Restoring landscapes across the Mount Alexander Region

Celebration afternoon tea for the bird friends of the region: Sept 29, 2017

Posted on 14 September, 2017 by Tanya Loos

 Birds hold a very special place in the hearts of the Mount Alexander Region community.  Connecting Country has nearly 200 subscribers to the bird survey eNews, over 16 participating households with long term bird monitoring sites on their property, and a regular band of birdwatchers on our bird walks and outings.  Hundreds of bird records have been sent in by our volunteers for addition to our bird survey database.  And now it is time to say “thanks!”.

You are all invited to a lush afternoon tea at the Chewton Town Hall on Friday September 29.  This event will provide an opportunity to thank you all for your participation in the two year Stewards for Woodland Birds project, and most importantly present the results of the last two years of bird monitoring!  

It will also be time an opportunity to talk about the next steps, as we are also moving into a new phase of citizen science bird monitoring.  Therefore, I also hope to officially assign one or more local survey sites to those birdwatchers who are interested in being involved. All of the landholders who have existing bird survey sites on their land are also being invited, and it would be great for birdwatching volunteers and landholders to meet face to face. I also want to hear from YOU – what are your needs and interests for our continued bird monitoring program?

Lastly, we will be joined by Fiona Blandford from BirdLife Australia who will talk to us about the possibility of a new BirdLife Branch in the region – tentatively to be known as BirdLife Goldfields! This is a most exciting development and I would love to see some folks put their hand up to possibly be involved.

Friday September 29, Chewton Town Hall 2- 5pm.  Please RSVP for this event so I can ensure I have the right amount of delicious treats for you all. For further information call me on 5472 1594 or email 


Two finches – A Diamond Firetail with two Red-browed Finches, in a bird bath in the Nuggetty area – sent in by Nick Schulz. Thanks Nick!


Out of town events of interest in September 2017

Posted on 6 September, 2017 by Tanya Loos

As the wattles bloom, groups around the region launch into the busy spring period. Don’t forget to check out one or more of the ten “Try Out Landcare Month” activities – click here for details. Other interesting events just out of our area include:

Create a Frog Pond or Turn your Dam into Habitat, Newham Landcare: Friday 8 September 2017

Evening presentation and discussion with Damien Cook, Rakali ecological Consulting. Damien is a recognized expert in wetland, riparian and terrestrial ecology, particularly in the factors affecting the establishment and management of aquatic and wetland plants. A selection of water-loving plant species will be available to purchase on the night. Newham Mechanics Institute. 7pm for 7.30. Supper follows. Click here to view flier. RSVP to Penny Roberts by email or tel. 5427 0795.

Restoring Country: A Field Day on the Patho Plains: Friday 22 September 2017

This year Trust for Nature will join Peter Morison and Jennifer Alden on their beautiful property at Pine Grove, which they are covenanting with Trust for Nature through the Remnant Grassy Ecosystem Project (managed by the NCCMA & funded the Australian Government’s National Landcare Programme).

For more information on this great event – download the flier here .

 Dr Ken Walker from the Melbourne Museum: 24 September 2017 – 1.30pm

This event is presented by the Ballarat Environment Network as part of their AGM.  After the AGM, which includes a presentation,  there will be a BowerBird Workshop with Ken. Bowerbird is the database for the Melbourne Museum. Venue: Ballarat South Community Hub, Tuppen Drive, Sebastopol (behind Phoenix College)
RSVP for catering and for workshop by 18th September –

To find out more about BowerBird click here.







Local groups and volunteers honoured at the Victorian Landcare Awards 2017

Posted on 4 September, 2017 by Connecting Country

Environmental groups from the Mount Alexander Shire dominated the 2017 Victorian Landcare Awards ceremony at Government House last Friday, the 1st September 2017. Connecting Country was awarded the Landcare Network Award, and the Tarrangower Cactus Control Group was awarded the Fairfax Media Landcare Community Groups Award.

Individuals were also recognised for their voluntary work; Ian Higgins, from Friends of Campbells Creek won the Australian Government Individual Landcarer award, and Ian Grenda was Highly Commended in this category.

Around 350 Landcarers from around the state gathered at Government House, with a jubilant group of 16 from the Mount Alexander region. The Landcare Awards are an opportunity to showcase people and projects that are contributing to sustainable agriculture and the protection of Victoria’s environment.

