Restoring landscapes across the Mount Alexander Region

Connecting Country brochure reaches far afield

Posted on 5 December, 2019 by Ivan

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

Here is the message and photos from Kerrie:

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

Cheers and many thanks

Kerrie’

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

 

BirdLife Castlemaine walk at Leanganook – Saturday 7 December 2019

Posted on 4 December, 2019 by Ivan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Crimson Chat imitating Christmas (photo: Jane Rusden)

 

 

 

A team effort: monitoring biodiversity at Connecting Country

Posted on 3 December, 2019 by Jess

Community has always been at the core of what we do at Connecting Country. In recent years, it’s been increasingly difficult to source funding for environmental projects. In this new phase, we’ve had to rely on our community even more.

It is important we monitor local biodiversity so we can understand how our on-ground works are helping species. In past years, Connecting Country was able to employ staff members to monitor over 50 woodland bird survey sites, 450 nestboxes, and 48 reptile and frog sites.

Community members monitoring birds (photo: Connecting Country archives)

Nestbox monitoring
In recent times, the funding that once covered this monitoring has ended. 2018 was the first year our nestbox monitoring program was not funded. But that didn’t stop us! Asha, Beth, and Jess were able to incorporate nestbox monitoring into work and volunteer time. With the help of an army of volunteers, we monitored 297 of our 300 ‘core’ nestboxes. Special thanks to Beth, Asha, and Jeremy, Lori, Bev, Paul, Gayle, Carmen, Mal, Damian, Frances, Lachlan, Naomi, Claire, Meg and Naomi for providing invaluable assistance with our nestbox program.

Monitoring nestboxes (photo: Tanya Loos)

Woodland bird monitoring
Later in 2018, we received funding from the Helen Macpherson Smith Trust to review all our monitoring programs, and to support volunteer ‘citizen scientists’ to carry out the monitoring. Spring 2019 was the first year our woodland bird sites were monitored by citizen scientists. Special thanks to our keen bird monitors: Damian, Lex, Jane R, Peter, Geoff, Jennifer, Euan, Asha, Jacqui, Jane M, Kerri P, Kerrie J, Lawrie, Lou, Sue, Peter, Steve, Tanya, Angus and Bob.

Reptile and frog monitoring
Our reptile and frog monitoring program has struggled to continue without ongoing funding.  We’re going to review our reptile and frog monitoring program early next year – so watch this space! Thank you to Mike, Paul, Thea, David, Kerrie, Rob, Kim, Mark, Alex, Beth, Neville, Geraldine, Geoff, Kerri, Tusker, Peter, Helen, Leanne, Jane S, Brendan and Jane R for your efforts with this program.

Many of our landscape restoration projects target species like this juvenile Spotted Pardalote (photo: Jane Rusden)

Data entry
We’ve collected nearly 25,000 species records since 2010. This year we recognized the importance of sharing this information with government agencies, so it can be put to the best use possible. We put a call out to see if anyone would be interested in assisting us with data entry, and we were blown away by many wonderful people offering to help. Thanks to Lou, Karen, Alex, and Corey – our data entry heroes! – for coming in to Connecting Country on a weekly basis, sitting in front of a computer screen and entering our species records into the Victorian Biodiversity Atlas.

Thank you!
This year, we had a small amount of money for a humble thank-you celebration for our volunteers. We wanted to be inclusive, so we initially wrote a list of all the people who had volunteered with us in any capacity over the past 2 years. This list came to over 120 people!  As much as we would have liked to have thanked each person, this was just not possible this year. So, we limited our celebration to our monitoring volunteers.

We enjoyed celebratory drinks and nibbles in The Hub Plot garden, a short summary of our monitoring achievements over the last two years, and Connecting Country’s inaugural ‘Klop’ game championship. Thank you to everyone who came and made it a wonderful evening with great company. A 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 monitoring programs run off the smell of an oily rag. But, because we are surrounded by an enthusiastic community, we are still able to check in on our local biodiversity and deliver our monitoring programs. If it wasn’t for your hard work, we simply would not be able to monitor our wildlife. To everyone who has helped Connecting Country: Thank you! We are so grateful for your support.

