Restoring landscapes across the Mount Alexander Region

Landcare sticky beak tour 2022 – Castlemaine Landcare Group

Posted on 29 September, 2022 by Hadley Cole

 

As part of the Landcare Sticky Beak Tour in October 2022 we will be celebrating the work of Landcare and friends groups across the Mount Alexander/ Leanganook region.

Today we will have a little sticky beak into the wonderful work of Castlemaine Landcare Group.

 

Castlemaine Landcare Group volunteers hard at work (photo by Gerry Egan)

 

Castlemaine Landcare Group (CLG) has been running for 20 years and has achieved a great deal along Forest and Moonlight Creeks, close to the centre of Castlemaine VIC.  An area of gorse, blackberry and other weeds, has been transformed into a place of natural diversity and beauty. There is always more to do to encourage indigenous flora and fauna and deal with the ever-present weed challenges. CLG are a welcoming and well-organised group, and are always pleased to see new volunteers join their regular working bees.

To explore some of CLG work head to the Happy Valley (or Leanganook) walking track alongside Forest Creek, from Happy Valley Road to Colles Rd, or the stretch of Moonlight Creek from Happy Valley Rd downstream to Forest Creek. This is a beautiful part of the local environment and showcases Castlemaine Landcare’s work over 20 years. The area is shown on the map below, with marked access points (eg. E2) and our names for work areas (eg., The Copses). This area stretches for about 1 km, and can be approached as one walk, or in parts.

 CLG has about 40 members plus a number of other regular helpers.  They work predominantly on the Crown Land along the creek reserves, with some involvement of neighbouring landholders. Working bees are usually held every fortnight. 

Further details can be found on the CLG website (castlemainelandcare.org.au) or Facebook page (facebook.com/CastlemaineLandcare)

This October, get out there and explore your local neighbourhood and see what plants and animals you can find in your local Landcare group’s sites!

A happy Kookaburra enjoying the scenery (photo by Gerry Egan)

The Sticky Beak Tour was made possible through the Victorian Landcare Grants with the North Central Catchment Management Authority.

 

 

Looking for landholders: Bursaria for butterflies

Posted on 27 September, 2022 by Ivan

The Castlemaine area is home to the largest remaining populations of the Eltham Copper Butterfly. Historically, survey efforts and management actions have focused on public land, yet we know there is potential butterfly habitat on adjoining private land. This habitat is under threat, particularly from urbanisation, weeds, changed fire regimes and grazing.

Connecting Country’s Bursaria for Butterflies project aims to protect and enhance priority habitat for the threatened Eltham Copper Butterfly (Paralucia pyrodiscus lucida) around Castlemaine VIC. We’ll achieve this through practical on-ground actions to reduce threats and improve the quality, quantity and connectivity of available butterfly habitat. We will work with key landholders to protect and restore priority butterfly habitat on their land. We’re supporting local landholders to control threats (including weeds and rabbits) and revegetate their land, focusing on the butterfly’s host plant, Sweet Bursaria (Bursaria spinosa).

Sweet Bursaria is a small prickly shrub that produces abundant small white flowers through summer. It’s a great habitat plant for wildlife and essential for Eltham Copper Butterflies. On warm spring nights their caterpillars climb Sweet Bursaria plants to feed, accompanied by their special attendant ants.

This project is funded by the Australian Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment as part of the Environment Restoration Fund and Threatened Species Strategy Action Plan.

Looking for local landholders

We are looking for interested landholders with properties (of at least 1 acre) adjacent to the known local populations of the Eltham Copper Butterfly.

Assistance for landholders

If your property is suitable for the project, we will:

  • Visit your property to identify remnant vegetation and assess its potential as butterfly habitat.
  • Discuss management actions and provide you with advice on how to protect, connect and enhance butterfly habitat on your property.
  • Provide suitable indigenous understory plants and plant guards for revegetation, with a focus on Sweet Bursaria.

For five key landholders with larger properties, we will also:

  • Develop a written property management plan setting our on-ground actions to protect and improve butterfly habitat.
  • Supply contractor support for weed and rabbit control, and revegetation planting.
  • Provide ongoing advice on how to manage your property as butterfly habitat.

Property selection criteria

Not every property will be suitable as Eltham Copper Butterfly habitat and we will prioritise properties that are closer to known butterfly sightings. We’re looking for properties that meet the following criteria.

Land with:

  • Minimum of 0.4 hectares (1 acre) land size with space for revegetation planting
  • Proximity (within 1 km) to Kalimna Park, Castlemaine Botanical Gardens northern section, Chewton Bushlands (Dingo Park Rd region), Walmer Forest Reserve (near southern end of Woodbrook Rd) and Campbells Creek (near Broad Rd).
  • Suitable conditions for the target plant species to facilitate healthy growth.
  • No domestic stock grazing.

