Restoring landscapes across the Mount Alexander Region

Woodland Birds of Kalimna Park with DJAARA – 27 November 2021

Posted on 10 November, 2021 by Ivan

Connecting Country is thrilled to announce tickets are now available for our first of four free events in partnership with Djaara, with 10 tickets still remaining.

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

This event is the first of four events in coming months funded through Dja Dja Wurrung Clans Aboriginal Corporation. A second Woodland Birds event is scheduled for Saturday 4 December 2021 at Wildflower Drive, Strathsfieldsaye, near Bendigo.

During the event we will:

  • Learn about Dja Dja Wurrung country and the woodland birds of Kalimna Park in Castlemaine VIC.
  • Explore Kalimna Park with local cultural and ecological guides.
  • Hear about how Kalimna Park is managed for biodiversity, cultural preservation and woodland birds.

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

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

We focus on birds because:

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



The event will be on Saturday 27 November 2021 from 10.00 to 11.30 am in Kalimna Park, Castlemaine, VIC. It’s sure to be popular and tickets are limited. To book please – click here

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

Live-streaming via Facebook

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

Walking Together – Balak Kalik Manya

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

The project focuses on how to:

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

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

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


Connecting Country AGM 2021 – last chance to book!

Posted on 4 November, 2021 by Frances

It’s only a week to our next special event! Please join us for this free online event on Saturday 13 November 2021 at 2.00 pm for brief AGM formalities and our special guest presenters. As usual it will be much more than an AGM.

Our theme is Restoring landscapes in a changing climate

Special presentations:

  • Future-proof our forests
    Bonnie Humphreys (Landscape Restoration Coordinator) and Ivan Carter (Engagement Coordinator)
    Join Bonnie and Ivan to learn about Connecting Country’s mission to create two pioneering climate future plots in our region, with support from the Ross Trust.
  • Climate scenarios and planning considerations for central Victoria
    Geoff Caine  (Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning)
    Hear Geoff speaking on the latest climate projections for our region and the implications for biodiversity and revegetation.

Everyone is welcome! Please register your attendance and we will send you the link prior to the meeting – click here


Bonnie and Ivan with tubestock ready for planting (photo by Jacqui Slingo)


AGM formalities

The following Connecting Country AGM documents are available for download:

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

If you have any questions, please email

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


Farewell Asha and welcome Hadley: a new Landcare Facilitator

Posted on 3 November, 2021 by Ivan

We recently said ‘goodbye’ to our much-loved Landcare Facilitator, colleague and friend, Asha Bannon. Asha has been an incredible asset to Connecting Country over the past (nearly) six years. She has provided inspiration and dedication to the role of Landcare Facilitator for the Mount Alexander region, and will be missed by the 30+ local groups who shared in her passion, vision and wisdom. Her commitment to the groups was a juggling act, with Asha often attending multiple events over a single weekend. Asha’s efforts have made a huge difference to the local landscape and the Landcare community.

We wish Asha the very best in her new role at North Central Catchment Management Authority, and are thrilled she will stay involved as a Connecting Country volunteer and supporter. Thanks also to all the Landcarers who have supported Asha during this time.

As one-star moves to another galaxy, another arrives. We have been very fortunate to recruit a new Landcare Facilitator – another local talent – Hadley Cole. We welcome Hadley with open arms and endless Zoom calls, and hope she enjoys the role and the team, as we regroup after a lengthy COVID-related ‘home office’ period.

Local resident Hadley Cole joins Connecting Country with a wealth of knowledge in landscape restoration. Photo: Connecting Country


Introducing Hadley

Hadley Cole has lived and worked in Central Victoria for the past ten years. Growing up in North East Victoria, she developed a strong love for nature and a keen interest in agriculture. Her career has spanned multiple environmental management roles with both government and non-government organisations. Hadley has worked with the Victorian Department of Primary Industries, along with community groups such as Wombat Forestcare and Merri Creek Management Committee. She brings an array of skills and knowledge on landscape restoration, invasive species management and how to empower community groups. Her experience gives Hadley a sound knowledge of the key conservation issues within central Victoria.

Hadley lives in Guildford with her young family, and has been actively involved in local community-based projects in the Guildford area. She is passionate about regenerative farming and enjoys spending her time in the garden and in nature with her family.

Hadley is delighted to join the Connecting Country team as Landcare Facilitator for the Mount Alexander region, as she believes strongly in the power of community, and values the knowledge and passion volunteers bring to local conservation projects.

We are super-excited to have Hadley on board, please say hello to Hadley via her email:


Please enjoy a few photos of Asha and some of the wonderful events she coordinated over the past few years. Farewell and thank you Asha!


Read all about it: Connecting Country’s annual report 2021

Posted on 28 October, 2021 by Frances

Connecting Country’s annual report for 2020-21 is now available for your viewing pleasure.  The report provides a brief overview of our recent work – with lots of pictures!

It also provides us the opportunity to say a huge thank you to our many valued funders, donors, volunteers and supporters in the community.

