Restoring landscapes across the Mount Alexander Region

How to identify and record deer sightings – Friday 25 June 2021 online

Posted on 23 June, 2021 by Frances

There is no doubt that feral deer have increased their distribution and impacts in central Victoria over the past decade. We have seen a sharp increase in sightings from our community and have had many conversations about their detrimental impacts on our native forests and woodlands.

Deer facts:

  • Feral deer are becoming a major pest species in Victoria.
  • There are six species across Australia (red, fallow, rusa, sambar, chital and hog).
  • Their numbers are increasing.
  • Local authorities need your help to map populations and report problems.
  • Everyone is encouraged to report all sightings.
  • For more information on the potential distributions of the six feral deer species – click here

We recently received the following message from the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DEWLP) regarding a training session on Friday 25 June 2021 from 10.00 am to 1.00 pm. Online.

Please read on for information about how to join DELWP’s online event.

Feral deer in the dry woodlands of Victoria (photo by ABC Victoria)

 

How to identify and record deer sightings: DEWLP

Dr Chris Davies from the Australian Deer Association will present the training.

Topics covered will include deer species, habitat preferences, behaviour and sign.

Chris will also cover the use of the Victorian Biodiversity Atlas Go data collection tool.

For those who aren’t able to participate due to the short notice of next Friday’s event, or others that may want to undertake the training through your networks we will schedule further training with more notification time.

________________________________________________________________________________

Microsoft Teams meeting

Join on your computer or mobile app

Click here to join the meeting

Or call in (audio only)

+61 3 7019 2540,,322444677#   Australia, Melbourne

1800 571 208,,322444677#   Australia (Toll-free)

Phone Conference ID: 322 444 677#

 

Putting a dollar figure on threatened species

Posted on 16 June, 2021 by Ivan

We are both lucky and unlucky to have our share of threatened species calling our region of central Victoria home. Plants and animals are driven to the edge for a variety of reasons. Habitat loss and invasive species are recognised as the two largest factors in species decline and extinction. The Mount Alexander region offers a safe haven for some species, but also an abundance of invasive weeds and pest animals.

If money rules the world (which we hope it doesn’t!), then perhaps we need a dollar value to represent threatened species and their plight for survival.

Thankfully, a major research project has explored putting a dollar figure on threatened species. Dr Ram Pandit of the University of Western Australia (UWA), Dr Kerstin Zander of Charles Darwin University (CDU), and their colleagues are taking a close look at how people value threatened species, with some surprising and heartening results.

To learn more, please read the following article, provided courtesy of the Threatened Species Recovery Hub.

To read the full article on the Threatened Species Recovery Hub website – click here

Eltham Copper Butterfly is one of our region’s threatened species (photo: Elaine Bayes)

 

The economics of threatened species

What price persistence? Dr Ram Pandit of the University of Western Australia (UWA), Dr Kerstin Zander of Charles Darwin University (CDU), and several researchers from both UWA and CDU are taking a close look at how people value threatened species, with some surprising – and heartening – results. Here they share their insights into what it means to Australians to avert extinction of vulnerable species.

There is a common misconception that economics is about money. It is not. Economics is the science of allocating scarce resources and making decisions – whether about allocating money or anything else. The total economic value of something includes not just how much money one can get for it on the open market but many other values that do not involve money at all. Dollar values help people understand the worth of something in monetary terms, but they are only one small part of the story in making decisions.

The value of persistence

Threatened species illustrate this point beautifully. The fact that you cannot trade boggomoss snails does not mean that Australian people do not value them. Most respondents will never get the tiniest monetary gain from the snail’s persistence – they will never sell one, eat one, photograph one or visit one of the few boggy mossy springs where they persist in Queensland’s Dawson Valley. Yet, respondents to our species-specific surveys said they were willing to pay around $47 per year to make sure boggomoss snails are not lost forever, with 69% of respondents willing in principle to pay something for the snail to survive. Multiplied across the country’s population, that’s a pretty high existence value. Even when respondents had to choose how much they are willing to pay among three or five threatened species, they were willing to give $0.33 and $0.20 per year, respectively, to make sure the snail no longer qualifies for the threatened species list.

The Critically Endangered boggomoss snail is found only in the Dawson River catchment, in the Brigalow Belt Bioregion of Queensland (photo: John Stanisic)

 

In fact, what we discovered was that the dollar value of a species increases substantially as it approaches extinction. That effectively says that threatened species are beyond dollar value. This was consistent with another of our surveys, in which 70% of respondents thought extinction should be prevented regardless of the cost. Some might think that impractical – except that the US Endangered Species Act aims “to halt and reverse the trend toward species extinction, whatever the cost”, as the US Supreme Court put it.

That’s not to say that people do not value some species more than others. So long as extinction is avoided, the amount people would be willing to pay for conservation varied by species. In contrast to general perception that birds and charismatic species are valued more than the others, we found that charisma-challenged species like skinks are also valued highly. In our multiple species valuation study, we found that people are willing to pay $3.12 per year to conserve the great desert skink and about $0.37 per year to conserve the eastern bristlebird. We also assessed the community’s values for threatened ecosystems like salt pans ($0.10/year) or Sandstone Shrubland Complex ($0.93/year). Much of our research was quite new – nowhere in the world have multiple species been assessed simultaneously, ecological communities been valued, or anyone tried to uncover the community’s values for anything other than high-profile species.

The Christmas Island blue-tailed skink would be extinct if not for the time and care of dedicated staff and captive breeding facilities provided by Parks Australia and Taronga Park Zoo (photo: Parks Australia)

 

As a result, we can work out some general rules for determining a species’ non-market value that will help policy-makers estimate the cost to the public if a development increases the probability of species extinction, or the benefits that can arise from habitat restoration. Such values represent the benefits to society of conserving species, and help to make decisions about species conservation while considering the costs.

Management – and trust

In another study, we assessed how the worth of threatened species was affected by their management. We asked whether people would pay less if a species were kept in a zoo, if feral animals were killed as a part of threat management or if a species’ genetic makeup were managed to avoid inbreeding effects. Somewhat to our surprise, the killing of feral animals was embraced by a large proportion of respondents. They were more cautious about genetic management, but only actually opposed active manipulation of genes.

