Restoring landscapes across the Mount Alexander Region

Bridal Creeper Field Day Report

Posted on 20 July, 2011 by Connecting Country

‘Stop the spread’ was the catch cry at the Bridal Creeper Field day organized by Ian Grenda and the Nuggetty Landcare Group and held on Sunday 10 July. A Weed of National Significance (forever more known as a WONS!) Bridal Creeper is regarded as one of the worst weeds in Australia because of its invasiveness, potential for spreading, and its environmental and economic impacts.

Ian, Janis and Jane took the troopers through an area where various control methods were being trialled and talked about how a site assessment was vital in choosing the most appropriate control method.  The use of biological controls of rust fungus and leaf hoppers would help to weaken the plants and prevent flowering and seeding, and would suit areas that were difficult to access, had large infestations and perhaps difficult for the land managers to tackle.  Hand weeding would be okay to stop the spread but when you see the prolific corms that all need to be treated this method would suit perhaps new plants or areas where native plants were present.  Spraying methods were also discussed along with scrunching and gloving!

After a warming BBQ and lots of ideas, people headed off with bags containing rust spore or leaf hopper infested Bridal Creeper ready to spread the helpers and help stop the spread of this creepy plant.  A great session and thanks to Nuggetty!

Click here to see the Project Brief and here for Field Notes on data and photo monitoring.

For further information, email Ian Grenda ( or Janis Stewart (


Connecting Country 5-year Planning – Further Feedback Sought

Posted on 14 July, 2011 by Connecting Country

On the 27 June 2011, 20 enthusiastic community members from all across the shire braved the cold conditions to join Connecting Country at our quarterly Reference Group meeting.  After receiving an update on the progress of the current project, the attendees split into small groups to talk about possible answers to six important questions.  Each question centred on the themes of how Connecting Country is going at the moment, and what we should be aiming to achieve over the next 2-5 years.  Geoff Park and Krista Patterson-Majoor, our facilitators for the evening, helped keep the discussions focussed with a strictly enforced 6 minutes and 30 seconds per question!  Conversations continued afterwards at a more leisurely pace over coffee, sandwiches, cakes and other goodies.

A summary of the responses to each question can be viewed by clicking here.  The responses were insightful, wide-ranging and challenging.  Importantly, there was a consensus that Connecting Country does have a valuable ongoing role in the local area.  This meeting was an important first step in clarifying what that future role may be.

However, we are also very aware that the attendees represented a relatively small proportion of the overall community who has an interest in Connecting Country.  Therefore, we’re opening up the discussion to other thoughts, ideas and suggestions.  Or perhaps you may wish to elaborate, modify or challenge one or more of the responses already raised.  We would welcome your feedback either directly through email: or by filling out the form attached .  This form can then either be emailed or posted back to us here.  If you could have your responses back by 31 July, this would be greatly appreciated.  We look forward to hearing from you.

Expedition Pass


Grants to Voluntary Environment, Sustainability and Heritage Organisations

Posted on 13 July, 2011 by Connecting Country

Sustainability Victoria is currently providing grants under its program, Grants to Voluntary Environment, Sustainability and Heritage Organisations (GVESHO). Grants may be used to assist with salaries and salary on-costs for executive and administrative staff; office accommodation rental; electricity, gas, phone and other similar charges; essential office supplies and equipment; staff and volunteer training; photocopying and printing costs; and travel costs incurred on behalf of the organisation.

Grants are only for administration and equipment, not for specific programs, can be multi year (up to 3) and require a 50% cash or in kind contribution. More information can be found by clicking here or you can contact Janet Phillips from Sustainability Victoria on 0400 050 399 (mobile); (03) 5470 6525 (phone) or


Three Fascinating Field Trips

Posted on 13 July, 2011 by Connecting Country

This year’s Connecting Country Education Program treated participants to three fascinating field trips around Mount Alexander Shire.

In May, Phil Dyson from the North Central Catchment Management (CMA) provided an insight to how landscapes are formed with his geology and soils tour. From the anticlinal fold in Lyttleton St in Castlemaine to the top of Mt Alexander, we learnt about the main rock types in the Mount Alexander Shire landscape and how these were formed.  We observed how geology, soils and vegetation interact to produce differing impacts on land use.

Phil Dyson points out interesting landscape features from the top of Mt Alexander.