It’s no surprise to say that 2020-21 was another challenging time. We’re grateful for another successful year of restoring landscapes across the Mount Alexander region of Central Victoria.

We hope you enjoy learning a bit more about our work and achievements this past year.

To view the Connecting Country annual report 2021 – click here

Thank you to everyone who contributed photos and input to the annual report.

If you’re not already, please consider contributing to Connecting Country’s work. We are a not-for-profit community group and run entirely from grants, volunteer help and donations. All donations over $2 are tax deductible.

To donate to support Connecting Country’s work please – click here






Bird of the month: how to feed birds safely

Posted on 27 October, 2021 by Ivan

Welcome to our twentieth ‘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 – except this month! We’re excited to join forces to deliver you a different bird each month, seasonally adjusted, but this month we thought it would be helpful to reflect on another important bird topic: how to safely feed birds.

This special edition of bird of the month article was written by the well-versed Damian Kelly, with photos by the talented Jane Rusden and Damian. 

Feeding birds

If you want people to appreciate the environment, they must be engaged – to see wildlife up close and personal. Research has demonstrated that a lot of people are already engaged and feeding birds. Encouraging this and ensuring good feeding practices are essential.

In the past, it was common advice to not feed birds but just plant a native garden and provide water. However, more recent research has begun to question that. It is not possible to cover the whole topic here, but suffice to say that if you are interested, you should read these books by Professor Daryl Jones, a behavioural ecologist at Griffith University in Queensland:

  • ‘The birds at my table – why we feed wild birds and why it matters’ (Cornell University Press, 2018) 
  • ‘Feeding the birds at your table – a guide for Australia’ (NewSouth, 2019).


The second book provides lots of practical advice, based on science.

The trend to native gardens has encouraged plant nurseries to develop long-flowering species, and this alone can change the mix of birds in gardens. In some areas, such long and intense sources of nectar encourage aggressive species such as Noisy Miners and Red Wattlebirds, which tend to drive away other species. Sometimes there can be unintended consequences of garden changes.

The same can be said if you feed lots of meat, which favours Butcherbirds and Kookaburras – species that are predators of smaller birds. A lot of mincemeat can also lead to disease issues due to a lack of the nutrients needed by birds.

So – if you want to feed the birds then it is best to be informed, and make sure you are providing the best food and plenty of cover, along with clean water for them. You will be rewarded with a variety of birds in your garden to enjoy.

In summary, Daryl Jones recommends:

  • Ensure that the feeding station is cleaned daily and is located out of reach of potential predators such as cats.
  • Provide high-quality food. Do not provide bread, fatty meat, or honey and water mixes. Instead use nectar mixes, good quality seed or meat with a low-fat content.
  • Vary the type of food provided and when it is available. Alternate between nectar mixes and seed for example. Set it out at different times and not every day.
  • Monitor the types of birds using the feeder. If introduced birds are becoming more common or populations that are visiting the feeder are becoming very large, then take a break from feeding for a while and then recommence with a different food type.
  • Provide a birdbath

Birdlife Australia now provides detailed recommendations for feeding birds. A good place to start is the Birds in Backyards website – click here

Red-browed Finch feeding on quality birdseed (photo by Damian Kelly)


A waterlogged Sacred Kingfisher flies off after a good swim in a birdbath (photo by Jane Rusden)


You never know who else might enjoy some water in your garden: Swamp Wallaby has a drink (photo by Jane Rusden)


Damian Kelly


Restoring landscapes in a changing climate – 13 November 2021

Posted on 21 October, 2021 by Frances

How do we plan for restoring and revegetating our fragmented habitat, in a time of climate change? What are the latest projections for our climate over the coming decades and how does this affect revegetation projects? Connecting Country are hosting an online event exploring this topic, combined with our Annual General Meeting (AGM) on Saturday 13 November 2021 at 2.00 pm. This year’s AGM theme is ‘Restoring landscapes in a changing climate’ and Connecting Country has secured two guest speakers who will explore climate change projections for our region and how revegetation projects might look in the future.

Guest speakers at the event will be Bonnie Humphreys (Connecting Country) and Geoff Caine (Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning). Bonnie will update the audience about Connecting Country’s mission to create two climate future plots in our region, with support from the Ross Trust. Bonnie is Connecting Country’s Landscape Restoration Coordinator and coordinates on-ground actions and ecological surveys. Geoff will be speaking on the latest climate projections for our region and the implications for biodiversity and revegetation. Geoff is a Program Manager (Community and Partnerships) at DELWP, focusing on climate change, energy and sustainability.

Landcarers and landholders in the Mount Alexander region are increasingly concerned about the future viability of their revegetation work, given recent weather patterns and future climate predictions. Many have seen their revegetation plantings die in recent years due to heat and water stress, and some have even stopped planting.

Connecting Country seeks to help address this issue and 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. This ‘Future-proof our forests’ project focuses on two important species from our local area: Silver Banksia (Banksia marginata) and Sweet Bursaria (Bursaria spinosa).

