OCTOBER 2023 NEWSLETTER

 

Rainbow photo: Ingrid Meter

Spring is here at last, and even stormy weather and flooding cannot detract from the wide variety of colourful flowers now blooming in the Reserve!

This Spring Newsletter highlights some of our recent activities, and showcases  Steenbok’s natural beauty. The interesting events covered in this edition are a reminder of the important social and educational role that our little Reserve plays in Knysna.

The Leisure Isle Festival is just around the corner, and is always an opportunity to meet new friends and promote the Steenbok Trust.

We want to make a special mention of Lexi Meier, who has recently joined us to drive our social media initiatives.  She has also arranged fundraisers, coordinates our volunteer program, and has brought a bright new flavour to our team.

RAINFALL REPORT SEPTEMBER 2023 

After the low August rainfall of 28mm, which was below the 10 year average, our September rainfall of 89mm was well above average.  Our cumulative rainfall for 2023 is now 60% above the 10 year average.  And fortunately the heavy rainfall this month did not affect us as severely as it did other areas, although the Reserve has been very damp at times!

 SPRING FUNDRAISERS FOR STEENBOK 

There are so many generous people in Knysna, and when we get offers from them to help with raising funds for the Reserve we are delighted.  Our aim is always to both include and entertain the public in our fundraising initiatives.

A PRE-SPRING SOIRÉE

What a special event in spirit and community!

Thank you to Doc Caldwell for organising the two sell-out Pre-Spring Soirée fundraisers for Hospice and Steenbok Nature Reserve!  The audiences wined and dined through both performances, thanks to Doc’s novel ‘Bring Your Own Picnic’ idea.  Doc delivered splendid performances, accompanied by Lesley on piano.  Much mirth was had by all!!

TREE WALK IN STEENBOK NATURE RESERVE

September was Arbor Month in South Africa. This is all about honouring and appreciating our indigenous trees! Thank you to those who braved the wind on Saturday the 16th of September to join the fundraiser Tree Walk with Robert Smith and Ina Engelbrecht in Steenbok Nature Reserve.

Robert and Ina are members of the Dendrological Society of South Africa, and have a wealth of knowledge of our indigenous trees to share.
We learned so much from these two, and are thrilled and intrigued by the beauty and variety of the trees in the Reserve! Much to our delight, and with the help from these experts, we have located two Buddleja saligna (False Olives), the Arbor tree of 2023!

We appreciate the foresight of Roger Voysey and the Reserve founders who planted such wonderful trees.

Many of the trees in the Reserve have name tags or visit Steenbok’s website to see the comprehensive tree lists 

NEW TREE DONATION

Thanks to Guin and the Bell family for their tree donation in remembrance of Daphne Carter, who enjoyed frequent visits to the Reserve.

The family chose a Calodendrum capense (Cape chestnut) which has found its new home in the first tree copse in the Reserve, and already has bright new leafing tips and in a couple of years, when in bloom, the whole canopy will turn pink with sweet scented flowers.

VISITORS TO STEENBOK

Steenbok is a great place to meet interesting people and to make new friends.

Every day in Steenbok is different, and the Reserve offers a wide range of special places for our many visitors to enjoy.

On sunny or rainy days you can meet people from across all age groups:

OAKHILL GRADE 11 VISIT

In August we were privileged to host grade 11 learners from Oakhill school, who were collecting their community service hours towards Life Orientation for matric.
It was gratifying to see Caitlin Warne, Erin Fietze, Tahlia Stead and Anjuli Taplin remove invasive grasses and weeds from the Gratitude Gardens to promote the growth of Arctotheca prostrata, or the Cape Weed.

The Cape Weed is in fact not a weed! It is indigenous and attracts and feeds many pollinators, which is why we encourage its growth in the Reserve.

The Oakhill group then walked us through Steenbok, and Erin shared her passion for the Olive House snake. Familiar with its local residence, Erin, Anjuli and Tahlia carefully showed us this beautiful, treasured little reptile for our Instagram audience.

Click the link to watch the Olive House snake video and learn more about these harmless creatures:

CWAC BIRDCOUNT IN STEENBOK

On Monday the 14th of August the bi-annual Coordinated Waterbird Count took place all over the Knysna Lagoon. The Count is a voluntary citizen initiative that provides valuable data for waterbird research and conservation across the world. It is one of the largest and most successful citizen science programs in Africa.

Currently the project monitors over 400 wetlands and curates waterbird data from over 600 sites countrywide. The data is sent to UCT where the numbers are made accessible to local and international organisations.
The Steenbok team: Lexi Meier, Claire Scott, Di Stromberg and Robert Smith (The ‘Mud Plodders’ or ‘Mud Striders’) made their way all along the shore of Steenbok Nature Reserve and the old airstrip to add their count to the August 2023 data.