‘The bush is more than just bush’ was the theme of our Yellow Box Woodland tour with Paul Foreman (Bush Heritage) and Ian Higgins (North Central CMA) in June.  At an idyllic woodland site tucked away in the Irishtown forest, we learnt how to recognize different vegetation communities and habitat characteristics. Ian and Paul highlighted that the disturbance history of local vegetation communities is different, which means some are more rare and more damaged than others.

Paul Foreman assists participants with completing a vegetation assessment.

Elaine Bayes (BRIT TAFE and Department of Sustainability and Environment) and Damien Cook (Australian Ecosystems) inspired all participants by their knowledge of, and passion for, waterways and wetlands, our final field trip. We followed the Loddon River from Glenluce to Newstead learning how to assess waterways and observing how land use changes as you move downstream. At the Moolort Wetlands we saw the abundance of birds, and other aquatic plants and animals, that have been thriving over the past few months after these areas filled with water for the first time in over a decade.

Damien Cook highlights the wetting and drying cycle at the Moolort Wetlands.

Connecting Country would like to send a huge thanks to all participants, our wonderful presenters, and, especially, to Deirdre Slattery who developed the program.

This year’s education program is not over! We have two more free evening talks on the bill. Arn Tolsma from the Arthur Rylah Institute will talk about the role of fire in Box Ironbark Forests on the 25th of August. The history of Forest Creek and its impact on the landscape will be explored by Robyn Ballinger on the 8th of September. These events will be held at the Campbell’s Creek Community Centre and kick off at 6.30pm with soup provided by the Growing Abundance Project. Click here for further information.


‘Vital Signs’: Training in Communication and Group Skills

Posted on 13 July, 2011 by Connecting Country

The Mount Alexander Sustainability Group (MASG) is conducting a communication and group skills program, Vital Signs, in July and August. The program  aims to ‘support community workers and volunteers by increasing their communication and interpersonal skills and providing mentoring and support to assist them in their work within the community’. Click here for more information.


2011 Landcare Awards

Posted on 8 July, 2011 by Connecting Country

The Long Service Honour Roll has been set up by Victorian Landcare to mark the 25th anniversary of Landcare. If you wish to nominate someone for the Long Service Honour Roll there is now a short form that allows groups and networks to bypass the official 2011 Landcare Awards form. A word version of the form has been set up for electronic completion (the preferred option). A pdf version is also available.

A few things to remember about the Long Service Honour Roll are:

  • there are no second chances! – the honour roll provides a once only opportunity for groups and networks to acknowledge the work of their longest serving and most committed members
  • to nominate someone for the Honour Roll, groups should fill in the nomination form above. This form is for nominations for the Victorian Honour Roll ONLY. The form is also on the Landcare Awards website
  • all nominations for the Long Service Award will be included on the 2011 Victorian Landcare Long Service Honour Roll
  • nominations for all 2011 Victorian Landcare Awards and the honour roll will be accepted until Friday 22 July 2011.

This is a great opportunity and it is easy to nominate!  Connecting Country support this initiative, and consider it to be a great way of acknowledging those dedicated locals who have made outstanding contributions to Landcare in the local area.  We hope that all local Landcare groups will consider nominating those members who meet the criteria to the listed on the roll.

Nominations for 2011 Landcare Awards have been extended until 22 July 2011. State winners will become nominees in the biennial national Landcare awards 2012. For more information visit and/or view this media release.



10 July – Planting on the Loddon River

Posted on 5 July, 2011 by Connecting Country

Newstead Landcare Group’s second planting for 2011 will be by the Loddon River at Newstead. It will take place this Sunday 10 July at 9.30 am. The group is planning to put in more shrubs and sedges on “the Island” about 600m upstream from the bridge. As the road may be boggy and rough, you may want to park in Layard Street near the ford and walk downstream. Bring some gloves and a mug for morning tea. Buckets, hammers and digging implements would also be useful.

If you would like more information, contact Patrick Kavanagh on 54 762 755. All are welcome.


Funding for Gorse Control

Posted on 5 July, 2011 by Connecting Country

The Victorian Gorse Taskforce 2011/12 Community Support Grants Project is now open for business. The VGT is now accepting project proposals from community-based organisations with a view to providing funds where these help to implement the Victorian Gorse Control Strategy, align to project guidelines and demonstrate a commitment to achieving long-term gorse control.

