Restoring landscapes across the Mount Alexander Region

‘Let’s Pivot’ program supports community

Posted on 4 November, 2020 by Asha

The Mount Alexander region of Central Victoria is blessed with a highly engaged community, an abundance of active community groups and above average levels of volunteering.

The ‘Let’s Pivot’ program supports local community leaders, groups and individuals to change their strategy without changing their vision. It empowers participants to share knowledge, successes and strategies to reach their audience and achieve their aims. We are particularly excited about the topics of improving online delivery and improving our connectivity with the community. Please read on for more about the ‘Lets Pivot’ program, including the link to their website. Thanks to Mel from Make a Change Australia for sending us this information to share.

‘Let’s Pivot’ is a new program being delivered across rural and regional Victoria by Make a Change Australia, with the aim of supporting community leaders, organisations, and individuals to change their strategy without changing their vision. The program is for not-for-profits, community groups, leaders, and all the great people who like to make a positive impact. It’s also relevant for anyone not involved in a group or organisation, such as people who are supporting their community in other ways (e.g., helping a neighbour, caring for family members or building community in your street).

If you are looking for support to: adapt services and programs; implement new projects; change approaches and plans; build resilience and strengthen community connections; improve online delivery; gain inspiration and ideas; be part of an encouraging network; or simply find out what others are doing… then ‘Let’s Pivot is for you’! Sign up to receive inspiration, information, digital connectivity, adaptation ideas, and real time support to wherever you work best! The program consists of eight info mailers, a series of facilitated Zoom discussions based on peer-to-peer knowledge, a Facebook group, and an Impact Hub packed full of local resources and deep-dive issues.

To subscribe to ‘Let’s Pivot’ updates – click here

To visit their website for more information – click here

 

Gorse task force develop virtual field day

Posted on 4 November, 2020 by Ivan

You don’t have to go far around our region to see the menace that is the invasive plant Gorse (Ulex Europaeus). It has established in the disturbed sites around our parks and reserves, as well as roadsides and large tracts of private land. Gorse is one of Australia’s worst agricultural and environmental weeds. It infests valuable pastoral land and significantly reduces land values. It’s a haven for rabbits, foxes and feral cats, it clogs waterways and it prevents regeneration of native plants.

During 2019-20 Connecting Country partnered with Taradale Landcare to coordinate a community-driven gorse control project in Taradale in Central Victoria, funded through the Victorian Gorse Taskforce. This resulted in successful treatments of some large tracts of gorse. Tackling gorse takes effort – but doing nothing means it just gets worse. The Taradale area demonstrates a prime example of how bad gorse can get in a short period of time.

Home - Victorian Gorse Taskforce

Gorse can form dense spiny thickets, with seeds lasting up to 30 years in the soil (photo: Gorse Task Force)

 

The Victorian Gorse Taskforce (VGT) is a community group that leads the education and extension for gorse management across private and public land. They source funding from across government for community-led activities to reduce gorse in local areas. These groups provide information, financial and practical support to landowners managing gorse and are helping reduce gorse across the Victorian landscape.

The Victorian Gorse Taskforce has recently developed a useful virtual demonstration field day presentation. It gives an excellent overview about the organisation, the main components of a gorse management plan, effective control methods and who can assist in your gorse control efforts. It contains great video footage of how to conduct treatments and control methods, which we thought would be useful for our community.

Please view the virtual field day video below, courtesy of the Victorian Gorse Taskforce.

 

 

 

Citizen scientists: keep your eyes peeled for Bogong Moths!

Posted on 29 October, 2020 by Jess

The Bogong Moth is a primary food source for the adorable (albeit not local) little marsupial, the Mountain Pygmy Possum. (We recommend googling photos of these little guys if you’re having a bad day!) Unfortunately, moth numbers have crashed in recent years, with flow on effects for the Mountain Pygmy Possum. To read more – click here

However, community members can help scientists understand what’s happening by reporting Bogong Moth sightings. To learn how to identify a Bogong Moth – click here

Associate Professor John Morgan from the Research Centre for Applied Alpine Ecology at La Trobe University says:

If you’re out in the field over the coming months and you see Bogong Moths, I’d really appreciate you uploading your observations (locality of sighting, with photo so we can get a positive ID). 

There is incredibly poor data on where moths migrate from and where they return to. All Bogong Moths spend winter in the soil as larvae on the lowland plains (we think) before emerging and migrating to the high peaks to aestivate (avoid the summer heat). They then leave in mid- to late-summer to return to the plains to breed. We’re using citizen science to fill in some of the details but if you look at the data that is coming in, we still seem to be missing the lowland observations (although a bunch have turned up in Melbourne, Sydney and Canberra, attracted by the lights).

Bogong Moth (photo: Museums Victoria)

 

So, keep your eyes peeled, and if you see a small brown moth, take a photo and upload it to the Moth Tracker webpage. We’re sure any observations will be put to good use.

 

Wanted: experienced bird watchers!

Posted on 29 October, 2020 by Jess

Connecting Country’s bird monitoring program allows us to see if all our hard work restoring habitat is actually making a difference, and to assess the status of our woodland birds in the Mount Alexander region of Central Victoria. Back in 2010, with help from experts, we carefully set up a bird monitoring program at selected locations across the region. Every year we go back to survey theses sites, providing valuable information to guide future decisions.

These days, our surveys are done entirely by volunteers – our community champions.

We’re now looking for more people local to the Mount Alexander area to be part of this program and assist with our bird surveys. We’re particularly looking for people to survey sites in around Harcourt, Sedgwick, Sutton Grange and Taradale areas.

