Winter is always a busy time in Steenbok.
This Newsletter highlights, recognizes, and celebrates Women’s Month with our Friends and Volunteers.
MONTHLY NEWS AND REPORTS
News from Peter Godsell
Peter has made an enormous contribution to the ongoing development and management of the Reserve, and his resignation will be a great loss to Steenbok. However over the past 12 months a new star has risen in the Steenbok management team. We can do no better than quote Peter’s comments: “It is almost a year since I decided to resign as a member of the Steenbok Management Committee. All of my activities have now been taken over by Di Stromberg. It is a delight to see the benefit of new ideas and new enthusiasm. I am very grateful to Di. Hence this seems an appropriate time to step down as a trustee. “Di will continue as a member of the Steenbok MANCOM in the capacity of deputy to Roger.
Lessons from Steenbok by Peter Godsell
What we today know as Steenbok Nature Reserve (the combination of Kingfisher Creek and Steenbok Park) started with a threat – the threat of the development of these green areas on the Northern Shore of Leisure Isle. Under Roger’s leadership a group was formed to respond. This group was wise enough to base their efforts on three key principles.
Firstly it was decided to focus on being FOR something rather than against something. Often in situations like this, activist groups move in to “anti-mode”, presenting all the arguments as to why development is bad, hiring lawyers to fight the authorities, and stoking public anger. Rather than going that route, the group focused on what could be done to make this small natural area so good and so valued, that no one would dare do anything that would harm it. The focus was for nature, rather than against development. A second principal was to be a COOPERATIVE initiative. Partnerships were forged with the Municipality, SANParks, various nature-oriented organizations, knowledgeable individuals, and the people of Leisure isle.
Finally it was about DOING rather than talking. The way to safeguard the natural beauty of the Northern Shore of the Island was to work hard to make it better, make it accessible and make it valuable.
As one of many individuals who have been privileged to be a part of this magnificent project, I delight in what has been achieved so far. I also delight in the power of those three principles – be for something, be cooperative and work rather than preach.
I delight too in the fact that the project continues strongly. As new, fresh and innovative individuals join the team driving the Steenbok project we can be sure improvements will continue, and an area of natural beauty will be preserved not only for us but also for future generations.
Waterbird Count in Steenbok Nature Reserve
In 1993 Lorna Watt, of WESSA (Wildlife and Environment Society of South Africa), initiated with other Knysna birders, the twice-yearly Co-ordinated Waterbird Count (CWAC) in Knysna. This project reaches the whole of South Africa and records information for non- passerine (non-perching) species of birds associated with wetlands. Currently the project curates waterbird data for at least 628 sites, by a network of volunteers numbering between 800 and 1000 people. Counts are co-ordinated country-wide by about 125 compilers and their teams.
Data is computerized at UCT and made available to many local and international organizations.
The ‘mud plodders team’, as they affectionately call themselves, Ina Engelbrecht (left), Pat Korrubel (middle) and Robert Smith (right) started their count at the Point on Leisure Isle, stopped at Kingfisher Creek and the Boat Club, then continued along the Tow Path in Steenbok.
The Friends of Steenbok are grateful to this group of hard working and dedicated volunteers.
The Yellow-billed Duck (left)
The vivid yellow bill with black saddle on the upper mandible is distinctive, iris reddish brown. In flight it shows an emerald green speculum narrowly edged with white, under wings are grey.
The Levaillant’s Cisticola (right)
The short straight bill is blackish-brown with a pinkish base, and the feet and legs are pinkish-brown. The eye is light brown. The calls include a musical chrip-trrrup-trreee, a wailing tee tee tee and harsh alarm notes.
Joan Nichol who passed away in 2004 recognised the importance of preserving Steenbok Park as a special area and undertook dedicated service in researching and recording the legal alternatives for the establishment of the Park as an environmentally protected area.
Joan’s actions paved the way for these parklands to eventually being recognised as a nature reserve.
Joan’s son-in-law John Zietkiewicz, a tree-lover who lives in Durban intends soon to retire with Sandi, Joan’s daughter, to the family home on Leisure Isle.
John can already be seen, when on holiday in Knysna, clearing invasive plants in the Reserve. What he achieved recently in a week is equivalent to 2 days full time work from an experienced and fit gardener. Well done and thank you John.
AUGUST RAINFALL CHARTS
Constancy is not a word that belongs in weather reporting. After the splendid rainfall of 96 mm in July, we have retreated to the sparse amount of only 26 mm in August.
The cumulative rainfall for January to August 2019 graph looks virtually identical to the equivalent period in 2018.
Queen Bee visits Steenbok
Even the cloudy, rainy day could not dampen the spirits of the children of Queen Bee Pre-Primary School.
The kids spent a fun morning hiding their hand-painted Harmony Rocks in Steenbok Nature Reserve.
What are Harmony rocks?
HISTORY OF INTERNATIONAL DROP A ROCK DAY
World Rocks Project founded International Drop a Rock Day in 2015 to united people around the world through rock painting art.
The celebration continues to grow with a different theme every year. 2019 is all about painting Harmony rocks.
Knysna Rocks is a wonderful Facebook page to visit and get inspired and to paint your own work of art to and spread the message of Harmony.
Ashford school pays Steenbok a visit
What a pleasure it was to meet teachers Dirk and Rita Lagerwerf and be asked to take their 8 students from Grade 4 & 5 from Ashford School around Steenbok!(picture left)
The sharp-eyed youngsters were extremely good at spotting our Knysna dwarf chameleons and were keen to learn about fauna & flora facts.(picture right)
The youngsters were also able to witness the caterpillars’ keen hunger for Sersia crenate (Dune crowberry) along the tow path and share their knowledge of these insects and their life cycles. Finally, they discovered how aromatic some of our indigenous plants can be, with some smelling better than others it was agreed, and the many uses these can have.
