Restoring landscapes across the Mount Alexander Region

Butterfly count at Kalimna Park – 25 November 2018

Posted on 7 November, 2018 by Tanya Loos

Join ecologists Elaine Bayes and Karl Just on a walk searching for the endangered Eltham Copper Butterfly, hosted by Friends of Kalimna Park.

An adult butterfly, by Elaine Bayes

The Eltham Copper Butterfly was once distributed around Victoria. Now the largest surviving population of this little butterfly lives in Castlemaine – it could very well be called the Castlemaine Copper Butterfly!

Karl and Elaine will lead us on a guided walk through the bushland at Kalimna Park on the edge of Castlemaine, and show us how to look for the adult butterflies. Friends of Kalimna Park members will explain how to help the habitat of these beautiful insects.

Friends of Kalimna Park’s Annual General Meeting will be at 12.00 – 12.30 pm, followed by a light lunch, with the butterfly walk and talk starting at 1.00 pm.

When: Sunday 25 November at 12.00 noon – 3.00 pm
Where: Kalimna Point Rotunda, Kalimna Road, Castlemaine VIC
RSVP: Numbers are limited – so book now! Contact Tanya Loos, (Monitoring and Engagement Coordinator at Connecting Country) by email at tanya@connectingcountry.org.au or call our office on (03) 5472 1594.

All welcome! Please wear shoes and clothing appropriate for walking outside.

An Eltham Copper butterfly caterpillar being attended by  ants (photo by Elaine Bayes)

Elaine writes:
The reason I am fascinated with Eltham Coppers is because like many of the Blue butterfly family they have a weird and wonderful and totally dependent (obligate) three-way relationship with Notoncus ant species and Sweet Bursaria plants (Bursaria spinosa).  Notoncus ants are nocturnal ants which live underground including at the base of Sweet Bursaria plants. Eltham Coppers lay their eggs at the base of a Sweet Bursaria plant and once hatched the larvae is guided into the ant nest and protected. The larvae overwinters in the nest and ants lead them out to graze at night exclusively on the leaves of Sweet Bursaria. In return, the ants feed on sugars which are excreted by the larvae’s honeydew gland.

 

 

AGM update: Can revegetation reverse the decline of woodland birds in rural landscapes?

Posted on 25 October, 2018 by Tanya Loos

STOP PRESS! UPDATE ON OUR THREATENED SPECIES FORUM AND AGM!

In a slight variation to Connecting Country’s program for our event on 10 November 2018, our esteemed guest speaker Professor Andrew Bennett has now confirmed he will speak on:

Can revegetation reverse the decline of woodland birds in rural landscapes?’

Andrew will talk about a study of revegetation and birds in south-western Victoria (Hamilton area) that has results that may be relevant to our local revegetation work.

We’re very excited to hear this talk, as Connecting Country’s long-term bird monitoring results suggest that the answer is YES. Recent statistical analysis of our data by Dr Kerryn Herman at BirdLife Australia found that restoration sites support a high diversity of bird species (second only to gully or fertile sites). Furthermore, these restoration sites have the highest number of individual birds recorded out of all of our sites.

We’ll also hear PhD candidate Jess Lawton present her recent research on the Brush-tailed Phascogale. The updated program flier can be found here.

Beautifully revegetated bushland by Campbells Creek provides a haven for bush birds, thanks to Friends of Campbells Creek


Join our nature share

Following the popularity of our nature quiz earlier this year, we’ve planned another fun activity. This time, we ask everyone to bring along a small item of nature that they love or inspires them. It could be an object such as a feather, or an animal-themed shirt, or an artwork of some kind. Each table then decides on which item to share with the wider group. It’s a bit of fun – participation is encouraged rather than mandatory!

AGM formalities

Our annual general meeting (AGM) and threatened species forum will be held at Campbells Creek Community Centre (45 Elizabeth St, Campbells Creek VIC) from 4.00 pm – 7.00 pm, with AGM formalities taking place from 4.00 – 4.30 pm. For a copy of our agenda click here.

If you are a Connecting Country member, you are:

  • Entitled to vote on any and all relevant agenda items. Proxy forms are available if you are unable to attend the AGM, but still wish to vote. These must be received at least 24 hours before the AGM is held.
  • Able to nominate to join the Connecting Country committee. If you are interested in applying to join the committee, you are encouraged to contact the current president – Brendan Sydes – to talk about what is involved in being on the committee and the opportunities available (email: president@connectingcountry.org.au). A copy of the committee nomination form may be downloaded here.

Please contact Margaret (margaret@connectingcountry.org.au) if you are unsure if you are a member, if you’d like a proxy form, or if you’d like a copy of the 2017 AGM minutes or 2017-18 financial statements to read before the meeting.

RSVP

To ensure sufficient catering and seating, please RSVP by email to margaret@connectingcountry.org.au or call the Connecting Country team on 5472 1594.

