Restoring landscapes across the Mount Alexander Region

Pollinator heroes of Central Victoria: Elegant Hairy-Cellophane Bee

Posted on 23 November, 2023 by Hadley Cole

With spring upon us, now is the perfect time to take a closer look at the smaller pollinator heroes of our region! There is plenty to see and hear across all habitats across central Victoria if you stop and pay attention to the little things. These are the heroes of the bush, grasslands, our gardens and waterways.

The Buzz project: promoting pollinators of central Victoria, is a Connecting Country project funded by the North Central Catchment Management Authority (NCCMA) through the 2022 Victorian Landcare grants, that aims to celebrate and expand community knowledge on the smaller heroes of our local ecosystems, the insect pollinators.  As part of this project, we will explore the lives of some of our most loved native pollinators from across the local region through a series of blogposts throughout November.

Dr Mark Hall, local entomologist, has kindly shared his extensive knowledge on some of the local pollinator heroes that are so important to the health of our ecosystems. 

 

Elegant Hairy-Cellophane Bee (Trichocolletes venustus)

Words by Dr. Mark Hall

Perhaps the most striking thing about this larger bee is the vivid gold bands on its abdomen that glint in the sunlight as it flies between Hardenbergia flowers. Along with the golden orange hairs across the rest of its body and head, this is a far more attractive bee than the European Honeybee, which it may be mistaken for. And this species is native! It also sounds quite different once you learn to recognise its buzz. That hairy body is perfect for carrying the pollen of many native pea species, such as Daviesia ulicifolia and Gompholobium huegelii, and the orchid Diuris maculata among others.

 

Elegant Hairy-Cellophane Bee pollinating a native pea. Photo by Karen Retra.

The Elegant Hairy-Cellophane Bee is one of 40 species of Trichocolletes, an endemic bee genus, occurring nowhere else except the southeast of Australia, Tasmania and Western Australia. It is active from July to January, so can be one of the earlier bees seen visiting flowers in early spring. It nests in the ground, often in groups but with each bee having a separate nest entrance and looking after its own eggs. Perhaps there is simply safety in numbers, or good real estate is hard to come by? And as its name suggests, it produces a cellophane-like substance which it uses to seal its nest to protect its precious cargo from pests and parasites.

Why not slow down and take a look in your local bushland or garden and see what pollinator heroes you can find?

 

               

 

Pollinator heroes of Central Victoria: Imperial Jezebel

Posted on 21 November, 2023 by Ivan

It’s springtime and the flowers are blooming, the bees are buzzing, butterflies are fluttering, beetles are looking for mates and wasps are making nests. There is plenty to see and hear across all habitats across central Victoria if you stop and pay attention to the little things. These are the heroes of the bush, grasslands, our gardens and waterways.

The Buzz project: promoting pollinators of central Victoria, is a Connecting Country project funded by the North Central Catchment Management Authority (NCCMA) through the 2022 Victorian Landcare grants, that aims to celebrate and expand community knowledge on the smaller heroes of our local ecosystems, the insect pollinators.

The project has been running throughout 2023 and has included a presentation with local entomologist Dr Mark Hall covering ‘Native pollinators on your property: who, where and what they do?’ followed by a field trip that took a further look into ‘promoting native pollinators from property to landscape.’

During November, we will explore the lives of our most loved native pollinators from across the local region. Dr Mark Hall, local entomologist, has kindly shared his extensive knowledge on some of our local pollinator heroes that are so important to the health of our ecosystems. 

Imperial Jezebel (Delias harpalyce)

Words by Dr. Mark Hall

With Christmas approaching, you may hear the familiar tune of “I saw mommy kissing Santa Claus, underneath the mistletoe…”. And while that particular type of mistletoe is not native to Australia (and in fact is an environmental weed), there are a number of plants we call mistletoe in Australia that are native and have another species “kissing” underneath them at this time of year. The mistletoes in question are a group of semi-parasitic shrubs, often associated with Eucalypts – Amyema, Muellerina and Dendrophthoe species. The faunal species in question is the Imperial Jezebel butterfly (among others).

The Imperial Jezebel, is a gorgeous Delias butterfly. Photo: John Walter

This spectacular butterfly species can be found across the south-east of Australia in all sorts of habitats where there are mature trees with mistletoe hanging and flowers to feed from. It is an early spring emerger and most active between August and November, where it mates and lays its eggs on the mistletoes, but can be active across all warmer months. The hairy black larvae (caterpillar) then feed on the mistletoe leaves, which not only help them grow, but also makes them taste pretty bad to predators – a win-win!

