Restoring landscapes across the Mount Alexander Region

Wednesday 31st May 2017 Fungi of Forests and Farms with Alison Pouliot

Posted on 29 May, 2017 by Connecting Country

International Fungi and photographic expert, Alison Pouliot, will be giving a presentation at the Ravenswood Valley Landcare Group’s next meeting on Wednesday 31st May 2017 at 7.30 pm at the North Harcourt Hall (corner of Chaplins Rd and McIvor Rd). Alison will talk on the role of Fungi supporting Eucalypts, including paddock and forest trees.  Every Eucalypt, and most other trees, form beneficial relationships with fungi.  Fungi also make farm soils more resistant to drought and disease.  Alison will also bring a display of local fungi.

Visitors are welcome – please email Secretary of the Ravenswood Valley Landcare Group, Tricia Balmer, on if you would like to attend.  Supper will be served after the meeting.


Exploring the possibilities of gully restoration

Posted on 26 May, 2017 by Connecting Country

Cassia and Deirdre ask participants do think about what they would do in the gully.

On Friday the 19th of May 2017, Barb Guerin, Cassia Read and Deirdre Slattery from the Victoria Gully Group led a fascinating workshop about seeing possibilities and setting priorities for the ecological restoration of the gully. This session was designed to help people to make decisions about land use and habitat creation in low-lying areas and had an emphasis on restoration in public land.

On a day which was forecast heavy rain, sixteen hardy attendees heard firsthand about how volunteers in environmental groups can make difference to habitat values on public land. Fortunately no-one got wet and lots was learnt  – for a full write up and additional resources please click here.

This workshop concludes our 2017 Water in our Landscape workshop series. We would like to offer our warm thanks to all of our participants, presenters and hosts. Thanks also to Naomi Raftery for the vision and coordinating three incredibly interesting sessions. This education program was made possible with funding received from the Australian Government.


20/21 May 2017 – Swift Parrot survey in Castlemaine area

Posted on 11 May, 2017 by Connecting Country

Have you seen this bird? A Swift Parrot feasting on blossom, a beautiful photo by Chris Tzaros.

Connecting Country would like to share news that teams of bird watchers across Victoria will be out on the weekend of 20/21 May to look for Swift Parrots, one of the threatened species being monitored in Autumn each year after they arrive from Tasmania.  Surveys in areas around Castlemaine are being arranged by Beth Mellick.

If you are interested in participating and have not volunteered in previous years, contact Beth  by phone (0431 219 980) or email (


May 2017 North Central Chat plus grant information

Posted on 11 May, 2017 by Connecting Country

Please click here for the May 2017 edition of the North Central Chat. This Month features a large Waterwatch feature and the details for the North Central CMA’s 2017-18 Community Grant round, which open  Monday May 15th, for six weeks, until June 23. There is a lot happening in regard to grant opportunities for Landcare groups, networks and individuals which is also included in the Chat, as well as some more recent ones below that couldn’t fit in, please see below. 

The Threatened Species Recovery Fund was launched last Friday 5 May. For the next six weeks individuals and groups can apply for funding between $20k and $250 for projects supporting threatened species. More info at:

Birdlife Australia ABEF Community Grants (5K)

M Middleton fund for endangered native vertebrates (up to 15K)


Exploring ecological thinning – the how’s and why’s

Posted on 8 May, 2017 by Connecting Country

Paul Foreman helps participants to hone their monitoring skills at the workshop.

Ecologist Paul Foreman and contractor David Griffiths explored the potential positives and challenges of undertaking ecological thinning in Box-Ironbark forest at our second Water in our Landscape workshop, Ecological Thinning on Bush Blocks, on Friday the 5th of May 2017.  The thirty people who attended the event at Paul Hampton’s delightful property in Muckleford developed new skills and understanding of the bush around us. A huge thanks to our enthusiastic participants, knowledgeable presenters and generous host for the delightful morning.

For a full write up of the workshop with lots of useful tips and resources about ecological thinning, please CLICK HERE.

This Water in our Landscape workshop was made possible with funding received from the Australian Government.