To be involved in this program you will need to:

  • Be able to confidently identify bird species in the Mount Alexander area by sight as well as from their call
  • Have a reasonable level of fitness and able to traverse rough ground
  • Know how to conduct a 2 ha 20 min area search (we can help with this)
  • Liaise with private landholders
  • Be comfortable navigating to and from survey sites using a GPS on your phone
  • Attend an online induction
  • Follow safety protocols and adhere to current COVID-19 restrictions

We will support you, and can provide training on conducting surveys and navigation if required. However, having great bird ID skills is essential.

If you’re keen to be involved please email Jess Lawton (Monitoring Coordinator) including a brief description of any experience you have with bird identification and surveys, and a phone number: jess@connectingcountry.org.au

Jess will then get in touch to discuss and provide more information.

We’re lucky to have lots of beautiful birds in the Mount Alexander region (photo by Jane Rusden)

 

Prickly plants for wildlife and community: Campaspe Valley Landcare

Posted on 29 October, 2020 by Jacqui

With support from the Albert and Barbara Tucker Foundation, Connecting Country partnered with local Landcare groups during 2020 to protect and enhance habitat on public land. Our ‘Prickly plants for wildlife and community’ project involved four Landcare groups across the Mount Alexander region of Central Victoria. Campaspe Valley Landcare is one of these groups and has done an amazing job to get their project completed, despite the need to adapt activities to COVID-19 restrictions. We hope you enjoy this article written by Barbara James of Campaspe Valley Landcare about their group and their recent planting.

Campaspe Valley Landcare (CVL) operates to the north of Kyneton, within the area between the lower reaches of the Coliban and Campaspe Rivers leading to Lake Eppalock in Central Victoria. Our group has members that live within four Shires including Mount Alexander, Macedon Ranges, Mitchell and the City of Greater Bendigo. The group’s main focus is eradicating weeds, revegetation, and identifying and surveying for indigenous plant species. Newcomers can gain advice on issues of biodiversity on their properties. CVL can help landowners access appropriate information such as whole farm planning courses and the latest weed eradication methods.

For more information about Campaspe Valley Landcare, or to get in touch please – click here

As part of the Prickly plants for wildlife and community project in 2020, Campaspe Valley Landcare received 300 prickly plants that were planted mostly on a block of public land in Barfold. The block is situated on the corner of School Rd and Dallistons Rd, and is managed by the Department of Environment Land Water and Planning (DELWP). This land contains part of Back Creek, which has been a group focus for several years for gorse and other weed eradication.

Campaspe Valley Landcare planted and guarded 300 prickly plants in 2020 as part of the Prickly plants for wildlife and community project

 

The current project will build on previous CVL work along Back Creek which encouraged participation in various publicly funded programs. This has included Victorian Gorse Taskforce (VGT), and DELWP programs, which provided $3,700 towards weed control and planting during 2015-2016, and $1,500 in 2017 as part of a Good Neighbour Grant. Our group has continued to employ a contractor to spray gorse, and we have also purchased and planted native understorey species ourselves.

Kangaroos and other animals have been problematic, as well as a few years of drought, so we have tried various methods of guarding over the years. Prickly plants seemed like a very good idea for survival, helped by the taller guards provided by Connecting Country via the grant.

The prickly plants were a mix of locally indigenous species selected for their form and flowers to provide habitat resources

 

Planting out was difficult due to COVID-19 restrictions, but we managed to do it in a COVID-safe way, and are pleased a wetter spring this year did help. Due to the problems with group planting and COVID-19, some other roadside planting sites in our area were supplemented by the plants provided through this project. We are hopeful that they will have a better survival rate due to their bristly nature, the taller guards, double stakes and a wetter spring and Summer. Thank you to Albert and Barbara Tucker Foundation and Connecting Country!

Barbara James
Campaspe Valley Landcare

 

Bird of the month: Southern whiteface

Posted on 29 October, 2020 by Ivan

Welcome to our eighth 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 .

Southern Whiteface (Aphelocephala leucopsis)

I could gush on and on about Southern Whiteface. In my opinion they are one of the cutest tiny balls of fluff birds around. A tiny bird with its distinctive white face, which gives it the most loveable expression, I get very excited when I’m lucky enough to find them. Actually it was Damian Kelly who found them at Muckleford Station recently, and his totally gorgeous photos became the impetus this month’s focus bird. OK that’s enough carry on, let’s look at who they really are.

I couldn’t say they are uncommon, but they are not common in Central Victoria either. I’ve found Southern Whiteface in paddocks with bush nearby, providing them with plenty of foraging opportunities, turning over leaf litter looking for insects and the occasional seed. You may also see them in low shrubs, as was the case when Damian took these gorgeous photos, and on fence posts. They move around in parties of up to about eight birds, sometimes in a mixed flock with other insectivores.

As is often the case with birds, not a lot is known about their breeding, movements or general behaviour. However, they are most likely resident in Central Victoria as they can be found all year round. We are on the southern end of their range, which is generally drier areas of Victoria, NSW, and parts of SA and WA.

Quite an adaptable bird, they will utilise manmade structures such as the verandah of an old house, and renovate Zebra Finch and Welcome Swallow nests, as well as Kingfisher tunnels. Nests come in various shapes and sizes, usually domed with a side entrance, and bulky with twigs, grasses, wool and even bits of tufty rubbish.

Endemic to Australia, the Southern Whiteface is a small passerine found in arid regions across the southern half of the Australian mainland (photo Damian Kelly)

 

Despite their diminutive size Southern Whitefaces are pretty easy to approach, but not always easy to see as their plumage is short on colour. Mostly you see their grey-brown back and dark tail, but with a closer look you’ll see their pale belly and pretty, almost heart-shaped, white face with a dark stubby bill and white eye ring. They can be mistaken for Thornbills and Weebills, because they are Similar in size and colour, though stouter. At only 12.5 grams, they are tiny.