This year’s awards received significant interest from right across the state, with 85 nominations submitted across the 14 categories. Also nominated from this region were Asha Bannon for the Young Landcarer Award; and Chewton Primary and Winters Flat Primary for the Junior Landcare Team Award.

These awards are a strong testament to the energy and enthusiasm of the Mount Alexander Shire community for our natural environment. Mount  Alexander Shire is incredibly fortunate to have such an active network of Landcare groups, schools and individuals working together with passion and a focus on landscape scale restoration. Congratulations to all the nominees and winners at the Landcare Awards this year.

CLICK HERE to read all of the winners’ stories from across the state.

Here are a few shots from the exciting day:


Now is the best time to try out Landcare!

Posted on 31 August, 2017 by Asha

Tanya on a walk with some excited ‘nature detectives’ at the 2017 Camp Out on the Mount

Landcare Week is coming up next week: September 4th – 10th 2017. It’s the perfect time to get outside, get your hands dirty, and connect with other community members. We have over 30 groups in the Mount Alexander region alone, so it’s easy to find an event or working bee that’s near you and suits your interests.

Landcare and Friends groups are always looking for extra hands to help and are keen to share their knowledge of our beautiful local plants and animals. During September, there are more than eleven events being run by Landcare groups, including nature walks to learn from experts and soak up the bush, and working bees to develop some hands-on skills and help improve habitat for native species.

CLICK HERE to visit our page with information about all of the Landcare events happening in the Mount Alexander region in September 2017.


Saturday 12 August 2017: Sharing Stories around the Fire and The Other Renewables Forum

Posted on 9 August, 2017 by Tanya Loos

This Saturday the 12th August 2017 is a busy day culturally and environmentally for our community! We have the Parkrun cultural morning at the Castlemaine Botanic Gardens previously posted here and we would like to promote two more events.

Sharing Stories around the Fire: a Words in Winter event

Join the Talking Fire group this Saturday 12 August 2017 in Newstead from 4.30-8.30pm to explore stories of fire in our landscape. We’ll visit a spot in the nearby forest, for readings and to listen to the language of the forest. Back at the Arts Hub, with hearty soup in hand, we’ll share our own stories and create some new stories too. Please RSVP so we have enough soup for all! Book via Eventbrite or through Chris on 5476 2457.

This journey through place, story, memory, myth and experience is a special event offered by the Talking Fire group as part of Newstead’s Words in Winter. Bring a story to share.

For more info: CLICK HERE.

The Mount Alexander Sustainability Group (MASG) presents: The Other Renewables Forum

On Saturday the 12th August 2017, 1.30pm – 5.30pm, the Mount Alexander Sustainability Group (MASG) will be presenting ‘The Other Renewables Forum’ at the Castlemaine Town Hall, with a line-up of recognised guests working in both a local and national context in the fields of bioenergy, geothermal, mini-hydro, pumped hydro, thermal solar and soil carbon sequestration.

MC: Mary Blain, MASG
Presenters: Andrew Lang, Alan Pears, David Taylor, Professor Lu Aye, Dr Guillermo Narsilio, David Carre, David Stratton, Deane Belfield, Chris Corr.

Cost: $20 General | $5 Members | Students Free

For more information:
Ph: 03 5470 6978


12 Aug 2017 – Cultural morning at Castlemaine parkrun

Posted on 8 August, 2017 by Connecting Country

Connecting Country’s blogs have rarely – if ever – addressed sports-related events.  However, this weekend’s Castlemaine Parkrun is an exception, as they are holding a special cultural-awareness event, and they are inviting everyone from the local community and beyond to join in.

Parkrun is an not-for-profit organisation that supports volunteers to host free timed 5km events each week at locations throughout the world, to be enjoyed by people of all ages and abilities – from walkers to experienced runners, children to retirees, and everyone in between.   It is not a race, but a chance for people to improve their health in a local parkland setting with a friendly supportive atmosphere.

There has been a weekly parkrun held in Castlemaine for more than 2 years, early every Saturday morning at the botanic gardens.  It starts and finishes just near the BBQ and playground area.  Connecting Country’s Co-Director, Chris, is a regular attendee.

