Restoring landscapes across the Mount Alexander Region

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
  • To book – 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

 

‘Impact of urbanisation on birds’ with Jacinta Humphrey – Connecting Country AGM 2020

Posted on 6 August, 2020 by Ivan

Connecting Country would like to warmly (and safely) invite you to the Connecting Country 2020 Annual General Meeting (AGM) on Saturday 26 September 2020 at 2.00 pm.

This year’s AGM will be a little different: for the first time ever we are planning an online event. But as usual Connecting Country style, it will be much more than an AGM and will feature two very special presentations. This year’s AGM theme is resilience and adapting to change, and we have signed up two guest speakers who have been involved in monitoring ecological change over time. Long-term ecological monitoring is vital if we are to have accurate data to make informed decisions about land management, and develop strategies to address the ongoing decline and extinction of our wildlife.

We’re delighted to present our two excellent and engaging AGM guest speakers:

Jess Lawton (Connecting Country) 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) 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

 

The AGM 2020 will also 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. This is a free online, which is open to all members of Connecting Country and our community from near and far.

Booking is essential for this event. To register for the AGM and receive the online link to attend please – click here 

There will be no super-delicious catering at this year’s AGM, but feel free to join us for some online discussion and chit-chat after the event, maybe even a BYO refreshment! If you have any questions, please email ivan@connectingcountry.org.au or call (03) 5472 1594.

AGM formalities:

The Connecting Country team at Camp out on the Mount 2019, minus Ivan Carter (photo by Heather Barrett)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Victorian Biodiversity Atlas: its purpose and significance – 10 July 2020

Posted on 7 July, 2020 by Jess

Castlemaine Field Naturalists Club (CFNC) are hosting an online event the evening of Friday 10 July 2020 titled ‘The Victorian Biodiversity Atlas: its purpose and significance’, featuring Elizabeth Newton, who has worked for the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning and currently works with Trust for Nature. This free online webinar is open to the community to learn more about this important topic.

At Connecting Country, we encourage the community to submit fauna and flora records to the Victorian Biodiversity Atlas. You can read more about the Victorian Biodiversity Atlas (click here) and about our amazing volunteers who have submitted hundreds of records to this important database (click here). Learning more about the Victorian Biodiversity Atlas, and uploading any of your own fauna and flora records is a great way to contribute to nature conservation, especially if you have some extra time at home during the COVID-19 pandemic.

CFNC meetings are usually held on the second Friday of each month (February to December) starting at 7.30 pm. Due to government requirements, the CNFC committee has decided to suspend all club face-to-face activities until further notice.

Details of this event, including how to register, are provided on the CNFC website (click here)

The Victorian Biodiversity Atlas (VBA) is a foundation dataset that feeds into biodiversity tools used in the government’s everyday environmental decision making. Approvals and permits, funding decisions, and burn planning all rely on biodiversity observations submitted to the VBA.

This presentation will cover what the VBA is, contributing your data, and how your own flora and fauna records can make a difference.

It will also explore why the Department of Environment, Land and Water (DELWP) uses the VBA, and how it differs and interacts with other biodiversity databases such as Atlas of Living Australia, iNaturalist, and Birdata.

If you wish to attend this webinar, please email Peter Turner at munrodsl@iinet.net.au to receive details on how to attend.

If you previously registered for CFNC’s May webinar you will receive an email with details on how to register for the July session.

For further information please contact Castlemaine Field Naturalists Club – click here

Adding your data to the VBA contributes to informed decisions about land management and conservation of threatened species like Eltham Copper Butterfly (photo by Elaine Bayes)

Adding your data to the VBA contributes to informed decisions about land management and threatened species like Eltham Copper Butterfly (photo by Elaine Bayes)

 

 

DELWP climate science webinars – 24 and 26 June 2020

Posted on 19 June, 2020 by Ivan

Two interesting and important climate science webinars are open to the community to learn more about Victoria’s climate past, present and future, and what we are likely to see in our region in 2050 and beyond. The Victorian Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP) is running these free online events on 24 and 26 June 2020. A major challenge for Connecting Country, and others working to restore landscapes, is where to find this information and how to apply it to our work. These free webinars will help inform us about the latest science and we can apply it to planning future projects.

DELWP climate science webinars

Want to understand more about the climate change information available for Victoria? How has the climate already changed? What might Victoria’s climate be like in 2050 and beyond? Where do you even start in looking for this information?

DELWP is running two webinars to give an overview of the information from Victoria’s Climate Science Report 2019 and the local-scale Victorian Climate Projections 2019, as well as guidance on understanding and using the information.

