Restoring landscapes across the Mount Alexander Region

25th Anniversary Landcare Grants

Posted on 9 September, 2011 by Connecting Country

Community groups in North Central Victoria interested in enhancing or protecting the natural environment have until Monday 10 October to apply for funding courtesy of the Victorian Government’s 25th Anniversary Landcare Grants.

To celebrate the 25th Anniversary of Landcare, the Victorian Government has announced $60,000 of funding to assist local community groups.  The grants of $1,000 – $5,000 (ex GST) are for groups to hold events and undertake on-ground activities that will benefit the health of the region’s land, water and biodiversity – a mandatory component of the funding.

Attached are the guidelines and the application form. For further information, contact Jodie Odgers, Regional Landcare Coordinator, on (03) 5440 1883.


Connecting Country Annual General Meeting

Posted on 9 September, 2011 by Connecting Country

When: 7:30pm, Monday 26th September
Where: Ray Bradfield Room, Castlemaine

Please join us in some wine and cheese and celebrate our previous 12 months of the Connecting Country project. We shall be electing the committee for next 12 months, receiving a project update from Coordinator, Chris Timewell, and Jodie Odgers from North Central Catchment Management Authority, shall be presenting the Victorian Landcare Grants to local recipients.

In addition, we shall be getting inspired by our guest speakers, Ann-Marie Monda and Carla Meurs from Sutton Grange Organic Farm (producers of the award-winning Holy Goat Cheese). Having gained experience on farms in Australia and overseas, Ann-Marie and Carla’s organic cheese-making skills reflect their respect and care for the natural environment. With the wellbeing of the goat herd and an integrated holistic farm management taking priority, animals and their pastures are maintained at a level of optimum health.  They are involved in Connecting Country’s Yellow Box Woodland project with supplementary plantings of native mid-storey shrubs within the fenced remnant areas of grassy woodland.

The full AGM agenda can be downloaded here.

It’s also time to renew your membership for the 2011-12 year! Although membership is free, Connecting Country memberships for groups and individuals still need to be renewed on an annual basis.  New memberships for individuals and groups are also encouraged.  In order to do this, the following documents can be downloaded:

If you are interested in being on the Connecting Country Committee of Management, the committee nomination form can be downloaded (which must be posted to The Public Officer/Secretary, Connecting Country Inc., PO Box 347, Castlemaine VIC 3450 prior to the 26th Sept 2011).

For catering purposes, please RSVP to or call 5472 1594 by Thursday the 22nd of September.


Brisbane Ranges Wildflower Show

Posted on 8 September, 2011 by Connecting Country

There will be a Wildflower Show on 9 October between 9.30am and 4.30pm at Anakie Hall, Staughton Vale Road, Anakie. The event is organised and supported by Friends of Brisbane Ranges and Parks Victoria. For further information and online bus bookings visit Enquires can also be made by phone: (03) 5366 0000 and by email:


Taradale Planting Day

Posted on 7 September, 2011 by Connecting Country

The final planting day organised by Taradale Landcare will take place on Friday 9 September 2011 from 9.30am. The planting will be along Back Creek adjacent to Barkley Park. For further information contact Kate Smith on 0427 315 963. Click here to download a flier with the details.


Moss Field Day

Posted on 7 September, 2011 by Connecting Country

Fifteen people took part in a fascinating moss field day at Clinkers Hill Bushland Reserve on 27 August. This was part of the Moss and Liverwort project that is working towards producing a brochure about local mosses and liverworts. The group spent two hours identifying, photographing and recording ten varieties of moss.

Beth Mellick from the Norman Wettenhall Foundation supplied magnifying glasses and recording materials for everyone.

The afternoon was led by postgraduate student Cassia Read who is currently doing a PhD at Melbourne Uni on biological soil crusts of the Mallee and Wimmera.

