Posted on 2 April, 2020 by Ivan
The Eltham Copper Butterfly (ECB) is one of our most treasured and interesting threatened species, and we are fortunate enough to have the largest population in the world right here in the Mount Alexander region of central Victoria. In the past 12 months, the special little butterfly has attracted much-needed attention, attracting funding for three separate projects in our region.
Connecting Country obtained funding from the Mount Alexander Shire Council to increase community awareness and education regarding the butterfly, and to support citizen science monitoring in key locations to learn more about the local populations. We worked closely with local ecologists Elaine Bayes and Karl Just, who with support from Wettenhall Environment Trust continued their vital work on mapping local Eltham Copper Butterfly habitat and distribution. We also joined in the excellent Butterfly Celebration Day held in Castlemaine Botanical Gardens in November 2019. Our hope is that all Castlemaine residents now know about this amazing threatened species living on their doorstep!
Connecting Country delivered a popular community education workshop, and worked with ecologists Elaine and Karl to promote and coordinate four community monitoring sessions for Eltham Copper Butterfly around Castlemaine VIC over November 2019 to January 2020, when the adult butterflies were out and about (for details – click here). These events attracted excellent numbers of people keen to learn more about the life cycle of this butterfly and to participate in butterfly monitoring within local butterfly habitat. The aim was to support interested community members to learn how to monitor with expert guidance, providing skills for them to become citizen scientists, conduct more monitoring and (potentially) discover new populations.
Well, the results are in, the numbers crunched and the maps produced! We now have some great insight our local Eltham Copper Butterfly populations, including previously unexplored areas of potential butterfly habitat. In total 113 individual Eltham Copper Butterflies were observed in the prime flying period between 15 November 2019 and the 3 January 2020.
Our monitoring experts, Elaine Bayes and Karl Just, provided the following summary of the results, accompanied by a very detailed and useful map of the areas they visited:
- The monitoring team searched, ranked and mapped all of Kalimna Park (170 hectares) for butterfly habitat in November 2019. Time spent to carry out rapid assessment was 48 hours.
- This work determined that out of 170 ha of Kalimna Park, 73.25 ha was classified as prime potential Eltham Copper Butterfly habitat (i.e., medium or high quality Sweet Bursaria habitat).
- Using Eltham Copper Butterfly habitat mapping, the team searched areas that were determined to have good butterfly habitat potential. Using this method the group located five new Eltham Copper Butterfly sub-populations and extended the area of known Eltham Copper Butterfly occupancy from 3 ha to 8 ha.
- In total 113 individual Eltham Copper Butterflies were observed in the prime flying period between 15 November 2019 and the 3 January 2020 (some of which may have been double-counted from resurveying same area).
- The total survey effort or time spent searching for butterflies in this period was 187 hours.
More about wonderful Eltham Copper Butterfly
Castlemaine’s Kalimna Park is home to the largest remaining population of the threatened Eltham Copper Butterfly in the world. To learn more about this fascinating little butterfly, including ecology, distribution and information on how to identify this species from similar look-alike butterflies – click here. Please enjoy the video below, courtesy of the N-danger-D Youtube Channel, that has some excellent footage of this wonderful butterfly and symbiotic ant species.
We would like to thank the Mount Alexander Shire Council and Wettenhall Environment Trust for providing the funding for these projects. We hope to continue to monitor Eltham Copper Butterfly and implement management actions to help our local butterfly populations thrive over the next decade and beyond.
Posted on 23 January, 2020 by Asha
Nest boxes for phascogales
The Brush-tailed Phascogale is a carnivorous marsupial distinguished by its bushy tail. Once widespread through central Victoria, its range and numbers have severely declined due to habitat removal, degradation and introduced predators. It is listed as Threatened under Victorian legislation and considered vulnerable to localised extinction. Lack of old trees with nesting hollows is one factor that likely limits recovery of this species, which depends on hollows for shelter and breeding.
In 2010-11 Connecting Country installed 450 nest boxes designed for Brush-tailed Phascogales across the Mount Alexander region. We carefully located these nest boxes in a range of forest types, to allow for scientific analysis to understand phascogale distribution and habitat preferences. We have monitored our nest boxes every two years, but lack of funding makes further monitoring difficult. Ongoing monitoring is essential to determine if the Brush-tailed Phascogale is still declining, or management actions helping.