They are also known as ‘squeakers’ – how crazy cute is that? If you listen to them calling, you’ll see why.

Listen to their call – click here

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Greater and Squirrel Glider Symposium: 27-28 October 2020

Posted on 21 October, 2020 by Ivan

Our colleagues at Biolinks Alliance have put together a very impressive lineup for their Greater and Squirrel Glider Symposium, happening online this year. The event’s full title is’Greater and Squirrel Glider Symposium Leaping into Action: Sharing practical and scientific knowledge for Glider conservation’. This two-week online forum will focus on sharing information and improving collaborative and strategic approaches to conservation of Greater Gliders and Squirrel Gliders.

Connecting Country is a member of the Biolinks Alliance, a group that aims to build partnerships and capacity so that the significant momentum for community-driven conservation on public and private land in central Victoria is supported, coordinated and amplified.

Our very own Monitoring Coordinator, Jess Lawton will feature in the lineup of experts for the workshop titled ‘Squirrel Glider citizen science, community engagement and data quality workshop‘. Jess is fast becoming an expert in the practical application of citizen science and ecological monitoring programs.

Please read on for more information on this action-packed symposium, including booking details.

About this event

The threat of species extinction requires the sharing and application of the best knowledge and conservation strategy. Flagship species like the Greater Glider and Squirrel Glider are already fomenting collaboration and increased action. The recent fires raised the urgency of the challenge as well as many questions on what the best course of action is in a rapidly changing climate and more frequent catastrophic events.

Biolinks Alliance, with Wombat Forestcare, Strathbogie Ranges CMN and the Great Eastern Ranges, is holding an online digital symposium that will bring together researchers and conservation practitioners working in Victoria and New South Wales. This two-week online forum will focus on sharing information and improving collaborative and strategic approaches to conservation of Greater Gliders and Squirrel Gliders.

A series of digital video assets will be available at the commencement of the symposium, followed by several days of live panel discussions, keynotes, Q&A’s and workshops. The program will cover:

  • State of play – impact of drought and recent fires
  • New research – approaches and findings
  • Lessons from the ground – survey, monitoring, habitat protection, restoration and enhancement; community action
  • Planning for collaboration and increased strategic action

Symposium location: online via the Zoom platform – click here to book

Keynote presentations by leading research scientists:

  • Predicting habitat suitability for greater glider (Petauroides volans) using remote sensing: implications for conservation planning‘ keynote presented by PhD. candidate Benjamin Wagner
  • Conservation Planning in Dynamic Environments‘ keynote presented by Associate Professor Craig Nitschke
  • Examining changes in Greater Gliders population from several large-scale, long-term studies includes empirical analyses that quantify the impacts of various drivers of change‘ keynote presented by Professor David Lindenmayer
  • Temporal changes in populations of arboreal marsupials, including gliders in the Grassy Box-gum woodlands of southern Australia over the past 22+ years based on a series of long-term observational studies and experiments‘ keynote presented by Professor David Lindenmayer
  • Overlooked driver of decline–the influence of temperature on food intake in arboreal folivores‘ keynote presented by Dr Kara Youngentob
  • Maximising learning opportunities while replacing tree hollows for wildlife‘ keynote originally presented by Dr Rodney Van Der Ree as part of the 2019 TreeNet conference
  • Connecting habitat across roads‘ keynote originally presented by Dr Rodney Van Der Ree as part of the 2019 TreeNet conference
  • Squirrel Gliders: Nest box use and population monitoring‘ keynote presented by Associate Professor Ross Goldingay

Greater Glider ‘State of Play’ live panel discussion – Tuesday 27 October 2020

  • Gregg Borschmann (Facilitator)
  • Professor David Lindenmayer Australian National University
  • Ed Hill GECO
  • Dr Teresa Eyre Queensland Herbarium
  • Dr Jenny Nelson Arthur Rylah Institute

Squirrel Glider ‘State of Play’ live panel discussion -Wednesday 28 October 2020

  • Gregg Borschmann (Facilitator)
  • Dr Mason Crane NSW Biodiversity Conservation Trust
  • Dr Rodney van Der Ree University of Melbourne & WSP Australia
  • Associate Professor Ross Goldingay Southern Cross University
  • Jerry Alexander DELWP

Bookings: online via the Zoom platform – click here to book

 

 

What I learned with beginner birdwatchers

Posted on 21 October, 2020 by Jess

We received this lovely report from Lou Citroen, one of our eleven experienced volunteer bird watchers who led a small group walk at one of Connecting Country’s group bird survey sites for our ‘Birdwatching for Beginners’ event on 17 October 2020. The 46 available spots for this field session booked out incredibly fast – a reflection of the strong level of interest in local birds within our community. To view the theory session from this event, presented online by Damian Kelly – click here

Dear Jess,

I wanted to thank you and Frances for all the work you have put into what turned out to be a resoundingly successful Birdwatching for Beginners day!  You must also have contacts in High places as the weather turned out to be just perfect after a rainy start of the day!!

I thoroughly enjoyed the webinar.  The Webinar is such boon and useful communication tool especially in these COVID times!

I found Damian’s presentation really informative, and useful.  It reinforces for me that it doesn’t matter how many years you do birdwatching, there is always something to learn from others; a lifelong learning process that is so enjoyable.  I loved Damian’s relaxed and chatty style.  The participants in my group also enjoyed it greatly. As concerns my particular group, we had a really fun and leisurely hour and a half on site with Carmen, Kate and Julia.

They were a lovely chatty group! Thankfully they all found the directions to the spot helpful (phew).  It was fabulous to have Frances there, not just as first aider, but as great company and to help fill in some of the details about this site.