Webinar 1: Climate change in Victoria – past, present and future
Date: 1-2 pm, Wednesday 24 June 2020

  • Victoria’s climate has already changed
  • Future climate projections
  • Resources available – using the decision tree to find what you need
  • Victoria’s Climate Science Report 2019
  • Regional information: Victorian Climate Projections 2019 Regional reports, data tables
  • Communicating Climate Change
  • Planning for uncertainty
  • Lots of time for Q&A with the DELWP project team

Join via this link on the day: MS Teams Live Event

Webinar 2: Victorian climate projections 2019 – findings and tips for interpreting
Date: 1-2 pm, Friday 26 June 2020

  • What do the projections say for Victoria?
  • What are the benefits of local-scale climate data?
  • How to understand and work with the different sources of uncertainty in projections
  • Top tips to interpret the projections correctly
  • Lots of time for Q&A with DELWP and CSIRO scientists

Join via this link on the day: MS Teams Live Event

There’s no need to register for the webinars – just save the time in your calendar and click on the links above to join when it’s time. The recording will be available if you can’t make it on the day.

Planning of revegetation projects must incorporate climate science for the best chance of long-term survival (photo by Connecting Country)

 

Need advice on controlling Gorse? VGT extension in Sutton Grange

Posted on 9 June, 2020 by Jacqui

Please see the invitation below to landowners in the Sutton Grange area from the Victorian Gorse Taskforce (VGT).  For enquiries, or to register your interest, please contact Brydie Murrihy from the VGT on the details below. 

The Victorian Gorse Taskforce (VGT) will be delivering a community-wide extension services program in the Sutton Grange area this June/July 2020. Households may register their interest by contacting Brydie Murrihy by email or phone (see below for details).

Extension Service
The VGT Extension Officer, Brydie Murrihy, will conduct a property assessment either alone or assisted by the landowner and will provide professional best practice management advice tailored to the property. The landowner will receive extension material and information on any support or assistance that may be available to them, a property map detailing location of gorse plants, a detailed weed management plan and follow up phone calls and/or visits with landholders if required.

This program is a free service and the property inspections will be scheduled to suit the participants involved.

Image may contain: plant, flower, sky, cloud, tree, outdoor and nature

Gorse (Ulex europaeus) is a Regionally Controlled Weed in the most parts of Victoria. It is a threat to native plants and animals and is best controlled early and consistently as part of an integrated approach. Photo: VGT

Application
If you have any queries or concerns, please do not hesitate to contact Brydie or the VGT via the VGT website or social platforms (Facebook & Instagram).

To set-up an inspection: Brydie Murrihy 0428 335 705 or email bmurrihy@cva.org.au.

There are limited spots so get in quick!

Social distancing rules will apply.

 

Birdlife presents Powerful Owl online: 14 May 2020

Posted on 12 May, 2020 by Ivan

Are you looking for an interesting online bird event this week? Birdlife Australia is running a series of birding at home events and activities, to keep us engaged and learning at home during the COVID-19 restrictions. This week will feature an online event about our birds from the night, the nocturnal community, and will include a questions and answers session with Dr Beth Mott, Birdlife Australia’s Powerful Owl Project Officer.

Here is what Birdlife Australia has to say about the event.

Birding at home: Nocturnal birds with Dr Beth Mott

‘To help everyone who is now #BirdingatHome, Birdlife Australia presents a weekly live series on Facebook where our bird experts will be taking questions and talking about what we love best – birds. Beth is our Powerful Owl Project Officer (NSW) and is fully primed to answer your questions about noises in the night – your nocturnal birds!

Beth will talk about the night birds we are likely to see and hear at home, as well as threatened species such as Australia’s biggest owl – the Powerful Owl– so if you’ve got a query, post your question here! Beth will also touch on how you can help prevent our nocturnal birds from exposure to the dangers of rodenticides.

Even if you are an expert birder, we encourage you to join in for a chat – and please spread the word to all the bird and nature lovers in your life.

To find out more about our Powerful Owl project work in New South Wales, Queensland and Victoria – see https://birdlife.org.au/projects/powerful-owl-project’

Topic: Nocturnal birds with Dr Beth Mott
Date: Thursday 14 May 2020 12pm – 1pm
Venue: online
Host: Birdlife Australia
To register: click here

 

The value of small patches of remnant vegetation: 14 May 2020 webinar

Posted on 7 May, 2020 by Ivan

One of the biggest challenges for restoration projects across the region is habitat fragmentation and how to manage isolated patches of remnant vegetation. Connecting Country has been working for over a decade to restore our fragmented landscape through strategic planning, and working with local landowners to help protect and restore wildlife habitat and connect areas of remnant vegetation.