Our 2018 nest box monitoring
In 2018, we monitored Connecting Country’s nest boxes for the fifth time since they were installed in 2010-11. This monitoring season was notable, as it was the first time our monitoring program was not funded. However, we were able to monitor our ‘core’ group of 300 nest boxes, either by volunteering our own time, or incorporating nest box monitoring into our other professional roles. Beth Mellick (Wettenhall Environment Trust), Jess Lawton (La Trobe University) and Asha Bannon (Connecting Country) coordinated an amazing army of volunteers to complete our 2018 nest box checks.
Our nest box monitoring program simply would not continue without the help of our community. We are most grateful for your ongoing support. Connecting Country would like to say a special thanks to the Wettenhall Environment Trust and La Trobe University for making the 2018 nest box monitoring possible. Thanks also to our amazing nest box volunteer helpers in 2018: Jeremy, Lori, Naomi, Bev, Paul, Gayle, Carmen, Mal, Damian, Frances, Lachlan, and Meg. A special thank you to Karen, Alex, Corey, Lou and Cara for their assistance in collating, managing and sharing our nest box data. The nest box data was analysed as a part of Jess Lawton’s PhD project at La Trobe University, and thanks are due to Andrew Bennett, Greg Holland and Angie Haslam at La Trobe University for support and statistical advice for this analysis. We also acknowledge the support of Helen Macpherson Smith Trust in helping facilitate our move to citizen-science based monitoring.
The Wettenhall Environment Trust generously provided us with funding in 2019 to maintain and repair nest boxes and report on our 2018 nest box check. And of course, a big thank you also to the hundred or so landholders who continue to host the nest boxes and support our monitoring program.
Looking to the future, we are thrilled that Connecting Country has received funding from Bank Australia to conduct nest box monitoring in 2020. This funding will support field work, project management, data entry and volunteer training during the coming year. We look forward to continuing to work with our community to monitor nest boxes and look after our phascogales in 2020 and beyond.
Posted on 16 January, 2020 by Asha
Can you see the young Tree Goanna (Varunus varius, aka Lace Monitor) in the photo below?
Many thanks to Newton Hunt for sending through these observations from his property in Shelbourne, Victoria. Newton said the one pictured is about 0.6 m long, but two larger goannas of 1.2 m and 1.5 m also visit the property regularly.
An interesting fact from the Bush Heritage website about Tree Goannas is that they ‘will dig holes into the side of termite mounds to lay their eggs. This is clever as the termites then rebuild the nest around the eggs, keeping them safe and at a constant temperature. When the young hatch the mothers return to help dig them out.’
Newton also sent us these two photos of Wedge-tailed Eagle chicks he watched being reared in 2019:
Posted on 16 January, 2020 by Ivan
It was turtle time in Chewton last week, with local legends Marie Jones and John Ellis sending in some excellent photographs of a family of Long-Necked Turtles living in their dam. The dam has turned out to be important habitat for a family of turtles, with the larger creeks and rivers mostly dry in the long hot summers of central Victoria. The Eastern Long-necked Turtle is an east Australian species of snake-necked turtle that inhabits a wide variety of water bodies and is an opportunistic feeder. It is a side-necked turtle, meaning that it bends its head sideways into its shell rather than pulling directly back. Please enjoy the words below from Marie and John, who were kind enough to send in the observation and good news story. Feel free to send us your incidental observations of nature and wildlife – we’re always keen to share them with our friends and supporters.
‘We knew we had the odd interesting swimmer living in our dam – one had already been in the January Chewton Chat (last photo). But it was a social visit by staff from Connecting Country that really opened our eyes. They spotted long-necked turtles of varying sizes, maybe a family.
The dam is now a prime focus and counting the heads a daily routine. Seven heads up at the same time is the current record. A dam lot of interesting life out there…’
Posted on 2 December, 2019 by Asha
This blog post was kindly written by Jess Drake as a reflection on Andrew Skeoch’s talk at Connecting Country’s 2019 Annual General Meeting. Jess Drake is a local soil and land scientist. Thank you, Jess!
The day after Connecting Country’s event I did one of my usual forest loops in the Castlemaine Diggings National Heritage Park without my headphones on. Andrew Skeoch had reminded me of the value of listening to the forest. This time I tried to follow Andrew’s four perspectives of listening while out walking.
His first perspective was using sound to identify species. I remember around this time last year I could hear frogs in the man-made dams in the bush. One of them is completely dry this year, and there was a clear absence of any Pobblebonk or Common Eastern Froglet that I heard in abundance last year (click here for details).
