Treasured Volunteers

Native Grasses, More Than Meets The Eye

Wild Encounters in the Skies Above

Mudgee Microscope Group on a mission to educate locals on landscape

For this week’s catchment corner, we’re shining the spotlight on one of our special interest community groups. The Mudgee Microscope Group!
Born out of a soil health workshop in 2014, the group formed with the aim to look a little closer at our precious landscape and to learn about new ideas, practices and places that are important for living an environmentally conscious life.

Don’t let the ‘microscope’ deter you! This is far from a hardcore science program, our goal is to learn practical skills to improve our land, gardens and lifestyles, to be more sustainable and resilient.

A social group at heart, it is a joy to meet once a month to chat and catch up, taking walks in nature, enjoying morning tea or evening drinks together and sharing in the learning journey. It’s a wonderful platform for our members to share their own knowledge and skills so we all end up going home after every meeting with a head full of new, bright ideas & perspectives.

At our latest meeting, we visited the Wollar cemetery which is home to a collection of native grasses, shrubs and herbs that are nowadays hard to find in the surrounding rural landscape. Cemeteries in the area, with soils that have been left undisturbed by cultivation since settlement, now act as important reserves for native biodiversity that is disappearing. The workshop was led by local botanist Christine McRae, we took a walk and found some of these rare native gems and learned some identification skills before enjoying the Autumn sunshine with a picnic and a cuppa!

The focus topics are chosen by our members based on what’s interesting and important to them. From its origins in soil health, the Microscope Group has evolved to cover a huge range of fascinating topics in the form of workshops and field trips. From Frog identification, earth building and seed collection to farm visits, permaculture and book clubs. We occasionally host expert guest speakers and have additional opportunities to attend different types of events outside the group.

There’s something for everyone and we think more local people would get a lot out of these monthly gatherings. We’d love to see you at our next meeting. It’s a great way to meet new people and get the creative juices flowing. Just get in touch with your local coordinator and we’ll keep you in the loop!

 

Native Tubestock for Sale

Looking for plants that are grown locally?

Our Landcare Nursery volunteers, Christine, Wendy & David have been nurturing seedlings over the past 9 months.

There are a range of species but numbers are limited. If you’re not sure about what species to plant where, take a look at our planting guide.

Native plants grown with love & care, ready for a good home!
Perhaps your garden, gully or paddock?

Some plants are ready for planting now (N), others will be ready for spring planting (S) eg Acacia decora Western Silver Wattle ( 0-N, 29-S).

Contact Claudia if you would like to make a purchase.

Please email with your quantities and we will advise if they are still available. Payment is required to confirm order and before pick up can be arranged.

All plants $3.00
Financial members discount price $2.50 (what a good reason to renew your membership!)

 

Species Common name (quantity/planting time)
Eucalyptus blakelyi
Eucalyptus camaldulensis
Eucalyptus crebra
Eucalyptus viminalis
 
Blakely’s Red Gum (13/S)
River Red Gum (27/N)
Narrow-leaved Red Ironbark (18/N)
Manna Gum (60/S)

N: ready to plant now
S: plant in spring

Have you seen a blue Superb Fairy-wren lately?

The Superb Fairy-wren is one of Australia’s most recognisable and favourite birds. And who doesn’t enjoy watching the antics of these charismatic, active and social backyard visitors? But did you know that the males undergo a seasonal colour change?

The striking iridescent blue with highly contrasting black and grey markings of the male Superb Fairy-wren is instantly recognisable. But the males only adopt this colouring for the duration of the breeding season in the warmer months. There is a good evolutionary reason for moulting twice a year, instead of once a year like most other birds.

While these little birds are socially monagamous, they are sexually promiscuous. They live in family groups and the dominant male and female form a stable pair to raise young, but both partners will mate with many individuals from other groups. So males adopt showy, noticeable colouring to attract as many females from nearby groups as possible.

As the breeding season ends and we move into winter, the breeding males revert to the duller, grey-brown colour of females, juveniles and non-breeding males. During this time insects become less abundant and the birds need to spend the majority of their time in the open foraging.

Being extremely attractive to the ladies has its cost. Fairy-wrens are vulnerable to predation from larger native birds such as Magpies, Kookaburras and Currawongs as well as introduced mammals like the fox and cat. Although brilliant blue feathers may be extremely attractive to females, it also makes the breeding males highly conspicuous to predators.

