Restoring landscapes across the Mount Alexander Region

AGM 2020 a roaring success: download available

Posted on 1 October, 2020 by Ivan

On Saturday 26 September 2020, a large crowd of people gathered on their computers, tablets and phones, to enjoy Connecting Country’s first ever online Annual General Meeting (AGM) and hear from two excellent guest speakers: Jess Lawton and Jacinta Humphrey. We sold a total of 98 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 went very smoothly, given the steep learning curve and technology required to run an AGM online.

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

The two biggest stars of the show were the amazing young scientists, and PhD candidates, Jess and Jacinta, who both gave enthralling presentations on ecological monitoring. Jess presented on the topic of Connecting Country’s ten years of ecological monitoring, which included birds surveys, nest box monitoring, and of course, phascogales! Jacinta covered her research into the impact of urbanisation on birds, which showed some surprising findings about how some birds adapt to life in the suburbs, and ideas about what might help urban birds and humans coexist. Jacinta also entertained the audience with an impressive Lego video. To view Jacinta’s engaging video summarising her project – click here

Our AGM was short and sweet, and all of our dedicated committee of management members were re-elected for another year. The hard-working Connecting Country committee must be thanked for their considerable strategic and practical contributions to our organisation. It is very impressive that the committee have all committed for another year, providing stability in these uncertain times.

Elected members of Connecting Country’s 2020-21 committee of management are:

  • President:                   Brendan Sydes
  • Vice President:          Saide Gray
  • Treasurer:                   Max Kay
  • Secretary:                    Marie Jones
  • Ordinary member:    Karoline Klein
  • Ordinary member:    Malcolm Trainor
  • Ordinary member:    Christine Brooke
  • Ordinary member:    Deborah Wardle


AGM minutes will be circulated to members and available on request. If you would like a copy of Connecting Country’s annual report for 2019-20 – click here.

If you missed the presentations and AGM, see the video of the event below, featuring each of the presentations and the formal proceedings. Please click play below and enjoy. Note the audio starts at 16 seconds.

  • Click here to download the 2020 financial audit report

If you have any questions, please email or call (03) 5472 1594.


Prickly plants for wildlife and community in Sutton Grange

Posted on 1 October, 2020 by Jacqui

‘Prickly Plants for Wildlife and Community’ is a project delivered by Connecting Country during 2020 in partnership with local Landcare groups, with funding from the Albert and Barbara Tucker Foundation.

The project has supported Landcare groups with specialist botanical advice, local planting lists and with planting hundreds of local-to-the-area (indigenous) understorey plants. These plants will help provide valuable food, nesting sites, and shelter for local woodland birds in the Mount Alexander region of central Victoria. Sutton Grange Landcare is one of four groups Connecting Country worked with on this project. We hope you enjoy this article about their work.

Albert Cox Wildlife Sanctuary

Sutton Grange Landcare Group has cared for the Albert Cox Wildlife Memorial Sanctuary since 1991, including working hard to control weeds and plant local native species. Their vision is to improve habitat for birds and other wildlife and they wanted to plant more indigenous shrubby plants to create more areas for birds to nest and to provide refuge and habitat.

Albert Cox Wildlife Sanctuary in Sutton Grange VIC, with large mature River Red Gums (Eucalyptus camaldulensis). Photo: Naomi Hewitt-Ware.

The sanctuary was set up for just this purpose by local school teacher and amateur naturalist Albert Cox who taught at the local school for almost half a century until 1961. He encouraged students to make a note of birds, plants and other wildlife they observed. These observations were then shared and written into the observations book he curated. Cox’s diary entry demonstrates his love of the natural world and relationship to local wildlife (from Birdlore article by BJ Coman):

 ‘…On the morning of the 26th September 1951 the thrush that had been for such a long period a friend of all at the Sutton Grange School was found dead beside the residence garden. This bird was well over thirty years old and had nested around the school residence all these years, many seasons being spent in an old billy hanging under the veranda. The bird had died of old age, being found lying with an insect still in its beak. It died in the middle of the nesting season leaving a mate to hatch out and rear a family.

Sutton Grange Landcare Group has continued Cox’s example of observation and care through working bees and hundreds of volunteer hours spent controlling weeds, planting and maintaining the plantings at the sanctuary. They often see wildlife in the reserve including echidnas, wallabies, possums and a wide variety of birds.

Naomi Hewitt-Ware and son Murray from Sutton Grange Landcare Group planted 100 plants in the sanctuary during winter 2020 as part of ‘Prickly Plants for Wildlife and Community’. The plants were locally-grown indigenous species including Lightwood (Acacia implexa), Hedge Wattle (Acacia paradoxa), Drooping Sheoak (Allocasuarina verticillata), Hop Bush (Dodonaea viscosa), Late-flowered Flax-lily (Dianella tarda), Bushy Needlewood (Hakea decurrens) and Tree Violet (Melicytus dentata). In the creek, they planted Silver Wattle (Acacia dealbata), Common Tussock-grass (Poa labillardierei) and Basket Sedge (Carex tereticaulis).

