MARCH 2024 NEWSLETTER

Greetings from the Steenbok Committee

We put out this Newsletter to keep you informed of the goings on in Steenbok Reserve, and with each Newsletter we are surprised by the wide variety of activities that have taken place in the preceding months. This tiny oasis in our troubled world provides pleasure to so many people, young and old!

As you know, Steenbok is a long-running and very successful public-private partnership between the Knysna Municipality and the Leisure Isle Residents Association, who are joined by SANParks and the Friends of Steenbok Trust in managing the Reserve. Our mandate is to nurture and protect the natural environment, while making it accessible to all.

Volunteers and Friends give freely of their time (and money!) to make things happen. We work to a well-considered annual Management Plan, and we make sure that our finances, generously contributed by the Municipality, Island residents and Friends, are well-spent in developing and maintaining the Reserve. We welcome everyone – as visitors and helpers – and are gratified by the great feedback we receive from Reserve users.

Steenbok is a remarkably secure and peaceful place. Visitors are able to relax and enjoy the tranquil surroundings, undisturbed. A number of factors contribute to this. There are always people in the area, many of whom know each other and who keep an eye open for any untoward activities. The many friendly dogs serve as a deterrent! Efforts are made to remove invasive vegetation and maintain open vistas, which add to the sense of security. And of course our Allsound guards are present every day, doing foot patrols all the way to Land’s End.

We measure our success by the pleasure this lovely place gives to its users. We encourage you all to follow our social media posts, visit our website, volunteer to assist, or just to let us hear from you! Welcome and enjoy!

Changes to the team

Margaret Richards has resigned from her position of Chair of the Steenbok Management Committee.  Margaret has for the past year provided our team with strong and steady leadership, and made a huge contribution based on her many years of involvement with the Reserve.

Craig Carter has once again accepted the position of Chair of the Steenbok Mancom, and is joined by Richard Ayres who is the second LIRA appointee on the Mancom.  Andrew Johnstone has been elected as a trustee of the Friends of Steenbok Trust.

Farewell to Margaret, and we welcome Richard and Andrew to the team!

EXCITING NEW PROJECT

Pathways and Information signs in Kingfisher Creek
The Steenbok team, in accordance with our yearly Management Plan, will soon be proceeding with the project to improve the signage and pathways in Kingfisher Creek. The intention is to make it easier for visitors to enjoy the beauty of Kingfisher Creek, and to find their way to Land’s End, without damaging the delicate Salt Marsh ecosystem.  It is hoped this will reduce the wear-and-tear on the inter-tidal vegetation, and encourage more seabirds and wading birds to populate this area.

NEWS FROM KNYSNA BASIN PROJECT

Professor Richard Barnes and Jessica Searth from the Knysna Basin Project, and a group from The Nelson Mandela University Zoology Department, were recently seen doing fieldwork in the shallow waters of the Knysna Lagoon.  Fieldwork in the Knysna estuary forms part of NMU zoology masters student Saudiqa Benjamin’s research. It focuses on how the endangered eelgrass Zostera capensis responds to nutrient input by acting as a pollutant filter at known point-sources along the estuary. Seagrass beds and sediment are important habitats for bottom-dwelling macroinvertebrates, and the community composition of invertebrates is also being investigated at these different point sources.

The group collected samples of seagrass, sediment and invertebrates which are to be processed in the laboratory. This project falls under the larger SOMWAT Project which is investigating how seagrass, as a nature-based solution, acts as an interface to mitigate watershed pollution.

Field workers including Rachel Kibble (Nelson Mandela University, DSI/NRF Research Chair: Shallow Water Ecosystems), Minyonne Verster and Saudiqa Benjamin (Nelson Mandela University students, Department of Zoology), Jessica Searth (Knysna Basin Project), and Prof. Richard Barnes (University of Cambridge, UK).

BIRD TALK WITH ROBERT SMITH

This year started with a very informative talk by Robert Smith on the birds of Leisure Island. The more than one hundred attendees were entertained by Robert’s knowledgeable presentation and interesting slides.