Friday 12th May – Explore New Guinea with the Castlemaine Field Naturalists

Posted on 8 May, 2017 by Connecting Country

At the Castlemaine Field Naturalists Club meeting on the 12 May 2017, Jason Edwards, distinguished wildlife photographer, will recount the story of an expedition along the southern coast of New Guinea from the west to the far east. Jason explored the seas and peoples of this remarkable region –  from the remote and pristine reefs of West Papua and Raja Amat, to the headhunters of the Asmat; the friendly tribes of the Trobriand and the fire frenzy of the Baining people of Papua New Guinea.
Location: Fellowship room, Uniting Church (UCA) Hall.  Enter from Lyttleton St.
Time: Doors open from 7.15 for 7.30 start. All welcome.


Sunday 7th May 2017 – Launch of new interpretive signs along Forest Creek

Posted on 4 May, 2017 by Connecting Country

Connecting Country would like to share that new signs are being installed at the Monster Meeting site, Chinamans Point and Expedition Pass Reservoir to tell the rich story of Forest Creek through the years.

Golden Point Landcare invites you to the launch of this Forest Creek Track Interpretive Signage on Sunday 7 May 2017 at 10.30 am at the junction of Forest and Wattle Creeks at the Monster Meeting site (near the corner Golden Point Road and the Pyrenees Highway).

Please join Golden Point Landcare for morning tea after the launch.

Please RSVP for catering:  0423 900 590  or  0407 977 731


Registrations now open for the Wetland Plant Identification Course October 2017

Posted on 4 May, 2017 by Connecting Country

For anyone interested in wetland plant identification and ecology, the registrations are now open for the 2017 Wetland Plant Identification Course with Damien Cook and Elaine Bayes. Starting in October, the course will run over 3 days and participants can elect to do 1, 2 or all 3 days. Each day will focus on a different wetland habitat and be timed so as to follow the wetting and drying of the stunning Reedy Lagoon at Gunbower Island or nearby wetland.

For more information including the 2017 flyer, program and feedback from past participants please click here. To go straight to the registration page click here.


Places still available for this Friday’s Ecological Thinning on Bush Blocks workshop

Posted on 1 May, 2017 by Connecting Country

There are still a few places available for this Friday’s workshop titled “Ecological Thinning on Bush Blocks“.  This workshop is designed for those interested in the benefits, challenges, and approaches to ecological thinning in remnant vegetation. Participants will visit a four year old thinning trial in Muckleford and hear about this fascinating pilot project. A benefit of ecological is slowing water in our landscape down and can potentially enhance biodiversity on your bush block. Don’t miss out on this free event and finding out more!

Date and Time: Friday the 5th May 2017 between 9am-12pm.

Presenters: Landholder, Paul Hampton; Ecologist, Paul Foreman; and local contractor, David Griffiths

Location: Details about the location and where to meet will be provided upon booking.



Sunday 30 April 2017 – Launch of the Cactus Control Season

Posted on 26 April, 2017 by Connecting Country

This year’s Cactus Killing season opens on Sunday 30th April 2017. Tarrangower Cactus Control Group and Parks Victoria are organizing this community field day which will kick off the day at 10.30 am in Watersons Road near the corner of Tarrengower School Road. Follow the signs from the Watersons Road turn off on the Bridgewater-Maldon Road.

There will be a special guest to open the season and the usual great sausage sizzle, cuppa and cake. For more information please contact Tony Kane, Treasurer of the Tarrangower Cactus Control Group Inc. on  5475 2973 or visit


7th May 2017: Woodland Bird Spotting at Walmer

Posted on 20 April, 2017 by Tanya Loos

Follow that bird! A bit of fun in the Sandon Forest…

On Sunday the 7th May 2017, join the Connecting Country bird nerds on a bird walk, lunch and planting! Local artist Eliza Tree has graciously invited us to her beautiful 30 acre property in Walmer for our next bird survey. The property is grassy woodland adjacent to Crown land and has been awarded a Trust for Nature covenant.

