Restoring landscapes across the Mount Alexander Region

Three of Connecting Country’s ‘Feathered five’ now listed as nationally threatened.

Posted on 6 April, 2023 by Anna

Diamond Firetail (photo by Geoff Park)

In March 2023, several bird species that occur locally were approved for listing as threatened under the Federal Government Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation (EPBC) Act 1999.

This includes the Diamond Firetail Stagonopleura guttata, and south eastern subspecies of Hooded Robin Melanodryas cucullata cucullata, and Brown Treecreeper Climacteris picumnus victoriae.

These three species along with the Jacky Winter and Painted Button-quail were identified in Connecting Country’s ‘feathered five’ and have been the focus of community engagement and ongoing woodland bird monitoring since 2015.

Other bird species that occur locally have also been listed on the EPBC Act including, The Southern Whiteface Aphelocephala leucopsis and Blue-winged Parrot Neophema chrysostoma.

Species’ can be listed as either vulnerable, endangered, critically endangered or extinct under the EPBC Act. These categories represent increasing levels of population decline.  For example, the Hooded Robin population has declined over 50% in just 10 years, making it eligible for listing as endangered.

While Connecting Country is heartened that the ongoing decline of these species has been nationally recognised, the inclusion of a species on this list is a double-edged sword. Through listing, species are afforded more legal protection and are more likely to receive funding than those that are not listed, however, making the list in the first place is deeply concerning as it means that these species have declined significantly in recent years and will need a lot of help to recover.

To make the list, a species (or ecological community) must first be nominated, a rigorous and time consuming process that usually falls upon members of the scientific community to do in their own time.  A great little piece in the Conversation recently sought to demystify this process for the average punter.

A Hooded Robin


Bird of the month: Silvereye

Posted on 27 March, 2023 by Ivan

Welcome to 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 the brilliant Jane Rusden and Damian Kelly from BirdLife Castlemaine District writing about our next bird of the month, accompanied by Damian’s stunning photos.

Silvereye (Zosterops lateralis)

A moderately common sight year-round, in gardens with a suitable food plant or water source, are small flocks of tiny Silvereyes, also known as White-eyes. They are a delight to watch. At only 10-12 grams and 125 mm long, this tiny olive bird, with a pale chest and distinctive white or silver eye ring, is a miniature favourite.

Even their soft-sounding “Zcheee” contact call, is endearing, which is lucky because they are chatty and constantly calling to each other. Like so many Australian birds, they are also mimics and adept at copying other bird calls.

It’s amazing to ponder the distances these tiny birds can cover, banding studies have recorded movements from Margret River WA to Braidwood NSW, that’s 3,159 km of flying. Many birds including some in the Castlemaine area where they overwinter, fly 1,500 km between Tasmania and NSW, which means crossing the treacherous Bass Strait. Silvereyes being so mobile, their ranges cover Southern WA, all along the south coast of Australia and up the eastern coast, extending inland over the Great Dividing Range to the edge of central deserts.

The Silvereye is not only highly mobile, but highly adaptable as well. They eat a varied diet including nectar, fruits, insects and foraging in small groups. Enjoying soft fruits in your garden, sipping nectar from flowers including gums, and gleaning insects, moving from ground level and right up through shrub layers into the tree tops.

Silvereye foraging for food in a Castlemaine garden. Photo by Damian Kelly.

Although Silvereyes are usually in small flocks, during the spring breeding season they split into life pairs and defend breeding territories. Both parents brood the 2-4 eggs laid in a cup-shaped nest, once hatched both parents feed the chicks. Often Silvereye pairs attempt to rear two broods in a breeding season.

So keep an eye out for this diminutive bird in your garden and around town, with its distinctive silver eye ring and ability to fly such huge distances. That’s a lot of birds in a tiny fluff ball.

Silvereye in a fruit tree, with its buff coloured flank, indicating it’s the Tasmanian type bird, which can be seen overwintering in the Castlemaine area. Photo by Damian Kelly.


To listen to the call of the Silvereye – click here

Jane Rusden
Damian Kelly


You’re invited to The Indigenous Seed Project Launch

Posted on 22 March, 2023 by Anna

The Castlemaine Seed Library invites you to come along on Saturday 25th March 10:30AM to launch The Indigenous Seed Project.

