Restoring landscapes across the Mount Alexander Region

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.


World Environment Day in Castlemaine

Posted on 25 May, 2011 by Connecting Country

World Environment Day will be celebrated in Castlemaine on Sunday 5 June with an Environmental Expo in the Market Building organised by Trust for Nature. Connecting Country, Friends of the Box-Ironbark Forests, MASG and a range of other local environmental organisations, community groups and schools have organised displays and activities for the morning which starts at 10am and finishes at midday.

The event will be family friendly with children’s art activities at various stalls and there will be short environmental documentaries. It will be a good opportunity for people to find out how they can be involved in environmental initiatives in the area. Everyone is welcome. The Expo coincides with the Farmers market which will take place in the adjacent Victory Park.

The mayor of Mount Alexander Shire, Janet Cropley, will launch the councils new Environment Strategy during the morning.

More information can be found here.


3 June 2011 – ‘Recreating the Country’ Field Day

Posted on 22 May, 2011 by Connecting Country

The Ballarat Region Treegrowers is hosting ‘Recreating the Country’ Field Day on Friday 3 June 2011 at the ImLal Biorich Demonstration site (VicRoads Country Directory Map 77 ref B4).  The day starts at 10am and finishes at 4.15pm.

Recreating the Country is a new model of revegetation that integrates conservation with production.  This new model aims to enrich habitat potential across rural Landscapes, not just for a lifetime, but for centuries to come.  The field day will involve talks and site tours by conservation and farm forestry experts. Download the flyer here for further information.

If there is sufficient interest from community members, the North Central CMA is planning on organising a bus from Bendigo to the field day site.  For further information or to register your interest in attending the field day via bus please contact Ashley Beven, Regional Landcare Facilitator, North Central CMA by Friday 27 May 2011:

Phone: (03) 5440 1864
Mobile: 0428 508 726


Bridal Creeper – Workshops, mapping and other local actions

Posted on 21 May, 2011 by Connecting Country

This past year’s climatic conditions have produced an abundance of weeds and Bridal Creeper is no exception. This noxious weed is spreading through woodlands over native plants and below the ground, producing a matt of bults which prevent native seeds from growing. Detailed information about Bridal Creeper including identification, ecology, spread and eradication methods can be found on the Weeds of National Significance site.

A local taskforce has recently been formed to develop a strategic plan to tackle the problem of Bridal Creeper in our shire. The first taskforce meeting on 18 April was attended by Shauna Potter, National Bridal Creeper Coordinator, and members of the Mount Alexander community. Minutes of this meeting can be found here.

To assist in the control program, it is important to know exactly where infestations are located.  The taskforce decided to make use of the Connecting Country Mapping Program for this purpose. So if 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.

Bridal Creeper Community Workshop

The Nuggetty Land Protection Group is inviting interested community members to attend a community workshop at the Bridal Creeper Trial site. This site is immediately behind the Maldon cemetery in the Maldon Historic Reserve. The workshop will be held on Sunday 10 July from 11.00am to 12.30pm and finish with a free sausage sizzle and cupper.

The workshop will exhibit the results of earlier chemical treatment and demonstrate application methods, including making spore water from rust infected plants, chemical gloves, scrunching methods and physical removal.

Rust studied by the DPI and introduced by Nuggetty and other landcare groups has had a great impact. The rust appears as a yellow spot on the underside of the leaf and feeds on the plant, weakening it and reducing the seed production and tuber growth.


Ring Ian Grenda on 0412015807 or email for more information and to place orders for free bags of rust which can be picked up on the day.


May edition of Groundcover

Posted on 20 May, 2011 by Connecting Country

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


Free Community Grants Writing Workshops

Posted on 20 May, 2011 by Connecting Country

The North Central Catchment Management Authority (CMA) is providing free Community Grants Workshops throughout the catchment. The workshops, which will cover the 2011-12 Victorian Landcare Grants, will also include a Community Grant Writing course.  The course, run by a professional writer, Kerry Anderson, will provide participants with practical advice and guidance in writing and developing funding applications.

The Castlemaine workshop will be held at the Ray Bradfield Rooms, Victory Park on Tuesday 31 May, starting at 6pm and finishing at 9pm (including supper).  There will be similar workshops in Wedderburn, Kyneton, Maryborough and Kerang. Click here for further details.

Bookings are essential. All sessions are free and a light meal will be provided.

RSVP to or telephone 03 5448 7124 at least two days prior to the workshop, indicating which venue you would like to attend and any dietary requirements.


New Sustainable Agriculture Grants

Posted on 19 May, 2011 by Connecting Country

Landcare Australia and Woolworths have recently launched the ‘Woolworths Fresh Food Future’ program. As part of this program, Woolworths is providing $150, 000 of funding towards a grants program to help farming groups develop or implement sustainable farming practices.

Projects that support farmers in the adoption of technology or practices that improve water use efficiency, nutrient management and their carbon footprint will be targeted. The grants will be awarded to farming groups and each grant can be up to a maximum of $10, 000 to implement a project, which addresses one of these key areas.

