Restoring landscapes across the Mount Alexander Region

The wellbeing benefits of being a Landcarer

Posted on 17 February, 2022 by Frances

The Mount Alexander region of central Victoria is blessed with around 30 active Landcare and Friends groups, representing an extremely high level of community involvement in the Landcare movement.

Being a Landcarer can be extremely hard work, but there are also many rewards. There is the satisfaction of contributing to a healthy landscape, and creating habitat for native plants and animals. We also recognise there are benefits from connecting to the land, meeting people, making social connections and learning new skills. New research now shows Landcare can also improve personal wellbeing.

For decades, people involved in Landcare have testified to a greater sense of self, both physically and mentally, resulting from closer links with their local community and environment. This, in turn, has boosted community wellbeing and it has long been the desire of the Landcare movement to quantify the significance of these benefits.

Now, Landcare Australia has published findings by KPMG Australia, indicating Landcare volunteers enjoy substantial improvements to their mental and physical wellbeing – with a significant decrease to their healthcare costs!

Surveying more than 1,000 Landcare volunteers and coordinators from Landcare groups, the findings in the report, titled Building resilience in local communities: The wellbeing benefits of participating in Landcare suggest substantial improvements in wellbeing owing to involvement in Landcare lead to approximate savings from avoided healthcare costs of $403 per individual per year. For the Landcare movement which exceeds 140,000 individuals, that number equates to $57 million nationally.

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The report goes on to address additional savings to the Landcare volunteer community relating to productivity, and benefits owing to natural disaster resilience and recovery, with the combined value amounting to $191 million annually.

To read the full report – click here

To view Connecting Country’s short video celebrating Landcare in the Mount Alexander region – click here

To get involved in your local Landcare group – click here

For any other questions related to our local landcare groups in the Mount Alexander region, contact Connecting Country’s Landcare Facilitator Hadley –  hadley@connectingcountry.org.au

 

Window strike: when birds hit windows with Castlemaine Field Naturalists Club – 11 February 2022

Posted on 9 February, 2022 by Jess

As a monthly tradition, Castlemaine Field Naturalists Club (CFNC) hold a meeting with a guest speaker on the second Friday of the month.

Castlemaine Field Naturalists provided the following details about their February 2022 meeting – featuring a highly-regarded, former Connecting Country staff member. For more information visit the CFNC website – click here

Castlemaine Field Naturalists Club

Monthly Meeting: Friday 11 February 2022, 7.30pm, by Zoom

Guest speaker: Tanya Loos, Nature writer and science communicator

Window strike is a huge problem for common birds – as well as threatened species such as the Swift Parrot and Powerful Owl. Many of us have had the unfortunate experience of a thud or even a crash as a bird in rapid flight collides with a window at home. The good news is there are easy steps you can take to prevent this happening.

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

 

Rescuing remnants for woodland birds

Posted on 8 February, 2022 by Jacqui

Silver Wattle (Acacia dealbata) was planted in an area protected by stock exclusion fencing (photo by Bonnie Humphreys)

In 2018, Connecting Country teamed up with Djaara (Dja Dja Wurrung Clans Aboriginal Clans), Trust for Nature and Parks Victoria to deliver an ambitious three-year landscape restoration project called Remnant Rescue: restoring woodland bird habitat in central Victoria. During the 2018-2021 implementation of Remnant Rescue we were also lucky to partner with a series of amazing landholders who signed up to participate in protecting priority woodland bird habitat on their property, while also benefiting other threatened plants and animals.

Our Remnant Rescue project was supported by funding from the Victorian Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP) through the Biodiversity Response Planning program, supporting habitat restoration on public and private land. Djaara’s works crew, Djandak delivered strategic weed control, rabbit control, fencing to exclude stock, and revegetation across 123 hectares of private property. This work supported natural regeneration and added much-needed diversity and linkages to existing habitat.

By June 2021, we had collectively achieved some excellent on-ground results. Fortunately in mid-2021, DELWP offered additional funding to keep the project running for a further six months, allowing us to consolidate the achievements of the first three years.

The additional funding allowed landholders to receive strategic follow-up support from Connecting Country and Djandak. Some of the participating landholders have been working to improve the quality of the habitat on their land for a decade or more. Participation in Remnant Rescue provided a much-needed boost for their ongoing commitment to the long-term work essential for successful ecological restoration. Anyone who has tried to control weeds and rabbits in our landscape knows it is a process, often requiring repetition and vigilance over many years!

Rabbit control at this site relieved grazing pressure on understorey vegetation, supporting natural regeneration of shrubs and grasses (photo by Jacqui Slingo)

We hope you enjoy some of these images captured during the project, including some taken during the 2021 landholder visits by our Landscape Restoration Coordinator (Bonnie), in between COVID restrictions. As many of you appreciate, restoring woodland bird habitat is not a ‘set and forget’ activity. Hence, the additional six months of funding provided some very welcome support to landholders, to address issues that had come up during the project, and provide some further targeted weed and rabbit control where needed.

 

 

Why is rescuing remnants important?

After weed and rabbit control, we revegetated this area with native understorey plants (photo by Bonnie Humphreys)

The Mount Alexander region of central Victoria was once home to widespread forests and woodlands. Although now degraded and fragmented, and often lacking important habitat components such as large old trees and fallen logs, the local landscape still provides habitat for many incredible plants and animals, including threatened species.

This project focussed on addressing threats to some of the better-known and cutest members of our local fauna, the Victorian Temperate Woodland Bird Community, which is listed as threatened under Victorian legislation.