You may have heard the terms ‘climate future plot‘, ‘climate-resilient landscapes‘ or ‘climate-ready revegetation‘, but what do they actually mean? In simple terms, they refer to the use of climate change modelling to plan for revegetation, by using suitable indigenous plants sourced from places with climates similar to that predicted at the revegetation site in decades to come (usually hotter and drier places). This is a new and emerging revegetation technique.

Bonnie Humphreys (Connecting Country) will talk about how climate future plots work and the challenges of pioneering our first local plots. ‘We are working to include a variety of 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,’ said Ms Humphreys.

The project has selected plant provenances based on Bureau of Meteorology’s climate predictions for our region. These are paired to these predictions with species distribution and the availability of seed for our chosen plants. Connecting Country hopes the 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.

The AGM will include a brief presentation from staff and committee members about Connecting Country’s achievements over the past year, to allow supporters old and new to hear what Connecting Country does and plans for the coming year. All are welcome.

Bookings are essential for this online event. To make a booking – click here

To find out more about the AGM 2021 (including AGM documents) – click here

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

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


Healthy Landscapes – land management events 2021

Posted on 21 October, 2021 by Ivan

We recently came across some great upcoming events on sustainable land management, aimed educating and building the capacity of farmers and other landholders. The series of workshops are scheduled for October to December 2021. They are part of a larger project called ‘Practical Regenerative Agricultural Communities’, a collaboration between local governments, Landcare networks and water authorities.

Of particular interest is the ‘Grass and Pasture Identification’ workshop, featuring Dr Graeme Lorimer who has been teaching how to identify, understand and manage wild (non-planted) grasses for 32 years. This webinar is combined with field days at several locations. The webinar is on Tuesday 26 October at 7.30 pm and the field days include one in Redesdale VIC on Friday 26 November 2021 from 10.00 am.

Details of the eight workshops can be found below, courtesy of the Macedon Ranges Shire Council website.

The Healthy Landscapes project

The Healthy Landscapes: Practical Regenerative Agricultural Communities program aims to raise awareness in their community about sustainable land management practices that improve soil health, reduce exposure to climate risk, enhance biodiversity and increase on-farm productivity. This program is being delivered as a partnership between Macedon Ranges Shire Council, Hepburn Shire Council, the City of Greater Bendigo, A Healthy Coliban Catchment project (North Central Catchment Management Authority and Coliban Water), Melbourne Water and the Upper Campaspe Landcare Network.

The Healthy Landscapes: Practical Regenerative Agricultural Communities project aims to raise awareness in the community about sustainable land management practices that improve soil health, reduce exposure to climate risk, enhance biodiversity and increase on-farm productivity.

For details and bookings for the upcoming events – click here

 Grass and Pasture Identification Webinar image


How to better manage farm waste

Posted on 14 October, 2021 by Frances

Castlemaine local and waste guru, Jess Drake, is helping run in a brand new project to help better manage wastes on farms. Here is some information from Agrifutures Australia on how to get involved.

Agrifutures Australia is running a program of work to support innovative ideas and options for the avoidance, recycling, and reuse of pre-farm gate waste (specifically wastes from workshops), and ensure there is clear direction and coordination of activities for the sector to achieve the required change. Murrang Earth Sciences and Science into Action, along with sector experts, are investigating practical options for agriculture, fishery, and forestry communities to revalue and manage these workshop wastes. While we have our own expertise frankly, to develop useful and practical ways of managing workshop waste, we need to understand what concerns you/your members and what you/they need.

We are running some online sessions to work with people who run or manage family-owned fishing, forestry, or agricultural enterprises, as well as representatives of peak bodies, and associated relevant government bodies.

If you are interested in participating, please click here to find out more and register – click here

Please note that we will need to limit participation to less than 75 people (spread across the sectors and the country) directly in the online sessions. However, we welcome ideas, thoughts or other engagement via reply email or

Dr Jess Drake
Environmental Regulation and Soil Scientist
Murrang Earth Sciences




Announcing Connecting Country AGM – 13 November 2021

Posted on 14 October, 2021 by Frances

Connecting Country is delighted to announce our Annual General Meeting 2021 (AGM). While we’d really like to meet up in person, an online meeting allows for unpredictable COVID-19 restrictions and opens the event to a broader audience.

Please join us for this free online event on Saturday 13 November 2021 at 2.00 pm for brief AGM formalities and our special guest presenters. As usual it will be much more than an AGM!

Our theme is Restoring landscapes in a changing climate

Special presentations:

  • Future-proof our forests
    Bonnie Humphreys (Landscape Restoration Coordinator) and Ivan Carter (Engagement Coordinator)
    Join Bonnie and Ivan to learn about Connecting Country’s mission to create two pioneering climate future plots in our region, with support from the Ross Trust.
  • Climate scenarios and planning considerations for central Victoria
    Geoff Caine  (Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning)
    Hear Geoff speaking on the latest climate projections for our region and the implications for biodiversity and revegetation.

