Restoring landscapes across the Mount Alexander Region

‘Hearing our place’ with Andrew Skeoch – Connecting Country AGM 2019

Posted on 17 October, 2019 by Asha

Andrew Skeoch listening to nature (photo from Listening Earth website)

All are warmly invited to the Connecting Country 2019 Annual General Meeting, where guest speaker Andrew Skeoch will speak about ‘Hearing our place’ in nature.

Frances Howe, Connecting Country Director, says ‘Andrew Skeoch is an educator, naturalist, environmental thinker and one of Australia’s best-known nature sound recordists. From his bush home near Newstead, he has journeyed over the last 25 years to remote locations in Asia, India, America, Europe, Africa and the Pacific in search of some of our planet’s most beautiful and fascinating sounds.

Combining this field experience with a deep curiosity, Andrew explores the crucial role of sound and communication in nature and evolution. He weaves the latest scientific understandings into a fascinating celebration of the natural soundscape around us.

His intriguing presentation will focus on our box ironbark birdsong and natural soundscapes, and will have you appreciating our local bushlands from an entirely fresh perspective.’

The AGM will include a brief presentation from staff and committee members about Connecting Country’s achievements over the last decade, to allow supporters old and new to hear what Connecting Country does and our plans for the coming year.

Crimson Spider Orchid (photo from Connecting Country archives)

This free event is at 4.00 – 6.00 pm on Saturday 16 November 2019 at Campbells Creek Community Centre (45 Elizabeth St, Campbells Creek VIC).

Afternoon tea will be provided from 3.30 pm.

Please RSVP online (click here) by 13 November 2019 for catering purposes. If you have any questions, please email or call (03) 5472 1594.

  • Click here to download the flier including agenda.
  • Click here to download a committee nomination form.
  • Click here to download a membership application.


Become a butterfly monitor and help protect a threatened species

Posted on 17 October, 2019 by Frances

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.

Local ecologists Elaine Bayes and Karl Just will be running four Eltham Copper Butterfly monitoring sessions around Castlemaine over November and December 2019, when the adult butterflies are out and about. The aim is to support interested community members to learn how to monitor and go on to do their own monitoring.

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!

Eltham Copper Butterfly perched on flowering Sweet Bursaria (photo by Elaine Bayes)

Monitoring isn’t difficult but you will need:

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

Monitoring dates are:

  • 12-4 pm Saturday 16 November 2019.
  • 12-4 pm Sunday 1 December 2019.
  • 12-4 pm Sunday 15 December 2019.
  • 12-4 pm Saturday 28 December 2019.

You don’t need to attend all these events to become 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.

If you’d like to get involved in Eltham Copper Butterfly monitoring, please contact Ivan at Connecting Country (


Our small endangered butterfly pulls a big crowd

Posted on 17 October, 2019 by Ivan

Our Eltham Copper Butterfly education event was a delightful success over the past weekend, with an enthusiastic crowd of 40 people attending to learn about this unique and threatened butterfly. The event was held at the Tea Room in the Castlemaine Botanical Gardens (Castlemaine VIC) and included a guided walk with local experts Elaine Bayes and Karl Just, exploring the native woodlands north of the gardens. Karl and Elaine delivered an informative and engaging presentation on the fascinating biology of the Eltham Copper Butterfly and its symbiotic relationship with Notoncus ant species. It was warming to hear Elaine’s enthusiasm about the mating cycles of this butterfly and her excitement that more populations may exist around our region, and could be discovered during monitoring over the next few months.

The Eltham Copper Butterfly is a small and attractive butterfly with bright copper colouring on the tops of its wings visible during the summer flight season.

Some interesting butterfly facts:

  • This unusual species due has a close symbiotic association with a group of ants from the genus Notoncus and the shrub Sweet Bursaria (Bursaria spinosa).
  • Adult butterflies lay their eggs on the roots and stems of Sweet Bursaria. Once the eggs hatch, the ants guard the caterpillars (providing protection from predators), ushering the larvae to and from the ant nest at the base of the shrub, to feed on the Sweet Bursaria leaves at night.  In return the ants feed on the sugar secretions exuded from the body of the caterpillar.
  • The butterfly prefers open flight paths and receiving direct sunlight. It likes vegetation with an open middle and understorey.

