Restoring landscapes across the Mount Alexander Region

40 Seconds of Nest Box Action

Posted on 16 September, 2012 by Connecting Country

Connecting Country has installed two trail cameras to film activity at a nest box on a covenanted property on the outskirts of Castlemaine.  (Thanks to the folks from the North Central region of Trust for Nature for use of the equpiment). The box contains a nesting female Brush-tailed Phascogale (Tuan) which is a great result for Connecting Country’s nest box project and for the Tuan population itself.

All landholders with Connecting Country nest boxes installed on their properties will soon receive a nest box survey field guide that will assist them with performing surveys of their own boxes. The results of these surveys will help Connecting Country determine the extent and health of the Tuan population across the region.  A summary of the data from the first two years of nest box surveys will also be provided soon.

In the meantime, please enjoy the attached video clips that show the comings and goings at a nest box located in a Box-Ironbark Forest ecosystem. There is also a clip of a Sugar Glider, kindly supplied by the Chewton Bushlands Association, that shows the animal lining its nest with eucalyptus leaves. The most interesting feature of this clip is that the Sugar Glider is using its tail to carry the leaves.

Click here for  footage showing a Brush-tailed Phascogale carrying nest material to its nest

Click here for footage showing a Sugar Glider continuing to watch the Brush-tailed Phascogale occupied nest box.

Click here for footage showing a Sugar Glider carrying eucalyptus leaves by it’s tail.

The Sugar Glider pictured here is the same one featured in the second video clip. As you will note from the image below, the Brush-tailed Phascogale is hot on the Sugar Glider’s heals, turning up about 20 minutes later to see what might be amiss.


Mother phascogale turns up to check on the brood.


Barkers Creek Local Action Plan – your feedback sought

Posted on 14 September, 2012 by Connecting Country

Local Action Plan Workshop participants discussing potential projects along each section of Barkers Creek.

The draft Barkers Creek Local Action Plan   is a synthesis of the aspirations of three Landcare groups and the ideas of forty community members. The plan is now available for public comment and feedback.

Barkers Creek Clean-up Project Officer, Michael Luke commented that the ‘Local Action Plan is a big part of the Barkers Creek Clean-up Project.  It has been developed in conjunction with the Barkers Creek Landcare Network and the local landholders who live along the length of the creek.  We had over 40 people attend the community workshop in June.  We wanted to find out what is important to the local community about Barkers Creek and what suggestions they have for the future management of the creek. We were very excited when twenty-five project concepts came out of the workshop.  This draft Local Action Plan has been developed directly from those proposals.’

The Barkers Creek Landcare Network consists of the Barkers Creek Landcare and Wildlife, Harcourt Valley and the North Harcourt/Sedgwick Landcare groups, and receives support from Conencting Country. Once finalised, the Local Action Plan will help the three local Landcare groups to plan their activities into the future, and also to assist them in applying for grants and future funding opportunities. It will also be a useful resource for landholders and other community members living along and near the creek.

The draft plan is available for public comment and feedback.  The plan can be downloaded here. For more information about the project or to provide comments and feedback about the plan, email or call 5472 1594.  Comments close on the 28th of September. If you are a landholder along the creek and have not contacted us before – please get in touch!


14 September 2012 – CFNC meeting on Cryptograms

Posted on 6 September, 2012 by Connecting Country

Cassia Read will be the guest speaker at next Castlemaine Field Naturalist meeting on Friday 14 September. Her presentation is entitled Miniature wonderlands of the dry country: What you miss when you don’t walk on your knees.

Cassia has been studying and working in the field of ecology for the last 15 years, starting out with a botany degree at Melbourne Uni and followed by a range of jobs including Fungimap coordinator, researching the evolution of plant architecture, and reporting on the impact of climate change on biodiversity in national parks. She is currently doing a PhD at Melbourne Uni on biological soil crusts of the Mallee and Wimmera.

Cassia is a member of a local group of moss enthusiasts who regularly go on short field trips. The group is working towards producing a guide to mosses in the area. More information on this can be found on the Friends of the Box-Ironbark Forests website.

The following is an abstract of her upcoming CFNC talk.

Arid lands across the world share a common ecology with low rainfall, few trees and shrubs, and intriguing carpets of cryptogams protecting the soil (mosses, lichens, fungi and more). Otherwise known as biological soil crusts, these communities of cryptogams are full of interest; they exist at the soil surface in harsh environments and act as ecosystem engineers. Follow me on an exploration of these intriguing microcosms, around the globe and in our own arid lands of north west of Victoria to see their beauty, discover more about their importance and to understand how we can use this knowledge to manage our dry country.