Murray at work installing guards around the plants to protect them from wallabies. Photo: Naomi Hewitt-Ware.

These will complement previous plantings by the group including Silver Banksia (Banksia marginata), a species which has become rare across our region. Group members are very happy with the guards provided for the project, which make it harder for wallabies to damage the plants. They will continue to replace guards, water, and weed around plants as necessary to give them the best chance to establish and grow. Fortunately, this year has been excellent year for planting, with ongoing rainfall.

A healthy-looking Silver Banksia (Banksia marginata). This species is now rare across our region. Photo: Naomi Hewitt-Ware.

There is a creek flowing through the reserve which has an established canopy of introduced Pine trees (Pinus sp.) and impressive old River-red Gums (Eucalyptus camaldulensis) with hollows. It is a place of refuge, made possible by the careful work of the group removing weeds such as Gorse (Ulex europaeus) and Broom (Genista monspessulana) over the years.         

A creek flows through the sanctuary and has benefited from many years of weed control by Sutton Grange Landcare Group. Photo: Jacqui Slingo.

Landcare members are very appreciative of the support from the Albert and Barbara Tucker Foundation and Connecting Country, and are especially glad at being able to plant in such a good planting year.

To find out more about Sutton Grange Landcare Group or to get involved contact Christine Brooke (Secretary) by emailing .




FOBIF walks are back – 18 October 2020

Posted on 1 October, 2020 by Ivan

Our friends and partners at Friends of the Box-Ironbark Forests (FOBIF) have announced their popular monthly nature walks across the Mount Alexander region of Central Victoria will recommence on Sunday 18  October 2020. They have adapted the first walk to comply with the latest COVID-19 restrictions, with multiple smaller groups rather than one large walk. FOBIF’s walks have a reputation for providing interesting insights into our local natural environment and biodiversity hotspots, led by local experts and passionate volunteers.

Here are more details from FOBIF, including a link to their website.

FOBIF are planning a walk on Sunday 18 October 2020 in the Chewton Bushlands, led by Antoinette Birkenbeil and Karen Baker.

The number of walkers on the day will be limited to 20 in two groups of 10. People will have to wear masks and observe social distancing rules.

The 5-6 km walk will start at the Coliban Water Reserve in Kennedy’s Lane where the old Harcourt Channel runs through remnant wetland. Many wildflower species thrive here in open bird-rich forest among old river red-gums. A climb then takes walkers into the tracks of the Bushlands with spectacular views and hopefully more spring wildflowers.

Check out FOBIF’s walks page for more details about the walk –

Contact FOBIF by email ( or by phone (Bronwyn Silver: 0448 751 111) by 16 October 2020 if you would like to register for the walk.

Also check the FOBIF website closer to the date in case the lockdown regulations change.


Help shape the North Central Regional Catchment Strategy for 2021-27

Posted on 1 October, 2020 by Frances

North Central Catchment Management Authority (CMA) is leading the renewal of the Regional Catchment Strategy (RCS) for 2021-27. The RCS is an important planning document for land, water, and biodiversity management. The renewal of the RCS is a great opportunity, to think about current and emerging challenges, and decide where to focus our efforts, to make a difference.

Earlier in 2020, after Regional Roundtable workshops were canceled due to COVID-19, the CMA asked the regional community to provide input to RCS renewal via an online survey and interactive map on their Engage Victoria webpage. The information provided through the survey and map has informed development of RCS discussion papers and a revision of RCS Local Areas, which will form the basis of the new RCS.

Due to ongoing COVID-19 restrictions, they have just launched another round of online community engagement. This time they’re asking:

  • For feedback on the discussion papers.
  • About land, water and biodiversity management priorities.

All the details, including a summary of discussion papers, can be found on the Engage Victoria webpage – click here

You can choose one or more of the following ways to participate:

  • Join their online workshop at 7 – 9 pm on Thursday 8 October 2020. To register via Eventbrite and receive the link to join – click here
  • Log on to the Engage Victoria website. To provide feedback on the RCS discussion papers via survey form, or join the online discussion about local areas – click here

Your local knowledge, priorities and ideas can help shape this new RCS.

For further information please contact Nina Cunningham at North Central CMA (


Trust for Nature webinar on Innovation in Land Conservation – 29 September 2020

Posted on 28 September, 2020 by Jacqui

An opportunity for anyone interested in land conservation to learn about innovative approaches to challenges such as pest animals, threatened species, and fire, from experts in their field across Australia.

