rosellas. Mature adults have a vibrant crimson head and chest, with mid to very dark blue wings and tail. Immature birds are olive green in the body and head, as they mature the crimson replaces the green. Both mature and immature birds have a mid-blue patch which extends from the lower mandible (bill) to the cheek.

Being a parrot, they have an extremely strong, down-curved bill, which is powerful enough to crack wattle and grass seeds, as well as gum nuts. Like many parrots, they are amazingly expert chewers, which is useful when renovating tree hollows in eucalyptus at breeding time. For such a powerful bill, Crimson Rosellas can use it to be very clever and delicate at manipulation of all manner of things.

 

 

 

Primarily you’ll see Crimson Rosellas in trees, thought they do wander about on the ground at times. They are a species that can be found in both the local Box Ironbark forest as well as in towns and gardens. I mentioned tree hollows – parrots need tree hollows in which to nest and raise their young. In our area much of the bush was cleared during the gold rush, which in tree terms is not that long ago. Therefore, there hasn’t been the passage of time for trees to grow old and develop tree hollows. You might like to consider putting up a Crimson Rosella nest box in your garden. I have several at my place and they are used regularly by a number of species, including Crimson Rosellas.

To listen to the varied and lovely calls of the Crimson Rosella, please click here.

 

Distribution of the Crimson Rosella (image from Atlas of Living Australia)

 

Words by Jane Rusden

 

 

 

 

 

eBird learning tool: a different approach

Posted on 6 February, 2020 by Jess

Being new to bird watching can be a daunting and exciting experience for many, with plenty of birds seemingly having similar appearances and attributes. Thankfully there are many excellent books, guides, smartphone apps and community groups that can assist with the learning of how to identify birds in your region. But we all know that practice, practice, practice is the key to getting familiar with our incredible birdlife in the field and learning from experienced bird-watchers is a great opportunity in our region (see Birdlife Castlemaine’s monthly birdwalk). To the beginner, it can very hard to tell similar species apart, such as the variety of Lorikeets in our region pictured below. Can you recognize who is who?

However, if you cannot get out into the field as often as you like, or cannot access locations to practice your bird spotting skills, there is another way to improve your skills on our local species. We’d like to introduce you to a great learning assistant: eBird Photo and Quiz

Each custom quiz presents you with 20 birds that occur at a date and location of your choosing, pulled from millions of photos and sounds added to the Macaulay Library by eBirders around the world. Guess the species—and don’t worry if you’re wrong—this challenging quiz is for your own fun and learning. After each guess, you’ll rate the photo or sound for its quality, helping curate the Macaulay Library so it is more useful for you and for science. It can be quite a challenge, but we do enjoy that you can choose any location in the world and any date, and get a different mix of birds for every quiz. Sure, it is not as good as being in the field with an expert to guide you, but it could be the next best thing. It is particularly enjoyable to listen to the sounds that go with each bird.

Give it a try, and see how many you can guess correctly.

There is also a useful smartphone app that we highlighted in a previous blog, that we find very useful: Ask Merlin, what is that bird. 

Can anyone guess this local beauty? Photo: Ebird

 

 

You are invited! Join us for the Landcare Link-up – 29 February 2020

Posted on 6 February, 2020 by Asha

Are you interested in learning more about our local Landcare/Friends groups? Maybe you want to get involved in environmental volunteering, meet like-minded people, show your support, or just want to know what Landcarers have been up to? Come along and join local volunteers at the February Landcare Link-up at the Castlemaine Uniting Church Hall.

This is the third annual Link-up dedicated to sharing the stories of Landcarers from the Mount Alexander region and highlighting some of the key projects and achievements. This year Landcarers are keen to invite the broader community and stakeholders along to be part of the journey and learn from the various groups in our region. The Link-up is always a casual and fun affair, with stories from a variety of groups and plenty of time for chatting over hot drinks and snacks.

To read about the Sharing Stories Landcare Link-up in 2019, please click here.

When: Saturday 29 February 2020, 4:00-7:00 pm

Where: Castlemaine Uniting Church Hall, 24 Lyttleton St, Castlemaine Victoria, Australia.

RSVP: by February 24 2020 to asha@connectingcountry.org.au or call (03) 5472 1594

Click here to download the invitation for the Landcare Link-up.

 

Become a Connecting Country Member: Join us on our landscape restoration journey

Posted on 6 February, 2020 by Ivan

We have noticed many of our supporters are not currently members of Connecting Country. The support we offer is not exclusive to our members, but we would love to sign up some new people and increase our membership in 2020. By being a member, you are showing your support for Connecting Country, and assisting us to achieve our aims and objectives. Membership provides insurance cover when you attend our events and activities or volunteer with us, and also allows you to vote at our Annual General Meeting and have a say on our future direction.