The second perspective of listening was sentience – communication between animals. I have a soft spot for the boisterous calls of the teenage White-winged Choughs. I love seeing and hearing packs of choughs causing complete upturn of forest litter layer, squawking at the top of their lungs. They seem to be chattering about their mischief or discovered treasures. The only break from their boisterous chatting seems to be when they see me getting that bit to close and a loud alarm goes off as they fly up into the trees, whilst seemingly agitated by being caught-out mid-fun.
Ecosystem function was Andrew’s third perspective – using sound to understand the type of ecosystem you are in. One thing I noticed on my walk was instead of a rustle of leaves, I mostly heard the cracking and crunching of branches. As I looked up into the canopy on the ridge line, I noticed it was a bit thin. Many of the trees didn’t have leaves. Perhaps something is affecting the forest function?
The final perspective was evolution, where sound can reflect time. Andrew gave a few examples including about why cicadas sound has evolved to the cacophony we hear today.
Not being an ecologist, I thought about the sounds coming from the earth. As I accidentally kick a rock and it makes the thunking noise downhill, I imagine the sound of mass erosion during a thunderstorm, or the sluicing of mined materials during the gold rush. I imagine the loud explosions of volcanic eruptions that formed Lalgambook/Mount Franklin, as the country evolves over millions of years.
Andrew’s key message was really about listening both ways – us listening to the forest and the forest listening to us and revealing itself. He talked about using sound to learn about the conservation of our ecosystems. Sound in the forest is something that I personally had taken for granted (with my headphones on), but I certainly won’t again. I do like the chattering of the choughs after all!
Posted on 19 November, 2019 by Ivan
Getting out and about reminds us of just how many lovely wildflowers and things there are happening in the bush, even as the weather warms up! We are blessed to live in a region with large tracts of public land with woodland wonders aplenty, and now is a great time to get out and see some of the vivid and subtle colors our bushland has to offer. One of our Landscape Restoration Coordinators, Bonnie Humphreys, has kindly outlined some of the native species that may still be flowering and on show over the next few weeks, including a few surprises below!
- Bush Peas (Pultenaea sp.) and Parrot Peas (Dillwynia sp.) are flowering.
- Silver Wattle (Acacia dealbata) is laden with pods at the moment, hinting at a good year for seed production.
- Black Wattle (Acacia mearnsii) is in flower with lemony yellow blooms. Some can be seen from the Forest Creek bridge on Duke St, on the right hand side as you head towards Chewton.
- Chocolate Lilies (Arthropodium strictum) and Sticky Everlastings (Xerochrysum viscosum) are looking spectacular.
- Look out for beautiful white flowers from Sweet Bursaria (Bursaria spinosa) and White Marianth (Rhytidosporum procumbens).
- Creamy Candles (Stackhousia monogyna) are flowering. These have a lovely perfume which is most prevalent at night indicating a preference for night pollinator such as moths.
- Cats Claw Grevillea or Alpine Grevillea (Grevillea alpina), some plants are still flowering away. There are many different colour forms in this plant including green, yellow, red, and then mixes of combinations.
There are many great places for bushwalking on public land in our region, including Kalimna Park (just a short walk from Castlemaine town centre), Rise and Shine Bushland Reserve (Sandon), Monk Track in the Dry Diggings National Park (Chewton), Muckleford State Forest, and Guildford Bushland Reserve. View excellent ground-truthed maps of many of these areas by local cartographer Jase Haysom by clicking here. Local bird expert Damian Kelly’s book Castlemaine Bird Walks is another great resource for bird and wildlife outings in the bush.
Before the heat takes the color and vibrancy out of these treasures, be sure to explore some of the abundant nature hotspots in our region. Scroll down to see pictures below of some colourful characters from our local bush.
Posted on 31 July, 2019 by Asha
If you love birds and our natural heritage, hopefully you’ve already discovered the Natural Newstead blog. The blog is a wealth of knowledge and expert observations of flora, fauna and landscape in central Victoria. With nearly 2,000 subscribers, it contains some of the best nature photography you will see anywhere. It is run by Newstead resident and local ecological identity Geoff Park, with contributions from other knowledgeable locals. Geoff Park has worked in various roles with the North Central Catchment Management Authority and in the private sector, and is very passionate about biodiversity conservation and on-ground biodiversity outcomes.
If you’re not familiar the blog, check it out here: https://geoffpark.wordpress.com
We particularly enjoyed Geoff’s recent post about woodland birds enjoying the wetter conditions this winter. To read this post on the Natural Newstead website, click here, or continue reading below.
