Restoring landscapes across the Mount Alexander Region

Bird walk at Eganstown: Saturday 9 January 2021

Posted on 7 January, 2021 by Ivan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Celebrating our volunteer heroes at Connecting Country

Posted on 17 December, 2020 by Ivan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

Revegetation and monitoring for success webinar – 25 November 2020

Posted on 23 November, 2020 by Jacqui

Photo credit DELWP


Here’s an opportunity that may be of interest to our readers wanting to learn about the latest science on the benefits of revegetation and monitoring. Check out this short webinar hosted by Department of Environment Land Water and Planning (DELWP) through the Arthur Rylah Institute, in collaboration with La Trobe University. The webinar will cover the latest advice for land managers and community groups on how to conduct successful revegetation and how to monitor the outcomes. 

Revegetation for Biodiversity: monitoring for success

Join us for a webinar on the benefits for biodiversity of revegetation activities.

Hear from experts at La Trobe University in collaboration with the Arthur Rylah Institute for Environmental Research (DELWP) about:

  • The latest research on the value of revegetation: how it changes over time, and how it can be undertaken to have the greatest value for biodiversity.
  • A standard monitoring protocol designed for land managers and community groups to help assess revegetation outcomes across Victoria.

This webinar is for all audiences and will have a land management focus.

Date: Wednesday 25 November 2020
Time: 1.00 – 2.00 pm
Location: online

To register and for more information: click here

 

Weed management after fire webinar series starts 25 November 2020

Posted on 19 November, 2020 by Jacqui

Jump on and register for this opportunity to learn all about weed management after bushfire, delivered by the Weeds at Early Stages of Invasion (WESI) team and a wealth of expert collaborators. There are four free webinars in total, with each delivering a wealth of knowledge and useful information. It is vital to get on top of weeds after fire, as they usually are the first plants to immerge and have a blank canvas to invade and dominate in the years to come. 

Weed management after fire webinar series

After bushfire, our ecosystems are at their most vulnerable to weed invasion. Help us support indigenous flora and fauna by managing weeds in bushfire affected areas.

This webinar* series focuses on sharing practical knowledge so everyone can contribute to bushfire recovery.

Time:

Four webinars on the below dates all from 10:30 am to 12:15 pm.

Dates:

Webinar 1: Wednesday 25 November 2020 – Overview weed management after fire.

Webinar 2: Wednesday 2 December 2020 – Prioritisation of weeds after fire.

Webinar 3: Wednesday 9 December 2020 – Collaborative projects – weed management after fire.

Webinar 4: Wednesday 16 December 2020 – Weed identification and recording after fire.

For more information and to register for these free webinars: CLICK HERE

Collaborators:

  • State Wide Integrated Flora and Fauna Teams (SWIFFT)
  • Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP) including:
    • Weeds at the Early Stage of Invasion (WESI)
    • Bushfire Biodiversity Response and Recovery (BBRR)
    • Natural Environment Program (NEP)
    • Connecting Communities Program (CCP)
    • Weeds and Pests on Public Land (WPPL)
  • Parks Victoria
  • East Gippsland Catchment Management Authority (EGCMA)
  • Weed Society of Victoria (WSV)
  • Gunaikurnai Land and Waters Aboriginal Corporation (GLaWAC)
  • Landcare Victoria
  • Trust for Nature
  • Regional Roads Victoria
  • Department of Jobs, Precincts and Regions (DJPR)
  • Australian Association of Bush Regenerators (AABR)
  • Foundation for National Parks & Wildlife (FNPW)

* These webinars are funded by the Victorian Government’s $22.5 million Bushfire Biodiversity Response and Recovery program. For more information on the BBRR program, visit www.wildlife.vic.gov.au/home/biodiversity-bushfire-response-and-recovery

 

Greater and Squirrel Glider Symposium: 27-28 October 2020

Posted on 21 October, 2020 by Ivan

Our colleagues at Biolinks Alliance have put together a very impressive lineup for their Greater and Squirrel Glider Symposium, happening online this year. The event’s full title is’Greater and Squirrel Glider Symposium Leaping into Action: Sharing practical and scientific knowledge for Glider conservation’. This two-week online forum will focus on sharing information and improving collaborative and strategic approaches to conservation of Greater Gliders and Squirrel Gliders.

Connecting Country is a member of the Biolinks Alliance, a group that aims to build partnerships and capacity so that the significant momentum for community-driven conservation on public and private land in central Victoria is supported, coordinated and amplified.

Our very own Monitoring Coordinator, Jess Lawton will feature in the lineup of experts for the workshop titled ‘Squirrel Glider citizen science, community engagement and data quality workshop‘. Jess is fast becoming an expert in the practical application of citizen science and ecological monitoring programs.

Please read on for more information on this action-packed symposium, including booking details.

About this event

The threat of species extinction requires the sharing and application of the best knowledge and conservation strategy. Flagship species like the Greater Glider and Squirrel Glider are already fomenting collaboration and increased action. The recent fires raised the urgency of the challenge as well as many questions on what the best course of action is in a rapidly changing climate and more frequent catastrophic events.