All are welcome! Membership forms will be available if you’re not already a member of Connecting Country but would like to join.

 

 

Baringhup Birds on Farms workshop – a great partnership event

Posted on 13 September, 2018 by Tanya Loos

On 9 September 2018 about forty people gathered on a beautiful property in Baringhup to learn about Birds on Farms. The day was a joint workshop by Connecting Country and Baringhup Landcare, and the participants ranged from Connecting Country regular workshop enthusiasts, bird survey volunteers, farmers from in and around the Baringhup area and Landcare members.

Two bird surveys were conducted down on the bird survey area. Curiously each survey recorded 13 birds, though each time the species composition was different! The surveys may be seen here and here. A few new species were recorded on the day – including the Grey Fantail.

Many thanks to Roy and Caroline Lovel for being such wonderful hosts, and all the many helpers on the day, especially Jackie Brown who helped Roy wash up all the bowls and cups!

Attendee Liz Burns wrote this wonderful summary of the day. Thanks Liz!

 Birds On Farms workshop

As a long-term attender of Connecting Country’s field days, it was a pleasure to take up Tanya’s request for someone to write up today’s events. In fact, I could write a book with all the detailed notes that I’ve taken over the years.

As usual, this one hit the mark and maintained the usual high standard.

As a full-time biological farmer who relies upon our native birds for pest control and even some pollination services, and a keen lifelong observer of all the complex relationships in nature, this is a subject dear to my heart. It was even more heartening to meet other like-minded farmers with the added bonus of passionate  protectors of very old trees.

 To read Liz’s detailed notes of the speakers’ presentations click Birds-On-Farms-Field-Day-write-up

After lunch we did separate farm and birds walks: Roy led a group up to the top of the property, and Tanya and Chris conducted a bird survey on a lower restoration area.

I would like to see the Connecting Country model rolled out across the State, as the best value for money blending of agriculture, environment and Indigenous history, especially as 70% of the State is in private hands and the State does not manage Crown Land very well (in my opinion). If farmers could be helped with managing their land, incorporating environmental and cultural values, we could maximise biodiversity and future food production with a three-way partnership with farmers, environmentalists and Traditional owners.

As usual, the catering, the company and weather was of the highest standard.

Grateful thanks must go to Connecting Country and all involved, but in particular Tanya Loos for yet another fascinating and informative day.

Liz Burns, Trewella Farm, Musk

Please scroll through the following gallery of photos from the day.

 

 

‘Future-proof your restoration’ seminars

Posted on 6 September, 2018 by Tanya Loos

The recent ‘Future-proof your restoration’  seminars brought the local community together with relevant experts to discuss and share the issues we face in landscape restoration, especially the challenge of our changing climate. Seminar one (Friday 24 August 2018) explored ‘Weeds to watch’. Seminar two (Friday 31 August 2018) addressed ‘Planting for the future’.

Our excellent guest speakers shared a wealth of knowledge and experience, and their expertise was warmly received by an enthusiastic audience at both events.

Thank you to everyone who helped make these seminars successful, including our presenters, the Landcare Steering Group, and volunteers who helped behind the scenes. The seminars were funded by the North Central Catchment Management Authority, through the Victorian Landcare Program, and organised by Asha Bannon, Connecting Country’s Landcare Facilitator.

Everyone gathered to listen to our guests speak about ‘Weeds to watch’

Read on for short summaries of each event, and click on the presentation titles to download a copy of the slides. Keep an eye out for another blog post coming soon, with links to copies of the resources we had available at the events.

Weeds to watch

David started us off by talking about the ecology of weeds, and how they affect us and the environment. He gave useful advice about the most strategic ways to manage weeds effectively. David encouraged us to look at ‘absences’ of weeds on our properties and project areas, to learn to appreciate what we have achieved rather than be overwhelmed by the weeds we have yet to control. John then shared information about grassy weeds – those that are  a problem now, and those that are likely to become a bigger issue with climate change. He stressed the importance of early detection and eradication of new and emerging weeds, plus better practices to reduce their spread in the first place. For details see:

 

Planting for the future

The three presentations were very different and complemented each other beautifully! Jeroen spoke passionately about the urgent need for large-scale landscape restoration, based on his work on Bush Heritage properties in the Wedderburn and St Arnaud area – particularly the Nardoo Hills. Sacha clearly outlined a practical way to approach revegetation that buffers the changing climate, and uses scientific monitoring to guide us in that approach.  Brian took us down to the square metre level as he recounted the tale of the restoration of an urban waterway, and the return of bush birds such as Brown Thornbills to the Merri Creek. Brian also talked about the struggle many of us face when it comes to accepting and adapting to the new approaches needed to future-proof our restoration.

From left to right: Chris from Connecting Country, Jeroen, Sacha, Brian and Asha.

