Restoring landscapes across the Mount Alexander Region

Shining the spotlight: Chilean Needle Grass in our region

Posted on 8 December, 2022 by Ivan

Chilean Needle Grass (Nassella neesiana) is becoming a serious pasture and environmental weed in south-eastern Australia, including around the Mount Alexander region. These introduced spear grasses are very invasive and form dense infestations in pastures, bushland and roadsides, with a number of infestations known around Castlemaine and surrounds. They can tolerate drought and will seed prolifically, giving them great potential to spread and over-run existing vegetation. It has been estimated that the potential distribution for Chilean Needle Grass alone exceeds 40 million hectares across Australia.

Spear grasses are characterised by a seed with a sharp tip and a long ‘tail’ attached, giving them their spear grass name. Within the Mount Alexander region we have both native spear grasses and a handful of introduced species. One of the biggest challenges facing the successful treatment of needle grasses is identifying infestations before they become large and dominating in the landscape. Thankfully, one of our unsung local heroes, Margaret Panter, has been working on another brochure in her series on recognising and treating these invasive species. This latest guide provides photos, illustrations, descriptions and treatment options. Margaret has been surveying sites for invasive grasses for many years, diligently working to treat infestations before they become out of control.

To view and download Margaret’s brochures:

 

 

Warmer weather and the arrival of spring triggers grasses to flower, making them easier to identify. Due to the late arrival of the sunshine this year, now is a perfect time to be out looking for this species. During the warmer months, needle grasses produce large amounts of unpalatable flower stalks with little leaf material, resulting in a severe reduction of stock carrying capacity. A dense infestation of needle grass can carry up to 15,000 seeds per square metre beneath infestations. These seeds can remain viable for over ten years and can spread via livestock, machinery and disturbance.

The presence of Chilean Needle Grass may reduce land value. During the warmer months, large amounts of unpalatable flower stalks are produced, with very little leaf material, resulting in a severe reduction of summer stock carrying capacity. The vigour of Chilean needle grass can be partly explained by its efficient system of seed production.

Thank you for your hard work Margaret, in preventing the further spread of this declared noxious weed across the landscape.

Another helpful resource is the following video about how to identify this invasive grass (courtesy of the Marlborough District Council in New Zealand).

 

Eltham Copper Butterfly workshop and walk – 14 January 2023

Posted on 6 December, 2022 by Ivan

Did you know Central Victoria is home to the largest known population of the endangered Eltham Copper Butterfly in the world? The Eltham Copper Butterfly (Paralucia pyrodiscus lucida) is only found in Victoria, Australia, and is restricted to several sites around Castlemaine, Bendigo, Kiata (near Nhill) and Eltham.

It is one of the rare good news stories within the extinction crisis in Australia. The Eltham Copper Butterfly was considered extinct in the 1950s until rediscovered at Eltham in 1986. This butterfly has a fascinating ecological relationship with Sweet Bursaria plants and Notoncus ants, and lives in bushland at several locations around the township of Castlemaine.

Connecting Country is teaming up with local butterfly lover Elaine Bayes, from the Wetland Revival Trust, to deliver an Eltham Copper Butterfly event on Saturday 14 January 2023 at 9.30 am. Come along and learn about our very special local butterfly and what we can do to help this threatened species. Elaine will give a presentation about the unique life cycle and importance of this species and an update on her latest butterfly monitoring results, followed by a guided walk through some Eltham Copper Butterfly habitat. Adult Eltham Copper Butterflies are active during warm weather, so if we’re lucky we may see one.

You will:

•    Hear all about the incredible life cycle of Eltham Copper Butterfly from local ecologist Elaine Bayes.
•    Learn about how to identify this species from similar butterflies.
•    Find out about butterfly monitoring and how you can help.
•    Join a guided walk through butterfly habitat at the Botanical Gardens Bushland Reserve.

Bookings are essential – click here

This is a free event with morning tea provided. Numbers are limited, so please book early to avoid disappointment!

When: Saturday 14 January 2023, 9.30 to 11.30 am
Where: Tea Rooms, Castlemaine Botanical Gardens: Downes Rd, Castlemaine VIC
Bring: Sturdy shoes, water, a hat, sunscreen and weather-appropriate clothing.

To book: click here

Bursaria for butterflies project

This workshop is part of Connecting Country’s Bursaria for Butterflies project, which aims to protect and enhance priority habitat for the threatened Eltham Copper Butterfly around Castlemaine VIC. We will achieve this through practical on-ground actions to reduce threats and improve the quality, quantity and connectivity of available butterfly habitat. We will work with key landholders to protect and restore priority butterfly habitat on their land. We’re supporting local landholders to control threats (including weeds and rabbits) and revegetate their land, focusing on the butterfly’s host plant, Sweet Bursaria (Bursaria spinosa).

Sweet Bursaria is a small prickly shrub that produces abundant small white flowers through summer. It’s a great habitat plant for wildlife and essential for Eltham Copper Butterflies. On warm spring nights their caterpillars climb Sweet Bursaria plants to feed, accompanied by their special attendant ants.

Historically, survey efforts and management actions have focused on public land, yet we know there is potential Eltham Copper Butterfly habitat on adjoining private land. This habitat is under threat, particularly from urbanisation, weeds, changed fire regimes and grazing.

This project is funded by the Australian Department of Industry, Science and Resources as part of the Environment Restoration Fund and Threatened Species Strategy Action Plan.

Enjoy these beautiful pictures of our Eltham Copper Butterfly taken by Elaine Bayes. To learn more about the Eltham Copper Butterfly – click here

 

 

Bird of the month: Tawny Frogmouth

Posted on 6 December, 2022 by Ivan

Welcome to Bird of the month, a partnership between Connecting Country and BirdLife Castlemaine District. Each month we’re taking a close look at one special local bird species. We’re excited to join forces to deliver you a different bird each month, seasonally adjusted, and welcome suggestions from the community. We are blessed to have the brilliant Jane Rusden and Damian Kelly  from BirdLife Castlemaine District writing about our next bird of the month, accompanied by their stunning photos.

