Restoring landscapes across the Mount Alexander Region

Hollows, habitat and nest boxes: design and installation tips

Posted on 2 January, 2019 by Frances

Following Connecting Country’s highly popular nest box workshops during autumn 2018, we’ve compiled some nest box design and installation tips. These tips were compiled by Connecting Country’s Tanya Loos from our workshops with local ecologist and nest box builder, Miles Geldard.

Phascogale in nest box at Welshmans Reef (photo by Jess Lawton)

All animals need to meet their basic needs of something to eat and somewhere to live. Australia’s fauna is particularly reliant on hollows for shelter and breeding – possums, gliders, bats, kookaburras, parrots, treecreepers, reptiles such as geckos and even frogs need hollows.

Hollows are a highly limited resource in today’s Box-Ironbark forests. The sheer scale of clearing and removal of large old trees for timber in our region is almost unbelievable. Trees were logged for railway sleepers, mine shaft infrastructure, baker’s ovens, boilers, heating and construction. Only 15% of the Box-Ironbark forests remain and virtually no old growth patches are left.

Hollows may begin to form in any aged tree, even relatively young trees if the conditions are right. In some countries, woodpeckers create hollows in trees.

Here in Australia, the bark needs to be damaged in some way – either by wind, lightning, fire or by animals (such as galahs) – so that termite or fungal activity may begin to create a hollow. In Box-Ironbark forests, termites do most of the hollow formation, whereas in wet forests it is fungi. Galahs and other parrots love to chew bark. Are they ecosystem engineers creating hollows for the future, or just larrikins sharpening their bills?

Miles has reviewed scientific papers on our local hollow-using fauna’s habitat needs and preferences. He uses this information when designing and installing nest boxes considering internal hollow dimensions, size of entrance, tree type, location on tree and orientation.

Miles suggests installing as many nest boxes as you can manage to install and maintain. Many hollow-dependent animals use multiple nesting sites located across their home range.

For Connecting Country’s full notes with nestbox design and installation tips: click here

The Victorian Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning also recently published some useful general information about nestbox use (click here) and monitoring (click here).


Bird baths – a cool treat for birds over summer

Posted on 2 January, 2019 by Jacqui

Bird baths provide a welcome retreat from the summer heat for a range of wildlife. Depending on the size and location of your bath, you may be visited by tiny birds such as pardalotes, gregarious honeyeaters and rosellas, frogs and reptiles, or larger animals like echidnas and wallabies, as this previous story from local landholder Jane Rusden describes.  As many of you know a visitor to the bird bath can be a delightful and rewarding way to interact with wildlife from close range, perhaps from your living room or kitchen window.  Washing up has never been so much fun!

With more hot weather forecast we wanted to share a reminder to monitor water levels in your bird bath, especially during extended hot periods so birds don’t lose a water source they may be depending on. It’s also a good idea to ask a neighbour to refill your bath(s) if you’re going away over summer.

If you are considering setting up a bird bath or would like some tips on how to keep birds cool, healthy and safe from predators please read more here.

Here are some gorgeous images taken recently by our Director Frances Howe at her bird bath near Castlemaine. Frances’ bird bath is on a pedestal and close to perches to keep birds safe as they come in to bathe.  Thanks Frances!

Fuscous Honeyeaters hanging out poolside.

Joined by a friend.

Drying off after a splash!White-naped Honeyeaters move in.


Tarrangower cactus warriors honoured again with national Froggatt Award

Posted on 2 January, 2019 by Frances

They’ve lured university students, local scouts and even Work for the Dole crews into their scheme to rid invasive wheel cactus from their part of Victoria, and now a little community group in central Victoria has received a national Froggatt Award. 

‘The Tarrangower Cactus Control Group have gone to extraordinary lengths to turn the tables on wheel cactus, a weed that escaped gardens in the 1960s and began taking over local bushland,’ Invasive Species Council CEO Andrew Cox said when announcing the award.

‘Their passion for protecting the natural environment from wheel cactus, a highly invasive and extremely difficult plant to kill, has roped all sorts of people into their program. University students, local scouts and even drought relief and Work for the Dole crews have all joined the cause to rid the area of wheel cactus.’

The Tarrangower Cactus Control Group has contributed to state and national policy development, including the first-ever Victoria-wide map of wheel cactus and the Managing Opuntoid Cacti in Australia manual.

Scroll through this gallery for photos of their amazing work.

Froggatt awards were also given this year to an intrepid band of bushwalkers who led a feral horse protest walk all the way from Sydney to Mt Kosciuszko and to the creators of a green-haired Biosecurity Warrior.

About the Froggatt Awards

Invasive species have become one of the biggest threats facing Australia’s natural environment, but their continued arrival and spread is all too often neglected as a conservation issue.

The Froggatt Awards are given out by the Invasive Species Council every year and are named in honour of Australian entomologist Walter Froggatt, a lone voice in the 1930s warning of the dangers of releasing the cane toad into Australia to control beetle infestations in sugar cane.

The awards are given to those who have made a major contribution to protecting Australia’s native plants and animals, ecosystems and people from dangerous new invasive species.

More information