Landholders with:

  • Strong interest in managing their property for biodiversity conservation and restoration.
  • Commitment to planting and maintaining the revegetated plants.
  • Capacity to commit to future land management actions (e.g., weed and rabbit control, grazing exclusion, maintaining plant guards).

Landholder expressions of interest

If you meet the criteria and are keen protect and restore butterfly habitat on your land, please complete our expression of interest form – click here

Please return your expression of interest form to Connecting Country via email (info@connectingcountry.org.au). Expressions of interest close on the 17 October 2022

Learn more about the Eltham Copper Butterfly

For more information about the Eltham Copper Butterfly – click here
You may also enjoy the following video, courtesy of N-danger-D.

 

Announcing Connecting Country AGM – 19 November 2022

Posted on 26 September, 2022 by Ivan

Connecting Country is delighted to announce our Annual General Meeting (AGM) for 2022. After two years of online AGMs, we finally meet at the magnificent Campbells Creek Community Centre in person. Hurrah!

Please join us for this free event on Saturday 19 November 2022 at 2.00 pm for brief AGM formalities, afternoon tea and our special guest presenter. As usual, it will be much more than an AGM!

Our theme is ‘Caring for large old trees in our landscape’ and we will feature a special presentation:

Large old trees: Caring and sharing their future
Chris Pocknee – Landscape and Biodiversity Conservation Ecologist with Biolinks Alliance

Chris is an ecologist with a passion for understanding the threats facing native fauna and ecosystems, and how we can address these issues. Chris grew up in the south-eastern suburbs of Melbourne and completed his MSc at the University of Melbourne in 2017 before undertaking an internship with the Australian Wildlife Conservancy in NSW. Chris has recently submitted his PhD thesis at the University of Queensland, where he studied the impacts of fire and feral cats on the Endangered northern bettong. He relishes collaborative ecological work, and is passionate about empowering communities to conserve and recover local biodiversity. Chris loves exploring the outdoors, camping, wildlife photography and football.

Join Chris to learn about how to care for old trees in our landscape, and how vital they are to a host of woodland birds and other wildlife.

Everyone is most welcome! Please register your attendance for the meeting – click here

 

AGM formalities

The following Connecting Country AGM 2022 documents are available for download:

Our independant financial audit report 2022 is  in progress and will be available in early November prior to the AGM.

Please note only current Connecting Country members can vote in the AGM. To become a member or renew your membership – click here

If you have any questions, please email info@connectingcountry.org.au

Thank you to the Ian & Shirley Norman Foundation for their invaluable support of our ‘Caring for large old trees’ project.

 

Landcare sticky beak tour – Saturday 8 October 2022

Posted on 21 September, 2022 by Hadley Cole

The Mount Alexander region Landcare sticky beak tour is a celebration of Landcare and friends groups across the region! Many of the natural spaces you can experience in our beautiful region have been lovingly brought back to life and cared for by the incredibly dedicated network of Landcare and friends groups of the region.

Our Landcare sticky beak tour provides an opportunity for our local Landcare and environment groups to showcase their work both online over the month of October 2022, and in person at the launch on Saturday 8 October 2022 at Honeycomb Reserve (end of Honeycomb Rd), Campbells Creek VIC from 10.00 am to 12 noon.

Connecting Country will launch the project in partnership with local Landcare and friends groups, with a walking tour in and around sites in the Campbells Creek area. This is a great opportunity to hear about the activities of local Landcare groups, meet some of the Landcarers and share their stories. Everyone is welcome and morning tea will be provided. Sturdy walking shoes and drink bottles are recommended.

Please book to assist us with planning.

To book for this free event – click here

If you have questions about the Landcare sticky beak tour please contact Connecting Country’s Landcare Facilitator, Hadley Cole – hadley@connectingcountry.org.au

This project is funded by North Central Catchment Management Authority as part of the Victorian Landcare Grants.

 

Rapid Response Landcare Recovery competition – and the winner is….

Posted on 7 September, 2022 by Hadley Cole

As part of our Rapid Response Landcare Recovery project funded by the Helen Macpherson Smith Trust, Connecting Country ran a competition for Landcare groups across the Mount Alexander region to win a plant voucher for 50 native plants plus 50 plant guards.

We had some very competitive entries, which made the decision too difficult. Thank you to all the groups who took the time to send in their entries. In the end we drew the winner out of the hat!

And the winner is…..Golden Point Landcare! 

Golden Point Landcare will use the 50 plants and guards to ‘replace a ghastly gorse plant with a gorgeous “good” plant in the Chinamans Point area to show what a difference one small act can make to the health of our local bush.’

Congratulations Golden Point Landcare! May all 50 plants flourish and thrive!

Connecting Country sincerely thanks the Helen Macpherson Smith Trust for funding this project and making restoration efforts accessible for Landcare and friends groups across the region.