The large adult butterfly is almost entirely white (or greyish in some regions) on top of its wings, with some black edging and white spots on the outer wings. But it is the underside that is really captivating. In flight or when at rest with wings folded up, the black and grey wings, punctuated with bright red and yellow bands, are clearly visible. At this time you may also notice the hairy body and long clubbed antennae. The Imperial Jezebel is a great pollinator and certainly a hero of our gardens and bushland.

 

                   

 

 

Container recycling deposit scheme: help support us!

Posted on 21 November, 2023 by Ivan

We’ve got some good news! How would you like to recycle your cans, cartons and bottles and support Connecting Country at the same time?  On 1 November 2023 Victoria’s container deposit scheme, CDS Vic, commenced. The scheme rewards Victorians with a 10-cent refund for every eligible can, carton and bottle they return. The recycling scheme also has the option to donate to a local community group or organisation, which is a valuable fundraising opportunity, simply by recycling your drinking containers. The scheme is part of important work that is transforming Victoria’s waste and recycling system.

If you would like to donate some, or all of your money from the recycling scheme to Connecting Country, quote partner ID: C2000009164 at the return centre.

How to make a return: click here

It’s as easy as 1, 2 3:

CDS Vic provides a 10-cent refund for every eligible drink container returned at refund points across Victoria. Every bottle, can and carton you return helps divert valuable containers from landfill. 

     1. Collect eligible drink containers:

Most aluminum, glass, plastic, steel, and liquid paperboard (carton) drink containers between 150mL and 3 litres are eligible. Look for the 10c mark on the back of pack. Some drinks are not eligible, including plain milk containers, wine and spirit bottles.  Tip: Keep lids on and don’t crush your containers.

    2. Return your eligible drink containers

The interactive map makes it easy to discover refund points near you. Click here to search. The nearest refund point in our region is:

Chewton Service Station
37 Pyreness Highway, Chewton, VIC 3451

Over the Counter (OTC)

    3. Earn a refund or donate

All eligible drink containers are worth a 10-cent refund that you can either keep or donate to a community donation partner.

To donate to us, simply quote the Connecting Country partner ID: C2000009164

 

 

AGM 2023 a roaring success: Phascogales draw a crowd

Posted on 21 November, 2023 by Ivan

On Saturday 18 September 2023, a large crowd of people gathered at the Guildford Community Hall and heard a wonderful talk from Dr Jess Lawton on how we can help our iconic brush-tailed phascogale from surviving to thriving. A total of 70 tickets were sold to the AGM and event, which went very smoothly and was well received by all in attendance.

We also celebrated the hard work and achievements of Connecting Country through a presentation by our Director, Lori Arthur, as well as updating the audience on our current funding situation. We would like to warmly thank our presenters and all the committee members, staff and volunteers who assisted with the event, which has generated extremely positive feedback.

The biggest star of the show was guest speaker Dr Jess Lawton, former Connecting Country employee and leading Phascogale expert, who gave an enthralling presentation on her learnings from her recently completed PhD into phascogale distribution and habitat preference in central Victoria. Jess presented some fascinating insights into why Phascogales are thriving in some geographical regions and what ecological attributes have a statistical correlation to the abundance of phascogales found in nest boxes. One of the most important points that Dr Jess Lawton concluded from her studies, was the importance of leaf litter, ground logs and rough-barked eucalyptus species in determining the presence of phascogale populations. This has important implications for landholders and land managers, who can implement practical management changes and restoration measures to encourage phascogale and the insect populations that they depend upon.

Connecting Country volunteer, Lou Citroën, has kindly provided his photography skills, to capture the presentations in the images below. Thank you again Lou.

Our AGM was short and sweet, and all but one of our committee of management members were re-elected for another year. The sad news was the retirement from the committee of long-term stalwart Malcolm Trainor, who has travelled from the south side of Ballarat since 2014 to assist Connecting Country at committee meetings and events. Malcolm will be long remembered for his visionary input into the committee and his passion for landscape restoration and healthy soils. Thank you Malcolm and best wishes for your next adventure.

Malcolm received a thank you present from committee member Marie Jones. Photo: Lou Citroën

The hard-working Connecting Country committee must be thanked for their considerable strategic and practical contributions to our organisation. It is very impressive that the committee have committed for another year, providing stability in these uncertain times.

Elected members of Connecting Country’s 2023-24 committee of management are:

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

The AGM minutes will be circulated to members and available on request. If you would like a copy of Connecting Country’s annual report for 2022-23 – Click here

The guest presentation event was part of a larger project, ‘Habitat trees for Phascogales’, which aims to provide habitat stepping stones for the Brush-tailed Phascogale and other native fauna by protecting and enhancing large old trees in the landscape, particularly in grazing land. For information on how to be involved in the project click here

The Habitat Trees for Phascogales project is supported by the Victorian Government through the Nature Fund as well as the Ian and Shirley Norman Foundation.