Karl and Elaine will be conducting Eltham Copper Butterfly monitoring sessions around Castlemaine over November and December 2019. We encourage interested people to come along, learn how to monitor and get involved with protecting this special butterfly.

If you’d like to get involved in monitoring please see our relevant blog post (click here) or contact Ivan at Connecting Country (

Here are some photos from our recent event from Ivan Carter, and some lovely Eltham Copper Butterfly photos from Elaine Bayes:


Aussie Backyard Bird Count: 21-27 October 2019

Posted on 17 October, 2019 by Ivan

There’s only one week to go until the Aussie Backyard Bird Count begins. Have you registered yet?

By participating in the Aussie Backyard Bird Count, you will be helping BirdLife Australia find out about the birds that live where people live. This is especially important because even common bird species are strong indicators of the health of the environment. Think of birds as a barometer for nature.

Dusky Woodswallows at Mia Mia near Newstead VIC (photo by Geoff Park)

And if that’s not incentive enough, there are some exciting prizes on offer. With thanks to our generous supporters, you could win — a pair of Swarovski binoculars, a copy of ‘Thirteen Ways to Look at Birds’ or a Gang-gang Cockatoo pin badge. Simply submit a bird count to BirdLife from 21-27 October 2019 to be in the running!

If you have any questions about the Aussie Backyard Bird Count, please head to the FAQ page below, where you’ll find information about registering, participating and troubleshooting.

Get ready to count!



Gardens and Birds of the Macedon Ranges – 24 October 2019

Posted on 17 October, 2019 by Frances

Rosemary Davies: Gardens and Birds of the Macedon Ranges – Castlemaine

Castlemaine Library is lucky enough to be hosting well-known garden author and ABC radio garden talkback personality of 35 years, Rosemary Davies. She will share insights into her latest book on gardens and birds in the Macedon Ranges as well as giving advice about your garden and landscape aspirations.

When: Thursday 24 October 2019 from 5:30 to 6:30 pm

Where: Phee Broadway Theatre – Castlemaine Library, 212 Barker St, Castlemaine, VIC

Bookings required: click here


Do you have a spare rabbit bait station? – we need your help

Posted on 9 October, 2019 by Asha

Over the years Connecting Country has distributed free rabbit bait stations for landholders to use. For more information about what these look like and how they work, click here. These days we are working with less funding and no longer have a supply of bait stations. We hope to source more funding soon. However, in the meantime there is still a need out there!

We have had requests from local landholders and Landcare groups who are struggling with rabbits and need bait stations. We hope to coordinate a rotation system where spare bait stations can be returned to our depot and then be distributed to those who need them.

If you live in the Mount Alexander region and have a bait station that you no longer need, please let us know by emailing or calling (03) 5472 1594.




Bird walk at Castlemaine Botanical Gardens – Sunday 20 October 2019

Posted on 9 October, 2019 by Ivan

BirdLife Castlemaine’s next monthly bird walk will be in the beautiful Castlemaine Botanical Gardens.

Local bird legend Tanya Loos will lead an afternoon walk for Bird Week, the same week as the Aussie Backyard Bird Count. Bring your binoculars, and if you have a smartphone, come with your Aussie Backyard Bird Count App already downloaded and ready to go. Beginners and families welcome. We will do a count together to get you all set up for the Bird Count!

When: 3.00 pm on Sunday 20 October 2019

Where: Meet outside the Tea Room in Castlemaine Botanical Gardens, Downes Rd, Castlemaine VIC.

Bring: Water, snacks, binoculars, hat, sunscreen, sturdy shoes, long pants during snake season, and other weather-appropriate gear.

Walks will be cancelled if the temperature is forecast to be 35 degrees or more during the walk period, severe weather warnings are forecast, and/or if the day has been declared a Total Fire Ban.

Questions?: If you have questions about BirdLife Castlemaine’s walks program, you can email them at, or call Judy Hopley (0425 768 559) or Asha Bannon (0418 428 721).