 

Local tubestock ready for planting (photo by Ivan Carter)

 

Bird of the month: Brown-headed Honeyeater

Posted on 6 September, 2022 by Ivan

Welcome to our 29th 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 blessed to have both the brilliant Damian Kelly and talented Jane Rusden from BirdLife Castlemaine District writing about our next bird of the month, accompanied by their stunning photos.

Brown-headed Honeyeater (Melithreptus brevirostris)

Walking through Rise and Shine Bushland Reserve (Sandon VIC) in late August, with my camera in hand, I observed a honeyeater intently doing something in a bunch of leaves. I couldn’t see clearly what was going on until I got to study the photos. Turns out it was a Brown-headed Honeyeater in the very early stages of constructing a nest, using spider web and fleece from a sheep to build the anchor point from which the nest will hang. Thus, this month Damian and I bring you the Brown-headed Honeyeater.

In our region there are three fairly similar honeyeaters with white napes – the White-naped, Black-chinned and Brown-headed Honeyeaters. They are often tricky to identify without close views. The eyes have it, with White-naped having an orange eye ring, the Black-chinned with a blue eye ring and the Brown-head with a pale eye ring. In many ways the Brown-headed Honeyeater is a nondescript bird with grey and brown predominating. It favours upper foliage and you are more likely to hear it than see it. And there is the added complication that it can be mistaken for the young of the related White-naped Honeyeater.

I find the Brown-headed Honeyeater to be shyer and slightly smaller than many other honeyeater species. They tend to hang back at the bird bath and patiently wait until the brasher birds have finished splashing, shouting at each other (Fuscous Honeyeaters), and generally causing mayhem. Although a honeyeater, its diet primarily consists of insects and spiders, as well as nectar when available. Some studies have shown a pattern of about 35% nectar and 65% insects.

Communal behaviour is marked in the species, with them regularly travelling and foraging in groups. In winter family groups from adjacent territories often form large wandering mobs. Birds may preen each other and family parties often roost in huddles, usually in slender foliage near the tops of trees. Similar to other species that roost together, the Brown-headed Honeyeater huddles have the mature birds take up the outer perches with the young birds sandwiched in-between. Often adjacent birds face in different directions, which probably makes it easier to pack closer together as well as providing a wider view of possible predators.

Brown-headed Honeyeater taking flight (photo Damian Kelly)

 

Nests are cup-shaped structures suspended from branches. Nesting is sometimes assisted by additional birds. The material mainly consists of spiders’ webs used to bind together such things as horse and cattle hair, and even Koala fur has been recorded. Strangely, cattle hair is usually from white animals not those with darker colours.

Two or three eggs are laid with incubation and feeding of young by both parents. One or more auxiliary birds may assist in incubation and the feeding of the young. Generally, this species moves within a large home range, with movements dependent on food availability. Bird banding studies have confirmed this, with the 99% of recoveries within 10 km of the banding site. Distribution is from southern Queensland through to Western Australia, mainly closer to coastal area and inland rivers.

Late winter and early spring are exciting times in the bush, with all sorts of breeding activities going on. Such a great time to stumble on interesting and curious animal behaviours. The following photos show a Brown-headed Honeyeater in the very early stages of nest building, high up in a Box tree. The anchor is being made, from which a cup-shaped nest will hang, hidden by leaves.

Brown-headed Honeyeater starting to build a new nest high up in a Box tree (photo by Jane Rusden)

 

Brown-headed Honeyeater in the very early stages of nest building (photo by Jane Rusden)

 

To listen to the brown-headed Honeyeater call – click here

Jane Rusden & Damian Kelly

 

Wettenhall celebrates with Professor Tim Flannery – 16 September 2022

Posted on 6 September, 2022 by Frances

Our friends and supporters at Wettenhall Environment Trust are celebrating their 25th birthday in style with a special event at the Melbourne Museum.

Join environmental luminaries Tim Flannery and Ann Jones as they tease out the monumental environmental problems we face.

Professor Tim Flannery will make the keynote address. ABC journalist and presenter, Dr Ann Jones, will then moderate a panel session during which Tim and a diverse range of people discuss – where to from here?

Date: Friday 16 September 2022 5:00 – 8.00 pm
Location: Melbourne Museum Theatre, 11 Nicholson Street, Carlton VIC 3053
To view the event flyer – click here
To purchase tickets – click here

Full-price tickets are $50 and student tickets are $30.

To learn more about the Wettenhall Environment Trust and their amazing 25 years of grant support for projects that make a positive difference to the natural living environment – click here

May be an image of 2 people, outdoors and text that says "25VEARS 25 1? Wettenhall YEARS ENVIRONMENTTRUS 0 OF 5 ×N Professor Tim Flannery was our first guest speaker at our lecture series at the Museum. Now, quarter of century later after the launching of Wettenhall Environment Trust, he's back making second keynote speech. ABC journalist and presrenter, Dr Ann Jones will then lead a panel session at which Tim and a diverse range of people discuss- where to from here? 25 YEARS 25 GRANTMAKIN ANT"

 

Rapid Response Landcare Recovery: thank you and good luck!