Everyone is welcome!
 Please register your attendance and we will send you the link prior to the meeting – click here

















AGM formalities

The following Connecting Country AGM documents are available for download:

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

If you have any questions, please email

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


What to plant in and around your dam – 14 October 2021

Posted on 7 October, 2021 by Frances

Planning and planting to maximise the potential of farm dams

Join Sustainable Farms for a free online webinar on the latest research on the benefits of enhancing farm dams, what to plant where and other practical planning tips!

When – Thursday 14 October 2021 at 12.00 pm (AEDT)
To register – click here

This one hour lunchtime webinar will cover practical aspects of enhancing farm dams:

  • Dave Smith (Sustainable Farms ecologist) will discuss current research on the multiple benefits of enhancing farm dams
  • Angelina Siegrist (Sustainable Farms ecologist) will introduce our new Enhancing farm dams: What to plant in and around your dam guide, including the different zones of a dam and species selection
  • Sally Day (Greta Valley Landcare project officer) will share her experiences of why farmers choose to enhance their dams and practical aspects of planning a farm dam project

There will also be plenty of time for questions.

The organisers recommend having a copy of the Enhancing farm dams: What to plant in and around your dam guide handy during the webinar.

To download a copy of the guide from the Sustainable Farms website – click here

Sustainable Farms is an initiative of the Australian National University.

Local ecologist Karl Just discusses biodiversity at a farm dam in Taradale (photo by Jaqcui Slingo)


Endangered butterfly finds new hope in central Victoria

Posted on 29 September, 2021 by Ivan

We recently received a great article from the newly formed ‘Wetland Revival Trust‘, highlighting our beloved Eltham Copper Butterfly and the search for new habitat in our region. The trust has been setup by Damien Cook and Elaine Bayes, who are co-directors and ecologists at Rakali Ecological Consulting, which has been operating since 2012. The article gives us hope, that threatened species can return from the brink, with support from the community and government, and adequate habitat managed for its ecological values. Please enjoy the article below, developed by Connecting Country on behalf of the Wetland Revival Trust.

Endangered butterfly: New hope in central Victoria

The endangered Eltham Copper Butterfly (Paralucia pyrodiscus lucida) represents one of the most fascinating stories both due to its co-dependency in nature and how people have rallied for this species.  This is a rare, good news story within the extinction crisis across Australia, proving we can save species from the brink with the right care and resources.

It is a story of lost and found and lost and found again. The little butterfly was formally described in 1951 having been collected from several sites around Eltham (then north east of Melbourne) during 1923-56.  Subsequent lack of records over the next 37 years, combined with vegetation clearing for housing development where they once thrived (Tallarook, Murtoa, Dimboola, Keilor, Broadmeadows and Yarrambat), lead scientists to conclude the butterfly had become extinct. Then the butterflies were rediscovered at Eltham in 1987 on a property about to be subdivided. Community campaigning for this tiny insect resulted in the purchase and protection of eight hectares of land around Eltham and Greensborough. The 1987 discovery also triggered funding of a state-wide search. Nine colonies were discovered in 1988, including two in new regions: Castlemaine (central Victoria) and the Kiata-Salisbury area (western Victoria).

Finding where a threatened species lives is the first step in conserving it, but protecting it from threats is the key to survival.  Sadly, since 1988 three known populations were lost through housing development in Melbourne’s north eastern suburbs (Montmorency and Eltham) and from grazing and weed invasion in western Victoria (Salisbury).  It is likely that butterfly populations were also lost from other areas where they were not yet discovered.

The Eltham Copper Butterfly is only the size of a ten cent piece (photo by Elaine Bayes)

However, bursts of effort over the decades have led to the discovery of new populations, mostly in north central Victoria. In 2011, a 3,000 ha search found eight new populations around Bendigo and Castlemaine.  All the newly-discovered populations are very localised. Although the populations are located within a larger area of what looks like suitable butterfly habitat, the butterfly only occurs in 3-25% of habitat. Numbers of butterflies within these areas are also small, with populations of around 50 butterflies peppered across an area.  Why they are found in some areas and not others is unclear, and what makes good butterfly habitat appears very complex.

Eltham Copper Butterfly is a small attractive butterfly with bright copper colouring on the tops of its wings and lives in dry open woodlands. A member of the blue butterfly family, it has a fascinating ecological dependency with two other species – a Notoncus ant and the Sweet Bursaria plant (Bursaria spinosa), which is the sole food source for the butterfly larvae. It’s survival also relies on an unknown array of environmental factors including availability of food for the ants, relationships with predators, site aspect and soil type.