As described on their Facebook page, this special parkrun event at Castlemaine will commence on Saturday 12 August at 7:45am and will include both a welcome and a smoking ceremony by representatives from the local aboriginal community.  At 8am, the standard 5km event will occur – 3 laps of the botanic gardens at your own pace. (If on leads, dogs are also always allowed on the walk).  There will then be cultural activities after the run at 9am, as well as food and drink from the Myrnong Mammas.  Attendees are encouraged to get in the spirit of the day by wearing Red/Yellow/Black.

All community members (runners, walkers, onlookers) are invited to what should be a great morning.

As noted above, parkrun is a free event.  First time participants are encouraged to register beforehand, but it is not compulsory to do so (more details on the Castlemaine parkrun homepage – click here).


North Central Chat – August edition

Posted on 7 August, 2017 by Tanya Loos

The North Central Chat August edition is here! Asha’s Landcare event “Meet your Land Manager” features in this month’s edition – and the results of the Landcare Group Health Survey. The August edition is available to download here.

Another  highlight in this edition is the 2017 Chicks in the Sticks event, to be held on Walkers Lake in the Avon Plains on Sunday 10 September.

“Are you inspired by opportunity and the stories of others? Keen to meet like-minded women who share a connection to agriculture and the environment? Pull on your gumboots, don your favourite frock and add your own native flora accessory…it’s time for the fifth Chicks in the Sticks event, hosted by North Central Catchment Management Authority (CMA) in partnership with Project Platypus.”

All the details are in the Chat and here is your link to register:



Street Moss – a photography exhibition of our urban mosses

Posted on 31 July, 2017 by Tanya Loos

Street Moss is the subject of an exhibition of photos by Bronwyn Silver and Bernard Slattery that has just opened at Falkner Gallery, 35 Templeton Street, Castlemaine. The  show runs from 20 July to 3 September 2017 and the gallery is open each week between 11 am and 4 pm, Thursday to Sunday.

Bronwyn and Bernard are well placed to present a photography exhibition on moss, as both contributed to the very popular Guide to Mosses of Dry Forests in Eastern Australia which was published in 2014.  More recently, Bronwyn and Bernard, along with Ern Perkins, co-wrote Eucalypts of the Mount Alexander Region. These books are both fantastic achievements and contribute considerably to the understanding and appreciation of nature in our region.

Below are some words from Bernard to introduce the fabulous photos of “Street Moss”…

Moss never sleeps

The paved streets of our towns and cities are imperfect coverings of a nature always ready to stage a comeback. We’re all familiar with scenes of deserted settlements rapidly growing over with weeds, streets cracked by emerging shrubs and trees. But even bustling towns actively cleaned by teams of usually underpaid workers show signs that humanity is really just holding nature at bay.

The margins of manholes, the gaps between gutter paving stones, the shady neglected corners of industrial sites, all harbour active plant colonies ever ready to expand and undo the work of the bitumen and concrete industries.

The vanguards of these saboteurs of neatness and order are usually moss species. They can bide their time in the town’s narrowest cracks for implausibly long periods of dusty sterility, to flourish suddenly with the first shower of rain. Modest, apparently fragile, improbably beautiful: given time, they could bring down the cloud capped towers of the industrial world!

 And they’re great to look at, too.

Street moss grid by Bronwyn Silver

and another beautiful photo…

Parker Street 3. by Bernard Slattery, 2017



Birds thriving in Campbells Creek

Posted on 27 July, 2017 by Tanya Loos

Connecting Country has been carrying out bird monitoring at a site in Campbells Creek since 2010, and so it was with great pleasure that Tanya had an opportunity to lead a walk there on Sunday 22 July 2017, with some of the members of Friends of Campbells Creek Landcare that had a hand in the restoration of  this part of the creek and surrounding land.

Over twenty people attended the Feathered Friends of Campbells Creek event, which was part of Mount Alexander Shire Council’s Sustainable Living workshop series. The workshop started with a bird walk at Campbells Creek, near Honeycomb Rd. We walked down to the Connecting Connecting bird survey site to carry out a twenty minute two hectare survey – the standard bird monitoring method. I was impressed to see nearly everyone had their own binoculars.

We all had great views of New Holland Honeyeaters, and at one point a Wedge-tailed Eagle soared majestically overhead. An abundance of thornbills darted about through the wattles, along with pardalotes, a Grey Fantail, superb fairy-wrens  and a small flock of Red-browed Finches. Towards the end of the walk, we caught a glimpse of a female Scarlet Robin, and this was only the third sighting of this species in 28 surveys! For a copy of the Bird Monitoring results for the Campbells Creek site click here.

