Restoring landscapes across the Mount Alexander Region

Bird of the month: Superb Fairy-wren

Posted on 30 March, 2021 by Ivan

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

Superb Fairy-wren (Malurus cyaneus)

My grandfather, Claude Austin, passed on his passion for birds and conservation to my very young eyes and ears. One of my earliest and ongoing observations was that, despite downsizing from farm, to rural home on acres, to house in the city, there were always Superb Fairy-wrens, also known as Blue Wrens, in his garden. And so it became a life goal for me to create safe and suitable habitat for these tiny but charismatic and adaptable birds in my own garden. These days, living on a bush property, they provide a daily delight as they robustly sing to the world with all their might, jump over each other like circus tumblers and snuggle up in gorgeous family groups. However, I doubt that in his day, Pop knew of their saucy sex life. If he did he certainly wasn’t telling me.

Superb Fairy-wrens love dense bushes. They sing from the highest point and dive into them for cover from predators, while using the surrounding open ground to forage in a social unit, at a frenetic pace. Their diet consists of predominantly insects, but also flower petals and succulent fruits.

During spring and summer the male Superb Fairy-wren makes up for it’s tiny size, with vivid and iridescent blue and black breeding plumage making them quite conspicuous. However, during the non-breeding months they go through eclipse where they look quite motley, adopting mouse brown plumage like the female, but retaining the black bill and very dark blue tail.

Female Superb Fairy-wren (photo by Jane Rusden)

 

Damian Kelly’s discovered the following facts about Super Fairy-wrens during his research.

Generally you will see a male in company with a group of brown birds, both male and female. In the past this misled people into thinking that the male was polygamous and held sway over his ‘harem’.

This was all turned on its head by banding studies first by E and J Bradley and then Ian Rowley. What appears to be a territorial patriarchal group is in fact a matriarchal group. Groups comprise usually one coloured male, a bunch of brown males and one female. All birds assist in the feeding of the young. Any females hatched are driven from the group once mature.

To add to the intrigue, eggs in a nest are not all fathered by the coloured male – often separate eggs are fertilised by several different males. Various studies have found that over 40% of young in a territorial group were fathered by a male other than the dominant coloured male. This behaviour is true not only of the Superb Fairy Wren, but also the Splendid Fairy Wren.

BirdLife Australia’s ‘Birds in Backyards’ web page has this to say: ‘Male Superb Fairy-wrens have been labelled as ‘the least faithful birds in the world’. Females may be courted by up to 13 males in half an hour, and 76% of young are sired by males from outside the social group.’

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

 

Superb Fairy-wrens can be parasitised at times by cuckoos such as Horsefields, Shining, Fantailed and Black-eared.

To listen to the call of the Superb Fairy Wren, please visit Graeme Chapman’s website – click here

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

References:

  • HANZAB. The Fairy-Wrens by Richard Schodde.
  • BirdLife Australia’s Birds in Backyards web page – click here

 

Community Volunteer Action Grants 2021

Posted on 24 March, 2021 by Jacqui

Just a reminder that the 2021 Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP) ‘Community Volunteer Action Grants’ are closing soon on 1 April 2021. The grants aim to boost environmental volunteer participation, particularly in engaging new and diverse audiences, on private and public land.

Stream 1 is focused on strengthening environmental volunteering: 2021 Community Volunteer Action Grants. Grants of up to $30,000 are available under Stream 1 – Strengthening Environmental Volunteering.

Eligibility

Groups and organisations with a focus on biodiversity conservation and working with community groups and organisations are eligible. This includes:

  • Not-for-profit conservation organisations
  • Environmental, naturalist groups or volunteer associations
  • Friends of, Conservation management, Landcare and Coastcare groups and networks
  • Public land committees of management
  • Traditional Owner groups and Aboriginal Victorian associations, trusts, co-operatives
  • Educational and research organisations such as schools and universities
  • Community Service Organisations
  • Local government

The focus of the Community Volunteer Action Grants is to protect and enhance the natural environment, boost volunteer participation and address threats to biodiversity on public and private land.

The grants will be spread across a range of geographic locations to align with the priorities identified in the Victorian Government’s blueprint for conservation planning, Protecting Victoria’s Environment – Biodiversity 2037, and Victorians Volunteering for Nature – Environmental Volunteering Plan.

For more information and to apply, visit environment.vic.gov.au/grants.

 

Caring for old trees – 24 April 2021

Posted on 24 March, 2021 by Ivan

Save the date! We have announced our second education event for 2021 and it is sure to be terrific, hosted by two local leading naturalists and ecological experts, Jarrod Coote and Tanya Loos. The event will be in-person, face-to-face (for a change!) at the stunning Hillside Acres farm, in North Harcourt, Victoria.