Cass comments that “crusts are intriguing communities of moss, lichen and fungi that live at the soil surface in arid environments. These crusts have an important role in ecosystem function. I’m particularly interested in how they influence seed germination and survival and how they recover following livestock exclusion, as stock with hard hooves remove moss and lichens and expose the top soil to erosion.”


One of the mosses, Breutelia affinist, examined by the group . Photo by Bronwyn Silver

This project is supported by the Norman Wetttenhall Foundation, Friends of the Box-Ironbark Forests and Connecting Country.

If you would like more information contact Beth Mellick on 5472 1316.





Rehabilitating Clinkers Hill

Posted on 7 September, 2011 by Connecting Country

The Victoria Gully Group is being assisted by Connecting Country and Parks Victoria to rehabilitate Clinkers Hill Bushland Reserve, which is at the southern end of Preshaw St in Castlemaine.

Working bees take place regularly on the second Sunday of the month from 9.30am to 11.30am followed by a cuppa.  The next one is this Sunday 11 September when hand weeding and planting shrubs will be the focus of activities.

If you have any enquiries about this project, or would like to participate in future working bees, ring Elvyne Hogan on 5472 4171.

Volunteers at the first weeding workshop at Clinkers Hill, July 2011


CFNC meeting on Shorebirds

Posted on 6 September, 2011 by Connecting Country

At the next Castlemaine Field Naturalist Club meeting on 9 September there will be a presentation by Mike Weston on Shorebirds.  The evening will begin at 7.30pm and the venue is the Uniting Church Hall. All are welcome.

Mike currently works as a Senior Lecturer in the School of Life and Environmental Sciences at Deakin University. His interests are diverse but centre around wildlife and people, and working constructively to solve potential conflicts for the benefit of both people and biodiversity. His particular passion is the conservation of beach-nesting birds, and how they might be able to coexist with extremely high numbers of recreationists. To find out more about Mike Weston click here.

To see an example of local migratory waders have a look at this post on Geoff Park’s Natural Newstead blog where he records his recent observations of Sharp-tailed Sandpipers on Moolort Plains.


Looking at the fire record

Posted on 4 September, 2011 by Connecting Country

A solid crowd of about 80 rocked up to the second talk in the Connecting Country 2011 education program at Campbell’s Creek on August 25.

Arn Tolsma at Campbell's Creek: intervals between fires should be between 20 and 100 years, if ecological health is the prime consideration.

Dr Arn Tolsma gave a deeply engaging account of fire history in Australia, and in particular the South Eastern corner of the country.  He showed evidence from analysis of peat cores that over thousands of years until about 1800 the incidence of fire has varied according to climate, not from human action. Incidence of fire increased dramatically in the 19th century. In particular there is little evidence of widespread Aboriginal burning. Early settler witnesses of Aboriginal fires are extremely vague, and suggest that it was limited in extent, and largely confined to grassland and grassy woodland.

On the subject of our region, he referred to the 1853 Selwyn map, which showed that river and creek lines were open and grassy, but ridge country wooded with scrubby box and stringybark: in other words, the idea that the forest was open country before settlement is false. He showed that there is no strong evidence that Box Ironbark environments must have fire to regenerate. Using the concept of ‘tolerable fire intervals’ he argued that fires at intervals of a minimum of 20 and a maximum of 50-100 years might be beneficial for these environments. Any use of fire should be carefully planned with very clear objectives established after site, vegetation and fire history analysis.

Dr Tolsma emphasised that he was speaking of fire as a management tool for the environment, a separate issue from the use of fire as a fuel reduction method. It is clear from his talk, however, that fuel reduction zones burned, say, every five years, will  suffer ecological damage. This is consistent with the position of DSE fire managers, who frankly admit that ‘asset protection zones’ are ‘sacrificial zones’, ecologically  speaking.

A summarised version of the slide show for the talk can be found here (6 MB). Dr Tolsma is co author of the DSE/CMA publication Ecological burning in box ironbark forests [2007]. The two volumes can be found online here and here

In the third and final talk in this series, Robyn Ballinger will discuss the environmental and social history of Forest Creek in European times. The presentation will take place on 8 September at the Campbells Creek Community Hall.  All are welcomed and encouraged to attend.  Click here for more details.


