Winter 2009 Newsletter

During Winter our famous golden hills are striped with black as farmers burn firebreaks, closely watched by raptors hoping for an easy meal. The smoke-filled air creates spectacular sunsets which are the perfect prelude to a cosy evening in front of a wattle fuelled fire listening to the little wood owls which call at night.   Despite the frost, there are still lots of glorious orange Leonotis leonaurus flowering in the grasslands attracting bright sunbirds and simply abuzz with butterflies and bees.  Certainly winter in the Dargle is a colourful time.

The burning season is upon us and however much fun it is, an annual scorched earth policy is not the most productive for our local flora and fauna.  Natural forests should NEVER be used as firebreaks.  See the article prepared by Dr Ken Willan for more interesting insights and facts about fire, on our website under Useful Information.
Basic guidelines when burning off your land:

  1. Emulate nature’s way of doing things; a patchy burn is best
  2. Burn at different times during successive years according to a predetermined grid to create a small mosaic of burned and unburned patches.
  3. Undertake any main burn under the most favourable conditions for plants and animals (a slow, cool, patchy burn is preferred), and not for the sake of producing a uniformly blackened landscape.

For queries regarding burning contact the Lions River Fire Protection Association – Bobby Hoole on the telephone: 0829018795 or email

Interesting wildlife spotted recently:
A caracal hunting in the stream bed at Dargle Farm.
A group of seven Oribi on Old Kilgobbin Farm.
26 Grey Crowned Cranes were seen on the bank of the Mngeni River at Lane’s End farm.
A flock of up to 40 Cape Parrots, see almost daily for the past two months at the top of the D707 and D666, often settling in some tall gum trees. Recently, a group of 20 made such a racket for two hours that they completely disrupted one of Carl Bronner’s Horseplay sessions!
Ralph Correia counted 54 parrots in his pecan nut trees last week.
What have you seen?  Please let us know.

New Committee:
Andrew Anderson -, Graham Griffin-, Barry Downard -, Kathy Herrington -, Clive Shippey -, Vaughn Koopman - and Nikki Brighton - We have met twice since the AGM.  We will continue with our usual portfolios of interest – water, nature reserve, development monitoring and alien control.  Our big project this year will be the dassies – see below.

Dargle Dassies
As many of you know, the Midlands Rock Hyrax population was virtually wiped out about 10 years ago by a virus infection or mange.  Graham Griffin, who grew up on the original Dargle farm says “when I was a youngster, I remember their being plenty of Dassies about, nowadays we see few.” As part of the Dargle Conservancy efforts to create a nature reserve in our valley, dassie re-introductions are planned to start to building a healthy food web again.  

After successfully bidding for a group of 40 at the Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife auction in June, they will be re-introduced to rocky cliffs above the mist belt forest where Graham remembers them being. Here they have access to the crevices which will enable them to establish paths needed to escape most predators. Initially their diet will be supplemented with vegetables and water placed outside the caves and their well-being will be monitored constantly.  To generate some excitement around the project, we will be introducing a fundraising “Adopt a Dassie” programme so that you can directly contribute to enhancing the diversity of the forest.   We plan extend the re-introduction to other areas in the Dargle in future and as the food web is strengthened, eventually introduce the now very rare blue duiker.

Soon our Website will feature a ‘Dassie’ page where interested parties can give a Dassie a decent home or make a donation on behalf of someone else.  A contribution of R500 will entitle you to a certificate and regular updates on the progress of the project and will assist us to conduct ongoing research with a view to sharing the information with others in future.

Experts and Specialist Speakers
All our get-togethers this year will focus on increasing our knowledge of issues surrounding the Dassie Project.  We have invited Meyrick Bowker (UKZN) to do a talk on Forest Ecology and Tim Snow (EWT) to talk about Predators.  Dates and venues to be advised soon.     

Pooley’s Trees
As many of you will know, the wonderful resource Trees of Natal, Zululand & Transkei (1993), is being updated.  The new book called Pooley’s Trees includes many new and additional species, new photographs, maps and drawings of over 1000 species of trees, woody shrubs and climbers, a remarkable store of information. Richard Boon has worked on this revised edition over the last 5 years with the Flora Publication Trust. The Dargle Conservancy has subscribed to the book to assist in getting it published and they would welcome other subscribers too.  Contact MaryLynn Grant at 031 5639481 or for a subscriber form. It will be your only chance to purchase a hard cover copy of the book.

Thank you to the 42 members who have paid their annual subs.  Those who haven’t paid, should expect a phone call from a committee member soon!

Keep warm, burn mindfully and keep your eyes peeled for more interesting wildlife.

For any additional information please contact us.