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

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

The event will cover topics such as how to look after old trees in the landscape, why they are important to farming and biodiversity, methods of protection and succession, and include a tour of some old trees at Hillside Acres. Old trees provide vital farm infrastructure, as well as habitat for many birds, arboreal mammals, microbats and insects. The workshop will explore how to ensure that old trees remain part of our healthy landscapes, and how to ensure the next generation of old trees.

This free event will be held on Saturday 24 April 2021 from 10 am to 12 pm in North Harcourt, VIC.

Online booking will be available shortly. There will be strict limits on booking , due to COVID restrictions. It’s sure to be very popular.

Our special presenters

Jarrod Coote

Jarrod is an environmental educator and practical ecologist. He currently runs Hillside Acres farm and has developed a sound knowledge of flora and fauna identification, ecology and habitat requirements. He has taught at education institutions and is a former Connecting Country employee . Jarrod has a passion for sustainable farming and land management, as well as birds and indigenous flora species.

Tanya Loos

Tanya is a superstar of many aspects of ecology and is best known for her ability to explain the beauties of the natural world to the community. Tanya has previously worked with Connecting Country and Birdlife Australia, and is an expert in birds, mammals and community engagement. Her roles include ecological consulting, project planning, client liaison and delivering training. She is also an author, blogger, and well-known advocate for environmental stewardship and sustainable land management.

Stay tuned for further details coming soon!

 

Native peas: a new guide from FOBIF

Posted on 24 March, 2021 by Frances

Friends of the Box-Ironbark Forests (FOBIF) have a brand new addition to their excellent series of guidebooks on local plants of the Mount Alexander Region in central Victoria.

Native pea plants in the bush: they’re hard to see when they’re not in flower, and impossible to miss when they are. Peas are beautiful, hardy and good for our soils. The problem is that many pea plants have quite similar flowers, which tempts the observer to lump them all together as ‘egg and bacon’ plants.

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In fact, most peas are easy to tell apart. Even the tricky ones aren’t impossible…as long as you’re prepared to get up close and take a good look. This guide, Native Peas of the Mount Alexander Region, offers detailed notes on 30 different native peas found in the bushlands of north central Victoria. Written in plain language and generously illustrated, it offers readers a way into a little known part of our natural environment.

The book is published by Friends of the Box-Ironbark Forests in association with Castlemaine Field Naturalists Club and the Wettenhall Environment Trust. It follows their successful guides to eucalypts, wattles and mosses. There’s a general introduction, detailed species notes (including on weed species), and a section on names. Although based on species found in north central Victoria, it would be useful to anyone interested in flora of the box ironbark region.

FOBIF has also produced eight new native pea greeting cards with detailed species notes on the back. They are available in sets of eight with envelopes.

Where to buy

The book and cards are available from Stoneman’s Bookshop in Castlemaine, Castlemaine Visitor Information Centre, the Enviroshop in Newstead and the Book Wolf in Maldon. You can also buy the book and cards directly from FOBIF through PayPal, by cheque or bank transfer. Go to www.fobif.org.au and click on the Native Pea book and cards images on the right hand side of the home page for purchase details. The Recommended Retail Price for the book is $10. Sets of cards are $20.

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Healthy dams for habitat event, a healthy success

Posted on 24 March, 2021 by Ivan

On 18 March 2021, a large crowd of people gathered on their computers, tablets and phones, to enjoy Connecting Country’s ‘Healthy dams for habitat’ online event. The event was hosted by Connecting Country and presented by local wetland consultant, Damien Cook. The free online event featured a presentation by Damien on how to create and improve dams to supply clean water and habitat for a variety of native plants and animals. The event was part of our ‘Healthy Landscapes’ project, funded through the Australian Government’s Smart Farms program.

This was the first of three educational events for the autumn 2021, with two further events planned for April and May 2021. The aim of the workshop series is to help our local farmers and other landholders to manage their land sustainably for the benefit of wildlife, primary production and the broader landscape. We will also develop a Healthy Landscapes guide book, especially targeted to the Mount Alexander region of central Victoria, which will be delivered in the coming months.

We were excited to sell a total of 201 tickets to the event, but it was difficult to tell exactly how many people attended, due to attendees sharing a screen with family members. The event finished with a 15 minute ‘Q and A’ session, which delivered further discussion around beneficial fauna in dams, how to filter water before entering a dam using plants, and also where to purchase common wetland species suitable for dams. There was plenty of interest in the event, with further requests for a recording of the event, plant lists and advice regarding wetland creation.