Thank you to the Leisure Isle Country club for allowing the Friends of Steenbok the use of this sociable venue, and for providing a cash bar. Light snacks were also provided, and this fundraiser provided an opportunity for bird-lovers to meet. 

A follow-up event is planned for later this year. Thank you to Robert!

CWAC COUNT-  FEBRUARY 2024LINK TO FEB 2024 WATERBIRD COUNT

The Knysna estuary has over one thousand hectares of intertidal wetlands, and these provide a very

important food source and breeding ground for our wading birds.

Every year the Coordinated Waterbird Count (CWAC) program of midsummer and midwinter censuses is conducted at a large number of South African wetlands. The counts are conducted by volunteers – people and organisations with a passion for waterbird conservation.

This is one of the largest and most successful citizen science programmes in Africa, providing much-needed data for waterbird conservation around the world. Currently the project monitors over 400 wetlands around the country, and furthermore compiles waterbird data for over 600 sites.

The ‘Mud Plodders’ team, Peter Lor, Robert Smith and Diana Stromberg, started their summer count at Land’s End, continued through Kingfisher Creek and the Leisure Isle Boat Club, and then went onto the Towpath and along the sea wall before finishing at the wetland area near the old airport site.

A total of 25 different species were sited along the Mud Plodders route, including 87 Cape Cormorants, 263 Greenshanks, and a single Fish Eagle.

2024 BRUNSVIGIA COUNT –  LINK TO FULL REPORT
Valentine’s Day in Steenbok language is Brunsvigia Day!!! This year’s Brunsvigia count was conducted on 14 February, and once again Leam Phillips and Mpapatsi Matsi from SANParks assisted the Steenbok volunteers Diana Stromberg, Riaan van der Merwe, Lexi Meier and Barbara Kriger.

The Reserve has been recording the numbers of these indigenous flowers since 2000, when 880 were counted.

This year has seen a slight increase, from 379 last year to 389 in 2024. This is a huge improvement from the low point in 2008 when only 220 were found. Let’s hope this trend will continue.

STEENBOK’S SOCIAL MEDIA

There are three platforms that Steenbok Nature Reserve uses to inform the public about daily happenings and upcoming events. These platforms are becoming very popular, with over 2000 followers on Facebook and 385 followers on the fast-growing Instagram site. The most popular Facebook and Instagram post in February was the Brunsvigia Count.  We received many positive comments, and this is an indication that our audience like what we do!!!

The Steenbok Website is regularly updated with information about the flora and fauna found in the Reserve, as well as with documents relating to the general management of Steenbok.

A huge thank you to Sharon and Simon from S2Web who have generously donated their time and expertise to improving the overall look of Steenbok’s Website with updated photos, and with four new fauna sites that include pages on insects, arachnids, reptiles and mammals that are found in the Reserve.

GARDEN MAINTENANCE REPORT

A new innovative idea for Steenbok
The Steenbok team is committed to improving the experience that all our visitors have come to expect and enjoy. Ingrid Meter and Diana Stromberg are steering this year’s project to replace the Roundup herbicide previously used to control the grass and weeds on the paved pathways with a homemade poison-free spray made up with salt, vinegar, dishwashing liquid and essential oil. Diana started testing the formula during December, and after a successful trial, Ingrid began spraying the entire pathway throughout the month of January.

This non-polluting method is proving to be very successful. The new approach is more time-consuming, but the results are very positive and well worth the effort.  Back-up work to remove and spray the grass on the pathway is done by Innocent and Ingrid, IVY Garden Services, the KM mowers, and a group of dedicated volunteers.

Summer in Steenbok
Knysna’s hot summer months are always a time for cutting, trimming, tidying and clearing in Steenbok Nature Reserve. This summer Ivy Garden Services tackled the removal of invasive weeds and grass from all the established gardens, and removed obstructive branches from all the natural pathways, including Roger’s Way and the path adjacent to the Boat Club. The growth of our vegetation also increases during summer months, and the Ivy team is always on hand to assist where needed.