Tawny Frogmouth (Podargus strigoides)

For BirdLife Castlemaine District’s November 2022 bird walk, bird of the day was a Tawny Frogmouth, who patiently let 30-odd birdwatchers have a good look at it. The bird was found by our local young gun of a birder, the extremely sharp-eyed Tavish. I gather Tavish spotted a tree that didn’t quite look right, and it turned out that that odd-looking branch was a Tawny Frogmouth.

Tawny Frogmouth at Pennyweight Flat during the BirdLife Castlemaine November 2022 bird walk. (Photo by Jane Rusden)

Personally I’ve spent hours and hours wandering through bush looking for them, but they are so brilliant at hiding in plain sight, I rarely see them. Not only are their feathers like tatty tree bark, but they strike a pose that makes them look like a dead branch that is not worth noticing. Their huge yellow eyes close to cryptic slits, as they watch potential threats and curious bird watchers wander by in oblivion.

Tawny Frogmouth at night, pretending to be a dead branch (Photo by Damian Kelly)

 

Bright lights attract insects and towns attract mice, which in turn can lure nocturnal Tawny Frogmouths into urban environments, and sometime unfortunately and fatally in front of moving cars. I have witnessed one doing their classic hunting behaviour of perching on a low support, in this case a star picket, and pouncing on moths that were drawn to the light spilling from a window. Their diet consists of insects and mice, and also spiders, frogs and even small rats. Such incredibly cryptic feathers help the stealthy wait for unsuspecting prey to wander within striking distance, either on the ground or in the air.

Despite being nocturnal and hunting by stealth on silent wings, they are not an owl. Tawny Frogmouths belong to the frogmouth family, which include a few other species close by in Papua New Guinea. David Fleay (a pioneering Australian scientist and conservationist) described Frogmouth nests as a crude and crazy fabrication of sticks – often across the fork of a horizontal bough. Both female and male birds will sit on the eggs and feed the chicks – usually two chicks, but sometimes three or four. It’s currently the middle of their breeding season, which is usually August to December.

Tavish, I haven’t forgotten I owe you and your friend a chocolate frog for spotting the bird of the day.

After dusk Tawny Frogmouths are sometimes heard calling, their repeated ‘oom, oom, oom, oom, oom’ calls carrying through the night air (Photo by Damian Kelly)

 

To listen to the call of the Tawny Frogmouth – click here

 

Stories beneath our feet: new book by Leon Costermans

Posted on 30 November, 2022 by Ivan

We are excited to see the well-known botanist and author, Leon Costermans, teaming up with Fons VandenBerg to deliver a new 660-page book titled ‘Stories beneath our feet: exploring the geology and landscapes of Victoria and surrounds’. Leon is known for his work on the identification of eucalypts, including illustrating and publishing his best-selling and well-loved book ‘Native trees and shrubs of south-eastern Australia‘.

‘Stories beneath our feet’ is intended for land managers, teachers and senior students of environmental subjects, ecologists, naturalists, tour group leaders, outdoor activity leaders, or simply interested travellers. It examines the stories behind the wide range of landforms, rock types and life forms through geological time, and emphasises geological influences in ecosystems.

Stories beneath our feet makes suggestions for field activities suitable for various age groups (photo by Costermans Publishing)

 

Leon Costermans was born in Melbourne in 1933. Although his schooling was city-based, he developed an early love of the bush, and spent many weekends and holidays hiking and camping. After some years in the fields of motion picture production and engineering, which took him throughout Australia, he joined the Victorian Education Department and studied science at the University of Melbourne. He majored in geology and geomorphology, and taught science and mathematics at country high schools.

The book includes over 1870 photos, digital images, geological maps and diagrams. It has a comprehensive glossary, user-friendly index and other supplementary descriptive lists.

Local booksellers Muckleford Books are selling copies of this intriguing book, which could make a good Christmas gift.

For more information about the book – click here
To order online
from Muckleford Books – click here

 

Farewell and thank you to our leader: Frances Howe

Posted on 23 November, 2022 by Ivan

All good things come to an end and we are sad to announce that our wonderful Director, Frances Howe, will be moving on from her current role with Connecting Country in early 2023. Frances has been Connecting Country’s Director for five years, and has been a brilliant leader of the team, especially during this period of funding uncertainty and COVID-19 restrictions.

Frances has excelled in oversight of many projects, strategic direction, organisational management, community engagement and on-ground initiatives. She brought valuable fresh insight to our organisation, while ensuring we are seeking alternative funding ideas, and becoming more efficient and sustainable.

We are thrilled to have had Frances’s experience and high attention to detail in attracting new funding opportunities over the past five years. The team has been blessed with her calm approach and balanced decision-making across our priority projects. We are sure Frances will remain connected to Connecting Country, including as an ongoing nest box volunteer and through our climate future plots project.

Frances and her partner Duncan will be focusing on building their next home together as owner-builders, and are keen to spend more time restoring their property near Castlemaine.

Frances and her partner Duncan (right) with committee members Chris and Brendan at our volunteer thank you event (photo by Lou Citroen)

 

During her time at Connecting Country, Frances has done everything from recruiting and training new staff and mentoring volunteers, obtaining funding for dozens of new projects, implementing health and safety procedures, assisting landholders, delivering workshops, and launching our investor prospectus. She has built excellent relationships with funders, landholders, committee members and staff, and ensured that our work on-ground is first-rate. Although we will miss her, we are thrilled for Frances to be focusing on her property and other project dreams.

Frances presenting at Connecting Country’s 2022 AGM in Campbells Creek 2022 (photo by Ivan Carter)

 

I’m incredibly grateful for the chance to be part of Connecting Country – I’ve had the privilege of collaborating with a great team of people on meaningful projects,’ said Frances. ‘I’ve enjoyed putting my skills to good use and have learnt so much. Our team has delivered some brilliant projects, while becoming a more streamlined and adaptable organisation,’ she added. ‘It’s been a time of change, but I feel Connecting Country is in a good position to embrace some extraordinary new opportunities.’

Frances with fellow nest box volunteer, Ann-Marie during 2022 nest box monitoring (photo by Jess Lawton)

 

Frances grew up in Melbourne but fell for central Victoria during numerous childhood visits. She became a part-time Castlemaine resident in 2000, when she bought a run-down old church. Frances joined Connecting Country in 2017, after a career in assessing and managing environmental and social impacts of large development projects, across Australia and around the world. Having travelled far and wide, including living and working in the Middle East, Africa and the United States, Frances returned to settle in Castlemaine. She will now continue to restore her property with indigenous vegetation and a wetland for wildlife.