If you missed the ‘Healthy dams for habitat event’ a recording is now available on Vimeo – click here

Our evaluation survey indicated that attendees were keen for more information on how to create clean water and habitat in their existing dams, so we are providing some additional information. We will follow up with an aquatic plant list for our region and further videos in another post in the near future.

Additional resources

Damien mentioned a number of useful resources during the event, which provide great starting resources for improving the habitat value of a dam:

  • Farm Dams – Planning, Construction & Maintenance. Landlinks Press. CSIRO Publishing. Lewis B (2002)
  • Wildlife on Farms: how to conserve native animals. CSIRO Publishing. Lindenmeyer D, Claridge A, Hazell D, Michael D, Crane M, MacGregor C and Cunningham R (2003)
  • Flora of Melbourne: Guide to the Indigenous Plants of the Greater Melbourne Area, 4th Edition

 

Enhancing farm dams

We also recommend ‘Enhancing farm dams’, a booklet produced by the Australian National University and an excellent resource for anyone starting improvements to their existing dams.

To download your copy –  click here

The ‘Enhancing farm dams’ brochure includes the following illustration highlighting some achievable actions and beneficial dam improvements.

 

 

 

 

 

Landcare Link-up – February 2021

Posted on 17 March, 2021 by Asha

Thank you to the enthusiastic cohort of Landcare and Friends group representatives from the Mount Alexander region, and other stakeholders, who braved the cold at our February 2021 Landcare Link-up.

The evening started with small, socially-distanced discussion groups where Landcarers talked about issues that are important to individual groups, our broader community, and the land we all share.

Discussion topics included:

  • Climate change impacts.
  • Biodiversity monitoring.
  • Weed and pest animal management.
  • Waterways.
  • Landcare promotion.
  • Group successes and challenges.


The second feature of the Link-up was viewing a series of nine COVID-safe video updates prepared by local groups in lieu of in-person presentations about their work. The videos are all unique and exceptional in true Landcare style, and well worth a watch.
They provide a valuable ongoing resource for all of us to keep sharing inspirational Landcare stories.

We hope you’ve enjoyed our series of blog posts presenting the videos. To visit our web page where you can view all the Landcare video updates at your leisure (and share with your friends!) – click here

 

 

Landcare video updates – Taradale Landcare

Posted on 17 March, 2021 by Asha

To complement the February 2021 Landcare Link-up, we asked each Landcare and Friends group in the Mount Alexander region (Central Victoria) to film a short video update to share their achievements with the community. As usual, Landcarers rose to the occasion! We will be sharing these videos through a series of blog posts, as well as screening them at the Landcare Link-up and uploading them to our Landcare page.

This video from Taradale Landcare is an update on what they got up to in 2020, and features many stunning photos and footage of their recent work.

To watch the video, click on the image below or – click here

Taradale Landcare works to protect and enhance the land and wildlife habitats in and around Taradale. This includes working with the local  community to care for the biodiversity and agricultural health of the landscape. They hold regular meetings, working bees, BBQs, bush walks, property visits and other fun events. New faces are always welcome!

To learn more about Taradale Landcare or get involved, contact them via email (taradalelandcare@gmail.com) or visit their Facebook page – click here

 

Rise and shine for BirdLife Castlemaine AGM – 3 April 2021

Posted on 17 March, 2021 by Ivan

Our friends and partners at BirdLife Castlemaine District Branch are holding their annual general meeting (AGM) on Saturday 3 April 2021 at the lovely Rise and Shine Bushland Reserve in Sandon VIC. The AGM will be held in conjunction with their monthly bird walk, which will explore the excellent bird habitat in the reserve.

For further details from BirdLife Castlemaine please read on or visit their website – click here

Rise and Shine Bushland Reserve is well known for its excellent birding opportunities (photo by Geoff Park)

 

Please be advised that the 2021 Annual General Meeting of BirdLife Castlemaine District Branch will be held on:

Saturday 3 April 2021 at 11.30 am
Rise and Shine Bushland Reserve, Sandon VIC

The meeting will follow the monthly bird walk to be held at Rise and Shine Bushland Reserve.  BYO drink and chair – food for morning tea will be provided.

A nomination form for committee positions is attached.   A proxy voting form is also attached.  Please consider nominating for the committee.  Also attached is the agenda for the 2021 AGM and the unconfirmed 2020 AGM minutes.

Nomination forms and proxy voting forms should be emailed to castlemaine@birdlife.org.au
OR mailed to:
Secretary, BirdLife Castlemaine District Branch, 25A Church Street, Maldon, VIC 3463.

Nominations will also be accepted on the day of the AGM.

Please also note that a BirdLife Castlemaine District Branch committee meeting will be held on Sunday 11 April, 10.00 am in Hawkins Road, Campbells Creek VIC.