For details see:

 

Castlemaine Bird Walks – a recommended resource

Posted on 29 August, 2018 by Tanya Loos

In April 2018, local birder and photographer Damian Kelly published the wonderful book Castlemaine Bird Walks: A guide to walks and birds in the Castlemaine district. The book has been warmly received by the local community, selling over 500 copies, and is now in its third reprint.

As our supporters know, we’re very much into birds here at Connecting Country. Hence we thought it timely to review this useful resource for our bird survey volunteers, or anyone interested in local birds.

Castlemaine Bird Walks is a comprehensive guide to walking and birding in the Castlemaine district. There are over 200 pages covering more than 40 walking sites plus a section on ephemeral swamps. For each walk, information includes a site description, how to get there, walking guide, distance and difficulty, detailed map, likely birds, and site notes.

The Forest Creek at Golden Point site (on page 35) has been surveyed four times a year since 2010 as part of Connecting Country’s long term monitoring program, so I’m very familiar with the site and the birds there. It was great to read the history of the site, as well as accurate descriptions of the habitat of this wonderfully revegetated site. I was thrilled to see a photo of the Olive Whistler at the site, as Jane Rusden and I spotted that highly unusual sighting!

The photos are very natural and show birds as you would see them in the field, with a lot of habitat context and natural light, providing a useful identification tool. Damian has used these to great effect in a section called ‘Birds and how to identify them’. Thornbills, robins, and honeyeaters are covered comprehensively. 

This is a book written by a birdwatcher for birdwatchers! The section ‘Bird watching – tricks of the trade’ provides some helpful hints about time of day, weather, and other phenomena such as flowering and thermals.

What about data?! I was glad to see the book covers data collection in two sections: ‘Contributing to our knowledge of birds’ and ‘Record keeping’. Here Damian lists eBird and Birdata as useful tools, and highlights the benefits of collecting data for conservation purposes. On the companion website to the book, the ins and outs of exploring and recording data on both these sites is described clearly. 

This wonderful photo of a Rufous Whistler cooling off on a hot day is on Damian’s excellent companion website.

A short and informative section on ‘Gardens and birds’ is at the end of the book, which Damian has updated and extended on the companion website

I have not had a chance to test-run any of the walks, but they look accurate and easy to interpret. Local birder Chris Timewell played a considerable role in assisting Damian in the site selection and creation of the maps.

Castlemaine Bird Walks also has an ‘accessibility guide’, which describes in detail which walks are suitable for those with limited mobility, or who use an electric scooter.

 

Damian has already been a walk leader for Friends of Box Ironbark Forests on a very enjoyable outing to Gower. 

In short, whether you are an experienced birdwatcher, or a total beginner this book is ideal. It is chock-full of helpful hints, beautifully illustrated and is an essential item for your bookshelf. For those electronically minded, subscribe to the blog of the Castlemaine bird walks companion website for updates and more great photos.

The book is available at Stonemans Bookroom, and the Castlemaine Visitors Centre, as well as online via this link.

Congratulations to Damian for this wonderful contribution to the birding community of Castlemaine!

 

Baringhup Birds on Farms Workshop – Sunday 9 September

Posted on 22 August, 2018 by Tanya Loos

Join us with Baringhup Landcare and others interested in habitat restoration at Roy and Caroline Lovel’s property to explore the benefits of birds on farms
The Lovels live on a beautiful 60 hectare property at Baringhup, north of Maldon. Over the past 25 years they’ve revegetated much of the property, with a strong emphasis on supporting and sustaining bird habitat.

Research shows that increasing bird populations and diversity enhances productivity of crops, orchards and grazing land. Birds contribute to the long term health of old paddock trees, sustain native vegetation, and bring joy with their colour and song.

  • Roy and Caroline Lovel will introduce you to their property and their motivation and vision.
  • Colin Jennings will speak about his experience as a landholder with responsibility for private land within Bells Swamp, wildlife corridors, and efforts to balance farm production and the environment.
  • Tanya Loos from Connecting Country will take participants on a bird walk visiting the long term bird monitoring site on the Lovel’s property.
  • Chris Timewell, coordinator of the Birds on Farms project at BirdLife Australia, will discuss various approaches to improving woodland bird habitat on rural properties.

White-plumed honeyeaters are commonly seen in River Red Gum paddock trees. In this photo by Geoff Park, a honeyeater adds cobweb to a delicate cup nest in a eucalypt sapling.

 Donations are always welcome, and feel free to bring a plate of nibbles to share.

When: Sunday 9 September from 9:30 am – 2:30 pm
Where: 49 Hayes Rd, Baringhup VIC
This is a free event. We will serve a light lunch of soup and rolls.

What to bring:
*Shoes and clothing appropriate for walking outside in the bush.
*Binoculars if you have them (we’ll also provide some).
RSVP: Bookings and enquiries to Tanya Loos tanya@connectingcountry.org.au or call our office on 5472 1594

 

 

Small bush bird habitat created at Bradford!

