Restoring landscapes across the Mount Alexander Region

Celebrate 25 years with Harcourt Valley Landcare

Posted on 1 September, 2022 by Frances

Its’s been 25 years since a small group of passionate locals came together to form Harcourt Valley Landcare, near Castlemaine in central Victoria. Many projects and volunteer hours have helped protect the unique Harcourt Valley environment.

Harcourt Valley Landcare invite the Mount Alexander community and Landcare network to come and celebrate with them over a morning tea from 10.00 am to 12.00 pm on Sunday 25 September 2022 at Leanganook Campground, Mount Alexander VIC. All are welcome to join and hear from guest speaker and local legend, George Milford.

For further event details please refer to their flyer – click here

If you wish to attend please RSVP by 16 September 2022 via email: info@harcourtvalleylandcare.org

But that’s not all!

Harcourt Valley Landcare just published their brand new, fabulous brochure promoting their wonderful people and beautiful landscape to prospective members.

To view the new Harcourt Valley Landcare brochure – click here

To learn more about Harcourt Valley Landcare, please visit their website – click here

We wish Harcourt Valley Landcare a very happy birthday and many congratulations for their many achievements over the last 25 years.

 

Welcome Anna, thank you Jacqui!

Posted on 1 September, 2022 by Frances

Thank you Jacqui!

Connecting Country would like to extend a warm thank you to our dear colleague and friend, Jacqui Slingo. Jacqui has recently moved on from Connecting Country to focus on her work at the Wetland Revival Trust and building her house.

Jacqui initially joined Connecting Country in 2018 as a Project Officer while Bonnie was on parental leave. She then supported our 30 Landcare groups as our Landcare Facilitator for the Mount Alexander region, while Asha took extended leave. Jacqui went on to make numerous vital contributions to Connecting Country, such as providing essential ‘virtual’ office support and overhauling our IT system to support remote work during COVID-19 lockdowns. Jacqui led development of our ‘Healthy Landscape’ guide, and juggled multiple admin tasks behind the scenes, including maintaining our member database, coordinating fundraising drives and organising events.

We are so grateful for Jacqui’s adaptability and the enormous contribution she made to Connecting Country over a challenging four years. We wish her the very best at the Wetland Revival Trust.

Scroll through the following gallery to enjoy some of Jacqui’s memorable moments!

Welcome Anna! 

Anna is a terrestrial ecologist with experience working in environmental management for state government and private sectors throughout eastern Australia. She has a passion for the conservation of lesser-known species, particularly reptiles. Anna’s PhD explored the conservation biology and ecology of some of Victoria’s rarest lizards: the Guthega skink, mountain skink and swamp skink.   

Anna lives in Castlemaine with her partner and enjoys tending her garden and looking after her ever-growing menagerie. 

Anna now works for Connecting Country one day per week (on a Monday) and provides organisational support across all our projects. She has already been an enormous help with delivering our ‘Future-proof our Forests’ project and work with Chewton Primary School. Anna can be contacted via anna@connectingcountry.org.au.

Please join us in extending a warm welcome to Anna!

Anna and students (photo by John Ellis)

 

A chance to win plants for your next Landcare project!

Posted on 24 August, 2022 by Jacqui

Landcare groups of the Mount Alexander region – we want to hear from you! 

We are delighted to announce a giveaway as part of our Rapid Response Landcare Recovery project. 

We encourage local Landcare groups to enter for a chance to win 50 plants and protective tree guards and stakes to use on one of your projects. 

To enter please answer this question in 100 words or less:
‘How would 50 plants and guards add value to one of your Landcare projects?’ 

Please respond via comments on this blog, email (hadley@connectingcountry.org.au) or on this post on the Connecting Country Facebook page. Make sure to identify your Landcare group in your response. 

Competition closes Wednesday 31 August 2022.

This competition is only open to Landcare groups within the Mount Alexander region of central Victoria.

Our Rapid Response Landcare Recovery project was made possible due to the generosity of the Helen Macpherson Smith Trust and their commitment to supporting the restoration and protection of sustainable environments across Victoria. 

Bonnie and Ivan from Connecting Country holding a selection of plants (photo by Jacqui Slingo)

 

 

Bird of the month: White-faced Heron

Posted on 23 August, 2022 by Ivan

Welcome to our 28th 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 blessed to have both the brilliant Damian Kelly and talented Jane Rusden from BirdLife Castlemaine District writing about our next bird of the month, accompanied by their stunning photos.