 

 

Last chance! Connecting Country AGM this Saturday 18 November 2023

Posted on 16 November, 2023 by Ivan

We still have 25 tickets available for our AGM this Saturday 18 November 2023 and require a few more members to come along to make a quorum for our AGM formalities. 

Please join us for this special free event on Saturday 18 November 2023 at 11.00 am for brief AGM formalities, our special guest presenter and a yummy lunch. We are thrilled to have Dr Jess Lawton, former Connecting Country superstar, present the findings from her recent PhD study into Phascogales and how we can take action to help them thrive once again.

 

The presentation event is part of a larger project, ‘Habitat trees for Phascogales’, which aims to provide habitat stepping stones for the Brush-tailed Phascogale and other native fauna by protecting and enhancing large old trees in the landscape, particularly in grazing land.

For catering and logistical purposes, please register your attendance – click here

Dr Jess Lawton is an ecologist with a passion for understanding the threats facing native fauna and ecosystems, and how we can take action to address these issues. Jess was the Connecting Country Monitoring Coordinator for the past five years and is one of the leading knowledge brokers on citizen science and monitoring our landscapes and wildlife. Jess has recently submitted her PhD thesis at LaTrobe University, where she studied our wonderful Brush-Tailed Phascogale. She relishes collaborative ecological work and is passionate about empowering communities to conserve and recover local biodiversity. Jess loves exploring the outdoors, playing music and camping.

When: Saturday 18 November 2022 at 11.00 am

Where: Guildford Community Hall, 30 Fryers St Guildford

Everyone is welcome!

 

For catering and logistical purposes, please register your attendance – click here


AGM formalities

The following Connecting Country AGM 2023 documents are available for download:

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

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

Thank you to the State Government of Victoria for their funding support and ‘Habitat Trees for Phascogales’ project.

 

Pollinator Week 11-19 November 2023

Posted on 13 November, 2023 by Hadley Cole

This week marks 2023’s Australian Pollinator Week. Australian Pollinator Week acknowledges our important and unique insect pollinators. It is a designated week when community, business and organisations can come together to raise awareness of the importance of pollinators and support their needs. As we are now in the full swing of Spring weather, it is a perfect time to take a moment in nature to pay attention to the smaller creatures in our ecosystems. There are a number of events across the state celebrating Pollinator Week, including a pollinator discovery walk with Dr. Mark Hall in Heathcote VIC on Saturday 18 November and an online webinar hosted by the Wheen Bee Foundation on ‘integrated pest and pollinator management’ on Wednesday 15 November. For more information on events – click here

Common Halfband (hoverfly). Photo by John Walter.

Throughout the week (November 11 to 19) you can also take part in a ten minute pollinator count and record the pollinator life forms you observe in your garden, favourite nature place or Landcare site. For more information on how to take part in the pollinator count -click here

Taking part is quick and easy. You simply need to observe some flowers for 10 minutes, record the pollinators you see and register your results.

Follow the three step process below to get started.

  1. Learn
  2. Test
  3. Count

How to take part:

 

 

A tribute to David Griffiths Sunday 19 November 2023

Posted on 13 November, 2023 by Hadley Cole

The Landcare community has sadly lost dedicated and incredibly knowledgeable Landcare volunteer and restoration specialist David Griffiths. David was a long term member of Muckleford Catchment Landcare Group and has contributed to countless restoration projects across Central Victoria. Muckleford Landcare have released the following statement;

‘It is with great sadness that I share with you the news that our Vice President, David Griffiths, has died.

Dave was a long time Landcare member, and landscape restoration practitioner. We have all learnt such an awful lot from him, and we will carry his wisdom with us. He became a great friend and mentor to many of us and we will miss him terribly.

As one of our committee members said, he has left a huge legacy – all we have to do is look around us, in the Muckleford region and central Victoria.

We will have a tribute for Dave at our upcoming get together on 19 November 2023, 1.00 pm at the Muckleford train station.’

Landcarers and community members are welcome to join David’s tribute on Sunday and pay their respects.

The Connecting Country team send condolences to Muckleford Catchment Landcare Group and to David’s family and friends. His dedication, knowledge and friendship will be missed greatly by the Landcare community.

 

David Griffiths working across various Landcare sites. Photos by Beth Mellick. 