Biolinks Alliance, with Wombat Forestcare, Strathbogie Ranges CMN and the Great Eastern Ranges, is holding an online digital symposium that will bring together researchers and conservation practitioners working in Victoria and New South Wales. This two-week online forum will focus on sharing information and improving collaborative and strategic approaches to conservation of Greater Gliders and Squirrel Gliders.

A series of digital video assets will be available at the commencement of the symposium, followed by several days of live panel discussions, keynotes, Q&A’s and workshops. The program will cover:

  • State of play – impact of drought and recent fires
  • New research – approaches and findings
  • Lessons from the ground – survey, monitoring, habitat protection, restoration and enhancement; community action
  • Planning for collaboration and increased strategic action

Symposium location: online via the Zoom platform – click here to book

Keynote presentations by leading research scientists:

  • Predicting habitat suitability for greater glider (Petauroides volans) using remote sensing: implications for conservation planning‘ keynote presented by PhD. candidate Benjamin Wagner
  • Conservation Planning in Dynamic Environments‘ keynote presented by Associate Professor Craig Nitschke
  • Examining changes in Greater Gliders population from several large-scale, long-term studies includes empirical analyses that quantify the impacts of various drivers of change‘ keynote presented by Professor David Lindenmayer
  • Temporal changes in populations of arboreal marsupials, including gliders in the Grassy Box-gum woodlands of southern Australia over the past 22+ years based on a series of long-term observational studies and experiments‘ keynote presented by Professor David Lindenmayer
  • Overlooked driver of decline–the influence of temperature on food intake in arboreal folivores‘ keynote presented by Dr Kara Youngentob
  • Maximising learning opportunities while replacing tree hollows for wildlife‘ keynote originally presented by Dr Rodney Van Der Ree as part of the 2019 TreeNet conference
  • Connecting habitat across roads‘ keynote originally presented by Dr Rodney Van Der Ree as part of the 2019 TreeNet conference
  • Squirrel Gliders: Nest box use and population monitoring‘ keynote presented by Associate Professor Ross Goldingay

Greater Glider ‘State of Play’ live panel discussion – Tuesday 27 October 2020

  • Gregg Borschmann (Facilitator)
  • Professor David Lindenmayer Australian National University
  • Ed Hill GECO
  • Dr Teresa Eyre Queensland Herbarium
  • Dr Jenny Nelson Arthur Rylah Institute

Squirrel Glider ‘State of Play’ live panel discussion -Wednesday 28 October 2020

  • Gregg Borschmann (Facilitator)
  • Dr Mason Crane NSW Biodiversity Conservation Trust
  • Dr Rodney van Der Ree University of Melbourne & WSP Australia
  • Associate Professor Ross Goldingay Southern Cross University
  • Jerry Alexander DELWP

Bookings: online via the Zoom platform – click here to book

 

 

What I learned with beginner birdwatchers

Posted on 21 October, 2020 by Jess

We received this lovely report from Lou Citroen, one of our eleven experienced volunteer bird watchers who led a small group walk at one of Connecting Country’s group bird survey sites for our ‘Birdwatching for Beginners’ event on 17 October 2020. The 46 available spots for this field session booked out incredibly fast – a reflection of the strong level of interest in local birds within our community. To view the theory session from this event, presented online by Damian Kelly – click here

Dear Jess,

I wanted to thank you and Frances for all the work you have put into what turned out to be a resoundingly successful Birdwatching for Beginners day!  You must also have contacts in High places as the weather turned out to be just perfect after a rainy start of the day!!

I thoroughly enjoyed the webinar.  The Webinar is such boon and useful communication tool especially in these COVID times!

I found Damian’s presentation really informative, and useful.  It reinforces for me that it doesn’t matter how many years you do birdwatching, there is always something to learn from others; a lifelong learning process that is so enjoyable.  I loved Damian’s relaxed and chatty style.  The participants in my group also enjoyed it greatly. As concerns my particular group, we had a really fun and leisurely hour and a half on site with Carmen, Kate and Julia.

They were a lovely chatty group! Thankfully they all found the directions to the spot helpful (phew).  It was fabulous to have Frances there, not just as first aider, but as great company and to help fill in some of the details about this site.

After introductions and the short safety talk, the group were delighted with the bird identification brochures Frances handed out.  The brochures were indeed helpful in identifying a few of the birds we saw … or were looking for!

Group members learned an important bird watching skill: how to use binoculars (photo by Frances Howe)

 

With her keen eye, Carmen spotted a Galah nesting hollow (and another disused one), Julia eventually spotted one (of three!) Olive-backed Oriole, I showed them the White-winged Chough nest that Liz and I had spotted on the ‘reconnaissance mission’ … plus a few Choughs.  A loud Rufous Whistler remained elusive.  A beautiful raptor flew overhead but sadly remained unidentified (I still have trouble with identification of a number of raptors).  There were quite a few Crimson Rosellas and Red Wattlebirds about and we heard one or two Yellow Thornbills, but spotting a male and female Superb Fairy-wren at close range was a treat for all.