It was seven degrees, a bit glary and a bit breezy – not the best conditions for seeing small birds. However it was clear that the wattles, hakeas, native grasses, hop bush and cassinia were providing excellent cover and hiding places for the small birds of the area!

“Hmmm – are they Yellow Thornbills calling and bustling about up there? “

After the bird survey, David King from the Friends gave us an overview of the work of the group over the past thirty years, in particular Ian Higgins. David told us that before the group started their revegetation work, Ian had counted a mere five individual wattles between Castlemaine and this section at which we stood! An incredible transformation. We then walked back up the path to the sign, which had a whole range of information and QR codes so that you could use your smart phone to find out more about the flora and fauna the Friends are such fine custodians of.

David King talked about the sign. Moments later we saw a Swamp Wallaby!! Photo by Jay Smith.

After our walk we returned to the Campbells Creek Community Centre for a short presentation on birds and habitat, where I had the opportunity to emphasise how the restoration work has made the site so perfect for small bush birds such as thornbills, fairy-wrens and pardalotes. The Scarlet Robin is an excellent candidate for a focal or flagship species for the area – and I predict that sightings of the Scarlet Robin may become more frequent in the coming years – thanks to the work of this fantastic group!

Many thanks to David King, and to Jay Smith from Mount Alexander Shire Council for hosting the walk.

As previously posted, the Friends are participating in National Tree day this Sunday:

Friends of Campbells Creek Landcare will be planting in the Honeycomb Bushland Reserve in Campbells Creek. It’s a 10 minute walk from car parking to the site, along an bush trail used by recreational walkers, with interesting features along the way. The planting will be followed by a free BBQ lunch for all, catering for a range of dietary needs.
When: 10am – 1pm, Sunday 30th July 2017 
Meet at the Honeycomb Bushland Reserve, Campbells Creek, where Honeycomb Road meets the gravel trail (CLICK HERE for map).
More information: follow them on Facebook (CLICK HERE), go to their website (CLICK HERE) or contact Shona on 0408 724 699



Dams to Wetlands Workshop – Muckleford Catchment Landcare

Posted on 17 July, 2017 by Asha

Workshop attendees will visit dams like this one in Muckleford (photo by Beth Mellick).

Join Muckleford Landcare to visit two dams and discuss ways in which to improve their function for biodiversity. Everyone is welcome to come along and learn how to turn your dam into a thriving wetland.

The workshop is on this Sunday 23rd July, from 9.30am to 12 noon. Meet at the end of Lyndham Road (off Golf Links Road).  For any questions, contact Beth on 0431 219 980 or


Enjoying birds in frosty July – two events to come

Posted on 11 July, 2017 by Tanya Loos

Any bird lover knows that a wintery day is no barrier to birdwatching! The birds go about their business undaunted by the cold; well-wrapped in their feathery coats. If we rug up well, and there is no wind, then winter birding can be a lovely change from huddling by the fire!

This Jacky Winter is well insulated!      Photographed by Peter Turner

There are two events coming up soon for those that are interested in their local birds and their habitats. Both events involve a bird walk followed by a presentation about the birds of the local area.

Sunday July 16, 2017 – Bird walk and Landcare workshop for Guildford area

Bird Walk: Local bird and habitat walk along Casley Lane, near Guildford.  9:15am – 11:00am. Meeting point map sent with your RSVP.

Presentation: Guildford birds and how you can care for them, by Connecting Country’s bird enthusiast, Tanya Loos.  Also hear from Maurie Dynon, Guildford and Upper Loddon Landcare. Morning tea and presentation:  Guildford Hall 11:00am – 12:30pm

Please RSVP (with any dietary requirements) to Tanya Loos on 03 5472 1594 or by email

This section of Campbells Creek has been surveyed for birds since 2010. The birdlife is amazing!

Saturday July 22, 2017 – Feathered Friends of Campbells Creek (part of Mount Alexander Shire Council’s Sustainable Living Workshop series)

Castlemaine and Chewton now have beautifully revegetated waterways thanks to the tireless work of local community groups. This has benefited our local birdlife greatly. Connecting Country has surveyed the birds of Campbells Creek for 7 years – and is keen to present a portrait of the creek’s burgeoning birdlife. Dress warmly for a mid-winter presentation, morning tea and bird walk at nearby Honeycomb Rd if weather permits.