Hosted by Trust for Nature, this webinar offers a chance to explore new ways of understanding and managing the natural environment, including how technology can help with managing threatened species. Experts will discuss innovative methods to control feral animals, look at how technology can help with managing threatened species, and explore new ways of looking at fire and people in our landscapes.

Host: Trust for Nature’s Dr Nicki Munro, PhD (Ecology)


  • Dr Debbie Saunders – CEO, Wildlife Drones, PhD (Conservation Ecology)
  • Dr Katherine Moseby – CEO Ecological Horizons, PhD (Ecology)
  • Professor David Bowman – Pyrogeography and Fire Science, PhD (Forest Ecology)

The John Paul Memorial Lecture ‘Innovation in land conservation’ is made possible thanks to the generosity of The Paul Family Foundation.

Cost: Free

When: 7.00 pm on 29 September 2020

Location: online via Zoom, registration not required

Meeting link:

Webinar ID: 817 6384 5252
Passcode: 538940

Please note a recording of the webinar won’t be available.


Get set for ‘Birdwatching for Beginners’ – 17 October 2020

Posted on 23 September, 2020 by Ivan

Hold onto your hats – again! Following our wildly successful advanced birdwatcher event, ‘Tricky Birds of central Victoria’, we are running a free ‘Birdwatching for Beginners’ event on 17 October 2020. The event aims to attract new birdwatchers and bird survey volunteers, and get people out enjoying and exploring the natural assets we are blessed with in central Victoria.

Bird watching is a great activity that almost everyone can enjoy. The COVID-19 lockdown period has seen a ten-fold increase in the number of new birdwatchers around the country, with a similar trend here in central Victoria. People are craving nature and the outdoors, prompting them to navigate their way through the maze that is bird watching and enjoying the challenges of how to differentiate some of the trickier species.

Connecting Country is excited to have local author and bird enthusiast Damian Kelly present an overview and introduction to bird watching. Damian is the author of the terrific book Castlemaine Bird Walks. Copies of this book will be available to participants.

The beginner’s event will take part over two sessions: an online presentation with Damian Kelly from 11 am to 12 pm, followed by a practical session in person in the afternoon, from 1.30 pm to 4 pm. The practical session will involve a team of 4-5 beginners teaming up with an experienced local birdwatcher to conduct some field bird surveys on public land across our region. This is an excellent opportunity to visit some great bird watching sites, with an experienced mentor to guide you through the afternoon. Participants will have a chance to ask questions and learn directly from mentors.

When: Saturday 17 October 2020

Theory session with Damian Kelly: 11:00 am to 12.00 pm

  • 500 tickets available
  • Online event
  • All welcome
  • Targeted to adults but suitable for all ages and abilities
  • To book – click here

Practical session with mentor: 1.30 pm to 4.00 pm**

  • 30 tickets available
  • Field event
  • Targeted to participants 15 years and older who are keen to learn bird watching in a small group setting
  • Requires a basic level of fitness and involves walking over uneven ground
  • Copies of Connecting Country woodland birds brochure and ‘Castlemaine Bird Walks’ book available for attendees
  • **This session is sold out, to join the waitlist – click here

Cost: both sessions are free of charge

This event is part of our ‘Community for bush birds’ project supported by the Australian Government under the Communities Environment Program.

A link to the online event will be emailed to registered participants prior to the event, along with details and locations for the practical session.

All participants in our practical field session must adhere to health and safety requirements, including current COVID-19 restrictions such as social distancing, face masks and limits on group size. Please wear appropriate clothing and footwear and bring water and snacks, as well as binoculars if possible. Connecting Country will provide some extra binoculars to share among the groups if required.

Bird watching is one of the most enjoyable and satisfying ways to enjoy our natural heritage. Bird surveys also contribute valuable data to science and for informed decision-making. Birds are often our key connection to the landscape. They are prevalent in most environments and tell us much about our surroundings and environmental health. Central Victoria is considered a birding hotspot, with birds of all shapes and colours, highlighted by the following spectacular images from Geoff Park’s Natural Newstead blog. They often bring you to explore wonderful places that you did not even know existed!


Kalimna Park Community Workshop – 29 September 2020

Posted on 23 September, 2020 by Frances

Community members are invited to participate in an online workshop session, facilitated by Djandak (Dja Dja Wurrung Enterprises), to discuss values, threats, priorities, and opportunities associated with Kalimna Park – as part of the Walking Together – Balak Kalik Manya Project.

For more information on the Walking Together – Balak Kalik Manya Project please see this short video:

Djandak is seeking the community’s intimate knowledge of Kalimna Park to begin prioritising management recommendations that will be listed within our site-specific management plan. Through this online session, community members will have the opportunity to discuss all things Kalimna Park, including the things they like and dislike, along with any other relevant comments.