Here are some of the bird species Lou’s group detected on their walk (photos by Geoff Park):

As my hearing is still pretty good, I explained to the group that, a little differently from Damian’s approach, in addition to visual cues I place a fair amount of importance on learning to recognise bird calls.  I was able to show them that, while calls are unique to each bird (apart from the mimics that Damian pointed out) many have a little repertoire of calls to be aware of.  The Crimson Rosella showed off with three.

At the end of the walk, all three were thrilled when Frances gave them all a copy of Damian’s book (click here).  It was clearly a lovely surprise for them and a nice way to end our little excursion.

As I said to Frances afterwards, I think this was great success; an eye-opener (no pun intended) that there is such an interest in birds in our community. The three in our group were great to meet and clearly enjoyed the time.  I had a ball!  By about 3 pm we were all done and on our way home.

Thank you for the mountain of planning and coordinating behind the scenes to make it such a success!

Warmest wishes,

Lou

It was our pleasure Lou! We’re so glad your group had such a wonderful time. Receiving messages like this really warms our hearts and makes all that behind-the-scenes admin work worthwhile. We hope this is the beginning of an exciting bird watching journey for Carman, Kate and Julia, and all our participants.

This event was supported by the Australian Government’s Communities for the Environment Program. 

 

‘Birdwatching for beginners’ engages the next generation of birders

Posted on 21 October, 2020 by Ivan

Our popular ‘Birdwatching for beginners’ event last weekend (Saturday 17 October 2020) had 282 people register for the theory session in the morning and we quickly ‘sold out’ of free tickets for the practical afternoon session. The event proved once again that community interest in birds and bird watching is gathering momentum, creating a new generation of bird watchers. The event aimed to attract new bird watchers and bird survey volunteers, and get people out enjoying and exploring the natural assets we are blessed with in Central Victoria. We’re thrilled to have such a positive response and see the enthusiasm of the participants, who were mostly from the Mount Alexander region and surrounding areas.

Local author and bird enthusiast Damian Kelly presented an overview and introduction to bird watching in the morning session, covering a range of topics and tips to get people skilled-up for bird watching. Damian is the author of the terrific ‘Castlemaine Bird Walks’ book. Damian wooed the audience with some outstanding bird photos, mostly from his own garden in central Castlemaine. He provided practical suggestions on how to get to know birds and where to start looking for birds in our region. He also responded to participants’ questions, answering important questions about binoculars, birding groups and bird calls, before heading off to mentor a practical session near Castlemaine. It was a busy day for our community birding champion!

The afternoon practical session involved a team of 4-5 beginners teaming up with an experienced local birdwatcher to go bird watching at some of Connecting Country’s bird survey sites on public land across our region. We ‘sold’ all 45 allocated tickets for this event with a long waiting list. People were keen to take this excellent opportunity to visit some great bird watching sites, with an experienced mentor to guide attendees through the afternoon. Small groups meant participants had plenty of opportunities to ask questions and learn directly from mentors, while minimising COVID-19 risks.

Feedback from both the morning and afternoon sessions was positive and appreciative, with many participants emailing directly after the event with thanks and requesting recordings of the event. The afternoon practical session was invaluable for the lucky attendees, who got to experience mentoring and an expert guide to the local birds of our survey sites on public land. There were many highlights from the afternoon, including seeing Dusky Woodswallows, Brown Falcons, Olive-backed Orioles, Superb Fairy-wrens, White-plumed Honeyeaters and Welcome Swallows. Several nests were spotted, including the amazing clay nests of the White-winged Chough.

Please enjoy the following photos captured by Ivan Carter, Frances Howe and Asha Bannon during the practical sessions, with birds and new birders sharing together.

This event is part of our ‘Community for bush birds’ project supported by the Australian Government under the Communities Environment Program.

A recorded copy of Damian’s presentation is available for download – click here

If you would like to learn more about birds, or have an interest in raptors and/or thornbills, you might like to download the presentations below, from our ‘Tricky Birds of Central Victoria’ event. They are an excellent resource for a little more detail on these bird groups.

  • Geoff Park raptor presentation – click here
  • Chris Tzaros thornbill presentation – click here

If you enjoyed this event, please consider contributing to Connecting Country’s work. We run entirely from grants and donations, with all donations over $2 being tax deductible.

 

 

 

Celebrate National Bird Week with Aussie Backyard Bird Count – 19-25 October 2020

Posted on 15 October, 2020 by Ivan

 

Bird watching is an easily accessible activity that connects us to nature (photo: Geoff Park)

Celebrate National Bird Week with Connecting Country by joining thousands across the country participating in the Aussie Backyard Bird Count. The bird count has been increasingly popular over the past few years, with the past 12 months seeing a surge in bird watching  across the country.The next Aussie Backyard Bird Count is on 19-25 October 2020. The Aussie Backyard Bird Count is an activity for all-ages that involves observing and counting the birds that live near you – whether that’s in your garden, the local park, a beach or even your town centre. By recording the birds you’ve seen within a 20 minute period, you will help BirdLife Australia develop an understanding of local birds, while getting to know the wildlife on your doorstep!