The symbiotic relationship works like this. The adult Eltham Copper Butterflies lay their eggs on or at the base of Sweet Bursaria plants. The eggs hatch and the larvae make their way to the ant nest where they are tended and guarded by Notoncus ants.  This amazing service is achieved through a mixture of trickery and treats. Trickery in that the larvae of this family butterflies are believed to give off chemicals and make noises that can pacify ant aggression, mimic ant brood hormones, and attract and alert ants if the butterfly larvae is alarmed. Treats in that the butterfly larvae produces sugary secretions from their body in proportion to how many ants they need to guard them. These nocturnal ants then lead the butterfly larvae out at night to browse on the Sweet Bursaria leaves, and defend them from the many nocturnal predators that see the larvae as a juicy snack. Larvae pupate in or near the ant nest, with adult butterflies emerging from October to March each year, peaking from November to January. The adults then feed on nectar of Sweet Bursaria flowers, before they lay their eggs at the base of the plant, and on the cycle begins again.

The Eltham Copper Butterfly emerges in December on days over 25 degrees. Photo: Elaine Bayes

Elaine Bayes is one of the leading ecologists championing the future survival of the Eltham Copper Butterfly in northern Victoria. Elaine has conducted numerous surveys for the butterfly and its preferred habitat over the past decade, along with her colleague ecologist Karl Just and a team of citizen scientists, uncovering new populations along the way. Elaine recently obtained funding through the Victorian Government’s Biodiversity On-ground Action Program to map and monitor current known populations, and conduct further surveys for suitable habitat across central and western Victoria. Elaine is excited about the chance of finding further populations of the special butterfly. ‘We have the opportunity to conduct surveys in locations that we have not previously surveyed, but we know have great habitat potential. The next six months will see our team survey locations around Castlemaine, Chewton and Kiata, with the hope of discovering new populations, which is very exciting and vital to the survival of this endangered species.’ noted Ms Bayes.

A citizen science event in Castlemaine in 2019 attracted a strong crowd and interest in the Eltham Copper Butterfly (photo by Frances Howe)

Although there are several known populations around the state, the future of this special butterfly remains uncertain. It is listed as threatened under the Victorian Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act 1988 and as endangered under the Commonwealth Environmental Conservation and Biodiversity Act 1999. This places considerable importance on managing the small number of known population sites and locating any potential new sites so they can be protected from threats.

‘Land clearing and fire are two of the main one threats to this species. It is critical that we search for unrecorded populations so they can be protected, particularly from planned burns. The habitat around butterfly populations is vital and must be protected from over burning for the butterfly and their complex ecological relationships to survive,’ said Ms Bayes. Recent surveys from ecologists and the community have resulted in important changes to fuel reduction burns, allowing land managers to still reduce fuel load but ensure vital habitat is maintained for butterfly breeding.

Larvae pupate in or near the ant nest (photo by Elaine Bayes)


How can you help?

To contribute, get involved in the protection, conservation and management of remnant bushland on your property or in your local area, as there are increasingly rare and threatened species living within them. In particular, retain and restore any native understorey plants on your property, and if appropriate to your area, plant Sweet Bursaria.

For updates about the butterfly population in Eltham-Greensborough and associated volunteer events, there is a Facebook page – click here

For the Eltham Copper Butterfly populations in northern Victoria, get involved locally in management, monitoring or raising awareness. From early November to January, walk through areas where Sweet Bursaria grows and look for the copper sparkle of flying adult butterflies.

You can report sightings of this elusive butterfly on the new and amazing Butterfly Australia App. For information visit –

This 2021 Eltham Copper Butterfly project is funded by the Victorian Government’s Biodiversity On-ground Action Program.


Bird of the month: Kestrel

Posted on 27 September, 2021 by Ivan

Welcome to our nineteenth 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 photos by Ash Vigus.

Australian Kestrel (Falco cenchroides)

A member of the Falco genus which includes Peregrines and Hobbies, Kestrels are widespread across the world, with 13 species recognised. A few overseas species migrate with the seasons, but most are non-migratory, although they will move about depending on food availability. Their diet includes small birds, mice, reptiles, locusts and grasshoppers along with some other insects, spiders and other terrestrial invertebrates. They will readily move to areas of abundance during mouse and locust plagues. Within Australia, many areas have resident pairs. Juveniles spread widely after fledging and may move long distances.

Kestrels often hover in one spot searching for a variety of prey including insects and rodents (photo: Ash Vigus)


Australia has one species – the Australian or Nankeen Kestrel. It can be found all over the Australian mainland and on some outlying islands including Tasmania, most Bass Straight islands as well as Christmas, Norfolk and Lord Howe islands. It has occasionally been recorded as a non-breeding visitor to Papua New Guinea, the Torres Strait islands, New Zealand and Java. It is likely that they have expanded in both population and distribution with the clearing of forests for farmland, as they prefer open country. They have also readily adapted to taking the introduced House Mouse as well as the Common Starling, which often comprise a significant part of their diet.

It is the smallest Australian Falcon with a length of 30-35 cm and a weight range of 165 g for males to 185 g for females. They are great fliers, soaring and hovering with ease. Quite spectacular to watch.

Generally, breeding occurs between August to December. Australian Kestrels are quite adaptable and will utilise tree hollows, cliffs, old nests of other birds, nest boxes and even the broken tops of anthills. There are also records of them using sinkholes in the ground and mine shafts. They are known to use the nests of White-winged Chough, Australian Magpie, Whistling Kite, crows and ravens and even the top of Chestnut-crowned Babbler nests. Certainly very adaptable!