Although traditionally, conserving large patches of intact habitat is considered a priority, the value of smaller patches is less clear. Connecting Countries biodiversity monitoring programs have highlighted the value of the small patches of remnant vegetation for woodland birds and the Brush-tailed Phascogale, among other species.

We discovered a useful upcoming webinar that explores the value of small patches of remnant vegetation. It is hosted by Ben Zeeman, a vegetation ecologist working at the Glenelg Hopkins Catchment Management Authority. Ben will discuss recent research examining the relevance of habitat fragmentation theory when conserving critically endangered ecosystems in highly modified landscapes. The results of this work challenge some long-held conservation principles, identifying that small habitat patches often have high ecological value.

This talk will be delivered online with time for questions and conversation at the end. Please register for the session and you will be emailed a link before the event.

Topic:           The value of small patches of remnant vegetation
Date:             14 May 2020 at 6.45 pm
Venue:          online
Host:             Ben Zeeman
To register:  click here

Agenda:

  • 6.45 pm – Livestream starts – allowing for the resolution of technical issues
  • 7.00 pm –  Ben to speak about remnant vegetation
  • 7.45 pm – Ben to take questions

Small patches of remnant vegetation are vital in connecting larger tracts (photo: Connecting Country)

 

Connecting Country calendar competition: entry highlights so far

Posted on 23 April, 2020 by Ivan

Last week we announced our inaugural Connecting Country calendar competition and so far the entries have been flowing in steadily all week. 

Our theme is woodland birds and this photo competition is open to all Connecting Country members and people of the Mount Alexander region. The aim of the competition is to highlight our special woodland bird community and share the passion and skills of our passionate local photographers, as well as produce a beautifully printed calendar for the year 2021.

The calendar will be available to purchase and will feature the top 12 photographs, as selected by the Connecting Country team. There is a limit of two entries per photographer, and the competition opened on Monday 20 April and will close at 5 pm on Monday 18 May 2020. Both experienced and amateur photographers are encouraged to participate. Simply email your chosen images to ivan@connectingcountry.org.au by 5 pm on 18 May 2020.

We have been extremely impressed with the entries so far and thought we would share the highlights this week in a gallery below.

Thank you to everyone who’s contributed so far! Keep the entries coming until Monday 18 May 2020.

Calendar competition details:

  • Photos must be relevant to the theme of woodland birds and taken in the Mount Alexander region in central Victoria.
  • There is a maximum of two photo entries per photographer.
  • Entries must be submitted by email to ivan@connectingcountry.org.au, including the location, date and subject of the photo.
  • Original photos must be at least 3 MB for image quality, but to enter please email files under 1 MB.
  • Entries close on Monday 18 May 2020.
  • Winning images will be selected by Connecting Country and published in a 2021 woodland birds calendar.
  • There will be no commission paid to competition winners, but full recognition of your work will be featured and acknowledged.

Further details on the competition format and conditions are provided on our website: click here

 

Online mushroom discovery workshops 2020

Posted on 23 April, 2020 by Ivan

We are a big fan of the talented and passionate Alison Pouliot, who is not only a very knowledgeable fungi expert but also a photographic maestro.  You may be familiar with Alison’s fungi and photography workshops, which she has delivered to the community and stakeholders for over a decade. This year, in light of the COVID-19 outbreak, Alison is delivering some of her workshops online, which will allow us to see the wonderful world of fungi without leaving our lounge room. With promising autumn rainfall this year, there are early signs for a terrific fungi season, with much color and diversity already appearing in our forests and woodlands.

Here are the details regarding Alison’s online fungi workshops, from her website:

Mushroom Discovery Workshops Online

Given the current situation, fungus forays and workshops in the next six weeks have been postponed until 2021. Workshops scheduled for June 2020 will be reviewed in the coming weeks. Meanwhile, a series of online workshops have been scheduled. We really hope you can join us!

Although the world is in lockdown, the fungi are running riot out there in the forest! The recent rains could mean we are in for a bumper fungus season. This online workshop introduces participants to the diversity, ecology and curiosities of the Kingdom Fungi. In the first part of the workshop participants will learn how to recognise the major fungus morphogroups; the various parts of different types of fungi; and the features used to make identifications in the field. We will then work through participants’ specimens and identify them and discuss them. Don’t forget to bring along some fungus specimens.