Native Grasses and Forage Shrubs in Farming Systems Field Days

Posted on 2 September, 2011 by Connecting Country

The North Central CMA are hosting two Native Grasses and Forage Shrubs Field Days.  These will take place in September at Lake Charm and Marnoo. Graeme Hand (CEO of Stipa Native Grasses Association Incorporated) and Jason Emms (SARDI Senior Research Scientist for the Enrich Program) will present and discuss information on a range of topics relating to utilising native grasses and forage shrubs in local productive farming systems.

The field day is a free event with lunch provided to those that RSVP.  Click here and here to see more details.

To register your interest in the field day please RSVP to the North Central CMA by 5 pm Monday 12 September 2011 on (03) 5448 7124 or


Digging down into Forest Creek

Posted on 1 September, 2011 by Connecting Country

Most Mount Alexander Shire residents and visitors to the area have seen photos of Forest Creek during the gold rushes, with enormous piles of dirt obliterating the watercourse. And most will know the creek as it is now, with substantial revegetation along most of its course. But the creek has other stories, not so well known, and these will be the subject of the third of Connecting Country free talks program for 2011 at Campbells Creek Community Centre on Thursday 8 September, to be presented by Robyn Ballinger.

‘The documents of the past give us a fascinating insight into the lesser known activities that happened along the creek,’ Robyn said yesterday.

‘Early maps, for example, show our creeks and rivers as being surrounded by excellent pasture land, suggestive of the kind of use the indigenous people would have made of it.  The presence of gold dramatically altered all this.’

Robyn’s talk will look at the creek from Golden Point to central Castlemaine, and tease out its many histories.  Forest Creek is known for its gold mining history, but people have made myriad other uses of this place over time. Using historical documents, Robyn will be providing a fascinating insight into the lesser-known activities that have shaped this local landscape.

Forest Creek at Welsh Street Bridge. Photo by John Ellis, August 2011

Robyn Ballinger’s presentation is a look at environmental history – how people have changed an environment over time and the consequences of that interaction for both nature and people.

To find out about this intriguing aspect of our local history, turn up to the Campbell’s Creek Community Centre on Thursday 8 September. A light supper made from local produce will be served from 6.30pm, and the talk will go from 7 to 9 pm.  Although the event is presented free as part of Connecting Country’s Yellow Box Woodland project, RVSPs from community members wishing to attend are encouraged to assist with catering (contact Chris on 5472 1594 or

The project is being undertaken in partnership with the North Central Catchment Management Authority and is co-funded by the federal Caring for our Country program and the state Natural Resource Investment Program.


Mount Alexander Community Grants Scheme 2011-2012

Posted on 31 August, 2011 by Connecting Country

The Mount Alexander Shire Council has announced the Mount Alexander Community Grants Scheme funding round for 2011-2012. It opens on 29 August and applications will close on 7 October 2011.

The grants scheme supports not-for-profit community organisations in the provision of facilities, programs and services that enhance quality of life and create a sustainable future for residents and visitors to the Mount Alexander Shire.  Copies of the 2011-2012 Community Grants guidelines and application form can be obtained from Council offices at 25 Lyttleton Street or 9 Halford Street Castlemaine, or on Council’s website and search for Community Grants.

There will be a series of information sessions on the following dates and locations.

  • Thursday 8 September 2011, 1pm, Ray Bradfield Room, Victory Park, Castlemaine
  • Thursday 15 September 2011, 1pm, Maldon Neighbourhood Centre, Church Street, Maldon
  • Thursday 15 September 2011, 6.30pm, Ray Bradfield Room, Victory Park, Castlemaine

For more information contact Kate Clifford on 5471 1744 or email


FriendsNET Newsletter

Posted on 22 August, 2011 by Connecting Country

The current FriendsNET newsletter from the Victorian Environment Friends Network can be downloaded here. This newsletter has information on the forthcoming 14th VEFN Biennial Conference to be held on September 2–4 at Campaspe Downs (near Kyneton).