 

 

 

Walking with the sound turned up: listen to the bush

Posted on 2 December, 2019 by Asha

This blog post was kindly written by Jess Drake as a reflection on Andrew Skeoch’s talk at Connecting Country’s 2019 Annual General Meeting. Jess Drake is a local soil and land scientist. Thank you, Jess!

The day after Connecting Country’s event I did one of my usual forest loops in the Castlemaine Diggings National Heritage Park without my headphones on. Andrew Skeoch had reminded me of the value of listening to the forest. This time I tried to follow Andrew’s four perspectives of listening while out walking.

His first perspective was using sound to identify species. I remember around this time last year I could hear frogs in the man-made dams in the bush. One of them is completely dry this year, and there was a clear absence of any Pobblebonk or Common Eastern Froglet that I heard in abundance last year (click here for details).

The second perspective of listening was sentience – communication between animals. I have a soft spot for the boisterous calls of the teenage White-winged Choughs. I love seeing and hearing packs of choughs causing complete upturn of forest litter layer, squawking at the top of their lungs. They seem to be chattering about their mischief or discovered treasures. The only break from their boisterous chatting seems to be when they see me getting that bit to close and a loud alarm goes off as they fly up into the trees, whilst seemingly agitated by being caught-out mid-fun.

Denuded trees in the National Heritage Park (photo by Jess Drake)

Ecosystem function was Andrew’s third perspective – using sound to understand the type of ecosystem you are in. One thing I noticed on my walk was instead of a rustle of leaves, I mostly heard the cracking and crunching of branches. As I looked up into the canopy on the ridge line, I noticed it was a bit thin. Many of the trees didn’t have leaves. Perhaps something is affecting the forest function?

The final perspective was evolution, where sound can reflect time. Andrew gave a few examples including about why cicadas sound has evolved to the cacophony we hear today.

Not being an ecologist, I thought about the sounds coming from the earth. As I accidentally kick a rock and it makes the thunking noise downhill, I imagine the sound of mass erosion during a thunderstorm, or the sluicing of mined materials during the gold rush. I imagine the loud explosions of volcanic eruptions that formed Lalgambook/Mount Franklin, as the country evolves over millions of years.

Andrew’s key message was really about listening both ways – us listening to the forest and the forest listening to us and revealing itself. He talked about using sound to learn about the conservation of our ecosystems. Sound in the forest is something that I personally had taken for granted (with my headphones on), but I certainly won’t again. I do like the chattering of the choughs after all!

 

Butterfly monitoring for 1 December 2019 – POSTPONED!

Posted on 29 November, 2019 by Frances

Our planned Eltham Copper Butterfly monitoring this coming Sunday 1 December 2019 is postponed due to cool weather! Local ecologists and butterfly enthusiasts, Elaine Bayes and Karl Just, have advised that the weather forecast for Sunday is too cool for our special butterfly, which requires a series of warm nights to emerge. November 2019 has been cooler than last November, hence the butterflies are a little slower to appear.

Apologies to anyone who was planning to come along on Sunday. There are still plenty of opportunities to get involved and learn how to monitor this threatened species around Castlemaine. Given weather conditions, we will continue monitoring into January 2020.

Eltham Copper Butterfly monitoring

There will be two more monitoring events over the next few weeks, covering different areas around Castlemaine, with a another event in January 2020:

  • 12.00 – 4.00 pm on Sunday 15 December 2019. Location: Parking spot just north of where Mount Alexander golf course intersects with Kalimna Tourist Road, Kalimna Park, Castlemaine VIC – click here for map.
  • 12.00 – 4.00 pm on Saturday 28 December 2019. Location: Corner of Vanstan Road and Lawson Parade, behind Castlemaine Secondary College, Castlemaine VIC – click here for map.
  • January 2020: date and location to be advised.