Posted on 30 July, 2018 by Tanya Loos

What a difference a couple of years makes! Last Thursday, 26 July 2018, Bonnie, Frances and Tanya had the great pleasure of visiting Kerri Peacoulakis’ property in Bradford to marvel at the growth of native plant species at their direct seeding site, and also chat about bird surveying. Below is a photo of part of the site taken in September 2016, about one year after direct seeding.

Direct seeding site – photo taken 6 September 2016

Below is the same site, taken in the same direction. Note the large eucalypt with the wide crown in the left hand side of the photo.

The same site taken July 26, 2018.

The site was direct seeded in 2015, as part of Connecting Country’s Habitat for Bush Birds project. It is amazing to think that there are many tiny young plants fighting for survival under all the prolific capeweed in the first photo! The site is a bird survey site called NW-PR-03, a northwest paddock revegetation site.  The direct seeding is even more successful looking in the other direction, towards the Blue Hills area.


In the above photo, Bonnie is using a trundle wheel and a counter to carry out a direct seeding success count. These counts measure how many plants have grown, giving a standard measure of trees/shrubs per metre count. This number is comparable from site to site, and enables us here at Connecting Country to monitor the growth of our direct seeding from year to year.

The plant species in the direct seeding included a mix of local wattles, eucalypts, she-oaks, hop bush, and hakeas.

Kerri is taking on the bird survey site, by surveying the site four times per year. During our visit, we conducted a 20 minute 2 hectare count, with Kerri entering the data on her Birdata app on her smartphone. So simple! During the survey, we saw many open country species such as Red-rumped parrots, Welcome swallows and Australian magpies. Kerri said that she had observed Superb fairy-wrens on the site – a true mark of success as these little birds are NEVER recorded in a bare, open paddock! Well done Kerri and also her partner Tusker and family for a fantastic project!

Kerri, Jane ( Kerri’s mum in-law,) Bonnie and Tanya, photo by Frances.

 

Nest box workshop # 2 – Sunday 17 June 2018

Posted on 6 June, 2018 by Tanya Loos

If you already own nest boxes, or want to set some up on your property, come along to a workshop with nestbox builder and naturalist Miles Geldard. Our nest box workshop in May was extremely popular, so we are holding another similar event, but at a different location.

This workshop will be held at a beautiful Trust for Nature property at Sedgwick, north of Castlemaine. Miles Geldard will shares his extensive knowledge on the design, construction, installation and monitoring of nest boxes for wildlife. Landholder Tamsin Byrne, and Connecting Country’s Tanya Loos, will also talk briefly about habitat restoration and local birdlife. The event includes a light lunch, indoor presentation and nestbox check using a special camera.

Five sugar gliders look at the camera from within a nestbox. Photo by Max Schlachter.

 

Sunday 17 June 2018 from 10:30 am to 3:00 pm

Please RSVP, including any dietary requirements, by Wednesday 13 June to Tanya Loos by email (tanya@connectingcountry.org.au) or phone (03 5472 1594).

Attendance is free. We also have a very special door prize for a lucky attendee!

A map to the workshop location will be provided when you book.

As this is a partly outdoor event, please dress warmly, and wear shoes and clothing appropriate for walking in the bush. In the event of severe weather we will hold the workshop inside.

 

 

Joint Management Plan for the Dja Dja Wurrung Parks: provide feedback

Posted on 30 May, 2018 by Tanya Loos

Community groups and individuals are invited to take part in community consultation regarding a joint management plan for six parks in Central Victoria.

From the Parks Victoria website:

Parks Victoria has a vision to manage all parks in their surrounding landscapes, in partnership with Traditional Owners, and other government and non-government organisations and community groups. Parks Victoria is currently supporting the Dhelkunya Dja Land Management Board to involve the community in developing a plan for the joint management of the six Dja Dja Wurrung Parks held by the Dja Dja Wurrung People as Aboriginal Title.

The Draft Joint Management Plan for the Dja Dja Wurrung Parks covers the following parks:

  • Greater Bendigo National Park
  • Hepburn Regional Park
  • Paddys Ranges State Park
  • Kara Kara National Park
  • Kooyoora State Park
  • Wehla Nature Conservation Reserve

Dja Dja Wurrung Traditional Owners meeting on Country in 2017 to participate in the planning for the Dja Dja Wurrung Parks

It is expected that this joint planning process will extend to other parks within the Mount Alexander Shire in the future.

To read the plan, make a submission, or access an online survey about the plan, click here: Dhelkunya Dja Land Management Board

All submissions must be made by 19 June 2018.

 

Come frogging for World Environment Day – 5 June 2018

Posted on 23 May, 2018 by Tanya Loos

Celebrate World Environment Day 2018 with local ecologist Karl Just and Connecting Country on a special evening ‘frogging’ workshop.  

Karl Just will share his extensive knowledge of our local frogs, and help participants learn how to identify frogs by their calls, and by sight. The evening will also cover how we can look after frogs and their habitat. The workshop is free, and includes hot drinks and snacks and a frog identification guide.