In all the valuation studies, what came through was a trust of the scientists. If scientists were concerned a species might go extinct, and proposed a process to make sure that would not happen, most respondents were willing to make a contribution. As we know, such trust places a great responsibility on those who are trusted, and can easily be lost.

bridled nail tail wallaby

Saving a species can require a major long-term commitment.

 

The bridled nail-tail wallaby was widespread across eastern Australia at the time of European arrival, but foxes, cats and land clearing drove major declines. The species was thought extinct until a single small population was found in central Queensland in 1973. To prevent the extinction of the species, Taunton National Park (Scientific) was established at the site and feral predator control and other conservation actions have been put in place since that time to conserve and support its recovery. Image: Nicolas Rakotopare / Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service

On the money

A final part of our work did also look at the monetary economy and threatened species. For instance, many species may survive only if they are kept in zoos or behind large fences. To help planning for such expenditure, the country’s zoos provided estimates of the costs of keeping different types of animals – and mammals and birds are much more expensive to keep than other, smaller animals. We costed the different types of fencing that are increasingly being erected to protect native mammals from feral predators. For a sample of species, we also calculated the institutional costs of threatened species management. Rangers erecting nest boxes can only do their job if there are people in offices arranging their weekly pay or training them how to climb trees. Such costs are almost never calculated in threatened species budgets, which fall short as a result.

However, not all costs are outlays. Threatened species managers often live in rural and remote communities; their children go to local schools; they buy food from the local shops. For every dollar invested in such a community, there are flow-on benefits in terms of jobs and local investment. That information is being fed into an analysis of threat management needs across the country to allow calculation of at least some of the monetary benefits that communities can derive from hosting threatened species and their managers.

Economic analysis is critical to most policy-making by government. Our work aims to ensure that the very real values Australians place on threatened species, the values that explain the existence of the Threatened Species Recovery Hub, and of the legislation aimed at protecting threatened species, are given a seat at the decision-making table. If boggomoss snails could cheer, we are sure they would.

Further information

Ram Pandit
ram.pandit@uwa.edu.au

Kerstin Zander
kerstin.zander@cdu.edu.au

Stephen Garnett
stephen.garnett@cdu.edu.au

 

Threatened Species Recovery Hub

 

Platypus encounters: make your sightings count

Posted on 16 June, 2021 by Ivan

We love our most unusual mammal, the platypus, and are lucky enough to have some low but viable populations in the rivers and waterways of central Victoria, including our very own Campbells Creek. Monitoring key species can teach us about the health of local ecosystems and alert us to changes in the environment.

Our friends at the Australian Platypus Conservancy encourage all community members to report all platypus sightings via the APC website, which will then feed the data into the national biodiversity databases. This is vitally important for decision-makers and funding bodies. Please read on for details from APC regarding the importance of reporting platypus sightings and how to complete this task.

To learn more about the Australian Platypus Conservancy – click here
To
read the May 2021 issue of ‘Platypus News & Views’, the APC newsletter – click here

The platypus is listed as ‘Near Threatened’ in Australia and on the International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List (photo: APC)

 

Make your sightings count

Recent efforts to assess the platypus’s national conservation status have highlighted the value of having a reliable set of platypus sightings records that can be used to help analyse population trends across the species’ range.

Backed by considerable federal funding, the Atlas of Living Australia (ALA) was launched in 2010 with the worthy aim of consolidating reliable Australian flora and fauna records from available sources – including state and territory wildlife databases, museum records and ‘citizen science’ sightings reported directly to ALA or via co-operating online platforms.

The Australian Platypus Conservancy began routinely recording the details of platypus sightings made by its own staff or other persons in 1994, and extended this program to include reports of rakali (aka Australian water-rats) in 2004. All of the APC’s past records for both species have now been shared with ALA, with more recent reports uploaded on a regular quarterly basis. Around 21% of the approximately 13,500 platypus records currently held by ALA (dating back to the 1830s) have been contributed by the Conservancy. Likewise, the Conservancy has provided just over 27% of the nearly 8,000 rakali records held by ALA dating back to the 1840s.

As shown below, the Conservancy’s contribution to national wildlife reporting has also grown through time, comprising 46.5% of platypus records (left pie chart) and 50.5% of rakali records (right pie chart) held by ALA for the period from 2010 to 2019. This partly reflects the success of APC initiatives specifically designed to boost the number of reported sightings, such as the community-based visual surveys for rakali carried out in Victoria in 2016/17 and the ACT in 2018/19 (supported by the Wettenhall Environment Trust) and the campaign to obtain platypus sightings in the Goulburn River catchment conducted in partnership with the Goulburn Broken CMA in 2018/19.

These projects, featuring public information sessions and extensive media coverage, boosted sightings not only in the nominated time period but also in subsequent years. They thereby provide a model of how useful additional sightings records can be harvested cost-effectively for the national database.

Importantly, the Conservancy has always accepted that an essential aspect of recording platypus and rakali sightings for posterity is to identify reports that are likely to be in error. In some cases, details of an animal’s appearance or behaviour may apparently differ from those of the species nominated in the report. Other records may be suspect due to a species having been seen at a location well outside its current known range. To resolve these discrepancies, a Conservancy biologist immediately contacts whoever made the report for more information – e.g., the distance to the animal, length of time it was observed, prevailing light conditions and whether it was seen by more than one observer – to provide a factual basis for assessing the sighting’s merit.

Although visual records certainly have some limitations when used to characterise a species’ distribution and status, they nonetheless are of real interest. We therefore encourage anyone lucky enough to see a platypus or rakali in the wild to report the details via the APC website (www.platypus.asn.au) so this information can be added to the national database.

Australian Platypus Conservancy

 

Environmental volunteer managers forum – 28 & 29 July 2021

Posted on 16 June, 2021 by Frances

We treasure our environmental volunteers and the amazing work they do in our region to restore and rebalance our landscapes for generations to come. We have clocked over 11,000 volunteer hours at Connecting Country, since beginning in 2007, and could not continue without our volunteer network.

The Victorian Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DEWLP) is developing a forum for Environmental Volunteer Managers (EVM), which might be of interest to some of our community and stakeholders. Please see the details, which highlight Victoria’s first statewide ideas exchange and professional development opportunity designed especially for professional environmental volunteer managers.