We will do the bird walk, led by Eliza,  and then have a BBQ lunch. We will also spend a bit of time having a discussion about the overall conservation of the Walmer area – and identifying some projects for future funding proposals. After lunch,  there will be an understory planting session – grasses and wildflowers.

This outing is one of the monthly bird outings in the Mount Alexander area – a few hours out in the bush with like-minded people, carrying out bird surveys on private and public land. This year we have visited a private bush block on Limestone Road, and explored the wonderful Saltwater Track, Elphinstone.

The bird walks are open to everyone with an interest in birds and habitat – even for the total beginner! We can supply you with a pair of Connecting Country binoculars for the outing, and our bird group is friendly and happy to help people 1) find the bird and 2) identify it! We are all learning together – even your walk leader had to send photos of a bird of prey to Geoff Park (Natural Newstead) to confirm that the bird was indeed a Square-tailed Kite!

By identifying and counting the birds on private land such as Eliza’s block in Walmer, we gain a greater understanding of the health of our woodland bird populations; especially of our target species such as the Hooded Robin and Diamond Firetail. By attending the monthly bird walks, we hope that participants will feel confident and inspired to survey birds on their own properties, or on the various bird survey sites on public land.

There are many ways to get involved in the Stewards for Woodland Birds program – to register or to find out more, contact Tanya at  or call 5472 1594. You can;

  1. Join the Bird Survey Enews mailing list for a monthly enews with updates on our bird walks and various projects.
  2. Come along to our next bird survey – the Walmer bird and planting event on May 7 with Eliza Tree ( RSVP required for catering purposes) Eliza extends a warm invitation to camp on her land at Walmer on the Saturday night! Please contact Eliza directly on m: 0409 209707 if you would like to camp.
  3. Send in your bird sightings! See here to find out more about how.
  4. Get involved with our KBA (Key Biodiversity area) program, featured recently here.

The Stewards for Woodland Birds Program is generously supported by the Helen Macpherson Smith Trust


4pm Friday 21st April – Trace Balla is launching her new book

Posted on 20 April, 2017 by Connecting Country

Connecting Country would like to share news of the launch of Trace Balla’s new book on this Friday afternoon (21 April 2017) at 4pm at The Hub Plot garden (or in the Growing Abundance Cafe if it’s wet) at the corner of Templeton and Barker Street. Trace’s advice is to feel free to come along… its a picture book…for young and young at heart!



Muckleford Landcare have some great water events coming up!

Posted on 19 April, 2017 by Connecting Country

Muckleford Landcare are continuing the ‘water in our landscape’ theme with two great events covering improving habitat in dams and dealing with erosion. Pencil them into your diary now and check their  website for more details.

Dams to wetlands workshop
Practical half day session on things you can do to improve your dam
Sunday 23rd July 2017, 9.30-12
Morning tea provided

Landscape Restoration Workshop
Looking at simple restoration techniques for erosion and stabilizing banks.
Sunday 20th August 2017, 9.30-11

There are also still a few spots left in the Ecological Thinning on Bush Blocks on Connecting Country’s very popular Water in our Landscape workshops.


9am Tues 11 April 2017: Paul Foreman on the radio

Posted on 10 April, 2017 by Connecting Country

Paul Foreman presenting at a 2015 workshop for Connecting Country.

Tune in to 94.9 MAINE fm between 9-11am this Tuesday 11 April 2017 for the Hear Say program when local ecologist and presenter at the  Ecological Thinning on Bush Blocks workshop, Paul Foreman chats with Suzanne Donisthorpe about the workshop and all things local ecology. There are still some places left for the thinning workshop, to book click here.



Friday 12th May 2017 – Linking landscapes at a time of climate change symposium

Posted on 10 April, 2017 by Connecting Country

Bookings are now open for the Central Victorian Biolinks Alliance’s second annual Symposium on Friday 12th May 2017 at the Bendigo Capital Theatre. Titled Linking landscapes at a time of climate change it will explore the concepts and practicalities of re-establishing ecological connectivity in the central Victorian landscape. It will be a chance hear the latest expert knowledge around how to design and deliver ecological connectivity.