Some species of this bird community have become locally or regionally extinct and the outlook is not great for some of the 24 species that occur locally. Ongoing threats to woodland birds include weeds, pest animals, clearing for housing, loss of understorey species, and removal of the logs and natural litter on the ground that are essential for woodland birds to forage, hide and nest in. Threats such as weeds and rabbits degrade habitat quality and it’s capacity to provide food and shelter from predators (like cats and foxes, and larger birds). Addressing threats like weeds and rabbits, ideally in a coordinated way across the landscape, helps relieve pressure on native plants and animals, so they have a better chance of surviving to maturity and reproducing.

Stock-exclusion fencing protected this natural regeneration of Buloke (Allocasuarina leuhmannii), a threatened species that provides an important food source for seed-eating birds like Diamond Firetails (photo by Bonnie Humphreys)

Some of the revegetation in late 2021, showed good success rates of up to 90%, including this healthy Varnish Wattle (Acacia verniciflua) (photo by Bonnie Humphreys)

 

The beautiful Diamond Firetail is a member of the threatened Victorian Temperate Woodland Bird community that has seen marked decline (photo by Geoff Park)

 

 

Who’s in that nest box? WIRES fund our 2022 nest box monitoring

Posted on 2 February, 2022 by Jess

Connecting Country is thrilled to announce new funding support from WIRES, allowing us to monitor nest boxes in autumn 2022!

The Brush-tailed Phascogale is a carnivorous, hollow-dependent marsupial distinguished by its bushy tail. Once widespread through central Victoria, it is now a threatened species due to a serious decline in range and population. Our region’s forests are heavily degraded following a long history of disturbance by gold mining, wood cutting and clearing. Large old trees with hollows that provide essential shelter for phascogales are now scarce. However, recent research yielded surprising results, revealing our region is a stronghold for this species and important for its future survival.

In 2010-11 Connecting Country installed 450 phascogale nest boxes across the Mount Alexander region of central Victoria, aiming to provide shelter for phascogales and gain a better understanding of phascogale distribution and habitat preferences. As of 2021, 62% of our nest box sites have showed evidence of phascogale use, indicating nest boxes are a valuable resource in providing protection from predators and a place for phascogales to raise their young. 

Long-term rigorous scientific monitoring is essential to understand the phascogale’s current status and conservation needs. At Connecting Country, engaging community is also central to successful wildlife conservation. Initially we planned to monitor nest boxes annually, but due to funding limitations, we monitored nest boxes every couple of years between 2011-2018. In 2018 and 2021, our nest boxes were monitored by volunteers. We are very grateful for the support and hard work of our dedicated volunteers.

In our experience, citizen science projects (like nest box monitoring) work best when overseen by a funded coordinator to ensure they run smoothly. Connecting Country’s Engagement Coordinator helps keep our volunteers engaged, trained, equipped, safe and supported to collect good-quality data. With modest funding support we are able to collate records and check data carefully, and report back to landholders in a timely manner.

This is why we are thrilled to announce new funding from WIRES for nest box monitoring in 2022. WIRES (NSW Wildlife Information, Rescue and Education Service Inc.) is Australia’s largest wildlife rescue organisation.

In partnership with our volunteers, private landholders and Landcare groups, and thanks to a generous grant from the WIRES national grant program, we are pleased to confirm we can support volunteers to monitor nest box sites again in autumn 2022. The ‘Who’s in that Nest Box?’ project will provide logistical support to a team of skilled and enthusiastic volunteers to monitor phascogales. It provides volunteers with the training, equipment, and logistical support they need to monitor nest boxes safely and accurately. Thanks to this funding, we can coordinate data entry, reporting findings back to the community and share data via public databases, build closer relationships between citizen scientists, researchers, community groups and land managers. We hope this project will also inspire broader community involvement in phascogale preservation. 

We are very grateful to landholders and Landcare groups involved in the program who allow site access, and of course, to our volunteers for contributing their expertise and time to monitoring our nest boxes. We can’t wait to work with you all again soon!

 

Landcare community day at Muckleford – 6 February 2022

Posted on 2 February, 2022 by Frances

Our friends at Muckleford Catchment Landcare Group are getting ready for their next event and you’re invited!

Please read on for details about the upcoming community day from Muckleford Landcare. They are an active group of people working to conserve and improve the health of the Muckleford Creek catchment, located west of Castlemaine in central Victoria. To learn more about Muckleford Landcare’s activities – click here

Muckleford Landcare Habitat Corridor Project is funded by the Victorian State Government, Community Volunteer Action Grants 2021.The Landcare community day will be on Sunday 6 February 2022, starting at 3 pm. Muckleford Landcare will attempt to install guards around 3,000 plants in the habitat corridor with  help from Landcare volunteers. All Landcarers and other community members are welcome to join in, especially if you’ve been missing out on activities during the last couple of years.

A vegetarian BBQ will be provided for dinner, as I’m hoping we can work until dusk. There will be free booklets and guides available at the information table, and food and drinks will be provided. Meet the landowners and take part in the project story-telling.

Entry to the property is along the Muckleford School Road, opposite the Muckleford Bushland Reserve in Muckleford VIC – look out for the Landcare banner.