All of the required information can be found here.

Proposals will be accepted by the VGT up until the 5th of August 2011.



Reminder about Upcoming Events

Posted on 4 July, 2011 by Connecting Country

This is a reminder about four events that you may be interested in attending over the next week:

Friday 8 July
Euan Moore will speak on Birding in Sri Lanka at this month’s Castlemaine Field Naturalists Club meeting. Starting time is 7.30 pm and the venue is the Uniting Church Hall (enter from Lyttleton Street). All welcome.

Saturday 9 July
As part of their Small Conservation Reserves Survey, the Castlemaine Field Naturalists have organised an excursion to the Walmer South Nature Conservation Reserve. The group will depart from the carpark opposite the motel in Duke St, Castlemaine at 1.30 pm sharp.

Sunday 10 July
The Nuggetty Land Protection Group is inviting interested community members to attend a workshop on Bridal Creeper. The workshop will be held at the Bridal Creeper Trial site which is located immediately behind the Maldon cemetery in the Maldon Historic Reserve. It will take place between 11.00am and 12.30pm and finish with a free sausage sizzle and cupper. For more information click here.

Monday 11 July
The Friends of the Box-Ironbark AGM will be held at the Continuing Education building, Templeton St, Castlemaine. Starting time is 7.30 pm. The guest speaker will be Damian Wells, CEO of the North Central Catchment Management Authority and he will speak on Catchment Management and the Floods.


Wheel Cactus Mapping – First Prize-winner announced

Posted on 1 July, 2011 by Connecting Country

In mid-May, Connecting Country launched an appeal for observations of Wheel Cactus to be lodged onto the Community Interactive Mapping Portal. A total of 13 locations for this noxious weed were lodged onto the mapper during the months of May and June.  The majority of sightings were within the area bound by Joyces Creek, Baringhup and Maldon, with outliers occurring in Castlemaine, Maryborough and to the north near Bradford.

One of the Wheel Cactus submitters, Andrew Dimsey, has been randomly chosen as a prize winner to receive the book by Chris Tzaros, Wildlife of the Box Ironbark Region.  Congratulations Andrew and many thanks to everyone who has begun the process of submitting Wheel Cactus observations from across the region.

We are still appealing for more Wheel Cactus observations, and more prizes will be awarded each month.  Have you seen Wheel Cactus infestations in your local area that could be lodged?  Or perhaps you’ve seen a new outbreak a long way from home.  Assist in the efforts to control this growing menace by lodging your observation onto the mapping portal.  If you’re unsure how to use the mapping system, there is a help guide on the web-page, or please feel free to drop into the Connecting Country office in Castlemaine for a quick tutorial (Office 14 and 15, 233b Barker St, Castlemaine – above the Good Table restaurant.  Best to call us first if you’re coming into Castlemaine specifically for this tutorial.).

Further information on Connecting Country’s Wheel Cactus mapping project can be found by clicking here.

Wheel Cactus from the Tarrengower area (Photo from DPI).




June edition of Groundcover

Posted on 21 June, 2011 by Connecting Country

The latest edition of the North Central CMA publication Groundcover can be downloaded here.


DSE Landcare Survey

Posted on 21 June, 2011 by Connecting Country

The Department of Sustainability and Environment (DSE) is conducting an information gathering project as the first phase in developing a revised Landcare policy statement to replace the Victorian Action Plan for Second Generation Landcare (2002-2012).

The project will focus on collecting information to assist DSE in understanding the issues and challenges facing Landcare in Victoria as well as current and future roles and opportunities.

An online survey is one of three data collection methods. It accompanies a series of 10 regional workshops and 50 telephone interviews across Victoria. The online survey provides an opportunity to gather information from people who are closely involved in Landcare e.g. Landcare group and network members, Landcare support staff and agency staff.

The survey will take approximately 10 minutes to complete.

Please click on the link below to access the survey.

The survey will be available until Friday the 1st of July 2011.


Integrated Weed Management workshops

Posted on 21 June, 2011 by Connecting Country

Landcare and the North Central Catchment Management Authority (CMA) are hosting an informative workshop titled ‘Integrated Weed Management’ to be held at Boort and Woodend, on Tuesday 28 and Wednesday 29 June respectively.

