Restoring landscapes across the Mount Alexander Region

McKenzie Hill Action and Landcare Group – Landcare recovery planting

Posted on 20 July, 2022 by Hadley Cole

McKenzie Hill Action Group members hard at work (photo by Amelia Stuparich)

McKenzie Hill Action and Landcare Group has been busy planting 300 indigenous tubestock plants to restore habitat in the Mckenzie Hill area. This work was supported by Connecting Country’s ‘Rapid Response Landcare Recovery’ project funded by the Helen Macpherson Smith Trust to help Landcare groups regain their momentum following the impacts of COVID-19 restrictions on their activities.

 

McKenzie Hill Action Group member hammering into the hard rocky hillside (photo by Amelia Stuparich)

In late May 2022 the group planted a diverse range of ground covers, sedges, shrubs and trees, including Matted bush pea (Pultanea pudunculata), Tree Violet (Melicytus dentatus ) and Silver Banksia (Banksia marginata), to name a few. The planting was planned and the plants carefully selected with help from Connecting Country’s Landscape Restoration Coordinator, Bonnie Humphreys.

McKenzie Hill Action and Landcare Group reported that ‘It was a very productive planting day at Seventy Foot Hill (Diamond Gully Road McKenzie Hill) with seven intrepid planters making light work of just over 200 plants’. The holes were pre-dug, so it was fast going, with one person making up guards and others planting or lugging buckets of water to sustain the new babies. The remaining plants were put in the following week, by two committed Landcarers. The new plants have made a positive impact on the landscape already, and will add to the biodiversity of the area by providing under story habitats for small birds, animals and insects.’

Plants ready to be placed in their new home (photo by Amelia Stuparich)

Connecting Country congratulates McKenzie Hill Action and Landcare Group for all the amazing work they do to enhance and protect biodiversity in their pocket of the greater Mount Alexander region.

This project was made possible due to the generosity of the Helen Macpherson Smith Trust and their commitment to supporting the restoration and protection of sustainable environments across Victoria.

 

Look at Me: The ants keeping an endangered butterfly alive

Posted on 14 July, 2022 by Ivan

Look at Me‘ is a much-loved podcast series featuring weird and wonderful tales of Australian wildlife. It’s hosted by award-winning science journalist Rae Johnston and ecologist Chris McCormack, and is produced in conjunction with our talented friends at Remember the Wild.

We’re not talking about the usual koalas and kangaroos. This podcast delves into the more bizarre but fascinating creatures that most Australians probably haven’t even heard of!

This includes a very special local animal close to our hearts: the Eltham Copper Butterfly. As our regular readers know, the largest remaining population of this threatened species lives in Kalimna Park, right next door to Castlemaine in central Victoria. The podcast features interviews with local ecologist Elaine Bayes, who has worked tirelessly to document, monitor and protect our local Eltham Copper Butterfly population.

Look at Me: The ants keeping an endangered butterfly alive

Imagine outsourcing childcare to a nest of ants? This may not be the best idea for humans but a certain insect is making it work. Now the Eltham copper butterfly’s amazing use of surrogate ant parents has attracted human fans who are using a song to try to save it from extinction.

To listen to the Eltham Copper Butterfly podcast – click here

To find more exciting episodes of the Look at Me podcast – click here

Eltham Copper Butterfly on flowering Sweet Bursaria (photo by Elaine Bayes)

 

NAIDOC week 2022 – Get Up, Stand Up, Show Up!

Posted on 8 July, 2022 by Hadley Cole

Connecting Country pays acknowledgement and respect to the Traditional Owners of the lands of Leanganook (Mount Alexander) region and extends the acknowledgement to all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders residing in the region. We pay respect to the Elders past present and emerging, and acknowledge the care they have taken of Country for tens of thousands of years.

NAIDOC week is a national celebration of the history culture and achievements of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and is on now until 10 July 2022. The theme of NAIDOC week this year is Get Up, Stand Up, Show Up and focuses on continuing to encourage systemic change in recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture.

In celebration of NAIDOC week the Arthur Rylah Institute held an online forum with the theme ‘Get up, Stand up, Show up!: what this means for country culture and environmental management.’ The panel discussion is held with esteemed Indigenous women; Maddi Miller, Rhianna Kerr and Teagan Goolmeer, who are all amazing women working in the environmental management space. To watch the playback you can click the link below. The discussion touches on self determination of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and the management of Country and Traditional Owner country plans.

Connecting Country greatly values our relationships with traditional owners Djaara and Nalderun.

To find out what celebrations of NAIDOC week are happening locally head over to the 2022 Bendigo NAIDOC week program and find events ranging from trivia nights to art exhibitions, films and sport.