White-faced Heron (Egretta novaehollandiae)

While walking and discussing birds and cameras with Damian Kelly and Ash Vigus, whom regular readers will know as extremely talented and knowledgable on both those topics, we spotted a White-faced Heron with a stick in its bill. Sure enough, it was nest building with its mate, high up in a tall Pinus halepensis, in the beautiful Castlemaine Botanical Gardens.

High in a tree is a classic spot for them to build their messy pile of sticks lined with smaller twigs, that somehow works as a nest. Favoured sites are near water and therefore a food source, even when these same sites are popular with human visitors. As a large blue-grey bird with it’s distinctive white face, normally seen stealthily stalking invertebrates and frogs in shallow water or mud flats, they can look a bit incongruous in a tree.

The majestic, blue-grey White-faced Heron (photo Damian Kelly)

 

Usually they are seen as single birds, who may have become resident at a dam or other food source for a long period of time. However, during the breeding season and for a while afterwards, family groups will form feeding parties and work their way across a paddock or irrigated farmland, searching for frogs and insects. During breeding, both sexes incubate and feed young. Clutch sizes are usually 2-3 chicks, and once fledged the young will stay near the nest site while the parents feed them.

The call of the White-faced Heron is slightly scary in my opinion, and not what you’d expect from such an elegant-looking bird. It is harsh and guttural, often heard while the bird is flying overhead. Usually, they are silent, as you’d expect from a bird that stalks its food, and relies on stealth and surprise to snatch a meal.

A White-faced Heron ‘surfing’ in the shallows. Along the coast they will hunt in rock pools, artfully dodging waves as they work the shore. (photo by Damian Kelly)

 

White-faced Herons are one of a small bunch of species that may have benefitted from land clearing and deforestation. They have adapted to using man-made or altered water sources for feeding, probably because they were already adapted to using a variety of fresh and saline habitats to hunt for food. Basically, if it’s got water, they will stalk it for tasty morsels such as fish, crustaceans, worms and other smaller creatures of the animal kingdom. They do farmers a favour with their capacity to consume large numbers of crickets in pasture. Being such an adaptable bird, White-faced Herons can be found all over Australia (except in the central deserts), and in New Zealand, parts of Papua-New Guinea and various offshore islands.

To find out more about White-faced Herons, including their calls – click here

Jane Rusden and Damian Kelly

 

 

1,000 plants for climate change resilience

Posted on 18 August, 2022 by Ivan

What could be more satisfying than planting 1,000 Silver Banksia (Banksia marginata) and Sweet Bursaria (Bursaria spinosa) in the middle of winter? Knowing that the plants will form two climate future plots right here in Mount Alexander region that will create seed production areas and provide climate-adapted seed for use in future revegetation projects!

We have been very busy over the past few months creating 1,000 sturdy wire trees guards, laying out the plots, planting, and labelling each plant so we can identify individuals and provenances most suited to survive in our changing climatic conditions. It has been a mammoth job, that is now completed through the combined efforts of dedicated volunteers, staff and contractors.

Each plot has been carefully set out to allow tracking of each plant into the future.  Mixing up provenances within the plot will increase the likelihood they will share pollen between plants when they flower and reproduce. This sharing of this genetic information may help the plants adapt as our climate changes. Once the plants are established, monitoring will allow us to assess plant growth and success.

The two climate future plots are located near Castlemaine and Metcalfe, with one having 500 Sweet Bursaria and the other 500 Silver Banksia. Both are key species for our local woodlands and landscape.

Silver Banksia plot near Metcalfe (photo by Bonnie Humphreys)

 

500 Silver Banksia planted at the plot near Metcalfe (photo by Bonnie Humphreys)

 

Sweet Bursaria plot near Castlemaine (photo by Bonnie Humphreys)

 

500 Sweet Bursaria planted at the plot near Castlemaine (photo by Bonnie Humphreys)

 

A massive thanks to Connecting Country’s volunteers, staff, contractors and landholders for making our climate future plots a reality. We’d especially like to thank Bonnie, Duncan, Anna and Richie for going the extra mile to get the precious plants safely in the ground and protected.

We have sourced plants from a variety of provenances, from local populations as well as further away. We started by looking at the Bureau of Meteorology’s climate predictions for our region, and selected seed from areas that are anticipated to match our predicted future local climate, focusing on areas that are hotter and drier. However, we also included seed from areas that are cooler and wetter. We aimed to include genetics from a wide range of environments, as we don’t know what will be important in the future. There may be other genetic information stored within a particular provenance, such as the ability to survive insect attack or frost resilience, that plants from hotter and drier areas do not have. We then paired these climate predictions with species distribution and the availability of seed or plants, to make our final plant selection.

We are thrilled to have our plants in the ground, during a moist period over winter, and protected by 1.5 m high wire guards. We will be holding a tour of the climate future plots over the coming year, once the plants are established.