Although the world is in lockdown, the fungi are running riot out there in the forest!

Why are fungi important in forests and gardens? How do we differentiate the desirable from the deadly?

This online workshop introduces participants to the diversity, ecology and curiosities of the Kingdom Fungi. Participants will learn the basic skills in identifying fungi though demonstration of techniques and by using their own specimens.

For workshop times and to book visit Alison Pouliot’s webite: click here 

Workshops are booking out fast, so be quick to secure your place!

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Alison is a professional photographer and a fungi expert – a great combination (photo by Alison Pouliot)

 

 

Announcing our new woodland birds photography competition!

Posted on 16 April, 2020 by Frances

We are super excited to announce the inaugural Connecting Country calendar competition ….. drum-roll please!

Our theme is woodland birds and this photo competition is open to all Connecting Country members and people of the Mount Alexander region. The aim of the competition is to highlight our special woodland bird community and share the passion and skills of our passionate local photographers, as well as produce a beautiful printed calendar for the year 2021.

The calendar will be available to purchase and will feature the top 12 photographs, as selected by the Connecting Country team. There will be a limit of two entries per photographer, and the competition opens on Monday 20 April and will close at 5 pm on Monday 18 May 2020. Both experienced and amateur photographers are encouraged to participate. Simply email your chosen images to ivan@connectingcountry.org.au by 5 pm on 18 May 2020.

This stunning image of a Diamond Firetail is one of our most treasured photographs from over the years (Photo: Geoff Park)

Calendar competition details:

  • Photos must be relevant to the theme of woodland birds and taken in the Mount Alexander region in central Victoria.
  • There is a maximum of two photo entries per photographer.
  • Entries must be submitted by email to ivan@connectingcountry.org.au, including the location, date and subject of the photo.
  • Original photos must be at least 3 MB for image quality, but to enter please email files under 1 MB.
  • Entries close on Monday 18 May 2020.
  • Winning images will be selected by Connecting Country and published in a 2021 woodland birds calendar.
  • There will be no commission paid to competition winners, but full recognition of your work will be featured and acknowledged.

 

Further details on the competition format and conditions are provided on our website: click here

 

Backyard science cures for boredom

Posted on 2 April, 2020 by Ivan

No doubt you have seen some great ideas of how to remain engaged and occupied during the isolation phase of the COVID-19 outbreak. It’s a very challenging time and impacts continue to spread across the globe. Connecting Country is adapting our community engagement model, to deliver some events to our audience, community and stakeholders in the comfort of their own home. Stay tuned for when we advertise these events in the coming months. We also hope to produce some videos down the track to keep everyone engaged.

We have discovered some excellent activities you can do from the safety of your own backyard and still contribute to science.  ‘The Conservation’ recently published an inspiring article. Please enjoy the following extract highlighting many useful activities and ideas to contribute to backyard science. To view the full article  –  click here.

Environmental projects need your support too

The yellow-footed antechinus (Antechinus flavipes) is a curious little marsupial (photo by Jane Rusden)

If you’d like to get your mind off COVID-19, there’s a plethora of other options for citizen scientists. You can contribute to conservation and nature recovery efforts – a task many took to after the recent bushfires. Some sites ask volunteers to digitise data from ongoing environmental monitoring programs. Contributors need no prior experience, and interpret photos taken with remote digital cameras using online guides. One example is Western Australia’s Western Shield Camera Watch, available through Zooniverse.

Other sites crowdsource volunteers to transcribe data from natural history collections (DigiVol), historical logbooks from explorers, and weather observation stations (Southern Weather Discovery).

Citizen science programs such as eBird, BirdLife Australia’s Birdata, the Australian Museum’s FrogIDClimateWatchQuestaGameNatureMapr, and the Urban Wildlife App, all have freely available mobile applications that let you contribute to ‘big’ databases on urban and rural wildlife.

Nature watching is a great self-isolation activity because you can do it anywhere, including at home. Questagame runs a series of ‘bioquests’ where people of all ages and experience levels can photograph animals and plants they encounter.

In April, we’ll also have the national Wild Pollinator Count. This project invites participants to watch any flowering plant for just ten minutes, and record insects that visit the flowers. The aim is to boost knowledge on wild pollinator activity.

The data collected through citizen science apps are used by researchers to explore animal migration, understand ranges of species, and determine how changes in climate, air quality and habitat affect animal behaviour.