The ‘Integrated Weed Management’ workshops will be presented by prominent Professor Brian Sindel from the University of New England. Formally a member of CSIRO, Professor Sindel is now the Professor of Weed Science at the University. Professor Sindel is an author and editor of a wide range of well-known weed management resources and has over twenty years of invaluable knowledge, research and experience in weed ecology and management.
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Registrations open for Box Ironbark Ecology Course

Posted on 13 June, 2011 by Connecting Country

Registrations are now open for a five-day residential Box Ironbark Ecology Course. It is aimed at people interested in gaining a general understanding of ecological processes and principles. The course which is based at Nagambie commences on Monday 10 October and concludes on Friday 14 October 2011.  More information including a description of the course, list of instructors, course fees, location details and the application form can be accessed by clicking here.


27 June – Reference Group Meeting

Posted on 10 June, 2011 by Connecting Country

What will Connecting Country look like in 5 years time? Please join us to share your thoughts and ideas to help shape the future direction of the project.

An agenda will be sent prior to the meeting. For minutes from the last meeting click here. All are invited. We would love to see at least one member from each Landcare/friends group attend.

The meeting will take place in the Ray Bradfield Rooms, Castlemaine, between 7 pm and 9 pm.


How to put the fun in fungi!

Posted on 9 June, 2011 by Connecting Country

Well known fungi fan (and expert), Alison Pouliot, entertained and educated those who came to learn more about these little known and understood organisms. Nearly sixty people responded to Connecting Country’s invitation to attend this presentation at Campbells Creek last Thursday evening.

Selection of fungi that Alison brought to the presentation.

Alison explained that there is a lot of information about our native flora and fauna kingdoms but little about the third biological ‘f’ kingdom – fungi.  After listening to her lively presentation and being captivated by her amazing photographs, we were made more aware of the importance of fungi and the interactive relationships that exist amongst the three.

The evening was classified by those who attended as “great” in every aspect – great presentation, information, food, organisation, company, venue, atmosphere, conversations and great value and a lot of fun!

A range of resources on fungi can be found at and examples of Alison’s photography can be found at

Alison addressing the meeting at Campbells Creek Community Hall

This event is one in a series that Connecting Country has planned over the coming months as part of its Ecology Education Program.  You can find out more about these (and many other local events) by subscribing to or checking out or by calling 5472 1594.


Applications open for Community Action Grants

Posted on 7 June, 2011 by Connecting Country

Through the Australian Government’s Caring for our Country initiative, community groups around Australia can now apply for Community Action Grants to help fund local environmental and sustainable agriculture projects. Grants of between $5,000 and $20,000 are available to help local community groups undertake activities such as planting trees, revegetating landscapes, rehabilitating dunes, removing weeds, controlling pests, holding field days, recording traditional ecological knowledge and improving sustainable land management practices. 

A total of $5 million will be available through the 2011-12 Community Action Grants round. Applications for the 2011-12 Community Action Grants will close Monday 1 August 2011.

More information on Caring for our Country and Community Action Grants, including how to apply, is available or by calling 1800 552 008.

Community groups can also still apply for funding assistance for on-ground works through Connecting Country’s Yellow Box Woodland project.  Further details are available on our website (click here).


World Environment Day in Castlemaine

Posted on 6 June, 2011 by Connecting Country

Thanks to Kirsten (Trust for Nature) – and her new friend the Swift Parrot – for getting us all organised to help the community celebrate World Environment Day.  Each time we have an event, we always attract interest from the committed people as well as newly interested ones – a fantastic morning!

Photo: John Ellis, 5 June 2011



Update on Nest Box Monitoring

Posted on 1 June, 2011 by Connecting Country

This season’s monitoring of nest boxes has now been completed by Connecting Country’s Project Officer, Bryan McMullan. He has written the following account of the progress of this program:

“It is May 30 and Connecting Country nest box monitoring has finished for the season. All our little arboreal friends will now settle in and test their fecundity over the winter period. By late September, depending on environmental conditions, young should be observable leaving their nest(s). Landholders with nest boxes who observe such movements are encouraged to complete our methodology and data sheet located on the Connecting Country website.