Thank you Frances! 

Frances will remain as Director until January 2023 while we recruit a new Director. If you are interested in learning more about the Director role and how to apply – click here

 

 

Work with Connecting Country – Director role

Posted on 23 November, 2022 by Ivan

We are sad to announce that our wonderful Connecting Country Director, Frances Howe, will be moving on from the role in early 2023.  Frances has been Connecting Country’s Director since 2017 and has been a brilliant leader of the team, especially during this period of funding uncertainty and COVID-19 restrictions.

To read our thank you post highlighting why Frances has made a great contribution to Connecting Country over the past five years –  click here

In light of Frances’s departure in early 2023, we are advertising for a new Director to join us at Connecting Country in Castlemaine.

THE OPPORTUNITY

This is an exciting opportunity for a person with experience in community-driven landscape restoration or natural resource management to work in an established and successful community organisation. The successful candidate can expect to be challenged by a role that requires a good practical understanding of on-ground conservation, from planning and development through to implementation, monitoring and evaluation. We seek someone with the ability to manage a small, dedicated staff team, and to work closely with volunteers, landholders and others in our community.

Our ideal candidate will bring a strong appreciation of the valuable role of community-driven landscape restoration, and the drive and initiative to mobilise people and attract resources to further our work.

This Director role is both a leadership and management role responsible for all aspects of the organisation’s day to day operations. The position reports to the Committee of Management.

ABOUT US

Connecting Country is a community organisation working to restore landscapes across the Mount Alexander region of central Victoria. Since 2007 we have worked with over 200 landholders and community groups to rehabilitate more than 10,000 hectares of habitat for local plants and animals. Connecting Country takes a grassroots approach to land and biodiversity management. We engage the community, reconnect habitat, monitor biodiversity and make decisions based on robust science. We work closely with local Landcare groups, landholders, Traditional Owners, government agencies and other organisations to achieve our aims.

Since beginning in 2017 Connecting Country has helped protect and restore more than 10,000 hectares of land across the Mount Alexander region (photo by Gen Kay)

KNOWLEDGE AND EXPERIENCE

  • Strong commitment to community-driven landscape restoration and a good understanding of the opportunities and challenges involved in managing an uncertain funding environment.
  • Experience in delivering natural resource management or environmental projects.
  • Capacity to develop and cultivate good relationships with funders, government agencies, volunteers, our Committee of Management, landholders and others in our community.
  • Experience in managing staff, budgets, and all aspects of projects.

For further information contact Frances Howe via email (frances@connectingcountry.org.au) or phone (0493 362 394).

To view the position description, application details and key selection criteria – click here

Applications close Thursday 15 December 2022.

 

Large old trees draw a large crowd: our AGM 2022

Posted on 22 November, 2022 by Ivan

On Saturday 19 November 2022, around 50 people gathered at Campbells Creek Community Centre to enjoy an afternoon of formalities and hear an excellent presentation from ecologist and PhD awarded, Chris Pocknee. We celebrated the hard work and achievements of Connecting Country’s past year with presentations from our Director Frances Howe and President Brendan Sydes, and heard an update on our finances from Treasurer Max Kay. We would like to warmly thank our presenters and all the committee members, staff and volunteers who assisted with the event, which was very well received based on feedback.

Caring for large old trees

The ‘Caring for large old trees’ event was part of our project, Regenerate before its too late, which engages the community about the importance of large old trees and how to protect them. The project is funded by the Ian & Shirley Norman Foundation and over three years (2022-25) we will host a series of workshops and produce communication materials. We will also help local landholders with practical on-ground actions to protect their large old trees and ensure the next generation of large old trees across the landscape.

A strong crowd attended the event despite the cold and rainy weather (photo by Ivan Carter)

 

The biggest star of the show was a fascinating presentation from ecologist Chris Pocknee. Chris discussed the complex interaction between old trees and the wildlife that depend on them, and the role old trees play in agricultural productivity and habitat connectivity. Chris’s passion and understanding of the threats facing old trees, and native animals and ecosystems they support, were tied in with how we can address these issues to conserve old trees.

Chris is a Landscape and Biodiversity Conservation Ecologist with our project partner, Biolinks Alliance. He grew up in the south-eastern suburbs of Melbourne and completed his MSc at the University of Melbourne in 2017 before completing an internship with the Australian Wildlife Conservancy in NSW. Chris recently submitted his PhD thesis at the University of Queensland, where he studied the impacts of fire and feral cats on the endangered northern betting.

A highlight of the presentation was a summary of recent academic studies that concluded that some woodland birds depend upon old scattered trees across the landscape more than dense vegetation belts. He concluded that we need to do more to protect and manage old trees in the landscape, and that we have lost far too many even in recent decades.

To download a copy of Chris’s presentation on caring for large old trees – click here

The presentation further validated our important work to engage the community to value large old trees and support landholders to adopt sustainable environmental practices that protect their trees. Connecting Country will be helping landholders fence to exclude stock, control weeds and pest animals, install nest boxes, and revegetate to restore diversity and ensure the next generation of paddock trees.

In response to an audience question about estimating tree age, Bev Phillips provided a brief overview of the work of Maldon Urban Landcare Group (MULGA) to document, age and protect large old trees in the Maldon area. To contact MULGA email maldonurbanlandcare@gmail.com. To read more about MULGA’s work on large old trees – click here

Annual general meeting 2022

Our AGM was short and sweet, and most of our committee members were re-elected for another year. We are excited to welcome new member, Stephen Oxley, to the committee. Stephen and his family recently moved to the Guildford area from Canberra. He brings a most useful background from his career in senior government roles, including with the Australian Department of the Environment. The hard-working Connecting Country committee are volunteers and must be thanked for their considerable strategic and practical contributions to our organisation.

Connecting Country’s Director, Frances Howe, describing some our highlights for 2021-22 (photo by Ivan Carter)

 

Members of Connecting Country’s committee of management  for 2022-23 are:

  • President:                  Brendan Sydes
  • Vice President:         (vacant)
  • Treasurer:                  Max Kay
  • Secretary:                  Marie Jones
  • Ordinary member:    Malcolm Trainor
  • Ordinary member:    Christine Brooke
  • Ordinary member:    Deborah Wardle
  • Ordinary member:    Stephen Oxley

Brendan thanked outgoing committee members Saide Gray and Karoline Klein for their contribution, and  invited anyone with relevent experience who is interested in joining the committee of management to contact us.