Best wishes,

Judy Hopley

Secretary
BirdLife Castlemaine District Branch

 

Pioneering climate future plots for our region

Posted on 15 March, 2021 by Ivan

Connecting Country has secured funding through the Ross Trust to establish two climate future plots of 500 plants right here in Mount Alexander region during 2021-23.

We will focus on two species from our local area: Silver Banksia (Banksia marginata) and Sweet Bursaria (Bursaria spinosa).

We are looking to include a variety plant provenances, grown from seed from areas that are hotter and drier, as well as areas that are cooler and wetter. Even though our climate is predicted to become hotter and drier, there may be other genetic information stored within a particular provenance, such as ability to survive an insect attack, or frost resilience, which plants from the hotter and drier area do not have.

To select our provenances we are looking at the Bureau of Meteorology’s climate predictions for our region. We have paired these predictions with species distribution and the availability of seed for our chosen plants.

Our climate future plots will create seed production areas and provide climate-adapted seed for use in future revegetation projects. They will also help to identify individuals and provenances most suited to survive in our changing climatic conditions.

Monitoring will allow us to assess and track the plants. Randomisation of provenances will help mix up pollen so it is more likely to be shared between plants when they flower and reproduce. This sharing of diverse genetic information may help the plants adapt as our climate changes.

Landholder expressions of interest

We are currently looking for a landholder interested in hosting a climate future plot for Sweet Bursaria on their property. Not every property is suitable for a climate future plot. It requires a long-term commitment and there are some important criteria that must be met for site selection. These criteria are provided below.

If you meet the criteria and are keen to host a climate future plot for Sweet Bursaria, please fill in our expression of interest form – click here

Please return your expression of interest form to Bonnie at Connecting Country via email (bonnie@connectingcountry.org.au). Expressions of interest close on 30 March 2021.

Criteria for site selection

Criteria for the ideal climate future plot are:

Land with:

  • Minimum of 3 hectares (7.5 acres) of clear space for Sweet Bursaria planting in a square block (excluding existing vegetation and structures).
  • Proximity to Castlemaine in central Victoria (maximum 20 km), with easy vehicle access to the site for installation, monitoring, maintenance and community involvement.
  • Suitable conditions for the target species to facilitate healthy growth.
  • No livestock grazing.
  • Legal protection through land tenure, nature covenant or planning scheme (e.g., zoning and overlays that restrict development).

 

Landholders with:

  • Long-term commitment to retaining their property and the plots intact.
  • Demonstrated history of managing the property for biodiversity conservation and restoration.
  • Capacity to understand the climate future plot concept and scientific importance of correct plot maintenance.
  • Capacity to commit to future land management actions (e.g., weed and rabbit control, grazing exclusion, maintaining plant guards).
  • Willingness to allow ongoing access for Connecting Country and volunteers for monitoring, maintenance, seed collection and community education.

 

Learn more about climate future plots

For more information on climate future plots, see:

 

Castlemaine Field Naturalists Club AGM plus excursion – 12 & 13 March 2021

Posted on 10 March, 2021 by Asha

As a monthly tradition, Castlemaine Field Naturalists Club hold a meeting with a guest speaker on the second Friday of the month, followed by a group excursion or field trip the following day.

Castlemaine Field Nats provided the following details about thier March 2021 excursion. For more information visit their website – click here

Castlemaine Field Naturalists Club
2021 Annual General Meeting and Guest Speaker

Our meeting on Friday 12 March 2021, 7.30 pm will again be online using Zoom (if you wish to attend, please email Peter Turner at munrodsl@iinet.net.au).

Following our AGM, the guest speaker will be Reiner Richter, one of the most prolific contributors to citizen science databases in Australia with many specialties including dragonflies and orchids. Reiner will tell us about the recent field guide he has produced together with Ian Endersby: ‘Dragonflies and Damselflies of Victoria and Tasmania‘.  Reiner will explain what lead him to produce the book and the work required to get better photos of many of the species. He will also discuss the photo processing that was required in order to show the required detail for the publication.

Our guest speaker will follow the usual ‘observations’ session when members can share recent interesting sightings with an option to show a photo or two. If you have photos to be shown please email JPEG file(s) to Euan Moore at calamanthus5@bigpond.com by noon on the day of the meeting.

Excursion

Our February excursion to Tullaroop Reservoir had to be postponed due to the sudden COVID lockdown, so we will try again on Saturday 13 March 2021. Meet at the car park opposite the Castle Motel, Duke Street (Castlemaine VIC) at 1.30 pm sharp or at the Tullaroop Reservoir picnic ground at the dam wall at 2:00 pm.