 

Book now! Connecting Country AGM this Saturday 18 November 2023

Posted on 13 November, 2023 by Ivan

Please join us for this special free event on Saturday 18 November 2023 at 11.00 am for brief AGM formalities, our special guest presenter and a yummy lunch. We are thrilled to have Dr Jess Lawton, former Connecting Country superstar, present the findings from her recent PhD study into Phascogales and how we can take action to help them thrive once again.

 

The presentation event is part of a larger project, ‘Habitat trees for Phascogales’, which aims to provide habitat stepping stones for the Brush-tailed Phascogale and other native fauna by protecting and enhancing large old trees in the landscape, particularly in grazing land.

For catering and logistical purposes, please register your attendance – click here

Dr Jess Lawton is an ecologist with a passion for understanding the threats facing native fauna and ecosystems, and how we can take action to address these issues. Jess was the Connecting Country Monitoring Coordinator for the past five years and is one of the leading knowledge brokers on citizen science and monitoring our landscapes and wildlife. Jess has recently submitted her PhD thesis at LaTrobe University, where she studied our wonderful Brush-Tailed Phascogale. She relishes collaborative ecological work and is passionate about empowering communities to conserve and recover local biodiversity. Jess loves exploring the outdoors, playing music and camping.

When: Saturday 18 November 2022 at 11.00 am

Where: Guildford Community Hall, 30 Fryers St Guildford

Everyone is welcome!

 

For catering and logistical purposes, please register your attendance – click here


AGM formalities

The following Connecting Country AGM 2023 documents are available for download:

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

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

Thank you to the State Government of Victoria for their funding support and ‘Habitat Trees for Phascogales’ project.

 

2023 Great Southern BioBlitz November 24-27

Posted on 9 November, 2023 by Hadley Cole

The Great Southern BioBlitz, is an international event held in Spring each year that aims to record biodiversity across the Southern Hemisphere through citizen science. This year the event will run over four days in late November.

Nature lovers can upload observations to the iNaturalist app and contribute to biodiversity data across the globe! Castlemaine Field Naturalist Club host a project on iNaturalist that users can contribute to over the four days of surveying. The Great Southern Bioblitz Castlemaine region iNaturalist project covers the Mount Alexander Shire and parts of the Hepburn Shire, and offers a wonderful snap shot into local biodiversity across the region. You can record all living species from plants, to insects, fungi, reptiles, mammals, birds and more! For more information on how to get involved please see the below flyer courtesy of Castlemaine Field Naturalist Club.

To celebrate the 2023 Great Southern BioBlitz, our friends at Castlemaine Field Naturalist Club and Castlemaine Landcare Group are hosting two separate events over the weekend of the 25 and 26 November. Please see the flyer below for more details.

 

 

The Buzz project: iNaturalist workshop success

Posted on 6 November, 2023 by Hadley Cole

The Buzz project: promoting pollinators of central Victoria, is a Connecting Country project funded by the North Central Catchment Management Authority (NCCMA) through the 2022 Victorian Landcare grants, that aims to celebrate and expand community knowledge on the smaller heroes of our local ecosystems, the insect pollinators.

The project has been running throughout 2023 and has included a presentation with local entomologist Dr Mark Hall covering ‘Native pollinators on your property: who, where and what they do?’ followed by a field trip that took a further look into ‘promoting native pollinators from property to landscape.’

Eager participants focussed on Euan’s presentation. Photo by Connecting Country.

The final event for the year was held in early October 2023 and was an iNaturalist workshop with local naturalist Euan Moore. This was the perfect opportunity for pollinator enthusiasts to learn how to record their data on the online iNaturalist platform.

Fifteen eager participants came along to the workshop armed with cameras and laptops for a four-hour workshop. Euan talked us through the basics of the iNaturalist platform such as how to create an account, how to upload an observation, and how to have your observations verified by experts from across the globe. We then investigated how to join iNaturalist projects where users have the opportunity to contribute to local projects such as the Castlemaine Field Naturalists Club project or the 2023 Great Southern Bioblitz: Castlemaine region, or nationwide projects such as Wild Pollinator Count Australia.

We took some time to wander around the Castlemaine Community House garden and gather images of pollinators to upload onto our iNaturalist accounts. Euan talked us through the important aspects to include in our photos to provide ample visual information for iNaturalists users to identify the species in question.

Participants searching for pollinators to photograph. Photo by Connecting Country.

 

Participants Frances and Bev chat with Euan the workshop presenter. Photo by Connecting Country.

Participants reported that they enjoyed a lovely day of learning and some were very eager to get out there and record their local sightings!

Connecting Country would like to give a huge thank you to Euan Moore for his time and dedication in teaching community members these wonderful iNaturalist skills.

This event was made possible due to funding through the 2022 Victorian Landcare Grants. We are grateful to our funders for making this interesting event possible.