We currently have 250 valued members and would be thrilled to increase our membership to over 300 members this year. More members will assist us when applying for grants and presenting to potential funding bodies.

Membership is free, and needs to be renewed annually. Applications from first time members are submitted to the Committee of Management for official approval.

To become a member of Connecting Country for free, and help us on our mission of landscape restoration, please click here.

Connecting Country runs community education events, attracting over 1,000 attendees in the past year (photo by Ivan Carter)

 

For a quick recap of some of what we do and why it’s important, view the following video.

How Connecting Country began

In 2007, the Normal Wettenhall Foundation (now Wettenhall Environment Trust) developed a work plan for supporting community-led landscape restoration in south-east Australia. The Executive Officer contacted Friends of the Box-Ironbark Forests (Mount Alexander Region), an environment group in Castlemaine, to see if there was interest in working collaboratively across the region on a landscape restoration project. A reference group formed, eventually leading to the creation of Connecting Country.

During 2008, the project produced a Biodiversity Blueprint (click here for details) that identified our assets, the possible threats they face and what future actions we can take. It suggested directions, clarified priorities in landscape restoration and helped reconcile cultural, agricultural and natural values.

In 2009, Connecting Country worked in partnership with the North Central Catchment Management Authority to implement a program across the local landscape with a specific focus on the threatened Brush-tailed Phascogale (Tuan) and its Yellow Box Woodland habitat.

Since 2012, we have implemented programs related to local Landcare support, habitat connectivity and pest plant and animal management. We have supported development of local action plans, habitat enhancement for woodland birds, community skills training in environmental management and biodiversity monitoring. For more information on our current projects click here.

Ted Macarthy with a revegetated Acacia (photo by Leonie van Eyk)

 

Meet the team: who’s who in the Connecting Country zoo?

Posted on 30 January, 2020 by Frances

We thought it might be nice for our friends and supporters to get to know the team at Connecting Country, in case you don’t already. Over the coming blogs we will feature each member of our dedicated Connecting Country staff team, including a little about their interests and why they joined Connecting Country.

Here is an overview of our current staff and when you’ll usually find them in the office.

  • Frances Howe – Director (Monday to Thursday)
  • Asha Bannon – Landcare Facilitator (Monday to Thursday)
  • Jacqui Slingo – Landscape Restoration Coordinator (Monday to Thursday)
  • Bonnie Humphreys – Landscape Restoration Coordinator (Mondays and Thursdays)
  • Ivan Carter – Engagement Coordinator (Tuesdays and Thursdays)
  • Jess Lawton – Monitoring Coordinator (Mondays and Tuesdays)

We also want to let you know that our wonderful Asha Bannon will be taking extended leave from mid-March to September 2020. During this time, the very capable Jacqui Slingo will take over as Landcare Facilitator, while local expert Bonnie Humphreys takes the lead as Landscape Restoration Coordinator.

The team at Connecting Country, minus Ivan Carter, who is pictured below with Jess Lawton. Photos: Heather Barrett and Tanya Loos

 

 

Trust for Nature: covenanting for conservation

Posted on 30 January, 2020 by Ivan

Have you ever wondered about conservation covenants and how are they applied? Did you know that we have already lost 80% of our biodiversity on private land in Victoria? We recently caught up with Senior Conservation Officer at Trust for Nature, Kirsten Hutchison, to learn more about this important conservation measure and what it means for landowners across our biodiverse nation. Here is a summary of the questions we asked Kirsten, which we hope will assist landowners in our region better understand covenants and the work Trust for Nature do in Victoria. Kirsten has been with Trust for Nature for nearly a decade and based out of the Castlemaine Office.

What is the concept of conservation covenanting properties?

Conservation covenants are voluntary. They are agreements on property titles that enable private landholders to protect nature forever, even after the property changes hands. Conservation covenants are set up for free—costs are covered so there is no cost to the landholder—and they are one of the most important things a landholder can do to Victoria’s environment.

Why should a landowner consider covenanting a property?

Since 1835, 66% of Victoria’s native habitat has been cleared. This has been most acute on private land, where 80% of biodiversity has been lost. Around 60% of land in Victoria is currently privately owned. Victoria is the most intensively settled and cleared state in Australia so it’s critical that we protect what’s left. This makes private land protection vital if we’re going to save Victoria’s threatened species and ecosystems. National and state parks are simply not enough.

Across the state, more than 1,450 private landholders have protected threatened woodlands, wetlands and grasslands with conservation covenants. These places are home to some of Victoria’s most threatened species such as the Helmeted Honeyeater and Plains-wanderer.