Posted on 1 September, 2022 by Hadley Cole

Photo from the Connecting Country archive

Thank you to all Landcare groups for your entries for the 2022 plants giveaway as part of our Rapid Response Landcare Recovery project. We received amazing responses from you all and it will be a tough decision!

We will be announcing the winner early next week so stay tuned via the Connecting Country blog and Facebook page. Good luck!

This opportunity was made possible due to the Rapid Response Landcare Recovery project funded by the Helen Macpherson Smith Trust. 

 

Celebrate 25 years with Harcourt Valley Landcare

Posted on 1 September, 2022 by Frances

Its’s been 25 years since a small group of passionate locals came together to form Harcourt Valley Landcare, near Castlemaine in central Victoria. Many projects and volunteer hours have helped protect the unique Harcourt Valley environment.

Harcourt Valley Landcare invite the Mount Alexander community and Landcare network to come and celebrate with them over a morning tea from 10.00 am to 12.00 pm on Sunday 25 September 2022 at Leanganook Campground, Mount Alexander VIC. All are welcome to join and hear from guest speaker and local legend, George Milford.

For further event details please refer to their flyer – click here

If you wish to attend please RSVP by 16 September 2022 via email: info@harcourtvalleylandcare.org

But that’s not all!

Harcourt Valley Landcare just published their brand new, fabulous brochure promoting their wonderful people and beautiful landscape to prospective members.

To view the new Harcourt Valley Landcare brochure – click here

To learn more about Harcourt Valley Landcare, please visit their website – click here

We wish Harcourt Valley Landcare a very happy birthday and many congratulations for their many achievements over the last 25 years.

 

Welcome Anna, thank you Jacqui!

Posted on 1 September, 2022 by Frances

Thank you Jacqui!

Connecting Country would like to extend a warm thank you to our dear colleague and friend, Jacqui Slingo. Jacqui has recently moved on from Connecting Country to focus on her work at the Wetland Revival Trust and building her house.

Jacqui initially joined Connecting Country in 2018 as a Project Officer while Bonnie was on parental leave. She then supported our 30 Landcare groups as our Landcare Facilitator for the Mount Alexander region, while Asha took extended leave. Jacqui went on to make numerous vital contributions to Connecting Country, such as providing essential ‘virtual’ office support and overhauling our IT system to support remote work during COVID-19 lockdowns. Jacqui led development of our ‘Healthy Landscape’ guide, and juggled multiple admin tasks behind the scenes, including maintaining our member database, coordinating fundraising drives and organising events.

We are so grateful for Jacqui’s adaptability and the enormous contribution she made to Connecting Country over a challenging four years. We wish her the very best at the Wetland Revival Trust.

Scroll through the following gallery to enjoy some of Jacqui’s memorable moments!

Welcome Anna! 

Anna is a terrestrial ecologist with experience working in environmental management for state government and private sectors throughout eastern Australia. She has a passion for the conservation of lesser-known species, particularly reptiles. Anna’s PhD explored the conservation biology and ecology of some of Victoria’s rarest lizards: the Guthega skink, mountain skink and swamp skink.   

Anna lives in Castlemaine with her partner and enjoys tending her garden and looking after her ever-growing menagerie. 

Anna now works for Connecting Country one day per week (on a Monday) and provides organisational support across all our projects. She has already been an enormous help with delivering our ‘Future-proof our Forests’ project and work with Chewton Primary School. Anna can be contacted via anna@connectingcountry.org.au.

Please join us in extending a warm welcome to Anna!

Anna and students (photo by John Ellis)

 

A chance to win plants for your next Landcare project!

Posted on 24 August, 2022 by Jacqui

Landcare groups of the Mount Alexander region – we want to hear from you! 

We are delighted to announce a giveaway as part of our Rapid Response Landcare Recovery project. 

We encourage local Landcare groups to enter for a chance to win 50 plants and protective tree guards and stakes to use on one of your projects. 

To enter please answer this question in 100 words or less:
‘How would 50 plants and guards add value to one of your Landcare projects?’ 

Please respond via comments on this blog, email (hadley@connectingcountry.org.au) or on this post on the Connecting Country Facebook page. Make sure to identify your Landcare group in your response. 

Competition closes Wednesday 31 August 2022.

This competition is only open to Landcare groups within the Mount Alexander region of central Victoria.

Our Rapid Response Landcare Recovery project was made possible due to the generosity of the Helen Macpherson Smith Trust and their commitment to supporting the restoration and protection of sustainable environments across Victoria. 