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

 

Connecting Country launches brand-new brochure

Posted on 27 November, 2019 by Ivan

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Dear deer, we are watching you

Posted on 27 November, 2019 by Ivan

Have you seen feral deer in your local area?

DeerScan is a new free community resource for Australian landholders, community groups and pest controllers. DeerScan can be used to map deer sightings, report problems or damage caused by deer, and document control actions. It can be used to inform your neighbours and local biosecurity authorities about current deer problems. You can use DeerScan to record new (and historical) observations of deer in your local area, as this will help to build a detailed picture of deer populations.

Deer facts:

  • Feral deer are becoming a major pest species.
  • There are six species across Australia (red, fallow, rusa, sambar, chital and hog).
  • Their numbers are increasing.
  • Local authorities need your help to map populations and report problems.
  • Everyone is encouraged to report all sightings into DeerScan.

DeerScan can be used to record information on:

  • Sightings and numbers – Where have deer been seen in your local area?
  • Damage – The damage or problems deer are causing.
  • Control activities – Locations where deer control has been implemented.

For further information have a look at the Deerscan website (click here) or download the FeralScan App on your smartphone. The process for recording deer sightings is outlined below.

Step 1 Register your details

Register your details in DeerScan or simply record information with a valid email address. You do not need to register but it will make it easier for you to view your own data, and enable the FeralScan team to keep you informed about how your data is helping to control feral deer in your local area.

Step 2 Map your observations

Record wherever you see deer, what species you have seen, what problems they have caused, and control activities such as ground shooting. To enter data, zoom to your current location and place a marker on the map, then insert the details of your observation in the form provided. Smart phone users can use the App to enter data while in the field.

Step 3 Submit your record

Submit your record and view the details in the All Sightings or My Data tabs. View other observations in your local area entered by other community members. You can also upload your photos to the Photo Gallery and they will display on the website.

 

 

Information you enter about feral deer and their impacts in your local area will help local biosecurity authorities to manage feral deer populations to reduce the damage they are causing. Feral deer are becoming a major pest throughout Australia so your input is important!

 

Butterflies and biodiversity celebrated

Posted on 25 November, 2019 by Ivan

A strong crowd of a few hundred people turned out for perfect weather and an excellent, first-ever Butterfly Celebration Day in Castlemaine on the 17 of November 2019. The free event was in the Castlemaine Botanical Gardens, Victoria, with the community invited to bring a picnic and help celebrate the special story of the threatened Eltham Copper Butterfly, Notoncus ants and Sweet Bursaria plants that make the magic in our local bushland.

Connecting Country provided information and free native plants to the attendees who visited our information stall throughout the day, as well as a base for guided walks through the nearby butterfly habitat. The celebration day was possible with a grant from the Mount Alexander Shire Council. Castlemaine Landcare Group supported local choreographer Vanessa Case and musician Andy Rigby to work with local primary school students to tell the butterfly’s story in movement and music.

This entertaining and educational event featured a Welcome to Country, local musicians, community choirs and a preschool storytelling and craft workshop. Local ecologists Karl Just and Elaine Bayes conducted tours of butterfly habitat north of the gardens, and gave the keen attendees a great overview of the complex symbiotic relationship between the Eltham Copper Butterfly, its preferred habitat of Sweet Bursaria plants and its attendant Notoncus ants.

Another highlight of the day was a visit from David Crosby, the person who published the first scientific description of the Eltham Copper Butterfly as a clearly defined sub-species, back in 1951. During the 1980s he also made an inventory of butterfly habitat for the Melbourne area. David began collecting butterflies as a boy in the 1940s. His comprehensive butterfly collection of 13,000 specimens, included many from areas of habitat now lost to development, is now in the Australian National Insect Collection.