All are welcome and encouraged to attend.  The meeting commences at 7.30pm, and is being held in the hall behind the Uniting Church in Lyttleton St, Castlemaine.

For those interested there will be a short excursion the next morning. The group will meet at the Octopus building on Duke St (opposite the Castle Motel) at 9.30am.



Applications Now Open for Strengthening Our Community Grants

Posted on 6 September, 2012 by Connecting Country

Applications for the  Strengthening Our Community Grants Scheme for 2012–2013 were opened by the Mount Alexander Shire on the 29 August 2012. Applications close 12 October 2012.

Application forms and Guidelines are available from:

Information Sessions will be held at the following locations and times:

  • Maldon Neighbourhood Centre, at the corner Edward and Church Streets,  11 September 2012, 12noon – 1pm
  • Ray Bradfield Room, Victory Park Castlemaine, 13 September 2012, 1pm – 2pm
  • Ray Bradfield Room, Victory Park Castlemaine, 13 September 2012, 6.30pm – 7.30p

The following information relates to the Sustainability and Natural Environment Category of the Grants scheme.Aim
To support the implementation of Council’s Environment Strategy 2010-2014 thereby improving the sustainability and resilience of the natural and built environments of the Mount Alexander Shire.

Council’s Environment Strategy contains 44 objectives under the themes of:

  • Climate change, greenhouse and energy
  • Land and biodiversity
  • Urban development, planning and sustainable transport
  • Waste and resource efficiency
  • Water

Proposals for funding under this category should identify which theme the project will address. Applications demonstrating relevance to a particular objective or particular objectives, particularly how the project will assist Council implement an objective or objectives, will be highly favoured. The Environment Strategy is available from

Grant requests made under the Sustainability and Natural Environment category may range from $500 to $3000 (total amount $40,500). Only in exceptional circumstances will grant requests exceeding these amounts be approved.



Castlemaine Children’s Literature Festival

Posted on 4 September, 2012 by Connecting Country

Castlemaine Children’s Literature Festival will be held during the next school holidays (1–7 October). The week is packed with activities for all age-groups and Connecting Country will be presenting a session on Thursday 4 October between 10.30am and 12.30pm. The session is aimed at 7–10 year olds and will begin at Buda with a reading of Rachel Tonkin’s book, Leaf  Litter. The group will then go to Kalimna Park for a treasure hunt. The cost is $12 and bookings are necessary. For further details about this session and the rest of the week’s activities click here for a Festival program.


Public Sessions on Invasive Species

Posted on 4 September, 2012 by Connecting Country

The Department of Primary Industries is inviting interested organisations and individuals to come along to one of several free information sessions about Victoria’s proposed invasive species legislation. The new legislation aims to modernise Victoria’a approach to the management of invasive species and provide greater flexibility to respond more effectively to biosecurity threats.

The information session in Bendigo will be held at the DPI Centre (Epsom), Midland Highway, Epsom on Wednesday 12 September, 10.30am–1.30pm.

To see the full DPI media release click here.


9 September 2012 – Afternoon Tea with Dinosaurs

Posted on 4 September, 2012 by Connecting Country

Dinosaurs don’t tend to crop up much in Landcare talks – especially in our area, where the sedimentary rocks are too old to contain the remains of anything that walked on land. But there have been dinosaur fossils discovered in Victoria, and some of them will be making their way to Newstead Community Centre during Landcare Week.

Renowned Australian palaeontologists Dr Tom Rich and his wife Professor Pat Vickers-Rich will be giving a talk on ‘Victoria’s Polar Dinosaurs’ at the Newstead Community Centre on the 9th of September, and they’ve promised to bring some ‘real dinosaurs’ with them.

Victoria’s Polar Dinosaurs roamed the earth over 100 million years ago when Australia was still linked to Antarctica. Much of this southern continent lay inside the Antarctic Circle and the animals that lived there were highly adapted to the extreme climate. Pat and Tom will talk about the “mega- and microfauna” of the time, and discuss possible causes for their demise.

Much of what we know about the animals that lived in ‘Polar Australia’ comes from the work of this industrious couple, especially at Dinosaur Cove on the Otway coast, where they tunnelled for fossils using mining equipment and explosives. Their work over the past 40 years has been recognised internationally and they are also award-winning authors of numerous books about Australia’s dinosaurs. The talk is free and afternoon tea will be provided. Please RSVP to Max by the 5th September.

