Restoring landscapes across the Mount Alexander Region

Give me shelter…and protection from cats

Posted on 14 January, 2021 by Ivan

We recently discovered an interesting and relevant article on the ABC website, highlighting new research into alternative methods of protecting our native wildlife from feral cats. We may not all know the harrowing statistics, but a recent study by the Australian National University (ANU) concluded that on average each pet cat kills about 75 native animals per year, but many of these kills are never witnessed by their owners. They concluded that this equates to cats killing more than 1.5 billion native animals per year.

Any advancements in protecting our native wildlife from cats will be beneficial in addressing the extinction crisis. The ABC article highlights research conducted by the University of Tasmania, which looked at the impact of the feral cat compared to the native spotted quoll.  They concluded that Australia’s wildlife is up to 200 times more likely to come across a deadly feral cat than an equivalent native predator.

A place to hide is vital to the survival of many native animals. Connecting Country has been restoring missing understorey plants like Spreading Wattle for over a decade. (photo: Connecting Country)

This new research reinforces Connecting Country’s restoration strategy of reintroducing missing understorey species into the landscape, including prickly plants and ground cover species. While trees are great, it is vital to have a complex community of understorey species, occupying different strata our the forest and woodlands.

The full article is available from the ABC website – click here

 

 

 

Celebrating Landcare with Connecting Country’s new grant

Posted on 14 January, 2021 by Ivan

Connecting Country is excited to announce we were successful in obtaining a small community grant from the Mount Alexander Shire Council (MASC), allowing us to produce a video celebrating the amazing achievements of our local Landcare groups from across the Mount Alexander region in central Victoria. Our 2021 Celebrating Landcare project will highlight the variety of on-ground landscape restoration and other Landcare activities from across our region that contribute to a healthy and more sustainable landscape. We love our volunteers and this is a chance to recognise their significant achievements in a visual format, using a combination of interviews, footage from on the ground, and project information.

We are very fortunate to have around 30 active Landcare and Friends Groups in our region, which will be very hard to capture in a short video, but we will do our best! We are forever grateful for their passion and array of skills, which has resulted in the recovery of many degraded landscapes across our region.

This project will also aim to attract new members to our Landcare groups, and show the many benefits of volunteering and being part of a bigger picture of landscape restoration. Current members and volunteers include over 1,300 residents from a diverse mix of cultural and demographic backgrounds, genders and age groups. These groups collectively own or manage a significant proportion of the private land throughout our shire.

We hope our video will support and acknowledge over 10,000 hours of incredible work our Landcare volunteers contribute to the region annually, all in five minutes of video! A big ask we know, but we are determined to deliver a great project within the modest budget.

We expect to have the video completed late in the second half of 2021 and will keep the community updated on its progress.

In the meantime, please enjoy our five minute video highlighting our restoration and bird monitoring programs, produced by our partners at Remember The Wild. We would like to thank the MASC for the community grant funding and acknowledge their contribution towards delivery of this project.

 

 

Connecting Country Factsheets: revegetation, nest boxes and pests

Posted on 14 January, 2021 by Ivan

One of our most popular pages on the Connecting Country website is the home of our regionally-specific fact sheets, covering the topics of weedspest animalsnest boxes and revegetation. These were developed by Connecting Country staff to give practical, local information on the key topics that we get the most questions about. They cover the latest locally-relevant information about managing invasive species and creating habitat for the unique biodiversity of the Mount Alexander region of central Victoria. Landholders and managers comment they enjoy the local content because it’s more relevant than the generic information available elsewhere.

Following local advice on revegetation techniques will give your plants the best chance of survival (photo Connecting Country)

We developed the fact sheets courtesy of funding from the North Central Catchment Management Authority. The fact sheets formed part of our ‘Prickly plants for wildlife on small properties‘ project, which targeted landowners with smaller properties who were 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. Our revegetation planting fact sheet 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 fact sheets:

  • 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 tube stock. Planting within or next to existing bushland to provide habitat for native animals can be a satisfying endeavor. 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 fact sheets on a variety of restoration topics can be found on the Connecting Country website – click here

 

New guide for best practice weed hygiene

Posted on 7 January, 2021 by Ivan

Preventing the spread of weeds should be a high priority for landholders and provides one of the highest returns on investment. It is often the most cost-effective way of protecting and improving biodiversity and productivity on your property.

The Victorian Serrated Tussock Working Party (VSTWP) recently completed an industry first: a best practice weed hygiene guide, aimed at preventing the spread of serrated tussock and other weeds due to land management practices such as slashing, movement of vehicles and machinery. The guide contains principles and management actions that apply to many weeds found in our region, including serrated tussock, Chilean needle-grass, St John’s wort, and the various grassy weeds. Please read the following summary below provided by the VSTWP regarding the new guide.

The new guide provides effective solutions to landholders and land managers in preventing weed spread (photo: VSTWP)

 

The best practice guide weed hygiene was developed through collaboration with stakeholders, including a survey of relevant stakeholders and land managers to understand the complex networks involved in weed management.

The survey established three-quarters of respondents employed contractors to work on their land, with a range of formal and informal weed hygiene control mechanisms in place. However, only a few admitted to auditing their contractors annually or more often, with many reporting they have never conducted an audit.

The aim of this guide is to improve the operations of staff and contractors, providing appropriate oversight and strategies to prevent the spread of weeds. The guide is a vital link in managing serrated tussock across Victoria.