A Spotted Marsh Frog (Limnodynastes tasmaniensis) photographed by Peter Robertson

When: Tuesday 5 June 2018 from 4:30 to 7:30 pm

Where: Meet out the front of Newstead Community Centre (9 Lyons St, Newstead VIC) and carpool to a private property in Strangways

What to bring: Sturdy shoes, long pants, warm and weather-appropriate clothes, torch (as it will be dark around 5:30 pm)

The workshop will be strictly limited to fifteen participants so make sure you book!

RSVP: to Asha by Monday 4 June to asha@connectingcountry.org.au

Enquiries: (03) 5472 1594

 

Nestbox workshop – a sweet success!

Posted on 17 May, 2018 by Tanya Loos

Connecting Country’s Nestboxes for Wildlife workshop on Sunday 6 May 2018 was blessed with fine weather, a great presenter, and sightings of a little sugar glider family via our special nestbox camera. The workshop was held at a local Trust for Nature property owned by Jan Hall, a long-time Connecting Country friend and supporter. Jan kindly opened her home so we could view a presentation inside, and enjoy an al fresco lunch under the grapevines.

Our presenter, Miles Geldard, has had a long career in natural resource management, including working as a Land for Wildlife Officer and park ranger. But most relevant for us, Miles shared his in-depth understanding of the design, construction, installation and maintenance of nestboxes, gained over many years of observation and trail-and-error.

Information from Miles’ presentation will be summarised and made available as a fact sheet on our website.

Here is some of the wonderful feedback we received following the workshop:

  • ‘Loved the day. Will inspire us to put some boxes up on our 7.5 acres.’
  • ‘The finer points from Miles’ experience were very helpful.’
  • ‘Loved the ad hoc discussion in the field of what’s happening with the boxes. Damage, placement, etc.’
  • ‘Learnt new things about nesting boxes (been making them for thirty years).’

This workshop was very popular and was fully booked. Therefore we are holding a repeat workshop on Sunday 17 June 2018. Bookings are essential. If you would like to attend, please contact us by email (tanya@connectingcountry.org.au) or phone (5472 1594).

Many thanks to Miles, Jan, Asha, Frances and Duncan for their help on the day! And many thanks to the Wettenhall Environment Trust for the funding that made this workshop possible.
Please enjoy this gallery of photos from the afternoon.

 

 

 

 

Eastern Yellow Robin Talk – Thursday 31 May 2018

Posted on 16 May, 2018 by Tanya Loos

All are welcome to join Lana Austin of Monash University in Newstead next week as she unpacks the bizarre genetic story of what is known (and not known) about the Eastern Yellow Robin. Lana will also explain how volunteers can participate in this fascinating genetic study.

When:  Thursday 31 May, 2018 at 7 pm
Where: Newstead Community Centre: the Mechanics Hall (Lyons St, Newstead VIC)

This is a free event, with no need to book!

We featured the Eastern Yellow Robin project on the blog last week – read the story here if you missed it.  And click here for a poster about the event.

A stunning Eastern Yellow Robin, photo by Geoff park. Wonder which genotype THIS one is?!?

 

 

Learning about caring for large old trees

Posted on 3 May, 2018 by Tanya Loos

On Saturday 28 April 2018, over 30 people gathered at the Guildford Saddle Club to learn about the value and care of our old eucalypt trees. This was a joint Connecting Country and Mount Alexander Shire event, and part of the council’s Sustainable Living Series. Tanya Loos (Connecting Country) was the presenter, and we also heard from Bonnie Humphreys (Connecting Country), Kylie Stafford (Mount Alexander Shire Council) and Bev Philips (Maldon Urban Landcare Group). One of the participants, Vicki Webb kindly volunteered to write this post about the workshop. Thanks Vicki, and to all involved in this most successful workshop. Further information about caring for large old trees will be posted on the Connecting Country website in the next couple of weeks. 

Bev is dwarfed by a huge and healthy grey box. Photo by Bonnie Humphreys.

Is there anything old eucalypts can’t do? They are a keystone habitat structure in Mt Alexander Shire, providing resources critical to species diversity – that was the message from Connecting Country on a perfect-autumn-day workshop under the box gums at the Guildford Saddle Club.

Just about all parts of these majestic trees sustain a huge number of mammal, bird, reptile and insect species. Hollows in the trunk, branches and dead stumps provide shelter and nesting sites. The tough leaves are a source of food, moisture and shelter. Flowers, buds and nuts feed a large variety of species. The bark shelters bats and insects. And at the end of the tree’s life, it decomposes and provides nutrients for the soil and trees of the future.

I’d heard that hollows take at least 100 years to develop, but was amazed to learn that up to five centuries are required to form a hollow large enough to host a powerful owl or black cockatoo nest. And if we want a diverse range of species on our land, we need habitat that has at least three and up to ten trees old enough to form hollows for each hectare.