An important part of protecting the Eltham Copper Butterfly is monitoring to record where it currently exists in the Castlemaine area. If you would like to get involved with butterfly monitoring there are three monitoring events during December 2019. Details are provided below. For more information contact Connecting Country or click here.

Eltham Copper Butterfly monitoring events:

  • 12-4 pm Sunday 1 December 2019. Location: Water tank on Hunter Track, top end of Hunter Street, Castlemaine – click here for map.
  • 12-4 pm Sunday 15 December 2019. Location: Parking spot just north of where golf course intersects with Kalimna Tourist Road, Castlemaine – click here for map.
  • 12-4 pm Saturday 28 December 2019. Location: Corner of Vanstan Road and Lawson Parade, behind Castlemaine Secondary College, Castlemaine – click here for map.

The Butterfly Celebration Day was a tribute to our strong and vibrant community, and care for the local environment. Click below and scroll through to enjoy the photos taken by Ivan Carter on the day.

 

 

 

 

 

Yarn at Yapenya – Traditional Owners and Landcarers

Posted on 25 November, 2019 by Asha

Yapenya (aka Mount Barker) is a private property in North Harcourt (Victoria) owned and managed by the Dja Dja Wurrung Clans Aboriginal Corporation (DDWCAC). On Sunday 29 September 2019, around 35 Landcare volunteers from the Mount Alexander region and Trent Nelson from DDWCAC gathered around the campfire at Yapenya.

We started with a Welcome to Country and smoking ceremony from Trent, while the cockatoos watched on from the eucalypts nearby. Everyone then settled in to a good two hours of talking about our connection to the land, and ways to better work together and support each other to care for it. We shared a little afternoon tea, and then went on a wander with Trent while he showed us a bit more of beautiful Yapenya.

Attendees agreed it was an empowering afternoon of connecting and sharing ideas for working together to care for country. One participant said, ‘It felt very special to be part of the day… It was inspiring to hear Trent talking about his vision for the land. I went straight out and bought a yam daisy plant for my garden!’

So, what can you do? If you’re a Landcarer or a landholder wanting to care for the land in line with DDWCAC’s values, here are a few simple actions suggested on the day:

  • Plant native food and fibre plants – such as Murnong (Yam Daisy) and Kangaroo Grass.
  • Use Dja Dja Wurrung language where possible – for example when on country or at meetings. Stay tuned for a dictionary of words to start with.
  • Read the ‘Dja Dja Wurrung Country Plan 2014-2034’ and think about which goals you can help achieve. To download the plan – click here.

Also, you may like to watch the beautiful video called ‘Leanganook: His teeth’, in which Trent speaks about Leanganook (Mount Alexander) and its importance to Dja Dja Wurrung and Taunurung people. To view the video – click here.

A huge thank you to Trent and DDWCAC for working with Connecting Country to organise this ‘Yarn at Yapenya’ gathering, and to everyone who came with open spirit and made it such a worthwhile afternoon. Thanks also to John Walter for taking and sharing his photos from the day.

This event was funded by the North Central Catchment Management Authority through the Victorian Landcare Program, as part of Connecting Country’s ‘Landcare Connections’ project.

 

 

Sounds, celebrities and fine food – our 2019 AGM!

Posted on 21 November, 2019 by Ivan

On Saturday 16 November 2019, 75 people gathered at Campbells Creek Community Centre to enjoy an afternoon of formalities and hear an excellent presentation from local soundscape ecologist and environmental thinker, Andrew Skeoch. We celebrated the hard work and achievements of Connecting Country’s past decade with presentations from staff and our chairperson Brendan Sydes, as well as updating the audience on our current funding shortfall. We would like to warmly thank our presenters and all the committee members, staff and volunteers who assisted with the event, which was very well received based on feedback.

By far the biggest star of the show, was the amazing and intriguing presentation from celebrity scientist Andrew Skeoch (yes, he has given a TEDx talk! – click here). Andrew is one of our best-known nature sound recordists and works from a desire to address the fundamental question of our human relationship with the living biosphere. Andrew presented some interesting patterns in birdsong and provided the keen audience with some extraordinary spectrograms.