Please RSVP to Beth Mellick for catering purposes – click here

Ready for planting (photo by Muckleford Landcare)

 

Preparing plant guards (photo by Muckleford Landcare)

 

Bird of the month: Yellow-tufted Honeyeater

Posted on 24 January, 2022 by Ivan

Welcome to our twenty-first 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 brilliant Damian Kelly share his writing and photographs with us this month, with assistance from the talented and charismatic Jane Rusden from BirdLife Castlemaine District. 

Yellow-tufted Honeyeater (Lichenostomus melanops)

The effects of El Nina are very evident this year, with bird species populations increasing in line with their food sources. However moist gullies always play a significant role in the often dry Central Victorian Box-Ironbark forest due to higher nutrient and moisture levels, which means more food for wildlife. Birds such as the Yellow-tufted Honeyeater prefer these more productive gullies, particularly at drier times of the year, moving relatively short distances in response to food availability.

Yellow-tufted Honeyeaters usually forage in the canopy, plucking insects and other invertebrates from among the foliage, or taking the sugary manna that oozes from the branches (photo by Damian Kelly)

 

Chris Tzaros’s excellent book ‘Wildlife of the Box-Ironbark Country’ describes how Yellow-tufted  Honeyeaters use both the canopy and the shrub layers of Box-Ironbark forest. Insects are gleaned from canopy foliage, bark and tree trunks, or sallied after and taken from the air. Trees are also used to forage for lerp, manna, honeydew and nectar, which is also consumed from mid and low story shrubs such as heath including Cat’s Claw Grevillea.

Nesting sites are found often quite close to the ground in species such as Gold-dust Wattle and Drooping Cassinia. I’ve seen nests hanging hidden in low hanging Box leaves and low shrubs in Rise and Shine Bushland Reserve (Sandon VIC), where they are quite abundant. The nests are suspended cups woven from grass, bark, wool or moss, and spiders’ web. Two or three eggs are laid, but on occasion, they can be parasitised by Fan-tailed, Pallid and Shining-Bronze Cuckoos.

The Yellow-tufted Honeyeater is much brighter and more conspicuous than other honeyeaters that inhabit our region (photo by Damian Kelly)

 

To hear the call of a Yellow-tufted Honeyeater, please – click here

Damian Kelly
Jane Rusden
BirdLife Castlemaine District

 

The magic of fairy-wrens – a quiz!

Posted on 17 January, 2022 by Frances

Superb, splendid, and downright lovely. These chipper little songbirds flit and flirt their way through our gardens and parks. You will often seem them prancing around the forest floor or in open spaces, looking for insects and showing off their superb colors.

Fairy-wrens have probably landed a spot in your heart, but how much do you know about these spectacular birds? Add some fairy magic to your day with this fun quiz published by the Australian Broadcasting Commission (ABC).

To do the ABC fairy-wren quiz – click here

Here in central Victoria, we often come across the gorgeous Superb Fairy-wren in our forests and gardens. Thank you to local photographer Ash Vigus for this stunning image.

To learn more about the fascinating Superb Fairy-wren, read our ‘Bird of the month’ post by Jane Rusden – click here

Male Superb Fairy-wren in full breeding plumage (photo by Ash Vigus)

 

Wattles as a potential climate solution

Posted on 17 January, 2022 by Frances

The Mount Alexander region of central Victoria is home to over 20 species of acacia, from the small shrubby Gold-dust Wattle, to the spiky Spreading Wattle to the towering Blackwood. They provide essential resources for our native wildlife, and their brilliant flowers transform our winter and spring landscapes into a riot of yellow. But did you know acacias are also extremely efficient at storing carbon?

Professor Mark Adams at Swinburne University of Technology in Melbourne has measured the amount of wood laid down by various species and the amount of water required by them to do so. One of the champion genus’s is Wattle (Acacia sp.). Acacia species produce far more wood for a given amount of water than other plants and are often quick growing.

Australia once had more acacia woodland than eucalyptus. But of course, much of it was removed and became marginal grazing land. Mark Adams says ‘restoring acacia woodlands over vast areas would be a good way to benefit from acacia’s innate ability in absorbing carbon from the atmosphere’. Interestingly, they can do it without fertiliser, due to their ability to fix nitrogen from the air and transfer it to the soil.

To learn more listen to the fascinating interview on Radio National’s The Science Show, courtesy of the Australian Broadcasting Commission (ABC) – click here

To learn more about our local wattles, get a copy of the ‘Wattles of the Mount Alexander Region’ book produced by Friends of the Box-Ironbark Forests – click here

Woolly Wattle (photo by Bonnie Humphreys)

 

Gypsy and Anusheh raise money for Connecting Country!

Posted on 12 January, 2022 by Ivan

Gypsy and Anusheh at their lucky dip stall (photo by Robyn Matthews)

Gypsy and Anusheh, both in Grade 3 at Violet Street Primary School in Bendigo VIC, held a fundraiser for Connecting Country in November 2021. The girls did a fantastic job of arranging a lucky dip that cost 50 cents per dip. It was so successful they had 204 dips in the basket, which saw a line-up of students waiting for their turn, and raised an impressive total of $104!

The Connecting Country team are so proud to know these young advocates for our natural landscape. Connecting Country’s Landcare Facilitator, Hadley, interviewed the girls to find out what inspired them and what they love most about their local natural environment.

 

 

Q. What inspired you both to hold a fundraiser for Connecting Country?

Gypsy – I really like birds and native plants and basically native everything. We live in the sort of place where there is lots of native birds and stuff that I can look around at and like, and that kind of inspired me.

Anusheh – Well we get to see a lot of birds at our place. So I like the birds because they look pretty and when we go for walks I like how they sing and all of the different tress that they can go into.