 We came along to learn what we can do to help our trees reach these kinds of phenomenal ages. An important message was not to fuss too much. Tree health is largely determined by soil, and falling branches and leaf litter should be left in place as habitat and natural fertiliser. We should avoid adding fertiliser, to avoid nutrient overload. However, we can actively assist nutrient cycling by planting deep-rooted perennials like native lilies and grasses around the tree’s drip line.

Some people said they try to help their eucalypts by removing remove native mistletoe, which takes hold in trees already under stress. We learned that this parasitic plant actually provides valuable resources such as prime foraging and nesting sites for birds such as the diamond firetail, as well as providing fruit, nectar and nutrient-rich leaves to feed a host of other species.

We learnt that echidna mothers find piles of woody debris of sticks, branches and leaves the perfect place to leave their young while they forage in their territory for days at a time. This message was very timely for me … just a few days later I spotted my resident echidna burrowing into the pile in my yard left over from fire season preparations, and destined for the mulcher. It hadn’t occurred to me that piles like these should be dismantled before burning, otherwise the puggles (baby echidnas) will have no chance of escape. Even better, woody debris can be left in place to create habitat for woodland birds before decomposing into the soil, or put into a dam to help create wetland habitat. I’m more than happy for my ‘mulch pile’ to remain in place as some choice habitat.

This workshop reminded me of how important our old eucalypts are, and has inspired me to make sure this precious resource is well looked after on my property.

Vicki Webb, landholder from Sandon

 

Eastern Yellow Robin – more than meets the eye!

Posted on 2 May, 2018 by Tanya Loos

Monash University is conducting an amazing study on the genetics of a local woodland bird, the Eastern yellow robin right here on our doorstep in the Muckleford and Newstead forests. Lana Austin from Monash University is living in the Newstead area and coordinating volunteers for mist netting of Eastern yellow robins, and wild observation of banded robins. Lana introduces the project below.

Information evening and local bird banding project

Eastern yellow robins. A common woodland species. Not endangered. No fancy breeding displays. Easy to spot. So why is Monash University putting so much effort into following every move of these birds?

Well, it turns out they are more remarkable than once thought.

Recently we discovered two unexpected genetic lineages in our familiar robins. These lineages lie neatly to the east and west of the Great Dividing Range. While they are genetically distinct, even with the best pair of Swarovski binoculars the two lineages look exactly the same to the human eye.

Here’s where it gets really interesting. Along the east and west boundary there are sites where the two genetic lineages coexist (e.g., Muckleford State Forest, Crusoe Reservoir, Bendigo). So, they are hanging out together but maintaining ‘genetic purity’. This means that while we can’t see the difference, the birds can.

We are witnessing the Eastern yellow robins split into two species!

This raises some interesting questions. How do the robins know that a potential mate is the same genetic lineage? What happens when they mate with a different lineage? Would they prefer to mate with a different lineage, or not at all? How successful are the hybrid offspring?

Later in May (date being finalised), Lana will be giving  a presentation  as she unpacks what is known (and not known) about the Eastern yellow robin. Volunteers are most welcome to join the field team from the 5-10 May on their colour banding project. Email lana.austin@monash.edu for more information.

For info on the Eastern Yellow Robin Project website click here 

 

Homes for birds and mammals: nest box workshop Sunday 6 May 2018

Posted on 26 April, 2018 by Tanya Loos

Are you considering enhancing your property by adding a few homes for wildlife? Rosellas, pardalotes, kookaburras and owlet-nightjars will readily use nest boxes. Many mammals will use them too, including possums, bats, sugar gliders and brush-tailed phascogales!

Autumn is an ideal time of year to install nest boxes, according to Miles Geldard, who has designed and constructed thousands of nest boxes. Animals are seeking warm and secure homes before winter.

If you already own nest boxes, or want to set some up on your property, come along to an afternoon workshop with Miles and Connecting Country in McKenzie Hill, near Castlemaine.

A Tuan in a nest box, by Jess Lawton

 

Sunday 6 May 2018 from 12:00 midday to 3:30 pm

Miles Geldard shares his extensive knowledge on the design, construction, installation and monitoring of nest boxes for wildlife

Includes light lunch, indoor presentation and nestbox check using a special camera

We will also have a very special door prize for a lucky attendee!

Connecting Country has an extensive nest box monitoring program. We encourage any landholders who are hosting some of the 400 nest boxes in the region to attend! For more on our nest box program click here.

Please RSVP including any dietary requirements by 2 May 2018 by email (tanya@connectingcountry.org.au) or phone (5472 1594).

 

 

 

Birdata app and portal – an exciting new step

Posted on 19 April, 2018 by Tanya Loos

Recording bird surveys has just become much easier for a lot of keen bird people in our local area! Last Friday (13 April), over 20 bird survey volunteers gathered at the Castlemaine Botanical Gardens Tea Rooms to hear about BirdLife Australia’s smartphone app and bird data website.