A proper soaking and then woodland birds
Posted on 1 July 2019 by Geoff Park
We’re in the depths of winter and celebrating wonderful rainfall over the weekend.
Hopefully we move slowly now into a ‘typical’ spring that enables some recovery of woodland bird populations across the region. I was pretty chuffed to see some familiar faces at Muckleford Gorge, especially a pair of Hooded Robins. Along with the Crested Shrike-tit and Jacky Winter we encountered numerous Flame Robins, a Golden Whistler, Restless Flycatchers and Brown Treecreepers.
Posted on 28 March, 2019 by Ivan
We received an exciting and amusing email this week from Saide and Gary, regarding a pie-eating guest she had visiting her home. Below is a copy of the email and some great photos. Thanks, Saide!
We found this tail …. And waited
Next there was a body attached to the tail
Is it a possum, very determined to get into that nook?
Then it fully appeared. The creature spent some time exploring the scientific data sheets then, finding a cosy nook, among the papers, tuan curled up and went to sleep, but only after eating a morsel of warmed meat pie.
I swear the dear creature whispered ‘thank-you’, before nodding off for the rest of the day.
By 6pm tuan was off into the world of Connecting Country’s nestboxes, eucalyptus and wildflowers to be, in the Heathy Dry Forest ridgetop adjacent to this house!
Posted on 28 March, 2019 by Ivan
Have you seen dead or dying trees in your area? No doubt with the current hot and dry conditions, many of us have seen trees under severe moisture and heat stress.
A collective of concerned scientists have launched a new citizen science project, The Dead Tree Detective, which aims to record where and when trees have died in Australia. Unfortunately, the current drought across many regions of Australia has been so severe that some native trees have died or are under severe stress. It is important to document these occurrences, which will assist scientists in understanding and predicting how native forests and woodlands are vulnerable to climate extremes.
This project will allow people Australia-wide to report observations of tree death. In the past, there have been many occurrences of large-scale tree death that were initially identified by concerned members of the public such as farmers, bushwalkers, bird watchers or landholders. Collecting these observations is an important way to monitor the health of trees and ecosystems.
Climate extremes have pushed some of our local iconic native trees to their limits of survival, so it is essential to document which species are surviving better than others under these conditions. This project allows you to upload photos of your trees and answer a few questions to help identify the possible causes. You will find some information about each of these causes in the ‘Resources’ section. You can even revisit the locations in following months to document whether trees recover or not. To see what other records there are in your area, go to the ‘Data’ section. See the ‘Blog’ for details of any new major tree death events that we have become aware of.
Please click here to upload photos regarding this project and to read the full project description, which is hosted on the Atlas of Living Australia.
Posted on 29 May, 2018 by Tanya Loos
Connecting Country staff member Bonnie Humphreys has seen small, quail-like birds wandering around her garden for weeks, even on her doorstep. Until now, they’ve escaped Bonnie’s efforts to capture a photo and confirm identification as Painted Button-quail! The two birds seen here were resting quietly together.
Button-quails are a truly Australian group of birds. Although they look a lot like quails, DNA analysis suggests that button-quails are quite distant from all living groups of birds. Their behaviour is certainly very unusual!
Unlike most birds, it’s the brightly coloured female who calls, and attracts a male. They are polyandrous, with one female mating with several males in an area. After mating, the female builds a domed nest near the ground in a shrub or grass tussock, and lays three or four small white eggs. The male then incubates the young until hatching. Once hatched, the tiny little chicks fledge right away and the male feeds them for the next ten days or so. After this, the young button-quails can fend for themselves.
The birds pictured above could be either males, or immature birds. In females, the reddish patch is brighter. However, the depth of the colour red is quite variable according to light conditions and the position of the bird. Hence it’s quite tricky to identify the sex of the bird. (Happy to hear local birder expert opinion on this one!)
Bonnie’s visiting button-quails are a group of three birds, and the Handbook of Australian and New Zealand birds says they are most often seen in small family groups. At this time of year, breeding has finished, so maybe they are just being companionable and foraging together until the female starts her ‘booming’call.
Their foraging technique is also most unusual. Painted button-quails often feed in pairs, in grasses and leaf litter on the ground. They scratch and glean, spinning on alternate legs to create distinctive circular depressions, known as platelets. Platelets are often the only visible sign that the bird is present. The photo below shows the typical look of platelets in bushland with plenty of leaf litter.