AGM minutes will be circulated to members and available on request. Stay tuned for upcoming events in 2023, including visits to some large old trees in our region.

After the presentation we enjoyed a convivial afternoon tea with delicious food from the Dove Cafe.

To read Connecting Country’s annual report for 2021-22 – click here

Special thanks to Chris Pocknee for his time and passion, and all the volunteers that generously helped with preparations, food and packup.

Thank you to the Ian & Shirley Norman Foundation for their invaluable support of our ‘Caring for large old trees’ project and this event. To read about their excellent work – click here

 

Managing natural assets: shelterbelts guide now available

Posted on 16 November, 2022 by Ivan

Native shelterbelts are great for providing stock with shelter and shade, and can also help mitigate erosion, control pests and support native wildlife. Connecting Country has long advocated for the use of native shelterbelts in our landscape, as they provide a variety of services for agriculture and the environment. We are excited to have access to a recently published guide by the Sustainable Farms program at the Australian National University (ANU) on planting and managing native shelterbelts. It is an excellent resource for farmers and other landholders. Please read on for details and the link to the guide.

Planting native shelterbelts on farms is a significant act of land stewardship, one that also delivers demonstrated productivity and biodiversity benefits.

Shelterbelts are generally linear strips of vegetation, intended to provide shelter, shade and wind breaks. Well-managed and diverse native shelterbelts can have productivity benefits for cropping and grazing enterprises while supporting hundreds of species of birds, mammals, invertebrates, frogs and reptiles.

This management guide details the science behind shelterbelts and outlines how to create effective shelterbelts on farms.

Shelterbelts  can be a strip of newly planted trees and shrubs, or can involve the restoration of existing remnant vegetation. Shelterbelts can also incorporate other landscape features such as paddock trees, farm dams, creeks and rocky outcrops. All forms of shelterbelts can significantly improve on-farm biodiversity and deliver productivity benefits to livestock, crops and pastures.

About 85% of the original woodland vegetation has been lost across southeast Australia, and in some regions just 3% remains, predominantly on farms. Planting shelterbelts is one way to help restore this native vegetation cover, and improve habitat connectivity for wildlife.

Australian research indicates that the total amount of native vegetation across a property or the broader landscape is more important than the size of individual patches or plantings. Even small shelterbelts can make a worthwhile contribution to biodiversity. Livestock and wool productivity gains, increases in crop and pasture production, more pollinators, and reductions in costly crop and pasture pests, such as red-legged earth mites, have all been associated with the introduction of shelterbelts on farms.

To download a copy of the ANU’s new guide to shelterbelts – click here

Managing natural assets: Shelterbelts

 

Last chance! AGM and Caring for large old trees – Saturday 19 November 2022

Posted on 14 November, 2022 by Ivan

Last chance to book for our special free event on this coming Saturday 19 November 2022 at 2.00 pm. Join us for brief AGM formalities, yummy afternoon tea and our special guest presenter.

Learn about how to care for local old trees, and their incredible value as biodiversity hotspots in our landscape.

Australian Owlet-nightjars need large old trees (photo by Geoff Park)

The iconic big trees that dominate our rural landscapes are silently disappearing, dying out from age, drought, disease, disturbance and climate change. Without action they will not survive or regenerate. We will lose these islands of biodiversity so essential to wildlife and farm productivity.

Connecting Country is working to engage the community to value large old trees and support landholders to adopt sustainable environmental practices that protect their trees, helping them fence to exclude stock, control weeds and pest animals, install nest boxes, and revegetate to restore diversity and ensure the next generation of paddock trees.

Our very special guest speaker is Chris Pocknee, an experienced wildlife ecologist from Biolinks Alliance, speaking on caring for large old trees.

Chris is an ecologist with a passion for understanding the threats facing native fauna and ecosystems, and how we can address these issues. Chris grew up in the south-eastern suburbs of Melbourne and completed his MSc at the University of Melbourne in 2017 before completing an internship with the Australian Wildlife Conservancy in NSW. Chris recently submitted his PhD thesis at the University of Queensland, where he studied the impacts of fire and feral cats on the endangered northern bettong. He relishes collaborative ecological work, and is passionate about empowering communities to conserve and recover local biodiversity. Chris loves exploring the outdoors, camping, wildlife photography and football.

Everyone is welcome!
For catering and logistical purposes, booking is required – click here


AGM formalities

The following Connecting Country AGM 2022 documents are available for download:

Please note only current Connecting Country members can vote in the AGM. To become a member or renew your membership – click here

If you have any questions, please email info@connectingcountry.org.au

Thank you to the Ian & Shirley Norman Foundation for their invaluable support of our ‘Caring for large old trees’ project.

 

Restoring the wonderful wetlands of northern Victoria – 16 November 2022

Posted on 9 November, 2022 by Frances

Our friends at Newstead Landcare Group are hosting a special presentation by Damien Cook, local wetland expert and ecologist with Wetland Revival Trust.

Restoring the wonderful wetlands of northern Victoria
Wednesday 16 November 2022 from 7.30 – 8.30 pm
Newstead Community Centre, 9 Lyons St, Newstead VIC

All are welcome. Entry is by donation to Wetland Revival Trust to aid purchase of Wirra-Lo wetlands near Kerang, home to many threatened species including the Growling Grass Frog.

Read on for more details from Newstead Landcare Group.

Wonderful Wetlands

On Wednesday 16th November Damien Cook from Wetlands Revival Trust will be giving a very interesting presentation on his work restoring the wonderful wetlands of Northern Victoria.

President of Newstead Landcare, Asha Bannon says, ‘Damien is an excellent presenter with over 30 years experience in restoring and managing wetlands. Everyone is welcome to join us at Newstead Community Centre at 7.30 pm. The talk will go for about an hour with a cuppa afterwards’.

‘Gold coin donations on the night will go towards a fund to purchase and manage a very special group of wetlands called Wirra-Lo which is 160 km or so downstream from us on the Loddon.’