After introductions and the short safety talk, the group were delighted with the bird identification brochures Frances handed out.  The brochures were indeed helpful in identifying a few of the birds we saw … or were looking for!

Group members learned an important bird watching skill: how to use binoculars (photo by Frances Howe)

 

With her keen eye, Carmen spotted a Galah nesting hollow (and another disused one), Julia eventually spotted one (of three!) Olive-backed Oriole, I showed them the White-winged Chough nest that Liz and I had spotted on the ‘reconnaissance mission’ … plus a few Choughs.  A loud Rufous Whistler remained elusive.  A beautiful raptor flew overhead but sadly remained unidentified (I still have trouble with identification of a number of raptors).  There were quite a few Crimson Rosellas and Red Wattlebirds about and we heard one or two Yellow Thornbills, but spotting a male and female Superb Fairy-wren at close range was a treat for all.

Here are some of the bird species Lou’s group detected on their walk (photos by Geoff Park):

As my hearing is still pretty good, I explained to the group that, a little differently from Damian’s approach, in addition to visual cues I place a fair amount of importance on learning to recognise bird calls.  I was able to show them that, while calls are unique to each bird (apart from the mimics that Damian pointed out) many have a little repertoire of calls to be aware of.  The Crimson Rosella showed off with three.

At the end of the walk, all three were thrilled when Frances gave them all a copy of Damian’s book (click here).  It was clearly a lovely surprise for them and a nice way to end our little excursion.

As I said to Frances afterwards, I think this was great success; an eye-opener (no pun intended) that there is such an interest in birds in our community. The three in our group were great to meet and clearly enjoyed the time.  I had a ball!  By about 3 pm we were all done and on our way home.

Thank you for the mountain of planning and coordinating behind the scenes to make it such a success!

Warmest wishes,

Lou

It was our pleasure Lou! We’re so glad your group had such a wonderful time. Receiving messages like this really warms our hearts and makes all that behind-the-scenes admin work worthwhile. We hope this is the beginning of an exciting bird watching journey for Carman, Kate and Julia, and all our participants.

This event was supported by the Australian Government’s Communities for the Environment Program. 

 

‘Birdwatching for beginners’ engages the next generation of birders

Posted on 21 October, 2020 by Ivan

Our popular ‘Birdwatching for beginners’ event last weekend (Saturday 17 October 2020) had 282 people register for the theory session in the morning and we quickly ‘sold out’ of free tickets for the practical afternoon session. The event proved once again that community interest in birds and bird watching is gathering momentum, creating a new generation of bird watchers. The event aimed to attract new bird watchers and bird survey volunteers, and get people out enjoying and exploring the natural assets we are blessed with in Central Victoria. We’re thrilled to have such a positive response and see the enthusiasm of the participants, who were mostly from the Mount Alexander region and surrounding areas.

Local author and bird enthusiast Damian Kelly presented an overview and introduction to bird watching in the morning session, covering a range of topics and tips to get people skilled-up for bird watching. Damian is the author of the terrific ‘Castlemaine Bird Walks’ book. Damian wooed the audience with some outstanding bird photos, mostly from his own garden in central Castlemaine. He provided practical suggestions on how to get to know birds and where to start looking for birds in our region. He also responded to participants’ questions, answering important questions about binoculars, birding groups and bird calls, before heading off to mentor a practical session near Castlemaine. It was a busy day for our community birding champion!

The afternoon practical session involved a team of 4-5 beginners teaming up with an experienced local birdwatcher to go bird watching at some of Connecting Country’s bird survey sites on public land across our region. We ‘sold’ all 45 allocated tickets for this event with a long waiting list. People were keen to take this excellent opportunity to visit some great bird watching sites, with an experienced mentor to guide attendees through the afternoon. Small groups meant participants had plenty of opportunities to ask questions and learn directly from mentors, while minimising COVID-19 risks.

Feedback from both the morning and afternoon sessions was positive and appreciative, with many participants emailing directly after the event with thanks and requesting recordings of the event. The afternoon practical session was invaluable for the lucky attendees, who got to experience mentoring and an expert guide to the local birds of our survey sites on public land. There were many highlights from the afternoon, including seeing Dusky Woodswallows, Brown Falcons, Olive-backed Orioles, Superb Fairy-wrens, White-plumed Honeyeaters and Welcome Swallows. Several nests were spotted, including the amazing clay nests of the White-winged Chough.

Please enjoy the following photos captured by Ivan Carter, Frances Howe and Asha Bannon during the practical sessions, with birds and new birders sharing together.

This event is part of our ‘Community for bush birds’ project supported by the Australian Government under the Communities Environment Program.

A recorded copy of Damian’s presentation is available for download – click here

If you would like to learn more about birds, or have an interest in raptors and/or thornbills, you might like to download the presentations below, from our ‘Tricky Birds of Central Victoria’ event. They are an excellent resource for a little more detail on these bird groups.

  • Geoff Park raptor presentation – click here
  • Chris Tzaros thornbill presentation – click here

If you enjoyed this event, please consider contributing to Connecting Country’s work. We run entirely from grants and donations, with all donations over $2 being tax deductible.

 

 

 

Listening to nature with Andrew Skeoch – 22 October 2020

Posted on 15 October, 2020 by Frances

Local Connecting Country supporter and TEDx talker, Andrew Skeoch, is presenting an online event with the Castlemaine Library on 22 October 2020. Andrew presented at Connecting Country’s AGM 2019, and gave a fascinating and intriguing insight into his deep ecological connection to the landscape and what it means to be part of it. Please read on for details about the event, which is sure to be well attended and worthwhile.