Flame Robin enjoying some morning sun (Photo by Bonnie Humphreys)


Community trained in early invaders

Posted on 9 October, 2019 by Ivan

The Weeds at the Early Stage of Invasion (WESI) Project, together with Connecting Country, had a strong turnout for their training event last Thursday 3 October 2019 in Newstead VIC. The education event, part of our Habitat Health Check project, focused on identifying environmental weeds that are not yet established in our region, but have the potential to grow their distribution.

The session targeted identification of some early-invader environmental weeds relevant to the Mount Alexander region, including Asparagus fern (Asparagus scandens), White Spanish Broom (Cytisus multiflorus), Broad kernel Espartillo (Achnatherum caudata), Dropping Tree-Pear (Opuntia monacantha), Buffel Grass (Cenchrus ciliaris) and Old Man’s Beard (Clematis vitalba).

Early invaders are plants that have naturalised and started to spread. When spread has just begun, such plants are localised and generally encountered only by chance. Coordinated management intervention (i.e., eradication or containment) is feasible at this stage, due to their highly restricted distributions.

The training did an excellent job in alerting all attendees to the threats of many common garden varieties that can escape under the right conditions and impact surrounding landscapes. All 30 participants learned how to identify these plants, how to record and photograph them, and how to treat and survey the area.

The session also provided samples of another 25 plants that are invasive plants in our region, with attendees getting a chance to get up close and personal to the specimens and learn how to identify them from look-a-likes. Kate Blood and Bianca Gold, from the WESI-DEWLP team, showed passion and precision throughout the day and enlightened all who attended in the emerging threats to the regions biodiversity and agriculture. It was heartening to see attendees from the Mount Alexander Shire Council, Coliban Water, Parks Victoria, Landmate, North Central Catchment Management Authority, and many Landcare and community groups from across our region.

The WESI Project focuses on high risk invasive species at the early stage of invasion that threaten biodiversity. The WESI project works mainly with Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP) and Parks Victoria staff looking after public land and biodiversity across Victoria, but also trains community groups and landowners in identifying early invaders.

For more information on the WESI training, please click here. If you would like to be involved in Connecting Country’s monitoring program, please click here.

Here are some photos from the training by Ivan Carter (Connecting Country) and Kate Blood (DELWP).


Reminder: Meet Castlemaine’s endangered butterfly – Saturday 12 October 2019

Posted on 8 October, 2019 by Ivan

Last chance to book for this Saturdays wonderful event! We still have some spaces available – all welcome. Come along and learn about our very special local butterfly. See details below.

Click here to make a booking.

Did you know Central Victoria is home to the largest known population of the endangered Eltham Copper Butterfly in the world?!

Enjoy these beautiful pictures of the Eltham Copper Butterfly taken by Elaine Bayes.


Birdlife Castlemaine District celebrates its first birthday

Posted on 26 September, 2019 by Ivan

Sue, Jane, and Phil celebrate Birdlife Castlemaine District’s first birthday at a bird walk in July (photo: Birdlife Castlemaine District)

Connecting Country work with Birdlife Castlemaine District on many projects and share a common love for our regions birds and biodiversity. It was a significant effort and milestone for Castlemaine to have its own Birdlife branch, highlighting the community support and passion for our nature hotspots and wildlife. The newest branch of BirdLife Australia was officially launched at the Castlemaine Botanic Garden’s Tea rooms in July 2018, meaning they recently celebrated their first birthday!  A belated ‘Happy Birthday’ and congratulations on a fabulous first year to Birdlife Castlemaine District.

How you can be involved with Birdlife Castlemaine District:

‘Like’ their Facebook page: CLICK HERE 

Email if you would like to be added to their eNews list.

Become a member of BirdLife Castlemaine District by joining their parent, BirdLife Australia: CLICK HERE 





Friends of the Box-Ironbark Forests PhotoShow – Now Open Togs Cafe

Posted on 26 September, 2019 by Ivan

One of Connecting Country’s closest collaborators, Friends of the Box-Ironbark Forests (FOBIF), has a photographic show that is now open at Togs Cafe in Lyttleton Street, Castlemaine, Victoria. It will run till 24 October 2019 and features a stunning array of local photographers. All photos are for sale with proceeds going to FOBIF.