Kirsten Hutchison from Trust for Nature and Jody Gunn at Bush Heritage Australia, on Bush Heritage’s Nardoo Hills Reservem which has Trust for Nature conservation covenant on it. Photo: Bush Heritage Australia.

What are the criteria for covenanting a property?

Generally a property needs to be at least 10 ha in size, have good connectivity and contain high quality remnant native vegetation. Priority is given to properties that have threatened species and vegetation types present on them. Trust for Nature is guided by its Statewide Conservation Plan which identifies 12 priority landscapes across Victoria that will make the greatest contribution towards conservation on private land. The plan also identifies 148 native plants and 88 wildlife species to target for conservation on private land.

Who do I contact about discussing conservation covenants?

Contact Trust for Nature Head Office in Melbourne on (03) 8631 5888 and they can direct you to the appropriate regional staff member. In North Central Victoria you can contact Kirsten Hutchison (Senior Conservation Officer) on 0459 168 865.

What are the restrictions on covenanted properties?

A standard covenant generally does not permit:

  • Native vegetation removal.
  • Introduction of any non-indigenous vegetation.
  • Subdivision.
  • Deterioration in the quality, flow or quantity of water.
  • Removal of wood or timber.
  • Removal or disturbance of soil or rocks, including cultivation.
  • Application of fertiliser.
  • Pasture establishment.
  • Recreational use of trail bikes and other recreational vehicles.

However, these standard restrictions can be modified in certain circumstances where the Trust is satisfied that the conservation of the land will not be adversely affected, i.e., the Trust can give permission for a temporary variation of the covenant via a ‘Letter of Approval’.  Permission granted by a letter of approval is conditional on the upholding of the conservation values of the property.

What are the benefits for biodiversity and our ecosystems?

Together with conservation covenants and reserves, we have protected more than 100,000 hectares across Victoria. This provides safe places for native animals and plants forever and helps to protect some of Victoria’s most threatened species such as the Helmeted Honeyeater, Growling Grass Frog and Red-tailed Black Cockatoo.  We also work with partner organisations such as Zoos Victoria and the Royal Botanic Gardens which rely on covenanted land for the safe release of plants and animals from captive breeding programs.

The Trust’s stewardship program provides ongoing support to landholders with a conservation covenant. The aim of the program is to ensure that all significant areas covenanted by the Trust are managed to maintain and enhance (where possible) the conservation values by preventing and controlling any threats to the biodiversity of a site. The program does this by providing the following services to landowners:

  • Practical assistance: A site management plan is prepared for each proposed covenant in consultation with the landowner during the initial covenanting process.
  • Technical advice: The Trust sources and provides technical advice to ensure landowners have access to up-to-date conservation related land management advice.
  • Education: The Trust provides resources to enable landowners to improve their knowledge about managing and monitoring their covenanted properties. This is achieved through field days, information sheets, developing flora and fauna monitoring programs and one-on-one contact with landowners.
  • Financial assistance: The Trust provides information on financial assistance that may be available from time to time for covenanters, including incentive grants for conservation activities (such as fencing, pest plant and animal control, and revegetation), rate rebate schemes with local councils, and tax concessions for the protection of covenanted properties.

Protecting and enhancing biodiversity on private land has public benefits to ecosystems and sustainable landscapes. The landowner named this paddock ‘Kirsten’s Paddock’ as a tribute to her efforts in protecting this important Plains-wanderer habitat.  (Photo by Kirsten Hutchison)

 

Trust for Nature – some general facts:

  • TfN are a not-for-profit Victorian conservation organisation and are one of Australia’s oldest conservation organisations, established by an Act of the Victorian Parliament in 1972.
  • Together with conservation covenants and reserves, has protected more than 102,000 hectares across Victoria.
  • Trust for Nature has registered more than 1,459 conservation covenants since 1986
  • Trust for Nature owns 42 nature reserves across Victoria, including the iconic Neds Corner Station, a 30,000 hectare property near Mildura that was once part of the Kidman empire.
  • Trust for Nature uses a revolving fund to buy and sell private land with high conservation values. They protect these properties with conservation covenants then on-sell them to new owners.

Watch the following video for an overview of Trust for Nature’s valuable work.

 

How to help wildlife in hot weather

Posted on 22 January, 2020 by Ivan

Central Victoria’s summers are often relentless, and don’t seem to be getting cooler and wetter anytime soon. Hence it’s a good time to reflect on the best methods of helping wildlife survive the warmer months. Thankfully, there is plenty of information already published and proven to work, which we’ve summarised in this post.

Animals Australia provides the following useful summary of priority actions that you can do to at your place to help wildlife right now.

1. Leave water out for animals

Sweltering summer days can be uncomfortable to be outside in for just a few minutes. Imagine what it’s like for animals who have no way of escaping the heat. During extreme heat waves, native animals can suffer terribly and even die. The simple act of providing them safe access to water can help them cope.