Q. What do you love most about the natural environment where you live?

Anusheh – It’s probably the birds that I can see just sitting out the window in the trees and I can just look at them.

Gypsy – I like waking up to chirping birds making all different songs, it’s really relaxing. And going on walks seeing native plants, it’s really relaxing. We live on the Bendigo Coliban Water chase and there are lots of birds around the chase.

Violet Street Primary School students lining up for the lucky dip (photo by Robyn Matthews)

Q. What inspires you to look after and protect our landscapes and environment across Central Victoria?

Gypsy – I knew that Connecting Country would be the right place because they help lots of native things like native birds and native plants and native animals, and they’re really good with it. It’s important to me because I really like animals and I really like birds and I really think they should have a habitat just like we do.

Anusheh – When I got a dog she kept finding these dead birds around our house but we know she can’t catch them because she’s still a bit young to catch them. So I thought if I can help them [the birds] I think it would help and my dog won’t catch as many birds and maybe be a bit kinder to birds.

Q. What do you know about Landcare?

Gypsy – I know that my Dad is the Vice President of our local Landcare. I’ve also been to Camp out on the Mount.

Gypsy, Anusheh and another student counting the funds (photo by Robyn Matthews)

Q. Who are your role models?

Anusheh – I think it would probably be my parents, my teachers and some of my friends.

Gypsy – Asha [former Connecting Country staff member], because she’s really passionate, kind, funny, nice and I helped her at Camp out on the Mount, and my Dad.

Q. What do you hope to achieve when you grow up?

Gypsy – To be part of helping stopping climate change and the greenhouse effect, which is probably the worst effect you can get.

Anusheh – Probably to help so there won’t be as much plastic just floating around.

 

 

Q. What is your favourite bird or other animal?

Anusheh – Probably a Kookaburra

Gypsy – My favourite animals are sharks, snakes, and my favourite birds, I’ve got a lot. I can’t say all of them but a Red-tailed Black Cockatoo, a Yellow-tailed Black Cockatoo, a Long-billed Corella and a Short-billed Corella, Powerful Owl, Diamond Firetail, a Wedge-tailed Eagle and a thousand more!

The Connecting Country team send Gypsy and Anusheh a big thank you for their amazing efforts, and for taking the time to answer the interview questions. What wonderful initiative and commitment they have shown. Well done girls!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Community weed warrior releases Cootamundra Wattle brochure

Posted on 12 January, 2022 by Ivan

Cootamundra Wattle (Acacia bailey­ana) is a colourful character. It is often used in landscaping for its showy floral blooms and strong foliage, and was a common backyard planting over the past few decades. Unfortunately in our climate, this species often escapes into the woodlands and the forests of central Victoria, invading bushland and displa­­­cing the plants indigenous to our area.

The invasion of the Cootamundra Wattle can be seen throughout Kalimna Park in Castlemaine, as well as many pockets of bushland near our townships. However, as a local weed warrior recently discovered, the Cootamundra Wattle could also cause the extinction of our native Silver Wattle in some areas. This valiant community member recently created a brochure outlining the threats posed by the Cootamundra Wattle on our local populations of Silver Wattle, as well as how to identify both species.

To view and download the Cootamundra Wattle brochure (PDF format) – click here

Thank you for sharing your amazing work and informative brochure! A brief summary is provided below.

Cootamundra Wattle harms local native species

Silver Wattle (Acacia dealbata) is indigenous to Mount Alexander region and before Europeans arrived, it grew naturally along waterways and gullies. Cootamundra Wattle (Acacia baileyana) is native to a small area west of Cootamundra in central New South Wales, and was introduced as a garden plant to many areas outside its natural range.  The problem is that it crosses with Silver Wattle.  This means that the seeds produced by Silver Wattles growing near Cootamundra Wattle no longer produce Silver Wattle seedlings but a cross between the two species.

Distinguishing between wattles

In our part of central Victoria, Silver Wattle is a tree up to about 10 m (taller in wetter regions) with greyish-green leaves and fairly upright clusters of yellow flowers in July to September. It often suckers. Cootamundra Wattle is a shrub or small tree about 3-6 m high with silvery-grey leaves and dense, hanging clusters of bright yellow flowers in July to August.  Its leaves are shorter than Silver Wattle leaves, with fewer leaflets.  It does not sucker.  Both have bipinnate (fern-like) leaves.

Cootamundra Wattle in full bloom (photo: Victorian Government)

Bipinnate (fern-like) leaves on the Cootamundra Wattle (photo: Victorian Government)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What you can do to help Silver Wattle

  • Do not plant, sell or give away Cootamundra Wattle plants.
  • Cut down any Cootamundra Wattles (including hybrids) on your land. Cutting them down before they seed will prevent another season’s seeds joining the soil seed bank.
  • Do not put seeds from cuttings in green waste collections, as this will spread the seeds.
  • Ask your local council to remove any Cootamundra Wattles from your nature strip.
  • Ask Parks Victoria or Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning to remove them from public land.
  • Politely explain the Cootamundra Wattle problem to people who don’t know about it, and ask plant sellers (including at markets) not to sell Cootamundra Wattles. Although some forms are claimed to be sterile, this is difficult to verify and they still popularise Cootamundra Wattle.
  • Encourage people to grow local native wattles like Golden Wattle (Acacia pycnantha) and Wirilda (Acacia provincialis) instead.