Andrew Silcocks from BirdLife Australia manages the Bird Atlas – a comprehensive map of the distribution and numbers of Australian birds. Over the course of three very enjoyable hours, we learned how our data collection helps in bird conservation, how to use the very user-friendly app, and how to examine bird information on the portal known at Birdata.

And we were all very happy to hear Chris Timewell, BirdLife Australia’s Woodland Bird Project Coordinator (formerly Director of Connecting Country), present on the Birds on Farms research project. A separate blog post about the Birds on Farms project will follow soon.

Andrew Silcocks and Chris Timewell from BirdLife Australia

 

Connecting Country has been an affiliate organisation of BirdLife Australia since 2015. The two organisations are both bird mad (of course!), and collect and share bird data with one another. Connecting Country’s long term monitoring program has sent BirdLife over 20,000 individual records for their Birdata bird mapping project, and we have also extracted data from BirdLife to help with our reporting.

The Birdata app 

The feedback from participants was wonderful! The app is surprisingly easy to use – the phone finds your location, then you give it a site name, add the survey information such as the type of survey, and then simply start counting birds! So for those of you who were unable to attend the workshop, the following comments may encourage you to visit the Birdata website, download the app and have a go!

‘Really clearly explained, and I found the app easy to use’

‘I used Birdata extensively up until about 2 years ago so this provided a valuable update’

‘I had never previously used this app but I now feel very confident to conduct and submit surveys’

‘Opened my eyes to the power of the app AND the portal’.

To download the app click here. In the help section of the Birdata website here, there are short instructional YouTube videos and printed information on the portal and the app. These also might be useful for those of you who attended the workshop and would like a refresher.

The Birdata portal

The Birdata website is referred to as a portal. Once you are logged in, you can see your surveys and all your data. You can edit and change surveys you have done, such as correct a misidentified bird or refine the location.

You can also share your surveys with other people, such as on social media or by email. Any person doing bird surveys for one of our ‘official’ monitoring programs (such as the KBA monitoring, the Perkins surveys, or the Connecting Country sites) can send their data directly to BirdLife using the app if they wish. This saves on time and double handling. However, also emailing a copy of your surveys to us here at Connecting Country will help with keeping track of our bird survey program. Of course, those people who wish to stay with the old pen and paper method are most welcome to do so!

A fantastic feature of the portal is the ability to generate an up-to-the-minute bird list of any area of any size simply by drawing a polygon on the Birdata map. I used this function today to supply a bird list to Sutton Grange Landcare group. See the ‘Explore’ button on the portal for this feature.

Many many thanks to Andrew Silcocks for such an enjoyable and informative workshop! We would also like to thanks the Wettenhall Environment Trust for funding the workshop.

Say ‘swift parrot’! Workshop attendees were all smiles on a beautiful autumn day.

 

 

 

 

 

Workshop: the ecology and care of large old eucalypts – 28 April 2018

Posted on 17 April, 2018 by Tanya Loos

Large old trees, their ecology and care –  a two hour workshop in Guildford on Saturday 28 April. This short workshop will be presented by Tanya Loos from Connecting Country in partnership with the Mount Alexander Shire Council. It includes a walk through the Guildford Recreation reserve.

Our old eucalypts are incredibly valuable to local fauna. Studies show koalas prefer large old trees as their branches are broad and comfortable. Old trees are superior nectar producers to their young cousins, with masses of blossom providing abundant nectar to honeyeaters, bees and flying foxes. Their seed production is better too, with old trees producing more and better quality seed.

And then there are the hollows! Hundreds of animal species cannot survive without the hollows that large old trees provide. Possums, sugar gliders, bats, rosellas, owls, geckos and many more critters need hollows to shelter and to raise young.

A magnificent candlebark on Yapenya ( Mount Barker)

So come along and find out how we can care for these living treasures! We’ll discuss the mistletoe question (answer: leave it!), what large old trees really can’t stand, and what to plant beneath large old trees to keep them healthy and happy.

Saturday 28 April 2018 at 10:30 am – 12:30 pm

Please book or make inquiries through Mount Alexander Shire Council:  call 54711700, or info@mountalexander.vic.gov.au

 

Historic gum trees of Maldon – Nature News April 2018

Posted on 12 April, 2018 by Tanya Loos

April’s Nature News was written by Sarah Edwards, who completed her internship at Connecting Country, and Bev Phillips from Maldon Urban Landcare Group.  This story featured in the Midland Express on 10 April 2018.

If you want to explore some of the ‘living treasures’ featured in this month’s Nature News, Bev Phillips is leading a walk for a Maldon Focus Quarterly Conversation on Saturday 5 May at 1.30 pm. See here for more information.

Red Box at St Brigid’s Catholic Church Maldon.

This story began in 2010, when the late Wendy French from Maldon Urban Landcare Group (MULGA) noticed some large pre-European settlement indigenous eucalypt trees located within Maldon, and was very interested in discovering how old they were. Wendy studied approximately 20 trees in town and estimated their age.