Connecting Country volunteers checking nest boxes for wildlife. Photo: Connecting Country

 

EVM Grow – Connect, learn, share – save the date

Launch webinar: 22 July 2021, 2:00-3:00 pm
Forum: 28 & 29 July 2021, 9:30 am-1:30 pm

EVM Grow provides an opportunity for Victoria’s professional Environmental Volunteer Managers (EVMs) to connect, learn from each other and share successes and challenges.
Join us to strengthen our professional community of practice with a focus on program and sector level opportunities and collaboration.

What is EVM Grow?

It’s a virtual event featuring an online forum and hub for you to connect, learn and share.

Learn from expert presenters, trainers, and EVM colleagues over two half-days at the EVM Grow forum. Continue your connections and collaboration on our EVM hub – a month-long interactive opportunity to exchange ideas, resources and collaborate with your peers.

Don’t miss the one-hour introductory launch webinar on 22 July.

Who is it for?

It’s for professional environmental volunteer managers (EVMs) across Victoria, in paid positions in local or state government departments and agencies, and the not-for-profit and community sector.

Registration will be opening very soon! Do you know other environmental volunteer managers who may be interested in EVM Grow? Please forward this email on and encourage them to join the EVM Grow mailing list for registration information and updates.

Join the EVM Grow mailing list – click here

Contact

For more information about EVM Grow, email the Environmental Volunteering Action Group at environmental.volunteering@delwp.vic.gov.au

Created by the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning’s Environmental Volunteer Action Group, EVM Grow is Victoria’s first statewide ideas exchange and professional development opportunity designed especially for professional environmental volunteer managers.

 

Loddon Mallee climate ready plan 2021 – last chance to have your say

Posted on 10 June, 2021 by Ivan

Adapt Loddon Mallee is keen to hear feedback from the community on their recently drafted Climate Ready Plan, which aims to ensure the Loddon Mallee region is climate-ready, thriving and prosperous. The ADAPT Loddon Mallee network brings together people from all walks of life across the region to learn, share knowledge, and build networks to support communities in becoming climate-ready.

There is no doubt climate change is one of the greatest challenges ever faced by society, natural landscapes, and our native plants and animals. Despite the efforts of governments, community groups and individuals, it is certain we will experience a trend of warmer and drier conditions here in central Victoria, with erratic and unstable weather patterns. Adapting to these changes and providing resilient landscapes and communities is a vital step in being climate-ready.

Adapt Loddon Mallee is inviting feedback on their draft Climate Ready Plan for our region. Please read on for details from Adapt Loddon Mallee about how to provide feedback on the draft plan.

Connecting Country has been regenerating the landscape, with the added benefit of carbon capture, for over a decade (photo by Connecting Country)

What is ADAPT Loddon Mallee?

Climate change impacts are already being felt in communities across the region. The pressure is being felt in sectors like local water, food production, and health and wellbeing.

While it is important that we all take steps to reduce our emissions to mitigate against further future climate impacts, such as embracing renewable energy, we also need to reduce our current and future vulnerability by taking adaptation action.

The ADAPT Loddon Mallee network brings together people from all walks of life across the region to learn, share knowledge, and build networks to support communities in becoming climate ready.

Adapting to climate change involves taking practical actions to manage current impacts and future risks to build resilient communities and systems across the region.

Successful adaptation is a shared responsibility. Individuals, communities, businesses and governments at all levels have a part to play. The challenge is too big to anyone to act alone – to ensure thriving communities in the future we need to work together.

ADAPT Loddon Mallee will focus on the following areas under three categories identified in the 2018 Regional Gap Analysis:

  • People: Traditional Owners, youth, elderly, and volunteers.
  • Places: Small townships, rural cities, places of natural and cultural significance.
  • Sectors: Agriculture, biodiversity (flora and fauna), manufacturing, tourism, and health and human services.

Climate Ready Plan

ADAPT Loddon Mallee want to hear from you on what’s important in climate change adaptation in the Loddon Mallee region for the next five years.

 To read the draft plan and provide comments, please – click here

Thanks kindly
ADAPT Loddon Mallee

 

 

Seeds of resilience – Friday 11 June 2021

Posted on 9 June, 2021 by Ivan

Our project partners and friends at Castlemaine Field Naturalists Club are hosting an online event called ‘Seeds of Resilience – planting for the future!’

The event is via the Zoom platform and features guest speaker Julie Radford, Ecologist at Bush Heritage. Julie will be talking about Bush Heritage’s experimental revegetation project that aims to build climate resilience into the woodlands of their Nardoo Hills reserve, located near Weddeburn in north west Victoria.

The event is sure to provide some practical lessons for adapting to future climate scenarios and planning future revegetation projects. Please read on for details from Castlemaine Field Naturalists Club.

‘Seeds of Resilience’ – planting for the future!

 Friday 11 June 2021 at 7.30 pm, by Zoom

Guest speaker: Julie Radford, Ecologist, Bush Heritage

The grassy woodland habitat of the Bush Heritage Nardoo Hills Reserve in Central Victoria is important for many flora and fauna species, but especially the threatened temperate woodland bird community. Over the last 10 years, it was noticed that the hotter drier conditions due to climate change were resulting in eucalypt dieback in some areas of the reserve. Julie will tell us about the experimental revegetation project that has been implemented to build climate resilience into the woodlands of the reserve. Climate modelling is being used to predict future environmental conditions. Seeds have been collected from different provenances in more northerly regions that support eucalypts adapted to a hotter, harsher environment. With the help of volunteers, large numbers of seedlings grown from these seeds are being planted in the reserve. Julie will also describe the different strategies introduced to improve the success of the plantings.

The meeting will be held by Zoom. If you have not joined earlier webinars and wish to attend, please email Peter Turner at munrodsl@iinet.net.au

 

 

 

The Good Op Shop

Posted on 8 June, 2021 by Asha

If you love nature and op shopping then why not combine the two? Pretty soon there will be a brand new op shop opening in Campbells Creek – ‘The Good Op Shop’, whose profits will all go directly to conservation projects to help our native animals and plants.

Opening soon!

The Good Op Shop hopes to open 11 June 2021 – subject to COVID-19 restrictions.