Please read on for details from Birdlife Australia about the importance of this annual survey and how to participate.

How do I take part in the Aussie Backyard Bird Count? 

To complete the Aussie Backyard Bird Count, spend 20 minutes standing or sitting in one spot and noting down the birds that you see. You will need to count the number of each species you spot within the 20 minute period. For example, you might see 4 Australian Magpies, 2 Rainbow Lorikeets and a Sulphur-Crested Cockatoo. If you can identify birds by their calls, please include these in your count, but if you aren’t sure of a bird without seeing it, please exclude it rather than making a guess. The Aussie Bird Count app has a handy field-guide to help you identify birds. Once you have completed your count, you can submit it in two different ways:

  1. You can submit your bird count through the online web form (this form won’t be made live until the 14 October)

OR

  1. You can submit your counts through the free Aussie Bird Count app. The app is available for iPhones and Android smartphones, go to the Google Play or iTunes to download the app for free. If you have the Aussie Bird Count app from previous years don’t delete it, it should update automatically with the newest version. In between event dates, the app operates as a field-guide/bird finder.

Why should I do the backyard bird count? 

By participating in the Aussie Backyard Bird Count, you will be helping BirdLife Australia find out about the common species that live where people live. Providing us with a snapshot of Australian birds at the same time each year allows us to look at the trends in our bird communities from year to year. This is important because it’s these more common species that give us the best indication of the health of the environment – think of birds as a barometer for nature!

Why is the bird count in October? 

Spring is the season when birds are more lively and visible. They begin nesting, breeding and flocking and generally appear more playful. Thousands of migrant birds return to our shores in spring as well. For these reasons it is also National Bird Week, a tradition that started back in the early 1900s when 28 October was first designated by our predecessor, the Royal Australasian Ornithologists Union, as the first ‘Bird Day’.

What other surveys can I get involved with? 

The Aussie Backyard Bird Count only takes place once a year, however BirdLife Australia run other surveys throughout the year that you can take part in. Birds In Backyards runs seasonal surveys that you can join in with, even if you’re not an expert bird-watcher, and there’s lots of info on how to attract more birds to your backyard! Check it out here. You can also register with our Birdata app if you want to take part in more regular bird surveys.

 

 

A self-guided bird-watching walk with North Harcourt & Sedgwick Landcare

Posted on 15 October, 2020 by Asha

Take yourself on a self-guided bird-watching walk, organised by North Harcourt & Sedgwick Landcare with support from Connecting Country.

North Harcourt & Sedgwick Landcare have created this walk as the perfect excuse (if you need one) to go out and learn about what birds live where and why. This event is a self-guided tour in the North Harcourt Sedgwick area of Central Victoria. Just look for the posters and follow along!

The posters will have information about the habitat at different points along the walk and which birds you might see there. It is designed for everyone, from kids to avid bird-watchers. Any time is a good time for bird-watching, but the best times are early in the morning or late in the afternoon.

The walk begins at the intersection of Mandurang S Road, Springs Road, and Bryden Road in Sedgwick and follows the Coliban channel (see map on the right for details). You will need to bring some binoculars, and a device with a bird ID app is a massive advantage. Don’t forget good walking shoes, first aid kit, and some water and snacks. Allow around 20 minutes at each one of the four stations. The entire walk is around 3 km return (allow around 2 hours). The trail has some steep sections so please go at a safe pace. Please stay on the track at all times and, with the weather warming up, be aware of snakes.

When: This event will run from 19 October to approximately 8 November 2020.

To download the poster: click here

For more information about the walk please email NHSELandcare@gmail.com

For more information about North Harcourt & Sedgwick Landcare: click here

 

Last chance for ‘Birdwatching for beginners’ – 17 October 2020

Posted on 15 October, 2020 by Ivan

We would like to remind our members and bird-loving community that limited tickets are available for this weekend’s ‘Birdwatching for Beginners’ event. The event aims to attract new birdwatchers and bird survey volunteers, and get people out enjoying and exploring the natural assets we are blessed with in central Victoria. We’re thrilled at the enthusiastic response so far! 

The practical field session quickly sold out, but you’re still welcome to register for the theory session.

Connecting Country is excited to have local author and bird enthusiast Damian Kelly present an overview and introduction to bird watching. Damian is the author of the terrific book Castlemaine Bird Walks.  We’ve had a sneak preview of Damian’s presentation and it looks fantastic! It includes input and beautiful drawings from local artist and bird guru, Jane Rusden.

The beginner’s event will take part over two sessions: an online presentation with Damian Kelly from 11 am to 12 pm, followed by a practical session* in person in the afternoon, from 1.30 pm to 4 pm. The practical session will involve a team of 4-5 beginners teaming up with an experienced local birdwatcher to conduct some field bird surveys on public land across our region. This is an excellent opportunity to visit some great bird watching sites, with an experienced mentor to guide you through the afternoon. Participants will have a chance to ask questions and learn directly from mentors.