When: 29 September 2020 from 7.00 to 9.00 pm

Link to join the online workshop:

For more information view the full invitation: Kalimna Park Community Workshop Invitation

One of the few remaining populations of the Eltham Copper Butterfly lives in Kalimna Park (photo by Elaine Bayes)



Goodbye Gorse – Taradale Landcare’s Gorse control strengthened

Posted on 23 September, 2020 by Jacqui

Taradale Landcare, with support from Connecting Country and local contractors, have been busy controlling Gorse (Ulex europaeus) around Taradale in central Victoria.

With COVID-19 restrictions preventing Taradale Landcare’s regular working bees from taking place during 2020, group members have been busy working on their own properties. Fourteen landholders were able to participate in the project that was made possible with a community grant from the Victorian Gorse Taskforce (VGT).

The grant co-funded treatment of over 11 hectares of Gorse on private land in Taradale, mostly on the (northern) Kangaroo Creek, but some also on Dearden Creek and the Coliban River. Landholders implemented approved methods including manual, mechanical, and chemical treatments. The works were enabled via a rebate to landholders of 50% of the gorse treatment using local contractors, up to a limit of $1000 per property. Landholders committed via a voluntary agreement to maintain the effort on controlling Gorse in future years. Taradale Landcare, Connecting Country, and contractors have all assisted landholders to design ongoing treatments and, in some cases, revegetation advice.  Alana Robinson, a participating landholder noted, ‘The grant helped us to bite the bullet and get started with tackling the Gorse. We would have done it eventually on our own, but this way we’ve been able to get it done now before the problem gets any worse.’

While a new round of this grant has not been offered in 2020-21, Taradale Landcare would be interested in hearing from Taradale landholders who would like to register their interest in future submissions.  Please contact Brian at Taradale Landcare by emailing For more information about Taradale Landcare click here.



When is a Grey Butcherbird a Long-billed Corella?

Posted on 23 September, 2020 by Ivan

We were fortunate to secure the talented and passionate bird-enthusiast, Sue Boekel, from BirdLife Castlemaine District, to write a guest blog about an interesting encounter with a Grey Butcherbird during COVID-19 lockdown in Melbourne. Sue also sent an accompanying video to help tell her charming little story. Please enjoy Sue’s words and video below.

Being locked down in suburban Melbourne might not be all bad. At the beginning of June, I was outside in the backyard instead of in the gym, performing exercises in the weak, winter sunshine. I was accompanied by our resident Grey Butcherbird (Craciticus torquatus) such a bold boy as he perched on a nearby garden stake in the veggie garden. Plenty of insects wafted about which he often caught on the wing, with a resounding snap of his large, strong beak. Each year there seems to be a different species dominating our area and this season, it was Grey Butcherbird. They are usually calling in the nearby wetlands but this year, they have moved into backyards. The males are slightly larger than the females but both have the striking black and white markings. It’s the juveniles which are brown and fawn overall with similar adult patterning.

My introduction to the Grey Butcherbird was as a young child. My brother had two Budgerigar which he kept caged. At times they were placed outside on the terrace but we arrived home one day to find them at the bottom of the cage with peck marks around their necks. My Dad quickly chose the Butcherbird as the culprit, possibly due to the hook at the end of its long, straight beak to skewer prey. 

Although territorial, I haven’t heard them about lately so they must have moved elsewhere to nest. The backyard is being ‘patrolled’ by a pair of Little Wattlebird and I have just heard the call of an Eastern Koel….

But back to the backyard gym; I heard the familiar beautiful, melodic warbling Butcherbird call from a tall native Frangipani tree. But wait! I was mistaken as I now heard a Common Myna, now a Eurasian Blackbird, now a Noisy Miner, a Magpie-lark, Long-billed Corella, Australian Magpie, Rainbow Lorikeet and more, all flowing out of the beak of a Grey Butcherbird! How amazing!! I felt privileged to be an audience to his clever repertoire.

It was a reminder to myself to always check to see exactly what is making a call before identifying the bird. I’ve recently heard a Brown Thornbill mimicking a Fan-tailed Cuckoo but that’s another story.

So when is a Grey Butcherbird like a Long-billed Corella? When it’s mimicking its call!