A list of news ‘snippets’ from VEFN can be downloaded here.


New Field Guides on Mosses, Lichens and Fungi

Posted on 18 August, 2011 by Connecting Country

A meeting was recently held in Castlemaine to plan two new field guides covering mosses, lichens and fungi. This follows the success of the Castlemaine Field Naturalists folder guide to the indigenous plants of Castlemaine and surrounds. The new guides will be produced in the same format and the project has the support of FOBIF, Connecting Country and the Norman Wettenhall Foundation.

A field day is planned for 27 August to begin surveying local mosses. If you are interested in being involved in this new project, contact Bernard Slattery on 5470 5161.

Moss capsules, Metcalfe Nature Conservation Reserve, Photo by Bernard Slattery, May 30 2011


Community Tree Planting in Taradale

Posted on 18 August, 2011 by Connecting Country

Taradale Landcare has organised a community tree planting on Saturday 20 August. The meeting time is 10am and the meeting place is the Mineral Springs, Taradale. There will be plantings of Yellow Box, Blackwood and Manna Gums at Back Creek in the Taradale Mineral Springs and plantings of  Golden Wattle and Long-leaf Box at Kangaroo Creek by the Quartz Battery. It is suggested you dress warmly with sturdy boots. Morning tea will be provided.  Contact for further information.


Tackling Weeds in Three Ways

Posted on 17 August, 2011 by Connecting Country

Cactus Killers Wanted!

The Tarrangower Cactus Control Committee and Parks Victoria will hold their next community field day on Sunday 28 August starting at 10.30 pm.  The field day will be held at a property on the Baringhup Road near its intersection with the Hayes Road.  The route to the site will be well signposted.

The field day is an opportunity to enjoy some time outdoors while helping to eradicate Wheel Cactus from our district.  No experience is necessary and everyone concerned with the natural environment is most welcome.  Dress for the occasion in warm clothes and sturdy footwear.  The day will conclude at about 1 pm with a free sausage sizzle and cuppa.

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

Managing Weeds on Your Small Property
A free workshop (and BBQ) on managing weeds will be held on 12 September at Woodvale Public Hall, Woodvale, between 6.00 and 8.30pm. For more information, click here.

Mapping of Wheel Cactus and other weeds
Connecting Country are also still promoting the mapping of weeds, particularly Wheel Cactus, on the community interactive mapper website.  All data will make an important contribution to the understanding and control of these weeds in the local area.  For information on how to participate in Connecting Country’s mapping of Wheel Cactus, click here.


August edition of Groundcover

Posted on 17 August, 2011 by Connecting Country

There are two articles on Connecting Connecting activities in the lastest edition of the North Central CMA publication Groundcover, one on Woodland Bird Monitoring and the other on Dr Arn Tolsma’s upcoming presentation on fire and the box-ironbark forests. The edition can be downloaded here


Rehabilitating Clinkers Hill

Posted on 15 August, 2011 by Connecting Country

On Sunday 10 July a group of enthusiastic locals spent two hours removing weeds from the Clinkers Hill Bushland Reserve. This 2.1 hectare Reserve is situated between the township of Castlemaine and the Castlemaine Diggings National Heritage Park. It consists of two adjacent parcels of land along Preshaw St, beyond the southern end of the sealed section of road.

Some of the working bee participants. Photo by Chris Timewell.

Victoria Gully's ephemeral waterway. Photo by Bronwyn Silver.

The working bee was organised by Victoria Gully Group which is being assisted by Connecting Country and Parks Victoria to rehabilitate this bushland. The current focus of the project is weed control and supplementary plantings of locally indigenous tube stock. The long-term aim is to rehabilitate the whole Victoria Gully thus improving the habitat linkage between the National Heritage Park and Forest Creek. The project is part of Connecting Country’s broader Yellow Box Woodland project.