The guide acknowledges that land managers spend millions of dollars each year controlling serrated tussock and other weed species in Victoria.

Of all the management activities for serrated tussock and other high threat weeds, reducing spread is the cheapest and most effective method of control.

VSTWP Chairperson Lance Jennison said ‘This guide is split into easy-to-use sections that provide practical guidance on identifying and controlling serrated tussock, weed hygiene practices in the field, along with contract management and oversight’. ‘The best practice guide will prove invaluable for landowners, land managers, contractors and large-scale projects, with plenty of strategies to minimise the spread of serrated tussock,’ Mr Jennison said.

Serrated tussock is a hardy and aggressive grassy weed that is found throughout temperate regions of Victoria, New South Wales and Tasmania. Serrated tussock has a devastating impact on the biodiversity of native grasslands and can drastically reduce the carrying capacity of farmland. Seed can be easily spread through civil construction works, land management activities, and via livestock and wildlife.

The newly published weed hygiene guide can be viewed online at the VSTWP website (click here) or downloaded as a pdf (click here). Hard copies of the guide are also available on request by contacting the VSTWP (email: info@serratedtussock.com).

 

Uggboots to the rescue: Phascogale adventures

Posted on 7 January, 2021 by Ivan

How does one catch a Brush-tailed Phascogale on the run in your house? Easy – with an Ugg boot apparently!

We received a video from a local landholder, Brodi, who rescued this Brush-tailed Phascogale from their house in Sutton Grange using a sheepskin boot in late 2020. Doesn’t get much cuter than that!

The Brush-tailed Phascogale (Phascogale tapoatafa tapoatafa), also known as the Tuan, is a small, nocturnal, carnivorous marsupial, a little larger than a domestic rat. In Victoria, the Brush-tailed Phascogale was once widespread, but now has a fragmented distribution. It’s found to the east and north-east of Melbourne, central Victoria (around Ballarat, Heathcote and Bendigo), north-eastern Victoria, and far western Victoria (from Mount Eccles to Apsley).

The Brush-tailed Phascogale is a threatened species listed under the Victorian Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act 1988 and considered Vulnerable in Victoria.

Thanks Brodi for sending us this video. Please enjoy!

To learn more about Brush-tailed Phascogales and their conservation, check out our blog post below. To get involved in our monitoring program for Brush-tailed Phascogale, please email info@connectingcountry.org.au

Fun with Phascogales – Jess Lawton’s Talk

 

Bird walk at Eganstown: Saturday 9 January 2021

Posted on 7 January, 2021 by Ivan

BirdLife Castlemaine’s beloved bird walks are commencing again with a leisurely stroll down through the Deep Creek Streamside Reserve, Eganstown, ten minutes drive west of Daylesford in central Victoria. It is the first walk for 2021, with 2020’s walks being interrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic. The Deep Creek Streamside Reserve has some excellent stands of mature grassy woodlands and herb-rich foothill forests, and will no doubt provide some excellent bird watching opportunities. Please see the details below, kindly provided by Birdlife Castlemaine.

Bird Walk – Saturday 9 January 2021 – Deep Creek Streamside Reserve, Eganstown

Hopefully, if the COVID-19 situation allows we will be able to have a full round of Bird Walks in 2021! Our 2021 program begins on Saturday 9 January (note – this is the second Saturday rather than the usual first Saturday of the month). We will walk along the road by Maclachlan Creek through manna gum streamside forest until we reach the reserve at the end of the road. Then along wide paths to the old spring. If there is time and the weather is good we will then walk through the bush – lovely messmate forest! Last time there blue-winged parrots were seen! Snakes are active in the area at the moment so long pants and boots a must – and bring snake kits if you have them (we will also have first aid kits with snake bite bandages).  There will be some uneven ground and walking through the forest but those feeling less up for a walk could easily walk down the road and then picnic down by the creek. Our walk leader is Tanya Loos. All welcome!

Where: Deep Creek Streamside Reserve, Eganstown VIC. Turn onto Deep Spring Road from the Midland Highway, approximately 9 km west of Daylesford and park near the Nowland Track which is about 600 m from the Highway. Coordinates: -37.350353, 144.074929

When: Meet at Deep Creek Streamside Reserve at 9:00 am. Walks last for approximately 2 hours.

Bring: Water, snacks, binoculars, sunscreen, hat, sturdy shoes. Long trousers are advised during snake season.

More info: Jane Rusden, 0448 900 896 or Judy Hopley 0425 768 559. To discover more about Deep Creek Streamside Reserve – click here

Please note that walks will be canceled if severe weather warnings are in place, persistent rain is forecast, if the temperature is forecast to be 35 degrees or above during the walk period, and/or a Total Fire Ban is declared.

Steep gorges and volcanic outcrops are on offer at Deep Spring Reserve (photo: Birdlife Castlemaine)

 

Victorian Rabbit Action Network launches new website

Posted on 7 January, 2021 by Ivan

Run rabbit run! The Victorian Rabbit Action Network (VRAN) has launched its new website, to help support community action on rabbit management in Victoria. The new website is an excellent example of a modern communication tool, with a good assortment of videos and case studies to assist landholders.

VRAN is led by a steering group of community members, government representatives and industry leaders who, with the VRAN Executive Officer, facilitate community-led action on rabbit control.