When: Sunday 9th September
Where: Newstead Community Centre
Time: 3:30pm


8 September 2012 – Landcare Bushdance

Posted on 3 September, 2012 by Connecting Country

As part of National Landcare Week, the Mount Alexander Landcare Bushdance will be held on Saturday the 8th September at the Castlemaine Town Hall.

The Bushdance will be a chance to celebrate Landcare in the Mount Alexander Shire and to thank all of the volunteers who contribute countless hours to enhance our natural environment. The Bushdance isn’t just for Landcare members – everybody is welcome to come along and have a fun night. With Jane Thompson, James Rigby & Friends providing the music, this should be an excellent night.

The Bushdance has been kindly supported by a North Central Catchment Management Authority ‘25th Anniversary of Landcare’ grant.

Supper will be provided, as will tea, coffee and cordial; BYO alcoholic beverages. The night will be free for Landcare members and $5 for non-members. Kids are welcome. For catering purposes, please RSVP to Max Schlachter by 5th September ( or 5472 1594).

When: Saturday 8th September
Where: Castlemaine Town Hall
Time: 6pm – 10pm



Draft Fire Operation Plan – Open for comments until 31 August

Posted on 24 August, 2012 by Connecting Country

DSE has released the draft Fire Operations Plan for consultation.  The draft DSE Fire Operations Plan proposes several burns in our region in the next three years.  Relevant maps, the draft plan and other associated details can be viewed at the DSE website (click here).

DSE are accepting submissions from the public until August 31 2012.  Submissions can be emailed ( or posted to:
Fire Management Officer
Murray Goldfields District, DSE
PO BOX 3100, Bendigo Delivery Centre 3554

Some other local organisations have already stated their positions regarding the proposed burns (e.g. see FOBIF website), while other organizations are considering their response (e.g. Elaine Bayes of the Fired Up Group can be contacted on

The Connecting Country committee of management are meeting early next week, where our organization’s response to the fire plan will be considered.


26 August 2012 – Cactus Field Day

Posted on 24 August, 2012 by Connecting Country

The next Cactus Field Day is this Sunday 26th August. The Tarrengower Cactus Control Committee will be hosting it at a property on the Baringhup Road opposite its intersection with Hayes Road.  As usual it will be clearly signposted and the day starts at 10.30 am. So rug up well and come along  for a great morning in the fresh air as well as for a hot cuppa and sausage sizzle.



Connecting Country and Landcare in the Spotlight

Posted on 20 August, 2012 by Connecting Country

Landcare Australia Limited – the corporate arm of Landcare in Australia – use the slogan: ‘Everyone, everywhere, Landcare’. That has indeed proved the case in our Shire recently, with three important presentations made by Connecting Country to different audiences in the last two weeks.

The first was to the Victorian Minister for Environment & Climate Change, Ryan Smith, on a visit to a Yandoit grazing property undertaking a Connecting Country Yellow Box Woodland project. The visit was part of a wider tour of the North Central Catchment with our focus being on Landcare.

The state government supports Landcare through the Victorian State Landcare Team. It includes the ten Catchment Management Authority-based Landcare coordinators and the Department of Sustainability and Environment’s (DSE) Landcare team. It also funds the 68 new Local Landcare Facilitators (of which Connecting Country’s Landcare Facilitator is one) and administers the Victorian Landcare Gateway website.

Our presentation to the minister provided an overview of the Connecting Country project and the landscape restoration works that were set to occur on the property. We also highlighted the importance of government support to Landcare groups who want to be able to focus on their on-ground projects – rather than the ever-increasing paperwork.

The second presentation was to members of the Board and Natural Resource Management Committee (NRMC) of the North Central Catchment Management Authority (CMA).

The CMA’s Regional Catchment Strategy is the umbrella plan under which Connecting Country’s Biodiversity Blueprint and individual group’s local action plans and projects sit.  This tour was an opportunity to show the Board and NRMC a current Landcare project – Muckleford Landcare’s Chinaman Creek Valley Community Plan – and demonstrate how Connecting Country is working with Landcare groups to produce local action plans which will be used to guide future projects and attract funding to the area. The tour also visited another landholder in Welshman’s Reef who is being funded through the Yellow Box Woodland program. He was very enthusiastic about the inspiration and support Connecting Country has given him to enhance  the biodiversity on his land.