Image result for Spectrograms bird andrew skeoch"

Andrew presented what birdsong looks like in real-time stereo spectrograms (photo: Sarah Koschak)

 

Our AGM was short and sweet, and all of our committee members were re-elected for another year! The hard-working Connecting Country committee must be thanked for their considerable strategic and practical contributions to our organisation.

Elected members of Connecting Country’s 2019-20 committee of management are:

  • President:                   Brendan Sydes
  • Vice President:          Saide Gray
  • Treasurer:                   Max Kay
  • Secretary:                    Marie Jones
  • Ordinary member:    Karoline Klein
  • Ordinary member:    Malcolm Trainor
  • Ordinary member:    Christine Brooke
  • Ordinary member:    Deborah Wardle

 

AGM minutes will be circulated to members and available on request. Stay tuned for an upcoming blog post with more details from Andrew’s talk. If you would like a copy of Connecting Country’s annual report for 2018-19 – click here.

Please enjoy this gallery of some of the smiling faces at our AGM. Special thanks to Johnny Baker for generously donating their delicious pastries, Vicki Edwards for the photos, and all the volunteers that generously helped with preparations, food and packup.

 

Cactus Warriors AGM and Plains-Wanderer talk: 24 November 2019

Posted on 20 November, 2019 by Ivan

Our partners, the Tarrangower Cactus Control Group, are holding their Annual General Meeting along with a talk on the critically endangered, fascinating Plains-Wanderer bird. Here are further details provided by the Cactus Warriors. 

The Cactus Warriors have, yet again, had a very rewarding year destroying many thousands of Wheel Cactus plants in our local environment and increasing awareness about this noxious weed in our community. The Tarrangower Cactus Control Group would like to thank the many landowners and volunteers for their dedicated work and wonderful results.

The Cactus Warriors are holding an end of year celebration to reward our ‘warriors’, including an exciting presentation and free lunch. The guest speaker, committee member Bec James, is a Natural Environment Program Officer with the Department Environment, Land, Water and planning, and Secretary of the Victorian Weed Society. And for something completely different, Bec will present about the project she’s currently working on to help save the critically endangered Plains-Wanderer bird in Northern Victoria.

We invite all past, present and future ‘cactus warriors’ to join us at 11:30 am on Sunday 24 November 2019 to hear our special guest speaker, followed by a delicious lunch. No RSVP is required. Please join us in the Band Room, Maldon Community Centre, 6 Francis St, Maldon VIC. We’ll have a very quick AGM at 11.00 am, before the presentation, which everyone is also welcome to attend.

For more information about Wheel Cactus, and how to control this invasive species, please watch the video below from the Cactus Warriors.

End-of-Year Celebration for all Cactus Warriors

 

Exploring the colour of wildflowers (and the joy of surprises)

Posted on 19 November, 2019 by Ivan

Getting out and about reminds us of just how many lovely wildflowers and things there are happening in the bush, even as the weather warms up! We are blessed to live in a region with large tracts of public land with woodland wonders aplenty, and now is a great time to get out and see some of the vivid and subtle colors our bushland has to offer. One of our Landscape Restoration Coordinators, Bonnie Humphreys, has kindly outlined some of the native species that may still be flowering and on show over the next few weeks, including a few surprises below!

  • Bush Peas (Pultenaea sp.) and Parrot Peas (Dillwynia sp.) are flowering.
  • Silver Wattle (Acacia dealbata) is laden with pods at the moment, hinting at a good year for seed production.
  • Black Wattle (Acacia mearnsii) is in flower with lemony yellow blooms. Some can be seen from the Forest Creek bridge on Duke St, on the right hand side as you head towards Chewton.
  • Chocolate Lilies (Arthropodium strictum) and Sticky Everlastings (Xerochrysum viscosum) are looking spectacular.
  • Look out for beautiful white flowers from Sweet Bursaria (Bursaria spinosa) and White Marianth (Rhytidosporum procumbens).
  • Creamy Candles (Stackhousia monogyna) are flowering. These have a lovely perfume which is most prevalent at night indicating a preference for night pollinator such as moths.
  • Cats Claw Grevillea or Alpine Grevillea (Grevillea alpina), some plants are still flowering away. There are many different colour forms in this plant including green, yellow, red, and then mixes of combinations.