Andrew Skeoch is an educator, naturalist, environmental thinker, and one of Australia’s best-known nature sound recordists (Photo: Andrew Skeoch)

 

Listening to Nature

Join Andrew Skeoch, educator, naturalist, environmental thinker and one of Australia’s best-known nature sound recordists for a wonderful journey of discovery into the rich acoustic communications of nature. Across an inspiring hour, Andrew profiles listening skills and understandings to make sense of what we hear around us and how to comprehend the languages of the natural world. A reaffirming and timely insight into how nature thrives and adapts ensuring continuity of life.

Enjoyable for all ages.

Join live, or catch up later on YouTube

Thursday 22 October 2020 at 7-8 pm

To book – click here

For further information please contact Castlemaine Library – click here

 

The importance of fungi with Alison Pouliot

Posted on 15 October, 2020 by Ivan

Longtime Connecting Country friend and collaborator, Alison Pouliot, recently developed an excellent video highlighting the role fungi plays in our ecosystems of central Victoria. Alison has previously delivered workshops for Connecting Country and also has donated an amazing photo library for our website and communication products. She is one of the leading experts in her field of both photography and fungi, and combines the two with precision, passion and wonder.

Alison in the field, enjoying what she loves (photo: FOBIF)

Alison is a natural historian and environmental photographer who uses words and images to evoke stories of the living world, as well as the non-living. She is especially interested in forgotten corners and lifeforms -the stuff that slips between the cracks – and aims to convey the extraordinariness of life, both peculiar and familiar. She is rather partial to the fungal and the spineless, as highlighted in the following video.

Alison’s website is an amazing collection of photos, videos and insight – click here

Alison says:

Fungi are fundamentally important organisms. They’re not just some kind of bizarre accessories in the landscape, but rather fungi underpin, pretty much every terrestrial ecosystem, on the planet. Please enjoy the exploration into the Kingdom off Fungi video below, which was mostly filmed around the Daylesford region (Central Victoria) over the past 12 months.

 

 

A self-guided bird-watching walk with North Harcourt & Sedgwick Landcare

Posted on 15 October, 2020 by Asha

Take yourself on a self-guided bird-watching walk, organised by North Harcourt & Sedgwick Landcare with support from Connecting Country.

North Harcourt & Sedgwick Landcare have created this walk as the perfect excuse (if you need one) to go out and learn about what birds live where and why. This event is a self-guided tour in the North Harcourt Sedgwick area of Central Victoria. Just look for the posters and follow along!

The posters will have information about the habitat at different points along the walk and which birds you might see there. It is designed for everyone, from kids to avid bird-watchers. Any time is a good time for bird-watching, but the best times are early in the morning or late in the afternoon.

The walk begins at the intersection of Mandurang S Road, Springs Road, and Bryden Road in Sedgwick and follows the Coliban channel (see map on the right for details). You will need to bring some binoculars, and a device with a bird ID app is a massive advantage. Don’t forget good walking shoes, first aid kit, and some water and snacks. Allow around 20 minutes at each one of the four stations. The entire walk is around 3 km return (allow around 2 hours). The trail has some steep sections so please go at a safe pace. Please stay on the track at all times and, with the weather warming up, be aware of snakes.

When: This event will run from 19 October to approximately 8 November 2020.

To download the poster: click here

For more information about the walk please email NHSELandcare@gmail.com

For more information about North Harcourt & Sedgwick Landcare: click here

 

Last chance for ‘Birdwatching for beginners’ – 17 October 2020

Posted on 15 October, 2020 by Ivan

We would like to remind our members and bird-loving community that limited tickets are available for this weekend’s ‘Birdwatching for Beginners’ event. The event aims to attract new birdwatchers and bird survey volunteers, and get people out enjoying and exploring the natural assets we are blessed with in central Victoria. We’re thrilled at the enthusiastic response so far! 

The practical field session quickly sold out, but you’re still welcome to register for the theory session.

Connecting Country is excited to have local author and bird enthusiast Damian Kelly present an overview and introduction to bird watching. Damian is the author of the terrific book Castlemaine Bird Walks.  We’ve had a sneak preview of Damian’s presentation and it looks fantastic! It includes input and beautiful drawings from local artist and bird guru, Jane Rusden.

The beginner’s event will take part over two sessions: an online presentation with Damian Kelly from 11 am to 12 pm, followed by a practical session* in person in the afternoon, from 1.30 pm to 4 pm. The practical session will involve a team of 4-5 beginners teaming up with an experienced local birdwatcher to conduct some field bird surveys on public land across our region. This is an excellent opportunity to visit some great bird watching sites, with an experienced mentor to guide you through the afternoon. Participants will have a chance to ask questions and learn directly from mentors.

When: Saturday 17 October 2020

Theory session with Damian Kelly: 11:00 am to 12.00 pm 

  • 500 tickets available
  • Online event
  • All welcome
  • Targeted to adults but suitable for all ages and abilities
  • To book – click here, a link to the theory session event will be emailed to registered participants prior to the event

*Practical session with mentor: 1.30 pm to 4.00 pm *(SOLD OUT)

  • Sold out – 40 tickets
  • Field event
  • Targeted to participants 15 years and older who are keen to learn bird watching in a small group setting
  • Requires a basic level of fitness and involves walking over uneven ground
  • Copies of Connecting Country woodland birds brochure and ‘Castlemaine Bird Walks’ book available for attendees

Cost: both sessions are free of charge

This event is part of our ‘Community for bush birds’ project supported by the Australian Government under the Communities Environment Program.

A link to the online event will be emailed to registered participants prior to the event, along with details and locations for the practical session.