This project encourages anyone to germinate a selection of 10 local plant species.

With each seed packet you will receive a booklet/PDF with information about garden use and care, ecological significance, cultural information and propagation relevant to each species.

This information was provided by local experts ; Dr Cassia Read, Frances Cincotta and Aunty Julie McHale.

There will be catering supplied by the wonderful Murnong Mummas.


The Buzz project: promoting pollinators of central Victoria

Posted on 14 March, 2023 by Hadley Cole

The Buzz project: promoting pollinators of central Victoria, is a Connecting Country project funded by the 2022 Victorian Landcare grants, that aims to celebrate and expand community knowledge on the smaller heroes of our local ecosystems, the insect pollinators.

The project was launched with a presentation from local entomologist and bee specialist Dr Mark Hall, Senior Biodiversity Officer at the City of Greater Bendigo, on Wednesday 15 February 2023 at the Campbells Creek Community Centre. The presentation focussed on the various native pollinators we may see in the local area and was titled ‘Native pollinators on your property: who, where and what they do?’

We had a wonderful turnout to the presentation with up to forty enthusiastic attendees who came along with fantastic questions. Mark spoke of the many pollinators present across the landscape from native bees, to flies, butterflies, moths, and beetles. He spoke of the importance of connectivity between gardens, roadsides, and bushland of native vegetation to help build corridors for pollinators to move and plenty of wooded areas for them to nest in. We learnt of the specific adaptations native bees have formed to pollinate indigenous plants and how introduced insects such as honey bees cannot perform the same pollination service as efficiently as the native pollinators.

Following the presentation, we then went out on a field trip with Mark to a private property in Harcourt on Friday 24 February 2023. The field trip was titled ‘promoting native pollinators from property to landscape.’ Thirteen enthusiastic participants came along to learn of the various monitoring techniques we can use to investigate the pollinators occuring on our properties, Landcare sites and in our backyards. The beautiful property of Lois from Barkers Creek Landcare and Wildlife group did not dissapoint! Although it is late in the season for many insects, we discovered a range of insect pollinators in Lois’s garden and the bushland on her property. A couple of species of Blue banded bees were on show, as well as the Imperial Jezebel (Delias harpalyce) butterfly that feeds on misstletoe, a few dragonflies were noted however were very difficult to catch with the net as they zip about so fast! The most exciting discovery was a Cuckoo Bee (Thyreus) found in one of the insect traps. As the cuckoo part of the name suggests, the native Cuckoo Bee will take over the nests of Blue Banded Bees by laying their eggs in with those of the Blue Banded Bees. Although the Cuckcoo bees are not the friendliest of bees they are very beautiful and Mark reassured us that they appear to exist in smaller numbers than many of the other native bees.

So far The Buzz project has been a wonderful success, bringing together community members, nature enthusiasts and Landcarers with a common focus of learning more about the various native pollinators occurring across the local landscape, where they live, how they behave and the types of pollination services they provide.

Connecting Country would like to thank Dr. Mark Hall for his brilliant contributions to The Buzz project. The knowledge he has shared with us all will go a long way to building a greater understanding of the native pollinators of the region. A big thank you also goes to Lois and Geoff for sharing their beautiful property in Harcourt for the field trip.

If you or your Landcare group are interested in learning more on how to monitor and survey insects across the region please get in touch by emailing

We will host one final event later in the year in Spring to wrap up The Buzz project, so stay tuned for more details!

This project was funded through the Victorian Landcare Grants and the North Central Catchment Management Authority.



Wheel Cactus hinders fire fighting

Posted on 14 March, 2023 by Ivan

Our friends and partners at the Tarrangower Cactus Control Group Inc. (TCCG) have recently published a media article highlighting the firefighting issues caused by infestations of the invasive plant wheel cactus (Opuntia robusta). Please find the article below which gives landholders yet another reason to control and remove infestations of this devastating noxious weed.