Damien Cook, Restoration Ecologist and Director of Wetland Revival Trust

 

Damien has been a keen naturalist for 35 years and has developed a sound knowledge of flora and fauna ecology, identification, and habitat requirements. He is a recognised expert in wetland, riparian and terrestrial ecology, particularly in the factors affecting the establishment and management of aquatic and wetland plants, and the revegetation of terrestrial grassland and woodland ecosystems.

The Wetland Revival Trust has been working with the current owners Ken and Jill Hooper since 2014 to repair and preserve the precious wetlands of Wirra-Lo, one of the last strongholds of the nationally vulnerable Growling Grass Frog in northern Victoria and its wetlands support breeding habitat for the endangered Australasian Bittern.

Damien adds, ‘The woodlands at Wirra-Lo are home to Grey-crowned Babblers, another threatened species. To date 127 species of wildlife, including 100 species of birds, 12 species of reptiles and 8 species of frogs, and 126 species of indigenous plants have been observed at Wirra-Lo.’

The Trust for Nature covenanted property is also of high cultural significance, supporting an Aboriginal oven mound. The Trust engages with the local Aboriginal community to provide training and employment through restoration and management activities.

Frances Cincotta
Newstead Landcare Group

To download a flyer about the Wirra-lo wetlands – click here
For more information on Wetland Revival Trust – click here

 

Fabulous phascogales with Baringhup Landcare – 20 November 2022

Posted on 9 November, 2022 by Ivan

Our friends and volunteers at Baringhup Landcare Group are delivering a fascinating November 2022 excursion to check nest boxes at a property in Baringhup VIC. They hope to find the elusive Brush-tailed Phascogale in the next boxes, and increase awareness of this threatened species. Baringhup Landcare are a community group that aims to provide knowledge to help sustainably manage our land, resources and environment. They encourage active community participation in environmental improvement and protection. Please read on for more information from Baringhup Landcare Group.

Fabulous Phascogales event: survival in a modified landscape

If you live in or around Baringhup, you may have been lucky enough to encounter the elusive Brush-tailed Phascogale, or Tuan. This medium-sized marsupial has a large, black, bottlebrush tail and is listed as ‘threatened’ in Victoria.

For our November excursion, we will join Connecting Country’s Jess Lawton in checking nest boxes at a property in Baringhup. We will meet at the Baringhup Supper Room (Baringhup Hall, Cnr Alfred St and Willis St, Baringhup VIC) on Sunday 20 November 2022 at 9.30 am, where we’ll travel in convoy to a property nearby in the hope that we can find a Brush-tailed Phascogale at home!

Jess will explain the monitoring process and discuss how landscape attributes influence Phascogale occurrence. On return to the Supper Room we’ll hear from Jess on the biology and ecology of the Brush-tailed Phascogale, her research on the occurrence of this species in a modified environment, and how you can help this threatened species to persist.

Brush-tailed Phascogale (photo by Jess Lawton)

 

Please bring sunhat, block-out, hand sanitiser, water and wear stout walking shoes (as there will be some walking over uneven ground).

All welcome! Tea and coffee provided. RSVP would be appreciated on the numbers below. The trip will be cancelled in extreme weather conditions.

Connecting Country has installed 450 nest boxes to provide habitat for the Brush-tailed Phascogale through the Mount Alexander Shire. The boxes are monitored every two years, and volunteers are being sought to assist with continuing this important collection of data on the species’ occurrence. More information on Connecting Country’s nest box program – click here

For further info contact Baringhup Landcare’s Kerrie Jennings (0400 102 816) or Diane Berry (0403 020 663). RSVP welcomed to help with planning.

Baringhup Landcare Group

 

Landcare sticky beak tour 2022 launched

Posted on 9 November, 2022 by Hadley Cole

During October 2022 Connecting Country presented the Landcare Sticky Beak Tour to celebrate the amazing Landcare and friends groups of the Mount Alexander / Leanganook region of central Victoria. We kicked off the month-long sticky beak into Landcare with a meet and greet event in Campbells Creek on Saturday 8 October 2022.  Amazingly the sun came out for us, and volunteers and community members from the region joined us for a lovely and convivial morning out.

Representatives from 12 Landcare groups from across the region participated on the day, offering a great opportunity for not only community members to connect with the groups, but also for the groups to connect with one another. We began the morning at Honeycomb Reserve in Campbells Creek with a brief introduction and history of Honeycomb Bushland Reserve from Matt McEachran, Natural Environment Officer from the Mount Alexander Shire Council.

Honeycomb Bushland Reserve exists largely due to the efforts of McKenzie Hill Action and Landcare Group and Friends of Campbells Creek back in 2016. The two groups then joined forces with Connecting Country and Mount Alexander Shire Council to develop a management plan for the reserve, which saw weeds removed and indigenous flora re-introduced to the site. Honeycomb Bushland Reserve offers an inspiring example of how Landcare groups across our region have worked to protect and enhance biodiversity in the very heart of our neighborhoods.

Local Landcare and friends groups set up tables at the event displaying their work (photo by Ivan Carter)

Hadley (Connecting Country’s Landcare Facilitator) introducing the Landcare sticky beak tour map (photo by Ivan Carter)

We then took a walk with Landcare legend Ian Higgins down to Campbells Creek to explore the work of Friends of Campbells Creek, whose members have lovingly restored the creekline for over almost 30 years. We stopped off at a wildflower enclosure – an area that Friends of Campbells Creek fenced to protect plants from grazing pressure. Since fencing the area in 2019 they have introduced 100 species of indigenous plants. The enclosure offers an insight into the diversity of understory and midstorey wildflowers that can grow in a bush setting when disturbance and grazing pressure are limited.

To read more about the wildflower restoration at Honeycomb Bushland Reserve – click here

We also visited a site closer to the creek line that has been restored and replanted with tussock grasses. It is now a sweeping plain of native grasses providing habitat for local wildlife.

Friends of Campbells Creek is a local environment group who have demonstrated enormous commitment to the local landscape, bringing benefits for the entire community. To learn more about the work they do, their program of events and how to get involved, head over to their website – click here

Ian Higgins talking with event participants among the tussock grass (photo by Ivan Carter)

We are very grateful to Ian Higgins from Friends of Campbells Creek for volunteering his time to take us all on a walk, and sharing his vast knowledge of local plants and how to restore them.