Clutches of eggs range from 1 to 6, but usually 2-3. Most of the incubation is done by the female with the male feeding her. Upon hatching the female generally feeds the young, often with food brought to the nest for her by the male.

There are some remarkable records of fostering, with young kestrels being reared by Black-breasted Buzzards and even a Black Falcon feeding young kestrels at the nest.

To hear the call of an Australian Kestrel, please – click here

Jane Rusden
BirdLife Castlemaine District



Leaky Landscapes symposium – 8 October 2021

Posted on 22 September, 2021 by Ivan

As members of the Biolinks Alliance, we are excited to be attending their ‘Leaky Landscapes’ 2021 symposium, to be held online on 8 October 2021. The topics and guest speakers look most interesting and relevant to climate-proofing our future landscapes, with a focus on soils and improving the productivity of degraded landscapes.

Congratulations to Biolinks Alliance for putting on this event, and gathering a wealth of knowledge on a most important topic for future generations and biodiversity gains.

Please read on for more details from Biolinks Alliance and visit the website – click here

Climate proofing our landscapes and biodiversity – Practical approaches to soil absorption and techniques for fixing desertified landscapes

About this event:

  • Tickets are FREE for all Biolinks Alliance Network Members and students (tickets must be purchased with a relevant organisation email address or student email)
  • General public tickets are $15
  • Government Agencies & Industry professionals are $50

This symposium will be looking at practical approaches to fixing the damaged landscapes of central Victoria making them more absorbent (less leaky) and so more biologically productive and better able to withstand the impacts of climate change.

Restoring and climate proofing our environment is widely recognised as being essential to helping biodiversity adapt to climate change – but what is less well understood is how to do this.

Many of our natural systems are less healthy, biodiverse and productive than they once were, due to histories of degradation through gold mining, timber cutting and agriculture. Their soils are no longer porous enough to absorb rainfall so less water is available to the landscape and its food webs. Hotter, drier, more variable weather brought on by climate change is amplifying the ‘desertification’ of environments.

It will be a forum for researchers, conservation practitioners, landholders and land managers and interested community members to share information and experiences, form connections and develop collaborative and strategic approaches to ecosystem restoration that specifically aim to restore and climate-proof damaged landscapes by rebuilding soil health and water holding capacity for carbon, hydrology, productivity and biodiversity (improved habitat/resources for threatened species) benefits.

Even though we might feel that urgent global action on emissions reduction is out of our hands, there are things we can do to better prepare our backyards and local landscapes for the worst impacts of Climate Change.

This forum showcases 21st century strategies and practical case studies that has been largely missing from policy debates about local environment climate change mitigation. There is so much more that needs to be done and can be done if we work together effectively to make it happen.

It will bring together leading researchers, exemplar projects and interested practitioners in a two-day event exploring the science and practice of improving the hydrological function of landscapes, in order to support people to take practical actions to building climate resilience in their local regions.

Friday 8 October 2021 – online via Zoom

Keynote presentations including audience Q&A:

  • Dr David Tongway – ‘The application of Landscape Function Analysis (LFA) to the Restoration of Disturbed Landscapes’
  • Dr Jon Fawcett – CDM Smith, ‘Understanding hydrological and sub-soil dynamics’
  • Professor Dave Watson – Charles Sturt University,  ‘Facilitating recovery: marshalling food web dynamics and engaging landholders to keep our woodlands thriving’
  • Darren Dougherty – Regrarians, ‘Global Examples of Regenerative Agroecology in Ecosystem Restoration’
  • David Eldridge – ‘Harnessing the activity of soil disturbing animals to restore degraded woodlands’

To purchase tickets – click here



How to get help for injured native animals

Posted on 22 September, 2021 by Ivan

We love our wildlife and are very proud of the amazing work wildlife rescuers do every week across Victoria. It is a tireless and stressful job that provides an important service for our wildlife and community. We are often asked about how to report injured or sick wildlife and who is the best contact in our region. Please read on for further information courtesy of  Wildlife Victoria and a local wildlife rescuer, that covers the basics and some interesting facts.

Wildlife rescue deals with hundreds of calls each day during the busy periods over summer (photo: Wildlife Victoria)

How you can help sick or injured wildlife

1. Prioritise your own safety

If the animal you have found is located on or near a road make sure you park as safely as possible and turn on your hazard lights. If it’s dark turn on your headlights and stand in front of the car so you are well illuminated.

Keep a safe distance from the animal to not cause panic, and do not attempt to handle or approach the animal until you have contacted a trained rescuer.

Important: Larger mammals can be dangerous when distressed, and should only be handled by a trained wildlife carer.


2. Contact a professional wildlife rescuer as soon as possible

Caring and handling wildlife requires specialist skills and training. The best thing you can do to help the animal is to contact a trained professional who can give the animal the care it needs.

