Newsletter - Winter 2011


The Annual Cape Parrot Count in May was a subdued affair, with miserable weather and only 13 parrots recorded in the Dargle. While many residents reported not having seen any for ages, large flocks arrived in time to celebrate World Environment Day on the weekend of 5 June. Kevin Barnsley counted 35, Carl Bronner spotted 38 flying over, Derek Fly saw about 40 in his Yellowwood trees.  Gilly Robartes reported they spent a raucous morning in her garden and Justin and Karin Herd are delighted to report that they have flocks of 40-50 birds leaving their forest after sunrise and returning between 4-5pm to roost overnight.  A flock of about 50 flew over Sandra and Pat Merrick (on the Lidgetton side of the Dargle ridge), where parrots are not usually seen and Gill Addison had one spend the morning in her garden – another first. The Earlys have 19 in their trees every day.

Colleen Downs, of the Cape Parrot Working Group, thinks that the forest trees didn’t fruit as well as usual (summer drought and autumn rain) which is the reason birds are foraging outside the forest for pecan nuts and other food.


  • Sandra Merrick reports: 7 wattled crane and 3 crested crane all arrived together at the dam on 1 July.  What excitement.  The most we've seen at once in 25yrs here, is 3 so a great bonus. They danced around for half hour and then flew off with their rusty screw call.  The crested stayed longer.
    We saw 2 spoonbills this morning. We also have had a pair of barn owls nesting in the eaves of our roof and have produced 2 beautiful babies. We have an Antbear digging enormous holes every night on the sides of our driveway and a number of resident porcupine and jackals.  The jackals have been eating our newborn Nguni calves who are left in hiding by their mothers during the day. We also have about 20 Reedbuck, 2 Duiker and one Oribi came within 50metres of the house a few days ago. A pair of lynxes comes over the hills every now and then.
  • Kevin and Margie Culverwell have two pairs of resident Half Collared Kingfishers which they see regularly and which are quite unusual this far inland. They are listed as rare & localised.
  • Visitors on the Dargle Forest Walk at Kilgobbin Cottage last week were thrilled to spot a White-Starred Robin.
  • Nikki Brighton reports: A pair of Gurney’s Sugarbirds in a clump of Kniphopia flowers, which have been providing winter nourishment to a succession of Double Collared and African Black Sunbirds all month. The Vepris lanceolata (Ironwood) is alive with a variety of birds, including Bush Black Cap, Golden Oriols, and thick-billed Weavers, feasting on the black berries. Group of nine Reedbuck and two Oribi seen in the grassland often and a baby duiker beside the road.

  • Andrew and Susi Anderson have a crowned eagle visiting them, and snacking on their chickens and ducks occasionally. A pair of Jackal Buzzards with a juvenile circling often and Fish Eagles calling.  Also a lone Samango monkey – quite far from the forest.

Dargle Fun
The Dargle Conservancy is very proud to count amongst it’s valued members, The Hurdy-Gurdies, who sang a light hearted send up of Dargle life at Il Postino recently.  Congratulations to Karin Herd, Patty Perry, Lucinda Bate, Bernard Janisch, Helen and Barend Booysen who put together an entertaining performance.  Sergio and Sandy Guerrera hosted a thoroughly enjoyable and heart-warming evening attended by the who’s who of the Dargle.  Thank you all. Sergio intends hosting Community Gatherings each Spring and Autumn.  

Dargle Conservancy AGM
This was a successful evening at the end of May enjoyed by all.  Guests from outside of the Dargle commented:

  • Ann Burke – KZN Crane Foundation: Thank you for such an inspiring AGM. The Dargle Conservancy ROCKS!
  • Kevin McCann – Wildlands: I must admit that the Dargle Conservancy is probably the most proactive and active conservancy I am aware of. You are all doing amazing work, it is so refreshing to go to a conservancy AGM and see incredible work being done – well done!
  • Pam McLaren – DUCT: great seeing you all again, we love being part of the Dargle family!
  • Karen Zunkle - enviro&eco services consultant: Thanks so much for all the fantastic work you are doing to sensitise our community towards sustainability.
  • Malcolm Draper: It is good to see the conservancy concept evolving from it's Midlands origins based in elite white landowner resource control and security. Inspiring photography and talk, well done.