The Silver Banksia and Sweet Bursaria prior to planting (photo by Ivan Carter)

 

We thank the Ross Trust for their generous funding for this important project. The Ross Trust is a perpetual charitable trust with a vision to create positive social and environmental change so Victorians can thrive.

 

To learn more about climate future plots visit:

 

Post Office Hill Action Group – Landcare Recovery planting

Posted on 11 August, 2022 by Hadley Cole

In mid-July 2022 Post Office Hill Action Group (POHAG) joined forces with Chewton Primary School for a morning of planting in the Post Office Hill Reserve behind the school in Chewton VIC. The plants ranged from sedges, wattles, and shrubs including species such as Black-anther Flax-lily (Dianella revoluta), Tall Sedge (Carex appressa), Silver Wattle (Acacia dealbata) and Showy Parrot-pea (Dillwynea sericea).

The prep/1/2 class showed great enthusiasm and local knowledge of Post Office Hill Reserve. Anna and Marie from Connecting Country joined the students and Post Office Hill Action Group volunteers to tackle planting out the creek line. The students worked full steam ahead and filled the holes in no time!

They then followed up with mulching the plants, securing them safely in their new homes. It was wonderful to see a local environment group teaming up with the next generation to tackle on ground conservation action and care for their local bush reserve.

Prep/1/2 students Rudy and Leif secure the plants in their new home (photo by John Ellis)

This planting was supported by Connecting Country’s ‘Rapid Response Landcare Recovery‘ project funded by the Helen Macpherson Smith Trust to help Landcare groups regain their momentum following the impacts of COVID-19 restrictions on their activities.

Post Office Hill Action Group were supplied with 300 plants selected in consultation with Connecting Country’s Landscape Restoration Coordinator, Bonnie Humphreys.

Congratuations to Post Office Hill Action Group and Chewton Primary School for this valuable work, and thank you to the Helen Macpherson Smith Trust for their ongoing commitment to supporting the restoration and protection of sustainable environments across Victoria.

Anna from Connecting Country chats with the students (photo by John Ellis)

Andrew from POHAG works with Orlo from the Prep/1/2 class (photo by John Ellis)

 

 

A delightful visit with Ian & Shirley Norman Foundation

Posted on 8 August, 2022 by Frances

Connecting Country was delighted to host a visit from our financial supporters at the Ian & Shirley Norman Foundation. We love to connect with our funders but it is rare they come to visit, especially when they’ve come all the way from Newcastle (NSW)!

Tracy Norman (Founder and Chair) and Coralie Nichols (Chief Executive Officer) visited the Connecting Country office in Castlemaine on 28 July 2022. After a convivial coffee and overview of our organisation, we took Tracy and Coralie on a whirlwind tour to visit one of our dedicated landholders on their farm at Sutton Grange. This gave an opportunity to demonstrate some of Connecting Country’s previous work to protect remnant vegetation, and improve habitat with revegetation via direct seeding and tubestock planting. Many thanks to Marge and Ron for hosting our visit, sharing their lovely property with us, and giving such positive feedback about Connecting Country!

The Ian & Shirley Norman Foundation’s purpose is ‘To encourage and support organisations that are capable of responding to social and ecological opportunities and challenges.’ To learn more about their great work – click here.

We are most grateful for the Foundation’s support of our new ‘Regenerate before it’s too late’ project that will engage the community about the importance of large old trees and how to protect them. Over the next three years (2022-25) we will host a series of workshops and produce communication materials. We will also help local landholders with practical on-ground actions to protect their large old trees and ensure the next generation of large old trees across the landscape.

It was great to meet Tracy and Coralie and look forward to implementing our latest project across the next three years.

Tracy Norman (I&S Norman Foundation) with Bonnie, Max and Marie (Connecting Country) and Marg and Ron (landholders) (photos by Frances Howe)

 

Window strike: when birds hit windows – 12 August 2022

Posted on 4 August, 2022 by Frances

Swift Parrot (photo by Michael Gooch)

Our friends at Castlemaine Field Naturalists Club and BirdLife Castlemaine District are teaming up to host a joint meeting. Local nature guru Tanya Loos will speak on an important topic that is sure to interest many of our readers.

Friday 12 August 2022 at 7.30 pm via Zoom

Speaker: Tanya Loos, Nature writer and science communicator

Topic: Window strike: when birds hit windows

Window strike is a huge problem for common birds as well as threatened species such as the Swift Parrot and Powerful Owl.  Many of us have had the unfortunate experience of a thud or even a crash as a bird in rapid flight collides with a window at home. The good news is there are easy steps you can take to prevent this happening.