They are located at The Salvage Yard, 4 Lewis Drive Castlemaine, VIC.

To learn more visit their Facebook page – click here

To contact The Good Op Shop please email them – thegoodopshop@gmail.com

Volunteers needed

The Good Op Shop is seeking volunteers for regular shifts on Thursdays (12 – 3 pm and 3 – 6 pm), Fridays (10 am – 1 pm and 1 – 4 pm), and Saturdays (10 am – 1 pm and 1 – 4 pm). If you are interested in helping out, they ask that you please fill out their online form and then they will give you a call – click here 

 

Waterwatch volunteers wanted for Forest Creek

Posted on 2 June, 2021 by Asha

Forest Creek in 2014 (photo from Connecting Country archives)

Since 2006, dedicated volunteers have surveyed water quality along Forest Creek in Castlemaine VIC every month. They monitor waterway health using methods outlined by the Waterwatch citizen science program. At the recent Castlemaine Landcare Group AGM, volunteer Matt Kennedy gave a report on Waterwatch findings along Forest Creek, and invited anyone interested in volunteering for this worthy cause to get in touch.

‘We take turns to monitor four sites monthly on Forest Creek, simple chemistry and water meters used with visual observations and data loaded into a public database for use by scientists and for catchment management,’ says Matt. ‘A monitoring session takes about 2-3 hours but is quicker as you get familiar with it. Training is provided by current volunteers and North Central CMA, with regular check-ins by the CMA to maintain quality assurance.’

Become a waterwatch volunteer

If you are interested in becoming a Waterwatch volunteer with Castlemaine Landcare Group, contact Matt Kennedy (email: migalake33@gmail.com)

If you are interested in becoming a Waterwatch volunteer elsewhere in the Mount Alexander region, contact your nearest Landcare or Friends group. To find your group, contact Connecting Country’s Landcare Facilitator, Asha Bannon (email: asha@connectingcountry.org.au ) or visit our website – click here 

To learn more about Castlemaine Landcare Group – click here

To learn about the North Central WaterWatch Program, visit the North Central Catchment Management Authority website – click here

 

Our forgotten woodland plants

Posted on 2 June, 2021 by Ivan

Hats off to anyone who has been working hard to restore and replenish our treasured landscapes. We love where we live, and we especially appreciate efforts to restore our fragmented natural woodlands and increase habitat for our local wildlife. It is pleasing to see the return of many trees and shrubs through numerous revegetation efforts, and also from natural regeneration following removal of livestock grazing.

The powerhouses of our current landscape are often the mighty Eucalyptus trees of multiple species. Often the focus of revegetation and restoration efforts, Eucalypts provide enormous habitat value to many animals large and small. However, they are only part of a healthy ecosystem. A recent update to the article titled ‘Forgotten woodlands, future landscapes‘ (originally published in 2013) by Ian Lunt reminded us of the missing elements of our current day woodlands. Ian points out that historical evidence shows us other plant species once dominated our local environment in central Victoria.

The article is an excellent read, well-researched, and points out that two hundred years ago, another group of trees – Honeysuckle, Oak, Lightwood and Cherry – formed extensive woodlands across many parts of south-east Australia. Today we call these trees Silver Banksia (Banksia marginata), Drooping Sheoak (Allocasuarina verticillata), Wild Cherry (Exocarpos cupressiformis), and Lightwood (Acacia implexa) or Blackwood (A. melanoxylon).

This work supports Connecting Country’s evidence-based approach to landscape restoration. Many of our on-ground projects over the past decade have worked to rebalance our woodlands, and return the missing shrubs and prickly plants that once were prevalent in the landscape. These small trees and shrubs provide essential food, nesting sites, and shelter from predators for our threatened woodland birds and other small animals.

Please read on for an extract of the article, courtesy of Ian Lunt.

Detail from an 1854 map of central Victoria showing the northern end of Mount Alexander (photo by Ian Lunt)

 

Forgotten woodlands, future landscapes

Picture a gorgeous woodland in the early 1800s. What do you see? Majestic gum trees with bent old boughs, golden grasses, a mob of sheep or kangaroos, and a forested hill in the distance? The luminous landscape of a Hans Heysen painting, perhaps.

It’s an iconic Aussie landscape. But something’s missing. The trees are wrong. Or at least, they aren’t all there.

Two hundred years ago, another group of trees – Honeysuckle, Oak, Lightwood and Cherry – formed extensive woodlands across many parts of south-east Australia. Today we call these trees Silver Banksia (Banksia marginata), Drooping Sheoak (Allocasuarina verticillata), Wild Cherry (Exocarpos cupressiformis), and Lightwood (Acacia implexa) or Blackwood (A. melanoxylon).

Did you picture a woodland dominated by any of these species? If not, I wonder why. Do we picture eucalypt woodlands because eucalypts now dominate our local bush? In doing so, did we forget the felled species and remember the hardy and persistent?

Indigenous Australians and early white explorers and settlers knew these woodlands well. William Howitt extolled the beautiful Sheoak and Banksia woodlands near Melbourne:

… nearly all the trees were shiacks [she oaks], — not the eternal gum-trees, — and these, interspersed with Banksias, now in fresh foliage, and new pale yellow cones, or rather bottle-brushes, with a sprinkling of gums and golden wattles, gave what you rarely see in that country, a variety of foliage and hue. (HOWITT 1858, P. 206)

Early surveyors inscribed combinations of ‘oak, honeysuckle and gum’ across many survey plans, as on this early map of Mount Alexander in central Victoria. Mount Alexander is still covered by bush, but it’s now dominated by eucalypts, not Silver Banksia. I wonder how many honeysuckles survive on the range, and how far away the nearest large population might be?

To read the full article on Ian Lunt’s website – click here

 

 

Swift Parrot in the news again

Posted on 2 June, 2021 by Ivan

Swift Parrots are one of the iconic species of our Box-Ironbark region.  The Mount Alexander region is one of its favored mainland foraging locations and it is particularly well known from the forests of Muckleford. On the Australian mainland, it’s a migratory visitor during the winter months for non-breeding activities only. All Swift Parrot breeding occurs in Tasmania during the spring-summer months, and this is where the Swift Parrot has recently been in the news.