We are delighted to welcome Katie Robinson onto the DC Committee. We are certain that her enthusiasm and commitment to conservation will be a great asset to the Conservancy.  She plans to host a walk through Lemonwood forest soon.


Wednesday 3 August - Movie Night 5.30 for 6 at Tanglewood Country House
The largest domestic natural gas drilling boom in history has swept across the United States. Part travelogue, part expose, part mystery, part bluegrass banjo meltdown, part showdown, Gasland is a cross-country odyssey with unexpected humour, uncovering a trail of secrets, lies and contamination. 

Fracking could be coming to KZN. Robin Barnsley, President of Kwanalu will introduce the film and talk about the implications of fracking and prospecting for local landowners.

Please invite your neighbours and fill your car to travel to the movie.  We can’t really complain about energy prospecting and the collateral environmental damage while we guzzle gas ourselves.
Prizes for those who come on foot, bicycle or skateboard!

Wednesday 31 August – Movie Night 5.30 for 6 at Tanglewood Country House
This movie lifts the veil on the food industry, exposing the highly mechanised underbelly that has been hidden from the consumer.  Food supply is controlled by a handful of corporations that often put profit ahead of consumer health, the livelihood of farmers, safety of workers and the environment.

Nicky Mann will prepare a special local, seasonal menu for us, so do stay and enjoy the tastes of the Dargle and some convivial conversation. Food Inc reveals surprising and often shocking truths about what we eat, how it is produced, who we have become and where we are going.
Bring seeds (or produce) to swop with your neighbours. 

Forest Walks:
4 August, 1 September and 6 October
Don’t miss the opportunity to walk in the mist belt forest as the new growth emerges on deciduous tree tops and the forest floor comes alive too.
9am to 11am at Kilgobbin Cottage D707
Phone Barend Booysen for details and to book: 082 787 0797
Donation R10 to Conservancy funds

It is the International Year of Forests. Forests cover less than 0.25% of Southern Africa's surface area, with over 1200 plant species recorded from our forests. What is the difference between a natural forest and a plantation?  This is the question which budding scientists at Corrie Lynn Primary have been asking lately. 
During a lesson on forest ecology Grade 5,6,7 learners dressed up as the creatures of the forest eco-system and noisily acted out their role, trying to find food, whilst trying not to be eaten!    Next, they made the survey equipment that they would need for their experiment – measuring poles, a 5m long transect rope marked at 1m intervals and designing the data sheet to record their findings.

The next activity involved exploring the plantation next to the school. Here they had to lay the transect, set out a quadrant to count invertebrate species, and measure the plant structure.  In the plantation, it was found that most of the trees were the same height, that there was not much variation in the height of the undergrowth, and that the most number of invertebrates found in the soil was eight species.

A week later, the group set off up the hill to visit the mist-belt forest at Kilgobbin Cottage. Walking along the path they observed and recorded mammals, birds, insects and signs of animal life. Deep in the forest, the quadrant survey was repeated, with special emphasis on the need to be gentle while exploring the homes of tiny creatures.   They discovered a vast number of different species in the forest compared to the plantation.  Then the plant measuring activity was conducted, with a majestic Yellowwood tree being measured at over 25m tall. 

After some quiet time listening to the forest sounds and thanking the forest for a lovely morning, it was back to school to compile bar graphs on the data collected. A learner’s happy comment on the walk back "I feel so homely in the forest. The animals are so kind".

Dargle Conservancy supports the Midlands Meander Education Project to co-teach creative environmental lessons at Corrie Lynn and Dargle Primary Schools. There is no doubt that with the support of enthusiastic educators, and simple research exercises and techniques to bring about an understanding and awe of Nature, these learners are on their way to contributing to the field of Natural Science in future.
For more information visit or contact


  1. From 1 May to 31 October, no landowner or land user shall make a fire in the open air, or if such a fire has been made, allow it to continue to burn or add fuel thereto.
  2. From 1 June to 31 October no landowner or land user shall destroy any groundcover, including slash, burn or harvest residue by burning other than maize harvest residue, which may only be destroyed from 14h00 to 24h00 daily except from 18h00 on Fridays to 14h00 on Mondays.
  3. No clearing of firebreaks from 1 August to 30 September.
  4. No burning on public holidays or weekends.