The KM mowers, tractors and garden refuse teams are a major service-provider to the Reserve. These teams assist with the mowing of all the grass and gardens, and with the removal of cut vegetation throughout the entire area.

Feedback on growth in kingfisher Creek

The Reserve’s major project last year was clearing taaibos and invasive vegetation in the indigenous dune forest from Kingfisher Creek to Land’s End.The Steenbok team is happy to report that there is significant new growth of the salt marsh plants, extending the marsh area by more than two metres. Chenolea diffusa (Sout-bossie) and Sarcocornia natalensis are two examples of plants that are re-establishing themselves in Kingfisher Creek.

Improving the view
The umbrella-shaped tree in the centre of the common is a Myoporum tenuifolium.

This tree is not indigenous to the area, but because it is such a special attraction to our many visitors, we have decided to keep it in the Reserve, strictly monitoring its growth, and removing any new saplings that start growing in the area.

The tree forms the centre piece of our children’s play area, and this year, due to the growth of the tree, we have trimmed the branches and repositioned the two shared replacement benches and bin in more suitable positions. The area is now a more aesthetically-pleasing visual landscape, and a secure space for all to enjoy.

There are still a few opportunities for shared replacement benches in Steenbok.The available positions are fantastic.

If you are interested in sharing a bench, please contact

Ingrid Meter – 083 408 9420 or email your request to teaminkjen@mweb.co.za

VOLUNTEERS IN STEENBOK

 

Steenbok Nature Reserve is a popular venue for students who need to collect their community service hours towards Life Orientation for matric. 

Two grade 10s from Oakhill High School, Jack Thomopoulos and Owen Anderson, visited the Reserve in February and enthusiastically helped with removal of invasive weeds and grasses.

They also identified correctly and removed a young invasive Syringa Melia azedarach found in the Dune Forest at Kingfisher Creek.This tree is an invasive species that must be controlled because it competes with and replaces indigenous species.

One of our regular volunteers, Riaan van der Merwe, has kindly donated Crocosmia aurea (falling stars) bulbs which have been planted in the Aquifer gardens. Riaan has agreed to monitor the growth of these bright orange flowers which are expected to bloom during the autumn months.

Adding to our increased number of willing volunteers in Steenbok, Derek and Laura spent a sunny morning at the Main Entrance to Steenbok and happily helped with the removal of grass and weeds that grow between the bricks of the paved pathway.

INFRASTRUCTURE REPORT

New signs in Steenbok
There are a huge number of different signs in the Reserve – the entrance signs, visitors’ maps, information boards, bin signage (including sponsors’ dog pics!), tree names, bench memorial plaques, direction signs etc. Great care is taken in designing and positioning these signs, with the aim of minimizing visual clutter and providing useful educational information, while at the same time reflecting the attractive ‘corporate image’ of Steenbok Nature Reserve.

The signboards at the main entrances to the Reserve have recently been renewed. The old signs had become faded, and some of the information was outdated. The colourful new entrance signs proudly display the logos of our four stakeholders, as well as showing pictograms informing visitors of important do’s and don’ts.

And of course they feature our Steenbok logo, slogan ‘Care and Protect’.

The Reserve has always been a place for everyone to enjoy. Sometimes to maintain this, new rules need to be implemented. There has been an increase in the number of cyclists in the Reserve, especially along the paved pathway, and concerns have been raised about the safety of older people using the path.After much research into how other open space areas around the world manage cyclists, the committee has decided to place signs along the pathway informing cyclists to give way to pedestrians.

The graphic on the signs suggest cyclists should stop or dismount to allow pedestrians to walk past.

A new bee information board is being added near the popular Ruby the Bee sculpture in the Indigenous Gardens. The board will provide interesting facts about the bees which play such an important role in Steenbok, and will acknowledge the artist, Ann Sole, who made and donated the Sculpture.

Repairs to the Aquifer and irrigation system
There have recently been some unfortunate incidents where the nozzle of the aquifer pump was stolen, and a number of sprinkler heads removed.The nozzle will be replaced with a plastic alternative which, hopefully, will be less enticing for thieves, and the sprinkler heads have been replaced. Please report any incidents to the Allsound guards at the Island entrance.