Jarrod, Chris Max and Marie from Connecting Country with Brian Rebecchi on his property at Welshman's Reef

Continue Reading »


New Program: Connecting Landscapes

Posted on 19 August, 2012 by Connecting Country

Calling all Landholders

Connecting Country is pleased to announce that it has been successful in obtaining funding from the Australian Government’s Clean Energy Future Biodiversity Fund to implement our new program, Connecting Landscapes across the Mount Alexander region.

This five year program will work with private landholders to create and enhance wildlife habitat connections between the large blocks of crown land forest that occur through the Mount Alexander Shire and immediate surrounds.

Connecting Country will establish its own on-ground works crew to help landholders undertake management activities on their properties, such as pest animal and plant control, protective fencing and supplementary plantings. Other aspects of the program to be implemented by Connecting Country will include community talks and field day events, flora and fauna monitoring and other related activities.

We are seeking expressions of interest for potential site projects with Landcare groups and private landholders that fit the funding guidelines. An Expression of Interest Form can be found here and full details about the project can be found here.

For further information or to get involved, contact the Project Manager, Jarrod Coote, on 5472 1594 or email

Also information will be available at Connecting Country’s Reference Group meeting to be held on the evening of August 20th 2012.


16 August 2012 – Restoring the Moolort Wetlands

Posted on 14 August, 2012 by Connecting Country

Nick Layne from North Central CMA will be giving a presentation on Restoring the Moolort Wetlands at a Newstead Landcare Group meeting this Thursday. These wetlands are west of Newstead and adorned with numerous stunning Red Gum swamps which, when full, become home to countless waterbirds, including Brolgas. This is a chance to learn about these magnificent swamps and their wildlife as well as the exciting new project to restore them to their full glory.

The meeting will be held at the Newstead Community Centre at 8 pm on Thursday 16 August. A gold coin donation will be appreciated. For further information contact Patrick 5476 2755.


Connecting Country Woodland Bird Monitoring – Winter 2012

Posted on 10 August, 2012 by Connecting Country

Connecting Country’s woodland bird monitoring is on again. Since 2010, bird surveys have been performed in winter and spring in over 50 locations across the Mount Alexander Shire region. As a result there have been confirmed records of rare and threatened birds. The good news is that with the new Woodland Birds Project, Connecting Country will be able to continue developing these bird data sets using expert knowledge, community engagement and participation.

Garry and Brenda Cheers, will be managing the Winter 2012 bird survey and landholders that have been involved in the past can expect a phone call from Garry soon to arrange access to previously sampled sites. A report on the progress and results of the bird monitoring will be available soon.


10 August 2012 – Long-term Flora and Fauna Monitoring

Posted on 7 August, 2012 by Connecting Country

Ern Perkins with Chris Timewell at last month's launch of Ern's Central Victoria Grasses Identification Guide CD.

Local naturalist Ern Perkins will be the guest speaker at the Castlemaine Field Naturalist Club meeting this Friday 10 August. His subject will be Long-term Flora and Fauna Monitoring.

The talk will address a topic of special interest to Connecting Country. Long-term monitoring of flora and fauna has been an important component of the Yellow Box Woodlands project and will continue to be important in the organisation’s two new projects, Connecting Landscapes and Woodland Birds.

The meeting will be held at the Uniting Church Hall in Lyttleton St, Castlemaine (the building behind the church), and will commence from 7.30pm. All are welcome and encouraged to attend– both members and non-members.  There is no cost for attendance.


29 July 2012 – Next Cactus Control Field Day

Posted on 25 July, 2012 by Connecting Country

The next Cactus Control field day with Parks Victoria is this Sunday 29th July. It will be held on a property near the corner of the Bridgewater-Maldon Road and Sandhills Lane. This is about one kilometre north of the intersection of the Bridgewater and Baringhup Roads. As usual it will be well signposted.

The starting time is 10.30 am and the day will wind up with the usual cuppa and sausage sizzle at lunchtime.


Green Thumbs Wanted for National Tree Day

Posted on 19 July, 2012 by Connecting Country

Sunday 29 July is National Tree Day and a number of planting events and barbeques have been organised by Landcare groups and other organisations across the Mount Alexander shire and immediate surrounds.

With so much of our local forests cleared or degraded, putting something back is a great thing to do – and every little plant helps.  All sorts of plants will get put in the ground on National Tree Day – not just trees.