To learn more, read the brochure – click here

 

Healthy Landscapes workshops 2022

Posted on 12 January, 2022 by Ivan

It sure was a busy time for webinars in 2020 and 2021, with Connecting Country hosting no less than a dozen online events and training sessions. Many organisations moved to webinars during the period of uncertainty and changing COVID-19 restrictions, including the ‘Healthy Landscapes’ project coordinated by our neighbours at Macedon Ranges Shire Council (VIC) and their project partners.

They have delivered an exciting array of sustainable land management webinars over the past two years, which are now all online for catch-up viewing. We particularly liked the soil health and grass identification workshops and video series, which include an overview of how to support soil health and use native pasture grasses for long-term sustainability.

The workshops tapped into some immense local knowledge, and allowed it to be shared and enjoyed across the nation. There are also four new webinars planned for 2022. Please read on for details from the project.

To listen to the 2020 and 2021 Healthy Landscapes workshops on regenerative land management – click here

Webinars have proved to be popular over the past two years (photo: Macedon Ranges Shire Council)

Healthy Landscapes workshops in 2022

Visit the Macedon Ranges Shire Council website (click here) for more information on these upcoming workshops:

Horses – How to graze them in a sustainable way – Ashbourne
Sunday 6 February 2022 | 10:00 am to 12:00 pm
Do you have horses? Come along to a field day in Ashbourne
Click here for bookings and further information

Movable fencing and water for stock – Gisborne
Thursday 3 March 2022 | 07:00 pm to 09:00 pm
Join a farm visit on a property in Gisborne to learn about movable fence and trough systems.
Click here for bookings and further information

Movable fencing and water for stock – Kyneton
Friday 4 March 2022 | 10:30 am to 12:30 pm
Join a farm visit on a property in Kyneton to learn about movable fence and trough systems.
Click here for bookings and further information

Ecological burns – the benefits
Tuesday 8 March 2022 | 07:00 pm to 10:00 pm
Learn about planned burning as a land management tool to promote positive benefits for a local environment.
Click here for bookings and further information

 

Find our resources at the Castlemaine Vintage Bazaar

Posted on 6 January, 2022 by Ivan

If you’re looking for Connecting Country guides and brochures, you will be happy to know we have just partnered with the Castlemaine Vintage Bazaar, to provide seven days a week of glorious access! This will enable landholders and community members, as well as tourists, to readily obtain copies of our Healthy Landscapes guide book, along with our brochures including our guides on Woodland Birds, Reptiles and Frogs, and Indigenous Plants of Castlemaine and surrounds.

Thanks so much to Castlemaine Vintage Bazaar and CastleMade for promoting our education material and brochures to the community. We love your work and really appreciate your support.

Connecting Country goodies now available at Castlemaine Vintage Bazaar (photo by Castlemaine Vintage Bazaar)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our Healthy Landscapes guide

‘Healthy Landscapes’ is a practical guide to caring for land in the Mount Alexander region of Central Victoria. It is targeted to local landholders and Landcarers, or anyone interested in caring for our special local environment.

Here’s just some of the feedback:

  • Sensational! A must-read for anyone with a property from 1 to 1,000 acres. (Yapeen landholder/farmer)
  • I wish we’d had this guide when I first moved here 25 years ago. (Golden Point landholder)
  • Wow, what a fabulous publication. It covers all bases and is an essential read for all landowners. It has particular relevance for anyone doing due diligence before purchasing rural acreage, however big or small.  (Walmer landholder)
  • I was in Castlemaine today and suddenly remembered this item about the book being available at Stonemans. They had it at the front desk and we are reading it now back at home. It is really outstanding and very relevant. Thanks to Connecting Country for their dedication. (Welshmans Reef landholder)

For more information about the Healthy Landscapes guide – click here

To get your copy ($15) head to:

Castlemaine Vintage Bazaar
The Mill, 1-9 Walker St Castlemaine, VIC
For shop information and hours – click here

Mount Alexander Animal Welfare (MAAW) Op Shop
12 Johnstone St, Castlemaine VIC
For shop information and hours – click here

Castlemaine Visitor Information Centre
44 Mostyn St, Castlemaine VIC
For centre information – click here

Stoneman’s Bookroom
101 Mostyn St, Castlemaine VIC
For shop information – click here

The Book Wolf
1/26 High St, Maldon VIC
For shop information – click here

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A copy of the guide has been made available free of charge to each local Landcare and environmental volunteering group in the Mount Alexander region. This project was made possible through support from the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment, through funding from Australian Government’s National Landcare Program.

 

 

Recognising our volunteers and donors: 2021 celebration

Posted on 23 December, 2021 by Ivan

We love our volunteers and donors and could not do what we do without them. Our management committee is run by volunteers, our monitoring programs rely on skilled citizen scientists, our landholders ensure landscape restoration is maintained, and others help with events, Landcare, engagement and in countless other ways. We appreciate their dedication to our vision of increasing, enhancing and restoring biodiversity across central Victoria.

With few opportunities for large grants to assist our projects, we have relied more and more on our volunteers, fundraising and donors, as well as diversifying our ‘fee for service’ model. We have been fortunate to receive generous donations from local families and organisations, which have supported our monitoring and restoration projects.

It was a great pleasure to host a humble thank-you celebration for our volunteers and larger donors on the evening of Wednesday 8 December 2021 at The Hub Plot, behind our office in Castlemaine, Victoria.