The meeting will be held by Zoom.  All are welcome.

If you have not joined earlier webinars and wish to attend, please email Peter Turner at munrodsl@iinet.net.au

 

 

 

Sutton Grange Landcare Group – Landcare Recovery planting

Posted on 3 August, 2022 by Hadley Cole

Sutton Grange Landcare Group has been out and about enthusiastically planting a range of locally-grown tubestock plants to build habitat in the Sutton Grange area, located north east of Castlemaine in central Victoria. This work was supported by Connecting Country’s ‘Rapid Response Landcare Recovery‘ project funded by the Helen Macpherson Smith Trust to help Landcare groups regain their momentum following the impacts of COVID-19 restrictions on their activities.

In early July 2022 the group got out on site, and with the young and the wise, planted a diverse range of lower and middle storey species. The planting was planned and the plants carefully selected with help from Connecting Country’s Landscape Restoration Coordinator, Bonnie Humphreys.

Enthusiastic planters at work (photo by Todd Ware)

Sutton Grange Landcare group photo! (photo by Todd Ware)

The group declared the planting day a great success!

‘We were blessed with a lovely sunny but cool morning, and a great team of volunteers – nine adults and seven children. We focussed our planting on a strip along Spring Creek with the aim of joining up the existing large trees with understory species such as Acacia, Hakea and Dianella. The Yellow Box trees in particular are habitat for the Tuan and we wanted to make a link between them for this species.

 

It is hoped that by adding mid-story shrubs that Tuans (and other native species) can safely move between the trees and have cover to hide from predators. It is also hoped that by planting more native species it will reduce invasion by St John’s Wort in this area. Where possible we dug out weed species and replaced them with a local native. Silver Banksia and Basket Sedge were planted lower down on the creek banks.

 

Overall it was a successful and fun day, and it was great to see our community learning about, caring for and connecting with the land on which we live. Sutton Grange Landcare Group sincerely thanks Bonnie [from Connecting Country] for organising the plants.’

Connecting Country congratulates Sutton Grange Landcare Group for all the amazing work they do to enhance and protect biodiversity in their pocket of the greater Mount Alexander region.

This project was made possible due to the generosity of the Helen Macpherson Smith Trust and their commitment to supporting the restoration and protection of sustainable environments across Victoria.

 

Celebrate National Tree Day at events near you!

Posted on 27 July, 2022 by Hadley Cole

Sunday 31 July 2022 is National Tree Day – a day for the whole country to come together and celebrate the indigenous plants of the nation.

Established in 1996, National Tree Day has grown into Australia’s largest community tree planting and nature care event. The program is a call to action for all Australians to get their hands dirty and give back to their community.  Each year, around 300,000 people volunteer their time to engage in environmental activities that educate Australians about the world around them. 

Local Landcare groups often celebrate National Tree Day with planting events across the region. If you are keen to get involved see below for events (including the Castlemaine Landcare Group planting we posted about yesterday), happening across the Mount Alexander region this coming Sunday 31 July 2022. 

Castlemaine Landcare Group planting 

When: Sunday 31 July 2022, 10:00am

Where: You can access the site from Happy Valley Road – see access point E2 on our website https://castlemainelandcare.org.au/where-we-work/

What to bring: As per usual practice – don’t come if you have any COVID symptoms, maintain social distance, wear stout footwear and gloves, plus sun-protection.
Bring your own cup and drinking water.

How to register: Please register at clgvolunteers99@gmail.com with the heading WORKING.

For more information visit the Castlemaine Landcare Group website – here or their Facebook page – here

Friends of Campbells Creek

When: Sunday 31 July 2022, 10:00am – 12:00pm

Where:  here on the walking trail near Yandell Street, Castlemaine for a 10:00 a.m. start.  There is plenty of space for car parking at the east end of Yandell Street here.

What to bring: Light gloves, sturdy clothing suited to the weather and footwear appropriate for wet ground: gumboots are strongly advised! And your own drinking water if needed.

RSVP: Please email info.focc.org.au@gmail.com for catering purposes. There will be a barbecue provided at midday.

For more information head over to the Friends of Campbells Creek website – here

Tarrangower Wheel Cactus Control Group

Planting trees and other indigenous plants are definitely an important part of building species diversity and ecosystem resilience. However, weed management is just as important in the protection of our native species. This National Tree Day the Tarrangower Wheel Cactus Control Group aka The Cactus Warriors are hosting a field day to demonstrate how to destroy Wheel Cactus.

When: Sunday 31 July 2022, 10:30am and end with an enjoyable BBQ and friendly chat.