The program will be headed by 4 of Australia’s leading conservation research scientists and practitioners;

  • Dr Veronica Doerr – CSIRO AdaptNRM
  • Professor Andrew Bennett (La Trobe University & Arthur Rylah Institute)
  • Professor Ary Hoffman (Melbourne University)
  • Dr Gary Howling (Great Eastern Ranges)

The Symposium will also provide the opportunity to hear lessons from inspiring, long established projects and hear about central Victorian projects with a focus on ecological connectivity.

  • Cost $25 for members of Central Victorian Biolinks Alliance member organisations. $50 for others. Ticket price includes morning tea and lunch.
  • CLICK HERE to register. Closes May 10th 2017.
  • For further information contact Sophie Bickford:

For program details visit the CVBA website.


2017 Camp-Out – Camping and Connecting with Country

Posted on 6 April, 2017 by Connecting Country

The beautiful Leanganook Campground on Mount Alexander set the scene for the Camp Out on The Mount over the weekend of 1-2 April 2017. Hosted by Connecting Country with Harcourt Valley Landcare and Friends of the Box-Ironbark Forests, over eighty children and adults enjoyed a packed weekend of free environmental and cultural heritage education activities. Check out lots of fun photos at the end of this post!

To start the weekend, Trent Nelson of the Dja Dja Wurrung Clans Aboriginal Corporation gave a Welcome to Country and Mount Alexander Shire Counsellor, Bronwen Machin, officially opened the Camp Out by cutting the pine tree ribbon.

A keen team of volunteer ‘Pine Assassins’ then headed down the road to Dog Rocks to treat feral pine trees. Experienced assassins mentored some new apprentices in drilling-and-filling and cutting-and-painting, and together they continued the work done at past Camp Outs controlling pines.

Back at the campground, families took part in engaging activities aimed at increasing understanding about the environment and Aboriginal culture. Parks Victoria ranger, Brendan Smith, ran through the importance of soils and showed how to propagate local indigenous plants, Aunty Julie McHale from Nalderun Aboriginal Services shared  Aboriginal kids games, and Jirrahlinga Koala & Wildlife Sanctuary held kids in awe with their wild animal display.

Ahead of lunch Aunty Julie told the creation story of Bunjil and answered questions about Aboriginal language, stories, and food sources. Everyone then focused on setting up their tents, having a rest in the sun, and soaking in the beautiful place. Later, George Milford from Harcourt Valley Landcare Group did a wonderful job of entertaining adults and children alike with stories about the history of the Mount, both geological and human.

Harcourt Lions Club provided a delicious BBQ dinner and Muckleford Landcarers Beth, Neville, Nioka, Maisy, and Theo prepared damper for all the kids to cook on the communal campfire. A big thank-you to Juliet Walsh and Jenny and Paul Leishman for donating the firewood.

Brendan’s walk along the Great Dividing Trail allowed us to see, hear and smell the bush at night while looking for animals with nocturnal habits. We spotted one or two Brush-tailed Possums and heard a few bats flying overhead.

It was a chilly night for those who camped out, but well worth it for the beautiful sunrise on Sunday morning. Early risers were treated to a bird and nature walk with Connecting Country’s Tanya Loos. They learnt how to be ‘bush detectives’ by sneaking quietly and looking closely, and how to tell your Grey Fantail from a White-eared Honeyeater.

Combining environmental education with on-ground action and an appreciation of the local forests is something the Camp Out has managed to do each year. A small army of volunteers made this event happen and for this great effort we thank everyone who gave up their time and energy to provide an active and informative experience at Leanganook.

Connecting Country is looking forward revisiting the mount on Saturday 17th June 2017 for the Little Habitat Heroes planting day. We hope to see more young families learn about and look after nature on Mount Alexander.

Camp-out on the Mount 2017 was made possible with support from the Australian Government, the Victorian Landcare Initiative, the Harcourt Lions Club, Harcourt Valley Landcare Group, and the Friends of the Box-Ironbark Forest.



Now open: Biodiversity On-ground Action – Community & Volunteer Action Grants

Posted on 6 April, 2017 by Connecting Country

Grant applications are now open for the Biodiversity On-ground Action – Community & Volunteer Action Grants.

