Annual Bird Count day for Castlemaine district – 2&3 December 2017

For many years, the Castlemaine Field Naturalists Club has participated in Birdlife Australia’s annual Challenge Count.  This always takes place across the country on the first weekend in December – which is not a convenient time of the year with so many other competing end-of-year activities.  But it has also been the same weekend for decades, which allows a good comparison with the results from previous participations.  In 2017, this will allow us to record birds for a 24 hour period on or around the 2nd and 3rd December.

The aim is to document as many bird species as possible, and the also numbers of individuals, within a 25km radius of central Castlemaine within a single calendar day.  Whether a species is actively breeding (e.g. sitting on nest, feeding nestlings, taking food to a hollow) is also documented.  For a bird to be officially recorded on the team list, it must be accurately identified by at least two people by sight or by at least three people if it is heard only.

In 2016, Castlemaine’s overall team was made up of 5 separate groups which mostly ranged in size from three to five people, but with one group organised by Connecting Country containing more than 15.  There is no maximum group size, but having at least three is very helpful.  The five groups were dispersed in all directions across the district.  So far we have six groups prepared to go in 2017.

The results from the Castlemaine teams going back to 2011 are summarised below.  (Many earlier years are not recorded here).

You don’t need to be a birding expert, as you can be paired with a group that has at least one specialist.  It’s always a lot of fun, a chance to see some different local birding hotspots, add to the local knowledge and also learn a bit more about our feathered friends.  For more info or to express interest in being in a group, feel free to contact Chris before 30 November (  We also have a few locations that are not currently being covered if you have a new group to be involved.  We can also accept records from counts undertaken during your morning walk or from your backyard (as long as the birds were seen by 2 or more people, or heard by 3 or more people).


Challenge Count results from the Castlemaine team over recent years

Year # bird species # individual birds
2011 83 1328
2012 115 3296
2013 127 2727
2014 103 1789
2015 106 2087
2016 84 1212



8 Dec 2017 – Members’ Presentation Night – What’s your story?

It’s a tradition of the Castlemaine Field Naturalists Club that the December general meeting is set aside for club members to make a short presentation on a topic of their choice.  Of course there is no obligation to get up in front to tell a story, show some photos or even sing a song about some aspect of natural history from a local area or further afield.  But it is encouraged, and the audience is very supportive.

A projector and laptop will be available for those that want to show photos or a powerpoint display.  To allow as many people as possible the opportunity to give their presentation, there is a maximum of 7 minutes per person.  If you have a computer-based presentation, it is also preferable if you get there early to make sure that it all works OK.

If you don’t wish to get up in front of everyone, all members and supporters are encouraged to come along to listen, and to join us for a chat over supper  afterwards.  Bring along a plate of food to share, and help us celebrate the conclusion of another successful year for the club.

The evening commences from 7.30pm on Friday 8th December 2017 in the Chapel behind the Uniting Church on Lyttleton St, Castlemaine (next door to the Castlemaine Art Gallery).  The UC Parish has a dinner in the hall that night, so we cannot use our usual venue.

If you’ve got a bigger story to tell, why not also consider being one of our guest presenters in 2017.  We are on the lookout for people to be a monthly speaker – and are particularly encouraging of members and locals.  Contact the club at if you are interested – or if you know someone else who might be interested.

20 Nov 2017 – Rubbish clean-up in roadside vegetation

Three or so times a year, the club has committed to cleaning up the rubbish that has accumulated in a high quality native woodland.  This is located along a ~2km signposted section of the Pyrenees Hwy roadside reserve to the west of Castlemaine (i.e., on the road to Newstead; near the golf course).  The next Clean-up will be on Monday 20th November, and again we are seeking members and other interested volunteers to join the effort.  You might even get to hear or see a Scarlet Honeyeater!

If you are interested in helping out, meet at the corner of Pyrenees Hwy and Willy Milly Road (next to Tait Decorative Iron) at 9am on Monday 20 Nov.  Wear sturdy footwear and bring gloves. Garbage bags and reflective vests will be provided.  It is usually all finished by 11am.

Please Note: Rules prohibit anyone under 16 years from working on the roadside.
Thanks to Geoff and Geraldine Harris for coordinating this regular activity.

10 Nov 2017 – The Americans are Coming!

Ian Higgins is the guest speaker for the November CFNC meeting.  Ian is a renowned local botanist, and was recently recognised as the 2017 Victorian Landcarer of the Year for his work with the Friends of Campbells Creek Landcare group.

Ian’s talk, ‘The Americans are coming’, is to be about the invasive stipoid needle grasses that are spreading across many parts of Australia, including the local area.   His talk will cover:

Chilean Needle-grass (photo from the NSW DPI website).

What are they?—the seven species currently known (or prohibited in the case of Mexican Feather-grass) from Victoria
Where are they? i.e., where known to exist in Victoria and in our district.
Why are they a problem? Their behaviour and the threat posed to natural values
How can I identify them? Identification characteristics, especially how to distinguish them from native grasses
How are they spreading?  Dispersion strategies and human involvement.
How to manage them?  Duration of seed viability in soil, herbicides, etc.

Ian has also offered to help members and visitors to identify different grass species on the night.  If you have a specimen that you suspect is a weed, bring it along (preferably in a sealed plastic bag to prevent the spread of seeds).

The meeting is to be held from 7.30pm on the second Friday in November (10th Nov). Members and visitors all welcome.  It will be at the Uniting Church on Lyttleton St, Castlemaine – next door to the Art Gallery.  Due to exams being held in hall, this talk will be held in the chapel at the rear of the main church building.

There is to be an excursion on the following day (Sat 11th Nov) to view some stipoid grasses in the field with a specialist.  More details to follow soon.


Wednesday Wildflower Wanders

Our Wednesday afternoon mini-excursions to see the Spring wildflowers will continue for a few more weeks.  We leave from the carpark opposite the motel on Duke St Castlemaine at 4 pm, and aim to be back by about 5.15 pm, depending on how good the flower show is.
On Wednesday 11th October we will probably look along Morgans Track, near Chewton, and on Wednesday 18th we may make a return visit to Kalimna.

Saturday October 14th – Excursion – Sticky Boronias

The CFNC excursion on Saturday 14th October will be to the Red White & Blue Track in the Muckleford Forest, led by  Richard Piesse.
Depart at 1.30 pm from the car park opposite the Castle Motel on Duke St in Castlemaine (next to the Octopus building).  Bring afternoon tea,  suitable footwear.
We will visit the fenced plots where rare Sticky Boronea plants have been protected.  They are spectacular in flower at present, and are spreading along the ridge.  Then back to the mine site area for further exploration.

Friday October 13th – Guest speaker

Our guest speaker this month is Robyn Davidson, who will talk about aspects of her travels in Australia. The presentation is from 7.30pm on Friday 13th October in the normal location – the Fellowship Room behind the Uniting Church on Lyttleton St (next door to the Castlemaine Art Gallery).  Visitors are welcome.
Robyn’s first book, ‘Tracks’, an account of her journey alone, with camels, across Australia, won several awards, and has been published in twenty languages. Since publication in 1980, it has never been out of print. She has been travelling ever since, and has written extensively on many topics.