 

 

Wilderhoods: rewilding urban neighbourhoods presentation

Posted on 2 November, 2023 by Hadley Cole

Our friends at Maldon Urban Landcare Group (MULGA) are hosting a presentation by Dr. Cassia Read which will delve into a project she has been delivering across the Mount Alexander Shire on rewilding urban neighbourhoods. The event will follow the groups Annual General Meeting (AGM) and is on Saturday 11 November 2023, 10am at the Maldon Community Centre.

Dr. Cassia Read, plant ecologist, writer, educator and garden designer.

Cassia will be talking about Wilderhoods, an urban greening initiative of the Castlemaine Institute that empowers neighbours to work together to create thriving neighbourhoods for people and wildlife in a changing climate. Cassia will provide an overview of the Wilderhoods Process for neighbourhood engagement in habitat creation, and learnings from their pilots that ran in the West End and South Side neighbourhoods of Castlemaine in 2022 and 2023 respectively. Cassia Read is an ecologist, educator and garden designer, and is the Principal Ecologist and Co-Founder of the Castlemaine Institute. Wilderhoods has been developed with her colleague and fellow ecologist, Ada Nano. This is a wonderful opportunity to hear from Cassia on the actions that neighbourhoods can take to provide wildlife habitat in an urban environment.

When: Saturday 11 November 2023, 10.00am

Where: Maldon Community Centre, Francis St. Maldon VIC

Cost: Free

Contact: Bev Phillips, ph. 0407 770 350 or email maldonurbanlandcare@gmail.com for information.

No bookings required.

 

Robbed of its Glory: Conservation action for the Hooded Robin 

Posted on 31 October, 2023 by Anna

Three of our region’s beloved Feathered Five are now listed under the Federal Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999. We have partnered with BirdLife Castlemaine District to deliver a series of blog posts describing these species, why they are threatened, and what we can do to support the conservation of these species into the future. In this blog post, we briefly summarise the conservation advice for the Hooded Robin (click here), the causes of its decline, and what you can do to help it. To read an insightful ‘Bird of the Month” about this species, written by our amazing partners at BirdLife Castlemaine District, click here.  

Habitat and threats: Hooded Robin (Melanodryas cucullata)

Hooded Robins occur in eucalypt and acacia woodlands and shrublands with an open understory, some grassy areas and a complex ground layer. They will use small patches of around 3 hectares but prefer larger patches of more than 10 hectares. Important habitat elements include mature eucalypts, saplings, some small shrubs and a ground layer of moderately tall native grasses. Trees and tree stumps are essential for nesting, roosting and foraging. They occur where there is deep to moderately deep soil, rocks, and fallen timber, which provides essential foraging habitat. The Robin hunts with a ‘perch and pounce’ technique – a bit like a kookaburra. This means they need multiple stumps and trees for perches and open grassy areas to pounce into. They eat insects, small lizards, and invertebrates. The species is typically found in pairs or small groups and is shy, and largely sedentary.

A pair of Hooded Robins (female lower) (photo by Geoff Park)

Key threats:  

  • Habitat fragmentation and clearing, 
  • Extreme events (wildfire, heatwave, and drought),  
  • Overgrazing by domestic livestock,  
  • Noisy Miner competition,  
  • Invasive weeds,  
  • Predation by cats and foxes,  
  • Browsing pressure from rabbits and deer,  
  • Firewood collection and ‘tidying’ of farmlands, and  
  • Inappropriate fire regimes.  

This species is listed as ‘Endangered’. Its population has declined by > 50% in the last ten years. 

Some ways you can help Hooded Robins: 

  • Retain native vegetation, particularly that with a diverse but variable structure, in order to maximise foraging opportunities. i.e. habitat needs perches and open areas for foraging  
  • Undertake revegetation, focusing on connecting and expanding habitat and widening corridors. 
  • Replace trees from where they have been removed.   
  • Focus on productive lower parts of the landscapes, especially near streams. Aim for plantings of at least 50 m wide.  
  • Promote connectivity and avoid habitat gaps of > 100 m. 
  • Avoid intensive overgrazing in Hooded Robin habitat – aim to manage grazing to maintain or improve habitat. 
  • Target invasive weeds.   
  • Reduce edge habitat and plant a complex understory to deter Noisy Miners, which compete with this species.  
  • Limit firewood collection and the removal of fallen timber.
  • Provide water for birds and consider using water sources that hang to reduce predation from cats at bird baths.
  • Keep cats inside – see the Safe Cat website for information on how to keep cats (and wildlife) safe.
     

The information above has been summarised from the government’s Conservation advice Melanodryas cucullata cucullata (hooded robin (south-eastern)) (environment.gov.au). 