Applications close on Monday 30 May 2011.  The application form can be downloaded here and the grant guidelines here. For further information, visit the Landcare Australia website at:


Ecology Field Days

Posted on 18 May, 2011 by Connecting Country

The first two Ecology Field Days run by Connecting Country will take place soon. The Geology and Soils day has been booked out but there are some spaces still available for the Yellow Box Woodlands day. Bookings are essential. Contact contact Krista on 5472 1594 or

29 May: Geology and Soils (Phil Dyson, North Central CMA)
We will visit sites that will give us an overview of the main geological influences in Mt Alexander Shire. We will explore the mysteries of soils, the relationships between soil and geology, and consider how have the different geologies have shaped our use of the land.

5 June: Yellow Box Woodlands (jointly led by Ian Higgins from Friends of Campbells Creek Landcare and North Central CMA, and Paul Foreman from Bush Heritage Australia and Blue Devil Consulting)
We will explore two sites to see an area of old yellow box woodland and one that has been greatly altered by land uses. We will learn about the interactions of trees, shrubs, herbs and fungi at each site and consider what opportunities each offers for animal habitat.

Both sessions run from 9am to 1.30pm. Transport is provided and the cost for each day is $10. For full details click here.


26 May 2011 – Fungi: Exploring a Forgotten Kingdom

Posted on 17 May, 2011 by Connecting Country

The first of Connecting Country’s 2011 free evening talks, Fungi: Exploring a Forgotten Kingdom, will take place on Thursday 26 May.  The seminar will be held at the Campbells Creek Community Centre. Supper will be served at 6.30pm followed by the talk at 7 pm. Entry is free and members of the public of all ages are welcome. However, to give us an indication of likely numbers for catering purposes, it would be helpful if you could let us know by Friday 20 May if you are planning to attend: contact Krista on 5472 1594  or

Mycena epipterygi. Photo By Alison Pouliot

Boletellus obscurecoccineu. Photo by Alison Pouliot






Fungi expert, Alison Pouliot, will be the speaker. She writes that ‘we are constantly surrounded by fungi; in the soil, in the air, in the rivers and oceans, the forests and deserts, and perhaps even between our toes. Following the torrential rains these last months we’re likely to be surrounded by even more. The Mount Alexander Shire has a rich diversity of fungi and is the ideal place for an autumn fungi foray. Due to the warm and moist soil conditions the first fungi are already poking through the earth. It looks like we could be in for a bumper season. Continue Reading »


Launch of Wheel Cactus Mapping Appeal

Posted on 16 May, 2011 by Connecting Country

With this post, Connecting Country is launching their appeal for observations of Wheel Cactus to be lodged onto the Community Interactive Mapping Portal. Each month, a randomly chosen submitter of Wheel Cactus records will receive a prize. This month’s prize is a copy of Wildlife of the Box-Ironbark Country by Chris Tzaros.

Tarrengower School Rd extension (Photo from DPI).

Wheel Cactus Opuntia robusta is an emerging major weed species across Victoria. It has been a substantial problem in the broader Maldon area for many years, and is a potential risk of becoming a similar problem across most of the Mount Alexander Shire and surrounds. The Tarrengower Cactus Control Committee, with Parks Victoria, has made significant inroads in controlling major infestations around the Maldon-Tarrengower area. However, every Wheel Cactus plant is a potential source for a new out-break, and no part of the shire – including gardens, reserves and agricultural land – is immune.

The Department of Primary Industries are also undertaking a project that analyses the spread of Wheel Cactus spread from the Maldon area, and are seeking as many records as possible from all across the region.

With these thoughts in mind, Connecting Country has offered the use of their Community Interactive Mapping Portal (CIMP) to assist in the mapping of Wheel Cactus. The CIMP is a tool that allows any person with access to the internet to submit observations or other activities of interest (e.g. flora, fauna, revegetation, weeds) for particular point locations across the local area. All community members and groups are encouraged to submit past and present location records of Wheel Cactus, as well as other associated information. ANY Wheel Cactus records, even just dots on the map are useful, but more accurate records will be more valuable.

Further details on the Wheel Cactus mapping project, the use of the CIMP and also information on the identification and biology of the Wheel Cactus, can be found by clicking here.


Victorian Landcare Grants 2011-12: Call for Applications

Posted on 11 May, 2011 by Connecting Country

The North Central Catchment Management Authority (CMA) is calling for applications for the next round of the State Government’s Victorian Landcare Grants program for (incorporated) community groups to undertake natural resource management (NRM) projects in 2011-12.

The Victorian Landcare Grants Program, previously referred to as the Second Generation Landcare Program, continues to have an emphasis on community capacity building. It is designed to fund projects that enable NRM community groups, networks and their volunteers to undertake effective onground works to increase ecosystem resilience and contribute to sustainable landscapes.

The grants program will fund activities that align to the categories of:

  • Supporting community volunteers and leveraging community action
  • Positively influencing the management practices of private landholders
  • Building the skills and capacity of the community to undertake NRM activities.