Community education will be an important part of the project. The Group plans to erect a sign to explain the project and encourage local participation.

More than 56 native plant species have been identified including numerous trees, shrubs, herbs, grasses, sedges and mistletoe. Unfortunately there are also many weed species which are prominent in the lower areas near the gully. More than 38 non-native flora species have already been identified. Weed control will include a mixture of hand pulling and chemical control and the focus will be on the most invasive exotic species including Tree Lucerne, Gorse, Hawthorn, Broom, Blackberry, Cootamundra Wattle and Briar Rose.

Working bees will take place regularly on the second Sunday of the month, beginning at 9.30 and ending at 11.30 followed by a cuppa.  If you have any enquires about this project or would like to participate in future working bees, ring Julie Hurley on 54 725082.

The working bee in action. Photos by Chris Timewell.



Connecting Country Woodland Bird Monitoring

Posted on 12 August, 2011 by Connecting Country

Connecting Country’s Project Officer, Bryan McMullan, has written the following report on the progress of the Woodland Bird Monitoring project:

“Connecting Country’s monitoring focus has recently shifted from nest boxes to woodland birds as the winter bird community puts on a wonderful display of recovery following favourable environmental conditions. This focus allows the use of woodland bird community diversity and numbers as an indicator of landscape change, especially as a result of beneficial land management strategies that have been funded and facilitated by Connecting Country.

A total of 50 bird survey sites have been selected across the Mt Alexander Shire region in consultation with landholders, members of the management committee and other environmental agencies/stakeholders. To generate a meaningful dataset that will tell the story of landscape change over time, site categories were developed such as reference sites (intact vegetation and geomorphology), restoration sites (where land rehabilitation will occur/has occurred) and sites of conventional use (under grazing &/or cropping regimes). All sites were to receive an ‘am’ and ‘pm’ survey to ensure a comprehensive snapshot was achieved for each location/site condition.

Flora and fauna consultants Garry and Brenda Cheers were engaged to perform the bird surveys within a timeframe that suited the sampling plan developed in partnership with Deakin University. Recently I have had the pleasure of discussing with Garry some of the exciting aspects of observations made during the survey work undertaken. After completing more than 70 surveys Garry reported the following notable observations: large groups of Striated Pardalote’s around the Yandoit area, Speckled Warblers observed in the Maldon Historic Reserve (Nuggetty aspect), a significant increase in the numbers and range of Flame Robins and Superb Fairy-wrens and an early appearance of spring migrants such as the Fan-tailed Cuckoo and Rufous Songlarks.

In general it appears that the numbers and diversity of small foraging birds are on the increase and that appearances this season of certain species and in these numbers may be quite unique in the landscape. This presents a wonderful opportunity for community groups and individuals alike to get out there and make some of their own observations and enjoy the festivity of calls and colours of our regions birdlife. For further information regarding this or other Connecting Country projects please contact the office on 5472 1594 or visit our website – “

Superb Fairy-wren (Geoff Park); Striated Pardalote (Patrick Kavanagh); Flame Robin (Geoff Park)


Volunteer Management Workshops

Posted on 11 August, 2011 by Connecting Country

The Bendigo Volunteer Resource Centre are conducting free volunteer management workshops.  These ‘hands on’ workshops will take place this month in Heathcote, Kyneton, Castlemaine and Maldon. They are suitable for community groups and Not-For- Profit organisations that rely on volunteers. The workshops will cover how to:

  • Strengthen and support community groups
  • Attract and retain new volunteers
  • Develop new recruitment strategies
  • Discover resources to assist with funding, marketing & managing organisations. Continue Reading »


Conservation and Land Management Course at BRIT

Posted on 11 August, 2011 by Connecting Country

There is an open day for the Certificate 1v/Diploma in Conservation and Land Management at Bendigo TAFE on Sunday 28 August (10am – 4pm). For more details click here.