Connecting Country has received many inquiries about increasing rabbit numbers in the past year, with many landholders noting an increase in juvenile rabbits in the landscape. We believe this is a timely reminder to start planning coordinated rabbit treatment, especially coordinating with neighbours to help address rabbits at a larger landscape scale.

VRAN has provided the following update on their new website and their grants scheme, which is available to landholders in our region.

The VRAN website was developed with ‘community’ front of mind and is aimed at helping people working in the rabbit management space, to increase their knowledge on best practice rabbit management and connect with others working in the industry. Rabbits have been in our landscape for over a century destroying natural habitats, agriculture, and cultural heritage, and are listed as one of Australia’s biggest threats.

Having a reliable contractor with the right skills and equipment is important for effective control (photo: VRAN)

 

The new website contains information on best practice rabbit management, training programs, videos, grant programs, research and so much more. VRAN are also inviting community groups and organisations to apply for their new grant program.

VRAN Chair, Gerald Leach, says ‘VRAN have grants up to $5,000 to help community groups and
organisations to raise awareness of the rabbit issue and best practice control methods’. The Community Action Grants program is open until 29 January 2021. More information on the grant program and can be found on the website – click here

This new digital resource and the grant program was developed through funding from the Australian Government Agricultural Competitiveness White Paper in collaboration with Agriculture Victoria.

Visit the VRAN site today to apply for a grant and help plan your summer rabbit program: www.vran.com.au

 

Bird of the month: Tawny Frogmouth

Posted on 24 December, 2020 by Ivan

Welcome to our tenth Bird of the month, a partnership between Connecting Country and BirdLife Castlemaine District. Each month we’re taking a close look at one special local bird species. We’re excited to join forces to deliver you a different bird each month, seasonally adjusted, and welcome suggestions from the community. We are lucky to have the talented and charismatic Jane Rusden from BirdLife Castlemaine District writing about our next bird of the month, with assistance from the brilliant Damian Kelly.

Tawny Frogmouth (Podargus strigoides)

Before we delve into the secretive life of the Tawny Frogmouth, this ‘Bird of the Month’ blog is nearly one year old and I’d like to extend my deep gratitude to Damian Kelly and Ash Vigus. When I asked Damian if he’d be happy to help me with research, I had this rosy image in my head of the two of us spending blissful hours in his enviable library, buried in books. COVID-19 ensured this cozy vision of mine was not to be. Instead, Damian would email his research to me, along with his gorgeous photos. Ash Vigus has also been very generous with lending an ear and great ideas, as we did our socially-distanced walks, and his stunning photos. Without these two, Bird of the Month would not have been nearly as interesting nor pretty.

Some months ago the charismatic Owlet Nightjar was our feature bird. This month’s relative, the Tawny Frogmouth, is similar in that it is also nocturnal, NOT an owl and charismatic in its own cryptic way. Frogmouths are not restricted to Australia: Papua New Guinea and tropical Asia have their own species. In Australia, the Tawny Frogmouth is found all over the country where there are trees, but the Papuan Frogmouth is restricted to Cape York and the Marbled Frogmouth is found only in tiny areas on Cape York and around Brisbane. However, both species are found in Papua New Guinea. They all have characteristic wide mouths and are incredibly cryptic, being experts in looking like a broken off dead branch and therefore difficult to spot during the day.

By night, however, if your lucky you may see Tawny Frogmouths hawking flying insects in the car headlights. Sadly they are prone to getting squashed on the road because of this. At home I’ve watched one hawking Rain Moths attracted to the light from our windows at night. It must have eaten a dozen of them and I’m not quite sure how it fitted them all in – it must have been the Frogmouth equivalent of Christmas dinner with a third helping of pudding. They will also pounce on small vertebrates like lizards, which get a thorough pounding before being swallowed, and they enjoy insects on the ground.

Tawny Frogmouths are between 34 cm (females) and 53 cm (males) long and can weigh up to 680 g (photo: Damian Kelly)

Tawny Frogmouths are often confused with owls, but are actually more closely related to nightjars (photo: Damian Kelly)

 

Breeding is done in spring. Typically two eggs are laid in a messy collection of sticks which constitutes their nest, in a horizontal branch fork in a large mature tree. Despite populations slowly decreasing, these apparently insecure nests produce chicks fairly effectively. Equality of the sexes is a thing with Tawny Frogmouths, with the male sitting on the eggs during the day and both parents sitting at night.

These much loved and unusual birds can be found in urban areas, which perhaps endears them to us humans. Or maybe it’s their cute as cute fluffy chicks with their great wide eyes, snuggled up to their nest buddies.

Please enjoy the Tawny Frogmouth distinctive ‘Oom oom ooom call’, courtesy of Wild Ambience.

A big thank you to contributors to this edition of Bird of the Month – Jane Rusden and Damian Kelly – for their amazing knowledge and skills.

 

If you go out in the woodlands today: staff Christmas lunch 2020

Posted on 23 December, 2020 by Ivan

Connecting Country staff enjoyed a celebratory Christmas lunch this week, in the bush near Castlemaine VIC, hosted by our Director Frances and her lovely partner Duncan. The outdoor affair, in a COVID-safe environment, was privy to a stunning display of birdlife and the last of the colourful spring wildflowers and grasses. The grassy-woodlands were a beautiful example of landscape recovery and restoration, thanks to a wonderful season of rain and sustainable land management by Frances and Duncan.

