Hunter Connections Newsletter April 2015

"The Time to Plant is Now"

We have been running a recruitment campaign for the Stepping Stones Project: ‘The Time to Plant is Now!’ on Radio 2NM / Power FM in the Upper Hunter in recent weeks.  The aim of the campaign is to engage with more landowners in the Muswellbrook and Merriwa Plateau area, and offer assistance for planning and planting to establish some critically important stepping stones in the Upper Hunter. Planting has started on the 90 ha or so of projects we have locked in across the Hunter. We are of course also looking for more planting opportunities in the Lower Hunter around and within the Lower Hunter Green Corridor – so if you know anyone let us know...

Also, thanks to a handful of our dedicated landholders we have produced two inspirational videos about the Stepping Stones project. They feature examples from Stepping Stones on ground activities and interviews with participating landowners from both the upper and lower Hunter telling their stories and spruiking the benefits of joining this project. These videos were filmed and produced at the end of last year by Rosemary and Geoff Crane from Mosquito Productions.
You can check out the radio ad and have a look at the videos both which are on display on the front page of our website  Please pass on this message to any landowners you think might be interested in receiving planting assistance on their properties – The Time to Plant is Now!
Sunday, 29 March 2015 23:06

Stepping Stones Project Update

Stage 5 Report

The Stage 5 report for the Stepping Stones Project was recently uploaded into MERIT, the Australian Governments monitoring, evaluation, reporting and improvement tool. It summarises the project’s progress against activities and outcomes for the period 1st July 2014 to 31st December 2015.

Some key outcomes from Stage 5 include:

  • 2,636 people attended project activities and events, this included 597 new participants and 54 new farming entities
  • Completed 31 ha of new restoration works across 11 properties
  • Completed 40 ha of follow-up across 18 properties
  • Completed 2 ha of biodiversity connectivity plantings
  • Influenced management over 1547 ha of properties in the Hunter
  • 598 ha of properties nominated as Stepping Stones across the Hunter Valley
  • Delivered two school bird monitoring field trips
  • Delivered three landholder workshops
  • Delivered two youth and community forums
  • Delivered two GER (Greater Eastern Ranges) Hunter Partnership meetings
  • Carried out 2 seasonal systematic bird surveys across 10 existing sites and established 10 additional sites in the Upper Hunter that had their first survey in Spring.
  • Distributed Stepping Stones property signs to landholders
  • Rebuilt Stepping Stones Project website see
  • Produced two short videos and a 30 second radio advertisement for participant recruitment campaigns and promotion – available on the website
The online MERIT reporting system keeps a running tally of outcomes from each stage of the Stepping Stones Project. These are presented as pie charts and summary points. For example, see the screen shots from MERIT below showing the total number of events and project participation since the start of the Project. These statistics are worth celebrating! We are at the half way mark for the project with 5 stages still to complete, it will be wonderful to see the final ‘meritorious results at the end of June 2017.
Sunday, 29 March 2015 23:25

Bird Workshop at Mt Vincent

Wonderful Woodland

By Dani Loyd-Prichard
It was all about birds (and bees) at the recent Birdlife Australia’s Woodland Bird Identification and Survey Methods Workshop held at Colin and Pamela Fitzsimons property in Mt Vincent. Twenty participants were treated to inspiring images and stories about the importance of temperate woodlands and the birds that rely on them. 
Ornithologist Mick Roderick from Birdlife Australia presented the workshop and took participants through the basics of bird identification focussing on size, shape, colour, behaviour, and habitat. He stressed the importance of learning the ‘Jizz’ (General Impression of Shape and Size) of familiar birds and their calls. The standard 20-minute 2-hectare bird survey method was explained and then the fun began outside as participants practised their newly learned skills.
Over 30 birds were seen and/or heard during a one-hour walk around some woodland bird habitat on the property. The birds included; grey strike thrush, yellow faced honeyeater, white napped honeyeater, lewins honeyeater, scarlet honeyeater, mistletoe bird, noisy minor, noisy friarbird, willie wagtail, brown gerygone, brown thornbill, grey butcherbird, pied butcherbird, bassian thrush, wonga pigeon, brown cuckoo dove, superb fairy wren, eastern rosella, azure kingfisher, purple swamphen, grey goshawk, kookaburra, white throated treecreeper, bell minor, eastern spinebill, silvereye, straw necked ibis, king parrot, little wattlebird, currawong, raven, and golden whistler. An aggregation of Australian native bees, Lipotriches sp. were spotted hanging out on a blade of barbed wire grass in a paddock (see photo).
Gabe Anderson, the Facilitator of the Great Eastern Ranges Initiative (GER), gave an update on the Stepping Stones project in the Lower Hunter. This was Gabe’s last official duty in his GER role as he is heading north in April to take up a position with the Nature Conservation Trust based out of Lismore. Good luck Gabe you’ll be greatly missed in the Hunter but your legacy of stepping stones and green corridor reconnections will live on forever – Thank you. 
Tuesday, 07 April 2015 00:34

Making Connections a Reality

Mary and Rob's Story

When Mary and Rob moved to their 16 hectare block at Mt Vincent they thought it could do with a few trees. Nestled between the Watagans and the village of Mulbring the block was an ideal opportunity for them to realise the dream of self sufficiency.
"When we first moved here there was practically nothing here, just a few old trees. We came from a bush block and decided that it needed trees, so we started on the roadway" says Mary.
Mary and Rob soon had orchards and vegetable gardens established and ran a small herd of cattle on the land. As keen plant propagators and Landcare members Mary and Rob also quickly established a screen of native trees along their roadside as the first of many native plantings on the property. But over time it became apparent that the location of the block presented opportunities not just to provide for their own needs but to become a critical linkage to allow native species to move and so survive in the area as well.
"The Stepping Stones project contacted the secretary of our Landcare group and let us know that there was money and help available. Gabriel (Anderson) came and saw us and said that because we were in an important link the project would be happy to put some plants in to join up the farms in the area", says Mary. "I already had the plants up and I didn't really want plants from other places because I like them coming from local stock but we really needed some help with fencing and they gave us money and help with that"
Mary and Rob's efforts on their farm is now able to join up with efforts on neighbouring farms to create a bigger benefit for the environment than can be achieved by working alone.
"Our group is trying to link up the Wattagan Forest behind us with corridors all the way through down to Brunkerville and Wallace creek. On our farm we are linking this section through to Simons forest down the back." Mary added.
The Stepping Stones project is part of the Great Eastern Ranges Initiative and is working on restoring critical links in the Hunter Region.
“Working in the Brunkerville and Mt Vincent areas has been fantastic. The enthusiasm and interest from landholders has led to the Stepping Stones project working with over 20 properties in the region. Many of these properties border each other or are close by meaning they have a real opportunity to create regional corridors – and they are doing just that.” As Stepping Stones are established and habitat improved landholders will be hoping to see more wildlife including birds such as the Critically Endangered Regent Honeyeater at their places.
"The Stepping Stones team have been very supportive and very easy to work with. They have encouraged us and helped us with money for fencing and that's allowed us to create important linkages as well as stopping erosion and improving water retention on our land" Mary concluded.