THINGS TO SEE AND DO IN KNYSNA

A Steenbok fundraising talk by Prof. Richard Barnes

Prof Barnes will talk about the Knysna seagrass system and its invertebrates. He is a very well-known figure in Knysna, visiting every year during summer and autumn, and working with The Knysna Basin Project as well as a number of South African universities. He has contributed a chapter to the book ‘Knysna Estuary – Jewel of the Garden Route’, and has kindly allowed us to post his research onto our website.

A cash bar and snacks are available on the night.

Booking is essential news@steenboknaturereserve.org.za

City Nature Challenge Garden Route District

26 to 29 April 2024
This is a fun-filled, global event for all of the family. Join in the 2024 City Nature Challenge!Make observations of wild plants and animals, and take part in one of the largest community science events in the world while helping us better understand, and therefore take care of, the flora and fauna that live in and around urban areas.

The observation period will run from 26 April to 29 April, and the upload and identification period will end on 5 May.

With over 400 species of flora and fauna found in the Reserve, Steenbok is an ideal place to start this year’s challenge.

A couple of helpful links:

iNaturalist FB

2024 iNaturalist – Garden Route

KIDS CORNER – The Knysna Sea Cubs

Steenbok continues to attract environmentally-enthusiastic young visitors.  During the Festive Season the Reserve welcomed the Knysna Sea Cubs.  A group of seventeen cubs, accompanied by their pack-scouters, parent helpers and two scouts, made use of our ‘Look Deep into Nature’ educational book to identify the different plants and trees found in the Reserve. The goal of this special group is to help cubs, aged 7 to 11 years old, discover and understand the importance of biodiversity. 

The cubs are also taught to develop sustainable habits and behaviours, to gain a greater understanding of the importance of protecting all living things.

For more information about this group please contact Tanya, the Knysna Cubs Akela, on 0812806724, or email 1stknysnacubs.akela@gmail.com or tanyalagerwey@gmail.com

Night Walks in Steenbok
Cool autumn evenings are an ideal time to walk through Steenbok and experience its abundant nightlife.With the aid of a torch, and by close observation, you will be intrigued by the variety of creatures that are active in the Reserve after dark. A few examples of what to look out for during your evening walks are the spectacular Eucomis autumnalis in full bloom or a shy Knysna dwarf chameleon or an insect visiting a wild garlic flower.

Kids Corner
Visit our website pages to learn more and explore a dragonfly maze!

FLORA – THE SCENTED WONDER OF STEENBOK

During late summer and Autumn, Steenbok boasts a colourful array of scented flowers and plants.

Amaryllis belladonna (March lily)
These flowers
release a sweet fragrance at night, closely resembling the scent of jasmine or tuberose.  The lily has been used in perfumery since ancient times. They were very well-loved in Egypt, and were used to make a perfumed ointment ‘based on the flowers of 2000 lilies’.

The flowers are thought to be pollinated by the nocturnal hawk moth and the diurnal (daytime) carpenter bee. 

Coleonema pulchellum
This fynbos shrub, commonly known as confetti bush, has a refreshing citrus fragrance. The crushed leaves are used by fishermen to remove the odour of bait and fish from their hands.

Carissa macrocarpa
These star-shaped white flowers have a citrussy, gardenia-like scent which intensifies at night.  The plant, commonly known as the Num Num tree, has the added attraction of bearing bright red oval fruit that are rich in Vitamin C and taste delicious.

FAUNA – Insects in Steenbok

The Reserve has a number of different types of insects. These tiny creatures play a major role in the balance of our ecosystem. Insects are the largest group within the arthropod phylum. They have a chitinous exoskeleton, a three-part body (head, thorax and abdomen), three pairs of jointed legs, compound eyes, one pair of antennae, and typically one or two pairs of wings. Examples of insects found in the Reserve are dragonflies, cicadas and Cape sand crickets. Please visit our website for updates of all the newly recorded species.

RAINFALL REPORT – FEBRUARY 2024

Rainfall for February was a rather modest 29mm after a similar amount in January.