Patches of wheel cactus grow densely, forming an impenetrable barrier.   In some instances the plant was used as hedging. Where established, the weed is most likely to restrict human access and have impacts on the environment and agriculture. The barbed bristles of the wheel cactus are sharp, readily penetrating human skin causing severe irritation and are difficult to remove.

Wheel Cactus hinders fire fighting

Many of us are familiar with the destructive environmental impact of wheel cactus in Mount Alexander Shire. Some have volunteered for years in controlling this weed and take responsibility on their own and other properties. However, there are still properties in our area with significant infestations of wheel cactus.

Possibly, some landowners may not have considered the problems created by wheel cactus in a fire situation.

In a recent fire emergency in Baringhup, CFA volunteers were confronted with a situation made difficult due to the rocky and hilly terrain.  Equally confronting were the many large mature wheel cactus plants on one of the properties.  This dense infestation of wheel cactus created a dangerous situation for the CFA volunteers.  Combined with smoke affecting visibility and high-pressure hoses, the wheel cactus infected terrain became highly slippery and very challenging for the volunteers.

As CFA Captain Brendan McKnight commented “Wheel cactus is an OH&S issue for the CFA.  It is another risk factor in a situation that is already full of risk; just ask the poor bloke who fell onto a large wheel cactus while we were dealing with the fire”.

This fire incident has highlighted yet another reason why landowners need to control infestations of wheel cactus of their property.  We encourage all landowners to keep their property safe as well as environmentally healthy.

Tarrangower Cactus Control Group are available to provide advice and assistance to local land holders. Please contact us via our website

Tarrangower Cactus Control Group consists of Landcare volunteers dedicated to the eradication of Wheel Cactus (Opuntia robusta). 




Apply now for the North Central CMA Board

Posted on 14 March, 2023 by Ivan

Our friends and project partners at the North Central Catchment Management Authority (NCCMA) have an opportunity open to join their board and assist in achieving their vision of sustainably managed land, water and biodiversity resources in a changing climate. Each CMA board has a maximum of nine members including the Chairperson. The Board is responsible for the strategic planning of the authority and ensuring that the CMA fulfils its statutory functions consistently with its overall governance framework and is renumerated accordingly. Please find the details on how to apply below, courtesy of the NCCMA.

North Central Catchment Management Authority Board: Now Open

We are encouraging people from the North Central CMA region with diverse backgrounds and differing environmental perspectives to #GetonBoard. Applications for positions on the North Central Catchment Management Authority (CMA) Board have recently opened.

The Victorian Government is committed to increasing diversity on CMA Boards to encourage new ideas and reflect the rich diversity of the Victorian community.

Our Chair, Julie Miller Markoff, leads a well-established, dynamic, and knowledgeable Board that guides an energised and dedicated natural resource management team to achieve our vision of sustainably managed land, water and biodiversity resources supporting productive and prosperous communities in a changing climate.

Alongside the strategic and regional perspective that the Board brings to the diverse work of the North Central CMA, they also have a sharp focus on supporting Traditional Owner self-determination and tracking new opportunities in natural capital and environmental markets for the region.

More information Member, Victorian Catchment Management Authority Board |

Applications close at 11.59pm on Monday 27 March.

If you would like to discuss in more detail the role of the North Central CMA Board or have a question regarding the application process, please contact our Chair Julie Miller Markoff on 0407 819 066 or email


Welcome Lori – our new director

Posted on 28 February, 2023 by Ivan

It is with much pleasure that the staff and committee of Connecting Country welcome our new director, Lori Arthur. Lori started at the Connecting Country offices earlier this month, in a handover with past director Frances Howe. Welcome Lori, we are thrilled to have you on board!

Frances has kindly given her time for a detailed handover and has passed on her experience and excellent attention to detail over a number of weeks. Thank you, Frances, and best wishes on your next adventure.

Lori comes to Connecting Country after working in conservation and land management roles with local governments in Melbourne, collaborating with a range of environmental stakeholders and community groups.  She moved to Castlemaine with her family in late 2020 and is very excited to get involved with a grassroots conservation organisation doing great things in the local community.

Lori has a Bachelor of Applied Science (Environmental Horticulture) from the University of Melbourne. When she’s not working, she’s kept pretty busy with family life, often riding, bushwalking or swimming in and around the local environs with her two young boys and her kelpie, Dusty.