 

It’s raining cats… and frogs

Posted on 8 October, 2020 by Ivan

Rain is one of the most talked-about topics in central Victoria, usually due to the fact we don’t get enough of it most seasons, or the seemingly endless droughts over the past decades. However, the tides have recently turned, with the Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) officially declaring a La Nina weather pattern for spring and summer 2020 for eastern and southern Australia. The rainfall in central Victoria so far this spring has been reflective of a La Nina, with tropical airflow from northern Australia bringing large bands of rain to our region. If you haven’t already heard the chorus of frogs calls in every gully, garden, creek and dam, you soon will.

Frogs can be difficult to see, but much easier to hear, especially in the evening, which leaves people to wonder: what frog is that? Connecting Country encourages our community to use the FrogID App for assisting with the identification of tricky frog calls of our region. FrogID is Australia’s first national citizen science frog identification initiative – a project led by the Australian Museum in partnership with Australia’s leading natural history museums and IBM. Anyone can download this free app to their smart phone or device. You can use it to create a profile, record frog calls and match your calls to the frog calls on the app, then upload your records to the Australian Museum frog experts for species verification.

One reasons to use the FrogID app is to ensure that all frog records are verified prior to entering records into the Atlas of Living Australia (ALA), the largest database of flora and fauna records in Australia. Records entered directly in the ALA are not verified, and it was recently discovered that there were some incorrect records of frog species entered in the Mount Alexander region. Another reason to use the FrogID app is – it’s fun!

To download the FrogID app – click here

There is so much to learn about frogs and how we can help them continue to play their important roles in our ecosystems. We recently discovered an excellent article about frogs and where to see them by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC). It includes some great facts from the leading experts in this field. Please enjoy the article reproduced below, which originally appeared on the ABC website. To view the original article – click here

Australian Museum urges frog spotting and citizen science to save species

By Amanda Hoh
Posted 16 August 2020

Frogs are all around us. You might not see them, but you can definitely hear them. There are more than 240 known species of frogs in Australia but populations are declining from disease, habitat change, pollution, climate change, and bushfires.

This can change irreversibly if frogs disappear from the ecosystem, explains Jodi Rowley, curator of Amphibian and Reptile Conservation Biology with the Australian Museum. ‘Frogs are really important to the food chain,’ Dr Rowley says. ‘They eat a lot of insects and are eaten by a lot of things. “They are definitely to be admired.’

Where are the frogs?

Peron's Tree Frog peeps out of a plant
Peron’s tree frogs are commonly seen in houses and in letterboxes in Central Victoria (Photo supplied by Dr Jodi Rowley)

You may not have to venture too far from home to find a frog or two. They like backyards — especially ones with a small pond in them. Dr Rowley says, although she lives in an apartment, she occasionally hears the croaks of a single frog close by. Water bodies are the easiest places to hear frogs and so patches of bushland on council land or in national parks where there is a creek, stream, or pond are the best places to go. After heavy rain, frogs might even like to rest in the grass puddles of a park.

When can you see them?

Frogs tend to be nocturnal so the first few hours after dark is when they are easiest to hear. They also tend to come out after rain.

What are you listening out for?

The calls you hear are male frogs that tend to hang out in those wet areas and call to attract females. Different species have different calls. The common eastern froglett, for example, lives in ditches by the side of the road or flooded parklands and sound like a cricket.

Striped marsh frogs sound a ‘bok bok’ call like a tennis ball being hit, while the Peron’s tree frog sounds like people laughing.

How to see a frog?

A Red-crowned Toadlet among leaves
The red-crowned toadlet was recently the 200,000th frog to be identified in FrogID (photo supplied by Dr Jodi Rowley)

Frogs are generally harder to see than to hear. Take a torch but once you choose a spot, turn it off ‘because frogs can be shy’ Dr Rowley says. Wait and listen.

‘Look for their eye shine,’ she said. ‘Without disturbing them, look around with a torch and you might see the eyes staring back at you. But you don’t want to blind them.’ Dr Rowley stresses that you should not touch the frogs as they have sensitive skin. To contribute to Dr Rowley’s FrogID project, open the app and record up to 30 seconds of croaking and submit it.

Bring the frogs to you

Dr Jodi Rowley with a frog hotel made from PVC pipes
Pipes offer frogs a good place to hide (photo supplied by Dr Jodi Rowley)

To create an ideal breeding oasis for frogs, set up a kids’ pool, big bowls, or bathtubs in the backyard, Dr Rowley says. Ensure safety precautions are taken if you have children. If you don’t want the frogs keeping you up at night though, Dr Rowley suggests building a frog hotel with PVC pipes in the ground to create some frog hiding spots.

Any last tips?

  • Be careful and don’t fall in the water!
  • Remember to wash your shoes after looking for frogs. There is a disease that affects frogs and you don’t want to carry it from one place to another. The disease does not affect humans.

 

Thanks to the ABC for this informative and timely article.

 

Bird of the month: Spotted and Striated Pardalotes

Posted on 8 October, 2020 by Ivan

Welcome to our seventh 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 .

Spotted and Striated Pardalotes

Personally, I find Pardalotes one of our most endearing birds, and at times quite curious little characters. I remember my first sighting of a Spotted Pardalote well: a flurry of stunning white spots on black as the tiny bird burst from it’s nesting hollow in an embankment, and flew off in front of me. Other times, while sitting quietly in the bush, I have seen them at very close quarters.

On one occasion a Striated Pardalote sat on a branch close to my head, whilst inspecting me and the drawing I was working on. I hope it approved of my efforts, as it took it time appraising the situation from a couple of angles.

Damian Kelly found some interesting facts in his literature search on Pardalotes.

Among some of Australia’s smallest birds, Pardalotes are widespread from northern Queensland all the way to Western Australia, but avoid the very dry inland and very hot tropics. Although there are four species in Australia, around Castlemaine (Central Victoria) you will only see Spotted and Striated Pardalotes.