When: Saturday 17 October 2020

Theory session with Damian Kelly: 11:00 am to 12.00 pm 

  • 500 tickets available
  • Online event
  • All welcome
  • Targeted to adults but suitable for all ages and abilities
  • To book – click here, a link to the theory session event will be emailed to registered participants prior to the event

*Practical session with mentor: 1.30 pm to 4.00 pm *(SOLD OUT)

  • Sold out – 40 tickets
  • Field event
  • Targeted to participants 15 years and older who are keen to learn bird watching in a small group setting
  • Requires a basic level of fitness and involves walking over uneven ground
  • Copies of Connecting Country woodland birds brochure and ‘Castlemaine Bird Walks’ book available for attendees

Cost: both sessions are free of charge

This event is part of our ‘Community for bush birds’ project supported by the Australian Government under the Communities Environment Program.

A link to the online event will be emailed to registered participants prior to the event, along with details and locations for the practical session.

 

AGM 2020 a roaring success: download available

Posted on 1 October, 2020 by Ivan

On Saturday 26 September 2020, a large crowd of people gathered on their computers, tablets and phones, to enjoy Connecting Country’s first ever online Annual General Meeting (AGM) and hear from two excellent guest speakers: Jess Lawton and Jacinta Humphrey. We sold a total of 98 tickets to the event, but it was difficult to tell exactly how many people attended, due to attendees sharing a screen with family members. The event went very smoothly, given the steep learning curve and technology required to run an AGM online.

We also celebrated the hard work and achievements of Connecting Country through a presentation by our Director, Frances Howe, as well as updating the audience on our current funding situation. We would like to warmly thank our presenters and all the committee members, staff and volunteers who assisted with the event, which has generated extremely positive feedback.

The two biggest stars of the show were the amazing young scientists, and PhD candidates, Jess and Jacinta, who both gave enthralling presentations on ecological monitoring. Jess presented on the topic of Connecting Country’s ten years of ecological monitoring, which included birds surveys, nest box monitoring, and of course, phascogales! Jacinta covered her research into the impact of urbanisation on birds, which showed some surprising findings about how some birds adapt to life in the suburbs, and ideas about what might help urban birds and humans coexist. Jacinta also entertained the audience with an impressive Lego video. To view Jacinta’s engaging video summarising her project – click here

Our AGM was short and sweet, and all of our dedicated committee of management 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. It is very impressive that the committee have all committed for another year, providing stability in these uncertain times.

Elected members of Connecting Country’s 2020-21 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. If you would like a copy of Connecting Country’s annual report for 2019-20 – click here.

If you missed the presentations and AGM, see the video of the event below, featuring each of the presentations and the formal proceedings. Please click play below and enjoy. Note the audio starts at 16 seconds.

  • Click here to download the 2020 financial audit report

If you have any questions, please email info@connectingcountry.org.au or call (03) 5472 1594.

 

Trust for Nature webinar on Innovation in Land Conservation – 29 September 2020

Posted on 28 September, 2020 by Jacqui

An opportunity for anyone interested in land conservation to learn about innovative approaches to challenges such as pest animals, threatened species, and fire, from experts in their field across Australia.

Hosted by Trust for Nature, this webinar offers a chance to explore new ways of understanding and managing the natural environment, including how technology can help with managing threatened species. Experts will discuss innovative methods to control feral animals, look at how technology can help with managing threatened species, and explore new ways of looking at fire and people in our landscapes.

Host: Trust for Nature’s Dr Nicki Munro, PhD (Ecology)

Speakers:

  • Dr Debbie Saunders – CEO, Wildlife Drones, PhD (Conservation Ecology)
  • Dr Katherine Moseby – CEO Ecological Horizons, PhD (Ecology)
  • Professor David Bowman – Pyrogeography and Fire Science, PhD (Forest Ecology)

The John Paul Memorial Lecture ‘Innovation in land conservation’ is made possible thanks to the generosity of The Paul Family Foundation.

Cost: Free

When: 7.00 pm on 29 September 2020

Location: online via Zoom, registration not required

Meeting link: https://zoom.us/join

Webinar ID: 817 6384 5252
Passcode: 538940

Please note a recording of the webinar won’t be available.

 

Get set for ‘Birdwatching for Beginners’ – 17 October 2020

Posted on 23 September, 2020 by Ivan

Hold onto your hats – again! Following our wildly successful advanced birdwatcher event, ‘Tricky Birds of central Victoria’, we are running a free ‘Birdwatching for Beginners’ event on 17 October 2020. The event aims to attract new birdwatchers and bird survey volunteers, and get people out enjoying and exploring the natural assets we are blessed with in central Victoria.

Bird watching is a great activity that almost everyone can enjoy. The COVID-19 lockdown period has seen a ten-fold increase in the number of new birdwatchers around the country, with a similar trend here in central Victoria. People are craving nature and the outdoors, prompting them to navigate their way through the maze that is bird watching and enjoying the challenges of how to differentiate some of the trickier species.