Connecting Country staff and volunteers extraordinaire enjoying lunch (photo by Ivan Carter)

 

Our festive lunch visitor: Scarlet Robin (photo by Frances Howe)

It has been a challenging year to operate an organisation that values engaging with landholders and the community face to face, but we have found new ways to engage and continue our projects throughout the year. We have learnt and grown together, with the nature lunch a perfect way to send off the year.

The beginning of summer is often a time where our forests and woodlands begin to lose their bright colour and flowers, but there were two indigenous species still providing colour and bling in the leadup to Christmas: Sticky Everlasting Daisy (Xerochrysum viscosum) and Copper-awned Wallaby-grass (Rytidosperma fulvum). Our lunch was also interrupted by a very festive visit from a pair of Scarlet Robins.

Sticky Everlasting Daisy

An Australian native daisy indigenous to our region, which is a small narrow-leaved plant up to 50 cm high and 40 cm wide. It is often known as Shiny Everlasting. Sticky Everlasting likes a sunny position and will tolerate dry conditions and poor soils, like many in our region. The leaves are quite narrow so it is fairly inconspicuous when not in flower. They have a slightly sticky feel, hence the name. The flowers are bright gold, glossy, crispy daises about the size of large buttons, see photos below. The flowers stay on show for many months and add colour to our subtle bush tones. Like many of the native daisies, Sticky Everlasting will attract numerous butterflies and moths, as well as native bees.

Copper-awned Wallaby-grass

Wallaby grasses are native perennial grasses that are common in our region. The fluffy tops are distinctive, and they catch the sunlight perfectly in summer. Aside from the flowers, they are fairly inconspicuous and are often missed in our woodlands and paddocks. They are known for their drought tolerance and also are a avourite grazing plant for wallabies and kangaroos.

Below are a selection of photos taken in the Grassy-Woodlands around Castlemaine by Connecting Country staff. Please enjoy, and stay safe over the festive season.

 

Discovering ducks: which duck are you quiz?

Posted on 23 December, 2020 by Ivan

The RSPCA Victoria and BirdLife Australia have launched a new campaign called ‘Discover Ducks’, after recent research revealed five in six Victorians cannot name any native ducks, despite Australia being home to 15 unique species. We love our ducks, and locally, they appear to be having a great season, with plenty of water around during spring 2020. While this campaign is aimed at Victorians, anyone can access the online resource, and increase their knowledge of our native ducks. All Australians can answer that timeless question: Which Duck Are You?!

We have had fun, in the virtual Connecting Country office, exploring which duck we each are, and how accurate they all seem to be!

Please enjoy a summary below, courtesy of the Discover Ducks team, regarding the importance and aim of this campaign.

Dr Liz Walker, CEO of RSPCA Victoria said the campaign seeks to build a state of passionate duck lovers by improving Victorians’ knowledge and love for our diverse range of unique, native ducks.

‘We believe more people would appreciate ducks and care about their welfare if they could relate to them the way they relate to other wildlife, such as koalas or kangaroos. After last summer’s tragic bushfires, we know there is very strong public concern for native animals, and a desire to rescue, treat and protect those animals. Ducks need to be included,’ says Dr Walker. ‘They are fascinating creatures, and each native species has unique traits. Discover Ducks creates an opportunity for the community to learn and share information and celebrate our beautiful native ducks.’

BirdLife Australia’s National Public Affairs Manager Sean Dooley agrees that there has never been a better time to discover our wild duck populations. ‘Sometimes even birdwatchers can take ducks for granted. But when you take the time to get to know Victoria’s ducks, you soon realise what fascinating and beautiful birds they are. However, there are far fewer ducks out there in our wetlands than there used to be with the research showing drastic decline in their numbers, due to the changes we have made to their aquatic habitats.’

Discover Ducks shows people how to recognise different ducks, where to spot them around Victoria and how to interact with them in a welfare-friendly way. Many of these lessons are valuable across the country, not just in Victoria, and wherever you are located, the ‘Which Duck Are You?’quiz is a great bit of fun, or you can test your knowledge with the Know Your Ducks Quiz.

Learn more about Discover Ducks at discoverducks.org.au and spread the word via social media using the hashtag #discoverducks

The Australian Shelduck: hard to find, easy to spot, with spectacular coloring (photo: Discovering Ducks)

 

South African Weed Orchid – having an invasive season

Posted on 23 December, 2020 by Ivan

South African Weed Orchid, Disa bracteata, has finished flowering but if you are quick you can still help stop the spread of this emerging and highly invasive weed in our area. It is worth havin

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South African Weed Orchid – whole plant, roots and bulbs. Photo: Bonnie Humphreys

g a look for plants on your property and planning for next season’s treatment. We have had many reports from our community of larger infestations in bushlands and grasslands across our region during spring 2020, so we thought it timely to show some photographs of what to look out for, and when.

South African Weed Orchid is a perennial terrestrial orchid with underground tubers. Dormant for much of the year, it sprouts in early spring with a rosette of leaves, followed by flower spikes developing into seeds as the weather drys out during summer. Plants in the leafy, vegetative stage are susceptible to herbicides which during the growing phase also kills the tubers.  At later stages digging can be effective but requires care to remove all tubers.