There are two grant types available:

  • Project grants (up to $20,000)
  • Maintenance and start up grants (up to $1,000)

Applications close 5pm Monday 27 June 2011

For further information download the Victorian Landcare Grants: Regional Guidelines 2011-2012 and the Grants Application Form. Jodie Odgers, Regional Landcare Coordinator with the North Central CMA, can also be contacted for further information on (03) 5440 1883 or

A reminder that Connecting Country is still accepting Expression of Interest applications for on-ground works as part of our Yellow Box Woodland project. Click here for further information.


13 May 2011 – Expert to Talk on Frog Declines – and Recovery

Posted on 10 May, 2011 by Connecting Country

Respected Melbourne-based biologist, Dr Richard Retallick, is presenting a summary of the research on the decline and possible recovery of frogs to the Castlemaine Field Naturalists Club on the evening of Friday 13 May (8pm at the Uniting Church Hall, entry from Lyttleton St, Castlemaine). All members of the community are welcome to attend. Entry is free.

Through the 1980s and 1990s, biologists were coming to a terrible consensus – populations of frog species were in decline at an alarming rate worldwide to the point where many species appeared to have disappeared completely within a short timeframe. At least two Australian frog species became extinct, and another two previously common local frog species, the Growling Grass Frog (Litoria raniformis) and Bibron’s Toadlet (Pseudophryne bibronii), effectively disappeared from the broader Castlemaine area.

Dr Richard Retallick was in the early phase of his academic career when a new potential causal factor was discovered – a disease called Amphibian Chytrid Fungus. Dr Retallick recalls, “Most of the populations that I had planned to study had either disappeared entirely or were reduced to a small number of individuals. Once chytrid fungus was identified for the first time, and linked to the unexplained frog declines worldwide, I was inevitably drawn into the whirlwind quest that followed, racing the clock to understand the impact and ecology of the fungus, which took me from the tropics of northern Australia to the deserts of Arizona and back to southern Australia.

“Despite its terrible consequences, the story of the discovery of chytrid fungus and the worldwide research to understand its origins and impacts and to find possible cures, is a remarkable one. There are still many unknowns, but each year a bit more of the puzzle is solved.”


24 May 2011 – Information Session for Small Landholders

Posted on 9 May, 2011 by Connecting Country

The North Central Catchment Management Authority has organised an information session aimed at lifestyle landholders who wish to find out more about protecting the natural values of their properties.

Topics covered will include covenanting, incentives and rebates available, sources of funding, grazing regimes for small herds, and projects to help you improve your place. David Stewart from the Department of Primary Industry Small Landholder Information Service will be the speaker.

The session will run from 6.30pm till 8.00pm and will be held in the Bendigo Council Offices. A light meal and children’s activities will be provided.

For further information click here.


22 May 2011 – Nuggetty Planting Day

Posted on 2 May, 2011 by Connecting Country

This is an invitation to help plant 1000 indigenous seedlings on 22 May for a project funded by Connecting Country and supported by BRIT. For more details click here.


Progress with Nest Box Monitoring

Posted on 1 May, 2011 by Connecting Country

Project worker, Bryan McMullan, has been busy checking the nest boxes that Connecting Country installed across the Shire. He has been assisted by Fritz Hammersley, a BRIT work-experience student.

About 90 boxes have been checked so far. Brush-tailed Phascogales (Tuans) have been discovered in two boxes and two other boxes have contained nest material from Phascogales. It is important to bear in mind that Phascogales can use many nests on different nights in a home range.

Fritz inspecting the nest box in Walmer that contained 2 male phascogales. Photo: Bronwyn Silver, 19 April 2011.

As well, approximately 40 Sugar Gliders have been observed in boxes with some boxes containing 3-4 Gliders. Other animals and insects or evidence of them include a Peron’s Tree Frog, a Gecko, a pair of Owlet Nightjars, ants nests and spider webs.

Sugar Glider discovered in a nest box. Photo: Bryan McMullan, April 2011.

Thanks to those who have sent in observations from their dusk/night-time watches of nest boxes. Everyone else who has nest boxes is encouraged to undertake dusk viewings. Click here to download the Nest Box Monitoring Data Sheet which includes instructions.


April issue of Groundcover

Posted on 29 April, 2011 by Connecting Country

The April edition of Groundcover is now available. This informative newsletter includes local, state and national landcare information as well as North Central Catchment Management Authority news. It is published by the North Central Catchment Management Authority.

Of particular interest in this month’s issue is information on Landcare Awards and an Environment Best Management Practice Workshop in Woodend.

To download the newsletter, click here.


9 June 2011 – Biodiversity Across the Borders Conference

Posted on 25 April, 2011 by Connecting Country

The theme for the 2011 Biodiversity Across Borders Conference is “Vulnerability and Resilience of Ecosystems”.  The conference will be held at the Mt. Helen campus of the University of Ballarat on 9 June 2011. Continue Reading »