 

Presenting our 2023 Annual Report: ready for download

Posted on 31 October, 2023 by Ivan

Connecting Country’s annual report 2023 is now available for you to catch up on our highlights from 2022-2023.  Along with brief updates from our President, Treasurer and Director, the report gives an overview of our work – spanning landscape restoration, community engagement, monitoring and Landcare support – with plenty of gorgeous pictures!

Our annual report is also another opportunity to say a huge thank you to our many valued funders, donors, volunteers and supporters in the community, and our hardworking staff and committee of management.

We hope you enjoy learning a little more about our work and achievements this past year, which has been busy, challenging and enjoyable!

To view the Connecting Country annual report 2023 as a document – click here
To view the Connecting Country annual report 2022 as a video (with sound!) – click below

 

Helping us deliver more habitat restoration!

By making a regular or once-off donation you will directly support habitat restoration in the Mount Alexander region of central Victoria, Australia.

Since 2009 we have worked with over 330 landholders and groups to do restoration works on over 13,000 hectares across our region, providing refuge for wildlife through planting of locally indigenous plant species, installation and monitoring of nestboxes, wildlife surveys and community education programs.

Connecting Country (Mount Alexander Region) Inc is a registered charity with deductible gift recipient (DGR) status.

All donations of $2 or more to Connecting Country are tax deductible.

Secure online payment by credit or debit card

Head to our secure online payment site by clicking below:

If you’re inspired to get more involved with Connecting Country please:

 

‘Surviving to thriving: Phascogale learnings’ with Dr Jess Lawton, and AGM 2023

Posted on 26 October, 2023 by Ivan

Please join us for this special free event on Saturday 18 November 2023 at 11.00 am for brief AGM formalities, our special guest presenter and a yummy lunch. We are thrilled to have Dr Jess Lawton, former Connecting Country superstar, present the findings from her recent PhD study into Phascogales and how we can take action to help them thrive once again.

 

The presentation event is part of a larger project, ‘Habitat trees for Phascogales’, which aims to provide habitat stepping stones for the Brush-tailed Phascogale and other native fauna by protecting and enhancing large old trees in the landscape, particularly in grazing land.

Dr Jess Lawton is an ecologist with a passion for understanding the threats facing native fauna and ecosystems, and how we can take action to address these issues. Jess was the Connecting Country Monitoring Coordinator for the past five years and is one of the leading knowledge brokers on citizen science and monitoring our landscapes and wildlife. Jess has recently submitted her PhD thesis at LaTrobe University, where she studied our wonderful Brush-Tailed Phascogale. She relishes collaborative ecological work and is passionate about empowering communities to conserve and recover local biodiversity. Jess loves exploring the outdoors, playing music and camping.

When: Saturday 18 November 2022 at 11.00 am

Where: Guildford Community Hall, 30 Fryers St Guildford

Everyone is welcome!

For catering and logistical purposes, please register your attendance – click here


AGM formalities

The following Connecting Country AGM 2023 documents are available for download:

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

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

Thank you to the State Government of Victoria for their funding support and ‘Habitat Trees for Phascogales’ project.

File:Victoria State Government logo.svg - Wikipedia

 

Creeping towards extinction: Conservation action for the Brown Treecreeper

Posted on 24 October, 2023 by Anna

Three of our region’s beloved Feathered Five are now listed as threatened. We have partnered with BirdLife Castlemaine District to deliver a series of blog posts describing these species, why they are threatened, and what we can do to support the conservation of these species into the future. In this blog post, we briefly summarise the conservation advice for the Brown Treecreeper (click here), the causes of its decline, and what you can do to help it. To read an insightful blog post about this species, written by naturalist and nature writer (and our wonderful former monitoring and engagement coordinator), Tanya Loos, please click here.  

The Brown Treecreeper (Climacteris picumnus) is one of our Feathered Five, and also the flagship species for Birdlife Castlemaine District. 

The Brown Treecreeper typically occurs in woodland dominated by stringybarks or rough-barked trees, but also occurs in a number of other wooded habitat types. They usually occur in areas with an open, grassy understory, allowing them to forage near the ground and keep an eye out for predators. They mainly eat invertebrate prey, but also eat nectar and sap, and small lizards. They can be reasonably bold and are known to pinch food from the odd picnic as described in a recent Bird of the Month blog. They forage on the ground, in fallen timber, and on trees. They are usually in pairs or small family groups, and occupy permanent territories, nesting in tree hollows and stumps.  

The species is listed as Vulnerable as it has undergone a reduction in population size over the last 15 years.

Brown Treecreeper in the fading sun. Photo: Geoff Park.