Bonnie and Ivan from Connecting Country holding a selection of plants (photo by Jacqui Slingo)

 

 

Bird of the month: White-faced Heron

Posted on 23 August, 2022 by Ivan

Welcome to our 28th 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 blessed to have both the brilliant Damian Kelly and talented Jane Rusden from BirdLife Castlemaine District writing about our next bird of the month, accompanied by their stunning photos.

White-faced Heron (Egretta novaehollandiae)

While walking and discussing birds and cameras with Damian Kelly and Ash Vigus, whom regular readers will know as extremely talented and knowledgable on both those topics, we spotted a White-faced Heron with a stick in its bill. Sure enough, it was nest building with its mate, high up in a tall Pinus halepensis, in the beautiful Castlemaine Botanical Gardens.

High in a tree is a classic spot for them to build their messy pile of sticks lined with smaller twigs, that somehow works as a nest. Favoured sites are near water and therefore a food source, even when these same sites are popular with human visitors. As a large blue-grey bird with it’s distinctive white face, normally seen stealthily stalking invertebrates and frogs in shallow water or mud flats, they can look a bit incongruous in a tree.

The majestic, blue-grey White-faced Heron (photo Damian Kelly)

 

Usually they are seen as single birds, who may have become resident at a dam or other food source for a long period of time. However, during the breeding season and for a while afterwards, family groups will form feeding parties and work their way across a paddock or irrigated farmland, searching for frogs and insects. During breeding, both sexes incubate and feed young. Clutch sizes are usually 2-3 chicks, and once fledged the young will stay near the nest site while the parents feed them.

The call of the White-faced Heron is slightly scary in my opinion, and not what you’d expect from such an elegant-looking bird. It is harsh and guttural, often heard while the bird is flying overhead. Usually, they are silent, as you’d expect from a bird that stalks its food, and relies on stealth and surprise to snatch a meal.

A White-faced Heron ‘surfing’ in the shallows. Along the coast they will hunt in rock pools, artfully dodging waves as they work the shore. (photo by Damian Kelly)

 

White-faced Herons are one of a small bunch of species that may have benefitted from land clearing and deforestation. They have adapted to using man-made or altered water sources for feeding, probably because they were already adapted to using a variety of fresh and saline habitats to hunt for food. Basically, if it’s got water, they will stalk it for tasty morsels such as fish, crustaceans, worms and other smaller creatures of the animal kingdom. They do farmers a favour with their capacity to consume large numbers of crickets in pasture. Being such an adaptable bird, White-faced Herons can be found all over Australia (except in the central deserts), and in New Zealand, parts of Papua-New Guinea and various offshore islands.

To find out more about White-faced Herons, including their calls – click here

Jane Rusden and Damian Kelly

 

 

1,000 plants for climate change resilience

Posted on 18 August, 2022 by Ivan

What could be more satisfying than planting 1,000 Silver Banksia (Banksia marginata) and Sweet Bursaria (Bursaria spinosa) in the middle of winter? Knowing that the plants will form two climate future plots right here in Mount Alexander region that will create seed production areas and provide climate-adapted seed for use in future revegetation projects!

We have been very busy over the past few months creating 1,000 sturdy wire trees guards, laying out the plots, planting, and labelling each plant so we can identify individuals and provenances most suited to survive in our changing climatic conditions. It has been a mammoth job, that is now completed through the combined efforts of dedicated volunteers, staff and contractors.

Each plot has been carefully set out to allow tracking of each plant into the future.  Mixing up provenances within the plot will increase the likelihood they will share pollen between plants when they flower and reproduce. This sharing of this genetic information may help the plants adapt as our climate changes. Once the plants are established, monitoring will allow us to assess plant growth and success.

The two climate future plots are located near Castlemaine and Metcalfe, with one having 500 Sweet Bursaria and the other 500 Silver Banksia. Both are key species for our local woodlands and landscape.

Silver Banksia plot near Metcalfe (photo by Bonnie Humphreys)

 

500 Silver Banksia planted at the plot near Metcalfe (photo by Bonnie Humphreys)

 

Sweet Bursaria plot near Castlemaine (photo by Bonnie Humphreys)

 

500 Sweet Bursaria planted at the plot near Castlemaine (photo by Bonnie Humphreys)

 

A massive thanks to Connecting Country’s volunteers, staff, contractors and landholders for making our climate future plots a reality. We’d especially like to thank Bonnie, Duncan, Anna and Richie for going the extra mile to get the precious plants safely in the ground and protected.

We have sourced plants from a variety of provenances, from local populations as well as further away. We started by looking at the Bureau of Meteorology’s climate predictions for our region, and selected seed from areas that are anticipated to match our predicted future local climate, focusing on areas that are hotter and drier. However, we also included seed from areas that are cooler and wetter. We aimed to include genetics from a wide range of environments, as we don’t know what will be important in the future. There may be other genetic information stored within a particular provenance, such as the ability to survive insect attack or frost resilience, that plants from hotter and drier areas do not have. We then paired these climate predictions with species distribution and the availability of seed or plants, to make our final plant selection.