And the birds seem to be aware of this too. A study conducted by Monash University and Australian National University found that plumage colour changed behaviour.

The researchers played low-level and high-level alarm calls to the birds through portable speakers. Birds were fitted with coloured leg bands allowing the team to track individual birds’ responses.

The team found that males in their blue plumage were much more cautions than in their brown plumage. They reacted to low-level alarm calls more readily and took a longer time to come out from shelter.

The behaviour of other birds in the group was also affected. When a blue male was nearby, other wrens were less responsive to alarm calls and devoted less time to keeping a look-out.

The results suggest that the seasonal colour change is an adaptation that allows the birds to have the best of both worlds: they can be sexually attractive and bright while breeding, but also dull coloured and difficult to detect by predators outside the breeding season.

Environmental health through community

Local landcare group, Watershed Landcare, remains focused on promoting and facilitating environmental sustainability and natural resource management in our region. Our mission: to engage, empower and support our community to achieve a resilient and sustainable environment within the Watershed Landcare district.

And that’s no mean feat in a region of diverse land use and community interests with a footprint of 900,000 ha!

Sustainable agriculture and care for our natural environment are key priority areas. We work with our members and the community to improve knowledge and awareness, and to increase the uptake of sustainable land management practices.

We strive to promote practices that protect and enhance biodiversity, including threatened species and endangered ecological communities, while bringing innovation and sustainability into agricultural production; that means getting people to do business in a sustainable and viable fashion and fostering value in their natural assets.
To encourage the uptake of innovative practices we provide training in the latest agricultural and land management practices and techniques, focusing on a diverse range of topics such as grazing management, building soil carbon and health, plant identification and management of invasive species.

In the last year we have supported our members to conduct projects to protect and enhance native vegetation on their land by establishing paddock trees and corridors; providing not only habitat linkages but also contributing multiple benefits to productive systems. Our Sustainable Soil Management workshops provided participants with subsidised soil tests, resources, guidance and training to enable them to make their own decisions on soil management and building fertility.

Late last year we ran a series of events to refresh and reinvigorate our community in the midst of drought. We hosted workshops on the use social media for small business as well as a Rural Refresh evening with an inspirational panel of speakers.

Our special interest groups remain a high priority and we have supported the Grazing Group, Mudgee Microscope Group, Women in Ag Group, Mudgee Bee Group and the Friends of Putta Bucca to explore topics of interest and provide a peer support network and an active forum for discussion for their members.

Current COVID-19 restrictions have meant that a number of our activities have been put on hold, or even cancelled. But our Committee remains active and our Coordinators are still working from home to support and engage our community.

Want to find out more about what we do or how to get involved or just need a chat? Contact one of our Coordinators, Claudia Wythes on 0412 011 064 or Agness Knapik on 0435 055 493 or email: info@watershedlandcare.com.au.

Do you have a great idea for a project, speaker or topic we should explore? Let us know, we’re always on the look out for fresh ideas.

Do you know your harvestable rights?

Did you know that the size and location of your property dictates how much water you are permitted to hold in dams?

In our region, rural landholders can capture and store 10% of the average rainfall run-off on their land without a licence. The total allowable capacity of your dams is called the Maximum Harvestable Right Dam Capacity (MHRDC).

To work out your MHRDC, use the calculator available on the WaterNSW website. The calculator will specify the total legal capacity of dams on your property and takes into account rainfall and variations in rainfall pattern and the size of your land. If you are thinking of constructing a new dam, you must factor in the volume of any existing harvestable rights dams on your property.

Approval and licences are required for the construction of dams which exceed your MHRDC.

Harvestable right dams can be constructed on first or second-order streams. These are minor watercourses that do not permanently flow, or carry flow from third or higher order streams.

First-order streams do not have any other watercourses flowing into them, they form the top of a catchment. Where two first-order streams meet, they become a second-order stream.

A second-order stream that has other first-order streams flowing into it remains a second-order stream. However, when two second-order streams meet they become a third-order stream.

To identify the stream order on your property you will need to refer to a legislated topographic map.

There are a number of exceptions when calculating your harvestable rights. Dams constructed for the purposes of flood mitigation, soil erosion prevention or control, or containment of drainage or effluent do not contribute towards the total capacity of dams allowed on your property under harvestable rights. Dams without a catchment, such as turkey nest dams used for storage of ground water or water pumped from a river, are also not included.