Where: The location is on a property a few kms north of Maldon in Baringhup Road, just after the turn off from Bridgewater Road (the route will be signposted).

What to bring: Sturdy foot ware and warm clothing

RSVP: via the website www.cactuswarriors.org

National Tree Day is a fun opportunity to take on-ground action in the protection of our region’s biodiversity. Your action on this day (and every other day of the year) goes a long way in establishing more native and indigenous species in the region which contribute greatly to healthy ecosystems and happy flora and fauna communities!

 

Seeking planters! National Tree Day in Castlemaine – 31 July 2022

Posted on 26 July, 2022 by Frances

Well, the big day is nearly here and Castlemaine Landcare Group is looking for more planters to join their special planting and celebrate National Tree Day 2022.

Planting at Moonlight Creek – Sunday 31 July 2022 from 10 am to 1 pm

Castlemaine Landcare Group invites the community to join them this National Tree Day. Come along and help strengthen the Moonlight Creek vegetation corridor from Forest Creek to Kalimna Park, adjacent to Castlemaine in central Victoria. This corridor provides a vital refuge for local plants and animals, and helps them move through the landscape.

It is a flat, open site where people can spread out in the fresh air as they plant. The grassy site is suitable for families and wheelchair access is possible.

There will be a free BBQ with our faithful Lions Club. Please put this date in your diary now and ask your friends along.

All are welcome, but they especially need people with experience in identifying local native plants and/or tubestock planting.

For more information about what to bring and where to park, please visit Castlemaine Landcare’s website – click here

May be an image of 1 person, tree and outdoors

Castlemaine Landcare volunteers prepare for National Tree Day 2022 (photo by Castlemaine Landcare Group)

 

This work is supported by a Victorian Landcare Grant through the North Central Catchment Management Authority.

 

Bird of the month: Blue-billed Duck

Posted on 20 July, 2022 by Frances

Welcome to our 27th 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 blessed to have both the brilliant Damian Kelly and talented Jane Rusden from BirdLife Castlemaine District writing about our next bird of the month, accompanied by their stunning photos.

Blue-billed Duck (Oxyura australis)

Stunning image captured by Damian Kelly on one of the rarer occasions of Blue-billed Duck sightings at Lake Johanna in Castlemaine

 

July 2022’s BirdLife Castlemaine District walk took us to Bendigo Water Reclamation Plant in Epsom VIC. We were treated to a wonderful tour of Lagoon No. 6, by passionate Coliban Water staff Leon and Rebecca, who were keen to share this wonderful birding hotspot. (Incidentally we saw 58 species and huge numbers of many species sighted.) Along with Musk Ducks, Blue-billed Ducks were among the species everyone got very excited about seeing.

The handsome male is distinctive and easy to identify with its blue bill, glossy jet black head and chestnut body. The female is overall grey with pale barring, a bit like a Freckled Duck or lighter coloured Musk Dusk, and harder to identify for this reason. Blue-billed Ducks are smaller than Musk Ducks, but the two species are closely related genetically.

Due to their shyer nature, these ducks are usually seen at a distance. In the water, Blue-billed and Musk Ducks can appear similar as both swim with a low posture, although the Blue-billed Duck sits slightly lower in the water. Like the Musk Duck, Blue-bills feed mostly by diving to the bottom of the water to collect a variety of vegetation as well as insects, larvae, molluscs and crustaceans. They have been observed diving to depths up to three metres and they can remain submerged for up to 30 seconds. They also swim alongside banks where plants overhang, stripping seeds and other parts.

As they are specialised diving birds, they cannot walk very well on land, with legs set back on the body. They are rarely seen perching on logs, preferring open water and secluded bays. They are also known as stiff tails, because like the Musk Duck, they have a rigid tail to assist in diving.

Preferred habitats are inland swamps with dense vegetation and they have a preference for Cumbungi  swamps. They range across eastern and southern Australia as well as the south-west of Western Australia.  During the breeding season they tend to remain hidden in dense vegetation, so are often hard to see. Open water is a favourite habit and they can congregate in groups, especially after the breeding season. Large groups have been recorded at times, the largest being about 8,000 birds, but generally smaller groups are most common.

Nesting is in dense vegetation. A domed nest is built with Typha leaves (Bull Rushes) and a cup of roughly woven structure of dead vegetation. Clutch size is generally 5-8 eggs. Unusually, they have a propensity for dump-nesting, where they will lay in the nests of other species, particularly the related Musk Duck. Ducklings are then raised by the other species. Yes, you read that correctly: Blue-billed Ducks are a brood parasitic duck! Young birds are precocial and able to feed themselves almost immediately after hatching. They have been recorded on their second day diving for up to ten seconds in search of food.