 

Volunteers outperform on climate future plots

Posted on 30 June, 2022 by Ivan

We have been busy preparing to plant our climate future plots over the past few months, and have been excited by the enthusiasm of volunteers keen to help us with this vital new project. Community has always been at the core of what we do at Connecting Country. In recent years, it’s been increasingly difficult to source funding for environmental projects. In this new phase, we’ve had to rely on our community and volunteers even more.

It is important we acknowledge and thank the wonderful volunteers that help make Connecting Country a success in delivering on-ground landscape restoration, wildlife monitoring, Landcare support and environmental education. Since beginning in 2007 we’ve clocked up over 12,000 hours of volunteer time, and we’ve have had a particularly strong flow of volunteers over the past few months to help us deliver our key projects.

Our most recent team of volunteers have put in a stellar effort to produce over 1,000 wire tree guards for our climate future plots, which will protect our recently-arrived Silver Banksia and Sweet Bursaria plants currently at the Connecting Country depot. The plants have arrived from locations all over southeastern Australia, as part of our ‘Future-proof our forests’ project. In 2021 Connecting Country secured funding support from the Ross Trust to establish two climate future plots of 500 plants each, right here in Mount Alexander region during 2021-23. The sturdy wire guards will protect our precious plants for many years to come.

Under the guidance of Bonnie and Jess (Connecting Country staff), the wonderful team of climate future plot volunteers has been led by Duncan Gibson, with assistance from John Carruthers, Kevin Cato, Huntly Barton and Frances Howe, plus our hardworking contactor, Anna Senior. Cutting wire and assembling plant guards in cold and damp conditions is not the most glamourous work, but our committed volunteers have put in an incredible effort to make this project happen.

A special mention has to go Duncan and Frances, who have also spent countless volunteer hours setting out and  drilling 550 holes for the Sweet Bursaria climate future plot. The site is now ready to plant out, once the remaining tree guards have been assembled over the coming weeks. We have seen ideal weather for planting and soil preparation, with a moist autumn and winter 2022 to date.

Drilling 550 holes in preparation for planting the Sweet Bursaria climate future plot (photo by Frances Howe)

 

Our climate future plots will focus on two species from our local area, Silver Banksia (Banksia marginata) and Sweet Bursaria (Bursaria spinosa). Both are key species for our local woodlands and landscape. We have sourced a variety of plant provenances of these plants, from local populations as well as some from further away. We started by looking at the Bureau of Meteorology’s climate predictions for our region and selected seed from areas that are anticipated to match our climate into the future, focusing on areas that are hotter and drier.

A huge thank you!

We are surrounded by an enthusiastic community that allows us to deliver our programs and bring the community along with us. If it wasn’t for your hard work, we simply would not be able to deliver all of our projects and key commitments. To everyone who has helped Connecting Country: THANK YOU! We are so grateful for your support.

We would also like to thank the Ross Trust for their generous funding for this important project. The Ross Trust is a perpetual charitable trust with a vision to create positive social and environmental change so Victorians can thrive.

Learn more about climate future plots

For more information on climate future plots, see:

 

Connecting Country has a new phone number

Posted on 28 June, 2022 by Frances

Connecting Country has moved fully into the digital age! We no longer have a landline phone.

To phone Connecting Country, please call our new number: 0493 362 394

Our office is not always staffed. If we don’t answer, please leave us a message and we will get back to you as soon as possible. You can also send us an email: info@connectingcountry.org.au

We apologise if you’ve struggled to contact us on our old landline recently, as we’ve had ongoing phone issues.

Please update your phone contacts with our new number. Our old number will divert to the new number for several months before disconnection.

 

Thank you 2021-22 donors!

Posted on 28 June, 2022 by Frances

With the end of financial year fast approaching, we’re experience a much-welcome bump in donations. We love our handful of committed regular donors, who give monthly throughout the year. We also celebrate our recent end of financial year donors, so far ranging from $50 to $5,000!

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We extend a huge thank you to our generous 2021-22 Connecting Country donors. With our funding opportunities currently limited, your contribution is extremely valuable and much appreciated. We cannot thank you enough.

Your donation directly supports our practical on-ground work to restore the land, educate our community,  monitor wildlife and support Landcare. You also provide our hard-working staff and volunteers with a welcome boost. It means a lot to us to know we have your support and value the work we do.

It’s not too late to make an end of financial year donation.
To make a safe online donation please – click here

You will immediately receive an automated electronic receipt for your tax deductible donation.

Of course, donations are welcome at any time. Please don’t hesitate to get in touch for further information about how your donation can support on-ground landscape restoration in our region.