Since 1999, the Friends of the Box-Ironbark Forests have been conducting art and photography exhibitions with this being their tenth exhibition since 2009. Six of these have been at Togs Cafe. They have all had the same purpose: to honor the native forests of the region, continuing the long tradition of artistic involvement with these forests. Photographers in this exhibition are all local residents, and talented ones at that.

Connecting Country would like to thank all the photographers who contributed photos to this project.

You can download a catalogue with a brief description of each photo here.

One of the photos from the show: Brown-headed Honeyeater (Lichenostomus melithreptus) Photo: Patrick Kavanagh 2019


Cactus Warriors Wanted – Sunday 29 September 2019

Posted on 26 September, 2019 by Ivan

The Tarrangower Cactus Control Group (TCCG) and Parks Victoria will hold their next community field day this Sunday to the west of the Maldon township, Victoria, Australia. This event is open to everyone in the community and is a great way to learn more about the threats posed by Wheel Cactus and do something about the spread across our region.

Come along, enjoy the fresh air, destroy some cactus and then join the community for a free cuppa and sausage sizzle.

Where: 200 Treloars Road, Tarrengower VIC (follow the signs along Watersons Road)

When: 10.30 am to 12.30 pm, Sunday 29th September 2019

Map of the catctus field day location, with the “x” marking the spot

The Tarrangower Cactus Control Group Inc. (TCCG) consists of Landcare volunteers dedicated to the eradication of Wheel Cactus (Opuntia robusta). TCCG, in conjunction with Parks Victoria, holds friendly and informal Wheel Cactus Control community field days to inform and demonstrate control techniques, on the last Sunday of the month from May to October. These field days always end with a free BBQ lunch, cuppa and cake and the opportunity to chat, exchange ideas and make contacts.

It is a great opportunity to spend a rewarding morning outdoors, meeting neighbours and others who are concerned about preserving our unique environment. Everyone is welcome, no previous experience is required and all equipment is supplied. View the video to catch the ‘cactus warriors’ in action.

Cactus Warrior volunteers at work on a Community Field Day (photo by Lee Mead)


Looking after parks across Victoria – your chance to help!

Posted on 26 September, 2019 by Asha

Parks Victoria are developing a state-wide Land Management Strategy to guide and inform future planning and decision-making across the parks estate. The Strategy is intended to respond to key challenges – including climate change, population growth, changing community needs, increased visitation, invasive pest species, accessibility requirements and more.

Parks Victoria are now inviting communities and stakeholders to provide their feedback on the draft Aspiration and Guiding Principles that will form the basis of the Land Management Strategy.

You can provide feedback online at until midnight Sunday 29 September 2019. Parks Victoria have also prepared an Engagement Park document (click here to download), to support groups promote the engagement and hold conversations.

If you have further questions, you can contact

The Victorian National Parks Association (VNPA) have also offered support and advice through their website: CLICK HERE.

Parks play an important role for biodiversity and habitat refuge. Photo: Alison Pouliot



Weeds at the Early Stage of Invasion – Thursday 3 October 2019

Posted on 17 September, 2019 by Ivan

The Weeds at the Early Stage of Invasion (WESI) Project, together with Connecting Country, invite you to join us for a session on identifying environmental weeds.

When: Thursday 3 October 2019 from 10.00 am to 3.00 pm
Where: Newstead Community Centre, 9 Lyons St, Newstead, VIC
To register: click here
To download the event flyer: click here

The session will focus on identification of some early invader environmental weeds relevant to the Mount Alexander region. The WESI Project focuses on high risk invasive species at the early stage of invasion (early invaders) that threaten biodiversity. The WESI project works mainly with Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP) and Parks Victoria staff looking after public land and biodiversity across Victoria.

This training is targeted at community groups, individuals, organisations and land managers. Come along to learn how to identify these plants, how to record and photograph them, and how to treat and survey the area. Early invaders are plants that have naturalised and started to spread. When spread has just begun, such plants are localised and generally encountered only by chance. Coordinated management intervention (i.e., eradication or containment) is feasible at this stage, due to their highly restricted distributions.