Damian and I are always muttering to each other about how we learn surprising things about birds when researching ‘Bird of the month’, and Blue-billed Ducks were no exception. Who knew there were secretive brood parasite ducks, with stiff tails, who can dive to 3 m deep but are barely able to walk on land, resulting in them avoiding anything that’s not water?

To find out more about Blue-billed Ducks – click here

Jane Rusden and Damian Kelly

 

McKenzie Hill Action and Landcare Group – Landcare recovery planting

Posted on 20 July, 2022 by Hadley Cole

McKenzie Hill Action Group members hard at work (photo by Amelia Stuparich)

McKenzie Hill Action and Landcare Group has been busy planting 300 indigenous tubestock plants to restore habitat in the Mckenzie Hill area. This work was supported by Connecting Country’s ‘Rapid Response Landcare Recovery’ project funded by the Helen Macpherson Smith Trust to help Landcare groups regain their momentum following the impacts of COVID-19 restrictions on their activities.

 

McKenzie Hill Action Group member hammering into the hard rocky hillside (photo by Amelia Stuparich)

In late May 2022 the group planted a diverse range of ground covers, sedges, shrubs and trees, including Matted bush pea (Pultanea pudunculata), Tree Violet (Melicytus dentatus ) and Silver Banksia (Banksia marginata), to name a few. The planting was planned and the plants carefully selected with help from Connecting Country’s Landscape Restoration Coordinator, Bonnie Humphreys.

McKenzie Hill Action and Landcare Group reported that ‘It was a very productive planting day at Seventy Foot Hill (Diamond Gully Road McKenzie Hill) with seven intrepid planters making light work of just over 200 plants’. The holes were pre-dug, so it was fast going, with one person making up guards and others planting or lugging buckets of water to sustain the new babies. The remaining plants were put in the following week, by two committed Landcarers. The new plants have made a positive impact on the landscape already, and will add to the biodiversity of the area by providing under story habitats for small birds, animals and insects.’

Plants ready to be placed in their new home (photo by Amelia Stuparich)

Connecting Country congratulates McKenzie Hill Action and Landcare Group for all the amazing work they do to enhance and protect biodiversity in their pocket of the greater Mount Alexander region.

This project was made possible due to the generosity of the Helen Macpherson Smith Trust and their commitment to supporting the restoration and protection of sustainable environments across Victoria.

 

Look at Me: The ants keeping an endangered butterfly alive

Posted on 14 July, 2022 by Ivan

Look at Me‘ is a much-loved podcast series featuring weird and wonderful tales of Australian wildlife. It’s hosted by award-winning science journalist Rae Johnston and ecologist Chris McCormack, and is produced in conjunction with our talented friends at Remember the Wild.

We’re not talking about the usual koalas and kangaroos. This podcast delves into the more bizarre but fascinating creatures that most Australians probably haven’t even heard of!

This includes a very special local animal close to our hearts: the Eltham Copper Butterfly. As our regular readers know, the largest remaining population of this threatened species lives in Kalimna Park, right next door to Castlemaine in central Victoria. The podcast features interviews with local ecologist Elaine Bayes, who has worked tirelessly to document, monitor and protect our local Eltham Copper Butterfly population.

Look at Me: The ants keeping an endangered butterfly alive

Imagine outsourcing childcare to a nest of ants? This may not be the best idea for humans but a certain insect is making it work. Now the Eltham copper butterfly’s amazing use of surrogate ant parents has attracted human fans who are using a song to try to save it from extinction.

To listen to the Eltham Copper Butterfly podcast – click here

To find more exciting episodes of the Look at Me podcast – click here

Eltham Copper Butterfly on flowering Sweet Bursaria (photo by Elaine Bayes)

 

NAIDOC week 2022 – Get Up, Stand Up, Show Up!

Posted on 8 July, 2022 by Hadley Cole

Connecting Country pays acknowledgement and respect to the Traditional Owners of the lands of Leanganook (Mount Alexander) region and extends the acknowledgement to all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders residing in the region. We pay respect to the Elders past present and emerging, and acknowledge the care they have taken of Country for tens of thousands of years.

NAIDOC week is a national celebration of the history culture and achievements of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and is on now until 10 July 2022. The theme of NAIDOC week this year is Get Up, Stand Up, Show Up and focuses on continuing to encourage systemic change in recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture.

In celebration of NAIDOC week the Arthur Rylah Institute held an online forum with the theme ‘Get up, Stand up, Show up!: what this means for country culture and environmental management.’ The panel discussion is held with esteemed Indigenous women; Maddi Miller, Rhianna Kerr and Teagan Goolmeer, who are all amazing women working in the environmental management space. To watch the playback you can click the link below. The discussion touches on self determination of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and the management of Country and Traditional Owner country plans.