Key threats include:  

  • Habitat loss and fragmentation. 
  • Habitat degradation caused by domestic livestock over-grazing. 
  • Noisy miner competition. 
  • Altered fire regimes. 
  • Extreme events (wildfire, heatwave, and drought). 
  • Firewood collection. 
  • Nest hollow competition. 
  • Overgrazing by rabbits and overabundant native species. 
  • Predation by cats and foxes. 

Some ways you can help the Brown Treecreeper: 

  • Retain woodland habitat.  
  • Revegetate, with a focus on expanding and connecting habitat, and ensure ground cover is patchy, and includes open areas for foraging. 
  • Insects are an important food source so plant local, insect-attracting plants. Reduce spraying of garden pests.
  • Target productive areas of the landscape (such as alongside streams) and aim for riparian plantings to be at least 50m wide.  
  • Avoid gaps of more than 100m between trees.  
  • Prevent overgrazing, and manage grazing to maintain or improve habitat. Use low-input, fast rotational grazing with long periods of rest and short intensive grazing events.  
  • Reduce edge habitat and plant a complex understory to deter Noisy Miners, which compete with this species. 
  • Retain large old trees, including isolated paddock trees. 
  • Keep it messy – retain leaf litter and woody debris, such as fallen logs. Avoid over-grazing and frequent fuel reduction burns.  
  • Provide water for birds and consider using water sources that hang to reduce predation from cats at bird baths. 
  • Keep cats inside – see the Safe Cat website for information on how to keep cats (and wildlife) safe. 

The information above has been summarised from the Federal Government’s conservation advice (click here) and advice from Birdlife Castlemaine District.

Brown Treecreeper creeping on the ground. Photo: CC archives.

 

Reminder: Shaking the shed for Connecting Country: Tuesday 24 and Wednesday 25 October 2023

Posted on 24 October, 2023 by Ivan

This week is our week fundraising at Shedshaker Brewing’s Keg for Good: Tuesday 24 and Wednesday 25 October 2023. Hopefully, we see a few of you there! 

How would you like to enjoy a tasty pale ale and support Connecting Country at the same time? Shedshaker Brewing’s Keg for Good is a new initiative aimed at providing local groups with a valuable fundraising opportunity, simply by having a beer!

Sales of the Frailty Pale Ale on the two designated nights are donated to a different group each month. So far, Shedshaker has donated money to Red Box Animal Shelter, Castlemaine Community House’s Food Pantry and Mount Alexander Animal Welfare (MAAW), with Connecting Country being the next recipient of the big fundraising opportunity.

Visit Shedshaker Brewing and support Connecting Country on Tuesday 24 and Wednesday 25 October 2023. We are hoping the sun is shining and the weather sweet and a few supporters can get down and enjoy a well-deserved beer!

Opened in April 2016 at the Mill complex in northern Castlemaine, the Taproom is open six days a week serving delicious beverages, yummy food, outstanding live music and beaucoup conviviality. A big thanks to Shedshaker for making this happen, we hope you can enjoy an ale for us and enjoy all that we both have to offer.

 

Shaking the shed for Connecting Country: help support us!

Posted on 19 October, 2023 by Ivan

We’ve got some good news! How would you like to enjoy a tasty pale ale and support Connecting Country at the same time? Shedshaker Brewing’s Keg for Good is a new initiative aimed at providing local groups with a valuable fundraising opportunity, simply by having a beer!

Sales of the Frailty Pale Ale on the two designated nights are donated to a different group each month. So far, Shedshaker has donated money to Red Box Animal Shelter, Castlemaine Community House’s Food Pantry and Mount Alexander Animal Welfare (MAAW), with Connecting Country being the next recipient of the big fundraising opportunity.

The dates to visit Shedshaker Brewing and support Connecting Country are Tuesday 24 and Wednesday 25 October 2023. We are hoping the sun is shining and the weather sweet and a few supporters can get down and enjoy a well-deserved beer!

Opened in April 2016 at the Mill complex in northern Castlemaine, the Taproom is open six days a week serving delicious beverages, yummy food, outstanding live music and beaucoup conviviality.A big thanks to Shedshaker for making this happen, we hope you can enjoy an ale for us and enjoy all that we both have to offer

 

The Hidden Life of Skinks with Dr. Anna Senior

Posted on 16 October, 2023 by Hadley Cole

Our friends at Newstead Landcare are holding their Annual General Meeting this coming Tuesday 17 October 2023 and to celebrate will host special guest Dr. Anna Senior who will present on The Hidden Life of Skinks.

