Restoring landscapes across the Mount Alexander Region

Watch the winning films from the Wild by Nature Film Festival

Posted on 26 November, 2020 by Asha

The ‘Wild by Nature’ short film festival celebrated everything people love about Victoria’s incredible outdoors. Our friends at Remember the Wild say: ‘From your local park or creek, to your favourite wild place to escape the busy city, nature plays an important role in all of our lives’. All the films from the winners and finalists are now available for free viewing on Remember the Wild’s website: www.rememberthewild.org.au/wild-by-nature/

Enjoy viewing these excellent short films from the winners and finalists.

Pobblebonk (primary) division
Winner: Killara’s Biodiversity Wonderland, a collective effort by Killara Primary School students
These inspiring students present a documentary-style film about their efforts to create a biodiversity wonderland within and around their school. A truly wonderful story, professionally produced in this film.
Finalists: Phineas Wilton, Nature Never Sleeps; Matisse Turner, Wildlife Recovery; Remy Turner, Heaven’s Pools; Ruby Howse, How I care for Nature.

Swamp Skink (secondary) division
Winner: Listen by Marlowe Wilton
A moving, immersive experience that demonstrates how slowing down, breathing in and listening to nature can be a healing experience in the modern world.
Finalists: Renee Hang, Contaminated You; Abigail Gitsham, Little Girl Lost; Heath Corry, Snorkelling with Spider Crabs; Ruby Biggs, Be the Difference.

Black Swan (adult) division
Winner: Dog Fruit by Andrew Robb and Jessica Gerger
A comic look at the serious problem of dog waste in our natural environment.
Finalists: Richard Lawless, Blessings; Jahvis Loveday, Living Empty; Alastair Trail, Living with Gliders and Tuans; Fatima Measham, Us, Naturally.

Wild by Nature - Remember The Wild

 

New approaches to climate-proof habitat – 27 November 2020

Posted on 25 November, 2020 by Frances

Our colleagues at Biolinks Alliance are holding their 2020 annual general meeting (AGM) online with an opportunity to hear from local ecologist Paul Foreman presenting on ‘New approaches to climate-proof habitat‘.

Paul will speak about an exciting ecological restoration project being developed by the Alliance with the Taungurung people, Parks Victoria and the Heathcote community, the Spring Plains Watershed Repair project. The project integrates a range of restoration techniques that, at least in central Victoria, have never before been combined at a landscape–scale to demonstrate how the health of bushland damaged by gold mining and timber cutting (among other things) can be quickly and cost effectively restored.

Biolinks Alliance AGM 2020
When: Friday 27 November 2020 at 3.00-4.30 pm.
Location: online. For the meeting agenda, documents and zoom link – click here
For more information or to RSVP: contact Peter Evans at Biolinks Alliance (Peter@biolinksalliance.org.au).

We understand the business side of the AGM will be brief. The occasion is a chance to hear about a new project that has potential to be adapted, amplified and repeated in watersheds – large and small – throughout the region.

 

 

Bird of the month: Grey Shrike-thrush

Posted on 23 November, 2020 by Ivan

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

Grey Shrike-thrush (Colluricincla harmonica)

The local bush has been bustling with nesting activity, although raising chicks is not always as nurturing and wholesome as you might think. Nests get raided, eggs don’t always hatch and it’s not necessarily easy for the newly fledged chicks. You’ll hear their incessant begging for food and see parents desperately trying to keep up the flow of breakfast, lunch and dinner. It’s a time of learning as fledglings can’t always assess risks and can be a bit ‘young and dumb’, being too bold for their own good and getting confused as they try to make sense of a situation. I witnessed one such occasion during an altercation in my backyard.

Confused young Grey Shrike-thrush getting harried by an angry Fuscous Honeyeater (photo: Damian Kelly)

 

A newly fledged Grey Shrike-thrush chick had got too close to a Fuscous Honeyeater nest. The poor chick seemed totally confused about the whole situation and didn’t know which way to go. It’s parents waiting just out of harrying range whilst the Fuscous Honeyeaters were on attack level – ‘take no prisoners’! The upshot was the chick finally moved away, the honeyeaters settled down and I got some photos of the action as they were all preoccupied with bird world high stakes politics.