The Community & Volunteer Action grants:

  • are offering funding for projects between $5,000 and $50,000,
  • include the option of single or multi-year projects, and
  • have a broad biodiversity focus.

Funding of up to $1 million is available for these grants in 2017.

Who can apply: Community groups/networks and not-for-profit organisations primarily focused on environmental projects such as biodiversity conservation or habitat protection and restoration projects.

Grants close: midnight 10 May 2017

Further information:


7th April 2017 – Listen to the Inevitable Batgirl!

Posted on 29 March, 2017 by Connecting Country

The guest speaker for the April meeting of the Castlemaine Field Naturalists Club is local bat ecologist, Emmi van Harten (a.k.a. Emmi Scherlies).

Emmi studying one of her microbats in the lab.

Local PhD student, Emmi van Harten is fascinated with the world of bats. For the past two years she has been researching the critically endangered southern bent-wing bat in South Australia. With the help of 45 volunteers, Emmi has microchipped almost 2000 bats and is shedding light on the lives of these elusive mammals to inform recovery of the population.

During the presentation, Emmi will share stories about bats, her research and the findings so far, as well as her inevitable transformation into ‘Batgirl’. The story will start and end here, in the box-ironbark forests around Castlemaine, Victoria.

Unusually, the meeting is being held on the first Friday of the month (7 April), due to a clash with easter on the second Friday.  It is being held at the normal location – in the Fellowship Room within the hall behind the Uniting Church on Lyttleton St in Castlemaine (next door to the Art Gallery/Museum).  Doors open from 7.15pm, with the meeting starting from 7.30pm.  Members and visitors welcome and encouraged to come along, and there is no cost for entry.

Emmi is a good friend of Connecting Country, having assisted us a couple of years ago with a review of different revegetation techniques and their success rates.  Last year she gave an engaging talk to the Newstead Landcare group about her previous research on Powerful Owls.  This talk on bats promises to be a great one as well.


Water in our Landscape workshops – registrations now open!

Posted on 28 March, 2017 by Connecting Country

Water can have a powerful impact on our landscape. If we can slow flows and retain water for longer we can improve soil fertility, habitat quality and reduce erosion. How we might achieve this is the theme for Connecting Country’s 2017 ‘Water in our Landscape’ education program. Three workshops will explore habitat creation in dams, ecological thinning, and gully restoration.

The free Friday morning workshops are being held on public and private land in late April and early May. They are likely to be popular with rural landholders, bush block owners, and local Landcarers. Numbers are limited and booking is essential.

Turning your Dam into Habitat – 21st of April 2017
This workshop features local ecologist, Damien Cook, who will discuss the possibilities and practical steps of turning farm dams into habitat. Participants will learn how to reap the benefits of establishing more wetland plants and animals on their properties. For bookings please visit:

Ecological Thinning on Bush Blocks- 5th of May 2017
This workshop is designed for those interested in the benefits, challenges, and approaches to ecological thinning remnant vegetation. Participants will visit a four year old thinning trial in Muckleford and will hear from ecologist, Paul Foreman, and local contractor, David Griffiths, about this fascinating pilot project. For bookings please visit:

Creating Frog ponds and Habitat Corridors – 19th of May 2017
This workshop highlights the approach of the Victoria Gully Group in seeing possibilities and setting priorities for the ecological restoration of the gully. This session is designed to help people to make decisions about land use and habitat creation in low-lying areas. For bookings please visit:

CLICK HERE for more information about the workshops or CLICK HERE to download a copy of the poster.


Saturday 8th April 2017: Farm Fencing Course for Beginners

Posted on 23 March, 2017 by Connecting Country

Ever needed to repair an old fence, or build a new one, but didn’t know how? Connecting Country would like to share the details of a beginners farm fencing course that is coming up on a local farm, Hillside Acres, on Saturday 8th April 2017 from 9am-3pm. Participants will construct a brand new farm fence in a small group and be under instruction of a experienced local farmer and teacher. The cost is $95. For bookings and further information email: