Restoring landscapes across the Mount Alexander Region

Caring for old trees on 24 April 2021 – book now!

Posted on 8 April, 2021 by Ivan

Connecting Country is excited to announce that tickets are now available for the second event of our 2021 autumn workshop series. ‘Caring for old trees‘ will be hosted by two local leading naturalists, Jarrod Coote and Tanya Loos, who coincidentally both previously worked with Connecting Country. The event will be held in-person at the stunning Hillside Acres farm, in North Harcourt, Victoria.

This event is part of our ‘Healthy Landscapes’ project, funded through the Australian Government’s Smart Farms program.

The workshop will cover:

  • How to look after older trees in the landscape.
  • Why they are important to farming and biodiversity.
  • Methods of protection and providing succession.

We will also have the opportunity to tour of some beautiful large old trees at Hillside Acres. Old trees provide vital farm infrastructure, as well as habitat for many birds, arboreal mammals, microbats, and insects. The workshop will explore how to ensure that old trees remain part of our local landscape, and how to ensure the next generation of old trees.

The event will be on Saturday 24 April 2021 from 10 am to 12 noon in North Harcourt, VIC. It’s sure to be popular and tickets are limited. To book please – click here 

Due to COVID-19 limitations, catering for this event is BYO. Please come equipped for potential weather extremes, wear sturdy shoes and bring adequate water and nourishment.

Our Healthy Landscapes project is about helping our local farmers and other landholders to manage their land sustainably for the benefit of wildlife, themselves and the broader landscape. We are also developing a Healthy Landscapes guide book, especially targeted to the Mount Alexander region of central Victoria. This event is part of a series of educational workshops for landholders on sustainable land management.

Our special presenters

Jarrod Coote

Jarrod is an environmental educator and practical ecologist. He runs Hillside Acres farm and has developed a sound knowledge of flora and fauna identification, ecology and habitat requirements. He has taught at education institutions and is a former Connecting Country employee. Jarrod has a passion for sustainable farming and land management, as well as birds and indigenous flora species.

Tanya Loos

Tanya is a superstar of many aspects of ecology and is best known for her ability to explain the intricacies and beauties of the natural world to the community. Tanya has previously worked with Connecting Country and Birdlife Australia, and is an expert in birds, mammals and community engagement. Her experience includes ecological consulting, project planning, client liaison and delivering training. She is also an author, blogger, and well-known advocate for environmental stewardship and sustainable land management.

 

Ecological Society of Australia features Connecting Country

Posted on 7 April, 2021 by Frances

Connecting Country was honoured to have our work featured in the March 2021 issue of the Ecological Society of Australia Bulletin. Please read on to enjoy our article. For a link to the published article, along with many other interesting articles about new ecological research – click here

A Collaborative Effort: Landscape restoration and Wildlife Monitoring in Central Victoria

Jess Lawton & Frances Howe

Connecting Country

Connecting Country is a community organisation working to restore landscapes across the Mount Alexander region of central Victoria. This area largely comprises the Goldfields bioregion, and its box-ironbark forests and woodlands have a long history of land clearing for mining, timber harvesting and agriculture. The region retains about 35% of native vegetation cover, which has been degraded through inappropriate grazing, erosion, pest animals and weed invasion.

The region is home to species listed as threatened under Victorian and Commonwealth legislation, including the charismatic Brush- tailed phascogale (Phascogale tapoatafa) and extremely restricted Southern shepherd’s purse (Ballantinia antipoda), along with the threatened Victorian temperate woodland bird community.

The local community is highly engaged, demonstrating above average levels of volunteering and a strong interest in nature conservation. Many community members actively contribute to landscape restoration. Changing demographics in the region mean larger farms are often converted to lifestyle properties, with many landholders keen to manage their properties for wildlife.

Landscape restoration

Since beginning in 2007, Connecting Country has worked with over 200 landholders and community groups to rehabilitate 10,000 hectares of habitat. Our work is based on four key areas:

  • Supporting Landcare through our Landcare Facilitator and around 30 local Landcare and Friends groups.
  • Restoring landscapes through on-ground actions such as fencing existing habitat, revegetation, and weed and pest animal control.
  • Engaging community through environmental education, workshops, information-sharing, social media and volunteer involvement.
  • Monitoring biodiversity with a focus on woodland birds and arboreal mammals.

 

Collaborating with scientists

Connecting Country volunteers monitoring nest boxes in the Mount Alexander region.

We welcome and actively seek input from scientists when establishing and reviewing our monitoring programs. This advice has helped us to stratify our site locations, establish an appropriate number of sites, and monitor sites regularly and consistently over the long term.Connecting Country recognises that long-term monitoring is essential to identify whether restoration work is effective in improving biodiversity. Since 2010, we have monitored wildlife at approximately 200 sites across the Mount Alexander region, with a focus on woodland birds as indicators of habitat quality, and the Brush-tailed Phascogale as a flagship for conservation.

Our phascogale monitoring program involves nest boxes established at 100 survey sites, primarily on private land. Sites are stratified across five geographic subregions, to represent both large (> 50 ha) and small (< 50 ha) patches of forest, and gullies and slopes. We have surveyed these sites five times since 2010, and will survey them again in autumn 2021. Our woodland bird monitoring program was established with a similar approach to allow comparison of restoration sites with cleared and remnant vegetation sites.

Setting up monitoring programs with help from scientists has enabled data analysis and the ability to draw more meaningful conclusions about habitat use by species at our restoration sites. Our nest box data has been analysed as part of a PhD project. We have shared our data with researchers from La Trobe University, Federation University and the University of Melbourne, as well as public databases including the Victorian Biodiversity Atlas and Birdata.

Collaborating with community

Connecting Country’s monitoring programs were initially implemented by paid staff, but increasingly involve volunteers. Since 2018 we have moved to a new model where coordinated teams of skilled citizen scientists monitor woodland birds and nest boxes. Feedback from our funders indicates they prefer to invest in citizen science projects, and we find it increasingly difficult to find funding for in-house monitoring.

We work hard to keep data collection as consistent as possible with previous surveys. We take care to enlist volunteers who are skilled at identifying birds both by sight and from their calls, consistent with the skill levels of previous staff. We train volunteers in how to conduct surveys, liaise with landholders, navigate to sites, follow safety procedures, record data correctly and enter data into public databases.

The dedication of our volunteers is inspirational. However, there are challenges. We find that recruitment and training volunteers takes considerable time and is an ongoing process. We must keep our volunteers safe and healthy, provide regular reminders and follow up to volunteers, and answer their questions. When data is collected by many people, it must be checked carefully. It is essential for volunteer retention that volunteers feel appreciated, so we host thank-you events and take opportunities to celebrate our volunteers.

Volunteers report they enjoy monitoring, feel they are connecting with their natural environment, and value learning about scientific monitoring methods. Several volunteers have formed friendships with landholders and take opportunities to share their knowledge and enthusiasm for nature. We are incredibly grateful for the rich resource of skills and enthusiasm that our growing team of about 30 volunteers bring to our monitoring programs, and look forward to learning as much as we can from our data in the future.

For more information, contact Connecting Country here: info@connectingcountry.org.au

This article was first published in the ESA Bulletin March 2021.

 

 

Fabulous Phascogales with Castlemaine Field Naturalists – 9 & 10 April 2021

Posted on 7 April, 2021 by Frances

Castlemaine Field Naturalists Club (CFNC) holds monthly events and their April 2021 feature our very own Connecting Country Monitoring Coordinator and Phascogale specialist, Jess Lawton. Here are the details from CFNC.

Brush-tailed Phascogale (photo by Jess Lawton)

Webinar: Friday 9 April 2021 at 7.30 pm
Fabulous Phascogales: survival in a modified landscape
Guest speaker: Jess Lawton, Connecting Country

If you live in or around Castlemaine, you may have been lucky enough to encounter the elusive Brush-tailed Phascogale, or Tuan. This medium-sized marsupial has a large, black, bottlebrush tail and is listed as ‘threatened’ in Victoria. At the CFNC April monthly meeting on Friday April 9 2021 at 7.30 pm, we’ll hear from Connecting Country’s Jess Lawton on the biology and ecology of the Brush-tailed Phascogale, her research on the occurrence of this species in a modified environment, and how you can help this threatened species to persist. The meeting will be held by Zoom (details on the back page of the Castlemaine Naturalist, April 2021 issue).

Excursion: Saturday 10 April 2021 at 1.30 pm
Phascogale nest box monitoring in Sandon

Leaders: Jess Lawton and Jenny Rolland

Connecting Country has set 450 nest boxes to provide habitat for the Brush-tailed Phascogale through the Mount Alexander Shire. The boxes are monitored every two years, and volunteers are being sought to assist with continuing this important collection of data on the species’ occurrence. For our April excursion, we will join Jess in checking nest boxes at a property in Yandoit. Jess will explain the monitoring process and discuss how landscape attributes influence Phascogale occurrence.

Meet at the Octopus car park opposite the Castle Motel, Duke Street, Castlemaine VIC for departure at 1.30 pm sharp. Alternatively for those coming from further west, meet at the Newstead Arts Hub (8A Tivey St, Newstead VIC) at 1.45 pm and we will travel together in convoy to the property.

Bring sunhat, block-out, hand sanitiser, water and wear stout walking shoes (there will be some walking over uneven ground). Also bring your own afternoon tea and chairs for the end of the excursion.

Please comply with current Government COVID-safe requirements on the day.

The field trip will be cancelled in extreme weather conditions.

For further information please contact CFNC – click here

 

Seeking homes for nest boxes – Campaspe Valley Landcare Group

Posted on 7 April, 2021 by Asha

Rob Chapman with one of the nest boxes he’s made (photo from Campaspe Valley Landcare Group)

Campaspe Valley Landcare Group (CVLG) has been awarded a grant to support the conservation of Brush-tailed Phascogales (also known as Tuans) in the group’s boundaries, which encompass Redesdale, Mia Mia, Barfold and Langley in central Victoria.

The project includes the manufacture, placement and monitoring of approximately 50 Tuan nest boxes in the CVLG area during 2021, to support the conservation of this threatened native mammal. The lack of hollow-bearing trees is of particular concern for the conservation of the Tuan. This project proposes to address the lack of suitable hollows, using purpose-built nesting boxes.

CVLG is calling for property owners with suitable habitats to volunteer forested areas for one or two Tuan boxes to be installed.  CVLG will take responsibility for the placements, and will be occasionally monitoring the nest boxes over a twelve-month period to assess Tuan population changes.

Tuans are carnivorous and largely insectivorous, so the ideal habitat includes forested areas and lots of coarse woody debris. The fallen logs, branches and other woody material on the forest floor provide shelter and food for Tuans and for their prey.

You would be a prime candidate for this project if your property:

  • Is combined with any adjoining forest land (Tuans do not recognise title boundaries) totals 50 hectares or more.
  • Has an abundance of fallen timber, logs, and a dense and diverse shrub layer.
  • Lacks large, old and hollow-bearing trees in the forest.

The specific siting requirements are the placement of the nest boxes two metres or more above the ground, facing south-east, so as to avoid the cold, driving winds of winter and the hot northerlies of summer.

Tuan nest box manufacture is well underway, and we hope to secure volunteers and install them by the end of June 2021.

If you would like to volunteer your location for this project and ‘foster’ a Tuan family, please contact Phil Don of CVLG on 0408 988 701.

 

Launched! Camp Out on the Mount 2021 web pages

Posted on 31 March, 2021 by Asha

It’s almost time! The virtual ‘Camp Out on the Mount’ officially kicks off this Saturday 3 April 2021, and the brand new Camp Out web pages are ready to explore right now! To have a look – click here

This year, to reduce the risk of having to cancel or reschedule, we have decided to jump the gun, get creative and plan for a virtual ‘Camp Out on the Mount’ 2021.

When: 3 – 18 April 2021
Where: 
Online at www.connectingcountry.org.au/landcare/camp-out-on-the-mount-2021/
How to join in: 
Explore the ‘Camp Out on the Mount 2021’ web pages and send in contributions to the ‘Camp Out Collage’ of photos, stories, and pledges
Questions:
Email asha@connectingcountry.org.au

Camp Out Collage

We aim to capture the ‘Camp Out on the Mount’ spirit by encouraging everyone to engage with our special ‘Camp Out 2021’ web pages, and inviting you to contribute to our ‘Camp Out Collage’.

Each page focuses on one of the elements that make the Camp Out special:

  • Camping out (of course!).
  • Caring for the land.
  • Loving Leanganook.
  • Connecting with Indigenous culture.

Join in and enter the draw

For each contribution you make to the ‘Camp Out Collage’ you will be entered into the draw to win a prize. Please note that you are only eligible to win the prizes if you live in Australia, and some of the prizes (such as the nest box and plants) will only be available for properties in the Mount Alexander region of central Victoria.

You may send in a maximum of four entries (i.e., one entry for each element). The four elements are: ‘Loving Leanganook’, ‘Connecting with Indigenous culture’, ‘Caring for the land’, and ‘Camping out’.

To learn more and to send in a contribution to the collage – click here

Send your completed form(s) to asha@connectingcountry.org.au by midnight on Sunday 18 April 2021. Your entries will be added to a collage of photos, stories, and pledges, which will be shared on our website in the coming months. You will also be automatically entered into the draw to win a prize (if you wish to opt out of the prize draw, please note this in your email).

Prizes!

  • Nest box installed by Wildlife Nestboxes.
  • Book bundle on native plants of the Mount Alexander Region from Friends of the Box Ironbark Forests featuring Mosses, Eucalypts, Acacias, and Native Peas.
  • Local produce hamper.
  • Small selection of indigenous tubestock to plant (acacias and sheoaks).
  • Brochure bundle from Connecting Country featuring ‘Woodland birds of Central Victoria’, ‘Indigenous plants of Castlemaine and surrounds’, and ‘Reptiles and Frogs of the Mount Alexander Region’.

Anyone and everyone is welcome to participate, so please share with your friends and start exploring!

This event was made possible by the Victorian Landcare Facilitator Program, funded by the Victorian Department of Environment, Land, Water, and Planning.

 

Landcare Victoria Inc: 2021 nominations open

Posted on 31 March, 2021 by Asha

Landcare Victoria Inc (LVI) advises that nominations for the LVI Committee of Management and LVI Members Council are now officially open and will close at 5 pm on Friday 23 April 2021.

Landcare Victoria Inc is seeking nominations for the LVI Committee of Management from the following voting regions (one position in each region):

  • Port Phillip & Westernport
  • Wimmera
  • North Central
  • Glenelg Hopkins

and one Professional Landcarer position, elected by Professional Landcarers on a statewide basis.

The LVI Committee of Management is responsible for the control and management of the business and affairs of Landcare Victoria Inc, including setting the strategic direction, management of staff and the establishment of subcommittees.

Landcare Victoria Inc is also seeking nominations for the LVI Members Council, with vacancies in all regions. The Members Council is designed to bring together a diverse group of Landcarers to be a part of LVI’s policy response and policy development work, and to be a conduit for ideas and issues that directly relate to the effectiveness of Landcare in Victoria.

LVI Member Groups are urged to give careful consideration to nominating suitable candidates for Committee of Management and Members Council vacancies. The strength of LVI depends on members stepping forward to take leadership roles.

Please visit the Landcare Gateway for more information about who is eligible to nominate for each role, nomination forms, and a current list of Voting Delegates.

Key dates

  • Friday 26 March 2021: Nominations officially open for LVI Committee of Management and Members Council.
  • Friday 23 April 2021: Nominations close.
  • Friday 21 May 2021: LVI AGM to be held, LVI Committee of Management positions declared.
  • One month post-AGM: LVI Committee of Management to appoint Members Council members.

Key actions

  • Please check the list of Voting Delegates on the Landcare Gateway. If your group’s Voting Delegate is to be someone other than the listed individual, please advise LVI as soon as possible.
  • Please ensure your group’s Voting Delegate and any registered Professional Landcarers are aware that nominations are now open and where to locate the nomination forms.
  • Please ensure all listed members of your group are aware that they are eligible to nominate for vacant positions on the Members Council and assist them to access the nomination form and seek endorsement.
  • Ensure all nomination forms are completed in full and received by email (to info@lvi.org.au) or post (to LVI, PO Box 509, FLINDERS LANE VIC 8009) no later than 5 pm on Friday 23 April 2021.

Further information about the Landcare Victoria Inc AGM will be sent to financial LVI Member Group contacts in the coming weeks.

If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with LVI by sending an email to info@lvi.org.au or calling 03 9207 5527. Please note that all incoming calls will divert to voicemail as they are currently working remotely, but will return your call as soon as possible.

 

Rabbit Round-up Field Day 2021

Posted on 31 March, 2021 by Asha

Blampied–Kooroocheang/Rocky Lead Landcare Group, with support from Hepburn Shire Council and the Victorian Rabbit Action Network, invite you to a ‘Rabbit Round-up – Field Day 2021’.

A rabbit control workshop to demonstrate on-site, best practice approaches for farms, lifestyle and conservation properties.

The all-weather venue has a diverse range of rabbit issues, ideal for discussing strategy and demonstrating control techniques. Morning tea provided.

Newer and experienced land-managers welcome!

Date:  Saturday 10 April 2021
Time:  10 am – 12 noon
Location:  Camp Castle Hill, 3530 Midland Highway, Blampied VIC
Booking:  Places are limited, please register at https://www.trybooking.com/BPUQK or contact Brian Bainbridge (phone 0437 048 648 or email bbainbridge@hepburn.vic.gov.au)

To download the event flier – click here

 

Bird of the month: Superb Fairy-wren

Posted on 30 March, 2021 by Ivan

Welcome to our thirteenth Bird of the month, a partnership between Connecting Country and BirdLife Castlemaine District. Each month we’re taking a close look at one special local bird species. We’re excited to join forces to deliver you a different bird each month, seasonally adjusted, and welcome suggestions from the community. We are lucky to have the talented and charismatic Jane Rusden from BirdLife Castlemaine District writing about our next bird of the month, with assistance from the brilliant Damian Kelly and Ash Vigus.

Superb Fairy-wren (Malurus cyaneus)

My grandfather, Claude Austin, passed on his passion for birds and conservation to my very young eyes and ears. One of my earliest and ongoing observations was that, despite downsizing from farm, to rural home on acres, to house in the city, there were always Superb Fairy-wrens, also known as Blue Wrens, in his garden. And so it became a life goal for me to create safe and suitable habitat for these tiny but charismatic and adaptable birds in my own garden. These days, living on a bush property, they provide a daily delight as they robustly sing to the world with all their might, jump over each other like circus tumblers and snuggle up in gorgeous family groups. However, I doubt that in his day, Pop knew of their saucy sex life. If he did he certainly wasn’t telling me.

Superb Fairy-wrens love dense bushes. They sing from the highest point and dive into them for cover from predators, while using the surrounding open ground to forage in a social unit, at a frenetic pace. Their diet consists of predominantly insects, but also flower petals and succulent fruits.

During spring and summer the male Superb Fairy-wren makes up for it’s tiny size, with vivid and iridescent blue and black breeding plumage making them quite conspicuous. However, during the non-breeding months they go through eclipse where they look quite motley, adopting mouse brown plumage like the female, but retaining the black bill and very dark blue tail.

Female Superb Fairy-wren (photo by Jane Rusden)

 

Damian Kelly’s discovered the following facts about Super Fairy-wrens during his research.

Generally you will see a male in company with a group of brown birds, both male and female. In the past this misled people into thinking that the male was polygamous and held sway over his ‘harem’.

This was all turned on its head by banding studies first by E and J Bradley and then Ian Rowley. What appears to be a territorial patriarchal group is in fact a matriarchal group. Groups comprise usually one coloured male, a bunch of brown males and one female. All birds assist in the feeding of the young. Any females hatched are driven from the group once mature.

To add to the intrigue, eggs in a nest are not all fathered by the coloured male – often separate eggs are fertilised by several different males. Various studies have found that over 40% of young in a territorial group were fathered by a male other than the dominant coloured male. This behaviour is true not only of the Superb Fairy Wren, but also the Splendid Fairy Wren.

BirdLife Australia’s ‘Birds in Backyards’ web page has this to say: ‘Male Superb Fairy-wrens have been labelled as ‘the least faithful birds in the world’. Females may be courted by up to 13 males in half an hour, and 76% of young are sired by males from outside the social group.’

Male Superb Fairy-wren in breeding plumage (photo by Ash Vigus)

 

Superb Fairy-wrens can be parasitised at times by cuckoos such as Horsefields, Shining, Fantailed and Black-eared.

To listen to the call of the Superb Fairy Wren, please visit Graeme Chapman’s website – click here

A big thank you to contributors to this edition of Bird of the Month – Jane Rusden, Damian Kelly and Ash Vigus – for their amazing knowledge and skills.

References:

  • HANZAB. The Fairy-Wrens by Richard Schodde.
  • BirdLife Australia’s Birds in Backyards web page – click here

 

Community Volunteer Action Grants 2021

Posted on 24 March, 2021 by Jacqui

Just a reminder that the 2021 Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP) ‘Community Volunteer Action Grants’ are closing soon on 1 April 2021. The grants aim to boost environmental volunteer participation, particularly in engaging new and diverse audiences, on private and public land.

Stream 1 is focused on strengthening environmental volunteering: 2021 Community Volunteer Action Grants. Grants of up to $30,000 are available under Stream 1 – Strengthening Environmental Volunteering.

Eligibility

Groups and organisations with a focus on biodiversity conservation and working with community groups and organisations are eligible. This includes:

  • Not-for-profit conservation organisations
  • Environmental, naturalist groups or volunteer associations
  • Friends of, Conservation management, Landcare and Coastcare groups and networks
  • Public land committees of management
  • Traditional Owner groups and Aboriginal Victorian associations, trusts, co-operatives
  • Educational and research organisations such as schools and universities
  • Community Service Organisations
  • Local government

The focus of the Community Volunteer Action Grants is to protect and enhance the natural environment, boost volunteer participation and address threats to biodiversity on public and private land.

The grants will be spread across a range of geographic locations to align with the priorities identified in the Victorian Government’s blueprint for conservation planning, Protecting Victoria’s Environment – Biodiversity 2037, and Victorians Volunteering for Nature – Environmental Volunteering Plan.

For more information and to apply, visit environment.vic.gov.au/grants.

 

Caring for old trees – 24 April 2021

Posted on 24 March, 2021 by Ivan

Save the date! We have announced our second education event for 2021 and it is sure to be terrific, hosted by two local leading naturalists and ecological experts, Jarrod Coote and Tanya Loos. The event will be in-person, face-to-face (for a change!) at the stunning Hillside Acres farm, in North Harcourt, Victoria.

The event is part of our ‘Healthy Landscapes’ project, funded through the Australian Government’s Smart Farms program.

Our project is about helping our local farmers and other landholders to manage their land sustainably for the benefit of wildlife, themselves and the broader landscape. We are also developing a Healthy Landscapes guide book, especially targeted to the Mount Alexander region of central Victoria. This event is part of a series of educational workshops for landholders on sustainable land management.

The event will cover topics such as how to look after old trees in the landscape, why they are important to farming and biodiversity, methods of protection and succession, and include a tour of some old trees at Hillside Acres. Old trees provide vital farm infrastructure, as well as habitat for many birds, arboreal mammals, microbats and insects. The workshop will explore how to ensure that old trees remain part of our healthy landscapes, and how to ensure the next generation of old trees.

This free event will be held on Saturday 24 April 2021 from 10 am to 12 pm in North Harcourt, VIC.

Online booking will be available shortly. There will be strict limits on booking , due to COVID restrictions. It’s sure to be very popular.

Our special presenters

Jarrod Coote

Jarrod is an environmental educator and practical ecologist. He currently runs Hillside Acres farm and has developed a sound knowledge of flora and fauna identification, ecology and habitat requirements. He has taught at education institutions and is a former Connecting Country employee . Jarrod has a passion for sustainable farming and land management, as well as birds and indigenous flora species.

Tanya Loos

Tanya is a superstar of many aspects of ecology and is best known for her ability to explain the beauties of the natural world to the community. Tanya has previously worked with Connecting Country and Birdlife Australia, and is an expert in birds, mammals and community engagement. Her roles include ecological consulting, project planning, client liaison and delivering training. She is also an author, blogger, and well-known advocate for environmental stewardship and sustainable land management.

Stay tuned for further details coming soon!

 

Native peas: a new guide from FOBIF

Posted on 24 March, 2021 by Frances

Friends of the Box-Ironbark Forests (FOBIF) have a brand new addition to their excellent series of guidebooks on local plants of the Mount Alexander Region in central Victoria.

Native pea plants in the bush: they’re hard to see when they’re not in flower, and impossible to miss when they are. Peas are beautiful, hardy and good for our soils. The problem is that many pea plants have quite similar flowers, which tempts the observer to lump them all together as ‘egg and bacon’ plants.

Image preview

In fact, most peas are easy to tell apart. Even the tricky ones aren’t impossible…as long as you’re prepared to get up close and take a good look. This guide, Native Peas of the Mount Alexander Region, offers detailed notes on 30 different native peas found in the bushlands of north central Victoria. Written in plain language and generously illustrated, it offers readers a way into a little known part of our natural environment.

The book is published by Friends of the Box-Ironbark Forests in association with Castlemaine Field Naturalists Club and the Wettenhall Environment Trust. It follows their successful guides to eucalypts, wattles and mosses. There’s a general introduction, detailed species notes (including on weed species), and a section on names. Although based on species found in north central Victoria, it would be useful to anyone interested in flora of the box ironbark region.

FOBIF has also produced eight new native pea greeting cards with detailed species notes on the back. They are available in sets of eight with envelopes.

Where to buy

The book and cards are available from Stoneman’s Bookshop in Castlemaine, Castlemaine Visitor Information Centre, the Enviroshop in Newstead and the Book Wolf in Maldon. You can also buy the book and cards directly from FOBIF through PayPal, by cheque or bank transfer. Go to www.fobif.org.au and click on the Native Pea book and cards images on the right hand side of the home page for purchase details. The Recommended Retail Price for the book is $10. Sets of cards are $20.

Image preview

 

Healthy dams as habitat event, a healthy success

Posted on 24 March, 2021 by Ivan

On 18 March 2021, a large crowd of people gathered on their computers, tablets and phones, to enjoy Connecting Country’s ‘Healthy dams as habitat’ online event. The event was hosted by Connecting Country and presented by local wetland consultant, Damien Cook. The free online event featured a presentation by Damien on how to create and improve dams to supply clean water and habitat for a variety of native plants and animals. The event was part of our ‘Healthy Landscapes’ project, funded through the Australian Government’s Smart Farms program.

This was the first of three educational events for the autumn 2021, with two further events planned for April and May 2021. The aim of the workshop series is to help our local farmers and other landholders to manage their land sustainably for the benefit of wildlife, primary production and the broader landscape. We will also develop a Healthy Landscapes guide book, especially targeted to the Mount Alexander region of central Victoria, which will be delivered in the coming months.

We were excited to sell a total of 201 tickets to the event, but it was difficult to tell exactly how many people attended, due to attendees sharing a screen with family members. The event finished with a 15 minute ‘Q and A’ session, which delivered further discussion around beneficial fauna in dams, how to filter water before entering a dam using plants, and also where to purchase common wetland species suitable for dams. There was plenty of interest in the event, with further requests for a recording of the event, plant lists and advice regarding wetland creation.

If you missed the ‘Healthy dams as habitat event’ a recording is now available on Vimeo – click here

Our evaluation survey indicated that attendees were keen for more information on how to create clean water and habitat in their existing dams, so we are providing some additional information. We will follow up with an aquatic plant list for our region and further videos in another post in the near future.

Additional resources

Damien mentioned a number of useful resources during the event, which provide great starting resources for improving the habitat value of a dam:

  • Farm Dams – Planning, Construction & Maintenance. Landlinks Press. CSIRO Publishing. Lewis B (2002)
  • Wildlife on Farms: how to conserve native animals. CSIRO Publishing. Lindenmeyer D, Claridge A, Hazell D, Michael D, Crane M, MacGregor C and Cunningham R (2003)
  • Flora of Melbourne: Guide to the Indigenous Plants of the Greater Melbourne Area, 4th Edition

 

Enhancing farm dams

We also recommend ‘Enhancing farm dams’, a booklet produced by the Australian National University and an excellent resource for anyone starting improvements to their existing dams.

To download your copy –  click here

The ‘Enhancing farm dams’ brochure includes the following illustration highlighting some achievable actions and beneficial dam improvements.

 

 

 

 

 

Landcare Link-up – February 2021

Posted on 17 March, 2021 by Asha

Thank you to the enthusiastic cohort of Landcare and Friends group representatives from the Mount Alexander region, and other stakeholders, who braved the cold at our February 2021 Landcare Link-up.

The evening started with small, socially-distanced discussion groups where Landcarers talked about issues that are important to individual groups, our broader community, and the land we all share.

Discussion topics included:

  • Climate change impacts.
  • Biodiversity monitoring.
  • Weed and pest animal management.
  • Waterways.
  • Landcare promotion.
  • Group successes and challenges.


The second feature of the Link-up was viewing a series of nine COVID-safe video updates prepared by local groups in lieu of in-person presentations about their work. The videos are all unique and exceptional in true Landcare style, and well worth a watch.
They provide a valuable ongoing resource for all of us to keep sharing inspirational Landcare stories.

We hope you’ve enjoyed our series of blog posts presenting the videos. To visit our web page where you can view all the Landcare video updates at your leisure (and share with your friends!) – click here

 

 

Landcare video updates – Taradale Landcare

Posted on 17 March, 2021 by Asha

To complement the February 2021 Landcare Link-up, we asked each Landcare and Friends group in the Mount Alexander region (Central Victoria) to film a short video update to share their achievements with the community. As usual, Landcarers rose to the occasion! We will be sharing these videos through a series of blog posts, as well as screening them at the Landcare Link-up and uploading them to our Landcare page.

This video from Taradale Landcare is an update on what they got up to in 2020, and features many stunning photos and footage of their recent work.

To watch the video, click on the image below or – click here

Taradale Landcare works to protect and enhance the land and wildlife habitats in and around Taradale. This includes working with the local  community to care for the biodiversity and agricultural health of the landscape. They hold regular meetings, working bees, BBQs, bush walks, property visits and other fun events. New faces are always welcome!

To learn more about Taradale Landcare or get involved, contact them via email (taradalelandcare@gmail.com) or visit their Facebook page – click here

 

Rise and shine for BirdLife Castlemaine AGM – 3 April 2021

Posted on 17 March, 2021 by Ivan

Our friends and partners at BirdLife Castlemaine District Branch are holding their annual general meeting (AGM) on Saturday 3 April 2021 at the lovely Rise and Shine Bushland Reserve in Sandon VIC. The AGM will be held in conjunction with their monthly bird walk, which will explore the excellent bird habitat in the reserve.

For further details from BirdLife Castlemaine please read on or visit their website – click here

Rise and Shine Bushland Reserve is well known for its excellent birding opportunities (photo by Geoff Park)

 

Please be advised that the 2021 Annual General Meeting of BirdLife Castlemaine District Branch will be held on:

Saturday 3 April 2021 at 11.30 am
Rise and Shine Bushland Reserve, Sandon VIC

The meeting will follow the monthly bird walk to be held at Rise and Shine Bushland Reserve.  BYO drink and chair – food for morning tea will be provided.

A nomination form for committee positions is attached.   A proxy voting form is also attached.  Please consider nominating for the committee.  Also attached is the agenda for the 2021 AGM and the unconfirmed 2020 AGM minutes.

Nomination forms and proxy voting forms should be emailed to castlemaine@birdlife.org.au
OR mailed to:
Secretary, BirdLife Castlemaine District Branch, 25A Church Street, Maldon, VIC 3463.

Nominations will also be accepted on the day of the AGM.

Please also note that a BirdLife Castlemaine District Branch committee meeting will be held on Sunday 11 April, 10.00 am in Hawkins Road, Campbells Creek VIC.

Best wishes,

Judy Hopley

Secretary
BirdLife Castlemaine District Branch

 

First climate future plots for our region

Posted on 15 March, 2021 by Ivan

Connecting Country has secured funding through the Ross Trust to establish two climate future plots of 500 plants right here in Mount Alexander region during 2021-23.

We will focus on two species from our local area: Silver Banksia (Banksia marginata) and Sweet Bursaria (Bursaria spinosa).

We are looking to include a variety plant provenances, grown from seed from areas that are hotter and drier, as well as areas that are cooler and wetter. Even though our climate is predicted to become hotter and drier, there may be other genetic information stored within a particular provenance, such as ability to survive an insect attack, or frost resilience, which plants from the hotter and drier area do not have.

To select our provenances we are looking at the Bureau of Meteorology’s climate predictions for our region. We have paired these predictions with species distribution and the availability of seed for our chosen plants.

Our climate future plots will create seed production areas and provide climate-adapted seed for use in future revegetation projects. They will also help to identify individuals and provenances most suited to survive in our changing climatic conditions.

Monitoring will allow us to assess and track the plants. Randomisation of provenances will help mix up pollen so it is more likely to be shared between plants when they flower and reproduce. This sharing of diverse genetic information may help the plants adapt as our climate changes.

Landholder expressions of interest

We are currently looking for a landholder interested in hosting a climate future plot for Sweet Bursaria on their property. Not every property is suitable for a climate future plot. It requires a long-term commitment and there are some important criteria that must be met for site selection. These criteria are provided below.

If you meet the criteria and are keen to host a climate future plot for Sweet Bursaria, please fill in our expression of interest form – click here

Please return your expression of interest form to Bonnie at Connecting Country via email (bonnie@connectingcountry.org.au). Expressions of interest close on 30 March 2021.

Criteria for site selection

Criteria for the ideal climate future plot are:

Land with:

  • Minimum of 3 hectares (7.5 acres) of clear space for Sweet Bursaria planting in a square block (excluding existing vegetation and structures).
  • Proximity to Castlemaine in central Victoria (maximum 20 km), with easy vehicle access to the site for installation, monitoring, maintenance and community involvement.
  • Suitable conditions for the target species to facilitate healthy growth.
  • No livestock grazing.
  • Legal protection through land tenure, nature covenant or planning scheme (e.g., zoning and overlays that restrict development).

 

Landholders with:

  • Long-term commitment to retaining their property and the plots intact.
  • Demonstrated history of managing the property for biodiversity conservation and restoration.
  • Capacity to understand the climate future plot concept and scientific importance of correct plot maintenance.
  • Capacity to commit to future land management actions (e.g., weed and rabbit control, grazing exclusion, maintaining plant guards).
  • Willingness to allow ongoing access for Connecting Country and volunteers for monitoring, maintenance, seed collection and community education.

 

Learn more about climate future plots

For more information on climate future plots, see:

 

Castlemaine Field Naturalists Club AGM plus excursion – 12 & 13 March 2021

Posted on 10 March, 2021 by Asha

As a monthly tradition, Castlemaine Field Naturalists Club hold a meeting with a guest speaker on the second Friday of the month, followed by a group excursion or field trip the following day.

Castlemaine Field Nats provided the following details about thier March 2021 excursion. For more information visit their website – click here

Castlemaine Field Naturalists Club
2021 Annual General Meeting and Guest Speaker

Our meeting on Friday 12 March 2021, 7.30 pm will again be online using Zoom (if you wish to attend, please email Peter Turner at munrodsl@iinet.net.au).

Following our AGM, the guest speaker will be Reiner Richter, one of the most prolific contributors to citizen science databases in Australia with many specialties including dragonflies and orchids. Reiner will tell us about the recent field guide he has produced together with Ian Endersby: ‘Dragonflies and Damselflies of Victoria and Tasmania‘.  Reiner will explain what lead him to produce the book and the work required to get better photos of many of the species. He will also discuss the photo processing that was required in order to show the required detail for the publication.

Our guest speaker will follow the usual ‘observations’ session when members can share recent interesting sightings with an option to show a photo or two. If you have photos to be shown please email JPEG file(s) to Euan Moore at calamanthus5@bigpond.com by noon on the day of the meeting.

Excursion

Our February excursion to Tullaroop Reservoir had to be postponed due to the sudden COVID lockdown, so we will try again on Saturday 13 March 2021. Meet at the car park opposite the Castle Motel, Duke Street (Castlemaine VIC) at 1.30 pm sharp or at the Tullaroop Reservoir picnic ground at the dam wall at 2:00 pm.

Watch out for raptors as you drive across the Moolort Plains to the reservoir!

After gathering at the picnic ground, we will take a short drive to where we will park and then walk along the shore of the lake and in nearby bushland. Afterwards we will drive back to the picnic ground for afternoon tea. There is a toilet block at the picnic ground.

Bring binoculars, sunhat, block-out, hand sanitiser, water and snacks and wear stout walking shoes.

Please comply with current Government COVID-safe requirements.

The Field Trip will be cancelled in extreme weather conditions.

There are NO excursions on total fire ban days.

Castlemaine Field Naturalists Club

 

Escaping the trap to reduce platypus deaths

Posted on 10 March, 2021 by Frances

Our colleagues at the Australian Platypus Conservancy published the following update on progress following the ban on opera house yabby nets. Evidence so far indicates the ban is working to reduce platypus and rakali deaths caused by these nets. Please read on for details.

To read the full version of ‘Platypus News & Views’, the newsletter of the Australian Platypus Conservancy (Issue 83 – February 2021) – click here
To learn more about the Australian Platypus Conservancy – click here
To read Connecting Country’s previous post on this issue – click here

Two platypus that drowned in an opera house trap in 2015 (photo: Australian Platypus Conservancy)

ESCAPING THE TRAP

Since 1 July 2019, the Victorian government has banned recreational use of opera house traps and other enclosed nets to capture crayfish or yabbies in all public and private waters throughout the state. The new rule aims to reduce the number of platypus, rakali (or water-rats), turtles and other air-breathing animals drowning as bycatch in enclosed traps. So how successful has this move been in reducing deaths of non-target species?