There’s been extensive feeding activity in leaf litter and lawn areas at Bonnie’s place. It was hard to capture on camera the sheer extent of the ground being worked over by these enthusiastic little birds.
Painted button-quails are a member of the threatened Victorian Temperate Woodland bird Community. They are notoriously difficult to capture during typical (20 minute, 2 ha) bird surveys, so we welcome any sightings and observations. You can download a sightings sheet here, and let us know where and when you’ve seen button-quails, or their platelets.
In 2011, Echidna Walkabout Tours captured this amazing footage of a Painted Button-quail foraging in leaf litter in urban Port Melbourne! Do watch the whole video because at the end the female puffs herself up like a frog and starts calling her booming call. The low frequency call is difficult to hear on the video, but you can see the amazing behaviour!
Posted on 10 May, 2018 by Tanya Loos
This remarkable photograph shows a Yellow-footed Antechinus bounding up a log with an Australian Magpie in hot pursuit. It was taken by a trail camera – amazing timing!
In this case, the antechinus escaped being breakfast, running so fast all of its paws are in the air! It is great to see the tables turned on these adorable but voracious hunters (see pictures of a Yellow-footed Antechinus preying upon a grey fantail here).
The landholders who sent us the photo said ‘These wildlife cameras are great! We catch so much and are able to watch so many different animals, birds, reptiles, insects, etc. and what they get up to each day.’ Lynne and Ric live on a beautiful woodland property east of Maldon, and are keen bird surveyors.
If you would like to see what lives on your property, why not borrow a wildlife camera from us? We are happy to loan wildlife cameras to our members – usually for a three week period. To book one, email firstname.lastname@example.org or phone us at the office on 5472 1594.
Many thanks to Lynne and Ric for the amazing photo.
Posted on 4 January, 2018 by Tanya Loos
Elevated Plains landholder, Richard Pleasance sent us some fantastic video footage of a small bat or microbat visiting his nest box. I posted the footage online to the Field Naturalists Club of Victoria Facebook page and a bat expert identified the bat as a type of long-eared bat; either a Lesser Long-eared or a Gould’s Long-eared bat, both of which are common in this area. Please click on the link below to view the bat movie – the bat arrives several seconds in…
These two bat species live on insects, and use their incredible ears and skills in echolocation help them locate crickets, moths, grasshoppers and other prey. Both species roost in a range of locations, such as peeling bark, small hollows and, in the case of Lesser Long-eared bats, disused Fairy Martin nests, old coats or under piles of bricks in sheds! Come breeding season, the females live in maternity colonies, which may be in hollow trees or sometimes in houses.
This bat was probably a single male, as they often roost alone. Richard built the box himself, using recycled materials, with the aim of attracting Brush-tailed Phascogales. Below is a photo of a phascogale inspecting the box. According to Richard ‘the box is on a stringy bark located in lovely bush close to a ridge but still a bit protected from weather’ and it faces south east.
Richard doesn’t carry out any manual inspections of his nest boxes, preferring to set up wildlife cameras to monitor usage. This is a great option as it is safer than using a ladder to inspect, and minimises disturbance to the creatures within. And there is more! This nest box was also visited by a third species: a Sugar Glider (see below).
If you would like to monitor your nest boxes this summer, you could try wildlife cameras. We have a small number at the office to lend to landholders, or you could try another non-invasive technique known as stagwatching. A stag is an old dead tree with hollows, but the stagwatching process may be used to check nest boxes too. Stagwatching involves using the natural light at dusk to check the box usage, simply by waiting quietly by the box for some time. A very meditative experience, provided you cover up adequately against mosquitoes!
Many thanks to Richard for the wonderful footage and photos.
Posted on 23 November, 2017 by Asha
Jacky lizards, geckos, pobblebonks, and ‘Tuk’ the turtle are all stars of our new reptile and frog photo gallery. CLICK HERE to go to the page, where we share photos of reptiles and frogs sent in by community members. Most of these photos are from landholders involved in Connecting Country’s reptile and frog monitoring program (CLICK HERE to read more), which uses ceramic roof tiles as artificial habitat for reptiles and frogs. Tile monitoring is fantastic, but these photos also capture species that don’t use tiles as habitat, like goannas.
Thank you to everyone who shared their photos!
If you have any interesting photos of reptiles or frogs that you would like to share in our photo gallery, please send them to email@example.com
Posted on 19 September, 2017 by Tanya Loos
The local U3A birdwatching group visited Muckleford Train Station last week, and were entranced by a large flock of Striated Pardalotes displaying and carrying on in very close proximity. Local birdo and photographer Peter Turner captured a stunning series of images, and kindly sent them in so we could share them with you all!