The details: From 10.30am to 12.30pm.  Presented by Tanya Loos from Connecting Country.  In Campbells Creek area (the address/location will be provided to registered attendees closer to the date).  To reserve your place for the Feathered Friends walk contact Council’s Healthy Environments team on 5471 1700 or

These two events are generously supported by the Helen Macpherson Smith Trust. 



Fryerstown bird walk and workshop

Posted on 3 July, 2017 by Tanya Loos

Last Sunday, June 25 2017, Fryerstown residents and bird lovers from as far afield as Woodend and Shepherds Flat enjoyed a bird walk and gathering at the old Fryerstown School.  We were pleasantly surprised by the mild weather and yes – even sunshine!
Our group of twenty spotted 18 bird species , with Yellow-tufted Honeyeaters most definitely “bird of the day” as they were present in large numbers feeding on the flowering Yellow Gums.  Another highlight was some very good views of one of our target species, the Brown Treecreeper.  Nina Tsilikas took this lovely photograph of a Brown Treecreeper hopping about on the moss-covered ground. Out of shot is a large group of Long-billed Corellas who were digging for a bulb of some kind – the two species made quite a contrast.  They were foraging on a site known as Blue Duck Mine – soon to be the site of an exciting new project, but more on this later!


They appear to be plain brown – but the Brown Treecreeper is very beautifully patterned when seen at close quarters.

We walked along Turners Road to the Fryerstown Cemetery. Sadly the Eastern Yellow Robins who are usually there were absent, but we did get some lovely views of a male and female Galah. Nina was there again with her trusty camera – and these shots show the subtle difference between the sexes – the male has a dark brown coloured eye, and the female a pinkish red eye.

Male Galah

Female Galah

After the walk we all enjoyed sandwiches, cake and tea and coffee served by the School committee – and I gave a short presentation on woodland birds and how to help them thrive in the Fryerstown area.

Maurie Dynon from Guildford and Upper Loddon Landcare kindly stood up and gave the group an update on an exciting proposed restoration project in the Fryerstown township – the weed removal and revegetation of a patch of land known as the Blue Duck Mine. The funding is yet to be confirmed, but the land managers (Department of Environment Land Water and Planning) are  on board and so is the Fryerstown CFA, whose fire shed abuts the reserve. Fryerstown locals such as Clodagh Norwood, Helen Martin and  Bill Burris are thrilled that the Blue Duck Mine project, auspiced by the landcare group, could set in motion a number of habitat restoration projects locally.

Many thanks to the wonderful residents of Fryerstown for their generosity and enthusiasm – it was a really fun morning!

Finally, Connecting Country is  calling out for landholders who are interested in helping protect and enhance bird habitat on their property – if you are in the Fryerstown, Tarilta, Glenluce area and have remnant vegetation on your land – please fill in an expression of interest form – see Expression-Of-Interest-Form-July-2017-Connecting-Country and get in touch!

This event was generously supported by the Helen Macpherson Smith Trust. 

Watching the Brown Treecreeper




Mon 10 July 2017 – FOBIF AGM and guest speaker

Posted on 30 June, 2017 by Connecting Country

Brian Bainbridge will be the guest speaker at the 2017 FOBIF AGM.

The Friends of the Box Ironbark Forests (FOBIF) Annual General Meeting will be held from 7.30pm on July 10 in the Ray Bradfield Rooms, next to the IGA carpark and Victory Park in central Castlemaine. More details on the night, including how to nominate for the FOBIF Committee can be found here. Supper will be served and everyone is welcome. The guest speaker on the night will be Brian Bainbridge, an Ecological Restoration Planner whose background is working with the Merri Creek Management Committee.

His topic will be Single species – many outcomes.

Single species conservation projects can have wide-ranging benefits when pursued in a holistic manner. Projects to secure local populations of Matted Flax Lily and Plains Yam Daisy have led Merri Creek Management Committee to build a deeper understanding of the Merri Creek’s changing ecology and the potential for landscape-scale conservation.  The projects have stimulated fresh approaches to engaging with community. 