This invasive plant often grows in association with other native orchids but can be distinguished from native species such as Glossodia and Caladenia by the lack of hairs and purple back to the leaf.  Sun orchids have smooth leaves but they are single, longer and more channelled.

How to identify South African Weed Orchid:

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Treatment by digging out and carefully bagging plant matter helps contain this invasive weed. Photo: Bonnie Humphreys

  • Stems – erect and fleshy usually 30–50 cm tall.
  • Leaves – a rosette of green leaves with purple undersides, tapering from a broad base to an pointy tip, 5–15 cm long.  These weeds are distinct from indigenous Onion Orchids (Microtis spp.) as they have a rosette of leaves, while the native Onion Orchids have one round leaf, often extending above the flower spike. They also have purple undersides, unlike our Onion Orchids
  • Flowers – depends on the season but usually around late October through to December in Victoria. 15– 30 flowers grow on a thick cylindrical spike 5–20 cm long, which resembles a greenish-brown asparagus spear. Flowers very dense and are mostly greenish, ripening to reddish-brown and yellow with a leafy bract.
  • Seeds – black, minute and dust-like, contained within the capsular fruit. The species is autogamous (self-pollinating) and thus produces a large amount of seed per plant. The main form of dispersal is wind, but seed can also be spread on shoes, clothing and vehicles, as well as in water and through animal and soil movement. The seeds can remain viable for years, hence one seeding plant this year means many weeds for many, many years to come. Seed set and dispersal starts as the plants mature and as the weather dries out. The seeds continue to mature even if the flower head is picked, so it is very important to bag up and remove.

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    The weed orchid has 1–3 tubers about 20 mm long. Photo: Bonnie Humphreys

  • Tubers – produces new tubers each year it grows. These are similar  in appearance to a small potato, about 20 mm in size (depending on conditions). The plant will also have a small shrivelled tuber, which is the one the plant is using to grow from currently. The plant also has a mass of fleshy  roots and there is no main tap root.

 

Invasion of the Mount Alexander region

As of 2020, this weed has been recorded across the Mount Alexander Shire in Chewton, Redesdale, Elphinstone, Taradale, Walmer, Barkers Creek, Sutton Grange, Guildford, Ravenswood and Harcourt. The records on the Atlas of Living Australia (ALA) suggest that this species has been recorded across many sites in Victoria and Western Australia, with a total of 1,400 records entered onto the ALA.

Treatment

Manual removal requires digging up and removing all parts of the plant, including the tuber, leaves and flowers. The plant material must be bagged securely (e.g., in a snap-lock bag) to prevent the fine dust-like seed from spreading further. It is also worth making sure that the soil around the plant is put back after removal, to reduce the risk of regrowth.

If you are interested in seeing some excellent photos at different stages of its lifeform across the year, local legends Euan Moore and Jenny Rolland have prepared the following collage of images. Many thanks to Euan and Jenny for their photos and information, and passion for controlling this invasive emerging weed.

To learn more about this emerging weed and see a map of its current distribution, please visit the ALA website by clicking on the image below (courtesy of ALA).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Celebrating our volunteer heroes at Connecting Country

Posted on 17 December, 2020 by Ivan

Connecting Country could not do what we do without our volunteers. Our management committee is run by volunteers, our monitoring programs rely on skilled citizen scientists, our landholders ensure landscape restoration is maintained, and others help with events, Landcare, engagement and in countless other ways. We love our volunteers and appreciate their dedication to our vision of increasing, enhancing, and restoring biodiversity across central Victoria.

This year, we were fortunate to receive a very generous donation from a local family to support our woodland bird monitoring, including providing a humble thank-you celebration for our volunteers on the evening of Monday 14 December 2020 at The Hub Plot, behind our office in Castlemaine, Victoria.

We enjoyed COVID-safe celebratory drinks and snack packs in the leafy Hub Plot garden. Our Monitoring Coordinator, Jess Lawton, provided a short summary of our monitoring achievements over the last year, followed by plenty of chatting and Connecting Country’s second annual ‘Klop’ game championship. Thank you to everyone who came and made it a wonderful evening with great company. Special thanks to Lou, Jane R, and Duncan for setting up and helping the evening run smoothly, and to Heather and Neil for the lovely venue.

These days our projects run off very tight budgets, with funding opportunities extremely few and far between. Community has always been at the core of what we do at Connecting Country. In this new phase, we’ve had to rely on our community even more.

Because we’re surrounded by an engaged and enthusiastic community, we’re still able to check in on our local biodiversity, and deliver monitoring, engagement, Landcare support and landscape restoration across our region. If it wasn’t for your hard work, we simply would not be able to continue our valuable long-term biodiversity monitoring, engage our community in caring for our local landscapes, or empower landowners to manage their land as wildlife habitat.

To everyone who has helped Connecting Country in 2020: a big thank you! We are so grateful for your support.

To find out more about volunteer opportunities at Connecting Country, please visit our website – click here

Please enjoy the following photos by Lou Citroen and Ivan Carter, capturing the beauty of our volunteer celebration on a balmy summer’s evening in Castlemaine.

 

 

 

 

 

Our 2021 woodland bird calendars – nearly sold out!

Posted on 17 December, 2020 by Ivan

Our gorgeous cover features a Weebill by Albert Wright

Don’t miss out on one of the best 2021 calendars going around, even if we do say so ourselves. Treat yourself or your loved-ones to a delightful Christmas gift, while supporting habitat restoration in the Mount Alexander region of central Victoria. Thanks to our wonderful friends at MAAW, calendars have been selling fast.