Connecting Country is excited to have local author and bird enthusiast Damian Kelly present an overview and introduction to bird watching. Damian is the author of the terrific book Castlemaine Bird Walks. Copies of this book will be available to participants.

The beginner’s event will take part over two sessions: an online presentation with Damian Kelly from 11 am to 12 pm, followed by a practical session in person in the afternoon, from 1.30 pm to 4 pm. The practical session will involve a team of 4-5 beginners teaming up with an experienced local birdwatcher to conduct some field bird surveys on public land across our region. This is an excellent opportunity to visit some great bird watching sites, with an experienced mentor to guide you through the afternoon. Participants will have a chance to ask questions and learn directly from mentors.

When: Saturday 17 October 2020

Theory session with Damian Kelly: 11:00 am to 12.00 pm

  • 500 tickets available
  • Online event
  • All welcome
  • Targeted to adults but suitable for all ages and abilities
  • To book – click here

Practical session with mentor: 1.30 pm to 4.00 pm**

  • 30 tickets available
  • Field event
  • Targeted to participants 15 years and older who are keen to learn bird watching in a small group setting
  • Requires a basic level of fitness and involves walking over uneven ground
  • Copies of Connecting Country woodland birds brochure and ‘Castlemaine Bird Walks’ book available for attendees
  • **This session is sold out, to join the waitlist – click here

Cost: both sessions are free of charge

This event is part of our ‘Community for bush birds’ project supported by the Australian Government under the Communities Environment Program.

A link to the online event will be emailed to registered participants prior to the event, along with details and locations for the practical session.

All participants in our practical field session must adhere to health and safety requirements, including current COVID-19 restrictions such as social distancing, face masks and limits on group size. Please wear appropriate clothing and footwear and bring water and snacks, as well as binoculars if possible. Connecting Country will provide some extra binoculars to share among the groups if required.

Bird watching is one of the most enjoyable and satisfying ways to enjoy our natural heritage. Bird surveys also contribute valuable data to science and for informed decision-making. Birds are often our key connection to the landscape. They are prevalent in most environments and tell us much about our surroundings and environmental health. Central Victoria is considered a birding hotspot, with birds of all shapes and colours, highlighted by the following spectacular images from Geoff Park’s Natural Newstead blog. They often bring you to explore wonderful places that you did not even know existed!

 

Biological controls as a weed management tool – 6 October 2020

Posted on 17 September, 2020 by Jacqui

Biological control is the practice of managing a weed or pest animal by the deliberate use of one or more natural enemies (biocontrol agents) that suppress it. Land managers, landholders and citizen scientists can each play a role in establishing and monitoring populations of identified biocontrols.  Once established, populations of biocontrol agents can build up to very high levels within a weed infestation. Eventually their numbers can build up to slow the spread or reproduction of a weed, allowing more time for other control methods to be used.

Connecting Country is pleased to support this free online workshop about weed biocontrols hosted by DELWP’s Weeds at the Early Stage of Invasion (WESI) project with Tarrengower Cactus Control Group and the Weed Society of Victoria.

The workshop will feature Dr Raelene Kwong and Greg Lefoe, Senior Research Scientists from Agriculture Victoria’s Research Division. They will explain the ins and outs of what is involved with biological controls as part of your weed management tool kit, and how you can be involved in your patch.

Special local guest presenter, Lee Mead, President of the Tarrangower Cactus Control Group, will provide an exciting local case study. Their community group has used biological controls to combat Wheel Cactus (Opuntia robusta) around Tarrengower and Maldon in Central Victoria.

Biocontrols can play an important role as part of an integrated weed management approach. For tips on getting started with weed control see Connecting Country’s fact sheet – click here

If you want to learn more about biocontrols and get a hands-on community perspective, register for the workshop via the link below. More information about biocontrols is also available via the Bio Control Hub website, a portal set up specifically for biocontrol projects within the Atlas of Living Australia – click here

Date: Tuesday 6 October 2020 from 10.00 – 11.30 am

Location: Online with link provided on registration

To register visit: click here

For more information contact: Rebecca James (rebecca.james@delwp.vic.gov.au)

After this event you have the option to also join the Weed Society of Victoria’s 2020 Annual General Meeting, from 11.30 am. All are welcome.

 

Last chance to book for AGM 2020

Posted on 17 September, 2020 by Ivan

Our first ever online Annual General Meeting (AGM) is fast approaching. We currently have 77 bookings, so get in fast for our remaining tickets to join what’s sure to be a great event and a fun afternoon.

Please join us for this free event on Saturday 26 September 2020 at 2.00 pm for a refreshingly brief AGM and two rather special guest presenters. We will even provide some virtual refreshments!

Our AGM 2020 speakers:

  • Jess Lawton (Connecting Country) will present on ‘Connecting Country’s ten years of ecological monitoring‘. Jess is our treasured Monitoring Coordinator, PhD candidate and resident phascogale expert. Join Jess on a journey through Connecting Country’s long-term monitoring programs, with a focus on nest boxes and bird surveys.