Sue Boekel
Member, Birdlife Castlemaine and District

To observe Sue’s recording of the Grey Butcherbird’s repertoire:


Rakali: our native otter

Posted on 23 September, 2020 by Frances

Our friends at the Australian Platypus Conservancy have issued their latest newsletter including a fabulous image and article on the Australian Water-rat or Rakali. Rakalis are known to inhabit suitable dams and waterways across Central Victoria. They’re regularly seen in Lake Daylesford and the Coliban River at Kyneton. Please enjoy this article from the Australian Platypus Conservancy, and for more Rakali fun facts see Connecting Country’s previous post – click here

Rakali dining (photo courtesy of Sputnik and Australian Platypus Conservancy)

A truly laid back ‘Aussie otter’

The Australian water-rat (or rakali) typically carries its food to a convenient log or rock before sitting down to dine. The remains of water-rat takeaway – piles of mussel or clam shells, crayfish claws and fish bones – often accumulate at favourite feeding platforms, providing reliable evidence that rakali occur in the vicinity. However, water-rats sometimes remain in the water while consuming their
prey, occasionally using their chest as a makeshift table – behaviour very reminiscent of sea otters. Many thanks to Sputnik for sharing this very engaging image of Australia’s version of an otter enjoying a fish snack while floating in the midst of water fern (or Azolla).

Incidentally, this photo was taken at Tailem Bend in South Australia – one of the few remaining jurisdictions in Australia that still allows enclosed yabby traps to be set anywhere in freshwater habitats. The South Australian government claims that its requirement for entrance rings to have a maximum diameter of 7.5 centimetres excludes all air-breathing fauna from traps, but this is simply not true for rakali. Due to their stream-lined shape, most (possibly all) water-rats will fit through a 7.5-centimetre hole, and many of these attractive and intelligent native mammals reportedly drown in South Australia each year.

To view latest news from the Australian Platypus Conservancy (Issue 81 – August 2020) – click here

To learn more about Victoria’s yabby net regulations – click here


Announcing Connecting Country’s annual report 2019-20

Posted on 17 September, 2020 by Frances

Connecting Country’s annual report for 2019-20 is now available for your viewing pleasure.  The report provides a brief overview of our recent work and allows us the opportunity to say a big thank our many funders, volunteers and supporters in the community.

It goes without saying that 2019-20 was a challenging time. We’re grateful for another successful year of restoring landscapes across the Mount Alexander region of Central Victoria.

We had some fun putting together this year’s report, inspired by a visual approach with less text and more pictures. We even made it into a video with soundtrack! We hope you enjoy learning a bit more about our year.

To view the Connecting Country annual report 2019-20:


If you’re not already, please consider contributing to Connecting Country’s work. We run entirely from grants and donations, with all donations over $2 being tax deductible.


Hot off the press: 2021 woodland birds calendar

Posted on 17 September, 2020 by Ivan

We would like to introduce you to our much-awaited 2021 Connecting Country woodland birds calendar. It has taken much love and effort to develop 13 of the top competition-winning images into a full-blown printed calendar, but we think it has been well worth it. It looks stunning, thanks to the incredible talents of volunteer graphic designer Jane Satchell, and photographers who captured 13 excellent images that won our woodland birds photography competition.

The calendar is A3 size and each month features a local bird species, with all images taken by local photographers within the Mount Alexander region of Central Victoria.

Calendars are $30 each, plus $15 postage if required.

We have 30 copies for sale, in a limited print run, for the first 30 people to email us with an order.

The front cover features a gorgeous photo from Albert Wright, of a Weebill photographed at Maldon.


Connecting Country would like to extend a huge thank you to our community for the fantastic entries into our 2020 woodland birds photography competition. We received a very high number of quality entries for this competition – far more than we expected. We would also like to thank the winning photographers, who generously donated their images to feature in the calendar.

The calendar theme is woodland birds and the competition was open to all Connecting Country members and the broader community. The aim of the competition was to highlight our special woodland bird community and share the passion and skills of our passionate local photographers, as well as produce this beautifully printed calendar for 2021.

A three person judging panel reviewed all the entries and awarded 13 winners to feature in Connecting Country’s 2021 woodland birds calendar – one for the front cover of the calendar, and one bird for each month of the year.

Please email us at if you’d like a copy put aside for you, and we will email you payment instructions and pickup details.




Biological controls as a weed management tool – 6 October 2020

Posted on 17 September, 2020 by Jacqui

Biological control is the practice of managing a weed or pest animal by the deliberate use of one or more natural enemies (biocontrol agents) that suppress it. Land managers, landholders and citizen scientists can each play a role in establishing and monitoring populations of identified biocontrols.  Once established, populations of biocontrol agents can build up to very high levels within a weed infestation. Eventually their numbers can build up to slow the spread or reproduction of a weed, allowing more time for other control methods to be used.

Connecting Country is pleased to support this free online workshop about weed biocontrols hosted by DELWP’s Weeds at the Early Stage of Invasion (WESI) project with Tarrengower Cactus Control Group and the Weed Society of Victoria.