Watch out for raptors as you drive across the Moolort Plains to the reservoir!

After gathering at the picnic ground, we will take a short drive to where we will park and then walk along the shore of the lake and in nearby bushland. Afterwards we will drive back to the picnic ground for afternoon tea. There is a toilet block at the picnic ground.

Bring binoculars, sunhat, block-out, hand sanitiser, water and snacks and wear stout walking shoes.

Please comply with current Government COVID-safe requirements.

The Field Trip will be cancelled in extreme weather conditions.

There are NO excursions on total fire ban days.

Castlemaine Field Naturalists Club

 

Escaping the trap to reduce platypus deaths

Posted on 10 March, 2021 by Frances

Our colleagues at the Australian Platypus Conservancy published the following update on progress following the ban on opera house yabby nets. Evidence so far indicates the ban is working to reduce platypus and rakali deaths caused by these nets. Please read on for details.

To read the full version of ‘Platypus News & Views’, the newsletter of the Australian Platypus Conservancy (Issue 83 – February 2021) – click here
To learn more about the Australian Platypus Conservancy – click here
To read Connecting Country’s previous post on this issue – click here

Two platypus that drowned in an opera house trap in 2015 (photo: Australian Platypus Conservancy)

ESCAPING THE TRAP

Since 1 July 2019, the Victorian government has banned recreational use of opera house traps and other enclosed nets to capture crayfish or yabbies in all public and private waters throughout the state. The new rule aims to reduce the number of platypus, rakali (or water-rats), turtles and other air-breathing animals drowning as bycatch in enclosed traps. So how successful has this move been in reducing deaths of non-target species?

Based on records collated by Mike Sverns (DELWP Major Operations and Investigations Unit), only one platypus reportedly died in an opera house trap in the first 18 months after the Victorian ban was implemented (in King Parrot Creek in September 2019), with two rakali mortalities reported in the same period (in the Barwon River in April 2020). On average, eight times as many platypus and four times as many rakali reportedly died each year in enclosed traps set in Victorian waters in the 36 months preceding the ban.

It’s also worth noting that the ban on opera house trap use has been strongly supported by nearly everyone in the Victorian community, including recreational angling groups. To encourage persons to make an early switch to wildlife-friendly open-top yabby nets, the Victorian Fisheries Authority funded a Yabby Net Swap Program, whereby anglers could swap up to three opera house traps for one open-top yabby net. This program was very successful, with 20,000 open-top yabby nets distributed to persons across the state between December 2018 and February 2019.

Legislation banning use of opera house traps in the Australian Capital Territory came into effect in 2020. The ACT also followed Victoria’s lead in announcing that opera house traps could be exchanged for open-top lift nets at participating fishing tackle shops (with a limit of two new free nets per person). Elsewhere in Australia opera house traps cannot be legally deployed in Tasmania or Western Australia. New South Wales has announced they will eventually be banned throughout the state but (as far as we know) still hasn’t seta date for this to occur.

Even though Victoria’s ban has been an unqualified success in many ways, some illegal usage is likely to continue for some time due to the huge numbers of opera house traps that were previously purchased. More than 60 enclosed nets have been seized by Victorian fisheries and wildlife officers since mid-2019, including 23 opera house traps confiscated from a single person, resulting in a substantial fine. Unfortunately, it could be many years before these traps finally disappear from Victorian waters, as illustrated by a drum net being removed from the Goulburn River in May 2020, two decades or more after its use was outlawed.

Therefore, please continue to watch for use of illegal yabby traps and nets and report them at once to your state/territory fisheries hotline (13FISH in Victoria). Also, do whatever you can to encourage New South Wales, Queensland, South Australia and the Northern Territory to take action to ban all use of enclosed yabby nets and traps within their respective borders.

Australian Platypus Conservancy

 

Camp Out on the Mount 2021 – we’re going virtual!

Posted on 10 March, 2021 by Asha

This year, to reduce the risk of having to cancel or reschedule, we have decided to jump the gun, get creative and plan for a virtual ‘Camp Out on the Mount’. No, this doesn’t mean toasting marshmallows by the light of your computer screen. We are encouraging everyone to plan their own camping trip in whatever way is possible for you, and to join in online by contributing to our ‘Camp Out Collage’ (details to come).