We are thrilled to have our plants in the ground, during a moist period over winter, and protected by 1.5 m high wire guards. We will be holding a tour of the climate future plots over the coming year, once the plants are established.

The Silver Banksia and Sweet Bursaria prior to planting (photo by Ivan Carter)

 

We thank the Ross Trust for their generous funding for this important project. The Ross Trust is a perpetual charitable trust with a vision to create positive social and environmental change so Victorians can thrive.

 

To learn more about climate future plots visit:

 

Post Office Hill Action Group – Landcare Recovery planting

Posted on 11 August, 2022 by Hadley Cole

In mid-July 2022 Post Office Hill Action Group (POHAG) joined forces with Chewton Primary School for a morning of planting in the Post Office Hill Reserve behind the school in Chewton VIC. The plants ranged from sedges, wattles, and shrubs including species such as Black-anther Flax-lily (Dianella revoluta), Tall Sedge (Carex appressa), Silver Wattle (Acacia dealbata) and Showy Parrot-pea (Dillwynea sericea).

The prep/1/2 class showed great enthusiasm and local knowledge of Post Office Hill Reserve. Anna and Marie from Connecting Country joined the students and Post Office Hill Action Group volunteers to tackle planting out the creek line. The students worked full steam ahead and filled the holes in no time!

They then followed up with mulching the plants, securing them safely in their new homes. It was wonderful to see a local environment group teaming up with the next generation to tackle on ground conservation action and care for their local bush reserve.

Prep/1/2 students Rudy and Leif secure the plants in their new home (photo by John Ellis)

This planting was supported by Connecting Country’s ‘Rapid Response Landcare Recovery‘ project funded by the Helen Macpherson Smith Trust to help Landcare groups regain their momentum following the impacts of COVID-19 restrictions on their activities.

Post Office Hill Action Group were supplied with 300 plants selected in consultation with Connecting Country’s Landscape Restoration Coordinator, Bonnie Humphreys.

Congratuations to Post Office Hill Action Group and Chewton Primary School for this valuable work, and thank you to the Helen Macpherson Smith Trust for their ongoing commitment to supporting the restoration and protection of sustainable environments across Victoria.

Anna from Connecting Country chats with the students (photo by John Ellis)

Andrew from POHAG works with Orlo from the Prep/1/2 class (photo by John Ellis)

 

 

A delightful visit with Ian & Shirley Norman Foundation

Posted on 8 August, 2022 by Frances

Connecting Country was delighted to host a visit from our financial supporters at the Ian & Shirley Norman Foundation. We love to connect with our funders but it is rare they come to visit, especially when they’ve come all the way from Newcastle (NSW)!

Tracy Norman (Founder and Chair) and Coralie Nichols (Chief Executive Officer) visited the Connecting Country office in Castlemaine on 28 July 2022. After a convivial coffee and overview of our organisation, we took Tracy and Coralie on a whirlwind tour to visit one of our dedicated landholders on their farm at Sutton Grange. This gave an opportunity to demonstrate some of Connecting Country’s previous work to protect remnant vegetation, and improve habitat with revegetation via direct seeding and tubestock planting. Many thanks to Marge and Ron for hosting our visit, sharing their lovely property with us, and giving such positive feedback about Connecting Country!

The Ian & Shirley Norman Foundation’s purpose is ‘To encourage and support organisations that are capable of responding to social and ecological opportunities and challenges.’ To learn more about their great work – click here.

We are most grateful for the Foundation’s support of our new ‘Regenerate before it’s too late’ project that will engage the community about the importance of large old trees and how to protect them. Over the next three years (2022-25) we will host a series of workshops and produce communication materials. We will also help local landholders with practical on-ground actions to protect their large old trees and ensure the next generation of large old trees across the landscape.

It was great to meet Tracy and Coralie and look forward to implementing our latest project across the next three years.

Tracy Norman (I&S Norman Foundation) with Bonnie, Max and Marie (Connecting Country) and Marg and Ron (landholders) (photos by Frances Howe)

 

Window strike: when birds hit windows – 12 August 2022

Posted on 4 August, 2022 by Frances

Swift Parrot (photo by Michael Gooch)

Our friends at Castlemaine Field Naturalists Club and BirdLife Castlemaine District are teaming up to host a joint meeting. Local nature guru Tanya Loos will speak on an important topic that is sure to interest many of our readers.

Friday 12 August 2022 at 7.30 pm via Zoom

Speaker: Tanya Loos, Nature writer and science communicator

Topic: Window strike: when birds hit windows

Window strike is a huge problem for common birds as well as threatened species such as the Swift Parrot and Powerful Owl.  Many of us have had the unfortunate experience of a thud or even a crash as a bird in rapid flight collides with a window at home. The good news is there are easy steps you can take to prevent this happening.