The workshop will feature Dr Raelene Kwong and Greg Lefoe, Senior Research Scientists from Agriculture Victoria’s Research Division. They will explain the ins and outs of what is involved with biological controls as part of your weed management tool kit, and how you can be involved in your patch.

Special local guest presenter, Lee Mead, President of the Tarrangower Cactus Control Group, will provide an exciting local case study. Their community group has used biological controls to combat Wheel Cactus (Opuntia robusta) around Tarrengower and Maldon in Central Victoria.

Biocontrols can play an important role as part of an integrated weed management approach. For tips on getting started with weed control see Connecting Country’s fact sheet – click here

If you want to learn more about biocontrols and get a hands-on community perspective, register for the workshop via the link below. More information about biocontrols is also available via the Bio Control Hub website, a portal set up specifically for biocontrol projects within the Atlas of Living Australia – click here

Date: Tuesday 6 October 2020 from 10.00 – 11.30 am

Location: Online with link provided on registration

To register visit: click here

For more information contact: Rebecca James (

After this event you have the option to also join the Weed Society of Victoria’s 2020 Annual General Meeting, from 11.30 am. All are welcome.


Last chance to book for AGM 2020

Posted on 17 September, 2020 by Ivan

Our first ever online Annual General Meeting (AGM) is fast approaching. We currently have 77 bookings, so get in fast for our remaining tickets to join what’s sure to be a great event and a fun afternoon.

Please join us for this free event on Saturday 26 September 2020 at 2.00 pm for a refreshingly brief AGM and two rather special guest presenters. We will even provide some virtual refreshments!

Our AGM 2020 speakers:

  • Jess Lawton (Connecting Country) will present on ‘Connecting Country’s ten years of ecological monitoring‘. Jess is our treasured Monitoring Coordinator, PhD candidate and resident phascogale expert. Join Jess on a journey through Connecting Country’s long-term monitoring programs, with a focus on nest boxes and bird surveys.


  • Jacinta Humphrey (La Trobe University) will present on ‘The impact of urbanisation on birds’. Jacinta is a PhD student at La Trobe University and member of the Research Centre for Future Landscapes. Join Jacinta to hear about her research into the impact of expanding urbanisation on wildlife, with a focus on birds – a key issue raised by the local community during our recent Habitat Health Check project. To view Jacinta’s engaging video summarising her project – click here


Everyone is welcome! This is a free event but please register with Trybooking so we can send you the online meeting link prior to the event. To register – click here

AGM formalities:

Please note only current Connecting Country members can vote in the AGM.

If you have any questions, please email or call (03) 5472 1594.


Reminder to book for AGM 2020 with speakers Jacinta Humphrey and Jess Lawton

Posted on 8 September, 2020 by Ivan

Our first ever online Annual General Meeting (AGM) is fast approaching. Please join us for this free event on Saturday 26 September 2020 at 2.00 pm for a refreshingly brief AGM and two rather special guest presenters. We will even provide some virtual refreshments!

Our AGM 2020 speakers:

  • Jess Lawton (Connecting Country) will present on ‘Connecting Country’s ten years of ecological monitoring‘. Jess is our treasured Monitoring Coordinator, PhD candidate and resident phascogale expert. Join Jess on a journey through Connecting Country’s long-term monitoring programs, with a focus on nest boxes and bird surveys.


  • Jacinta Humphrey (La Trobe University) will present on ‘The impact of urbanisation on birds’. Jacinta is a PhD student at La Trobe University and member of the Research Centre for Future Landscapes. Join Jacinta to hear about her research into the impact of expanding urbanisation on wildlife, with a focus on birds – a key issue raised by the local community during our recent Habitat Health Check project. To view Jacinta’s engaging video summarising her project – click here


Everyone is welcome! This is a free event but please register with Trybooking so we can send you the online meeting link prior to the event. To register – click here

AGM formalities:

Please note only current Connecting Country members can vote in the AGM.

If you have any questions, please email or call (03) 5472 1594.


Economics of the Victorian Landcare Facilitator Program: a strong case for investment

Posted on 8 September, 2020 by Ivan

An economic analysis of the value of the Victorian Landcare Facilitator Program demonstrated that the $4 million program generates $31 million in value – a benefit cost ratio of more than 7:1.  The report was commissioned by Landcare Victoria Inc. and prepared by the global consulting firm RPS Group with the aim of quantifying return on investment.  It also demonstrated that the wider social cohesion created by Landcare Facilitators and their activities is valued at $87 million.

These results show that Landcare Facilitators play a crucial ‘leveraging’ role for Landcare in Victoria. While Landcare projects deliver net benefits in and of themselves, the facilitators amplify the scope and scale of Landcare activities across the state.  The report provides a powerful argument for continued government support of the Victorian Landcare Facilitator Program.