As part of the tour, Connecting Country worked with local Landcare and friends groups to create a Sticky beak tour map, which shows the location of Landcare work sites across the region. The map empowers anyone at anytime to take themselves on a self-guided tour and explore the wonderful work of these volunteer groups.  Please see the map below for more detail.

We finished the Sticky beak tour launch with morning tea and a meet and greet with Landcare and friends groups from across the region. Thank you to all the Landcare and friends groups who took part in the Sticky beak tour during October 2022.

The Landcare sticky beak tour was made possible through a Victorian Landcare Grant with North Central Catchment Management Authority.

 

                 

 

Book now! Caring for large old trees – 19 November 2022

Posted on 8 November, 2022 by Ivan

It is just over a week until our special free event on Saturday 19 November 2022 at 2.00 pm. Join us for brief AGM formalities, yummy afternoon tea and our special guest presenter.

Join us to learn about how to care for local old trees, and their incredible value as biodiversity hotspots in our landscape.

Australian Owlet-nightjars need large old trees (photo by Geoff Park)

The iconic big trees that dominate our rural landscapes are silently disappearing, dying out from age, drought, disease, disturbance and climate change. Without action they will not survive or regenerate. We will lose these islands of biodiversity so essential to wildlife and farm productivity.

Connecting Country is working to engage the community to value large old trees and support landholders to adopt sustainable environmental practices that protect their trees, helping them fence to exclude stock, control weeds and pest animals, install nest boxes, and revegetate to restore diversity and ensure the next generation of paddock trees.

Our very special guest speaker is Chris Pocknee, an experienced wildlife ecologist from Biolinks Alliance, speaking on caring for large old trees.

Chris is an ecologist with a passion for understanding the threats facing native fauna and ecosystems, and how we can address these issues. Chris grew up in the south-eastern suburbs of Melbourne and completed his MSc at the University of Melbourne in 2017 before completing an internship with the Australian Wildlife Conservancy in NSW. Chris recently submitted his PhD thesis at the University of Queensland, where he studied the impacts of fire and feral cats on the endangered northern bettong. He relishes collaborative ecological work, and is passionate about empowering communities to conserve and recover local biodiversity. Chris loves exploring the outdoors, camping, wildlife photography and football.

Everyone is welcome!
For catering and logistical purposes, booking is required – click here


AGM formalities

The following Connecting Country AGM 2022 documents are available for download:

Please note only current Connecting Country members can vote in the AGM. To become a member or renew your membership – click here

If you have any questions, please email info@connectingcountry.org.au

Thank you to the Ian & Shirley Norman Foundation for their invaluable support of our ‘Caring for large old trees’ project.

 

Landcare sticky beak tour 2022 – Harcourt Valley Landcare Group

Posted on 3 November, 2022 by Hadley Cole

As part of the Landcare sticky beak tour in October 2022 we celebrated the work of Landcare and friends groups across the Mount Alexander / Leanganook region of central Victoria. Although it is now November we will continue our ‘sticky beaking’ into the wonderful work of Landcare in the region.

Today we will have a little sticky beak into the wonderful work of Harcourt Valley Landcare Group.

Harcourt Valley Landcare Group are a welcoming group of volunteers of all ages dedicated to preserving and revitalising the Harcourt valley environment. In September 2022 they celebrated their 25 year anniversary, which is a remarkable achievement!

 

The Harcourt Valley Landcare Group aims to inspire, inform and support the community to protect and enhance the local environment. They have ongoing projects and working-bees on the last Sunday of each month.

The group has worked on a variety of projects including reviving the Silver Banksia population in the Harcourt valley, increasing habitat for the Blue-banded Bee, the granite rock circle at the Oak Forest, Harcourt, and restoration of a section of Barkers Creek in Harcourt known as the Tollgate Bridge. You can take a walk along the Barkers Creek restoration site and enjoy the group’s work. To access the site head to corner High St and Bridge St in Harcourt VIC.

To read more about Harcourt Valley Landcare’s projects head over to their website – click here
For their latest updates you can also visit their Facebook page – click here

Harcourt Valley Landcare Group (photo by Robyn Miller)

To view the group’s stunning new brochure online, which was put together in celebration of their 25 year anniversary – click here

To become a member of the group or find out more about their working bees please email: info@harcourtvalleylandcare.org

During October 2022, get out there and explore your local neighbourhood and see what plants and animals you can find in your local Landcare group’s sites! You never know what you might discover.

 

The Landcare sticky beak tour was made possible through a Victorian Landcare Grant with North Central Catchment Management Authority.

 

               

 

Coming soon: Caring for large old trees and AGM 2022

Posted on 2 November, 2022 by Frances

Please join us for this special free event on Saturday 19 November 2022 at 2.00 pm for brief AGM formalities, yummy afternoon tea and our special guest presenter.

Join us to learn about how to care for local old trees, and their incredible value as biodiversity hotspots in our landscape.

Australian Owlet-nightjars need large old trees (photo by Geoff Park)

The iconic big trees that dominate our rural landscapes are silently disappearing, dying out from age, drought, disease, disturbance and climate change. Without action they will not survive or regenerate. We will lose these islands of biodiversity so essential to wildlife and farm productivity.

Connecting Country is working to engage the community to value large old trees and support landholders to adopt sustainable environmental practices that protect their trees, helping them fence to exclude stock, control weeds and pest animals, install nest boxes, and revegetate to restore diversity and ensure the next generation of paddock trees.

Our very special guest speaker is Chris Pocknee, an experienced wildlife ecologist from Biolinks Alliance, speaking on caring for large old trees.

Chris is an ecologist with a passion for understanding the threats facing native fauna and ecosystems, and how we can address these issues. Chris grew up in the south-eastern suburbs of Melbourne and completed his MSc at the University of Melbourne in 2017 before completing an internship with the Australian Wildlife Conservancy in NSW. Chris has recently submitted his PhD thesis at the University of Queensland, where he studied the impacts of fire and feral cats on the Endangered northern bettong. He relishes collaborative ecological work, and is passionate about empowering communities to conserve and recover local biodiversity. Chris loves exploring the outdoors, camping, wildlife photography and football.