All in all, a lot of fun was had and a lot of knowledge and experience shared.
Women’s day in Steenbok
Calling themselves ‘the Steenbokkies’ , these volunteers took time off to pose for a pic on a warm sunny Womens’ Day in the Reserve. Usually they are hard at work behind the scenes in the Reserve or at their computers preparing new and exciting posts for the Steenbok Website and Facebook page.
Letti (right) and Diana (left) make sure the public is kept informed of all the happenings in Steenbok, providing Facebook posts three times a week. On any given day you can find them, cameras in hand, chatting to visitors in the Reserve, and recording any interesting events that are happening. They also regularly update and refresh the flora and fauna photos on the Website.
Letti spends her free time editing, updating and adding to the flora and fauna pages of the Website. Her efforts ensure that our Website contains detailed descriptions that are scientifically correct, and at the same time informative, interesting, and enjoyable for our browsers.
Suzie (middle) is in charge of the Childrens’ Corner of the website, making sure our younger followers have easy access to information about the many natural wonders that can be seen in the Reserve, in a way that is both entertaining and educational. We have had very positive responses from our members with regard to the Facebook and Website changes and would like to thank them for their support and encouragement.
A typical Steenbokkie day
Barbara Krige, with her husband Louis, visit Steenbok Nature reserve nearly every day. Barbara’s energetic enthusiasm is an added bonus to the Steenbokkie team. She volunteers her time with daily walks in Steenbok checking the gardens, pathways and bins are neat and clean. She can also be found walking in the Point and Kingfisher Creek checking there is no illegal bait collecting.
These four committed women also volunteer their time and knowledge to take schools and other small groups on tours of Steenbok. At the end of the year they will be representing Steenbok at the Leisure Isle festival, raising funds, spreading awareness, and recruiting new Friends for the Reserve.
Sign relocation at Kingfisher Creek
With the support of SANParks, SNR we appointed Corine Lambrechts from Acton Signs to carefully remove the signs, and consolidate them on a single sign above the high water line. In the new position the signs are easier to read, and far less visually intrusive.
Interestingly, the small ‘island’ mound on which two of the signs were sited was once the tee-off spot for one of the holes of the Leisure Island golf course!
Kingfisher Creek is an environmentally important salt marsh, and one of the Reserve’s special jewels. Sadly it has been criss-crossed with pedestrian paths, which
have cut deeply into the delicate mosaic of vegetation. Cyclists and free-ranging dogs have contributed to the damage.
Consideration is being given to encouraging both visitors and fisher-folk who traverse the Creek, en-route to the dune forest and beaches at Lands End, to use the pathway that runs along the high tide mark alongside the neighbouring houses, rather than taking shortcuts across the Creek. In this way we can contribute to the rehabilitation of the area, and restore its natural beauty.
Winter pruning in Steenbok
Trimming at Roger’s Way
The Ivy Garden Service team hard at work again in Steenbok Nature Reserve.
Roger’s Way was established in 2008 and is a magical pathway linking Kingfisher Creek and Steenbok Park. The trimming of the vegetation will enhance the nature walk and let in more winter sunlight.
Searsia glauca is an example of one of the trimmed plants along Roger’s Way.
Tree Number: 383.2
An evergreen shrub, well branched with obovate, trifoliate leaflets which have with a resinous coating which dries to a greyish powdery layer. Clusters of round and shiny reddish brown berries appear from August. Plants useful for stabilising dunes. They are the favoured host of the mistletoe Viscum capense in the Strandveld of the southwestern Cape.
Hermannia hyssopifolia brings back very pleasant memories to me. Ten years ago while I was busy propagating indigenous plants in Sedgefield, a man came in and asked me if these ‘babies‘ were for sale. He was referring to the plants! This friendly guy and I chatted for a while, and in that time he shared how he was busy improving the gardens in Steenbok Nature Reserve.
Mr Roger Voysey came back a couple of times after that, wanting more of my other types of ‘babies‘. Then life happened and I left that nursery, but about three years ago I bumped into Roger at Steenbok. He didn’t recognise me – but I recognised him. We got chatting, and I reminded him of Hermannia hyssopifolia, because I had just seen them in Steenbok and they looked stunning so many years later – and still do now.
This rounded shrub that can be as small as 300mm but also up to 2m. The new stems are purple and hairy while the older stems are reddish. The flowers have an inflated balloon-like calyx (see picture left) with the tips of the petals protruding and appear in dense terminal clusters. The seeds are enclosed in the “balloons” calyx which by then have taken a much more paper-like appearance.
H. hyssopifolia is one of a number of aromatic shrubby plants known as agtdaegeneesbossie, meaning eight-day healing bush, as they are supposed to cure within eight days.
These ants are always immediately recognizable for their ability to ‘cock their tails’, ie raise their gasters almost over their heads when alarmed. The gaster contains the ant’s heart, digestive system, and chemical weaponry.
Crematogaster do not actually sting their prey or enemies, but instead exude volatile defensive (and offensive!) chemicals at enemies and any perceived threats. Their bite can be painful, but their mandibles are too small and weak to draw blood.
Ants are important to the fynbos of the Western Cape because they bury indigenous seeds. Many types of ants eat the nutritious sugary coating (known as an elaiosome) surrounding the seeds of fynbos plants. To do this they take the seeds still containing the elaiosome into the ant nest. Once the elaiosome has been eaten, the seed remains in the nest. The nest then provides protection to the seed from predators or other environmental damage, such as fire. Some fynbos rarities, long thought to be extinct, have reappeared more than fifty years later thanks to seeds which have survived underground in ant nests.
The Shy Vlei Rat