To view the ‘Landcare Victoria – return on investment’ report – click here

February 2020 Landcare Link-up (photo by Jacqui Slingo)


The Landcare movement in Australia brings together a diverse community of staff, landowners and volunteers. Landcarers support rural and regional communities by restoring Australia’s natural environment, improving the sustainability of agricultural activities and building resilience in communities. Landcare projects attract investment and in-kind support into these communities, provide opportunities for volunteering, and deliver substantial outcomes from relatively small investments.

The State Government Victoria invests in the Victorian Landcare Facilitator Program as part of it’s support for Landcare activities across the state. The program funds facilitators to support Landcarers around the state to deliver outcomes by building partnerships, securing grants and supporting project delivery. In 2019, Landcare Facilitators supported 689 groups across Victoria, playing a major role in initiating, securing funding for, delivering, and increasing the impact of Landcare projects.

How you can help

If you’d like to help secure future investment in Landcare in Victoria:

  • Contact your local Member of Parliament.
  • Tell them about how important the Landcare Facilitator Program is for your Landcare Group and community, and about the terrific return on public investment the program generates.
  • Ask them to ensure they support continued funding for the Victorian Landcare Facilitator Program and Landcare Grants Program in the upcoming Victorian state budget.

Connecting Country Acacia workshop with Friends of Campbells Creek Landcare Group in 2019 (photo by Gen Kay)




Trees, farming and soil biodiversity webinar – 11 September 2020

Posted on 8 September, 2020 by Frances

We know that our efforts to restore native vegetation have multiple benefits to the environment and our social services. Soil Science Australia and the University of New England are presenting an online webinar about the benefits to soils associated with planting native vegetation. It will be a fascinating and informative event, delivered by an expert in the field, Associate Professor Brian Wilson.

Trees, Farming and Soil Biodiversity: the intersect between science and practice for sustainable soils
Friday 11 September 2020
2.00 pm to 3.15 pm AEST

The Environmental Trust Grant NSW funded work that began in 2018 to investigate the environmental benefits derived from mixed native tree and shrub plantings in Australian landscapes on soil biodiversity. The primary goal was to test if native trees and shrub establishment improves or restores soil biodiversity and their associated functions.

They measured changes in soil properties and soil biota for environmental plantings over time, and compared results with reference sites (agricultural paddocks, native vegetation remnants) established since mid-1990s across New South Wales to determine the optimum soil biodiversity outcomes of environmental plantings.

Four speakers will have 10 minutes each with opportunities for questions after each speaker (about 5 minutes):

  • Assoc Prof Brian Wilson – Soil organic matter and carbon across a chronosequence of environmental plantings in SE Australia
  • Ms Apsara Amarasinghe – Response of soil microbial population to environmental plantings through time
  • Assoc Prof Lisa Lobry de Bruyn  – Ant nest density and distribution – a potential response indicator of environmental tree planting for ecological restoration
  • Dr Oliver Knox  – Measuring change in soil function for diverse stakeholders: matching soil science with on-ground practice

For further information and to register – click here



Stormwater: a great environmental dilemma – 15 September 2020

Posted on 8 September, 2020 by Ivan

The Victorian Environmental Friends Network has a free online event that might be of interest to our community, particularly those living around the waters of Campbells Creek and Forest Creek in Central Victoria. While there have been many improvements in approaches and technologies for filtering storm waters before they enter our waterways, they are often absent from older systems of water management.

Title: Stormwater: Australia’s great environmental dilemma
Date: Tuesday 15 September 2020 at 7 pm 
Presenter: Dr Dave Sharley

This webinar will focus on the impact of stormwater pollution on the health of our urban waterways. It will discuss industry solutions and provide guidance on simple things we can all implement to reduce stormwater pollution.

Topics may include:

  • What is stormwater?
  • Urban sprawl pressures impacting our local waterways
  • Water Sensitive Urban Design
  • Assessing storm-water pollution
  • Finding major sources of pollution
  • Linking scientific data to community education and awareness programs

Dr David Sharley is an environmental scientist with over twenty years of experience working in water and environmental services. Dave worked at the University of Melbourne for over 10 years researching how pollutants can stress and change aquatic population structures and decrease the resilience of aquatic ecosystems.
Building upon his 20 years of research experience, Dave founded Bio2Lab in 2017 with Steve Marshall to develop and offer novel water quality monitoring tools to the water industry. Dave enjoys developing new ways to communicate scientific outcomes to governments, industry and the community, and has published many articles on the ecological impact of urban development and land management.

Dave’s main areas of interest include aquatic pollution, real-time monitoring, pollution tracking, environmental assessment, urban wetland ecology, integrated catchment management and linking environmental research outcomes to policy.