Although a chilly summer evening for central Victoria, we still enjoyed COVID-safe celebratory drinks and snack packs in the leafy Hub Plot garden. Our Monitoring Coordinator, Jess Lawton, provided a short summary of our monitoring achievements over the last year, followed by plenty of chatting and laughter. Thank you to everyone who came and made it a wonderful evening with great company. Special thanks to Lou, Jane R, Brendan and Duncan for setting up and helping the evening run smoothly, and to Heather and Neil for the lovely venue.

We are blessed to have an engaged and enthusiastic community who support us to check in on our local biodiversity, and deliver monitoring, engagement, Landcare support and landscape restoration across our region. If it wasn’t for your hard work, we simply would not be able to continue our valuable long-term biodiversity monitoring, engage our community in caring for our local landscapes, or empower landowners to manage their land as wildlife habitat.

To everyone who has helped Connecting Country in 2021: a big thank you! We are so grateful for your support and encouragement.

To find out more about volunteer and donation opportunities at Connecting Country, please – click here

Please enjoy the following photos by Lou Citroen, capturing the beauty of our volunteer celebration on a chilly summer’s evening in Castlemaine.

 

Getting into nature with Chewton Primary School

Posted on 20 December, 2021 by Ivan

 

The Grade 3/4 class with their teacher Mikaylah, and Hadley and Asha from Connecting Country (Photo by Chewton Primary School)

Connecting Country had the great pleasure of coordinating four sessions of nature activities for the grade three and four class at Chewton Primary school during 2022. The first session was an introduction for the students, discussing the history of our landscapes and what has shaped the land around us. We went for a walk in the local bush to look at plants and birds, did a ‘sit and listen’ activity, and shared nature observations from around school and home.

 

In the second session we talked about the importance of tree hollows as habitat, and how nest boxes can help provide artificial homes for wildlife when tree hollows are missing. The kids learnt all about Brush-tailed Phascogales, Krefft’s/Sugar Gliders and the many birds, bats, and other animals that need tree hollows to shelter and raise their families. They learnt about the importance of mature, old growth trees and the habitat they provide for many of Central Victoria’s wonderful creatures. The kids learnt about the value of installing nest boxes in fragmented habitats where there are few hollows, and how the nest boxes can provide hollow-like homes for many animals.

The kids using Connecting Country’s native plants brochure to identify local flora (Photo by Connecting Country)

In the third session, the wonderful Jane Rusden from BirdLife Castlemaine District engaged the kids about bird watching, talking in detail about many of our special local species and their quirks. Jane ran a nature journaling activity to help the kids develop their observational skills in the natural world, prompting them to look for things of certain colours and look for ‘mini-worlds’ through paper telescopes. At the end we distributed a lovely selection of plants from Newstead Natives for students to plant at home and around the school.

The final session was a great success when Ray Stevens, representing Nalderun, came and spoke with the kids about the local Dja Dja Wurrung culture and First Nations perspectives. Ray took the kids for a bush walk through Post Office Hill Reserve where he opened our eyes to the history of the local bush and the many culturally significant markings and places in the local area.

 

As part of this final session, we also asked students to share ‘something they had learned about and would like to help take care of’. Answers included phascogales, gliders, Powerful Owls and other birds, cats (hopefully meaning to keep them away from wildlife!), trees, Chocolate Lilies, other native plants that were taken home, and many other delightful answers.

Ray (representing Nalderun) explaining rock wells (Photo by Connecting Country)

Arkie in Grade 4 from Chewton Primary School wrote:

Over the past few weeks the grade 3/4s have been doing Connecting Country with Asha from Connecting Country and other great guests. We had a lot of fun doing outside and inside activities. Today we were joined by Ray who taught us all about local Aboriginal culture!

We have been going out into the bush and looking at plants and listening to the birds in the bush behind the school. It has been so fun learning about Phascogales and bird boxes, we also were each given a native plant from a Connecting Country. We had so much fun learning about this topic and I personally really enjoyed it.

 

This project was made possible thanks to a donation from a generous local donor.

 

 

Connecting Country holiday season 2021

Posted on 13 December, 2021 by Frances

 

A family of Tawny Frogmouths hanging out together at Golden Point (photo by Marie Jones)

On behalf of the Connecting Country team, we wish all our readers a safe and festive holiday season, with extra special greetings to our fabulous volunteers, members, landholders, donors and supporters.

As we approach the end of 2021, we hope you enjoy a chance to celebrate with your favourite people, and to connect with our special local environment. With this unseasonally cool and wet summer there’s sure to be lots to see out in the bush.

The Connecting Country office at the Hub in Castlemaine will be closed for a short break from 5 pm on Thursday 23 December 2021 until we reopen on Tuesday 4 January 2022.

If you haven’t already caught up on our recent activities, our annual report 2021 is still available online – click here

 

 

 

 

Woodland birds with DJAARA – a chirping success

Posted on 13 December, 2021 by Ivan

Connecting Country was thrilled to partner with DJAARA and BirdLife Castlemaine to deliver two popular community events focusing on woodland birds and cultural education at Kalimna Park (Castlemaine VIC) and Greater Bendigo National Park (Bendigo VIC). Both the recent 2021 events were well-received and booked out quickly. We also streamed the events via Facebook Live, so anyone could watch them online. A total of 62 tickets were booked, with the online audience topping 600 views so far following the two events, reaching people as far as Hobart and Adelaide via the streaming platform.