Best described as a common species, you will often hear them, but sometimes it is hard to see them as they favour foliage high in the tree canopy. Big flocks can occur at times and it is not uncommon to see mixed feeding flocks with Spotted and Striated Pardalotes, Silver Eyes, and on occasion, Thornbill species. Food includes arthropods, larvae, lerp, spiders and manna from gums. Perhaps one of the easiest times to observe Spotted and Striated Pardalotes is when they are feeding on the lerps and their sugary secretions, on lower hanging leaves.

Striated Pardalote – note the bit of yellow and a white stripe above the eye, but there are no spots on the back or wings and the rump isn’t red like the Spotted Pardalote (photo by Damian Kelly)

 

They are generally considered as mostly sedentary, but they do disperse after breeding and move down altitude to lower regions in cooler seasons. Banding studies show that more than 90% of bird recoveries are less than 10 km form the original banding site, suggesting they don’t move far. However, some outliers have shown movements of 200 km or more at times.

Nests are generally lower down and in a tunnel. It is not uncommon to see them popping out of their nests right at ground level, as I did the first time I saw a Spotted Pardalote. Suitable sites can include eroded river banks, mounds of earth, tree hollows and even beneath railway platforms, as well as in holes and crevices in buildings. Breeding effort is split between both birds in a pair. The female will lay up to four eggs in a nest built and lined with bark by both the male and female. Both parents incubate and feed the young.

Spotted Pardalote – one of the smallest of all Australian birds (8 to 10 cm long) and so colorful they are sometimes known as diamond birds (photo by Damian Kelly)

 

To listen to the Striated Pardalotes call – click here

To listen to the Spotted Pardalotes call – click here

By Jane Rusden with assistance from Damian Kelly

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Connecting Country office update – October 2020

Posted on 8 October, 2020 by Jacqui

Since we haven’t been able to catch up in person for a while we thought it is a good time to provide an office update. We’re pleased to be able to say we’re still hard at work, and feel lucky to work with and be supported by such a great community of dedicated folk.

Since COVID-19 restrictions started, our staff and volunteers have been working mostly from home, and will continue to do so until we can safely return to the office.

One measure we’ve taken to save on expenses during this time is to downsize our office space in the Hub building. We’ve reduced our three office rooms down to two, so this means we have more office furniture than we need. So if you are interested in a desk, upright fridge or other furniture, please get in touch jacqui@connectingcountry.org.au.

Funds from the sale of furniture will go to directly support our work to provide quality events and actions to restore landscape health in the Mount Alexander region of central Victoria. 

Since meetings like this with office dog Miska haven’t been possible during COVID-19….

we have two desks like this available and other furniture items, excess to needs

 

Woodland musing

Posted on 8 October, 2020 by Frances

We know many of our readers are already avid followers of Geoff Park’s wonderful Natural Newstead blog. However, we wanted to promote a couple of recent posts that were particularly relevant to Connecting Country, and our local landholders and Landcarers who work so hard to restore landscapes across the Mount Alexander region of Central Victoria.

Please visit Geoff’s blog to enjoy:

  • Woodland musing explores Geoff’s insightful observations about landscape change in the Newstead district and more generally across the box-ironbark country – click here
  • What’s flowering this week? where Geoff turns his camera to some of the extraordinary array of plants on display in our local bush this spring – click here

 

It’s a great season for Murnong flowers (photo by Geoff Park)

 

AGM 2020 a roaring success: download available

Posted on 1 October, 2020 by Ivan

On Saturday 26 September 2020, a large crowd of people gathered on their computers, tablets and phones, to enjoy Connecting Country’s first ever online Annual General Meeting (AGM) and hear from two excellent guest speakers: Jess Lawton and Jacinta Humphrey. We sold a total of 98 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 went very smoothly, given the steep learning curve and technology required to run an AGM online.

We also celebrated the hard work and achievements of Connecting Country through a presentation by our Director, Frances Howe, as well as updating the audience on our current funding situation. We would like to warmly thank our presenters and all the committee members, staff and volunteers who assisted with the event, which has generated extremely positive feedback.

The two biggest stars of the show were the amazing young scientists, and PhD candidates, Jess and Jacinta, who both gave enthralling presentations on ecological monitoring. Jess presented on the topic of Connecting Country’s ten years of ecological monitoring, which included birds surveys, nest box monitoring, and of course, phascogales! Jacinta covered her research into the impact of urbanisation on birds, which showed some surprising findings about how some birds adapt to life in the suburbs, and ideas about what might help urban birds and humans coexist. Jacinta also entertained the audience with an impressive Lego video. To view Jacinta’s engaging video summarising her project – click here

Our AGM was short and sweet, and all of our dedicated committee of management members were re-elected for another year. The hard-working Connecting Country committee must be thanked for their considerable strategic and practical contributions to our organisation. It is very impressive that the committee have all committed for another year, providing stability in these uncertain times.

Elected members of Connecting Country’s 2020-21 committee of management are:

  • President:                   Brendan Sydes
  • Vice President:          Saide Gray
  • Treasurer:                   Max Kay
  • Secretary:                    Marie Jones
  • Ordinary member:    Karoline Klein
  • Ordinary member:    Malcolm Trainor
  • Ordinary member:    Christine Brooke
  • Ordinary member:    Deborah Wardle

 

AGM minutes will be circulated to members and available on request. If you would like a copy of Connecting Country’s annual report for 2019-20 – click here.

If you missed the presentations and AGM, see the video of the event below, featuring each of the presentations and the formal proceedings. Please click play below and enjoy. Note the audio starts at 16 seconds.

  • Click here to download the 2020 financial audit report

If you have any questions, please email info@connectingcountry.org.au or call (03) 5472 1594.