So let’s look at the abundant Grey Shrike-thrush. Probably one of the most familiar, varied and prettiest of songsters to be heard, which perhaps makes up for its brown and grey colouring. I call it soft and subdued but others may call it out as dull. In the past it was known as the Harmonious Thrush and its taxonomic name reflects this: Colluricincla harmonica. Interestingly, their song can exhibit different dialects from place to place.

Individuals can live up to twelve years and it’s known that pairs can reside in one place for up to five years and remain together for longer. They are largely a sedentary species, but may move between altitudes with the seasons.

Taking a really close look will reveal gorgeous black eyelash like bristles around its bill and below the eye. (Lady Gaga attempted a similar look without the nuance. Pretty rad all the same.)

Young Grey Shrike-thrush singing it’s heart out (photo: Damian Kelly)

 

Present in all but Australia’s driest deserts, it prefers undisturbed treed habitats, including gardens on occasion. It’s often seen foraging for insects and small vertebrates like frogs and lizards, where there is some understorey, tossing leaf litter to find their prey. They will also take eggs and nestlings of small birds, so it’s not surprising the Fuscous Honeyeater was so upset.

Adult Grey Shrike-thrush doing what they do best, harmoniously singing (photo: Damian Kelly)

 

To listen to the Grey Shrike-thrush call – click here

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Revegetation and monitoring for success webinar – 25 November 2020

Posted on 23 November, 2020 by Jacqui

Photo credit DELWP


Here’s an opportunity that may be of interest to our readers wanting to learn about the latest science on the benefits of revegetation and monitoring. Check out this short webinar hosted by Department of Environment Land Water and Planning (DELWP) through the Arthur Rylah Institute, in collaboration with La Trobe University. The webinar will cover the latest advice for land managers and community groups on how to conduct successful revegetation and how to monitor the outcomes. 

Revegetation for Biodiversity: monitoring for success

Join us for a webinar on the benefits for biodiversity of revegetation activities.

Hear from experts at La Trobe University in collaboration with the Arthur Rylah Institute for Environmental Research (DELWP) about:

  • The latest research on the value of revegetation: how it changes over time, and how it can be undertaken to have the greatest value for biodiversity.
  • A standard monitoring protocol designed for land managers and community groups to help assess revegetation outcomes across Victoria.

This webinar is for all audiences and will have a land management focus.

Date: Wednesday 25 November 2020
Time: 1.00 – 2.00 pm
Location: online

To register and for more information: click here

 

The beautiful, and mostly misunderstood snake

Posted on 19 November, 2020 by Ivan

There has been plenty of recent sightings of various beautiful snakes in our region. In fact, there are almost daily appearances at this time of year on our social media platforms and chat pages with many central Victorian locals posting images of snakes spotted in their yards or nearby.

It has been a perfect year for snakes in central Victoria. Late summer rains, autumn growth and a perfect spring break has lead to a healthy population of mice, frogs, lizards, and other tasty treats for snakes. Snakes have emerged as the weather warms up and are now in power-up mode for summer and the mating season. They are more common around our urban fringes and rural areas, owing to an abundance of food (e.g. mice are a favoured food source for Eastern Brown Snakes) or water sources (e.g. Tiger snakes prefer wetlands and creeks). The most common snakes around the Castlemaine region and are Eastern Brown, Tiger, Red-bellied Black, and Copperhead. For a full list, and photos and descriptions of each snake, please click here. For information about snakes locally, and how to be snake-safe on your property and see notes from our snake workshop.

Our partners at Friends of the Box-Ironbark Forests (FOBIF) have recently published an article on a snake sighting around the Castlemaine region, and how to live with snakes. We have shared it below, and a nice photograph that was submitted with the article. Please enjoy, courtesy of FOBIF.

A bit of care, and everyone wins.

They’re out: snakes, we mean.