A huge thank you to all the bird-counters involved, you are awesome!  Click the link for August 2023 Knysna Lagoon Waterbird Count.

VOLUNTEERS LENDING A HELPING HAND

Once a month we call for volunteers to help with the removal of alien invasive weeds. We have had an amazing response from the public and look forward to more collaboration in the future.
Join us for a fun time outdoors, giving back to nature. Just a couple hours out of your day makes the world of difference to the biodiversity of the Reserve. At the moment we are focusing on the burr clover which tends to run rampant at this time of year. Visit our Facebook and Instagram pages to find out when the next volunteer day will be held.

GARDEN MAINTENANCE 

The Municipality teams are always a welcome sight in the Reserve and our visitors enjoy the freshly mowed natural pathways. This month the mowers made a special visit to mow and trim to ensure everything was perfect for the Heritage weekend. We are so appreciative of the extra effort the staff of the Parks Department make in Steenbok.

Our work in Steenbok in August involved the completion of the Land’s End and Kingfisher Creek clearing project, just in time for Arbor month. This initiative has had the desired outcome of opening up vistas through the Milkwood forest, exposing these beautiful trees, and making the area more attractive and secure. A huge thank you to the Ivy Garden Services teams who went the extra mile to get this job finished. And a special thank you to the neighboring residents who allowed us access through their property to get the taaibos cuttings to a more convenient pick-up area. Without their cooperation the clearing could not have been done so efficiently and would have taken more time to complete.

INFRASTRUCTURE

Requests for Benches

We receive many requests for memorial benches for Friends who loved Steenbok – and we always try to find special places to site benches in a way that enhances the Reserve. There are limits to the available sites, and the committee has decided to offer existing benches (with plaques for which we have no contact numbers) to new sponsors who are happy to have their plaques alongside the existing ones.

There are two benches in the children’s play area that need replacing and repositioning.  If you would like one of these benches, please contact Ingrid Meter teaminkjen@mweb.co.za or WhatsApp her on 083-408-9420 and she will help you with all your requirements.

 

Winter floods in Steenbok

Occasionally the Reserve experiences a rare occurrence of a particularly high tide flowing over the seawall. This phenomenon happens as a result of a high spring tide accompanied by stormy seas, strong westerly winds and low atmospheric pressure. The highest recorded flooding occurred on 31 August 2008, whilst the last major flooding was on 16 July 2014. After each flood visitors are greeted with the amazing sight of a lake stretching inland as far as the brick pathway, with hundreds of water birds enjoying the rich feeding waters. The main flood level abates after a few days, but evidence of the flood is still visible for some time.

We experienced flooding on the 16th and 30th September, when the Southern Cape was rocked by high tides and storms. Fortunately our seawall held up extremely well, with only minor damage in places. As a precaution we have cordoned off the low-lying portion of the Towpath at the Saltmarsh boardwalk until repairs are done.

Please also keep a lookout for three of our bin lids that floated away during the floods.  Two lids were lost in the Kingfisher Creek area and one near the children’s play area.  If you come across a lid please contact Dave Stromberg 0738879769

The Bee Sculpture to have a permanent home in Steenbok!!

The visiting Bee Sculpture in the Indigenous Gardens has been an eye-catching new fixture in the Reserve. Initially ‘Rubee’ was planned as a temporary feature, but in response to the popularity of the sculpture the committee has decided to keep it permanently. We thank artist Anne Sole for agreeing to let the bee stay in the Reserve. We will be erecting an educational sign to bring awareness of how important our bee nests are in this natural area.

We are very pleased that Rubee will continue to grace the Indigenous Gardens.

 FACEBOOK & INSTAGRAM

Why not follow along with our wonderful adventures in Steenbok Nature Reserve?  You can check in daily with the environment we hold so dear by liking and following our Facebook and Instagram pages.
Two popular posts during the Winter months were the June Weather Report, and a feature on the colourful blooms of the Euryopus virginous in August.

Visit these links for all the latest updates:  FACEBOOK   INSTAGRAM

KIDS CORNER

A new activity in Steenbok 

For kids of all ages!!!  To keep with the Arbor month theme, Steenbok Nature Reserve now has a new fun activity for visitors of all ages. We have posted the Treesure Map from our children’s book ‘Look deep into Nature’ on the notice boards at the Reserve entrances. How do you play? Simply take a photo of the map, and then explore the Reserve and search for the seven trees. At the base of each tree there is a colourful and easy-to-find sign. The intention is to enhance your walk, provide a learning experience for the kids, and showcase the beauty of our trees.

Fun to do

 

Steenbok has lots of entertaining learning resources for your kids, grandchildren, nieces and nephews! Come to the fun side with Suzie Thomopoulos’s Spring Kids Corner website feature which looks into the amazing world of Spiders.