If you would like to participate in National Tree Day this year, click here to find out where a planting is taking place near you. Or contact Max Schlachter (Mount Alexander area Landcare Facilitator) for more information on 5472 1594.


Future Management of Barkers Creek

Posted on 10 July, 2012 by Connecting Country

Over 40 members of the Barkers Creek, Harcourt and North Harcourt communities met in the Harcourt ANA Hall on June 28.  The purpose of the meeting was to find out what is important to the local community about Barkers Creek and discuss the future management of the creek.

The evening started with delicious soup, bread and muffins provided by CAKE (Castlemaine Abundance Kitchen Enterprise).  A short presentation about Barkers Creek outlined some of the assets and the threats impacting on the creek, and then attendees were split into three groups to identify what they thought was important along their stretch of the creek

Barkers Creek Project Officer Michael Luke says “We were thrilled at the big turnout for the community workshop.  It was a fantastic evening and we ended up with around 25 ideas which will be used in the development of the Barkers Creek Local Action Plan”.

The Local Action Plan will help to plan the three local Landcare groups’ activities into the future, and also to assist in applying for grants and future funding opportunities.

For more information about the project, email or call 5472 1594.  If you are a landholder along the creek and have not contacted us – please get in touch.


13 July 2012: Special Event

Posted on 3 July, 2012 by Connecting Country

On the evening of the 13 July, there will be a launch of Ern Perkin’s new Central Victoria Grasses Identification Guide CD followed by a presentation by Geoff Park on the Moolort Wetlands.

Local naturalist Ern Perkins was the 2008 recipient of the Australian Natural History Medallion which is a nation-wide award awarded to one person per year judged to have made the most meritorious contribution to the understanding of Australian Natural History. His new CD covers all native and non-native grasses known to occur in Mt Alexander Shire. Ern will give a short talk and presentation on the CD and all attendees will receive a free copy (one per household).

The CD has been published with the joint support of the Castlemaine Field Naturalists Club and Connecting Country.

After the CD launch, Geoff Park will talk on the beautiful wetlands of the Moolort Plains. Geoff is Knowledge Broker at the North Central CMA, on the committee of Connecting Country and also convenor and chief contributor to the Natural Newstead blog. The following text is an excerpt from his blog about the Moorlort Plains:

The Moolort Plains are a very different environment to the goldfields landscapes closer to Newstead. The plains country is part of the Victorian Volcanic Plains bioregion, once dominated by native grasslands and largely untimbered. Silver Banksia, Tree-Violet and Bursaria were some of the predominant shrubs in this verdant landscape, prior to European settlement. A feature of the Moolort Plains are its wetlands and swamps, many of which have been actively managed for conservation values by local farmers.

Long Swamp, Moolort Plains. Photo by Geoff Park, 7 September 2010

The launch and the talk will be held on evening of Friday 13 July at the Uniting Church Hall in Lyttleton St, Castlemaine (building behind the church), and will commence from 7.30pm. The event is part of the Castlemaine Field Naturalists Club July meeting, but all are welcome and encouraged to attend– both members and non-members.  There is no cost for attendance, although a gold coin donation towards the supper afterwards would be appreciated.


Employment – Positions Vacant

Posted on 2 July, 2012 by Connecting Country

Threatened Woodland Birds Project Coordinator Position: Connecting Country.

Do you know your Jacky Winter from your Diamond Firetail?
Are you passionate about making sure they continue to exist in the Mount Alexander Shire and surrounding region of central Victoria?

If yes, then this could be the job for you.

Connecting Country is seeking a suitable candidate to implement its new Threatened Woodland Birds Project as well as assisting with other activities currently being run by the organization.   This part or full time fixed term position (0.8-1 FTE) is funded through to 30 June 2013, with the possibility of extension based on future funding success and other considerations.  For more information on the project, and also for copy of the full position description, including key selection criteria, click here.

Applications with a curriculum vitae and addressing the Key Selection Criteria should be marked “Confidential – Threatened Woodland Birds Project Officer” and be submitted to “Connecting Country, PO Box 437, Castlemaine, VIC, 3450” by Sunday 15th July 2012 or by email to  For more information regarding the project and the position, contact Chris Timewell or Krista Patterson-Majoor on (03) 5472-1594 or email

Sustainability Officer Postion: Mount Alexander Shire

Mount Alexander Shire is currently advertising for a Sustainability Officer to join their team. For information about the role and a position description click here.