If a landowner intends to prepare a firebreak by burning, he must determine a mutually agreeable date with the owners of the adjoining land to do so and inform the Lions River Fire Protection Association.  For queries regarding burning contact Bobby Hoole on the telephone: 0829018795 or email
For more info about Fire regulations, go to

Winter days in the Midlands are glorious. How fortunate we are to have blue rather than grey skies.  It makes keeping warm so much easier – so make sure to let the sunshine in!
Energy use usually increases in the colder months as people try to stay warm, but with constant price increases as fossil fuels deplete and the importance of cutting our carbon emissions, we need to find some planet-friendly ways to keep snug. Here are some simple ideas:

  • Wrap your geyser in a blanket
  • Choose stairs (2-at-a-time) over lifts
  • Close the curtains before it gets dark
  • Make draft excluder sausages for your doors (or roll up blankets)
  • Use sunny days to solar cook stews
  • Chop alien wood for fires
  • Walk outdoors to soak up the rays with dogs and cats
  • Wear lots of colourful layers of clothes
  • Start a flock of socks – match up odd ones rather than buying more
  • Wiggle your toes until they glow
  • Make lemonade and ginger beer with all the extra lemons
  • Drink lots of warm drinks (keep the extra boiled water in a thermos for later)
  • Dance as often as you can
  • Laugh aloud to warm your insides
  • Hug a human
  • Keep a blanket on your couch to snuggle in
  • Go to bed early with a hot water bottle
  • The most fun way to keep warm this winter is to join the Capoeira class on Tuesday evenings 5.30 to 7.30 at the Lion’s River Club.  Capoeira is a form of martial arts which originated with slaves in Brazil.  Great exercise and fabulous music for only R20!  Call Charlie Mitchell on 072 372 5252.

The Winter Solstice has passed, days are getting longer and the sun higher in the sky. With these toasty tips, you won’t need to switch on the heater for the rest of the season and in doing so, help the Earth to stay cool. Do you have any winter warming ideas to share?  Let us know by emailing

The aim of The Midlands Conservancies Forum is to facilitate and coordinate the activities of a coalition of 12 KZN Midlands Conservancies, focusing on biodiversity conservation, which will ensure long-term environmental sustainability in the area.  A Project Manager, Gareth Boothway, has been appointed to work on the Biodiversity Stewardship projects at four sites in the greater Midlands area to increase the land under conservation in the Maputoland-Pondoland-Albany Hotspot.  An application for funding has been submitted, via Wildlands Conservation Trust, to the Critical Ecosystems Partnership Fund (CEPF), and been accepted.  At this stage, we expect the funding to arrive at the end of August.  Until it arrives, the Dargle, Karkloof and Lions Bush Conservancies and African Insight, among others are assisting in paying the bills.
The CEPF is designed to safeguard the world's threatened biodiversity hotspots in developing countries.  It is joint initiative of Conservation International, the Global Environment Facility, the government of Japan, the MacArthur Foundation, the World Bank and the French Development Agency.  A fundamental purpose of the CEPF is to ensure that civil society is actively participating in conserving biodiversity in the hotspots.  The Wildlands Conservation Trust is the regional implementing team for the CEPF investment.  Wildlands is responsible for soliciting, designing and awarding grants to civil society organisations and community groups that will protect biodiversity and strengthen the role of civil society in conservation.
Contact Gareth on or 076 239 4267

Not everyone has paid their Annual Subscription of R250 for membership of the Dargle Conservancy for 2011.  If you are keen to support our activities in future, please pay the annual subscription fee of R250 into our bank account (FNB Howick 220725 Acc no: 622 1187 9236) or pop it into our post box (no 30) at Dargle Store.  Any questions?  Contact Clive Shippey, Treasurer of the Dargle Conservancy on 033 234 4354 or

Enjoy the bright yellow Fire Lilies – Cyrtanthus breviflorus – which are the first flowers
 to emerge in burnt grasslands.

For any additional information please click here to contact us.