The meeting will be held by Zoom.  All are welcome.

If you have not joined earlier webinars and wish to attend, please email Peter Turner at munrodsl@iinet.net.au

 

 

 

Sutton Grange Landcare Group – Landcare Recovery planting

Posted on 3 August, 2022 by Hadley Cole

Sutton Grange Landcare Group has been out and about enthusiastically planting a range of locally-grown tubestock plants to build habitat in the Sutton Grange area, located north east of Castlemaine in central Victoria. This work was supported by Connecting Country’s ‘Rapid Response Landcare Recovery‘ project funded by the Helen Macpherson Smith Trust to help Landcare groups regain their momentum following the impacts of COVID-19 restrictions on their activities.

In early July 2022 the group got out on site, and with the young and the wise, planted a diverse range of lower and middle storey species. The planting was planned and the plants carefully selected with help from Connecting Country’s Landscape Restoration Coordinator, Bonnie Humphreys.

Enthusiastic planters at work (photo by Todd Ware)

Sutton Grange Landcare group photo! (photo by Todd Ware)

The group declared the planting day a great success!

‘We were blessed with a lovely sunny but cool morning, and a great team of volunteers – nine adults and seven children. We focussed our planting on a strip along Spring Creek with the aim of joining up the existing large trees with understory species such as Acacia, Hakea and Dianella. The Yellow Box trees in particular are habitat for the Tuan and we wanted to make a link between them for this species.

 

It is hoped that by adding mid-story shrubs that Tuans (and other native species) can safely move between the trees and have cover to hide from predators. It is also hoped that by planting more native species it will reduce invasion by St John’s Wort in this area. Where possible we dug out weed species and replaced them with a local native. Silver Banksia and Basket Sedge were planted lower down on the creek banks.

 

Overall it was a successful and fun day, and it was great to see our community learning about, caring for and connecting with the land on which we live. Sutton Grange Landcare Group sincerely thanks Bonnie [from Connecting Country] for organising the plants.’

Connecting Country congratulates Sutton Grange Landcare Group for all the amazing work they do to enhance and protect biodiversity in their pocket of the greater Mount Alexander region.

This project was made possible due to the generosity of the Helen Macpherson Smith Trust and their commitment to supporting the restoration and protection of sustainable environments across Victoria.

 

Celebrate National Tree Day at events near you!

Posted on 27 July, 2022 by Hadley Cole

Sunday 31 July 2022 is National Tree Day – a day for the whole country to come together and celebrate the indigenous plants of the nation.

Established in 1996, National Tree Day has grown into Australia’s largest community tree planting and nature care event. The program is a call to action for all Australians to get their hands dirty and give back to their community.  Each year, around 300,000 people volunteer their time to engage in environmental activities that educate Australians about the world around them. 

Local Landcare groups often celebrate National Tree Day with planting events across the region. If you are keen to get involved see below for events (including the Castlemaine Landcare Group planting we posted about yesterday), happening across the Mount Alexander region this coming Sunday 31 July 2022. 

Castlemaine Landcare Group planting 

When: Sunday 31 July 2022, 10:00am

Where: You can access the site from Happy Valley Road – see access point E2 on our website https://castlemainelandcare.org.au/where-we-work/

What to bring: As per usual practice – don’t come if you have any COVID symptoms, maintain social distance, wear stout footwear and gloves, plus sun-protection.
Bring your own cup and drinking water.

How to register: Please register at clgvolunteers99@gmail.com with the heading WORKING.

For more information visit the Castlemaine Landcare Group website – here or their Facebook page – here

Friends of Campbells Creek

When: Sunday 31 July 2022, 10:00am – 12:00pm

Where:  here on the walking trail near Yandell Street, Castlemaine for a 10:00 a.m. start.  There is plenty of space for car parking at the east end of Yandell Street here.

What to bring: Light gloves, sturdy clothing suited to the weather and footwear appropriate for wet ground: gumboots are strongly advised! And your own drinking water if needed.

RSVP: Please email info.focc.org.au@gmail.com for catering purposes. There will be a barbecue provided at midday.

For more information head over to the Friends of Campbells Creek website – here

Tarrangower Wheel Cactus Control Group

Planting trees and other indigenous plants are definitely an important part of building species diversity and ecosystem resilience. However, weed management is just as important in the protection of our native species. This National Tree Day the Tarrangower Wheel Cactus Control Group aka The Cactus Warriors are hosting a field day to demonstrate how to destroy Wheel Cactus.

When: Sunday 31 July 2022, 10:30am and end with an enjoyable BBQ and friendly chat.

Where: The location is on a property a few kms north of Maldon in Baringhup Road, just after the turn off from Bridgewater Road (the route will be signposted).