The Swift Parrot featured in the news again this week and for all of the wrong reasons. The news article appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald and highlighted some of the challenges this stunning parrot is facing in Tasmania with recent logging activities in core habitat areas. The article provides a detailed interview with Dr Matthew Webb, a conservation scientist at Australian National University who monitors the spatial range of the nomadic swift parrots during their breeding season.

Please read on for an extract of the article, courtesy of the Sydney Morning Herald. You can also read all about Swift Parrots in our region – click here

‘Leave the forests alone’: Swift action needed to save endangered parrots

Late last year, Dr Matthew Webb arrived at a patch of forest on the east coast of Tasmania expecting to find swift parrots feeding on the creamy white eucalyptus blossom and flitting, with distinctive speed, to nearby nesting trees.

Dr Webb has been studying these birds – the fastest parrot on Earth – and their summer breeding sites in Tasmania for more than 15 years.

When he arrived, the swift parrots were there. But so too were large trucks and heavy machinery logging trees in the Eastern Tiers forest reserve, despite the presence of the critically endangered birds.

It’s not that the presence of parrots in this coupe was unexpected.

Dr Webb is a conservation scientist at Australian National University who monitors the spatial range of the nomadic swift parrots during their breeding season. And he routinely notifies the state forestry agency – Sustainable Timber Tasmania – and the Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and Environment about parrot habitat. Yet this keeps happening.

Swift parrots are critically endangered.

Swift parrots are critically endangered (photo: Sydney Morning Herald)

 

‘I still really enjoy the work but what’s not enjoyable is returning to places that I’ve been monitoring for years and finding really critical breeding or feeding habitat turned into a hundred hectares of clear-fell,’ Dr Webb says. ‘This means not only more habitat loss but also active nests being knocked over.’

Swift parrots are a critically endangered bird found only in south-eastern Australia, whose decline is largely due to loss of habitat through deforestation and predation by sugar gliders, an introduced species in Tasmania.

To read the full article in the Sydney Morning Herald, please – click here

 

Mount Alexander FOBIF long walk: 20 June 2021

Posted on 2 June, 2021 by Ivan

Our friends and partners at Friends of the Box-Ironbark Forests (FOBIF) have planned a 12 km walk across the iconic Mount Alexander in central Victoria on Sunday 20 June 2021, subject to relevant COVID-19 restrictions at that time. It will be a stunning walk through a variety of landscapes. FOBIF’s walks have a reputation for providing interesting insights into our local natural environment and biodiversity hotspots, led by local experts and passionate volunteers.

Mount Alexander, known as Lanjanuc to the Jaara Jaara people, has plenty of interesting geology and vegetation across the mountain.

Here are more details from FOBIF.

Mount Alexander long walk: 20 June 2021

This FOBIF walk will be just under 12 km which doesn’t sound very long but the majority is off-track negotiating rocks and other obstacles so is fairly slow going. In addition there is a sustained climb up past Black Wallaby Rocks and a short but steep descent from Langs Lookout, both of which require reasonable balance and fitness.

Walking at a moderate pace and including refreshment breaks we can expect to be out for between 5-6 hours allowing for time to enjoy the experience.

For our Bendigo neighbours we will start from the well known carpark on Harcourt-Sutton Grange Road by the water channel, aiming to arrive there about 9.50 am.

To do this we will need to leave Templeton Street, Castlemaine VIC at 9.30 sharp.

To whet the appetite pictures of two of the features, namely the large red gum and Black Wallaby Rocks are included.

For any queries contact Jeremy on 0409 933 046.

To visit FOBIF’s website – click here

 

 

Healthy dams event 2021 – last chance to book!

Posted on 25 May, 2021 by Ivan

We have just SIX tickets remaining for our Healthy Dams event on 5 June 2021, which is part of our Healthy Landscape project. Book now to avoid disappointment for what will surely be a great education event.

‘Healthy dams’ will be hosted by Connecting Country and local ecologist, Karl Just, who has a natural wonder and fascination with aquatic plants and animals, and their importance to farming and biodiversity. We have planned this in-person event at a stunning private property in Taradale VIC, which fronts the Coliban River and has several farm dams.

This event is part of our ‘Healthy Landscapes’ project, funded through the Australian Government’s Smart Farms program.

The workshop will cover:

  • How to improve the health of dams and ponds.
  • Suitable plants for waterways and revegetation of aquatic areas.
  • Frogs, wildlife and improving water quality.
  • Options for stock management and nutrient management.

We will have the opportunity to tour two dams on the property and the Coliban River at the farm in Taradale.

Dams and ponds provide vital farm infrastructure, as well as habitat for many invertebrates, amphibians and birds, and sometimes even mammals. The workshop will explore how to create and maintain healthy waterways for the benefit of people, farm productivity and the natural environment.

The event will be on Saturday 5 June 2021 from 1.00 to 2.30 pm in Taradale, VIC. It’s sure to be popular and tickets are limited. To book please – click here 

Healthy farm dams can boost farm productivity while supporting native wildlife and providing clean water (photo by Australian National University)

 

Catering for this event is BYO. Please come equipped for potential weather extremes, wear sturdy shoes and bring adequate water and nourishment.

Our Healthy Landscapes project is about helping our local farmers and other landholders to manage their land sustainably for the benefit of wildlife, themselves and the broader landscape. We are also developing a Healthy Landscapes guide book, especially targeted to the Mount Alexander region of central Victoria. This event is part of a series of educational workshops for landholders on sustainable land management.

Our special presenter – Karl Just

Karl is an established ecological consultant and researcher based here in Castlemaine VIC. He has dedicated his time to providing environmental management plans for parks and reserves, conducting flora and fauna surveys and educating the community on improving our natural environment. He has a particular interest in the beautiful and threatened species, the Eltham Copper Butterfly, as well as searching for other endangered species in our region. Karl has a focus on wetlands and waterway surveys, as well as management planning.