There are many great places for bushwalking on public land in our region, including Kalimna Park (just a short walk from Castlemaine town centre), Rise and Shine Bushland Reserve (Sandon), Monk Track in the Dry Diggings National Park (Chewton), Muckleford State Forest, and Guildford Bushland Reserve.  View excellent ground-truthed maps of many of these areas by local cartographer Jase Haysom by clicking here. Local bird expert Damian Kelly’s book Castlemaine Bird Walks is another great resource for bird and wildlife outings in the bush.

Before the heat takes the color and vibrancy out of these treasures, be sure to explore some of the abundant nature hotspots in our region. Scroll down to see pictures below of some colourful characters from our local bush.

 

Cats Claw Grevillea (Grevillea alpina). Photo: Bonnie Humphreys

Shingle Back Lizard. Photo: Bonnie Humphreys

Creamy Candles (Stackhousia monogyna). Photo: Bonnie Humphreys

Chocolate Lilies (Arthropodium strictum) and Sticky Everlastings (Xerochrysum viscosum). Photo: Bonnie Humphreys

Twining Fringe-lily (Thysanotus patersonii). Photo: Bonnie Humphreys

Muckleford bush with Parrot Pea (Dillwyina sp.), Cats Claw Grevillea (Grevillea alpina), Murnong or Yam Daisy (Microseris walteri), Grey Everlasting (Ozothamnus obcordatus) and Chocolate Lilies (Arthropodium strictum). Photo: Bonnie Humphreys

Keep an eye out for nesting birds. Here’s an Owlet Nightjar fledgling checking out the world! Photo: Bonnie Humphreys

 

 

 

 

Fruit Fly Workshops in November 2019

Posted on 19 November, 2019 by Jacqui

Graphic of fruit fly with Queensland fruit fly workshops text.

Learn about how you can fight fruit fly at a series of free workshops.

Mount Alexander Shire Council is working with Harcourt Valley Fruit Fly Action Group to raise awareness of Queensland Fruit Fly and steps to prevent an outbreak through a series of workshops for gardeners, backyard fruit and vegetable growers, schools, small scale farms and horticultural enterprises.

The sessions will be held in Maldon, Newstead and Castlemaine in late November 2019. Harcourt Valley Landcare Group will host a session in Harcourt in February 2020.

The workshops will cover fruit fly identification, traps, what to do if there is an outbreak, and more. Guest speakers will also share first-hand experience of the impact of fruit fly.

Session details

Newstead fruit fly workshop
When: 1.00 pm to 3.00 pm, Thursday 28 November 2019
Where: Newstead Community Centre, Lyons St, Newstead VIC

Maldon fruit fly workshop
When: 6.00 pm to 8.00 pm, Thursday 28 November 2019
Where: Maldon Community Centre, 6 Francis St, Maldon VIC

Castlemaine fruit fly workshop
When: 10.00 am to 12.00 noon, Friday 29 November 2019
Where: Town Hall, Lyttleton Street, Castlemaine VIC

For bookings contact: Lynne Meldrum at the Environmental Health team at l.meldrum@mountalexander.vic.gov.au or call (03) 5471 1866.