Wildlife Victoria run an emergency support line 24 hours per day, seven days a week. Call Wildlife Victoria’s on (03) 8400 7300 or to report online – click here

3. Follow the wildlife rescuer’s instructions

If you are unable to wait for the rescuer to arrive, try your best to leave some kind of marker or signal close to the animals location so they can easily locate it.

If your rescuer asks you to bring the animal to a nearby wildlife shelter, remember to prioritise your safety and the safety of the animal. Handle the animal delicately with as much padding between you and it to protect from biting, disease or simply to prevent stress.

Never attempt to feed native wildlife, but if possible provide clean drinking water.


Further information and resources

Wildlife Victoria has some excellent fact sheets and educational materials regarding how to care for sick and injured wildlife.  They cover topic such as baby birds, heat-stressed animals, wildlife-safe netting and safe driving around wildlife. To view the wildlife fact sheets – click here


Tracking wildlife rescues activity in your area

Explore Wildlife Victoria’s map to see which animals were in need of help in your local area last month. The points on this map all relate to a single animal, or family of animals, reported to Wildlife Victoria last month. (Yes, this is just one month!) To view the map – click here




Healthy Landscapes guide – get your copy now

Posted on 21 September, 2021 by Frances

We’re rather chuffed at the community response to our Healthy Landscapes guide so far. If you don’t have a copy yet, be sure to get your copy before the first print run sells out!

Here’s just some of the feedback:

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


For more information about the Healthy Landscapes guide – click here

Copies are now on sale – when COVID-19 related restrictions allow.

To get your copy ($15) head to:

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

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

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

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

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


Wildlife of the Box-Ironbark Country – new edition

Posted on 8 September, 2021 by Ivan

One of our most treasured nature books by legendary nature enthusiast Chris Tzaros is about to get an update with the release of the second edition.  ‘Wildlife of the Box-Ironbark Country’ has been a bible to many living in and around box-ironbark country, with amazing imagery and detailed information on the fascinating animals that call our local forests and woodlands home.

Chris was a guest speaker at our 2020 sell-out event, ‘Tricky Birds’, and is one of the nation’s leading bird photographers and experts on the box-ironbark regions.

The second edition of ‘Wildlife of the Box-Ironbark Country’ is now available via pre-order and is due to be delivered in the coming weeks. No doubt the second edition will feature glorious imagery and a comprehensive overview of the ecologically significant Box–Ironbark habitats and their wildlife.

If you can’t wait for it to hit local bookshops, you can pre-order a copy now from CSIRO Publishing – click here

Cover image of Wildlife of the Box–Ironbark Country, second edition, featu

Overview (courtesy of CSIRO Publishing)

A comprehensive overview of the ecologically significant Box–Ironbark habitats and their wildlife. Victoria’s Box–Ironbark region is one of the most important areas of animal diversity and significance in southern Australia. The forests and woodlands of this region provide critical habitat for a diverse array of woodland-dependent animals, including many threatened and declining species such as the Squirrel Glider, Brush-tailed Phascogale, Regent Honeyeater, Swift Parrot, Pink-tailed Worm-Lizard, Woodland Blind Snake, Tree Goanna and Bibron’s Toadlet.

Wildlife of the Box–Ironbark Country gives a comprehensive overview of the ecology of the Box–Ironbark habitats and their wildlife, and how climate change is having a major influence. This extensively revised second edition covers all of the mammals, birds, reptiles and frogs that occur in the region, with a brief description of their distribution, status, ecology and identification, together with a detailed distribution map and superb colour photograph for each species.

The book includes a ‘Where to watch’ section, featuring a selection of national parks, state parks and nature conservation reserves where people can experience the ecosystem and its wildlife for themselves.

This book is intended for land managers, conservation and wildlife workers, fauna consultants, landholders, teachers, students, naturalists and all those interested in learning about and appreciating the wildlife of this fascinating and endangered ecosystem.

• Covers 267 species, each with a detailed description, high-quality colour photograph and updated distribution map
• Includes new species accounts for fauna that now reside permanently or regularly visit the Box–Ironbark region
• Provides a list of parks and reserves, including maps and descriptions of 16 locations to observe Box–Ironbark wildlife

About the author

Chris Tzaros is uniquely placed to write about the fauna of Victoria’s Box–Ironbark country. Brought up near Bendigo, he has had a passionate interest in wildlife since childhood. Chris has 25 years’experience working on wildlife research and conservation projects, largely focused on threatened woodland birds, for both government and nongovernment environmental and conservation organisations. He is an award-winning wildlife photographer and has produced the majority of the photos in this book. Chris is currently an independent wildlife ecologist and nature
photographer based in north-east Victoria but enjoys working among nature right around Australia.


New law gives council powers to enforce weed control

Posted on 7 September, 2021 by Asha

This article was written by local community member and volunteer Lee Mead. Lee has been an active community member and weed warrior for many years and her current roles include President of the Tarrangower Cactus Control Group, founding member of the Friends of Maldon Historic Reserve, and valued supporter of Connecting Country. Lee compiled this article with the aim of helping to raise awareness of a new Local Law in the Mount Alexander Shire.