Six years later, MULGA continued the work Wendy had started. Firstly, there was an original Red Box tree, estimated at 295 years of age, at an intersection that was being re-designed. Then there was a planning proposal for a retirement village to be developed on the site of a Maldon church, where there were four eucalypts estimated as between 185-430 years old. MULGA wanted protection of the trees during construction, and for an existing Petanque piste to not be moved close to the area the four trees. These issues re-ignited the notion of protecting old indigenous trees, as MULGA discovered the trees were not listed or protected under the heritage overlay.

In 2017, MULGA members organised a field day to search for all indigenous eucalypts in Maldon that could be classified as being over 165 years old, hence existing before European settlement in 1852. With the help of Frances Cincotta, from Newstead Natives, MULGA members identified, photographed and recorded GPS coordinates for the trees, and used standardised measurements and published growth rates to estimate their age.

They identified 61 likely pre-1852 eucalypts, including Grey, Yellow, Red and Long-leaved Box species on private and public land in Maldon. The oldest tree was estimated at 530 years old, and 80% were estimated at over 200 years old. In addition, 36 pre-1852 trees were surveyed on parts of the Maldon Historic Reserve. These trees were estimated to be between 190 and 645 years old.

Somehow, the 97 eucalypts managed to survive throughout the gold rush and population boom of the area. They are historically significant as well as being important to the ecosystem in Maldon. If only trees could talk, imagine the stories they could tell!

This is an ongoing project. Although the eucalypts surveyed on the Maldon Historic Reserve are under the protection of Parks Victoria, there is currently no protection overlay for the 61 eucalypts surveyed in other areas of Maldon. The protection of these trees is essential to preserve the natural environment and the heritage of Maldon. MULGA will continue to work with Mount Alexander Shire Council to achieve this.

 

 

Volunteer with a flair for graphic design needed for bird project

Posted on 10 April, 2018 by Tanya Loos

Calling all graphic designers! We are looking for a volunteer to design two very special bird signs, which will be displayed permanently at Rise and Shine Bushland Reserve in Sandon, and at the Muckleford Nature Conservation Reserve. The signs will illustrate the values of the Muckleford and Strangways Key Biodiversity Areas (KBAs), and are a key component of our Caring for Key Biodiversity Areas project.

The Critically Endangered Swift Parrot. Pic by Chris Tzaros

The trigger species for these areas are the Diamond Firetail, Swift Parrot and Flame Robin. KBAs are designated by BirdLife International and BirdLife Australia.

The Caring for Key Biodiversity Areas project involves an on-ground works component, bird surveys and the two interpretive signs.

Design of the signs would be an excellent project for a university student who is studying the visual arts, or a graphic designer who wishes to do some pro-bono work to contribute to the community while raising the profile of their business. Purchase of the signs will be covered by the grant, but we need help with the graphic design component as a volunteer contribution.

We will be able to supply the written content and quality photos of the target species to use on the signs. But the magic of their presentation is up to you!

The signs will be launched in September 2018, so ideally we would have the signs designed by the end of July.

If you are interested, please send a copy of your resume, business website or an example of your graphic design work to Tanya at Connecting Country:  tanya@connectingcountry.org.au
We will make a decision and let people know on Monday April 16, so get your applications in quick!

And of course, feel free to call on 5472 1594 if you have any enquiries!

The Caring for Key Biodiversity Areas projects is funded by the Victorian Government – Community and Volunteer Action Grants.

 

Birdata App Workshop Friday 13 April

Posted on 29 March, 2018 by Tanya Loos

Andrew Silcocks from BirdLife Australia provides an introduction and practical demonstration of how to use online Birdata mapping and the smartphone app – at the beautiful Castlemaine Botanical Gardens. 

A Diamond Firetail, by Geoff Park

This year, BirdLife Australia staff are travelling Victoria with a series of presentations and workshops on Birdata – how to use it, and more importantly, why to use it.
The information that BirdLife Australia takes from Birdata underpins their State of Australia’s Birds Reports, as well as population and species trends and distribution analyses. These analyses inform threatened species nominations, which in turn influence the government allocation of conservation dollars and resources to those species.
Andrew is the coordinator of Birdata at BirdLife Australia and he is keen to share the Birdata app with you! Tanya Loos from Connecting Country will also be on hand to discuss the close relationship between Birdata and the Connecting Country bird monitoring program.

When: Friday 13 April from 11am – 3pm
Where: Castlemaine Tea rooms, at the Castlemaine Botanical Gardens
What you need:
*Shoes and clothing appropriate for birdwatching outside
*Your binoculars (some will be provided)
*Your Birdata login – just sign up at https://birdata.birdlife.org.au/
*The Birdata app downloaded on your phone – available on Apple or Android

Bookings and enquiries to Tanya Loos tanya@connectingcountry.org.au or call our office on 5472 1594