 

 

Community Cactus Warriors field day – POSTPONED DUE TO COVID-19 RESTRICTIONS

Posted on 25 May, 2021 by Ivan

Our friends and partners at the Tarrangower Cactus Control Group Inc. (TCCG) are having a Community Cactus Field Day on Sunday 30 May 2021, at the eastern end of Bells Lane, Eastville (north-west of Maldon, VIC). The morning’s activities begin at 10.30 am and end with a delicious BBQ lunch and friendly chat around 12:30 pm. TCCG supply all the necessary equipment, so please come and join them for a rewarding morning in the outdoors.

Tarrangower Cactus Control Group consists of Landcare volunteers dedicated to the eradication of Wheel Cactus (Opuntia robusta). TCCG, in conjunction with Parks Victoria, holds friendly and informal Wheel Cactus Control community field days to inform and demonstrate control techniques, on the last Sunday of the month from May to October. These field days always end with a free BBQ lunch, cuppa and cake and the opportunity to chat, exchange ideas and make contacts.

It is a great opportunity to spend a rewarding morning outdoors, meeting neighbours and others who are concerned about preserving our unique environment. Everyone is welcome, no previous experience is required and all equipment is supplied.

To catch the ‘cactus warriors’ in action on video – click here.

Please find read on for more details from TCCG regarding the field day.

Cactus warrior volunteers at work on a community field day (photo by Lee Mead)

 

The Tarrangower Cactus Control Group sincerely thank all the volunteers who have helped control local Wheel Cactus infestations. Many community members have contributed to maintaining our ‘war on Wheel Cactus’ over the past years.

Volunteers have helped clear Maldon Historic Reserve of major infestations, helping to preserve our native plants and animals and restore our stunning park. Many local property owners have been assisted over the years by the cactus warriors giving valuable assistance and advice. There’s also been many devoted and passionate volunteers who have served on our committee, bringing an amazing range of skills and talent – thanks to all of you.

Old and new volunteers are all invited to our next Community Field Day on Sunday 30 May 2021. The morning’s activities begin at 10:30 am and end with a delicious BBQ lunch and friendly chat around 12:30 pm. We supply all the necessary equipment, so please come and join us for a rewarding morning in the outdoors.

The location for this field day is at the eastern end of Bells Lane, Eastville VIC. To get there, head north out of Maldon along Bridgewater Rd for 9 km, then turn right into Murphys Rd. Drive another 3 km and turn right into Bells Lane, and you’ll find us another 1.5 km along, on the side of the road in Bells Lane. The route will be well marked with our ‘cactus’ boards.

These events are Covid-safe and family friendly, but children must be accompanied by a parent at all times. If you have any queries or want to see a map for directions, please go to our website at www.cactuswarriors.org

Tarrangower Cactus Control Group Inc

 

Dja Dja Wurrung cultural tour – POSTPONED DUE TO COVID-19 RESTRICTIONS

Posted on 25 May, 2021 by Ivan

We often receive queries from our community regarding how to learn about and connect with Dja Dja Wurrung culture, their significant and sacred places, and connection to Country.

Nalderun Education Aboriginal Corporation are coordinating a Dja Dja Wurrung cultural tour, providing an excellent opportunity for community members to learn more about our local Indigenous history, and see evidence of aboriginal occupation and connection to the Mount Alexander (Leanganook) region in central Victoria. The lucky attendees will visit some significant sites and hear from Uncle Rick Nelson, Dja Dja Wurrung Elder and Traditional Owner for the Castlemaine region. Catering will be provided Aboriginal caterers, Murnong Mummas.

Please read on for further information from Nalderun, including the event flyer and details on how to book.

 

Dja Dja Wurrung Cultural Tour

Are you interested in learning more about your local community’s Indigenous history?

Local Traditional Owner and Dja Dja Wurrung Elder, Uncle Rick Nelson will take you on a unique tour of his favourite places

Friday 28 May 2021, 9.30-1.30 pm

• See evidence of Aboriginal occupation in the region
• View traditional artifacts from both public and private collections
• Visit culturally important sites in the region
• Learn about the seasons in this area and Indigenous worldviews
• Morning campfire tea en route, with Wattle seed and Lemon Myrtle biscuits
• Tour ends with special indigenous finger foods presented by well known Aboriginal caterers Murnong Mummas

Tour Guide Uncle Rick Nelson Dja Dja Wurrung Elder and Traditional Owner for the Castlemaine region
Assisted by Kath Coff Nalderun’s CEO and PHD candidate in Indigenous pedagogies
Accompanied by members of Nalderun’s Youth Mentor Team

NUMBERS ARE STRICTLY LIMITED – SO PLEASE BOOK EARLY

Bookings at the Market Building or https://www.bendigoregion.com.au/visit-castlemaine-maldon/things-to-do-tickets

Please note you do have to select the correct tour date at the top of the page to be able to book.
$180 full /150 concession

Departure from Djaara Park / Victory Park (Mostyn St, Castlemaine VIC) near the picnic area and BBQ 9.15 for 9.30 am. Transport will be in a comfortable mini-bus. Please note tour will go ahead rain or shine!

Nalderun has curated a series of films for Reconciliation Week, screening at the Theatre Royal starting 29 May 2021. There is also an important exhibition for Reconciliation Week at the Market Building.

Nalderun Education Aboriginal Corporation (NEAC)

 

Donate now to demonstrate your support for restoring local landscapes

Posted on 20 May, 2021 by Frances

A huge thank you to our passionate and dedicated supporters who have generously donated their valuable time and hard-earned money during 2020-21. And a special thanks to our handful of treasured regular donors who contribute every month of the year!

As we approach the end of the 2020-21 financial year, now is a great time to make a financial contribution to Connecting Country’s work if you can.

Donating is easy:

  • To use our secure online service (with automated receipt) – click here
  • To download our form if you’d prefer bank transfer, cheque or cash – click here

Connecting Country is a registered charity that relies on grants and donations to function. All donations are tax-deductible. We appreciate all your support, whether large or small.

We extend our thanks to everyone for being part of the Connecting Country community in 2020-21, joining our shared vision for landscape restoration across the Mount Alexander region. The valuable work we do couldn’t happen without people like you – volunteering time to help with wildlife monitoring, joining our education events, participating in our on-ground projects, giving financial help or just being a member.

Connecting Country has a demonstrated track record of eleven years of successful landscape restoration and great plans for the future. However, due to external circumstances we are finding it extremely difficult to secure funding for on-ground environmental projects.