Tickets are free but is booking required.
To book visit:

Forest Creek in Castlemaine during the floods of 2011 (photo: Connecting country archives)




Apply now to join Community Conservationists

Posted on 8 September, 2020 by Ivan

Remember The Wild is now seeking applications for involvement in their 2020-21 Community Conservationists initiative, which aims to raise the profile of the people in our community who are dedicated to conserving our natural world. Remember The Wild is a talented bunch of people who use storytelling to reconnect communities with the local environment and help people remember why the wild matters.

We know many readers are involved in the important work of protecting our local bush and are worthy of support for your years, in many cases decades, of dedicated hard work that has transformed our landscape for the better.

As a past participant of the Community Conservationists initiative, we can say that Remember the Wild brilliantly captured Connecting Country’s habitat restoration and woodland bird monitoring program in the short video below. This has been a helpful tool to promote our work and secure funding for further projects.

Successful applicants for the current round of Community Conservationists will receive a short film and support in digital communication and marketing. The application and participation are free.

Submissions close 21 September 2020

For more information visit the Remember the Wild website:




‘Tricky birds’ event delivered to a packed online audience

Posted on 3 September, 2020 by Ivan

Connecting Country set a new attendance record for our much-anticipated event, ‘Tricky Birds of central Victoria with Geoff Park and Chris Tzaros’ on Monday 24 August 2020. This online free event ‘sold out’ with 500 bookings recorded the day before the event. We were absolutely thrilled to host the all-star lineup of Box-Ironbark expert naturalists, Geoff Park and Chris Tzaros.

We were blown away by the level of interest in our event. Our Facebook event page reached 112,000 people. We had 500 individuals register, including people from across Victoria, as well as New South Wales, Queensland and the Northern Territory, plus some enthusiastic registrants from the United States!

Jess Lawton (Connecting Country Monitoring Coordinator) kicked-off the workshop with a short history of Connecting Country’s woodland bird monitoring program and a big thank you to our hard-working bird monitoring volunteers. Geoff covered the topic of identifying raptors and Chris focused on identifying thornbills of central Victoria, followed by an hour of interactive panel discussion and a chance to ask the experts those tricky bird watching questions. Both of the presentations were delivered with the passion and precision you would expect from Australia’s leading bird experts and photographers, with many beautiful images and helpful tips about identifying these look-a-like birds that are so difficult to distinguish.

The virtual Q and A panel worked effectively, despite the panel and hosts being up to 500 km apart, and the audience only having a text box to answer questions. Some of the topics covered were:

  • Useful smartphone apps for bird watching
  • Best binoculars for serious bird watchers
  • Top spots in central Victoria for bird watching
  • Tips on getting close to birds
  • Migration of raptors and thornbills
  • Differences in thornbill calls
  • Thornbill interbreeding
  • Where to find different thornbills in the forest/woodland structure
  • Mantling behaviour in raptors
  • Increase in Black Kite numbers in central Victoria
  • Confusing and similar birds calls
  • Mixed flocks composition

A copy of Geoff and Chris’s excellent presentations from the event are available for download:

Geoff and Chris both used plates from the Australian Bird Guide, as well as their own photos from their presentations. If anyone wishes to reproduce or use any content from the presentations, we request they please contact Geoff or Chris first.

We apologise to anyone who wanted to attend the event but was unable to log in. We didn’t want to exclude anyone, but unfortunately our Zoom license only allowed a maximum of 500 attendees. We hope the presentations provide some good catch-up material.

If you enjoyed this event, please consider contributing to Connecting Country’s work. We run entirely from grants and donations, with all donations over $2 being tax deductible.


Further information on our expert presenters

Geoff Park is a Newstead local legend, author of the highly popular ‘Natural Newstead’ blog, and Director of Natural Decisions Pty Ltd. He holds a Bachelor of Science (Honours) and a Diploma of Education. His background is in landscape ecology, teaching and community education. He has a long standing interest and involvement with communities working to improve biodiversity conservation in agricultural landscapes.

To visit Geoff’s Natural Newstead blog on observations of flora, fauna and landscape in central Victoria – click here

Chris Tzaros  is author of the outstanding book ‘Wildlife of the Box-Ironbark Country’, a comprehensive guide to the mammals, birds, reptiles and amphibians that live in this unique habitat. He holds a Masters degree in Conservation Ecology. His passionate interest in bird and wildlife photography has won him multiple ANZANG photography awards. Chris worked for Birdlife Australia for ten years and runs his own company, Birds Bush & Beyond, based in north-east Victoria.

For more information on Chris’s excellent ‘Wildlife of the Box-Ironbark Country’ book, with a new print edition on its way soon – click here

This event was part of our ‘Community for bush birds’ project supported by the Australian Government under the Communities Environment Program.