One of the behaviours that intrigued Peter is a display which involves the pardalote bowing slightly, opening both wings and spreading its tail. Many of the pardalotes were displaying in this way, and Peter asked what the behaviour might mean.
Here at the office, we have a copy of a large detailed book known as the Handbook of Australian, New Zealand and Antarctic Birds (HANZAB) The entry on Striated Pardalotes details this behaviour.
The Wing-and-tail Display is associated with nesting behaviour. As the Striated Pardalote sexes are very difficult to tell apart, it is not known whether the male or the female or both sexes are displaying. The display may involve quivering the wings, or fanning them by alternately opening and folding them.
The Wing-and-tail Display is often part of a group display, where several pairs that are nesting in close proximity display to one another.
The Muckleford Station is a Striated Pardalote breeding hotspot – with many nest burrows excavated in the clay soil near the platform.
Striated Pardalotes also take readily to nestboxes, in fact previously on this blog, we featured a pardalote nestbox design by Ric Higgins; for details, click here.
While Spotted Pardalotes are loved by many, these photographs remind us that the Striated Pardalotes are little stunners too. Thanks so much for the photos, Peter!
Posted on 13 September, 2017 by Tanya Loos
For this month’s Nature News, Connecting Country Landcare Facilitator, Asha Bannon shares her observations of Scarlet Robins in Campbells Creek.
“A flash of wing on a blue sky
A breast of delicate wildfire
The weight of day is carried away
As ruby gives voice to sapphire”
The opening words of Michael Kennedy’s song, “Scarlet Robin” beautifully sum up the joy of this bird. It’s a rare occasion that I’ll go out into the bush in spring without hearing the Scarlet Robin’s gentle “chee-dalee-dalee” call, a crucial part of a Box Ironbark soundscape. The male’s bright red breast can also give them away as they move through the bush, but you may need to look a little closer to spot his more camouflaged girlfriend.
Scarlet Robins are one of many woodland birds that depend on ground-level habitat to feed. Perching on a low branch or piece of fallen timber, they use this vantage point to spot insects on the ground below. They then swoop down to catch their prey, and return to the perch to gobble it up.
Observing these beautiful birds is a highlight of any walk in the bush for me. They are one of those birds that watches you as you watch it, creating a sense of mutual wonder. Both males and females are gorgeous in their own way. They will pair up for the year with their mate, never straying too far, seemingly connected by an invisible string as they move through the trees at eye-level.
I’ve seen Scarlet Robins twice at our place in Campbells Creek, which is just beside a tributary that leads into the creek itself. One was also seen at Connecting Country’s Campbells Creek monitoring site during a bird walk in July this year. This was only the third time a Scarlet Robin has been recorded at the site.
Scarlet Robins and other ground-feeding native birds are becoming more abundant in response to the maturing revegetation that the Friends of Campbells Creek Landcare have planted along the creek. They need good quality habitat to thrive, which is why they are one of Connecting Country’s newest indicator species of environmental health for this region. If you see a Scarlet Robin, you can send through your observation to firstname.lastname@example.org and help build the picture of how this lovely species is doing in the region. For more information, visit http://connectingcountry.org.au/about/projects/securing-woodland-birds/bird-monitoring/
Posted on 9 August, 2017 by Connecting Country
On 1st August 2017, the online edition of the Wild Plants of the Castlemaine District was formally launched. This comprehensive guide contains details on the identification, locations, preferred habitats and history of hundreds of native and introduced plant species found in Castlemaine and surrounding areas. It can be viewed at the following stand-alone website location – https://www.castlemaineflora.org.au.
In November 2016, local natural historian – Ern Perkins – sadly passed away. Ern’s passion for the understanding the intricacies of natural environment was matched by his passion for sharing his knowledge with others. A few months before his passing, he first launched this compendium of local plant species as a freely available resource via USB memory sticks. Ern had developed this guide based on information that he and others had collected and compiled over more than 40 years. With the support of Ern’s family since his passing, the Castlemaine Field Naturalists Club has worked with a local IT graphics firm to make this guide available as an online resource, allowing it to reach a much wider audience. Financial contributions and other support towards this important project has also been provided by the Friends of the Box Ironbark Forests (FOBIF) and Connecting Country. Each of these organisations will have a link to this flora guide from their websites. A permanent link to it has been established from the Connecting Country website here.