Connecting Country’s 2021 woodland bird calendar is high-quality full-colour, A3-size and spiral-bound. Each month features one of the 13 beautiful images that won our woodland birds photography competition. All photos showcase local bird species and were taken by talented local photographers in the Mount Alexander region of Central Victoria.

Calendars are $30 each and make an excellent gift.

Where to buy:
Mount Alexander Animal Welfare Opportunity Shop
12 Johnstone St, Castlemaine VIC

Shop opening hours:

  • Tuesday 10 am – 3 pm
  • Thursday 10 am – 3 pm
  • Friday 10 am – 3 pm
  • Saturday 10 am – 1 pm

For more information on the MAAW shop – click here
For more information on MAAW’s work – click here

Mr June: Scarlet Robin at Muckleford Forest by Ash Vigus features in our 2021 woodland birds calendar

 

Connecting Country again extends a special thank you to our talented volunteer graphic designer, Jane Satchell, and our 13 winning photographers, who generously donated their images to feature in the calendar. Many thanks also to MAAW op shop for their support in stocking our calendar.

 

Festive greetings 2020

Posted on 17 December, 2020 by Frances

It’s Sweet Bursaria season! (photo by Frances Howe)

On behalf of the Connecting Country team, we wish every one of you the very best over the festive season, with special greetings to our wonderful volunteers, members, landholders, donors and supporters.

Whichever way you choose to celebrate, we hope you enjoy a well-deserved rest, and take time to connect with loved ones and our special local environment.

Connecting Country’s physical office at the Hub in Castlemaine remains closed to the public, in line with government health guidelines. Our virtual office will also close from 24 December 2020 to 4 January 2021 while our hardworking staff take a short break.

We look forward to seeing you (hopefully in person) in 2021!

 

 

People power! Victoria Gully Group working bee

Posted on 14 December, 2020 by Asha

People power! Earlier this month, twelve Victoria Gully Group volunteers hand-pulled over 2,500 Cape Broom (Genista monspessulana) seedlings at Clinkers Hill Bushland Reserve near Castlemaine in central Victoria. Several years ago, Victoria Gully Group began major restoration work at this site, so this working bee was important follow-up on past work.

Cape Broom is a noxious weed that has damaging impacts on the environment and agriculture in Australia. For more information about its impacts and management – click here and here.

When removing the Cape Broom seedlings, volunteers could see native seedlings emerging, including acacias, native peas and bursaria. If left unchecked, the Cape Broom would quickly grow to out-compete and smother the diversity of native habitat plants growing at the site. As many Connecting Country followers will know, Sweet Bursaria (Bursaria spinosa) is a vital plant for the life cycle of the threatened Eltham Copper Butterfly (Paralucia pyrodiscus lucida). For more information about their unique relationship – click here

Victoria Gully Group volunteers also work with the Department of Environment, Land, Water, and Planning to do restoration work such as revegetation, weed control and exclusion fencing just down the road from Clinkers Hill in Victoria Gully (a tributary for the local Forest Creek in Castlemaine). In recent years they have also established and maintained frog ponds in the gully to provide habitat.

Landcarers are often a humble bunch, so the amazing volunteer work they do can fly under the radar. Victoria Gully Group’s recent working bee was just one example of over 100 Landcare and Friends group working bees that take place in the Mount Alexander region every year to care for our local environment. Let us acknowledge and celebrate this achievement.

If you’d like to volunteer with Victoria Gully Group, or one of our other local Landcare or Friends groups in the Mount Alexander region, you can find their contact details on Connecting Country’s website – click here

 

2021 Woodland bird calendars – available now!

Posted on 10 December, 2020 by Frances

Our gorgeous cover features a Weebill by Albert Wright

Treat yourself or your loved-ones to a delightful Christmas gift, while supporting habitat restoration in the Mount Alexander region of central Victoria.

Connecting Country’s 2021 woodland bird calendar is high-quality full-colour, A3-size and spiral-bound. Each month features one of the 13 beautiful images that won our woodland birds photography competition. All photos showcase local bird species and were taken by talented local photographers in the Mount Alexander region of Central Victoria.

Calendars are $30 each and make an excellent gift.

Where to buy:
Mount Alexander Animal Welfare Opportunity Shop
12 Johnstone St, Castlemaine VIC

Shop opening hours:

  • Tuesday 10 am – 3 pm
  • Thursday 10 am – 3 pm
  • Friday 10 am – 3 pm
  • Saturday 10 am – 1 pm

For more information on the MAAW shop – click here
For more information on MAAW’s work – click here

Scarlet Robin by Ash Vigus features in our 2021 woodland birds calendar

 

Connecting Country again extends a special thank you to our talented volunteer graphic designer, Jane Satchell, and our 13 winning photographers, who generously donated their images to feature in the calendar. Many thanks also to MAAW op shop for their support in stocking our calendar.

 

Before and after the 2019-20 fires: ALA data showcase

Posted on 10 December, 2020 by Jacqui

The Atlas of Living Australia (ALA) is a collaborative, shared, digital infrastructure that pulls together Australian biodiversity data from multiple sources, making it accessible and usable. Connecting Country’s biodiversity monitoring programs deliver data to the ALA, via the Victorian Biodiversity Atlas (VBA). We use the ALA to keep and identify records of key native species in our region. The ALA helps create a detailed picture of Australia’s biodiversity for scientists, policy makers, environmental planners, land managers, industry and the general public.