Everyone is welcome!
For catering and logistical purposes, please register your attendance – click here


AGM formalities

The following Connecting Country AGM 2022 documents are available for download:

Please note only current Connecting Country members can vote in the AGM. To become a member or renew your membership – click here

If you have any questions, please email info@connectingcountry.org.au

Thank you to the Ian & Shirley Norman Foundation for their invaluable support of our ‘Caring for large old trees’ project.

 

Landcare Sticky Beak Tour October 2022 – Victoria Gully Landcare Group

Posted on 27 October, 2022 by Hadley Cole

As part of the Landcare sticky beak tour in October 2022 we will be celebrating the work of Landcare and friends groups across the Mount Alexander / Leanganook region of central Victoria.

Today we will have a little sticky beak into the wonderful work of Victoria Gully Landcare Group.

Victoria Gully Landcare Group comprises residents who live close to to Victoria Gully, which starts in the Castlemaine Diggings National Heritage Park south of Castlemaine and meets Forest Creek at Greenhill Avenue, Castlemaine VIC. The group formed in 2010 and hold working bees that aim to restore the gully to a more natural state and provide a bushland connection from Forest Creek to the National Heritage Park. 

Affectionately known by locals as the ‘the gully’, Victoria Gully accommodates a range of recreation and aesthetic needs including children’s play, walking and bike riding. From the south the gully starts as a narrow, deeply-incised channel then widens to an open, grassed valley with a jumbled topography resulting from historical gold sluicing. This valley is home to a large mob of kangaroos and an intermittent unnamed creek runs along the east side.   

The south head of the gully contains good quality box-ironbark forest, including Clinkers Hill Bushland Reserve, where the group has focused on cleaning up rubbish, removing large weeds, and regular removal of English Broom seedlings.  Mature Yellow Box trees dominate on the sluiced alluvial gravels. Landcare work here is evident in the absence of broom, resulting in the slow return of wattles, peas such as Pultenaea and Daviesia, and other native plants.  

In 2010 the open valley was a nightmare of gorse, broom, blackberries, thistles and rubbish. The Department of Environment Land Water and Planning (DELWP) has responded to the group’s interest interest in the gully with substantial weed and rubbish removal over the years. This has enabled Victoria Gully Landcare Group to concentrate on planting and maintaining two exclusion plots and a frog pond enclosure.

The Victoria Gully Landcare team working hard in ‘the gully’ (photo from the Connecting Country archive)  

DELWP has supported the group’s efforts by providing plants, materials and the frog ponds fencing.  In 2020 DELWP installed a further large exclusion plot along the east side of the valley, near the railway line, and kept responsibility for planting and maintenance. The group’s plans for the future include nest box installation, and dispersed planting in hollows and banks of the central alluvial mining area that kangaroos are unlikely to access. 

Victoria Gully can be accessed from the west via Dawson St off Preshaw Street, or from the east via Dawson Street off Ross Drive, in Castlemaine VIC. Please see the following map for details.

From the south, Clinkers Hill Bushland Reserve (not included in the map) can be accessed via Preshaw Street.  

Map of Victoria Gully Landcare Group’s sites in Castlemaine VIC

 

To find the contact details for Victoria Gully Landcare Group (or your local Landcare group) head over to the Landcare groups contact page on Connecting Country’s website – click here

 

During October 2022, get out there and explore your local neighbourhood and see what plants and animals you can find in your local Landcare group’s sites! You never know what you might discover.

The Landcare sticky beak tour was made possible through a Victorian Landcare Grant with North Central Catchment Management Authority.

 

                          

 

Join the Great Southern Bioblitz – 28 to 31 October 2022

Posted on 27 October, 2022 by Frances

It’s on again! Our friends at Castlemaine Field Naturalists Club are inviting everyone to get outside and get involved in the Great Southern Bioblitz 2022. By recording the plants and animals you see, the Great Southern Bioblitz is not only fun, but a valuable way of documenting the life-forms present in our region. Once you add a sighting to the iNaturalist website or app, others can help with identification. Your recording then feeds into public databases such as the Atlas of Living Australia and Victorian Biodiversity Atlas. Read on for details from Castlemaine Field Naturalists.

The Great Southern Bioblitz is on Friday 28 to Monday 31 October 2022

Have fun, get out in the bush or wander around your garden and see what you can find.

Take photos or sound recordings and load these observations into iNaturalist. When loading a sighting you should identify what you have seen to the best of your ability. Your identification need only be at the level of ‘plant’ or ‘insect’ but it is, of course, much better to provide a more accurate identification if you can. If your camera does not record the location you can show the location of your sighting by dropping a pin on the map. You may mark the location as ‘obscured’ if it is a rare species or on private property. It will still count towards the bioblitz. All observations in our area will automatically be included in our bioblitz project.

You may also take part using the iNaturalist App on your phone and load observations directly from your phone.

Your records will make a difference to our knowledge of the flora and fauna of the Castlemaine region.

This year we will be looking for the rare, unusual and unexpected amongst the sightings. This will include rare and threatened species, first records on iNaturalist and species, either common or rare, that may not have been recorded in our region before. An example of what to look out for is Hairy Swainson-pea (Swainsona behriana), once common in the area but now possibly locally extinct.

However, please do not restrict yourself to native plants or animals or things that are uncommon. All observations contribute to our bioblitz.

Photo by Euan Moore

If you are taking part the important thing is to record your sighting during the four days over the weekend. You will have the next 14 days to upload your sightings to iNaturalist and to add identifications. Adding or confirming identifications to other people’s sightings is a good way to improve your natural history identification skills.

The other challenge is to beat our performance last year. Can we do it?

Last year our top observer was Habitatearth with 320 observations. Overall we had 1,826 observations and 569 species, so there is your target. You can monitor our progress here.

Go For It!

For more information visit the Castlemaine Field Naturalists Club website – click here

 

Landcare sticky beak tour 2022 – Sutton Grange Landcare Group

Posted on 26 October, 2022 by Hadley Cole

As part of the Landcare sticky beak tour in October 2022 we will be celebrating the work of Landcare and friends groups across the Mount Alexander / Leanganook region of central Victoria.

Today we will have a little sticky beak into the wonderful work of Sutton Grange Landcare Group.