 

Mistletoe presentation and Newstead Landcare AGM – 21 November 2019

Posted on 18 November, 2019 by Frances

Newstead Landcare Group is very pleased to announce a presentation by Professor David Watson of Charles Sturt University, who will reveal the mysteries of mistletoes. This is an enigmatic group of plants. Lacking roots, depending on other plants for their survival and relying on animals for dispersal, they’ve inspired a range of beliefs throughout the world. Some people regard them as magical and endowed with special powers, others as destructive weeds that devalue native habitats. Professor Watson will talk about his two decades of research on these plants and share his emerging view of these plants as beautiful native wildflowers that support wildlife and boost
productivity.

Wire-leaf Mistletoe – Amyema preissii (photo from Connecting Country archive)

The presentation will be followed by Newstead Landcare Group’s brief annual general meeting (AGM) with elections for President, Secretary and Treasurer.

Mistletoe presentation and Newstead Landcare AGM
When: 8.00 pm on Thursday 21 November 2019
Where: Newstead Community Centre, 9 Lyons St, Newstead VIC

All are welcome to attend and gold coin donations would be appreciated. David will also have copies of the newly released second edition of his book ‘Mistletoes of Southern Australia’ for sale.

There is no need to book for this event, please contact Frances Cincotta for further information on 03 5476 2691.

Buloke Mistletoe – Amyema linophylla (photo by Prof David Watson)

Eastern Spinebill on Box Mistletoe (photo by Prof David Watson)

 

Be involved with butterfly monitoring – Saturday 16 November 2019

Posted on 14 November, 2019 by Ivan

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

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

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

Eltham Copper Butterfly monitoring
When: 12.00 -4.00 pm on Saturday 16 November 2019
Where: Kalimna Park Rotunda, top of Urquhart Street, Kalimna Tourist Road, Castlemaine VIC – click here for map
Bring: water, a hat, suitable clothing (long pants, sturdy shoes and weather-appropriate gear) and snacks to keep you going

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

There is no need to book, just come along.

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

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

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

It would be terrific to find some new populations in our region and this is the perfect opportunity to survey some excellent butterfly habitat.

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

  • 12.00 -4.00 pm on Sunday 1 December 2019. Location: Water tank on Hunter Track, top end of Hunter Street, Kalimna Park, Castlemaine VIC – click here for map.
  • 12.00 -4.00 pm on Sunday 15 December 2019. Location: Parking spot just north of where golf course intersects with Kalimna Tourist Road, Kalimna Park, Castlemaine VIC – click here for map.
  • 12.00 -4.00 pm on Saturday 28 December 2019. Location: Corner of Vanstan Road and Lawson Parade, behind Castlemaine Secondary College, Castlemaine VIC – click here for map.

You don’t need to attend all these events to be a monitor. Once you understand the monitoring method and feel confident you can identify an Eltham Copper Butterfly, you’re welcome to do your own monitoring and report sightings.

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

 

Friends of Kalimna Park AGM – 16 November 2019

Posted on 13 November, 2019 by Ivan

A reminder from our partners at Friends of Kalimna Park, that this weekend they will be launching the updated ‘Kalimna Circuit Track’ brochure on Saturday 16 November at 2.00 pm, as part of their Annual General Meeting.

This brochure complements the work done to the walking track, which now has 16 numbered marker posts and directional arrows to help with navigation. All members and supporters of the Friends are invited to come and walk around the track, followed by afternoon tea.

The walk will be preceded by the Friends of Kalimna Park AGM at 1.00 pm. All members are welcome to come to the AGM and new committee members are always welcome.

The location for both events is the beginning of the Kalimna circuit track on Kalimna Tourist Rd, Castlemaine VIC. This point is located at a pullover on the western side of the Kalimna Tourist Rd between the Mount Alexander Golf Course and the big bend in the road.

Please bring a chair to sit on if you are coming to the AGM and BYO beverages.

For more information on Friends of Kalimna and their AGM, please visit the following link.

Kalimna Park

 

‘Hearing our place’ with Andrew Skeoch and AGM 2019 – BOOK NOW!

Posted on 13 November, 2019 by Ivan

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

We would like to remind our valued Connecting Country members and the wider community to book now for our 2019 Annual General Meeting this weekend. Our very special guest, Andrew Skeoch, will speak about ‘Hearing our place’ in nature.