This is a free event with morning tea and lunch provided.

Spaces are limited so please register below asap to ensure you don’t miss out!

For more information please contact Bianca Gold and Kate Blood (WESI Project), or Ivan Carter (Connecting Country):


Chilean needle grass was once an emerging weed in this region, but is now established around Taradale (photo by Connecting Country)




Meet Castlemaine’s endangered butterfly – Saturday 12 October 2019

Posted on 17 September, 2019 by Ivan

Did you know Central Victoria is home to the largest known population of the endangered Eltham Copper Butterfly in the world?!

Enjoy these beautiful pictures of the Eltham Copper Butterfly taken by Elaine Bayes.


Walking together towards Reconciliation: Weather knowledge of the KULIN Nations

Posted on 17 September, 2019 by Ivan

In some regions the Kulin Nations observed and named seven seasons of varying length in a year; each season happens when certain stages are reached in the natural world. The local Dja Dja Wurrung clans of the Kulin Nation, however, divided the year into six seasons.

The name Poorneet, meaning tadpoles, is given to the time in September and October when temperatures are rising, although there is still plenty of rain. Tadpoles are found in the water holes, and Pied Currawongs are louder and cheekier than ever. Days and nights are of equal length.

Plants like the Murnong (Yam Daisy) are flowering, so it’s time to dig for the yam tubers. Murnong, once abundant all over Victoria, rapidly became scarce after colonists brought what were soon vast numbers of sheep into the region.

Yams may make a comeback as a food source, since Aboriginal communities in East Gippsland and the NSW south coast have begun experimenting with yam cultivation. In his book Dark Emu, Bruce Pascoe tells how the very first records of European explorers and pioneers give evidence that Aboriginal people were farming the land. But to the newcomers, for whom the crops and agricultural methods were totally different from the familiar ones of home, they meant very little. All too soon, grain stores, tilled land, eel traps, houses and wells returned to the soil from which they had come.

Many thanks to Nalderun for this article. Nalderun is a service that supports the Aboriginal Community, led by Aboriginal people. Many people and organisations in the Mount Alexander Shire contribute  to Nalderun; the name is a Dja Dja Wurrung word meaning ‘all together’. More information can be found at


Tim Low’s challenging ‘New Nature’ talk in Newstead

Posted on 17 September, 2019 by Ivan

Connecting Country and Newstead Landcare Group recently hosted a presentation by well-known author and biological scientist Tim Low. Tim attracted a packed room of 200 excited people to Newstead VIC. He guided us through some highlights from his recently revised book ‘The New Nature’, exploring the concepts of winners and losers in a world of human impact, changing climate and declining resources.

Tim said the attendance was one of the best he had been involved with and interest from the audience was outstanding. Tim described some surprising examples of how conservation and urbanisation can co-exist in some situations. A theme from the talk was that the conservation movement often talks about declining species, as it should, but this leaves many people unaware that some animals and plants are doing better today than ever before, because they have found ways to exploit us.

The ‘New Nature’ book reinforces the concept that animals don’t have any concept of ‘natural’ or ‘unnatural’ so they don’t automatically recoil from cities and farms. Sometimes they can do better in cities than in forests, and Tim suggested that Australian cities and towns are gaining animals over time. The audience was surprised to hear that Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane are now home for peregrine falcons that nest on skyscrapers, and feed off pigeons and other city-dwelling birds. After the talk Tim took questions from the audience. He stressed that while we will have some winners from our changing planet, we must continue to work hard to prevent losing more species to extinction through habitat loss.

Many thanks to Frances Cincotta and Newstead Landcare Group for helping organise this event and doing some fantastic work. The event was supported by funding from North Central Catchment Management Authority as part of Connecting Country’s ‘Prickly Plants for Wildlife on Small Properties’ project, as well as a donation from Friends of the Box-Ironbark Forests.

Although the event was not recorded, there is link to a similar talk on Youtube below.