 

  • Jacinta Humphrey (La Trobe University) will present on ‘The impact of urbanisation on birds’. Jacinta is a PhD student at La Trobe University and member of the Research Centre for Future Landscapes. Join Jacinta to hear about her research into the impact of expanding urbanisation on wildlife, with a focus on birds – a key issue raised by the local community during our recent Habitat Health Check project. To view Jacinta’s engaging video summarising her project – click here

 

Everyone is welcome! This is a free event but please register with Trybooking so we can send you the online meeting link prior to the event. To register – click here

AGM formalities:

Please note only current Connecting Country members can vote in the AGM.

If you have any questions, please email info@connectingcountry.org.au or call (03) 5472 1594.

 

Reminder to book for AGM 2020 with speakers Jacinta Humphrey and Jess Lawton

Posted on 8 September, 2020 by Ivan

Our first ever online Annual General Meeting (AGM) is fast approaching. Please join us for this free event on Saturday 26 September 2020 at 2.00 pm for a refreshingly brief AGM and two rather special guest presenters. We will even provide some virtual refreshments!

Our AGM 2020 speakers:

  • Jess Lawton (Connecting Country) will present on ‘Connecting Country’s ten years of ecological monitoring‘. Jess is our treasured Monitoring Coordinator, PhD candidate and resident phascogale expert. Join Jess on a journey through Connecting Country’s long-term monitoring programs, with a focus on nest boxes and bird surveys.

 

  • Jacinta Humphrey (La Trobe University) will present on ‘The impact of urbanisation on birds’. Jacinta is a PhD student at La Trobe University and member of the Research Centre for Future Landscapes. Join Jacinta to hear about her research into the impact of expanding urbanisation on wildlife, with a focus on birds – a key issue raised by the local community during our recent Habitat Health Check project. To view Jacinta’s engaging video summarising her project – click here

 

Everyone is welcome! This is a free event but please register with Trybooking so we can send you the online meeting link prior to the event. To register – click here

AGM formalities:

Please note only current Connecting Country members can vote in the AGM.

If you have any questions, please email info@connectingcountry.org.au or call (03) 5472 1594.

 

Stormwater: a great environmental dilemma – 15 September 2020

Posted on 8 September, 2020 by Ivan

The Victorian Environmental Friends Network has a free online event that might be of interest to our community, particularly those living around the waters of Campbells Creek and Forest Creek in Central Victoria. While there have been many improvements in approaches and technologies for filtering storm waters before they enter our waterways, they are often absent from older systems of water management.

Title: Stormwater: Australia’s great environmental dilemma
Date: Tuesday 15 September 2020 at 7 pm 
Presenter: Dr Dave Sharley

This webinar will focus on the impact of stormwater pollution on the health of our urban waterways. It will discuss industry solutions and provide guidance on simple things we can all implement to reduce stormwater pollution.

Topics may include:

  • What is stormwater?
  • Urban sprawl pressures impacting our local waterways
  • Water Sensitive Urban Design
  • Assessing storm-water pollution
  • Finding major sources of pollution
  • Linking scientific data to community education and awareness programs

Dr David Sharley is an environmental scientist with over twenty years of experience working in water and environmental services. Dave worked at the University of Melbourne for over 10 years researching how pollutants can stress and change aquatic population structures and decrease the resilience of aquatic ecosystems.
Building upon his 20 years of research experience, Dave founded Bio2Lab in 2017 with Steve Marshall to develop and offer novel water quality monitoring tools to the water industry. Dave enjoys developing new ways to communicate scientific outcomes to governments, industry and the community, and has published many articles on the ecological impact of urban development and land management.

Dave’s main areas of interest include aquatic pollution, real-time monitoring, pollution tracking, environmental assessment, urban wetland ecology, integrated catchment management and linking environmental research outcomes to policy.

Tickets are free but is booking required.
To book visit: https://www.eventbrite.com.au/e/117482119181

Forest Creek in Castlemaine during the floods of 2011 (photo: Connecting country archives)

 

 

 

‘Tricky birds’ event delivered to a packed online audience

Posted on 3 September, 2020 by Ivan

Connecting Country set a new attendance record for our much-anticipated event, ‘Tricky Birds of central Victoria with Geoff Park and Chris Tzaros’ on Monday 24 August 2020. This online free event ‘sold out’ with 500 bookings recorded the day before the event. We were absolutely thrilled to host the all-star lineup of Box-Ironbark expert naturalists, Geoff Park and Chris Tzaros.

We were blown away by the level of interest in our event. Our Facebook event page reached 112,000 people. We had 500 individuals register, including people from across Victoria, as well as New South Wales, Queensland and the Northern Territory, plus some enthusiastic registrants from the United States!

Jess Lawton (Connecting Country Monitoring Coordinator) kicked-off the workshop with a short history of Connecting Country’s woodland bird monitoring program and a big thank you to our hard-working bird monitoring volunteers. Geoff covered the topic of identifying raptors and Chris focused on identifying thornbills of central Victoria, followed by an hour of interactive panel discussion and a chance to ask the experts those tricky bird watching questions. Both of the presentations were delivered with the passion and precision you would expect from Australia’s leading bird experts and photographers, with many beautiful images and helpful tips about identifying these look-a-like birds that are so difficult to distinguish.