These events were funded by DJAARA, who is managing aspects of Kalimna Park (Castlemaine) and Wildflower Drive (Greater Bendigo National Park). Local Dja Dja Wurrung man Harley Douglas provided the audience with insight into cultural practices, and the Djaara names and significance of various plants and animals in the parks. The events featured a bird talk and walk with local bird gurus, Damian Kelly and Jane Rusden of BirdLife Castlemaine, and cultural and landscape awareness with Harley Douglas – a great combination of insight, knowledge and experience.

For those who missed the events, you can still watch the videos on Connecting Country’s Facebook page (no account required). To view, please – click here

Harley Douglas engages the audience at Kalimna Park (photo by Ivan Carter)

 

Harley highlighted some of the surveys and management practices that DJAARA has developed to manage these parks for biodiversity and cultural preservation, which was refreshing and welcomed by the audience. The events were part of a four event series funded through Dja Dja Wurrung Clans Aboriginal Corporation. Two further events in March 2022 will focus on nest boxes and providing habitat for marsupials.

Damian and Jane from BirdLife Castlemaine provided excellent insight into the calls, habitat and life of many woodland birds spotted or heard on the walks, including birds like the Grey Butcherbird, which imitate and mimic the calls of other birds! Also of interest was a welcome from a Wedge Tailed Eagle, at the beginning of the Kalimna Park event, when Harley was setting up.

We would like to warmly thank our presenters and all the people who attended the event, which has generated extremely positive feedback.

Please enjoy some photos from the events, taken by Frances Howe.

Woodland birds

The Mount Alexander and Greater Bendigo regions are home to some special woodland birds.  Connecting Country has embraced woodland birds as a focus for landscape restoration.

We focus on birds because:

  • Different bird species tend to use different habitats, hence their presence or absence can tell us about habitat type and quality.
  • Birds are relatively easy to count and can indicate whether our revegetation efforts are successful in creating habitat.
  • Woodland birds are in serious decline, with the Victorian Temperate Woodland Bird Community is listed as a threatened community under Victorian legislation.
  • Birds are engaging! BirdLife Australia has been harnessing the enthusiasm and skill of citizen scientists for decades, with great success.

Walking Together – Balak Kalik Manya

The ‘Walking Together – Balak Kalik Manya’ project spans across four years with a focus on site-specific management plans for the two identified areas of Dja Dja Wurrung Country: Kalimna Park in Castlemaine; and Wildflower Drive in Strathfieldsaye.

The project focuses on how to:

  • Increase community connection with nature.
  • Grow visitation rates.
  • Encourage healthy use of each sites.
  • Maintain and improve diversity.

The project will also promote Djaara employment opportunities and facilitate Djaara connections with traditional and contemporary practices to improve land management outcomes.

For more information on the Walking Together Project, please – click here

 

Healthy landscapes guide – gift a copy now!

Posted on 9 December, 2021 by Ivan

Looking for a healthy and sustainable Christmas gift this festive season? We still have copies of Connecting Country’s Healthy Landscapes guide for sale.

Healthy Landscapes is a practical guide to caring for land in the Mount Alexander region of Central Victoria. It is targeted to local landholders and Landcarers, or anyone interested in caring for our special local environment.

Here’s just some of the feedback:

  • Sensational! A must-read for anyone with a property from 1 to 1,000 acres. (Yapeen landholder/farmer)
  • I wish we’d had this guide when I first moved here 25 years ago. (Golden Point landholder)
  • Wow, what a fabulous publication. It covers all bases and is an essential read for all landowners. It has particular relevance for anyone doing due diligence before purchasing rural acreage, however big or small.  (Walmer landholder)
  • I was in Castlemaine today and suddenly remembered this item about the book being available at Stonemans. They had it at the front desk and we are reading it now back at home. It is really outstanding and very relevant. Thanks to Connecting Country for their dedication. (Welshmans Reef landholder)

For more information about the Healthy Landscapes guide – click here

To get your copy ($15) head to:

Mount Alexander Animal Welfare (MAAW) Op Shop
12 Johnstone St, Castlemaine VIC
For shop information and opening hours – click here

Castlemaine Visitor Information Centre
44 Mostyn St, Castlemaine VIC
For centre information – click here

Stoneman’s Bookroom
101 Mostyn St, Castlemaine VIC
For shop information – click here

The Book Wolf
1/26 High St, Maldon VIC
For shop information – click here

A copy of the guide has been made available free of charge to each local Landcare and environmental volunteering group in the Mount Alexander region. This project was made possible through support from the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment, through funding from Australian Government’s National Landcare Program.

 

Last chance to book: Woodland birds of Wildflower Drive with DJAARA – 4 December 2021

Posted on 3 December, 2021 by Ivan

Connecting Country is thrilled to announce we have five further tickets for our second of four free events in partnership with Djaara.

Our second event is titled ‘Woodland Birds of Wildflower Drive with DJAARA‘ and is a collaboration between Dja Dja Wurrung Clans Aboriginal Corporation, BirdLife Castlemaine and Connecting Country. The event will feature a bird talk and walk with local bird gurus, Damian Kelly and Jane Rusden of BirdLife Castlemaine, and an exploration of cultural and landscape awareness with Harley Douglas of DJAARA. It will be held at the lovely Wildflower Drive, which is part of the Greater Bendigo National Park, VIC.

This event is the second of four events in the coming months funded through Dja Dja Wurrung Clans Aboriginal Corporation. Two further events in March 2022 will focus on nest boxes and providing habitat for marsupials.