Dates for the 2017 Regent Honeyeater Planting Weekends

Posted on 30 June, 2017 by Connecting Country

Help build habitat for the endangered Regent Honeyeater by attending a planting weekend in the Lurg Hill near Benalla this year.

Connecting Country’s friends at the Regent Honeyeater Project in the Lurg Hills near Benalla have put out a call for volunteer planters over the coming months. This project has established itself as one of the most active volunteer conservation projects in the nation. It has engaged a whole farming community in restoring remnant Box-Ironbark habitat for the endangered Regent Honeyeater, and attracted ongoing support from a wide cross-section of the community to help farmers with the on-ground works.

Propagation and planting days are organised each year for a thousand students from more than 20 local schools and hundreds of volunteers from universities, walking clubs, church groups, bird observers, scouts, environment groups and the like. The massive scale of their tree-planting work has enormous benefits for landcare in their area as well as for wildlife. Almost 900 hectares of restored habitat is reducing salinity and erosion problems, and improving water quality, stock shelter and natural pest control.

Please find the weekend planting dates for the Regent Honeyeater Project in and around Lurg in 2017 year below:

August 12-13

August 26-27

September 9-10

September 23-24

October 7-8

They have plenty of great sites available that will improve ecosystems and give benefits into the future for the endangered wildlife. The project can supply accommodation in the Scout and Guides halls in Benalla in the form of mattresses and an evening meal on Saturday and an onsite lunch on Sunday.

Please contact field Officer with the Regent Honeyeater Project, Andie Guerin, with any queries and to RSVP via email:





Little Habitat Heroes planting a huge success!

Posted on 19 June, 2017 by Connecting Country

A friendly and enthusiastic crowd of nearly 100 big and little habitat heroes came together on Saturday the 17th of June 2017. In perfect weather, we planted, guarded and watered-in 900 indigenous understorey plants at the former silkworm farm on Mount Alexander. Little Habitat Heroes exemplifies what Connecting Country is all about – bringing the community and nature conservation together.

Just over a year ago an group of new mums approached Connecting Country with their idea for a novel and meaningful way to mark their babies first birthday; they wanted to raise funds for a community planting to restore habitat. Connecting Country was thrilled to partner with these capable women as they successfully outstripped their fundraising target and worked hard with us over the following twelve months to see the planting day to fruition.

Three big cheers for the Little Habitat Heroes!

Fueled by a scrumptious morning tea and lots of goodwill, the crowd of volunteers put in a great effort which will create amazing habitat on Mt Alexander into the future. It was an honour for Connecting Country staff to be involved and a thrill to look over what we achieved together at the end of the day.

We congratulate and thank all involved – with a massive well done! Special thanks also to our partner organisations  including Harcourt Valley Landcare, Barkers Creek Landcare B-Team, VicRoads, the Dja Dja Wurrung Clans Aboriginal Corporation, Parks Victoria, and all of the generous donors and volunteers.

We look forward to seeing what projects our amazing community comes up with next and to continuing to work together to restore habitat across our shire.


Tarrengower Cactus Field Day – Sunday 25 June 2017

Posted on 19 June, 2017 by Connecting Country

Help the Tarrengower Cactus Control Group treat infestations like this one on Sunday 25th June in Nuggetty.

The next Tarrangower Cactus Control Group community field day is on Sunday 25th June 2017. Attendees will be working at a number of sites in the Nuggetty area. The group will meet in Nuggetty School Road at the site of the old Nuggetty School. The way to the venue will be sign posted along the Shelbourne Road from the Tarrengower Prison corner.

The Nuggetty Landcare group has done a lot of work at the old school site with its historic Peace Cairn. It is well worth a visit and will be a great place to meet and to hold our sausage sizzle.

For more information about the field day please contact Tony Kane from the Tarrangower Cactus Control Group on 0400 495 480.



Connecting Landscapes Celebration warms hearts on a cool June night

Posted on 15 June, 2017 by Connecting Country

Last Tuesday, 6th June 2017, the Connecting Landscapes Celebration Event saw an engaged community come together to socialise, learn and commit to a future vision of a healthy landscape in the Mount Alexander Region. The celebration acknowledged the achievements of the Connecting Landscapes project over the past five years and recognized Connecting Country’s milestone tenth year. Over sixty landholders who have been part of our on-ground work program were treated to a delicious meal from Growing Abundance and deserts from the Murnong Mummas, trivia competition and an informative talk from David Cameron from Department of Environment Land Water and Planning (DELWP) .