When: 3 – 18 April 2021
Where:
Online at www.connectingcountry.org.au/landcare/camp-out-on-the-mount-2021/
How to join in:
Sign up to our blog for updates, or check the webpage during the dates above
Questions:
email asha@connectingcountry.org.au

We hope to capture the ‘Camp Out on the Mount’ spirit by encouraging everyone to engage with our special ‘Camp Out 2021’ web pages, and inviting you to contribute to our ‘Camp Out Collage’ of photos, stories and pledges. These will focus on some of the elements that make the Camp Out special:

  • Camping out (of course!)
  • Caring for the land
  • Loving Leanganook
  • Connecting with Indigenous culture

More details about how to participate will be shared on our blog in the coming weeks. To subscribe to our weekly e-news so you don’t miss any updates – click here

Camp Out on the Mount 2019 (photo by Leonie van Eyk)

 

Seeking volunteers for 2021 nest box checks

Posted on 10 March, 2021 by Jess

Monitoring our favorite marsupial, the frisky Brush-tailed Phascogale, is one of our core monitoring activities here at Connecting Country. We’re excited to be planning our nest box monitoring for autumn 2021.

Connecting Country’s nest box monitoring program was established in 2010. Our 450 nest boxes across the Mount Alexander region of central Victoria allow us to collect valuable scientific data about the threatened Brush-tailed Phascogale and other arboreal mammals. For more information on our nest box monitoring – click here

This year, our nest boxes will be surveyed by an intrepid team of trained volunteer team leaders. Volunteering on environmental projects is a great way to learn about our local environment, keep active, contribute to nature conservation, learn skills and meet new people.

This Brush-tailed phascogale is at home in its messy nest in Sutton Grange (photo by Jess Lawton)

 

We are looking for people who may be able to assist us in two ways.

1. Volunteer field helpers

This will involve assisting Volunteer Team Leaders to conduct nest box surveys, with feet planted firmly on the ground (i.e., not climbing ladders). This role involves:

  • Travel within the Mount Alexander region
  • Following safety procedures
  • Carrying ladders and equipment to sites
  • Helping to navigate to sites
  • Writing observations and recording data
  • Taking photos

Field work roles require working on uneven ground and carrying ladders (these are heavy!) through the bush, sometimes in hot or cold weather. Some sites require hikes through uneven terrain, or climbing over fences. Volunteers require a reasonable level of fitness, and an adventurous spirit!

2. Volunteer in the office

This could suit someone local who is willing to commit a short amount of time more regularly (e.g., 1 – 2 hours a week between April and June) managing paperwork and data sheets from the Castlemaine office. This may involve:

  • Helping to record who has filled out paperwork
  • Scanning and organising data sheets
  • Assisting with entering and curating data

 

If you are interested in assisting us, please send a brief email to jess@connectingcountry.org.au stating:

  • If you would prefer to assist as a field helper, or in the office
  • Your availability during April and May 2021
  • Why you are interested in volunteering (so we can do our best to make your volunteering experience as useful as possible for you!)
  • Any relevant experience
  • Any questions you have

We look forward to hearing from you!

 

2021 bird walks with BirdLife Castlemaine

Posted on 4 March, 2021 by Ivan

Our friends and project partners at BirdLife Castlemaine District have shared their latest ‘Bird Walks Calendar 2021’, which sets out all the excellent monthly bird walks they have planned for the rest of 2021. If you have not attended one of their bird walks, then make 2021 the year to enjoy the pleasure of a guided bird walk with friendly local experts. Please read on for details, provided by BirdLife Castlemaine District.

March 2021 bird walk

Date: Saturday 6 March 2021 at 9 am
Leader: Damian Kelly
Location: Glamorgan Reef Bushland Reserve, Yandoit VIC

Monthly bird walks can be a healthy stroll with lovely people, with birds providing a natural bonus (photo by Frances Howe)

Dear members and friends,

Please find attached the BirdLife Castlemaine District Branch 2021 Calendar with brief details of our monthly bird walks and the bird camp to be held in September.

Full details about each walk will be posted on the BirdLife Castlemaine District. Facebook page and included in our eNews prior to each walk.  If you are interested in the bird camp, contact details are on the calendar.

Thanks to Bob Dawson, BCD’s Bird walk coordinator and to those who have already led walks or will be doing so as the year progresses. All levels of experience welcome – walks are a great chance to learn from and have fun with fellow birdwatchers. Full details about each walk will be posted on the BirdLife Castlemaine District Facebook page and included in our eNews prior to each walk.

Walks will be cancelled if, during the walk period, severe weather warnings are in place; temperatures over 35oC or persistent rain is forecast; a Total Fire Ban has been declared for the day. Please check your email and/or Facebook on the evening before a walk, in case the event has been cancelled.

For more information, please email castlemaine@birdlife.org.au or call/text Jane Rusden (0448 900 896), Judy Hopley (0425 768 559) or Bob Dawson (0417 621 691). Please also note that walks or other activities will need to follow all Victorian Government Covid-19 restrictions and recommendations and will only go ahead if the restrictions permit.