 

Prickly plants for wildlife and community in Sutton Grange

Posted on 1 October, 2020 by Jacqui

‘Prickly Plants for Wildlife and Community’ is a project delivered by Connecting Country during 2020 in partnership with local Landcare groups, with funding from the Albert and Barbara Tucker Foundation.

The project has supported Landcare groups with specialist botanical advice, local planting lists and with planting hundreds of local-to-the-area (indigenous) understorey plants. These plants will help provide valuable food, nesting sites, and shelter for local woodland birds in the Mount Alexander region of central Victoria. Sutton Grange Landcare is one of four groups Connecting Country worked with on this project. We hope you enjoy this article about their work.

Albert Cox Wildlife Sanctuary

Sutton Grange Landcare Group has cared for the Albert Cox Wildlife Memorial Sanctuary since 1991, including working hard to control weeds and plant local native species. Their vision is to improve habitat for birds and other wildlife and they wanted to plant more indigenous shrubby plants to create more areas for birds to nest and to provide refuge and habitat.

Albert Cox Wildlife Sanctuary in Sutton Grange VIC, with large mature River Red Gums (Eucalyptus camaldulensis). Photo: Naomi Hewitt-Ware.

The sanctuary was set up for just this purpose by local school teacher and amateur naturalist Albert Cox who taught at the local school for almost half a century until 1961. He encouraged students to make a note of birds, plants and other wildlife they observed. These observations were then shared and written into the observations book he curated. Cox’s diary entry demonstrates his love of the natural world and relationship to local wildlife (from Birdlore article by BJ Coman):

 ‘…On the morning of the 26th September 1951 the thrush that had been for such a long period a friend of all at the Sutton Grange School was found dead beside the residence garden. This bird was well over thirty years old and had nested around the school residence all these years, many seasons being spent in an old billy hanging under the veranda. The bird had died of old age, being found lying with an insect still in its beak. It died in the middle of the nesting season leaving a mate to hatch out and rear a family.

Sutton Grange Landcare Group has continued Cox’s example of observation and care through working bees and hundreds of volunteer hours spent controlling weeds, planting and maintaining the plantings at the sanctuary. They often see wildlife in the reserve including echidnas, wallabies, possums and a wide variety of birds.

Naomi Hewitt-Ware and son Murray from Sutton Grange Landcare Group planted 100 plants in the sanctuary during winter 2020 as part of ‘Prickly Plants for Wildlife and Community’. The plants were locally-grown indigenous species including Lightwood (Acacia implexa), Hedge Wattle (Acacia paradoxa), Drooping Sheoak (Allocasuarina verticillata), Hop Bush (Dodonaea viscosa), Late-flowered Flax-lily (Dianella tarda), Bushy Needlewood (Hakea decurrens) and Tree Violet (Melicytus dentata). In the creek, they planted Silver Wattle (Acacia dealbata), Common Tussock-grass (Poa labillardierei) and Basket Sedge (Carex tereticaulis).

Murray at work installing guards around the plants to protect them from wallabies. Photo: Naomi Hewitt-Ware.

These will complement previous plantings by the group including Silver Banksia (Banksia marginata), a species which has become rare across our region. Group members are very happy with the guards provided for the project, which make it harder for wallabies to damage the plants. They will continue to replace guards, water, and weed around plants as necessary to give them the best chance to establish and grow. Fortunately, this year has been excellent year for planting, with ongoing rainfall.

A healthy-looking Silver Banksia (Banksia marginata). This species is now rare across our region. Photo: Naomi Hewitt-Ware.

There is a creek flowing through the reserve which has an established canopy of introduced Pine trees (Pinus sp.) and impressive old River-red Gums (Eucalyptus camaldulensis) with hollows. It is a place of refuge, made possible by the careful work of the group removing weeds such as Gorse (Ulex europaeus) and Broom (Genista monspessulana) over the years.         

A creek flows through the sanctuary and has benefited from many years of weed control by Sutton Grange Landcare Group. Photo: Jacqui Slingo.

Landcare members are very appreciative of the support from the Albert and Barbara Tucker Foundation and Connecting Country, and are especially glad at being able to plant in such a good planting year.

To find out more about Sutton Grange Landcare Group or to get involved contact Christine Brooke (Secretary) by emailing .

 

 

 

FOBIF walks are back – 18 October 2020

Posted on 1 October, 2020 by Ivan

Our friends and partners at Friends of the Box-Ironbark Forests (FOBIF) have announced their popular monthly nature walks across the Mount Alexander region of Central Victoria will recommence on Sunday 18  October 2020. They have adapted the first walk to comply with the latest COVID-19 restrictions, with multiple smaller groups rather than one large walk. FOBIF’s walks have a reputation for providing interesting insights into our local natural environment and biodiversity hotspots, led by local experts and passionate volunteers.

Here are more details from FOBIF, including a link to their website.

FOBIF are planning a walk on Sunday 18 October 2020 in the Chewton Bushlands, led by Antoinette Birkenbeil and Karen Baker.

The number of walkers on the day will be limited to 20 in two groups of 10. People will have to wear masks and observe social distancing rules.

The 5-6 km walk will start at the Coliban Water Reserve in Kennedy’s Lane where the old Harcourt Channel runs through remnant wetland. Many wildflower species thrive here in open bird-rich forest among old river red-gums. A climb then takes walkers into the tracks of the Bushlands with spectacular views and hopefully more spring wildflowers.

Check out FOBIF’s walks page for more details about the walk – https://www.fobif.org.au/walks/

Contact FOBIF by email (info@fobif.org.au) or by phone (Bronwyn Silver: 0448 751 111) by 16 October 2020 if you would like to register for the walk.

Also check the FOBIF website closer to the date in case the lockdown regulations change.