During the event we will:

  • Learn about Dja Dja Wurrung country and the woodland birds of Wildflower Drive, Greater Bendigo National Park.
  • Explore the Wildflower Drive environment with local cultural and ecological guides.
  • Hear about how Wildflower Drive is managed for biodiversity, cultural preservation and woodland birds.

We will have the opportunity to explore the landscape with members of the Djaara community and hear about the significance that birds play in the broader landscape of Greater Bendigo National Park.

The Mount Alexander and Greater Bendigo region is home to some special woodland birds.  Connecting Country has embraced woodland birds as a focus for landscape restoration.

We focus on birds because:

  • Different bird species tend to use different habitats, hence their presence or absence can tell us about habitat type and quality.
  • Birds are relatively easy to count and can indicate whether our revegetation efforts are successful in creating habitat.
  • Woodland birds are in serious decline, with the Victorian Temperate Woodland Bird Community is listed as a threatened community under Victorian legislation.
  • Birds are engaging! BirdLife Australia has been harnessing the enthusiasm and skill of citizen scientists for decades, with great success.

 

Booking

The event will be on Saturday 4 December 2021 from 10.00 to 11.30 am in Wildflower Drive, Greater Bendigo National Park, VIC. It’s sure to be popular and tickets are limited. To book please – click here

Due to COVID-19 limitations, please bring your own refreshments. Please come equipped for potential weather extremes, wear sturdy shoes and bring adequate water and nourishment. Bring binoculars if you have some.

Live-streaming via Facebook

This event will also be streamed live on Facebook, for those who cannot make it or miss out on tickets. To watch the Facebook Live Stream, on the day please visit: facebook.com/connectingcountry

Walking Together – Balak Kalik Manya

The ‘Walking Together – Balak Kalik Manya’ project spans across four years with a focus on site-specific management plans for the two identified areas of Dja Dja Wurrung Country: Kalimna Park in Castlemaine; and Wildflower Drive in Strathfieldsaye.

The project focuses on how to:

  • Increase community connection with nature.
  • Grow visitation rates.
  • Encourage healthy use of each sites.
  • Maintain and improve diversity.

The project will also promote Djaara employment opportunities and facilitate Djaara connections with traditional and contemporary practices to improve land management outcomes.

For more information on the Walking Together Project, please – click here

 

AGM 2021 wrap up – Restoring landscapes in a changing climate

Posted on 2 December, 2021 by Jacqui

We were pleased to hold Connecting Country’s AGM on Saturday 13 November 2021, with the theme Restoring landscapes in a changing climate.

Frances Howe (Director – Connecting Country) gave an introductory presentation celebrating achievements of the past year, within the context of ongoing challenges. We followed this with a super-brief AGM led by Brendan Sydes (President – Connecting Country).

All existing committee of management members were re-appointed to the 2021-22 committee:

  • President: Brendan Sydes
  • Vice President: Sadie Gray
  • Treasurer: Max Kay
  • Secretary: Marie Jones
  • Christine Brooke
  • Deb Wardle
  • Karoline Klein
  • Malcolm Trainor

Congratulations to Connecting Country’s dedicated committee members and thank you for volunteering your time and skills to guide our work.

Guest speakers

We were thrilled to see a strong attendance of 40 community members, who spent the Saturday afternoon hearing from special guests: Bonnie Humphreys (Landscape Restoration Coordinator – Connecting Country), and Geoff Caine and Dona Cayetana, from the climate adaptation group at the Victorian Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP).

Bonnie gave an interesting talk on ‘Future-proof our forests’, a project she manages for Connecting Country with support from the Ross Trust. We heard about the progress and challenges to establish two pioneering climate future plots in the Mount Alexander region. For background information on this project – click here

Geoff Caine, Program Manager for Community and Partnerships in DELWP’s regional climate change group, then gave an informative talk about the outlook for revegetation in the Mount Alexander region through the lens of climate projections for our region. 

Learn more

  • To read the minutes of the Connecting Country AGM 2021 – click here
  • To read the Connecting Country annual report 2021 – click here
  • To catch the AGM 2021 on video – please see the link below.

Thank you to the Ross Trust for their invaluable support of our ‘Future-proof our forests’ project.

 

Congratulations to winners – 2021 Victorian Landcare Awards

Posted on 1 December, 2021 by Frances

Connecting Country extends our congratulations to all the winners at the 2021 Victorian Landcare Awards, but especially Tess Grieves, the Regional Landcare Coordinator at North Central Catchment Management Authority. Tess won the Steadfast Young Landcare Leader Award at the awards on 26 November 2021.

Tess is a great supporter of Connecting Country and our role as host of a Landcare Facilitator for the Mount Alexander region. She grew up in Castlemaine before moving to Bendigo. We thoroughly appreciate Tess’s friendly, positive and practical approach. Congratulations!

Here is the official summary of the award. To read more about Tess and the other winners, visit the Spring 2021 edition of the Landcare Magazine – click here.

Steadfast Young Landcare Leader Award
Tess Grieves

This award acknowledges an individual or youth group between 15–35 years who promotes excellence in Landcare through on-ground projects and awareness raising activities.

Tess Grieves is the Regional Landcare Coordinator at North Central Catchment Management Authority. She has supported over 160 Landcare groups and networks for five years.

Always focussed on the big picture, Tess fosters partnerships and secures funding that provides benefits for Victoria’s environmental volunteers.

She is driven to support volunteers, spread the Landcare story, and engage new audiences.

Tess will represent Victoria at the 2022 National Landcare Awards.

 

Tess and turtle (photo from Connecting Country archive)