To download BirdLife Castlemaine’s 2021 calendar – click here

 

Healthy dams for habitat 2021 – more tickets now available

Posted on 4 March, 2021 by Ivan

Sold out in a week! We did not expect the 100 tickets for our ‘Healthy dams for habitat’ event to book out so quickly, but they did. So we have upgraded our Zoom account and now have another few hundred tickets available.

To book – click here

Healthy dams for habitat‘ is hosted by local leading naturalist and wetland expert, Damien Cook. The free online event will feature a presentation by Damien on how to create and improve dams to supply clean water and habitat for a variety of native plants and animals. The event is part of our ‘Healthy Landscapes’ project, funded through the Australian Government’s Smart Farms program.

The event will aim to help our local farmers and other landholders to manage their land sustainably for the benefit of wildlife, primary production and the broader landscape. We will also develop a Healthy Landscapes guide book, especially targeted to the Mount Alexander region of central Victoria, and deliver two further educational workshops for landholders on sustainable land management.

The online event will be held on Thursday 18 March 2021 from 7-8 pm. It’s sure to be popular and tickets are limited. To book – click here 

Damien Cook

Damien has been a keen naturalist for 30 years and has developed a sound knowledge of flora and fauna identification, ecology and habitat requirements. He is a recognised expert in wetland, riparian and terrestrial ecology, particularly in the factors affecting the establishment and management of aquatic and wetland plants, and also the revegetation of terrestrial ecosystems. Damien is also Co-director of Rakali Ecological Consulting, a company based in central Victoria that specialise in ecological assessment (flora and fauna), mapping and land management planning for a variety of ecosystems, including wetland and terrestrial vegetation in south-eastern Australia. Damien’s roles include ecological consulting, project planning, client liaison and delivering training. Damien is also a shareholder in Australian Ecosystems Pty Ltd, an ecological restoration company with its own large scale indigenous plant nursery.

There are excellent examples of healthy dams in our region (photo by Bonnie Humphreys)

 

Bird monitoring 2020 results are in!

Posted on 4 March, 2021 by Jess

Connecting Country’s long-term bird monitoring program was established to investigate the relationship between habitat restoration and woodland bird populations across the Mount Alexander region in central Victoria. In 2020 sites were monitored by our team of tenacious volunteers, who managed to survey most of our sites, despite challenges associated with COVID-19 and lockdowns. The 2020 monitoring season was supported by the Australian Government’s Communities Environment Program. This was the second time our monitoring was 100% completed by volunteers.

The adorable Jackie Winter, a tiny but stunning bird of our region (photo by Peter Turner)

We are excited to present the following short report summarising the results of our 2020 bird monitoring program. We’re always on the lookout for more volunteer bird monitors! If you have bird identification skills and are interested in joining our bird monitoring program, please email our Monitoring Coordinator, Jess Lawton (jess@connectingcountry.org.au).


To hear more about our woodland birds monitoring program, and why we set up the program please watch the following video.

 

Landcare video updates – Friends of Campbells Creek Landcare

Posted on 4 March, 2021 by Asha

To complement the February 2021 Landcare Link-up, we asked each Landcare and Friends group in the Mount Alexander region (Central Victoria) to film a short video update to share their achievements with the community. As usual, Landcarers rose to the occasion! We will be sharing these videos through a series of blog posts, as well as screening them at the Landcare Link-up and uploading them to our Landcare page.

This video from Friends of Campbells Creek Landcare is a wonderful snapshot of their work. It showcases some of the many biodiversity values of the creek (including platypus!) and highlights the incredible improvements to creek-side habitat achieved by the group over the years. The historical photos highlight the impressive changes in the landscape and biodiversity. To watch the video click on the image below or – click here

Friends of Campbells Creek Landcare is a group of local residents and volunteers who work to protect and improve the environment in the Campbells Creek catchment.  The group is committed to celebrating and encouraging the use of the creek and creek-side land by the community. Their vision is to make the creek and creek-side lands a community asset – a healthy, restored environment, linked with nearby habitat, actively used and cared for by the community and visitors.

They do weed control, plant indigenous species, encourage regeneration and work to improve access to the creek for everyone’s enjoyment, recreation and education.

To learn more or get involved with Friends of Campbells Creek Landcare, visit www.focc.org.au or contact them via email (info@focc.org.au).

 

Landcare video updates – North Harcourt & Sedgwick Landcare

Posted on 4 March, 2021 by Asha

To complement the February 2021 Landcare Link-up, we asked each Landcare and Friends group in the Mount Alexander region (Central Victoria) to film a short video update to share their achievements with the community. As usual, Landcarers rose to the occasion! We will be sharing these videos through a series of blog posts, as well as screening them at the Landcare Link-up and uploading them to our Landcare page.