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

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

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

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

Crimson Spider Orchid (photo from Connecting Country archives)

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

Afternoon tea will be provided from 3.30 pm.

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

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

 

Welcome back Bonnie!

Posted on 12 November, 2019 by Frances

We’d like to welcome back one of our most experienced super star staff members, Bonnie Humphreys, who recently returned from 12 months parental leave. Bonnie is returning to the role of Landscape Restoration Coordinator and brings a wealth of local knowledge and experience to the Connecting Country team. Her ability to understand people and plants is second to none, and we are excited to announce that she will be job sharing with our current Landscape Restoration Coordinator, Jacqui Slingo, at two days a week each. Jacqui has done an outstanding job in this role while Bonnie was on leave. We are very lucky to keep both of them on the team.

Bonnie joined the Connecting Country team as a Project Officer in 2011. She grew up in Bendigo and Castlemaine and has completed a Diploma in Conservation and Land Management at Bendigo TAFE. Bonnie has a special interest in and extensive knowledge of native flora and weed ecology.

While on leave Bonnie was busy being a mum to her gorgeous baby girl, but always made time to help Connecting Country with specialist advice when needed.

Thanks Bonnie and welcome back to the team!

 

 

Bring our local bush into your garden!

Posted on 11 November, 2019 by Jacqui

This Sunday 17 November 2019, Maldon Urban Landcare Inc. is holding a talk about wildlife friendly gardening using local provenance plants. Jacqui Slingo, Connecting Country’s Landscape Restoration Coordinator, will talk about the benefits of using local provenance plants in your garden, including opportunities to get up close with our local plants and animals, reducing maintenance, input costs and water usage.

Jacqui has worked at Connecting Country since 2018 and is inspired by the commitment of local groups and individuals in restoring the health of local habitats for people, landscapes and wildlife.

Frances Cincotta, from Newstead Natives, will have both local and non-local native plants for sale during the afternoon.

The talk is being held this Sunday 17 November 2019 at 2.30 pm, followed by afternoon tea, in the Maldon Community Centre, Francis St, Maldon, Victoria.

For more information contact Bev Phillips from Maldon Urban Landcare on 0407 770 350 or maldonurbanlandcare@gmail.com

 

 

Eltham Copper Butterfly talk in Castlemaine – Friday 8 November 2019

Posted on 7 November, 2019 by Frances

Castlemaine and Bendigo host the largest known area of Eltham Copper Butterfly (ECB) habitat in the world. Given the global decline in insects, it is critical that we protect our Australian species such as the endangered Eltham Copper Butterfly.

Local ecologists Elaine Bayes and Karl Just are guest speakers at the November meeting of the Castlemaine Field Naturalists Club. They will discuss the current distribution of ECB, the amazing relationship ECB has with Notoncus ants and the host plant Sweet Bursaria, and the local butterfly monitoring program. There has been little research on the central Victorian populations of ECB over the last decade. Elaine, Karl, and Julie Radford are trying to change this by leading the community in searching for new ECB populations and mapping colonies so we can protect them from planned burns and other threats.

The beauty of the Eltham Copper Butterfly (photo by Elaine Bayes)

Upcoming opportunities for the local community to be involved in studying and saving this species will be provided. Monitoring ECB also provides a great excuse to walk through our stunning bushlands over the summer months when ECB are flying and mating.

The monthly Castlemaine Field Naturalists Club meeting will start at 7.30 pm on 8 November 2019. This month the meeting will be held in the chapel behind the Uniting Church on Lyttleton St, Castlemaine VIC (next door to the Castlemaine Art Museum). All members are all encouraged to attend and, as always, visitors are also very welcome.  There is no cost for entry and no need for bookings.

 

If you are interested in helping Karl and Elaine with the monitoring of this amazing local butterfly over November and December 2019, please click here