Which means: look out. It’s important to be careful when in areas likely to be frequented by snakes, for obvious reasons. This is virtually an annual preoccupation, so, at the risk of repeating ourselves, we are now going to repeat ourselves.

Eastern Brown snake, Gough’s Range SF, November 12 2020: we need to be careful about snakes, but the brute fact is that they are more at risk from us than the other way around.

And here is another great FOBIF snake post from 2014:

‘The Eastern Brown is highly venomous—but it’s not keen on attacking anyone as big as a human, and … will always try to get away if it can. If cornered, however, it is extremely nervous and aggressive. The moral therefore is, don’t approach any snake, and dress appropriately if going into areas where one might be met. The great majority of snakebite deaths have arisen when people unwisely take on the reptile [if you want to get it away from the house, call a snake catcher]. It is, of course, illegal to kill snakes, which are protected animals. For pets, the best advice is, don’t let them roam around the bush ferreting into holes; in any case, dogs should be on a leash in the Diggings Park.

Common sense is the best defence against snake bite, but unfortunately, hysteria is more common than common sense, as witness a 2013 Sydney Telegraph headline: ‘Snakes are raiding the suburbs…Fatal snake bites will become a tragedy repeated this summer as the deadly reptiles—thriving in hot conditions—slither towards the urban sprawl.’ This horror movie scenario doesn’t fit well with the fact that on average less than 3 people per year over the whole of Australia die from snakebite: far more people are killed by bee stings…

…And the odds are stacked against the snake: more than five million reptiles are killed by cars in Australia every year. According to the Australian Museum, ‘countless’ Brown snakes perish in this way, ‘both accidentally and on purpose’.

For other FOBIF material on the subject of snakes, click here and here.

 

Now is the time to find needle grasses & volunteer opportunity in Castlemaine!

Posted on 19 November, 2020 by Ivan

Needle grasses, and in particular, Chilean Needle Grass (Nassella neesiana), are now in full seed and are becoming a serious pasture and environmental weed in our region. They are very invasive and form dense infestations in pastures, bushland and roadsides. They can tolerate drought and will seed prolifically, including self-pollinated seed in the stem and base of the plant, 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.

A large, dense infestation of Texas needle grass near Malmsbury Photo Connecting Country

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, a local community champion recently produced an information sheet on how to differentiate invasive needle and native grasses, titled ‘Distinguishing between needle grasses and native grasses. The information sheet has useful photographs and identifying features of needle grasses, and compares these features to a variety of native grasses including spear grasses (Austrostipa species), wallaby grasses (Rytidosperma species) and native tussock grass (Poa labillardieri). Non-native grasses covered include Chilean, Texas and Cane Needle Grass (all members of Nassella genus), and the closely related Espartillo (Amelichloa caudata).

Landowners learning the finer points of needle grass identification at a field day. Photo Connecting Country

Please watch this video on how to identify Chilean Needle Grass, it is from New Zealand but highlights the important points of identifying this invasive grass. Click here

Another helpful information sheet, ‘What to do if you find needle grass’ details first-hand experience of how best to manage these grassy weeds and prevent further spread.

Volunteer opportunity in Castlemaine!

If you would to learn more about Needle Grasses and would like to attend a working bee please contact Margaret Panter on 5470 5072 (7am-7pm). Margaret is holding a socially-distanced working bee in the Castlemaine Botanic Gardens in the next few days, and as needed in the next couple of months. No experience necessary, and volunteers can attend as their availability allows.

 

 

Weed management after fire webinar series starts 25 November 2020

Posted on 19 November, 2020 by Jacqui

Jump on and register for this opportunity to learn all about weed management after bushfire, delivered by the Weeds at Early Stages of Invasion (WESI) team and a wealth of expert collaborators. There are four free webinars in total, with each delivering a wealth of knowledge and useful information. It is vital to get on top of weeds after fire, as they usually are the first plants to immerge and have a blank canvas to invade and dominate in the years to come. 

Weed management after fire webinar series

After bushfire, our ecosystems are at their most vulnerable to weed invasion. Help us support indigenous flora and fauna by managing weeds in bushfire affected areas.