Tim Low (second from left) with Frances Howe, Frances Cincotta and Ivan Carter (photo by Connecting Country)


Tim Low
Tim Low is a biologist and best-selling author of seven books about nature and conservation. ‘Where Song Began’ won several prizes, including the Australian Book Industry Award for best general non-fiction. It was praised in the New York Review of Books and recommended by Scientific American. ‘The New Nature’ was praised by Time magazine and listed by Who magazine as one of the books of the year. ‘Feral Future’ inspired the formation of a conservation group, the Invasive Species Council. Tim’s articles have appeared in Australian Geographic, The Weekend Australian Magazine, The Guardian and many other places. He works partly as an environmental consultant, and has a lizard named after him. He recently returned from a visit to Manchuria as a guest of the China Writer’s Association.

You can read more about Tim Low and view his Blog and website – click here



Youth grants for invasive species – closing 30 September 2019

Posted on 12 September, 2019 by Ivan

Connecting Country are keen to engage and involve youth in natural resource management activities across our region. This grant program supports youth-friendly initiatives with a focus on invasive pest and weed issues in Victoria. The program aims to increase young people’s participation in community environmental projects and encourage new ideas and innovations in the invasive species challenge. Funding can be used to support the engagement of young people in existing groups and initiatives, or to develop new youth-focused initiatives.

Applications close: 5.00 pm on 30 September 2019

Grants between $5,000 and $15,000 (excluding GST) are available.

Who can apply: Open to community groups, education providers and local councils, with a focus on projects that connect with young people and develop their skills, and deliver broader benefits for local communities.

How to apply:

  • Read the program guidelines – click here.
  • Contact the Grants Program Coordinator if you have questions about your application. Lauren Hull can be contacted on 0472 876 695 or
  • Download the application form and complete all sections – click here.

Key dates:

  • Successful grants announced – November 2019.
  • Projects undertaken – November 2019 to June 2020.

Inspiration and ideas: There’s lots of projects underway that are boosting youth participation in environmental initiatives. If you’re looking for a starting point for your invasive species work,  click here to see just a few projects that have been proposed.

More information: Contact Lauren Hull 0472 876 695 or

Frankie Cook plants a tree along Forest Creek (photo from Castlemaine Landcare)


The rumours are true: North Harcourt & Sedgwick Landcare is back!

Posted on 12 September, 2019 by Asha

You may have heard the rumors. And yes, they are true! After a five year hiatus, North Harcourt & Sedgwick Landcare Group are planning on planting on, and they need YOU!

Anyone who is interested is welcome to come along to a casual meet up, where they will be throwing a BBQ, giving away some free plants, and showing off some nest boxes.

When: Sunday 22 September 2019 from 12:00 pm – 2:00 pm
Sedgwick Hall, corner Springs Rd and Sedgwick Rd, Sedgwick, VIC (scroll through photos below for a map)
RSVP: Appreciated via or their Facebook event – click here

To stay up-to-date, join their public Facebook group here: click here


Spring railway walk with Nuggetty Land Protection Group – 22 September 2019

Posted on 11 September, 2019 by Jess

Nuggetty Land Protection Group is planning a walk along the Nuggetty to Shelbourne Railway line. This was a branch line from Maldon through Nuggetty and Bradford and ends at the Shelbourne Station complex. The old railway line traverses farmland and Bradford Nature Conservation Reserve. The line was closed in 1960 after due to major fire damage. There will be a stop for lunch at the reserve to look at local birds, orchids and other flora. Binoculars, tea, coffee and water will be available.

Jacky Winter (photo by Kerrie Jennings)

Spring railway walk

When: Sunday 22 September 2019 from 9:30 am

Where: Park at Nuggetty Peace Monument, Nuggetty School Rd, Nuggetty VIC (turn right off Shelbourne Rd north of Maldon). A community bus will transport walkers to start of walk.

Bookings preferred: Jane Mitchell (0457 729 132) or Christine Fitzgerald (0419 347 408)

The walk is approximately 13 km. Bus will meet at intersections of roads if lift required and return you to your car or take you to next section of the walk. Please bring own lunch and water, and wear walking shoes, weather appropriate clothing and hats. The event will be cancelled if weather inclement. Please leave pets at home.