The next video from North Harcourt & Sedgwick Landcare details their fantastic ‘Pledge to Plant’ project during 2020. They explain how they went about the project and the overwhelming response they received from their community. To watch the video click on the image below or – click here

North Harcourt & Sedgwick Landcare Group focuses on community and shared learning. Their revival in recent years has seen them become a thriving and active group with strong community participation and support. Their current projects include running nature walks, building nest boxes, and providing property advice for local residents.

To learn more or get involved with North Harcourt & Sedgwick Landcare, contact them via email (nhselandcare@gmail.com) or visit their Facebook page – click here

 

Healthy dams as habitat event on 18 March 2021 – book now!

Posted on 25 February, 2021 by Ivan

Connecting Country is excited to announce that tickets are now available for the first of our 2021 autumn workshop series. ‘Healthy dams for habitat‘ is hosted by local leading naturalist and wetland expert, Damien Cook. The free online event will feature a presentation by Damien on how to create and improve dams to supply clean water and habitat for a variety of native plants and animals. The event is part of our ‘Healthy Landscapes’ project, funded through the Australian Government’s Smart Farms program.

The event will aim to help our local farmers and other landholders to manage their land sustainably for the benefit of wildlife, primary production and the broader landscape. We will also develop a Healthy Landscapes guide book, especially targeted to the Mount Alexander region of central Victoria, and deliver two further educational workshops for landholders on sustainable land management.

The online event will be held on Thursday 18 March 2021 from 7-8 pm. It’s sure to be popular and tickets are limited. To book please- click here 

Damien Cook

Damien has been a keen naturalist for 30 years and has developed a sound knowledge of flora and fauna identification, ecology and habitat requirements. He is a recognised expert in wetland, riparian and terrestrial ecology, particularly in the factors affecting the establishment and management of aquatic and wetland plants, and also the revegetation of terrestrial ecosystems. Damien is also Co-director of Rakali Ecological Consulting, a company based in central Victoria that specialise in ecological assessment (flora and fauna), mapping and land management planning for a variety of ecosystems, including wetland and terrestrial vegetation in south-eastern Australia. Damien’s roles include ecological consulting, project planning, client liaison and delivering training. Damien is also a shareholder in Australian Ecosystems Pty Ltd, an ecological restoration company with its own large scale indigenous plant nursery.

There are excellent examples of healthy dams in our region (photo: Bonnie Humphreys)

 

Bird of the month: Fuscous Honeyeater

Posted on 25 February, 2021 by Ivan

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

Fuscous Honeyeater (Lichenostomus fuscus)

Since we’ve all been in lockdown and spending most of our days at home, I thought the ever constant, interactive communities of Fuscous Honeyeater a good place to start this month. Partly because their endearing daily antics are the very opposite of what COVID-19 restrictions do to our own lives.

Visually the Fuscous Honeyeater is nothing to rave about, much like us living through lockdown in our PJ’s. In fact, I tell those new to bird watching, if they see a honeyeater but can’t quite work out what species it is, it’s probably a Fuscous. The small yellow tuft of feathers below the eye, on the jawline, can be very difficult to see, and otherwise they are a nondescript, mid olive-brown bird.

Their habit of foraging for insects on the wing, and lerp, honeydew and nectar in the treetops, makes them difficult to see as they flit about in the foliage. There is nothing to indicate which are male and female, although the male is very slightly larger than the female. Immature and non-breeding birds have a yellow gape, whereas breeding birds have an all-black bill (see photo comparison).

Fuscous Honeyeater with a yellow gape, indicating an immature or non-breeding individual (photo: Jane Rusden)

I find the best way to observe this species is at my birdbaths, which they absolutely love – not surprising as they are known to be drawn to water sources. I’ll often see about five birds gathering in a circle like they are at a noisy party, where they shout at each other all at once, then fly off one after the other in quick succession. There have been some long-term studies that indicate the Fuscous Honeyeater is a semi-colonial species, although they breed in monogamous pairs. They lay 1-3 eggs in a cup shaped nest that appear to be quite flimsy. However, they must be successful breeders and their densities can be up to five birds per hectare in highly suitable habitat.

If you find yourself somewhere on the east coast, between South Australia and Queensland, in a dryer forest, straining to looking at an olive-brown honeyeater that you can’t quite identify, but it’s vigorously chasing other birds through the canopy or shouting at it’s friends … you might be looking at a Fuscous Honeyeater.

Fuscous Honeyeater with a black bill indicating it’s a breeding adult (photo: Jane Rusden)

To listen to the call of the Fuscous Honeyeater, please  visit Graeme Chapman’s website – click here

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