Click the links for more info and activity pages.

 FLORA 

South Africa’s Arbor Tree for 2023

Buddleja Saligna – Family Name:  BUDDLEJACEAE  Common Name: False Olive  Tree Number: 636

 

Two lovely examples of this tree can be seen at Steenbok’s Main Entrance Gardens.

A shrub or small tree with a greyish-green, somewhat drooping crown. The heartwood is dark brown, tough, hard, heavy and very durable. Sweet scented flowers grow in large, creamy-white heads. The tree is important in the production of honey as it supplies lots of nectar for bees. The flowers attract butterflies and other insects.

The False Olive’s young stems are four sided and covered with white velvety hairs. The older stems and trunks are creamy or grey to dark brown and fluted, with the bark peeling in longitudinal strips.

The leaves are long and narrow, somewhat similar to the Olive from which it gets its common name, but more textured. The leaf upper surface is hairless and dark green, the underside is whitish with prominently raised venation. The flowers are tiny, creamy white and borne in dense sprays usually at the ends of branches. The flowers have a lovely honey scent and appear from spring to summer. The minute seeds appear from late Spring to early Autumn. The hairy capsules develop in the dried-out flowers.

FAUNA

Heron, black- headed

During the recent flooding in Steenbok, we had wading seabirds feeding close to the paved pathway, which meant bird-spotting was a lot easier. To our excitement the shy black-headed heron was spotted enjoying the cover of the partially submerged grasses and shrubs. This heron is a terrestrial species and is smaller and slimmer than the more frequently spotted grey-headed heron.

It hunts mainly on land, particularly near the reed beds where it can find frogs. It sways its head slowly from side to side as it stalks its prey – then stands dead still and with a powerful strike spears the victim with its sharp beak.

INTERESTING FACTS:

A typical call of this bird is ‘kvaak’. On landing, a ‘kow, owk’ is called followed by a growl ‘err’ and ending with a ‘kut kut kut’! Wingspan – 150cm, Food – insects, small mammals and reptiles, Bill – Upper bill is black and lower yellow.

 

THINGS TO SEE & DO IN KNYSNA

KNYSNA BASIN PROJECT – New Book Launch

The much-awaited book – ‘Knysna Estuary – Jewel of the Garden Route’ is now on sale.  

Click here to find out more about this gem, and to purchase the book online.

This is a must-read for anyone interested in the preservation of our environment. The various chapters of this book are written by experts in their field, most with a strong knowledge and direct research experience of the Knysna Estuary.

The aim throughout is to enable and encourage readers to appreciate the life within the estuary, understand its structure and functioning, and empower people to communicate its value and conservation importance from an informed position.

STOP THE PRESS!!!

Prof. Richard Barnes has kindly sent us an offprint copy of his chapter on invertebrates, and allowed us to put a link to it in our Newsletter. We are honoured that Prof. Barnes, who is featured regularly in our Newsletters, has made his studies available to our readers. 

LINK TO CHAPTER ON INVERTEBRATES

A VISIT TO SANPARKS DIEPWALLE NURSERY

Together we can all work towards honouring our natural heritage in South Africa by educating ourselves and caring for our indigenous plants. The Garden Route has a wide selection of colourful plants that are well-suited to our own gardens.

Take a walk through the gardens in Steenbok Nature Reserve to see how these plants thrive in the Knysna area. This can also help when choosing the right plants for the home. Scented plants and also traditionally-used medicinal plants can add interest to our gardens. To help with selecting the right plants for your area, visit the indigenous nursery at the Diepwalle Forest Station. You can learn more about the many uses of our indigenous flora, view a wide range of plants, and purchase some to enrich your own garden.

For more information download the MAP or contact them at 044 38229762

 SAVE THE DATE 

THIS YEAR’S LEISURE ISLE FESTIVAL 4TH & 5TH NOVEMBER

Steenbok Nature Reserve will be at stall No. 13 and our theme this year is Fun in the Sun!!

The aim of having a stall at the Festival is to raise funds for the Friends of Steenbok Trust, to inform Festival-goers about the Reserve and the work that is done by volunteers throughout the year, and to encourage new Friends to join the Trust.

HUGE THANK YOU!!! to the organisers of the Festival for including Steenbok Nature Reserve as one of this year’s beneficiaries.

Charlie, Aya and Jack taking a sneak-peek at all the fun things our stall has on offer at the Festival.

LET’S THINK ABOUT RECYCLING

This is a wonderful initiative from the Sweethearts Foundation. Collect Tops and Tags to help a disadvantaged member of the community. Happily the money from the Knysna collection goes towards helping provide wheelchairs for Epilepsy Knysna.

For more information about this Foundation, please read the  Sweethearts newsletters which are a treasure trove of inspiration and joy that will leave you brimming with warmth.