Spring 2009 Newsletter

Have you spotted the Yellow-billed Kites yet? 
As usual, it is the tiny, fresh green Celtis Africana leaves which herald the beginning of Spring, bursting from the bare branches.   They are closely followed by the pink blossoms of Dais and Cape Chestnut, turning the mist-belt forests into a pretty patchwork.  A stroll in the grassland will reveal tiny floral treasures: the bright Cyrtanthus breviflorus (yellow fire lily), the little white Apodolirion buchananii (Natal Crocus) and the dainty Euryops laxa which are among the first plants to flower after fires.

Birds are all scrabbling busily in the undergrowth and frantically building nests as the weather warms up. Jenny and Derrick Fly were very fortunate to see a Starred Robin recently, during a stroll through the forest and are delighted that a Night Jar has taken up residence in their garden.  Tinks Fowler spotted a group of about 40 Crowned Cranes one evening along the Petrusstroom Road. Graham Griffin often sees Wattled and Blue Cranes beside Griffin Dam on top of the ridge.  Have you seen anything interesting lately? Let us know…

Dassie Update
On weekly visits to the site in which the 39 re-located Dassies were released, Graham has counted at least 19 on one occasion. They are difficult to monitor dashing in and out of the rocks, so it is very likely that more are actually still around. They appear to have settled in happily, spread out all along the ridge and a few have already been adopted.  Have a look at our “dassie page” on the website to see some photos of the release and more recent ones of healthy dassies. There are lots of interesting research papers and info about Rock Hyrax too. www.dargleconservancy.org.  

The Adopt-a-Dargle-Dassie Programme has been initiated so that you can directly contribute to enhancing the diversity of a forest near you and show your concern for environmental issues and the local ecology. You can also do this on behalf of family and friends to celebrate special occasions. It is the perfect Christmas gift for your (possibly homesick) family overseas and great too for urban relations who would enjoy making a meaningful contribution to conservation.  This has got to be the easiest and most eco-friendly festive shopping experience ever!  Barry Downard has designed a really quirky little certificate which will go to all Dassie Adopters. Get in soon, before they are all sold out! 

Outing to uMngeni Vlei
Saturday 10 October
Vaughan Koopman (Mondi Wetlands Programme) is in the process of arranging a walk to uMngeni Vlei.  We will send more details as soon as we have them, or call Vaughan 083 228 7949 for info.

Wildlife Conflict Management
A talk by Tim Snow of Endangered Wildlife Trust, an expert on predators. Tim will do a presentation with reference to the Dargle Dassies. According to the Karkloof Conservancy, whom he addressed last year, his talk is very interesting and informative.
Thursday 19 November, 5.30 for 6pm at Tanglewood Country House. Donation R10.00
Nicky Mann will provide a Buffet Supper at R60 per head afterwards.  To avoid going hungry (as many did at our last meeting!) please book ahead of time. Call Nicky Mann 083 645 5610 for supper reservations or Nikki Brighton 033 234 4289 for further details.

Forest Walk Report Back
Those people who turned up for the first of our series of Forest Walks in Old Kilgobbin Forest on Thursday 5 September, had a wonderful morning.  Thank you very much to Barend Booysen for hosting the walk and for the donation to the Conservancy.  Besides all the beautiful trees, 15 Cape Parrots were spotted and the colourful Loeries were very active calling in the tree tops. One of the walkers, Jennifer Willan, enthused “We were completely knocked out by the forest. We certainly live in one of the last remnants of paradise on this planet.”  Don’t miss this opportunity. Next walks scheduled for 1 October, 5 November, 3 December and 7 January.

Invasive Alien Vegetation Clearing
This time of the year, clearing programmes usually get going in earnest. It is still too early to spray American Bramble – green leafy branches need to be at least knee high in order to absorb enough chemicals to have any effect.  January to March is the optimum spraying time.  Remember too that flowering stems are dying anyway, so spraying them is simply a waste of chemicals and polluting the environment unnecessarily.

Don’t stop clearing the Bugweed though!  Best to cut them off at ground level using long handled loppers and spray the cut surface IMMEDIATELY with Chopper. Larger specimens can be ring-barked (bark comes off very easily when hit with a hammer) and the exposed area sprayed with Chopper.  Would anyone like to borrow the ”Chopper” DVD which has instructions in Zulu?  Call Kathy Herrington 072 156 1631.

We plan to invite Robin Denny, who spent a morning teaching us how to clear alien vegetation a couple of years ago, to come up again this summer. Are you interested? Call Kathy on 072 156 1631. In the meanwhile, have a look at the Dargle Conservancy website under Useful Information for articles on clearing alien vegetation.

Opportunities to contribute to Conservation
We are thinking of conducting an Annual Game Count as some other Conservancies do.  Is anyone interested in facilitating this?  It could be enormous fun and good chance to get to know neighbours a bit better. Let Andrew know if you are interested 082 494 0668.

The Dargle also requires someone to coordinate the Annual Cape Parrot Count which happens in May each year. With flocks of up to 40 parrots being counted this year, we really are a hot spot and need someone to ensure that this annual research programme is conducted successfully. Once again, contact Andrew for details.

Our Adopt-a-Dargle-Dassie project needs a campaigner. Someone who is keen to spend some time in the calm, cool forest occasionally to see how they are doing, keep up to date information, monitor the donations and send out certificates to those who have adopted one.  A very pleasant task for the right person – perhaps that is you? 

For any additional information please contact us.