Connecting Country President, Brendan Sydes, gives a short history and summary of plans for the future.

Brendan Sydes,  President of Connecting Country’s Committee of Management,  kicked off the evening with an Acknowledgement of Country and a brief overview of Connecting Country history to date. He also launched our new Biodiversity Hub project to be delivered in partnership with DELWP, Trust for Nature, Parks Victoria and Dja Dja Wurrung.

Connecting Landscapes project coordinator, Jarrod Coote, gave an overview of the achievements of our Connecting Landscapes project, the staff, and what is next for Connecting Country. Funded through the Australian Government, Connecting Landscapes has been Connecting Country’s major project for the last five years. It has seen huge gains for the environment through our on-ground works, monitoring and community engagement programs.

With our targets for the Connecting Landscapes project successfully it reached, we have:

  • Protected 1200 ha (3,000 acres) of native bushland on private land
  • Revegetated 400 ha (1,000 acres) of “greenfield” sites – i.e. paddocks
  • Treated rabbits and weeds over 1600 ha
  • Built 40km of fences
  • Developed 25 Landholder Management Plans
  • Delivered our successful education and monitoring programs

This table speaks volumes about our overachiever tendencies with actual results outstripping our targets in each of the five areas of on-ground works activity.

Tanya Loos,  Connecting Country Woodland Birds Project Coordinator, gave an overview of the monitoring component of the program. This included highlighting the various types of ecological monitoring undertaken by Connecting Country and acknowledging the many different groups of people involved including volunteers, landholders, experts and students. A highlight was the results for nest box monitoring with increases in occupation of the boxes for Sugar Gliders and Tuans.

An overall increase in numbers of Tuans and Sugar Gliders occupying nest boxes across the shire is encouraging.

Dinner was served and attendees collaborated on trivia questions which tested their natural resource management knowledge. Well done to the winners of the quiz; with only one question amiss, they secured a nest box each and some plants and guards. Free nest boxes were also given out to lucky door prize ticket holders.

All tables put in a great effort on the quiz.

The final part of the evening was a talk by David Cameron, Senior Botanist and curator of the state Flora Database with DELWP. His extensive knowledge about plants and, in particular, important weed species of the future was welcomed by the audience as useful advice for what to focus on their properties.

David Cameron talked about plant identification and weeds to look out for in the future given the likely effects of Climate Change.

Desert was served with many happy faces exchanging conversation in the cool of a June night. We would like to acknowledge the funding from the Australian Government which made this evening and the Connecting Landscapes project possible. We would also like to warmly thank all of our landholders and groups who have been involved in Connecting Country projects so far – every little bit of change we create helps biodiversity across our landscape. We look forward to more exciting projects like this in the future.


Nature News – 6th June 2017 Master spinners of silk; the Orbweavers

Posted on 8 June, 2017 by Connecting Country

For this month’s Nature News (also on page 28 of this week’s Midland Express), local writer Dr. Lynne Kelly shares her love of spiders and knowledge of two local species of Orbweavers commonly found in the Castlemaine region.

Left: Garden orbweaver in her web at night. Photo taken by: Dr Lynne Kelly

“I adore spiders. I used to be an arachnophobe but knowledge cures an irrational fear, slowly at first. Then one day I watched an orbweaver spin her web from start to finish. That was the day I became a spider-obsessive. In the Mount Alexander Shire two varieties of orbweavers dominate – the large golden orbweavers who stay on their webs all day and the slightly smaller garden orbweavers that spin in the evening and scamper to hide in the foliage at dawn.

We have a few species of garden orbweavers. They are all in the Eriophora genus, distinguished by two prominent projections near the front of the abdomen. Garden orbweavers usually remove most of their web before dawn, re-absorbing the protein in the silk to use again. A single reinforced strand is left across the gap between bushes or trees in the hope that it will still be there the following evening. If that strand is broken, the spider will point her abdomen skyward and release a fine filament of silk. In even the slightest breeze, this silk will catch on foliage and she will rush across, back and forward, to reinforce the mainstay of her web. She will then drop to the ground and attach an anchor. She’ll rush up again to spin the radials and a spiral outwards. From the edge of her nearly complete web, she will then circle back towards the centre laying down the sticky spiral. Having worked tirelessly for nearly an hour, she will rest, head down, waiting for her prey.