The new laws will make it easier for the council to prosecute people who don’t control noxious weeds on their properties, as well as increasing the penalties for this infringement. 

Thank you Lee and keep up the great work! 

One of the positive highlights of 2020 was the endorsement of a new Local Law by the Mount Alexander Shire Council (MASC). The new Clause 19 has been created, which is specific to the control of declared noxious weeds. There is now significantly greater clarity and priority in our Shire’s Local Law given to the management of noxious weeds, which harm the environment and agriculture.

The new Clause 19, titled ‘Control of Noxious Weeds’, gives much greater definition, clarity and interpretation to the impacts and issues of weeds. It includes a definition of ‘noxious weeds’ and reference to the Victorian Catchment and Land Protection Act 1994 (CaLP Act) and the Catchment and Land Protection Regulations 2012. In addition, the penalty for non-compliance has been doubled, from 5 to 10 penalty points.

The definition of noxious weeds (in the Local Law and the CaLP Act) refers to weeds that are a:

  • State prohibited weed or
  • Regionally prohibited weed or
  • Regionally controlled weed or
  • Restricted weed.

For more information on noxious weeds and their management – click here

These Local Law changes will raise the status and significance of noxious weed control in our Shire and reduce the ambiguity that the previous sub-clause created. The new clause will provide the Shire’s Bylaw Officers with a clearer definition of noxious weed management and hopefully result in increased enforcement action with non-compliant property owners. This new and specific ‘noxious weed’ clause will be more effective by making it easier for ratepayers to seek assistance from MASC Bylaw Officers to enforce weed control actions by absentee property owners, who are sometimes unaware of their legal weed control responsibilities.

We will be watching with a keen eye to see if any compliance infringements are issued under this local law over the coming year.

Lee Mead

Gorse is a declared noxious that can take over valued farmland and environmental assets (photo by Victorian Gorse Task Force)


Landcare Facilitator role – apply now

Posted on 2 September, 2021 by Frances

Don’t forget we are currently seeking a new person to join our team in the role of Landcare Facilitator for the Mount Alexander region, with applications closing soon.  Our region is home to around 30 Landcare and Friends groups, representing one of the highest levels of Landcare engagement in the country! If you or someone you know has relevant skills and experience, please read on.

Workshop with Friends of Campbells Creek Landcare Group (photo by Gen Kay)


Landcare Facilitator – Mount Alexander region

We have an exciting opportunity for a hardworking person with experience in natural resource management and community groups to join our established community-run organisation. Connecting Country works with landholders and community groups to restore landscapes across the Mount Alexander Region of central Victoria, on both public and private land. Further information about our work is available on our website (

The Landcare Facilitator is responsible for supporting around 30 active Landcare and environmental volunteer groups within the Mount Alexander region to build their capacity and resilience. We are looking for someone who is approachable, organised, and passionate about helping Landcare groups and other volunteers to achieve their goals to protect, enhance and restore the land and natural environment.

This is a part-time role (three days per week) based in Castlemaine, Victoria. It is a 12-month contract position, with contract extension subject to performance and funding availability.

For details on how to apply – click here


A huge thank you

Posted on 1 September, 2021 by Frances

Now that the end of financial year is done and dusted, and our 2021 financial audit is in progress, it’s time to extend another huge thank you to our generous donors.

We received around 60 financial donations from community members during 2020-21, ranging from $10 to several thousand dollars!

Thank you for your wonderful donations to Connecting Country. With many funding opportunities in decline or diverted, your contribution is extremely valuable and much appreciated. We cannot thank you enough.

Your donation directly supports our practical on-ground work to restore the land, educate our community and monitor wildlife. But, there’s more. You also provide our hard-working team of staff and volunteers with a much-needed morale boost, especially when things are a bit tough.

It means a lot to know we have your support and value the work we do.

Please don’t hesitate to get in touch if you ever want further information about how your donations can support landscape restoration in our region, or wish to become a regular donor.


Conservation starts with community

Posted on 30 August, 2021 by Frances

Our friends and supporters at Remember the Wild just published a marvellous article on Connecting Country, starring our terrific and much-loved founding member and supporter – Marie Jones. Marie is a passionate Chewton resident, member of Connecting Country’s committee of management, and recently featured in our Landcare Celebration video.

To read the article – click here

Conservation starts with community: Connecting Country and land restoration in Central Victoria

Remember the Wild

Remember the Wild is Australia’s first nature connection charity. Remember the Wild seeks to bring experiences of the natural world back into our lives, for the benefit of both the environment and ourselves. Dedicated to improving public access to nature, they reconnect communities with the local environment and help people remember why the wild matters.

For more information on Remember the Wild – click here

The wonderful team at Remember the Wild previously made an inspiring and informative short film about Connecting Country’s work.

To view the video – click here

Connecting Country: Safeguarding Woodland Birds

A huge thank you to Remember the Wild for your ongoing support of Connecting Country’s work.