It is intended to be a dynamic website, with updates made over time in response to taxonomic changes, new photographs and new findings. Landholders, Landcarers, students and many other people from the Mount Alexander Shire and beyond will appreciate this valuable and easy-to-use resource.
Posted on 7 August, 2017 by Tanya Loos
We love it when Connecting Country landholders send in photographs of interesting flora and fauna observations. In April 2017, Tamsin Byrne sent us an astonishing series of photos of a Yellow-footed Antechinus hunting and eating a Grey Fantail at their bird bath. Tamsin and her family live on a beautiful Trust for Nature property in Sedgwick.
For those new to the Antechinus – they are small carnivorous marsupials related to Brush-tailed Phascogales or Tuan, Eastern Quolls, Tasmanian Devils – comprising a group know as the Dasyurids. Most are nocturnal, but the Yellow-footed Antechinus is actually diurnal, and so observed by landholders and birdwatchers during the day. Geoff Park has taken some wonderful portraits of these endearing mammals on his blog Natural Newstead; CLICK HERE. With their golden colour, round ears, sweet little paws, and confiding nature, the antechinus are very sweet and well-liked by all.
However! Appearances can be deceptive, and they are actually a top level predator! Large arthropods such as centipedes, insects, eggs and nestlings are commonly listed as prey items – but now we must also add adult birds to that list. Tamsin added some great captions to the photographs – please click on each photo with your mouse to go through each photo in the set. Many thanks to Tamsin for this exciting series of photos of nature “red in tooth in claw”!
Posted on 28 July, 2017 by Asha
Connecting Country’s newest brochure, Reptiles and Frogs of the Mount Alexander Region, is now out in the world! CLICK HERE or on the picture to download a pdf copy. You can grab a hard copy of this brochure by dropping by our offices, or by contacting email@example.com. Our local Landcare groups will also soon have copies available to share.
The brochure includes beautiful photos of 8 frogs and 30 reptile species found in the Mount Alexander Region, plus tips for landholders on how you can help our local reptiles and frogs. Some of these tips include creating and improving habitat on your property and on public land by:
- Creating ground-level shelter and food sources by ensuring there are plenty of logs, sticks, rocks, and leaf litter around
- Helping degraded land regenerate by planting indigenous species, excluding grazing, and controlling noxious weeds
- Protecting intact native woodlands and grasslands
- Keeping predators such as foxes, cats, and dogs under control
- Joining your local Landcare or Friends group
- Creating a ‘frog bog’ or retrofitting a dam to provide frog habitat
- Refraining from using herbicides and pesticides when rainfall is predicted, and minimising or avoiding their use near wetlands and waterways
Connecting Country’s Reptile and Frog Monitoring Program is being undertaken with the support of the Ian Potter Foundation.
Posted on 21 July, 2017 by Tanya Loos
Wombats thrive in Western Victoria: Staff member Tanya Loos, who lives 7km north of Daylesford, shares a story about our burgeoning wombat population.
Coming home from work a week or two ago, I was just a couple of kilometres from my house. The car in front of me slowed to a stop. A medium sized mammal with a distinctly square bum ambled in front of their car and disappeared into the dark forest.
A wombat! A Common Wombat – also known as the Bare-nosed Wombat – in Porcupine Ridge! There are plenty of Wombats around Trentham, Glenlyon, and throughout the Wombat Forest, but in 15 years of living in Porcupine Ridge I had accepted the fact that while we have koalas, the wombats didn’t occur this far north. However, it seems the fortunes of wombats in western Victoria are changing!
In early 2016, a wombat caused quite a stir as it was photographed in the Gunbower forest, literally hundreds of kilometres from the nearest population. Peter Menkhorst, from the Arthur Rylah Institute was contacted to comment and he stated “The most westerly population of wombats on the Great Dividing Range is around Trentham and Daylesford, where the Campaspe begins”. He believed the wombat may have been an orphan pouch young that was released far from where it was rescued. Read the article in the Bendigo Advertiser here.
After seeing my Porky Ridge wombat, I searched online and found a fantastic website called WomSAT. This website is an initiative of the University of Western Sydney, and encourages people Australia-wide to record their wombat sightings. The map is really is easy to use, and enables you to note down whether the wombat was dead or alive, and if it suffered from mange. You can also record burrows. The WomSAT website can be accessed here.
On this map, there were at least eight sightings of living wombats between Bendigo and Daylesford from 2015- 2016, in Harcourt, south of Bendigo in Sedgwick and a big concentration in the Baynton area to the east.