Right: Golden orbweaver in her web by day with a tiny male approaching from above. Photo taken by: Dr Lynne Kelly

Unlike the garden orbweavers, the huge golden orbweavers stay on the web all day, constantly repairing and reinforcing it. It is not the spider which is golden but the glow of the silk when it catches the sun. All the individuals I’ve seen locally are the Australian Golden Orbweaver (Nephila edulis). Discarded debris is left in the web above the spider to confuse the birds. Male garden orbweavers are only marginally smaller than their females but the males of the golden orbweavers are tiny by comparison [see above photo on right]. Although the males of most spider species will survive their sexual encounters, the Nephila males sacrifice themselves in their final act. Having produced a golden egg sac, the female will then die with the first frost.”

For further reading, Lynne’s book, “Spiders: learning to love them” (Allen & Unwin, 2009) is an excellent resource for those interested in finding out more about these amazing creatures.


27-30 October 2017- Victorian Botany workshop in Licola

Posted on 2 June, 2017 by Connecting Country

This interesting 4 day live-in workshop is being organised by a group of senior professional botanists on a not-for-profit basis and is aimed at students and early career botanists. The workshop will include two days of field surveys at 2–3 sites representing different vegetation types (subalpine and lowland). Participants will contribute to the collection of floristic data using a number of survey techniques while learning identification characters of different plant groups. There will be opportunity during evenings to use microscopes and reference material, to further skills in laboratory techniques.

Workshop leaders will give short presentation, run focus activities with smaller groups and demonstrate methods in field botany. The workshop will predominantly deal with plant classification and identification with some additional content on ecology and vegetation classification. Day trips will depart around 8 am each day and return mid-afternoon. A timetable will be provided by email prior to the workshop.

To register and to find out more:


Help Little Heroes Plant New Habitat

Posted on 29 May, 2017 by Connecting Country

Little Habitat Hero, Sophie Haythorne, looks forward to planting on the 17th of June 2017.

A new story is being woven into the site of the Old Silkworm Farm on Leanganook, within the Mount Alexander Regional Park, this month, as a group of families and Landcare groups join together for the Little Habitat Heroes planting day on Saturday the 17th of June 2017, 9am-1pm. Open to all to participate, this ongoing initiative envisions 10 hectares of habitat regenerated on this historic site over the next few years.

Initiated by a group of new mothers in Castlemaine in 2016, Little Habitat Heroes, was a successful fund-raising campaign aimed at restoring native bush in honour of the region’s newest residents. Over $3,000 was raised by families and individuals, who were keen to see a beloved child in their life have the opportunity for a personal connection with nature.

This was matched with equivalent support from VicRoads to allow over 900 seedlings to be propagated ready for a wet winter start. Committed volunteers from Barkers Creek and Harcourt Landcare Groups, Connecting Country, and Little Habitat Heroes families and friends are providing their time generously to see the project succeed, with support from Parks Victoria.

“It’s amazing what a small group of committed people can achieve”, says Connecting Country Director Krista Patterson-Majoor. “From the start, when we were approached by the mothers’ group, we could see how closely aligned the project idea was with our organisation’s core objectives. We have been delighted to support the initiative, and we look forward to welcoming everyone to the planting day, it will be a lot of fun.”

For many, especially the nearly-two year olds, the planting day will be their first-ever tree planting experience, and an opportunity to see a habitat emerge that will support charismatic fauna such as sugar gliders and woodland birds. The location is exciting to local ecologists too, as it is uniquely suited to trial the return of indigenous species such as the Silver Banksia which once occurred on Mt Alexander and large areas through central Victoria before the gold rush.

“Just by living their lives, our children will no doubt contribute to environmental loss, so this is a chance for us to give something back,” says Little Habitat Heroes mother Meg Barnes, “The planting day will also offer a way to meet like-minded people and spend time at a gorgeous site.”

Little Habitat Heroes Planting Day Details: 9am-1pm, Saturday 17 June, meet at Leanganook Picnic Ground in the Mount Alexander Regional Park. Everyone and all ages welcome. Morning tea provided, BYO picnic lunch which we’ll eat together. More information visit To join the planting day or learn more, RSVP to