Lori works Monday to Thursday, overseeing Connecting Country’s projects, organisational management and administration. Be sure to hello to Lori at our next event!



Wetland Revival Trust discovers new Eltham Copper Butterfly population in the Wimmera

Posted on 28 February, 2023 by Ivan

Connecting Country has partnered with local ecologist Elaine Bayes (Wetland Revival Trust) over many years to help monitor and conserve the critically endangered Eltham Copper Butterfly. We have delivered education programs and coordinated monitoring events in central Victoria, with Elaine tirelessly leading the campaign to improve land management practices and promote the survival of this iconic and fascinating species.

Elaine and her team at the Wetland Revival Trust recently reported some great news: they discovered the largest population of Eltham CopperButterfly and the largest area of habitat ever found! The new population is at Gerang Gerung, in the Wimmera region of northwest Victoria.

We congratulate Elaine and the team on their perseverance and recent exciting discovery!

The full media release is provided below, courtesy of the Wetland Revival Trust.


Wetland Revival Trust discovers National treasure in the Wimmera with the largest population of the Eltham Copper Butterfly found at Gerang Gerung

Wetland Revival Trust’s (WRT) long term butterfly project in northern Victoria discovered the largest population of the nationally endangered Eltham Copper Butterfly (ECB) (Paralucia pyrodiscus lucida) in the Wimmera, at two Gerang Gerung nature reserves.

Elaine Bayes, an ecologist from Wetland Revival Trust, a not-for-profit environmental charity, has been involved in the protection of this tiny butterfly since 2009.

Elaine started a search and find mission in 2019 in north central Victoria, where there are several ECB populations. The search spread to the Wimmera which may be the prime location for this species. Elaine said, ‘ECB numbers at the two very small known populations in the Wimmera were at much higher densities than in the north central where we had been searching.’

‘This year, our team searched 1,600 hectares of public land for the butterflies, 1,400 ha of which was in the Wimmera. And we were certainly rewarded for the effort, with around 500 ECB seen between the two Gerang Gerung reserves. To give perspective, in north central Victoria last year, we searched 1000 ha and found a total of 43 ECB peppered across a large area. To see 500 ECBs in one season is exceptional, and so far, this is the largest number of ECB and the largest area of ECB habitat ever found.’

This search was funded thanks to the Victorian Government Biodiversity On-ground Action Program (Icon Species Projects) which supports actions to protect nationally endangered species like ECB. ECB were first found in the Wimmera in 1988 at Salisbury Bushland Reserve and in a small area of Kiata Flora Reserve. In 2011, another tiny population (6 hectares) was found on a Wail roadside by local entomologist Fabian Douglas. In the intervening years, the Salisbury population became extinct, believed to be caused by sheep grazing out the butterfly’s food plants. The two remaining populations at Kiata and Wail are separated by a sea of agriculture, with nowhere for their young to disperse to.

There is no way for the populations to move around as environmental conditions change, and no corridors of native vegetation for the butterflies to move along so they can share DNA to make them more resilient. Also being small the sites are under threat from pests, weeds and roadworks.

Elaine believes that part of the reason ECB is rarely seen is that they require very specific conditions. As well as being dependent on one plant species to feed their larvae, the Sweet Bursaria (Bursaria spinosa), they require one specific ant species (Notoncus ectatommoides) to act as a bouncer for their larvae, scaring off predators that would otherwise feast on their juicy bodies. Their other very specific needs are that these delicate little butterflies are solar powered and only fly when it is 20-30 degrees with no wind or rain. The adults only emerge when there is abundant nectar around November and December usually peaking at Christmas and New Year (with a smaller emergence in March and April). Finding field staff to search for ECB at Christmas and New year is as rare a thing as finding the ECB themselves!

To find this elusive species you first find the one and only plant species it relies on, Sweet Bursaria (Bursaria spinosa) which is much easier to map as it is large, stays still and is present all year round! Previous searches have shown that ECB only occur where Sweet Bursaria plants are dense (more than 30 plants in a ¼ hectare). So, the first part of the plan is to search for and map dense Bursaria patches. The second part is to search those dense patches for ECB during their flying period.