This webinar* series focuses on sharing practical knowledge so everyone can contribute to bushfire recovery.

Time:

Four webinars on the below dates all from 10:30 am to 12:15 pm.

Dates:

Webinar 1: Wednesday 25 November 2020 – Overview weed management after fire.

Webinar 2: Wednesday 2 December 2020 – Prioritisation of weeds after fire.

Webinar 3: Wednesday 9 December 2020 – Collaborative projects – weed management after fire.

Webinar 4: Wednesday 16 December 2020 – Weed identification and recording after fire.

For more information and to register for these free webinars: CLICK HERE

Collaborators:

  • State Wide Integrated Flora and Fauna Teams (SWIFFT)
  • Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP) including:
    • Weeds at the Early Stage of Invasion (WESI)
    • Bushfire Biodiversity Response and Recovery (BBRR)
    • Natural Environment Program (NEP)
    • Connecting Communities Program (CCP)
    • Weeds and Pests on Public Land (WPPL)
  • Parks Victoria
  • East Gippsland Catchment Management Authority (EGCMA)
  • Weed Society of Victoria (WSV)
  • Gunaikurnai Land and Waters Aboriginal Corporation (GLaWAC)
  • Landcare Victoria
  • Trust for Nature
  • Regional Roads Victoria
  • Department of Jobs, Precincts and Regions (DJPR)
  • Australian Association of Bush Regenerators (AABR)
  • Foundation for National Parks & Wildlife (FNPW)

* These webinars are funded by the Victorian Government’s $22.5 million Bushfire Biodiversity Response and Recovery program. For more information on the BBRR program, visit www.wildlife.vic.gov.au/home/biodiversity-bushfire-response-and-recovery

 

How to build a microbat box

Posted on 12 November, 2020 by Frances

Since beginning our nest box program back in 2010, Connecting Country has installed over 450 boxes on private and public land across the Mount Alexander region. The nest boxes were designed specifically for use by the threatened Brush-tailed Phascogale (also known as the Tuan), which is a nocturnal hollow-dependent marsupial native to our area.

The nest boxes provide supplementary habitat for the Tuans and other native animals such as the Sugar Glider. It is anticipated that providing additional nesting sites, albeit artificial, will lead to an increase in local Tuan populations and distribution. The nest boxes were located across the landscape systematically so we can examine some of the factors that influence their use.

We recently discovered a great article from the creative folk at Milkwood regarding how to build a microbat box, which is similar to a nestbox. Milkwood point out that ‘Microbats are worth encouraging into your garden. Not only are they delightful to watch on dusk – they gobble thousands of mosquitoes, moths and other garden pests each and every night. A single microbat can eat up to 1,200 mosquitoes and small insects in an hour – which has earned them the well-deserved reputation of being nature’s mosquito busters.’

To enjoy the full article on Milkwood’s website – click here

For more information on Connecting Country’s nest box program – click here

Mount your bat box on a tree, pole or building – high enough to prevent vandalism and protect the bats from predators and floods (photo: Milkwood)

 

 

NAIDOC Week 2020

Posted on 12 November, 2020 by Ivan

Always was, Always will be is the designated theme for NAIDOC Week 2020, which is being celebrated across the country from 8-11 November 2020. The acronym NAIDOC stands for National Aborigines and Islanders Day Observance Committee. Each year, NAIDOC Week gives our community the opportunity to celebrate and acknowledge the history, culture and achievements of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders. This year’s theme reminds us that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have occupied and cared for this land for over 65,000 years, and that their cultures have been recognised as the oldest living cultures in the world.

On a local level, this week presents the opportunity for the community to delve into the history and connections to the land of Indigenous Australians. In our part of Central Victoria, the land we stand upon is that of the Dja Dja Wurrung Nation, who had practised their sustainable land management practices for many centuries. For more information about the Dja Dja Wurrung clan, and their history, cultural practices, current projects and media – click here.