We need help to maintain the strong foundations essential to our success as a community-driven organisation and keep us focused on long-term plans. With enough support, 2021-22 will see us continue to help landholders with on-ground actions, prepare for climate change, maintain our long-term monitoring, and deliver events that inform, educate and inspire.

Learning how to care for large old trees at our free workshop in May 2021 (photo by Frances)

 

As a Connecting Country supporter, you’ve already contributed to some amazing successes. Since beginning in 2007 we have:

  • Restored over 9,500 ha of habitat across the Mount Alexander region.
  • Delivered more than 200 successful community education events.
  • Secured funding to deliver more than 50 landscape restoration projects.
  • Supported a thriving network of 30 Landcare and Friends groups.

You can be assured that any financial support from you will be well spent, with 100% invested into our core work of supporting and implementing landscape restoration in our local area. We run a very lean operation and our small team of part-time staff attracts voluntary support that ensures every dollar goes a long way.

Workshop participants enjoying a tour of the trees at Hillside Acres farm in Harcourt (photo by Frances Howe)

 

Bird of the month: Buff-rumped Thornbill

Posted on 19 May, 2021 by Ivan

Welcome to our fifteenth 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.

Buff-rumped Thornbill (Acanthiza reguloides)

Thornbill species are some of the most difficult local birds to identify, and the Buff-rumped Thornbill is no exception. If you can get a good view, you may be able to see it has a very pale, almost white eye. But this is not easy as they are constantly on the move, flitting about in the cover of shrubs and trees, or on the ground amongst fallen timber. A bit easier to see is its buff-coloured rump, which is also a giveaway with identifying this species. Other diagnostic features are its creamy-coloured body fading to a gently yellow hue low on its belly, and the black tail. Usually, I hear them before I see them. I liken their call to a Brown Thornbill with a touch of Grey Fantail. It’s a typical Thornbill call but with more melody than most.

To add to the confusion, Buff-rumped Thornbills are very fond of company, both their own species and other small woodland birds like Grey Fantails, Striated and Yellow-rumped Thornbills, Speckled Warblers (you would do a happy dance of triumph on seeing one of these), Scarlet Robins and other species. Rarely seen on their own or in pairs, they like a party and can be in flocks of up to 20.

Buff-rumped Thornbills are found in the drier, more open forest regions of coastal eastern Australia (photo by Damian Kelly)

 

Like many Australian birds, there are observations of them breeding cooperatively. The 2-4 eggs in a dome-shaped nest are tended by the parents with assistance from their sons, who feed the new hatchlings and their parents. Once fledged, the females tend to disperse, with their brothers often staying home. This means that Buff-rumped Thornbills are generally a sedentary resident in their range.

A mixed flock moving though the foliage can be exciting and tricky to identify, but satisfying, especially if you manage to sort out the Thornbills that are often present. Use your ears and your eyes … and good luck!

Buff-rumped Thornbills inhabit grassy woodlands and feed mostly in small flocks among the lower levels of the vegetation (photo by Damian Kelly)

 

To listen to the call of the Buff-rumped Thornbill, please visit Graeme Chapman’s website – 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.

 

Key Biodiversity Area (KBA) health check: volunteers required

Posted on 19 May, 2021 by Ivan

The Key Biodiversity Areas (KBAs) program is a global partnership of leading conservation groups with the aim to sustain the most important sites for nature. KBAs are nature hotspots, and we are blessed to have some in our own backyard, including the Bendigo Box-Ironbark Region KBA. This expanse of land covers Muckleford, Newstead, Strangways, Sandon and Strathlea, to the west of Castlemaine VIC.

Over 300 KBAs have been declared in Australia, mainly based on their importance for birds. These places also support over 60% of all threatened species in the country. To see all of the KBAs across Australia – click here

Dedicated teams of volunteers conduct yearly ecological health checks on the KBAs. One local coordinator and volunteer is Greg Turner, a passionate bird watcher with an excellent insight into the health of our region’s natural assets. Greg’s role is to target and promote volunteer action for these special places and the species that depend on them.

Greg contacted us seeking assistance with outstanding KBA assessments for 2021 in the Maryborough-Dunolly Box-Ironbark Woodlands KBA.

If you are in a position to assist with an assessment of the Maryborough-Dunnolly Box-Ironbark Woodlands KBA, please consider volunteering.  For further information, read the following message from Greg Turner or contact him via email (gregturner1956@gmail.com).

Australian Owlet-nightjar at the Rise and Shine Bushland Reserve, part of the Box-Ironbark KBA (photo by Geoff Park)

 

Key Biodiversity Area Health check 2021

Maryborough Dunolly Box Ironbark Woodlands Key Biodiversity Areas (KBA)

Each Easter KBA Guardians have been submitting assessments on the condition of KBAs across the country. Victoria has 41 KBAs. Due to a range of reasons including Covid-19, only 9 were assessed in 2019-20.

This is an appeal to your members to help do more this year. The words below are from BirdLife Australia’s National KBA Coordinator, Golo Maurer. I believe some of your members would be able to fill out the form in under an hour because they know these areas.

If this is not the case, perhaps you could suggest some people who could help me.

Thank you

Greg Turner

gregturner1956@gmail.com

You can find all of the previous Easter Health Checks on this link.

https://portal.birdlife.org.au/kba-health-check

(Please note, you may run into trouble with your password this year, as our system provider just changed the rules, what an Easter egg that is! But essentially it is the simple standard process: 1. Click on Forgot password. 2. E-mail yourself a link to create the new password. 3. Submit a new 12-character password with letters, numbers and special characters. 4. Log into the portal with the new password.)

On much more pleasant note the 2020 Easter Health-Check was the first to crack the milestone of 100 KBAs assessed in Australia! Great work everyone. Thank you! We were also able to welcome Health-checks from KBAs that have been declared for species other than birds in the portal and Guardians can now print out a word document summarising their Health-check to take into account conversations with landholders, agency staff, volunteers etc.

Let’s make sure we can keep growing our knowledge on KBA Health in 2021.

If you need support with the portal Golo Maurer the National Coordinator is only an e-mail or phone call away: kba@birdlife.org.au , 0467 444 114 or contact your Victorian KBA Coordinator – Greg Turner. (see below).