Connecting Country greatly values our relationships with traditional owners Djaara and Nalderun.

To find out what celebrations of NAIDOC week are happening locally head over to the 2022 Bendigo NAIDOC week program and find events ranging from trivia nights to art exhibitions, films and sport.

 

Volunteers outperform on climate future plots

Posted on 30 June, 2022 by Ivan

We have been busy preparing to plant our climate future plots over the past few months, and have been excited by the enthusiasm of volunteers keen to help us with this vital new project. Community has always been at the core of what we do at Connecting Country. In recent years, it’s been increasingly difficult to source funding for environmental projects. In this new phase, we’ve had to rely on our community and volunteers even more.

It is important we acknowledge and thank the wonderful volunteers that help make Connecting Country a success in delivering on-ground landscape restoration, wildlife monitoring, Landcare support and environmental education. Since beginning in 2007 we’ve clocked up over 12,000 hours of volunteer time, and we’ve have had a particularly strong flow of volunteers over the past few months to help us deliver our key projects.

Our most recent team of volunteers have put in a stellar effort to produce over 1,000 wire tree guards for our climate future plots, which will protect our recently-arrived Silver Banksia and Sweet Bursaria plants currently at the Connecting Country depot. The plants have arrived from locations all over southeastern Australia, as part of our ‘Future-proof our forests’ project. In 2021 Connecting Country secured funding support from the Ross Trust to establish two climate future plots of 500 plants each, right here in Mount Alexander region during 2021-23. The sturdy wire guards will protect our precious plants for many years to come.

Under the guidance of Bonnie and Jess (Connecting Country staff), the wonderful team of climate future plot volunteers has been led by Duncan Gibson, with assistance from John Carruthers, Kevin Cato, Huntly Barton and Frances Howe, plus our hardworking contactor, Anna Senior. Cutting wire and assembling plant guards in cold and damp conditions is not the most glamourous work, but our committed volunteers have put in an incredible effort to make this project happen.

A special mention has to go Duncan and Frances, who have also spent countless volunteer hours setting out and  drilling 550 holes for the Sweet Bursaria climate future plot. The site is now ready to plant out, once the remaining tree guards have been assembled over the coming weeks. We have seen ideal weather for planting and soil preparation, with a moist autumn and winter 2022 to date.

Drilling 550 holes in preparation for planting the Sweet Bursaria climate future plot (photo by Frances Howe)

 

Our climate future plots will focus on two species from our local area, Silver Banksia (Banksia marginata) and Sweet Bursaria (Bursaria spinosa). Both are key species for our local woodlands and landscape. We have sourced a variety of plant provenances of these plants, from local populations as well as some from further away. We started by looking at the Bureau of Meteorology’s climate predictions for our region and selected seed from areas that are anticipated to match our climate into the future, focusing on areas that are hotter and drier.

A huge thank you!

We are surrounded by an enthusiastic community that allows us to deliver our programs and bring the community along with us. If it wasn’t for your hard work, we simply would not be able to deliver all of our projects and key commitments. To everyone who has helped Connecting Country: THANK YOU! We are so grateful for your support.

We would also like to thank the Ross Trust for their generous funding for this important project. The Ross Trust is a perpetual charitable trust with a vision to create positive social and environmental change so Victorians can thrive.

Learn more about climate future plots

For more information on climate future plots, see:

 

Connecting Country has a new phone number

Posted on 28 June, 2022 by Frances

Connecting Country has moved fully into the digital age! We no longer have a landline phone.

To phone Connecting Country, please call our new number: 0493 362 394

Our office is not always staffed. If we don’t answer, please leave us a message and we will get back to you as soon as possible. You can also send us an email: info@connectingcountry.org.au

We apologise if you’ve struggled to contact us on our old landline recently, as we’ve had ongoing phone issues.

Please update your phone contacts with our new number. Our old number will divert to the new number for several months before disconnection.

 

Thank you 2021-22 donors!

Posted on 28 June, 2022 by Frances

With the end of financial year fast approaching, we’re experience a much-welcome bump in donations. We love our handful of committed regular donors, who give monthly throughout the year. We also celebrate our recent end of financial year donors, so far ranging from $50 to $5,000!

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We extend a huge thank you to our generous 2021-22 Connecting Country donors. With our funding opportunities currently limited, your contribution is extremely valuable and much appreciated. We cannot thank you enough.