It has been exciting to see the Dja Dja Wurrung Clans Aboriginal Corporation working in partnership with local interest groups, adjoining residents, Djarra community members, and state and local government agencies, to further connect people with nature and protect and improve biodiversity at two key sites:

  • Kalimna Park within Castlemaine Diggings National Heritage Park.
  • Wildflower Drive area of Greater Bendigo National Park.

For more information about NAIDOC week, and all the events across our many nations, please click on the image below.

Always Was, Always Will Be. 8-15 Nov 2020 #NAIDOC2020

 

 

Landholder revegetation attracts new birds

Posted on 12 November, 2020 by Frances

We received a lovely message from some local landholders, Mark and Jan Dunn. They’ve made a huge effort to restore habitat on their property near Faraday, in Central Victoria. It’s always heartening to hear about how the hard work of revegetation is really making a difference for our local wildlife.

Here is their story:

Hi Connecting Country

During a recent short stay at our Faraday property (on a bushfire mitigation permit from the Shire), we were delighted to see a bird we haven’t sighted before.

We have owned this 22 acre block for 15 years and in the early years we invested heavily in a major revegetation project. It is now so very satisfying to walk the paddocks and observe many different birds visiting and nesting in the trees and shrubs we planted. They love the habitat we have helped to create – all natives of local provenance.

What bird did we see you ask? This Owlet Nightjar was happy to observe us for quite a while after being disturbed from its quiet dark roost in the shed.

Description:

Australian Owlet-nightjar at Faraday (photo: Mark and Jan Dunn)

‘The Australian Owlet-nightjar is the smallest of the nocturnal birds (night birds) found in Australia. Its large brown eyes are non-reflective when exposed to a torch or spotlight (other nocturnal birds give a red reflection). The Owlet-nightjar has two different plumage colourations: russet-brown (rufous), and the more common grey.

In both forms the birds are paler below, and are faintly barred with black. There are two wide black stripes that extend over the head from the top of the eyes, and meet on the back of the neck.

The rufous form is restricted to the female birds, which, even in the grey form, tend to be more rufous-tinged than the males. Young Owlet-nightjars resemble adults, but have less distinct black markings.’

What a delightful little Aussie feathered friend – and how lucky we felt to see it.

Kind regards

Mark & Jan

 

Survey update from Walking Together – Balak Kalik Manya

Posted on 4 November, 2020 by Ivan

Harley Douglas, Project Manager with Dja Dja Wurrung Clans Aboriginal Corporation, provided an update on results from their community survey and workshops conducted for the Castlemaine and Bendigo communities (Central Victoria) during 2020. The visitor experience and use survey formed part of the Walking Together- Balak Kalik Manya Project, a four-year project committed to writing site-specific management plans for two sites within Dja Dja Wurrung Country: Kalimna Park (Castlemaine) and Wildflower Drive (Bendigo).

To view Harley’s presentation summarising results from the community survey – click here

There were some interesting findings from the surveys. The highest priorities for management actions within the parks were weed management, revegetation and nest box installation, closely followed by cultural burning. The least positive aspects for Kalimna Park were reported to be weed/environmental impact, rubbish and tracks/signage.

Q14: What management actions do you think should be prioritised for Kalimna Park and Wildflower Drive?

 

Please see the following summary regarding the community consultation, courtesy of Harley.

The visitor experience and use survey was powered by SurveyMonkey and the data collected was collated through the assistance of Parks Victoria’s Social Science Officer. From the 172 responses received, a summary report has been created merging the data into bar graphs, pie charts and other valuable graphics that quickly summarise demographics and usage of the parks.

Djaara community workshops were facilitated remotely to allow for the current COVID-19 restrictions. Two, two-hour sessions were held over Zoom for interested Djaara members to have input into the values, threats, issues, and opportunities associated with both parks. Djaara members workshopped ideas relating to Dja Dja Wurrung’s Goals as listed in ‘Dhelkunya Dja- Dja Dja Wurrung Country Plan 2014-2034.’ The information gathered from our members will be used to develop management strategies, actions, and recommendations.