Given the cool start to summer this year the number of days that ECB were flying before it became too hot for them was less than fourteen. WRT had ten field staff and several volunteers out searching the 1400 hectares. Ten very dedicated people who put this conservation work before summertime at the beach. The team searched areas including Gerang Gerung Mallee Dam, Gerang Gerung South Reserve. Glenlee NCR, Barrett NCR, Lierschs NCR, Coker Dam Wildlife Reserve and Lil Lil Dam and at a few locations in Castlemaine.

This work builds on WRT searches between 2019 and 2021 and a similar search in 2011, when large areas were mapped and collectively thirteen new populations around Central Victoria and at one at Wail were found. The new populations were very localised with the butterfly only occurring in 3-25 per cent of suitable habitat (where the ant and the host plant are present). This is reflected in this year’s survey where, out of 1400 ha, ECB was only found on 36 hectares.

The butterfly is listed as critically endangered under the Victorian Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act 1988 and as endangered under the Commonwealth Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999. This places considerable importance on managing the small number of known population sites and locating any potential new sites so they can be protected from threats.

The threats to this species in the Wimmera are numerous. Given the amount of historical land clearing in the Wimmera you can be confident that any quality remnant vegetation has a high likelihood of containing rare species, including insects, orchids and other plants and animals. Management and protection of these sites will bring benefits to multiple species as well as places of recreation and learning for future generations, impacts on local climate etc. Next year funding applications are in for weed and pest management, signage, translocations and more.

According to Elaine, it is undoubtable there will be ECB populations on private land where remnant vegetation occurs.

‘It is easy to check if you have any. First search your property or nearby bushland for dense patches Sweet Bursaria plants (easiest to see when flowering in December). Then look for the copper sparkle of flying adults in December on still days that are between 20-30 degrees. Tap each plant with a stick, which will cause them to fly and be more easily seen. Use the fact sheet and butterfly look alike sheet from the Eltham Copper Butterfly website ( Sightings can be reported on this site, the inaturalist app ( or on the Butterfly Australia app (’

Landholders can help protect this and other rare species by retaining and restoring native understorey plants on their properties.

Wetland Revival Trust
January 2023

Please enjoy the following photographs provided by the Wetland Revival Trust, showing the beauty and size of this national treasure.


We need your help! Mapping our old trees of central Victoria

Posted on 28 February, 2023 by Ivan

We are excited to announce the arrival of our new mapping portal, that aims to assist community citizen scientists to map the old, and often large, trees of central Victoria. The interactive mapping portal is part of Connecting Country’s larger project, ‘Regenerate before it’s too late‘ which aims to engage the community on the importance of old trees across the landscape and how to protect them. Within the mapping portal you will also find an updated species list that will assist with the identification process of the large old trees.

Over the next three years (2023 – 2025), we will continue to host community workshops and develop engagement resources such as the mapping portal and a video. We will also work with local landholders to implement practical on-ground actions to protect their large old trees and ensure the next generation of large old trees across the landscape.

The community, including landholders, Landcarers and land managers, will be vital in mapping their favourite old trees across our region. Anyone can access Connecting Country’s new online mapping portal. The portal uses BioCollect, an advanced but simple-to-use data collection tool developed by the Atlas of Living Australia (ALA) and its collaborators. BioCollect helps users collect field biodiversity data for their own projects, while allowing the data to be easily copied into the ALA, where it can be publicly available for others to use in research, policy and management. This allows individual projects to collectively contribute to a larger science database.

We need your help!

The mapping portal is now open for any community member to record the old trees in your area. You will need to register with the Atlas of Living Australia (its easy and free), then upload a photo and enter the field details needed for the survey. The portal will ask you simple questions about the tree location, size, species, age (if known), health status and habitat value.

To record your large old tree, or view the field survey questions and required measurements – click here

By recording large old trees you will help build our understanding of the large old trees in our region, and contribute to the largest biodiversity database in our country. As the database grows, you can also access the portal to learn about other wonderful large old trees in our area and view the photos.