 

A warm welcome: climate future plants arrive

Posted on 22 June, 2022 by Ivan

We would like to extend a warm welcome to our 1,000+ recent arrivals of Silver Banksia and Sweet Bursaria plants at the Connecting Country depot. The plants have arrived from locations all over southeastern Australia, as part of our ‘Future-proof our forests’ project. In 2021 Connecting Country secured funding support from the Ross Trust to establish two climate future plots of 500 plants each, right here in Mount Alexander region during 2021-23.

We are focusing on two species from our local area, Silver Banksia (Banksia marginata) and Sweet Bursaria (Bursaria spinosa). Both are key species for our local woodlands and landscape. We have sourced a variety of plant provenances of these plants, from local populations as well as some from further away. We started by looking at the Bureau of Meteorology’s climate predictions for our region and selected seed from areas that are anticipated to match our climate into the future, focussing on areas that are hotter and drier.

However, we also included seed from areas that are cooler and wetter. We aimed to to include genetics from a wide range of environments, as we don’t know what will be important in the future. There may be other genetic information stored within a particular provenance, such as the ability to survive an insect attack, or frost resilience, which plants from the hotter and drier area do not have.

We then paired these predictions with species distribution and the availability of seed or plants, to make our final plant selection.

Connecting Country’s Landscape Restoration Coordinator, Bonnie Humphreys, said ‘The aim of our two climate future plots is to create seed production areas and provide climate-adapted seed for use in future revegetation projects. They may also help us identify provenances most suited to survive in our changing climatic conditions’. ‘We are excited to have reached the stage of planting at the climate future plots, and look forward to watching them grow over and monitoring their progress over coming seasons,’ said Ms Humphreys.

The plants will be delivered from the depot to the climate future plot sites in the coming weeks, and guarded by sturdy wire plant guards. Each plot has been carefully set out to allow tracking of each plant into the future.  Mixing up provenances within the plot will increase the likelihood they will share pollen between plants when they flower and reproduce. This sharing of this genetic information may help the plants adapt as our climate changes. Once the plants are established, monitoring will allow us to assess plant growth and success.

Stayed tuned for more updates once the plants are in the ground and protected with plant guards. We will be holding a tour of the climate future plots in coming months.

We would like to thank the Ross Trust for their generous funding for this important project. The Ross Trus is a perpetual charitable trust with a vision to create positive social and environmental change so Victorians can thrive.

Learn more about climate future plots

For more information on climate future plots, see:

 

A successful Landcare Link-up for winter 2022

Posted on 22 June, 2022 by Hadley Cole

On 2 June 2022 Connecting Country hosted a Landcare Link-up with the theme of ‘Getting to know Connecting Country’. Our Landcare Link-ups provide an opportunity for Landcare and Friends groups of the Mount Alexander region to come together and share information, knowledge and experience. Historically, Connecting Country hosts a Landcare Link-up twice a year.

The event was held at the lovely historical Chewton Town Hall on a cold winters evening. Attendees came far and wide from Sutton Grange, Nuggety and Redesdale and represented eight Landcare groups from the region. Frances Howe and Brendan Sydes from Connecting Country gave a brief presentation on the work Connecting Country is involved in outside of Landcare, which covers community engagement, landscape restoration, and biodiversity monitoring.

Attendees enjoyed the opportunity to understand more about Connecting Country as an organisation and meet some of the staff and committee members who make all the work happen. It was also a great chance for neighbouring Landcare groups to discuss some of the restoration challenges they have on the ground and compare notes on the various landscapes they are working across.

We all enjoyed a hot and tasty vegetable soup and crusty bread for dinner followed by cakes and biscuits for dessert, which were all made possible by generous donations from wonderful local businesses Green Goes the Grocer, Sprout Bakery and Maxi IGA Castlemaine. It is heartwarming to know that local business will dig deep when it comes to supporting our local Landcare groups who do an amazing job in protecting and enhancing biodiversity in the Mount Alexander Region.

A special thank you to Hadley, Marie and Bonnie for setting up the venue and making the soup!

If you would like to connect with your local Landcare or Friends group – click here

To find out more about Landcare in the region, please contact our local Landcare Facilitator, Hadley – hadley@connectingcountry.org.au

 

Bird of the month: Long-billed and Little Corella

Posted on 21 June, 2022 by Ivan

Welcome to our 26th Bird of the month, a partnership between Connecting Country and BirdLife Castlemaine District. Each month we’re taking a close look at one special local bird species. We’re excited to join forces to deliver you a different bird each month, seasonally adjusted, and welcome suggestions from the community. We are blessed to have both the brilliant Damian Kelly and talented Jane Rusden from BirdLife Castlemaine District writing about our next bird of the month, accompanied by their stunning photos.