The ALA has been busy building an impressive national dataset for all areas of Australia affected by the 2019-20 bushfire season. This dataset is now accessible. You can use the ALA to search for animal and plant species that may have been affected by the 2019-20 bushfires by mapping occurrence records logged in those areas, both before and after the fires.

The 2019-20 bushfires were some of the largest and most intense in living memory (photo: University of New South Wales Environment Recovery Project)

 

We have provided the following overview of this dataset, courtesy of the ALA website.

For ALA’s fact sheet on how to use the dataset – click here
To access the data via an interactive map – click here

How to use the bushfire extent data in the ALA

For more information on how to use this data in the ALA, read our help article on Using the National Indicative Aggregated Fire Extent Dataset 2019-20 in the ALA – click here

The National Indicative Aggregated Fire Extent Dataset

The National Indicative Aggregated Fire Extent Dataset was developed by the Australian Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment (DAWE) to help quantify the potential impacts of the 2019-20 bushfires on wildlife, plants and ecological communities, and identify appropriate response and recovery actions.

The dataset is a reliable, agreed, fit-for-purpose and repeatable national dataset of burnt areas across Australia for the 2019-20 bushfire season.

The National Indicative Aggregated Fire Extent Dataset includes:

  • Data from the national Emergency Management Spatial Information Network Australia (EMSINA) data service, which is the official fire extent currently used by the Australian Government, and
  • Supplementary data from other sources to form a cumulative national view of fire extent from 1 July 2019 to the 21 April 2020, these sources include NSW Rural Fire Service, Northern Australian Fire Information (NAFI), QLD Fire and Emergency Service, QLD Department of Environment and Science, SA Country Fire Service, SA Department for Environment and Water, Tasmanian Fire Service, TAS Department of Primary Industry, Parks, Water and Environment, VIC Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning, WA Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions.

The dataset is released on behalf of the Australian Government and endorsed by the National Burnt Area Dataset Working Group, convened by the National Bushfire Recovery Agency.

More information and links

 

 

 

Lizards loving warmer weather

Posted on 10 December, 2020 by Frances

If you think Australia has a national language, consider this lizard. Victorians commonly call it the stumpy-tail or shingleback. However it’s also known as the sleepy lizard (South Australia), bobtail (Western Australia), blue-tongue, bogeye, two-headed lizard and pinecone lizard. Naturally there are also Indigenous names such as Yoorn in the Nyungar language of south-west Western Australia. Some herpetologists (reptile scientists) claim this species has more common names than any other lizard!

Tiliqua rugosa is a short-tailed, slow-moving species of blue-tongued skink found across the arid to semiarid regions of southern and western Australia, including here in central Victoria. Its heavily armoured body can display various colours and patterns, ranging from dark brown to cream. It has a short, wide, stumpy tail that resembles its head, which may confuse predators. The tail also contains fat reserves, which it can draw on during lean times. This big skink is omnivorous. It eats snails and plants, spending much of its time browsing through vegetation for food. It is often seen sunning on roadsides, rocks or paved areas.

There are four subspecies. Tiliqua rugosa asper is the subspecies we find in central Victoria. They pair for life and over the course of their long life (20-30 years), a couple will annually come together to mate and rear their young.

With the weather warming up, you may notice the odd stumpy-tail lizard or other reptile in your neighbourhood. The Australian Broadcasting Commission (ABC) recently published an excellent article describing some practical things you can do to help them:

To read the ABC article – click here

Stumpy-tailed lizard enjoying a snack in Barkers Creek (photo by Bonnie Humphreys)

 

North Central CMA seeking local landholders for carbon projects

Posted on 10 December, 2020 by Ivan

We received a request from the North Central CMA, seeking landholders across our region who are interested in supporting large-scale carbon projects on their properties. Please read on for more information. To view the original article published in the North Central Chat newsletter – click here

Expression of Interest – Carbon landholder register in the north central region

The North Central CMA is actively looking to support large scale carbon projects across our catchment as we recognise the potential contribution of the carbon market to support our Regional Catchment Strategy (RCS) objectives, such as climate change mitigation, retention and protection of on farm biodiversity, biodiversity links, stewardship and increasing soil health.

It is our intention to set up an interested landholder register to allow us to facilitate and enable large scale projects with our NRM partners in the region. We would like to hear from any landholders that would be interested in participating in the carbon market – soil or revegetation. As a guide we have provided the following criteria, but we encourage anyone with an interest to register their details with us as opportunities may exist for smaller sites. Keep in mind that a longer-term commitment would be required on these projects.

Criteria for land:

  • The preference would be for 50 hectares or more but 20+ hectares would be acceptable OR
  • Long stretch of riparian zones
  • Ideally area should provide opportunity for biodiversity, biolinks and indigenous outcomes
  • Looking for ecosystems that hold carbon

Once we have an established list of interested landholders, we will be in contact in early 2021 with next steps. We will not share any personal information without your permission. The intention of this exercise will be to create project scale – if we get enough of you onboard then we are more likely to have a viable project. 