This year for the first time, several Australian cities are participating in iNaturalist’s City Nature Challenge. The organisers have adapted planned events with COVID-19 in mind, and suggest ways to document nature while maintaining social distancing. You can simply capture what you can see in your backyard, or when taking a walk, or put a moth light out at night to see what it attracts.

For those at home with children, there are a variety of projects aimed at younger audiences.

From surveying galaxies to the Bird Academy Play Lab’s Games Powered By Birds – starting young can encourage a lifetime of learning.

If you’re talented at writing or drawing, why not keep a nature diary, and share your observations through a blog.

By contributing to research through digital platforms, citizen scientists offer a repository of data experts might not otherwise have access to. The Australian Citizen Science Association (ACSA) website has details on current projects you can join, or how to start your own.

Apart from being a valuable way to pass time while self-isolating, citizen science reminds us of the importance of community and collaboration at a time it’s desperately needed.

 

Sharing is caring – Landcare Link-up a success

Posted on 10 March, 2020 by Asha

Do you want to make a difference and help care for our local environment? Are you interested in learning more about caring for our local environment? A great place to start is by getting involved with your local Landcare group!

At our recent ‘Landcare Link-up’ on Saturday 29 February 2020 at the Castlemaine Uniting Church Hall, nine of our local Landcare and Friends groups shared stories of their work with 35 fellow volunteers and other community members. Our region has one of the highest densities of landcare and friends groups in the country, who deliver on-ground works, biodiversity monitoring and landowner education events.

Here is a small taste of what each group spoke about – if anything piques your interest, please go ahead and contact the group to chat more! Contact details can be found on our website by clicking here.

Maldon Urban Landcare Group – Update on their work monitoring and protecting large old trees (aka ‘Living Treasures’) on public land in Maldon.

Friends of Kaweka Sanctuary – The history of Kaweka Sanctuary and the work of the Friends group to care for this beautiful park right in Castlemaine.

Barkers Creek Landcare and Wildlife Group – Information on local rabbit populations, the recent ‘Rabbit Buster workshop’, and how to manage rabbits in our region.

North Harcourt & Sedgwick Landcare – The story of this group’s recent rejuvenation, how they are working to engage new people and the next generation, and their plans for the future.

Intrepid Landcare retreat – An overview of the exciting 2019 Intrepid Landcare retreat for 16 to 35-year-olds in Castlemaine.

Sutton Grange Landcare Group – Introduction to the Albert Cox Memorial Sanctuary and Sutton Grange Landcare Group’s work to care for this special site.

Golden Point Landcare – An engaging talk about the process and benefits of becoming incorporated!

Muckleford Catchment Landcare – How this group keeps Landcare fun by focusing on things like planting days, bike-riding, and good food.

Tarrangower Cactus Control Group – Using biocontrol to support weed control and a new survey for Landcare groups to give feedback on weed management in the Mount Alexander Shire.

A huge thank you to everyone who spoke at the Landcare Link-up and to everyone who came along to share in the storytelling. It was a heart-warming and inspiring afternoon, and a great showcase of the amazing power of volunteer groups!

Landcare volunteers at the February 2020 Landcare Link-up (photo by Jacqui Slingo)

 

Talking sludge with Susan Lawrence – 13 March 2020

Posted on 5 March, 2020 by Frances

Castlemaine Field Naturalists Club are hosting Susan Lawrence talking about ‘Sludge: An Environmental History of the Gold Rush’ on 13 March 2020.

The gold rush was one of the defining episodes in Australian history and has left a rich legacy in culture, architecture and archaeology. Many of the stories are well-known but the profound environmental disruption associated with the gold rush is all but forgotten. For decades a deluge of sand, silt and gravel poured from the mines. New research is showing how one hundred years later the effects of the sludge continue to shape Victoria’s rivers and floodplains. It has implications for the management of cultural heritage, river remediation programs, catchment management, public health and debates about how people and environments interact.

Prof. Susan Lawrence is an archaeologist at La Trobe University, Melbourne. She has nearly thirty years’ experience working on sites all over Australia, including Tasmanian whaling stations and South Australian farms. She is the author of several books and has published internationally on gender, artefact studies, urban archaeology, colonialism, and industrial archaeology. Susan is a Fellow of the Australian Academy of the Humanities and the Society of Antiquaries of London. Her most recent book is Sludge: Disaster on Victoria’s Goldfields (Black Inc/La Trobe University Press 2019), co-authored with Peter Davies.

Castlemaine Field Naturalists meet monthly at 7.30 pm in the Fellowship Room behind Castlemaine Uniting Church, 24 Lyttleton St, Castlemaine VIC.

Visit their website for more information – click here