Sutton Grange Landcare Group was formed in 1990. As well as committee meetings they hold general meetings, which often include a guest speaker. The group puts together a wonderful quarterly newsletter that covers great information on natural resource management issues in the local area.  

 

The group has a popular free tree program where anyone who is a member is entitled to 40 free trees per year. This year the group decided to hold a planting day during the winter 2022 school holidays, encouraging families to bring their kids along to take part in the plantings. To read more information on the wonderful success of their planting day – click here

Sutton Grant Landcare Group members enjoying a planting day (photo by Todd Ware)

Sutton Grange Landcare Group have worked to reintroduce native plant species to the Albert Cox Memorial Sanctuary in Sutton Grange VIC, since 1991. The memorial site was previously a school pine plantation, which was then cleared for timber harvesting. The current Landcare members have worked on pest control and replanting the former plantation and an adjacent area under the guidance of a local member and Connecting Country. During winter 2022 they planted another 300 trees in the adjacent area to revegetate a disused road. Sutton Grange Landcare Group also works in partnership with Mount Alexander Shire Council to maintain an area of threatened native grasses and herbs around the nearby Sutton Grange War Memorial.

Take yourself for a stroll out at Sutton Grange and see some of the wonderful work this group have been doing to protect and conserve local flora and wildlife habitat. To make your way to the Albert Cox Memorial Sanctuary, head to the corner of Sutton Grange Redesdale Rd and Bendigo-Sutton Grange Rd in Sutton Grange VIC. Please see the following map for further directions.

 

Map of Sutton Grange Landcare work sites (image provided by Sutton Grange Landcare)

During October 2022, get out there and explore your local neighbourhood and see what plants and animals you can find in your local Landcare group’s sites! You never know what you might discover.

The Landcare sticky beak tour was made possible through a Victorian Landcare Grant with North Central Catchment Management Authority.

 

            

 

Landcare sticky beak tour 2022 – Post Office Hill Action Group

Posted on 24 October, 2022 by Hadley Cole

As part of the Landcare sticky beak tour in October 2022 we will be celebrating the work of Landcare and friends groups across the Mount Alexander / Leanganook region of central Victoria.

Today we will have a little sticky beak into the wonderful work of Post Office Hill Action Group. 

Post Office Hill Action Group (POHAG) manages 22.6 hectares of public land on behalf of the community, with a focus on preserving the cultural and historical features of the Post Office Hill Reserve in Chewton VIC. They work to complement the natural regeneration of indigenous plants through weed control, improve wildlife habitat by installing nesting boxes and shelter plantings, and improve access for the general public.

POHAG meets on the second Sunday of the month. Meetings are usually followed by a walk, and visitors are always welcome. They are a welcoming and energetic group who enjoy the opportunity to work outside together and connect with the local bush.

Post Office Hill Reserve surrounds Chewton Primary School, and for the winter 2022 planting season POHAG members teamed up with Chewton Primary School students to revegetate sections of the creek line behind the school. The planting days were a wonderful success, with the local students learning much about the surrounding reserve. To read more on one of these planting days – click here

Andrew from POHAG working with Orlo from Chewton Primary School. (photo by John Ellis)

Post Office Hill Reserve was once covered in natural vegetation before being practically denuded during the 1852 gold rush. Thousands of enthusiastic souls from all over the world flocked to the Forest Creek diggings hoping to make their fortune. The land was up turned and folded on itself and left as ‘upside-down country’. POHAG’s work across the reserve encourages biodiversity to return to the landscape.

To keep up to date with what’s happening at POHAG, head over to their Facebook page – click here

You can also read of their latest adventure via the Chewton Chat (Chewton’s local newspaper) – click here

It is well worth having a look at Post Office Hill Reserve, especially during these spring months, and taking a walk through the reserve and see what wildflowers are on show. To find your way through the various walking tracks head to the corner of Mitchell St and Railway St in Chewton VIC, where you will find an information board about the reserve put together by POHAG.

During October 2022, get out there and explore your local neighbourhood and see what plants and animals you can find in your local Landcare group’s sites! You never know what you might discover.

The Landcare sticky beak tour was made possible through a Victorian Landcare Grant with North Central Catchment Management Authority.

         

 

Landcare Sticky Beak Tour October 2022 – Barkers Creek Landcare & Wildlife Group

Posted on 21 October, 2022 by Hadley Cole

As part of the Landcare sticky beak tour in October 2022 we will be celebrating the work of Landcare and friends groups across the Mount Alexander / Leanganook region of central Victoria.

Today we will have a little sticky beak into the wonderful work of Barkers Creek Landcare & Wildlife Group. 

Barkers Creek Landcare  & Wildlife Group (BCL&WG) work to protect and restore their local natural environment. The group is committed to celebrating and building their sense of belonging to the Barkers Creek community.

They maintain a balance between working on public and private land and members properties. The primary focus is ‘on ground works’ (monthly working bees) together with a ‘splash’ of educational and social activities.

Barkers Creek Landcare & Wildlife Group members. Photo from Barkers Creek Landcare Facebook page.

The group established in 1996 and has a vibrant mix of members  and there are often half a dozen or so children at each working bee which not only adds to the fun but instills a belief in the next generation of landcarers.

 

 

 

 

The group are currently working to put together the third management plan for a bushland reserve called the Natural Features Bushland Reserve in in the heart of Barkers Creek. They are hoping to achieve a significant ‘ecological’ restoration of this 35.5 ha parcel of bush, working closely with land managers Parks Victoria and other local community and environment groups. 

Join Barkers Creek Landcare & Wildlife Group on Sunday 23 October at 9.30 am at the Peelers Rd entrance to the Natural Features Bushland Reserve, Barkers Creek VIC (please see the map below for more details) for a working bee or just a sticky beak to see what the group are up to!

 

Map of Natural Features Bushland Reserve, Barkers Creek VIC. Photo from Barkers Creek Landcare & Wildlife Group website.

 

For more information on the group’s projects or to get in contact with them head over to their website – click here or their Facebook page – click here

During October 2022, get out there and explore your local neighbourhood and see what plants and animals you can find in your local Landcare group’s sites! You never know what you might discover.

The Landcare sticky beak tour was made possible through a Victorian Landcare Grant with North Central Catchment Management Authority.