Trees can be tricky to identify, especially eucalypts. If you are unsure about the identification of the tree species, you can:

  • Use the to iNaturalist app to assist with identification –  click here
  • Refer to a good guidebook, like those published by Friends of the Box-Ironbark Forests – click here
  • Visit the Castlemaine Flora website – click here

Euan, Jenny and Peter with a large old tree (photo by Beth Mellick)

We are most grateful for our generous project support from the Ian & Shirley Norman Foundation. The foundation aims ‘To encourage and support organisations that are capable of responding to social and ecological opportunities and challenges.’ To learn more about Ian & Shirley Norman Foundation – click here


Clean up Australia Day: 5 March 2023

Posted on 21 February, 2023 by Hadley Cole

Clean Up Australia Day is an annual nationwide event focussed on empowering local communities to clean up, fix up and conserve the natural environment. This year Clean Up Australia Day will be held on Sunday 5 March 2023. You can register your local clean-up event on the Clean Up Australia Day website – click here

To find events happening near you – click here

Local Landcare and friends groups of the Mount Alexander/ Leanganook region often host a Clean Up Australia Day event. Please see below for a list of local events happening across the region. You can also get in touch with your local Landcare group to see if they are hosting a 2023 event by finding your local group on the Connecting Country website – click here

Friends of Campbells Creek 15th annual clean-up event:

Help to clean up rubbish along the creeks and trails, followed by a social morning tea.

Where: Meet at the bus shelter next to Winters Flat Footbridge, Johnstone Street (Midland Highway), Castlemaine VIC

When: Sunday 5 March 2023, 8.00 am – 10.00 pm

What to bring: Hats, gloves, sturdy clothing, enclosed boots/shoes, sun protection, a rake if you have one, your own water (and a friend).

 The group will provided collection bags, rubbish skip, and tea/coffee biscuits.

For more details – click here


Sutton Grange Landcare Group 

Where: Meet at the Sutton Grange Hall, Faraday – Sutton Grange Rd. Sutton Grange VIC 

When:  Sunday 5 March 2023, 9.00 am – 11.00 am

What to bring: Hats, sunscreen, sturdy foot wear, water bottle, gloves and a friend!

For further information contact: Zane Tronson at


Golden Point Landcare Group

Where: Meet at Expedition Pass Reservoir (The Res), Golden Point Rd. Golden Point VIC

When: Sunday 5 March 2023, 10.00 am – 12.00 pm

What to bring: Hats, sunscreen, sturdy foot wear, water bottle, gloves and a friend!


FOBIF exhibition opening this Saturday: Newstead Arts Hub

Posted on 21 February, 2023 by Ivan

Our friends and project partners at Friends of the Box-Ironbark Forests (FOBIF) are turning 25 and to celebrate are opening their photography exhibition this Saturday at the Newstead Arts Hub. The show will feature an incredible array of nature-based photographs from community members and FOBIF supporters. We would like to thank and congratulate FOBIF on 25 years of campaigning for better management of our natural assets and educating the community of their significance.

FOBIF photography exhibition opening: Saturday 25 February 2023

Friends of the Box-Ironbark Forests (FOBIF) is holding an exhibition at the Newstead Arts Hub (8A Tivey Street, Newstead, Vic) to mark 25 years of campaigning for a better future for our forests and promoting their value.

There will be 20 nature photos by members and supporters, historical material about FOBIF, drawings by Chewton Primary School students, and a geological display.

A seventy-page catalogue of the exhibition with extra historical material will be available for sale as well as FOBIF’s six published books and nature cards. All photos will be for sale with proceeds going to FOBIF. 

The exhibition will be open over 3 weekends, (25 & 26 February, 4 & 5 March, 11 & 12 March 2023) and Labour Day (13 March 2023) between 10 am and 4 pm. 

Alison Pouliot, well known fungi expert and engaging speaker, will open the exhibition at 10.30 on 25 February 2023. One of FOBIF’s founding members, Phil Ingamells, will also speak. Everyone is welcome and refreshments will be provided. 

You can find out more about the exhibition on the FOBIF website ( or ring Bronwyn Silver 0448 751 111.

Jane Rusden. Crested Shrike-tit

Choughs. Patrick Kavanagh