The virtual Q and A panel worked effectively, despite the panel and hosts being up to 500 km apart, and the audience only having a text box to answer questions. Some of the topics covered were:

  • Useful smartphone apps for bird watching
  • Best binoculars for serious bird watchers
  • Top spots in central Victoria for bird watching
  • Tips on getting close to birds
  • Migration of raptors and thornbills
  • Differences in thornbill calls
  • Thornbill interbreeding
  • Where to find different thornbills in the forest/woodland structure
  • Mantling behaviour in raptors
  • Increase in Black Kite numbers in central Victoria
  • Confusing and similar birds calls
  • Mixed flocks composition


A copy of Geoff and Chris’s excellent presentations from the event are available for download:

Geoff and Chris both used plates from the Australian Bird Guide, as well as their own photos from their presentations. If anyone wishes to reproduce or use any content from the presentations, we request they please contact Geoff or Chris first.

We apologise to anyone who wanted to attend the event but was unable to log in. We didn’t want to exclude anyone, but unfortunately our Zoom license only allowed a maximum of 500 attendees. We hope the presentations provide some good catch-up material.

If you enjoyed this event, please consider contributing to Connecting Country’s work. We run entirely from grants and donations, with all donations over $2 being tax deductible.

 

Further information on our expert presenters

Geoff Park is a Newstead local legend, author of the highly popular ‘Natural Newstead’ blog, and Director of Natural Decisions Pty Ltd. He holds a Bachelor of Science (Honours) and a Diploma of Education. His background is in landscape ecology, teaching and community education. He has a long standing interest and involvement with communities working to improve biodiversity conservation in agricultural landscapes.

To visit Geoff’s Natural Newstead blog on observations of flora, fauna and landscape in central Victoria – click here

Chris Tzaros  is author of the outstanding book ‘Wildlife of the Box-Ironbark Country’, a comprehensive guide to the mammals, birds, reptiles and amphibians that live in this unique habitat. He holds a Masters degree in Conservation Ecology. His passionate interest in bird and wildlife photography has won him multiple ANZANG photography awards. Chris worked for Birdlife Australia for ten years and runs his own company, Birds Bush & Beyond, based in north-east Victoria.

For more information on Chris’s excellent ‘Wildlife of the Box-Ironbark Country’ book, with a new print edition on its way soon – click here

 

Birdata: Become a citizen science superhero

Posted on 1 September, 2020 by Jess

At Connecting Country, we love using the Birdata app, and we know that many of our friends and members love it too! It’s a simple way to make your bird observations count for science. We came across this event from Birdlife in Western Australia. However, they have opened it up to anyone who would like to learn to be a citizen science superhero. We think it may be of interest to our members. Here is what Birdlife Western Australia had to say about this event:

Regardless of whether you have been firmly on the #birdingathome bandwagon or whether the lockdowns and border closures have kickstarted your interest in the birds around your patch, the time you spend out noticing nature is precious. Nobody else sees what you see, so why not put it to use? Your everyday bird sightings are super valuable!

Join this webinar to learn how recording the birds you see (even in your own backyard!) using the Birdata app can help protect and conserve our feathered friends. BirdLife WA’s Citizen Science Project Coordinator Dr Tegan Douglas will show what we can discover when we pool our knowledge through citizen science, and how easy it is to get involved!

Supported by Lotterywest.

Date*: Wednesday 9 September 2020, 1 pm – 2 pm UTC+08 Perth.  *In Central Victoria the event time is 3 pm – 4 pm. 

Join on zoom: click here

For more information: click here

 

Beginner birdwatching with Inala Foundation

Posted on 13 August, 2020 by Jess

The Inala Foundation, a habitat conservation organisation based in Bruny Island, Tasmania, is running a free online event titled a ‘Beginner’s Guide to Birdwatching’. We think this is a fantastic theme for an event, as we know there’s a strong interest in bird watching in our local Mount Alexander region. Interestingly, we’ve recently been planning our own ‘Birding for beginners’ event for later in 2020, but want to share this in case it’s of interest to the community in the meantime. Please see the details below from the Inala Foundation, including how to register. 

The Swift Parrot enjoys habitat in Bruny Island, Tasmania, as well here in the Mount Alexander region of central Victoria (Photo: Michael Gooch)

 

Birdwatching is a great activity that everyone can enjoy. During the COVID-19 lockdown period we have seen a huge increase in the number of new birdwatchers around the world. Many people are navigating their way through the maze that is birdwatching optics and scratching their heads about learning to ID birds, particularly how to differentiate some of the trickier species.

The Inala beginners guide to birdwatching answers all these questions and more. Join us online on Saturday 22 August 2020 for a free introduction and live question/answer session.

When: Saturday 22 August 2020, 10:00 am – 11:00 am
Cost: Free
To register and find more information: click here