Issues and opportunities that we discussed in both Djaara and Community workshops:

  • Vehicle access and misuse
  • Weeds – Onground management
  • Cultural heritage (protection of existing and creation of new)
  • Illegal firewood collection
  • Rubbish dumping
  • Track creation/ Illegal track creation
  • Cultural burning
  • Story telling
  • Predators (cats, dogs, foxes)
  • Threatened species (Eltham Copper Butterfly, Pink-tailed Worm-lizard, Tuan)
  • Signage
  • Loop walks
  • Djaara employment
  • Prospecting
  • Creating open space
  • Education
  • Visitor areas
  • Carparking
  • Djaara employment
  • Community ownership

Like our Djaara members workshops, broader community workshops were facilitated over Zoom due to COVID-19 as well. We held back-to-back sessions with Castlemaine community members one night, and then the Bendigo community members the following night. In total, we had 38 members of the community participate: 26 in Castlemaine, 12 in Bendigo. We worked through a PowerPoint presentation allowing community the opportunity to speak to threats or values from their perspective. We had some productive conversations that may have got carried away and deviated from the original topic, but all very worthwhile information that will help inform our management plans. The idea of facilitating a large community forum online with many differing opinions and views frightened me, but everybody involved was very respectful of each other’s thoughts and opinions- so I just wanted to thank everybody for making the sessions run as smoothly as possible and contributing valuable information that can only come from members of the community.

So, where to from here? Now that we have received input from Djaara members and community members, we have begun drafting our management plans. We are aiming to have a draft version of our management plans available for public comment at the end of November 2020.

Harley Douglas
Project Manager- Dja Dja Wurrung Enterprises Trading as Djandak

 

Ten ways to improve the natural assets on a farm

Posted on 4 November, 2020 by Asha

Sustainable Farms (an initiative of the Australian National University) has launched their excellent new booklet, ‘Ten ways to improve the natural assets on a farm’. The booklet highlights ten discrete projects that farmers and other landholders can do to improve the health of the natural assets – such as dams, shelterbelts or riparian areas – on their properties. We are particularly excited about the extensive scientific research that has gone into this publication, which gives enough detail, but is also engaging and relatable to the average landholder. Each of the ten actions are achievable and relevant to sustainable farming, and improving farm health, biodiversity and productivity.

The booklet highlights how one small change on a farm could create new habitat for native animals and lead to increased stock productivity. The publication is underpinned by 20 years of long-term research into biodiversity on farms. It represents a long-term collaboration between farmers implementing on-ground management practices, and ANU ecologists supporting the farmers’ observations with science.

To read the booklet online and for more information – click here

 

‘Let’s Pivot’ program supports community

Posted on 4 November, 2020 by Asha

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

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

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

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

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

To visit their website for more information – click here

 

Gorse task force develop virtual field day

Posted on 4 November, 2020 by Ivan

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

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

Home - Victorian Gorse Taskforce

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

 

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

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

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

 

 

 

Citizen scientists: keep your eyes peeled for Bogong Moths!

Posted on 29 October, 2020 by Jess

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

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

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

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

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

Bogong Moth (photo: Museums Victoria)

 

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

 

Wanted: experienced bird watchers!

Posted on 29 October, 2020 by Jess

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

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

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

To be involved in this program you will need to:

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

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

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

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

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

 

Prickly plants for wildlife and community: Campaspe Valley Landcare

Posted on 29 October, 2020 by Jacqui

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

Barbara James
Campaspe Valley Landcare

 

Bird of the month: Southern whiteface

Posted on 29 October, 2020 by Ivan

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

Southern Whiteface (Aphelocephala leucopsis)

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

Listen to their call – click here

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Greater and Squirrel Glider Symposium: 27-28 October 2020

Posted on 21 October, 2020 by Ivan

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

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

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

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

About this event

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

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

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

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

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

Keynote presentations by leading research scientists:

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

What I learned with beginner birdwatchers

Posted on 21 October, 2020 by Jess

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

Dear Jess,

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Warmest wishes,

Lou

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

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