“If you are landholder who has nest boxes on their property and you have not seen me during the inspection period in April and May, I have not forgotten you.  With the requirements for timing and landsystem units identified in the nest box monitoring strategy, it was not possible to visit all nest boxes.

“From the outset the nest box program was an ambitious one and Connecting Country has been able to install over 380 boxes and develop an important relationship with over 100 landholders. Nest boxes were placed to achieve an even distribution across the Mt Alexander Shire region (152 895 ha).  Nest box construction has been biased towards small arboreal animals and this appears to have been a success, thanks to the good design work of Miles Geldard at Wildlife Nestboxes. A total of 132 Sugar Gliders (often in groups)  were observed using the boxes (figure 1) and the most exciting news is that 11 Brush-tailed Phascogales (see fig. 2) were observed.

Figure 1. Four Sugar Gliders cosy and warm inside a nest box. This box was located in Sandon along a creek line (therefore a gully) and installed upon a very mature Yellow Box.

Figure 2. Brush-tailed Phascogale at Welshmans Reef trying its hardest not to be seen. The green tape had been used to indicate the location of the nest box and was taken from a nearby tree. Phascogales are known to adorn their nests with objects such as bale twine, sheep wool and feathers.

“Within the 9 months that the nest boxes have been installed (some later than others), the uptake has been a success. In locations where no animal was observed, signs and traces indicated that a further 53 boxes contained glider nests (see fig. 3) and 6 others contained phascogale nest material (see fig. 4). It is exciting to know that future juveniles, when leaving the nest, will have opportunity to explore and colonise other boxes that have been made available through this initiative. It is my belief and hope that the nest box program will facilitate successful migration of the target species and provide safe refuge in woodlands that would otherwise be absent of suitable nesting habitat.

Figure 3. A typical Sugar Glider nest consists of gum leaves. Note the spherical, egg like shape of the nest. Gliders tend to keep a neater nest compared with Phascogales.

Figure 4. A phascogale nest found in Muckleford South. Look closely and you will see a pile of scat to the right of the image, which the phascogale uses as a territorial message to potential competitors. The feathers in this nest are believed to be from a Guinea Fowl. There is a phascogale under all those furnishings.

“It is important now for the nest boxes to be left undisturbed so that the breeding season may be a success. In March/April 2012 a follow up survey will occur and we will be well on our way to establishing a significant set of biodiversity improvement indicators. This will assist Connecting Country by demonstrating the achievement of key objectives under its arrangements with funding bodies.

“Finally I must point out how rewarding my role has been so far at Connecting Country, especially when working with such robust communities as exists in the Mt Alexander region. I have mentioned to many in the field that I am happy to receive reports on phascogale sightings and can provide further information as requested. The immediate aim of the monitoring initiative is to strengthen the outcomes of the nest box program with follow up vegetation, habitat and bird surveys. More on this to come.

“I would like to thank everyone involved including Fritz Hammersley for his assistance in the field, every landholder for their hospitality and their enthusiasm for the project and to Marie Jones and Geoff Park for their guidance.

Bryan McMullan
Connecting Country
Project Support Officer
03 5472 1594


Local Action on Chilean Needle Grass

Posted on 27 May, 2011 by Connecting Country

Chilean Needle Grass, a ‘Weed of National Significance’, has been observed in a number of locations across Mount Alexander Shire. This noxious weed along with other non-native stipoid grasses is highly invasive and can overtake naive grassy woodlands and agricultural pastures. It builds up a large and persistent seedbank in the soil and rehabilitation of infested land is very difficult. Further information on identification, ecology, spread and eradication methods can be found here.

Chilean Needle Grass. Photo by Karen Stewart

A local taskforce has recently been formed to assist in reducing the impact and preventing the further spread of Chilean Needle Grass. Taskforce meetings have been attended by Matt Sheehan, National Chilean Needle Grass Coordinator, and members of the local community. Minutes of the first two Taskforce meetings can be found here.

A stipoid grass identification workshop will take place later this year and more details will follow about this.

To assist in the control program, it is important to known exactly where the infestations are located. As in the case of Bridal Creeper and Wheel Cactus, it has been decided to make use of the Connecting Country Mapping Program for this purpose. So if you are already confident with identifying Chilean Needle Grass and other non-native stipoid grasses and you would like to help in mapping this noxious weed, you can lodge your observations by clicking here and following the easy to use instructions.