Water tips:

Birdbaths are an excellent way to provide water to thirsty animals, although they do not cater for ground-dwelling animals (photo by  Frances Howe)

  • Leave shallow dishes of water in the shade. Try to avoid metal dishes unless they’re in full shade as they will get very hot in the sun.
  • Put some dishes high up or in trees if you can, to help keep wildlife safe from predators.
  • Use shallow bowls if possible, as small birds can become trapped in deep dishes and drown. Cat litter trays can be suitable and inexpensive.
  • If you use large bowls or buckets, be sure to place some sticks, rocks and/or bricks inside to allow any trapped animals to make their way out.

2. Keep dogs and cats indoors

Not only will this help your animal companions escape the heat, but it will enable thirsty wildlife to access water in your backyard safely.

3. Cover your pool

It may feel counter-intuitive to prevent wildlife from cooling down in your pool on a hot day. But heat-stressed animals looking to cool down are at risk of drowning in the deep water. It’s not great for animals to be drinking pool water anyway as it may make them sick. Ensure animals have access to safe and fresh water sources in your yard instead.

4. Keep an eye out for heat-stressed wildlife

If you spot any critters who look like they’re struggling, call your local vet or local wildlife rescue group (for contacts – click here) for help. During natural disasters (e.g., bushfires), wildlife carers can be overwhelmed, but your local vet may be available and can assess the situation and treat injured animals (for free).

Tips for heat-stressed wildlife:

  • Be particularly mindful at dusk and at night as many nocturnal animals will be more active during this time.
  • Prepare an emergency kit to keep in your car including water, a blanket or towel, and a box. For kit suggestions – click here
  • Save a few local wildlife rescue contacts in your phone so that you can ring for advice if you need it. For contacts – click here
  • Help reduce the chances of animals being hit on the road. For details – click here

5. Share your fruit trees with hungry wildlife

The colorful Rainbow Lorikeet is well adapted to searching for backyard fruit if needed (photo by DPI WA)

Wildlife who have survived through bushfire are hungry. They have not only lost their homes, but their sources of food. During this time of ecosystem disturbance and habitat loss, it’s never been more crucial to protect species like flying foxes, who are key pollinators for many plants. The more flying foxes we can keep healthy and happy, the better our ecosystems will survive and regenerate. So consider taking down your fruit tree netting, and share some fruit with native wildlife.

6. Know what to do if you find distressed or injured wildlife

If you have found an animal who is visibly distressed, wrap them loosely in a blanket or towel if it is safe to do so, and place them in a cardboard box, before placing the box in a dark, quiet and cool place. Injured animals will often be quite frightened, so if there is a risk they may scratch or bite, wear gloves and try gently ushering them into a washing basket without touching, them instead of wrapping them in a blanket or towel.

Offer water but not food and call a wildlife carer immediately, or your local vet. Never pour water into an animals’ mouth -it’s not natural and can cause additional distress and even physical harm. Instead, provide cool water in a bowl and allow them to lap from it.

 

 

 

 

 

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

Posted on 16 January, 2020 by Ivan

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

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

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

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

What is the Victorian Biodiversity Atlas?

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

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

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

Victorian Biodiversity Atlas

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

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

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

For more information on the VBA, please click here.

 

Turtle wisdom – slow down and watch the dam

Posted on 16 January, 2020 by Ivan

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

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

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

 

Butterfly Monitoring 28 December 2019 – POSTPONED!

Posted on 27 December, 2019 by Ivan

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

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

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

Monitoring dates and locations:

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

Please book for these events – click here

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

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

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

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

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

 

ARI subscriptions for environmental research updates

Posted on 12 December, 2019 by Ivan

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

Arthur Rylah Institute

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

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

New subscription

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

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

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

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

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

 

Help monitor our endangered copper butterfly – Sunday 15 December 2019

Posted on 12 December, 2019 by Ivan

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

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

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

When: 12.00 -4.00 pm on Sunday 15 December 2019

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

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

Please book for this event – click here

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Connecting Country brochure reaches far afield

Posted on 5 December, 2019 by Ivan

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

Here is the message and photos from Kerrie:

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

Cheers and many thanks

Kerrie’

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

 

BirdLife Castlemaine walk at Leanganook – Saturday 7 December 2019

Posted on 4 December, 2019 by Ivan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Crimson Chat imitating Christmas (photo: Jane Rusden)

 

 

 

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

Posted on 28 November, 2019 by Ivan

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

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

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

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

Monitoring dates and locations:

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

Please book for this event – click here

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

Connecting Country launches brand-new brochure

Posted on 27 November, 2019 by Ivan

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

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

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

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

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

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