Here are some tips for completing the Health-check:

Thanks again for your help improving the places that matter most for wildlife in Australia!

Best Wishes

Greg Turner

Victorian State KBA Coordinator

I live overseas at the moment. If you wish to call me, leave your phone number and I will call you on Skype.

 

Camp Out Collage 2021

Posted on 13 May, 2021 by Asha

Thank you to everyone who contributed to the ‘Camp Out Collage’ as part of our virtual 2021 Camp Out on the Mount. Special congratulations to our prize winners – Theo, Dale, Lynda, Liz, and Eliza!

The collage is made up of photos from camping, pledges to care for the land, and words of love for Leanganook.

Photos and words from Theo Mellick-Cooper, Dale Every, Lynda Conn, Liz Martin, Eliza Alford, Asha Bannon, Frances Howe and Bronwyn Silver.

The Camp Out on the Mount pages will remain on our website for those who would like to continue exploring them – click here

 

Healthy landscapes, healthy dams – Book Now – 5 June 2021

Posted on 13 May, 2021 by Ivan

Connecting Country is delighted to announce our third event for our Healthy Landscape project is now open for booking, with spaces limited to 25 people. ‘Healthy dams‘ will be hosted by local ecologist, Karl Just, who has a natural wonder and fascination with aquatic plants and animals, and their importance to farming and biodiversity. The event will be held in-person at a stunning private property in Taradale VIC, which fronts the Coliban River and has several farm dams.

This event is part of our ‘Healthy Landscapes’ project, funded through the Australian Government’s Smart Farms program.

The workshop will cover:

  • How to improve the health of dams and ponds.
  • Suitable plants for waterways and revegetation of aquatic areas.
  • Frogs, wildlife and improving water quality.
  • Options for stock management and nutrient management.

We will have the opportunity to tour two dams on the property and the Coliban River at the farm in Taradale.

Dams and ponds provide vital farm infrastructure, as well as habitat for many invertebrates, amphibians and birds, and sometimes even mammals. The workshop will explore how to create and maintain healthy waterways for the benefit of people, farm productivity and the natural environment.

The event will be on Saturday 5 June 2021 from 1.00 to 2.30 pm in Taradale, VIC. It’s sure to be popular and tickets are limited. To book please – click here 

Farm dams can be productive and also support native animals and clean water. Photo: Australian National University (ANU)

 

Catering for this event is BYO. Please come equipped for potential weather extremes, wear sturdy shoes and bring adequate water and nourishment.

Our Healthy Landscapes project is about helping our local farmers and other landholders to manage their land sustainably for the benefit of wildlife, themselves and the broader landscape. We are also developing a Healthy Landscapes guide book, especially targeted to the Mount Alexander region of central Victoria. This event is part of a series of educational workshops for landholders on sustainable land management.

Our special presenter – Karl Just

Karl is an established ecological consultant and researcher based here in Castlemaine VIC. He has dedicated his time to providing environmental management plans for parks and reserves, conducting flora and fauna surveys and educating the community on improving our natural environment. He has a particular interest in the beautiful and threatened species, the Eltham Copper Butterfly, as well as searching for other endangered species in our region. Karl has a focus on wetlands and waterway surveys, as well as management planning.

 

 

Walking Together – Balak Kalik Manya – May 2021 update

Posted on 12 May, 2021 by Ivan

We received an exciting update from Harley Douglas, project manager at Djandak, regarding their Walking Together – Balak Kalik Manya Project. This is a four-year project committed to writing site-specific management plans for two sites within Dja Dja Wurrung Country: Kalimna Park in Castlemaine and Wildflower Drive in Bendigo VIC. Both sites were selected because of their proximity to growing townships and the increasing pressures of urbanisation slowly encroaching closer and closer to these park boundaries.

After a lot of stakeholder engagement, the draft management plans are now ready for community review and Djandak are seeking feedback. Please read on for details from Harley.

Dam and riparian vegetation at Wildflower Drive (photo by Djandak)

 

Walking Together- Balak Kalik Manya – Newsletter Update

The Walking Together- Balak Kalik Manya Project is a four-year project committed to writing site-specific management plans for two sites within Dja Dja Wurrung Country; Kalimna Park in Castlemaine and Wildflower Drive in Bendigo. Both sites were selected due to their proximity to growing townships and the increasing pressures of urbanisation encroaching both park boundaries. The project is exploring how we can increase community connection with nature, how to improve visitation rates and encourage appropriate use of these sites, all while maintaining and improving biodiversity. The project will promote Djaara employment and assist in Djaara reconnecting with traditional practices of land management. For more information on the project please see this short video.

Since workshopping our management plans with Djaara members, community members, and government stakeholders, our respective management plans for Kalimna Park and Wildflower Drive have now reached a draft phase and are ready for review and comments by impassioned stakeholders. Djandak are seeking your feedback as a user of either park who can provide valued subjective knowledge that we might not have considered within our current draft plans.

The draft management plans will be housed on Djandak’s webpage for a few weeks before taking both plans offline to revise and incorporate the relevant comments and suggestions. Djandak will then finalise the management plans, including design elements, and place back on our website for people to view permanently.

Here is the link to our webpage and the Walking Together- Balak Kalik Manya section- http://djandak.com.au/projects/walking-together-balak-kalik-manya

Djandak are aware of the many user groups and community that frequent our parks and the different values that each of us have do not always align perfectly. For this reason, Djandak asks that all comments are constructive in their manner and appropriately worded. Any comments that are perceived as derogatory or unconstructive will not be considered for the final management plan.

All comments can be provided either by downloading and commenting directly into the document (using the comment function in Adobe) and sending back through to myself, or provide comments in an email to me with relevant sections clearly labelled (e.g. ‘Value 7- I think that…’, or ‘Strategy 29- …’).

Please feel free to redistribute the link to Djandak’s webpage and our management plans amongst other interested Djaara and community members, the more people we have commenting on our plan the more representative the plan will be of what the community and Djaara aspire our parks to look and feel.

Thank you,

Harley Douglas
DDW Member
Project Manager- Dja Dja Wurrung Enterprises Trading as Djandak
P: 5444 2888
E: harley.douglas@djadjawurrung.com.au