Long-billed Corella (Cacatua tenuirostris) and Little Corella (Cacatua sanguine)

Damian Kelly on wild Corellas

The story of Corellas in Australia is one of boom, bust and boom. And along the way some hard lessons have been learnt about misguided control measures that had exactly the opposite impact to what was intended.

Back in 1878 in the Kimberley in Western Australia one estimate put a flock of Little Corellas at 50,000 birds. The noise of their calls was unbearable as anyone who has been close to a flock would appreciate. Many very large flocks have been recorded across various parts of the inland.

The Little Corella has been used as a reliable guide to the presence of water by both the local Aboriginal groups and the later European settlers. Little Corellas are seldom found far from permanent water sources as they drink each day and occupy communal roosts near water in wooded farmlands, tree-lined water courses and nearby scrublands

Unlike northern Australia, in Victoria Little Corellas were first recorded in the dry north-west of the state in 1951. Steady expansion of their range occurred so that by the early 1970s flocks were common throughout the north-west. By 1978 they were recorded near Melbourne, probably assisted by accidental or deliberate releases of captive birds.

First records in Tasmania were in 1982, most likely from releases of captive birds. They experienced a spectacular spread in South Australia from the 1950s. Little Corellas have adapted with ease to the changing environment of farms throughout inland Australia.

Right from the early days they were kept as pets partly because they they are good talkers. There are even early records of some birds speaking in local Aboriginal dialects. They will readily breed in captivity and are also known to hydridise with Galahs and Pink Cockatoos in captivity. Hybrids with Galah have also been recorded in the wild

Long-billed Corellas originally were generally confined to south-eastern Australia. However, feral populations are now established in all states. They prefer wetter habitats compared to the Little Corella.

Long-billed Corella in the wild displaying the very long bill, pink face and stripe across the base of the neck (photo by Damian Kelly)

 

As a salutary lesson in messing with nature, in the early 1970’s large numbers of Long-billed Corellas were trapped by government agencies in grain growing areas. These birds were then sold into the pet trade. However, these wild birds proved to be totally unsuited to being pets and many were subsequently released, adding to feral populations. This impact of human intervention has only served to aid the spread of the birds. Big flocks continue to cause damage to crops in many areas as well as big roosting groups denuding their roost trees.

Life expectancy for both species is around 20 years with some individuals living much longer. So once a mob is established in an area they will be around for a long time.

Jane Rusden on captive rescue Corellas

Interestingly, Damian’s research lead us to the realisation that my sweet aviary rescue bird, ‘Bird’, may well have been one of the Long-billed Corellas captured in the 1970s. His language indicates he’s about that age … I won’t enlighten you on his full phrase, but ‘grouse’ is the cleanest word, a word commonly used in the 1970s. Also, his leg band indicates he was taken from a nest during a cull.

Bird, the Long-billed Corella aviary rescue, who wanted my phone as I photographed him! (photo by Jane Rusden)

 

Both Corella species are very long lived –  70 years is expected, hence they often outlive owners. This can be a problem as they are very emotional birds who can become very attached to their humans. Their needs are much like those of a human child, but they also have distinctly bird needs as well. If these are not met by their owners, it can lead to a miserable, and sometimes aggressive bird. They are intelligent and crafty. Bird is an excellent escape artist, requiring padlocks on his aviary, which he can open if a key is left in them.

‘Chookie’ is my Little Corella aviary rescue. He is charismatic, loving, has amazing language, and is very adept at undoing quick links. He bites with pressures over 300 pounds per square inch (PSI). Despite trying, I can’t meet his needs and have the physical scars to show for it. He is about to join a large aviary flock, where we hope he will be happier with a mob of his own kind.

Little Corella, one of a small mob resident at an artificial water supply – a water tank in the South Australian desert – displaying the totally white bird, except for a blush of pink on the face, between the bill and eye (photo by Jane Rusden)

 

 

 

Wetland plant identification and ecology course 2022

Posted on 16 June, 2022 by Frances

Our colleagues and wetland experts, Damien Cook and Elaine Bayes, have some excellent news: The Wetland Plant Identification and Ecology Course is back for 2022! Read on for details from the Wetland Revival Trust.

Commencing December 2022, this course is for anyone interested in Wetland Plant Identification and wetland ecology.

The course is run on three separate days from December 2022 to April 2023 to allow participants to observe the changing seasons and water depths of the stunning Reedy Lagoon, Gunbower Island over a five month period. Each of the three days will focus on a different wetland habitat (wetting and drying) and associated plant community.

To find our more or register – click here

The course is now being run through the new not for profit charitable trust, the Wetland Revival Trust.  All profits from the course will feed into to wetland purchase, wetland projects and management.  See www.wetlandrevivaltrust.org to find out more.

To download the full course information flyer – click here