What to bring: Sturdy foot ware and warm clothing

RSVP: via the website www.cactuswarriors.org

National Tree Day is a fun opportunity to take on-ground action in the protection of our region’s biodiversity. Your action on this day (and every other day of the year) goes a long way in establishing more native and indigenous species in the region which contribute greatly to healthy ecosystems and happy flora and fauna communities!

 

Seeking planters! National Tree Day in Castlemaine – 31 July 2022

Posted on 26 July, 2022 by Frances

Well, the big day is nearly here and Castlemaine Landcare Group is looking for more planters to join their special planting and celebrate National Tree Day 2022.

Planting at Moonlight Creek – Sunday 31 July 2022 from 10 am to 1 pm

Castlemaine Landcare Group invites the community to join them this National Tree Day. Come along and help strengthen the Moonlight Creek vegetation corridor from Forest Creek to Kalimna Park, adjacent to Castlemaine in central Victoria. This corridor provides a vital refuge for local plants and animals, and helps them move through the landscape.

It is a flat, open site where people can spread out in the fresh air as they plant. The grassy site is suitable for families and wheelchair access is possible.

There will be a free BBQ with our faithful Lions Club. Please put this date in your diary now and ask your friends along.

All are welcome, but they especially need people with experience in identifying local native plants and/or tubestock planting.

For more information about what to bring and where to park, please visit Castlemaine Landcare’s website – click here

May be an image of 1 person, tree and outdoors

Castlemaine Landcare volunteers prepare for National Tree Day 2022 (photo by Castlemaine Landcare Group)

 

This work is supported by a Victorian Landcare Grant through the North Central Catchment Management Authority.

 

Bird of the month: Blue-billed Duck

Posted on 20 July, 2022 by Frances

Welcome to our 27th 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 blessed to have both the brilliant Damian Kelly and talented Jane Rusden from BirdLife Castlemaine District writing about our next bird of the month, accompanied by their stunning photos.

Blue-billed Duck (Oxyura australis)

Stunning image captured by Damian Kelly on one of the rarer occasions of Blue-billed Duck sightings at Lake Johanna in Castlemaine

 

July 2022’s BirdLife Castlemaine District walk took us to Bendigo Water Reclamation Plant in Epsom VIC. We were treated to a wonderful tour of Lagoon No. 6, by passionate Coliban Water staff Leon and Rebecca, who were keen to share this wonderful birding hotspot. (Incidentally we saw 58 species and huge numbers of many species sighted.) Along with Musk Ducks, Blue-billed Ducks were among the species everyone got very excited about seeing.

The handsome male is distinctive and easy to identify with its blue bill, glossy jet black head and chestnut body. The female is overall grey with pale barring, a bit like a Freckled Duck or lighter coloured Musk Dusk, and harder to identify for this reason. Blue-billed Ducks are smaller than Musk Ducks, but the two species are closely related genetically.

Due to their shyer nature, these ducks are usually seen at a distance. In the water, Blue-billed and Musk Ducks can appear similar as both swim with a low posture, although the Blue-billed Duck sits slightly lower in the water. Like the Musk Duck, Blue-bills feed mostly by diving to the bottom of the water to collect a variety of vegetation as well as insects, larvae, molluscs and crustaceans. They have been observed diving to depths up to three metres and they can remain submerged for up to 30 seconds. They also swim alongside banks where plants overhang, stripping seeds and other parts.

As they are specialised diving birds, they cannot walk very well on land, with legs set back on the body. They are rarely seen perching on logs, preferring open water and secluded bays. They are also known as stiff tails, because like the Musk Duck, they have a rigid tail to assist in diving.

Preferred habitats are inland swamps with dense vegetation and they have a preference for Cumbungi  swamps. They range across eastern and southern Australia as well as the south-west of Western Australia.  During the breeding season they tend to remain hidden in dense vegetation, so are often hard to see. Open water is a favourite habit and they can congregate in groups, especially after the breeding season. Large groups have been recorded at times, the largest being about 8,000 birds, but generally smaller groups are most common.

Nesting is in dense vegetation. A domed nest is built with Typha leaves (Bull Rushes) and a cup of roughly woven structure of dead vegetation. Clutch size is generally 5-8 eggs. Unusually, they have a propensity for dump-nesting, where they will lay in the nests of other species, particularly the related Musk Duck. Ducklings are then raised by the other species. Yes, you read that correctly: Blue-billed Ducks are a brood parasitic duck! Young birds are precocial and able to feed themselves almost immediately after hatching. They have been recorded on their second day diving for up to ten seconds in search of food.

Damian and I are always muttering to each other about how we learn surprising things about birds when researching ‘Bird of the month’, and Blue-billed Ducks were no exception. Who knew there were secretive brood parasite ducks, with stiff tails, who can dive to 3 m deep but are barely able to walk on land, resulting in them avoiding anything that’s not water?

To find out more about Blue-billed Ducks – click here

Jane Rusden and Damian Kelly