Your donation directly supports our practical on-ground work to restore the land, educate our community,  monitor wildlife and support Landcare. You also provide our hard-working staff and volunteers with a welcome boost. It means a lot to us to know we have your support and value the work we do.

It’s not too late to make an end of financial year donation.
To make a safe online donation please – click here

You will immediately receive an automated electronic receipt for your tax deductible donation.

Of course, donations are welcome at any time. Please don’t hesitate to get in touch for further information about how your donation can support on-ground landscape restoration in our region.

 

A warm welcome: climate future plants arrive

Posted on 22 June, 2022 by Ivan

We would like to extend a warm welcome to our 1,000+ recent arrivals of Silver Banksia and Sweet Bursaria plants at the Connecting Country depot. The plants have arrived from locations all over southeastern Australia, as part of our ‘Future-proof our forests’ project. In 2021 Connecting Country secured funding support from the Ross Trust to establish two climate future plots of 500 plants each, right here in Mount Alexander region during 2021-23.

We are focusing on two species from our local area, Silver Banksia (Banksia marginata) and Sweet Bursaria (Bursaria spinosa). Both are key species for our local woodlands and landscape. We have sourced a variety of plant provenances of these plants, from local populations as well as some from further away. We started by looking at the Bureau of Meteorology’s climate predictions for our region and selected seed from areas that are anticipated to match our climate into the future, focussing on areas that are hotter and drier.

However, we also included seed from areas that are cooler and wetter. We aimed to to include genetics from a wide range of environments, as we don’t know what will be important in the future. There may be other genetic information stored within a particular provenance, such as the ability to survive an insect attack, or frost resilience, which plants from the hotter and drier area do not have.

We then paired these predictions with species distribution and the availability of seed or plants, to make our final plant selection.

Connecting Country’s Landscape Restoration Coordinator, Bonnie Humphreys, said ‘The aim of our two climate future plots is to create seed production areas and provide climate-adapted seed for use in future revegetation projects. They may also help us identify provenances most suited to survive in our changing climatic conditions’. ‘We are excited to have reached the stage of planting at the climate future plots, and look forward to watching them grow over and monitoring their progress over coming seasons,’ said Ms Humphreys.

The plants will be delivered from the depot to the climate future plot sites in the coming weeks, and guarded by sturdy wire plant guards. Each plot has been carefully set out to allow tracking of each plant into the future.  Mixing up provenances within the plot will increase the likelihood they will share pollen between plants when they flower and reproduce. This sharing of this genetic information may help the plants adapt as our climate changes. Once the plants are established, monitoring will allow us to assess plant growth and success.

Stayed tuned for more updates once the plants are in the ground and protected with plant guards. We will be holding a tour of the climate future plots in coming months.

We would like to thank the Ross Trust for their generous funding for this important project. The Ross Trus is a perpetual charitable trust with a vision to create positive social and environmental change so Victorians can thrive.

Learn more about climate future plots

For more information on climate future plots, see:

 

A successful Landcare Link-up for winter 2022

Posted on 22 June, 2022 by Hadley Cole

On 2 June 2022 Connecting Country hosted a Landcare Link-up with the theme of ‘Getting to know Connecting Country’. Our Landcare Link-ups provide an opportunity for Landcare and Friends groups of the Mount Alexander region to come together and share information, knowledge and experience. Historically, Connecting Country hosts a Landcare Link-up twice a year.

The event was held at the lovely historical Chewton Town Hall on a cold winters evening. Attendees came far and wide from Sutton Grange, Nuggety and Redesdale and represented eight Landcare groups from the region. Frances Howe and Brendan Sydes from Connecting Country gave a brief presentation on the work Connecting Country is involved in outside of Landcare, which covers community engagement, landscape restoration, and biodiversity monitoring.

Attendees enjoyed the opportunity to understand more about Connecting Country as an organisation and meet some of the staff and committee members who make all the work happen. It was also a great chance for neighbouring Landcare groups to discuss some of the restoration challenges they have on the ground and compare notes on the various landscapes they are working across.

We all enjoyed a hot and tasty vegetable soup and crusty bread for dinner followed by cakes and biscuits for dessert, which were all made possible by generous donations from wonderful local businesses Green Goes the Grocer, Sprout Bakery and Maxi IGA Castlemaine. It is heartwarming to know that local business will dig deep when it comes to supporting our local Landcare groups who do an amazing job in protecting and enhancing biodiversity in the Mount Alexander Region.

A special thank you to Hadley, Marie and Bonnie for setting up the venue and making the soup!

If you would like to connect with your local Landcare or Friends group – click here

To find out more about Landcare in the region, please contact our local Landcare Facilitator, Hadley – hadley@connectingcountry.org.au