However, the construction of these dams may still require other approvals and licencing and the use of water held in these structures may be subject to conditions.

More information about water licencing and compliance and the harvestable rights calculator are available on the WaterNSW website: https://www.waternsw.com.au/customer-service/water-licensing.

We have also collated some useful resources on our website: http://watershedlandcare.com.au/resources/water-management.

 

Watershed Landcare AGM

Local landcare group, Watershed Landcare, held its Annual General Meeting last Friday, 23 November. The meeting was well attended and gave members an overview of Watershed’s activities over the past year as well as an opportunity to mingle and chat at the supper afterwards.

Watershed Landcare Chair, Viviene Howard outlined the group’s 2018 activities and her presentation acknowledged and celebrated the contirbution of the organisation and it’s members to environmental and natural resource management in our region.

“As Chair I’m continually surprised at how many people we touch in the community. As a group we have fantastic reach and do lots of great things for the environment as a result.” said Ms Howard.

Notable achievements of 2018 included attracting project funding to conduct on-ground works, as well as new funding for the Pest Cooordinator role; 7 field days with 250 participants;

the Mudgee Small Farm Field Days program and members efforts in growing tubestock for sale at the event; adoption of a new constitution and 3 year strategic plan; new partnerships and maintaining sponsorship for Green Day and making sure the event is sutainable.

The 10th annual Green Day got a special mention. The theme of this year’s event was waste and featured ABC TV’s Craig Reucassel as keynote speaker. It was the largest Green Day to date and Ms Howard thanked Green Day Coordinator, Beth Greenfield for her contribution.

“It was an amazing event and supremely organised.” she said.

The Communities of Practice groups, the Mudgee Microscope Group, Grazing Group, Women in Ag Group and Mudgee Bee Group, also remain a strong focus, bringing together diverse groups of people with similar goals. The 4 groups held 31 activities throughout the year focusing on members interests.

The election of office bearers for 2019 was overseen by returning officer, Julie Reynolds.

Ms Howard was re-elected as the Chair for the 2019 Commitee. Sonia Christie, Christine McRae and Hunter White will hold the positions of Vice-chair, Secretary and Treasurer, repspectively. Jane Young and Rosemary Hadaway will fill the other executive positions.

The Watershed Landcare Committee meets at 5:30pm on the first Wednesday of the month. The new Executive Committee will hold it’s first meeting in February 2019. All Watershed Landcare members are welcome to attend.

If you would like more information about any of our projects or would like to join one of our special interest groups contact our Coordinator, Agness Knapik, on 0435 055 493 or info@watershedlandcare.com.au.

Keep an eye on our Catchment Corner column for news and upcoming events, workshops and seminars.

Recognising and increasing the value of roadside corridors

Do you want to increase productivity, reduce operating costs and improve the land value of your farm?

The Central Tablelands region is one of the most highly cleared areas of woodland in NSW. The Central Tablelands were once dominated by box gum woodlands. Due to extensive clearing box gum woodlands are now highly fragmented and have been declared threatened ecological communities.

Roadside corridors are some of the highest value native vegetation remnants in our district. Not only do they provide corridors for the movement of wildlife and add to the picturesque aspect of our district, but they can also be used to extend their value onto your our own property.

Roadside remnants can be utilised on your farm by allowing natural regeneration from the roadside vegetation to occur, planting similar species on your side of the fence, or establishing an internal network of shade trees, vegetation corridors or shelter belts.

There are many benefits to inviting the roadside remnant vegetation inside your property:

  • Farms with shade trees and shelter belts are more aesthetically appealing and attract a premium over average land values. A survey conducted in the Central West indicated that farms with good quality native vegetation have a 15% increase on capital value compared to those without.

  • Pasture productivity is increased by remnant native vegetation and established shelter belts. Native trees and shrubs provide habitat for birds, lizards and bats, the natural enemies of pasture pests.

  • Pastures with some tree cover experience less soil moisture loss than those exposed to the full force of the wind.

  • Cold and heat stress in livestock can significantly reduce farm income by reducing stock fertility, weight gain, wool growth, milk production, and increasing the mortality rate of calves and lambs and the susceptibility of stock to disease.

  • Mature trees help to maintain and improve soil structure and fertility.

Many mature trees on our farms reaching the end of their lifespan, and once they are gone so will the benefits they provide. Landholders can the maintain these valuable ecosystem services by encouraging native vegetation regrowth on their farms.