Based on records collated by Mike Sverns (DELWP Major Operations and Investigations Unit), only one platypus reportedly died in an opera house trap in the first 18 months after the Victorian ban was implemented (in King Parrot Creek in September 2019), with two rakali mortalities reported in the same period (in the Barwon River in April 2020). On average, eight times as many platypus and four times as many rakali reportedly died each year in enclosed traps set in Victorian waters in the 36 months preceding the ban.

It’s also worth noting that the ban on opera house trap use has been strongly supported by nearly everyone in the Victorian community, including recreational angling groups. To encourage persons to make an early switch to wildlife-friendly open-top yabby nets, the Victorian Fisheries Authority funded a Yabby Net Swap Program, whereby anglers could swap up to three opera house traps for one open-top yabby net. This program was very successful, with 20,000 open-top yabby nets distributed to persons across the state between December 2018 and February 2019.

Legislation banning use of opera house traps in the Australian Capital Territory came into effect in 2020. The ACT also followed Victoria’s lead in announcing that opera house traps could be exchanged for open-top lift nets at participating fishing tackle shops (with a limit of two new free nets per person). Elsewhere in Australia opera house traps cannot be legally deployed in Tasmania or Western Australia. New South Wales has announced they will eventually be banned throughout the state but (as far as we know) still hasn’t seta date for this to occur.

Even though Victoria’s ban has been an unqualified success in many ways, some illegal usage is likely to continue for some time due to the huge numbers of opera house traps that were previously purchased. More than 60 enclosed nets have been seized by Victorian fisheries and wildlife officers since mid-2019, including 23 opera house traps confiscated from a single person, resulting in a substantial fine. Unfortunately, it could be many years before these traps finally disappear from Victorian waters, as illustrated by a drum net being removed from the Goulburn River in May 2020, two decades or more after its use was outlawed.

Therefore, please continue to watch for use of illegal yabby traps and nets and report them at once to your state/territory fisheries hotline (13FISH in Victoria). Also, do whatever you can to encourage New South Wales, Queensland, South Australia and the Northern Territory to take action to ban all use of enclosed yabby nets and traps within their respective borders.

Australian Platypus Conservancy

 

Camp Out on the Mount 2021 – we’re going virtual!

Posted on 10 March, 2021 by Asha

This year, to reduce the risk of having to cancel or reschedule, we have decided to jump the gun, get creative and plan for a virtual ‘Camp Out on the Mount’. No, this doesn’t mean toasting marshmallows by the light of your computer screen. We are encouraging everyone to plan their own camping trip in whatever way is possible for you, and to join in online by contributing to our ‘Camp Out Collage’ (details to come).

When: 3 – 18 April 2021
Where:
Online at www.connectingcountry.org.au/landcare/camp-out-on-the-mount-2021/
How to join in:
Sign up to our blog for updates, or check the webpage during the dates above
Questions:
email asha@connectingcountry.org.au

We hope to capture the ‘Camp Out on the Mount’ spirit by encouraging everyone to engage with our special ‘Camp Out 2021’ web pages, and inviting you to contribute to our ‘Camp Out Collage’ of photos, stories and pledges. These will focus on some of the elements that make the Camp Out special:

  • Camping out (of course!)
  • Caring for the land
  • Loving Leanganook
  • Connecting with Indigenous culture

More details about how to participate will be shared on our blog in the coming weeks. To subscribe to our weekly e-news so you don’t miss any updates – click here

Camp Out on the Mount 2019 (photo by Leonie van Eyk)

 

Seeking volunteers for 2021 nest box checks

Posted on 10 March, 2021 by Jess

Monitoring our favorite marsupial, the frisky Brush-tailed Phascogale, is one of our core monitoring activities here at Connecting Country. We’re excited to be planning our nest box monitoring for autumn 2021.

Connecting Country’s nest box monitoring program was established in 2010. Our 450 nest boxes across the Mount Alexander region of central Victoria allow us to collect valuable scientific data about the threatened Brush-tailed Phascogale and other arboreal mammals. For more information on our nest box monitoring – click here

This year, our nest boxes will be surveyed by an intrepid team of trained volunteer team leaders. Volunteering on environmental projects is a great way to learn about our local environment, keep active, contribute to nature conservation, learn skills and meet new people.

This Brush-tailed phascogale is at home in its messy nest in Sutton Grange (photo by Jess Lawton)

 

We are looking for people who may be able to assist us in two ways.

1. Volunteer field helpers

This will involve assisting Volunteer Team Leaders to conduct nest box surveys, with feet planted firmly on the ground (i.e., not climbing ladders). This role involves:

  • Travel within the Mount Alexander region
  • Following safety procedures
  • Carrying ladders and equipment to sites
  • Helping to navigate to sites
  • Writing observations and recording data
  • Taking photos

Field work roles require working on uneven ground and carrying ladders (these are heavy!) through the bush, sometimes in hot or cold weather. Some sites require hikes through uneven terrain, or climbing over fences. Volunteers require a reasonable level of fitness, and an adventurous spirit!

2. Volunteer in the office

This could suit someone local who is willing to commit a short amount of time more regularly (e.g., 1 – 2 hours a week between April and June) managing paperwork and data sheets from the Castlemaine office. This may involve:

  • Helping to record who has filled out paperwork
  • Scanning and organising data sheets
  • Assisting with entering and curating data

 

If you are interested in assisting us, please send a brief email to jess@connectingcountry.org.au stating:

  • If you would prefer to assist as a field helper, or in the office
  • Your availability during April and May 2021
  • Why you are interested in volunteering (so we can do our best to make your volunteering experience as useful as possible for you!)
  • Any relevant experience
  • Any questions you have

We look forward to hearing from you!