So many small things make our world tick, all interacting and keeping ecology in balance. Often hidden under a rock or small plant, or darting between cover, skinks play a pivotal role in our natural systems, but we rarely get a glimpse into their lives. Local ecologist Dr. Anna Senior will present on the fascinating world of skinks with a special focus on two threatened species that were the subject of her thesis. One of these, the Mountain Skink was recently discovered in the Wombat Forest.

When: Tuesday 17 October, 7.30pm

Where: Newstead Community Centre, 9 Lyons Street, Newstead VIC

All are welcome to attend and gold coin donations are appreciated. No bookings required.

 

Mount Skink. Image by Gayle Osborne.

 

Aussie Bird Count week 16-22 October 2023 

Posted on 12 October, 2023 by Anna

Aussie Bird Count is Australia’s largest citizen science Project and is run by Birdlife Australia. Celebrate Bird Week 2023 and the tenth year of the Birdlife Australia’s Aussie Bird Count, by taking part! 

The 2023 event will run from October 16 to 22.  You can undertake as many bird counts as you like over this week long period. You can do this from your backyard, local park, or other favourite outdoor area.

To complete a count, all you need to do is spend 20 minutes in one spot, noting down the birds that you see. Binoculars will come in handy! If you can identify birds by their calls, please include these in your count, but if you aren’t sure of a bird without seeing it, please exclude it rather than making a guess. The Aussie Bird Count app has a handy field-guide to help you identify birds or you can visit the website (aussiebirdcount.org.au). 

Once you have completed your count, you can submit it to Birdlife in two different ways:  

Through the online web form (this form won’t be made live until the 10 October 2023)  

OR  

Via the free Aussie Bird Count phone app. 

Last year 77,419 volunteers recorded a whopping 3.9 million birds of 620 different species! The vast amount of data collected during the bird count is invaluable for ecologists to track large-scale biodiversity trends. It is a wonderful way to get to know your local birds and connect with nature.

Register today and help make the tenth Aussie Bird Count the biggest and best yet.

For more information and to register, head to aussiebirdcount.org.au  

If you’re lucky you might even come across some of the below birds. Can you identify each of these beauties?

 

Photos by Geoff Park and Damian Kelly.

 

A diamond in the rough: Conservation action for the Diamond Firetail 

Posted on 10 October, 2023 by Anna

Three of our region’s beloved Feathered Five are now listed under the Federal Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999. We have partnered with Birdlife Castlemaine District to deliver a series of blog posts describing these species, why they are threatened, and what we can do to support the conservation of these species into the future. In this blog post, we briefly summarise the conservation advice for the Diamond Firetail (click here), the causes of its decline, and what you can do to help it. To read an insightful ‘Bird of the Month’ about this species, written by our amazing partners at Birdlife Castlemaine District, click here 

Diamond Firetail – photo by Geoff Park

Habitat and threats 

The Diamond Firetail occurs primarily in lightly timbered habitats (including woodlands, open forest, and farmland) with relatively low tree density, few large logs, little litter cover and high grass cover. They live in flocks and roost in dense shrubs, and eat grass and herb seeds, Allocasuarina (she-oak) seeds, green leaves and insects.  This species’ population has declined by 30-50% over the last 10 years, and it is listed as ‘Vulnerable’. 

Photo by Geoff Park

Key threats:  

  • Habitat loss from land clearing.  
  • Invasive weeds, particularly exotic grasses.
  • Habitat degradation caused by livestock and overabundant native animal grazing. 
  • Competition with noisy miners. 
  • Habitat degradation caused by rabbits. 
  • Nest predation by pied currawongs. 
  • Extreme events (wildfire, heatwave, and drought).
  • Altered fire regimes – especially increased fire intensity. 

Some ways you can help Diamond Firetails: 

  • Protect Diamond Firetail habitat and retain, expand and reconnect remnant patches. Patches > 50 m wide and areas near water are especially important. 
  • Undertake revegetation, focusing on a diverse mix of locally appropriate native species, especially grasses for seed, and dense/prickly shrubs for shelter and nesting.  
  • Instead of mowing, allow native grasses to go to seed.
  • Retain mistletoe.
  • Plant for insect diversity, reduce spraying of garden pests such as aphids. 
  • Manage grazing to retain a diverse grass, forb and shrub layer. 
  • Control weeds. 
  • Provide water for birds and consider using water sources that hang to reduce predation from cats at bird baths.
  • Keep cats inside – see the Safe Cat website for information on how to keep cats (and wildlife) safe.

 The information above has been summarised from the government’s Conservation advice Stagonopleura guttata (diamond firetail) and advice from Birdlife Castlemaine District.

Flock of Diamond Firetails enjoying a lovely bath in a puddle. Photo by Damian Kelly.