Please contact: info@nccma.vic.gov.au

North Central CMA

The Kooyoora Connections project is supported by the North Central CMA and is a good example of a carbon positive project (photo by Kirsten Hutchison of Trust for Nature)

 

Eltham Copper Butterfly update: 2019-20 surveys

Posted on 3 December, 2020 by Frances

The Eltham Copper Butterfly is one of our most treasured and interesting threatened species, and we are fortunate enough to have the largest population in the world right here in the Mount Alexander region of central Victoria. This special little butterfly has recently recieved some much-needed attention, attracting funding for three separate projects in our region.

During 2019, Connecting Country obtained funding from the Mount Alexander Shire Council to increase community awareness and education regarding the butterfly, and to support citizen science monitoring in key locations to learn more about the local populations. We worked closely with local ecologists Elaine Bayes and Karl Just who, with support from Wettenhall Environment Trust, continued their vital work on mapping local Eltham Copper Butterfly habitat and distribution. We also joined in the excellent Butterfly Celebration Day held in Castlemaine Botanical Gardens in November 2019.

We have recently received an update from our expert Eltham Copper Butterfly (ECB) enthusisast, Elaine Bayes, regarding the 2020-21 ECB monitoring program. We admire Elaine, and her colleague Karl Just, for their extensive work on this threatened species. Without such dedicated individuals in our community, this special little butterfly might be more trouble that it already is.

Please enjoy the following update by Elaine Bayes

Due to Coronavirus we are not running any group ECB monitoring this season, however we would really appreciate it if anyone wants to get out and carry on searching for ECB habitat and/or ECB flying.

Priorities this year are:

  • Continue to search for ECB in the red and pink sections of Kalimna Park using the map we collated last year – see attached geo-referenced kalimna map with grids and yellow dots for last years ECB records and blue dots for past records) and ADULT method sheets.
  • And/OR replicate overall method we did at kalimna park re mapping ECB HABITAT at the 2 other ECB populations in Campbells Creek and Chewton – see dingo park map which has both sites on it and ECB habitat method.

Contact me if you have any questions or need me to explain the methods better.

Below is an update on the amazing success we had with this methodology last year at Kalimna and how it protected ECB from the planned burns that occurred there last autumn.

Eltham Copper Butterfly update from 2019 to 2020 surveys – Elaine Bayes 

Last summer we were very lucky to receive support to carry out Eltham Copper Butterfly (ECB) surveys in Kalimna Park as well as many educational initiatives to promote this species locally.

During the October 2019 – January 2020 ECB flying period, the ECB at Kalimna park were surveyed by ecologists Elaine Bayes and Karl Just as part of a flora and fauna assessment for the Dja Dja Wurrung. In addition to this work the ECB Monitoring Group which now has 45 members, carried out additional surveys searching for ECB throughout this period.  Collectively Karl, the group and I found: 113 flying adults, located 5 new ECB sub-populations and extended the area of known ECB occupancy from 3 ha (based on past data from 2005-2015) to 8 ha in 2019-2020 (this area is a polygon around ECB seen during this period, with 10m buffer).

In order to ensure that our efforts were focussed we only searched areas that supported the Sweet Bursaria host plant. To do this we developed a 50m grid across the park and carried out a rapid assessment of numbers of Bursaria plants within each grid and colour coded them (time spent was 48 hours). Overall, we assessed all 225 ha of Kalimna Park of which 73.25 ha was ranked prime potential ECB habitat. Using this map we focussed our ECB searches only in areas with medium to high density of Bursaria. The total survey effort or time spent searching for ECB in this period was 187 hours.

Our ECB habitat mapping and adult ECB records were all shared with DELWP, and a few members of the monitoring group met with Fire Operations Staff of DELWP, Bendigo prior to their Autumn 2020 burn in the hope that they could carry out the burn without burning the 8 ha of ECB habitat.  A large area of Kalimna Park was burnt, including patchy burns where some of the larger ECB colonies occur.

ECB at the Castlemaine Botanical Gardens update 

Mount Alexander Shire Council have funded for the second year in a row, a survey of Eltham Copper Butterflies that in the northern section of the Botanic Gardens. Seven transects were established in this area in 2010 and were surveyed by DELWP from 2010-2012.  MASC then resurveyed these transects in 2019 and again this year.  Historically the botanic gardens ECB population provided evidence that ECB populations may move up to several hundred metres depending on local environmental conditions.  Previous studies of the gardens ECB indicated that they occurred on one of two ridges and that they moved from one ridge to the other.  I was always dubious as from my three years of surveys they were only ever seen on the western ridge.  So I was shocked last week to find that the only ECB I saw were on the eastern ridge!  However given that there has been a large number of years where the site was not surveyed, more consistent observations over time will support this.  This is more evidence that we need to protect not only where ECB occur but surrounding habitat that can support them so they can shift when conditions no longer support them.

Getting involved this summer 

If you would like to join the ECB monitoring group to help survey for the butterflies and their host Bursaria plants, please contact Elaine: rakali@outlook.com.au.

For information about the Eltham Copper Butterfly and its identification, see: https://connectingcountry.org.au/education-resources/eltham-copper-butterfly-in-central-victoria/

To learn more about this fascinating little butterfly, including ecology, distribution and information on how to identify this species from similar look-alike butterflies – click here. Please enjoy the following video , courtesy of the N-danger-D Youtube Channel, that has some excellent footage of this wonderful butterfly and symbiotic ant species.