I had a chat with my Connecting Country work colleagues Bonnie and Jarrod who have been documenting an increase in wombat sightings all through the Harcourt and especially Sutton Grange area – one property had a network of burrows with 50-60 entrances!
So what is going on?! My Mammals of Victoria book, also by Peter Menkhorst, states that wombat distribution on a local level is ‘probably most dependent on the availability of suitable burrow sites in association with food supply’. The wombats do not like very dense forest, but any open habitat seems to do – with habitats ranging from alpine heathland, to wet forests, dry forests and coastal scrub and tea tree heath. Most of the burrows noted by Bonnie and Jarrod have been on creeklines which are tributaries of the Coliban River, and surrounded by open forest or woodland.
Wombats were declared vermin in 1906, and there was a bounty on them from 1925 – 1966. This put the already diminishing western Victorian populations on an even deeper downward spiral and they disappeared from the volcanic plains and indeed, anywhere north of the Great Dividing Range.
Anecdotally, the recent increase in wombat numbers has been noticed after the Redesdale fires in early 2009, part of the devastating Black Saturday fires. The fires may have caused a dispersal of the wombats into previously unoccupied territory.
So if you are in open forest along a creekline north of Daylesford and south of Bendigo, keep an eye out, a wombat family could be your new neighbours!
If you are logging sightings on WomSAT or sending us in a sighting on our Special-Species-Sightings-Sheet-2017, make a note whether the Wombat is healthy or not. Sarcoptic mange is a hideous parasite that Wombats catch from foxes. The mites cause the most severe mange affected skin and swelling around the eyes – and the wombat gets very sick indeed, and eventually dies. More information on wombat mange can be found here. Happily, wombat lovers and advocates have discovered that they can add a pesticide ointment to a flap on an affected wombat’s burrow and this treatment saves the wombat without it having to be captured and taken to a shelter.
Posted on 14 July, 2017 by Asha
Connecting Country’s Reptile and Frog Monitoring results are in! Thanks to the participation of over 40 landholders who have hosted the terracotta tiles, we now have a snapshot of some of the species lurking in our paddocks, revegetation and bushland.
A total of four reptile and one frog species were recorded in the 2016-17 monitoring period. The reptile species included Garden Skink (Lampropholis guichenoti), Bougainville’s Skink (Lerista bougainvillii), Large Striped Skink (Ctenotus robustus), and Eastern Brown Snake (Pseudonaja textilis). The frog species was identified as either Plains Froglet (Crinia parinsignifera) or Common Froglet (Crinia signifera) – further identification was not possible in this case without a permit to handle the animals.
For each of the different habitat types (intact woodland, revegetated woodland, and paddocks), the number of individuals and the number of species was measured. Both the number of individuals recorded and species diversity were highest at paddock sites. There were less individual frogs and reptiles in revegetated woodland than in intact woodland habitats, while the number of species found in these two habitats was the same. We also looked at the differences in how many sites had frogs and reptiles present between the different habitat types. In this case, intact woodland came out the highest and revegetated woodland the lowest. The tiles also proved to be popular homes for many invertebrates, which will hopefully be good tucker for any reptiles and frogs that decide to move in later.
The relatively low number of reptiles and frogs found overall during this monitoring period was not unexpected. The method of using roof tiles to monitor often has a low recovery rate, and these tiles had only been out on the ground for a relatively short amount of time. Connecting Country hopes to continue to work with landholders and Landcare groups to monitor the tiles through citizen science – with the number of species detected likely top increase over time.
You can be involved in the citizen science continuation of this project in a number of ways:
- CLICK HERE for a data sheet to monitor reptiles and frogs on your property. You can observe reptiles and frogs by undertaking active searches under tiles or debris on the ground, listening for frog calls, or sitting and waiting near a spot you think they might like to visit.
- Send photos of interesting reptiles and frogs on your property to Connecting Country and we can share them on our Reptile and Frog Monitoring web page and Facebook page.
- Learn more about our diversity and beautiful reptiles and frogs and how to identify them by using the many resources available on our resources page (CLICK HERE).
Please send your data sheets and photos to firstname.lastname@example.org or to Connecting Country, PO Box 437, Castlemaine, 3450
Connecting Country’s Reptile and Frog Monitoring Program is being undertaken with the support of the Ian Potter Foundation, and with monitoring tiles provided by the Department of Environment, Land, Water, and Planning.