Nature reserve is a Helderberg treasure

Left: Owen Wittridge and Sandiso Kraai, the new site manager at the reserve.

Winter has come and gone; and spring is upon us. I have been looking at the rain falling and delighted that we have at least had decent rain this winter. For the three months of June, July and August, we have received 398.5mm, in comparison to 339.6 for the same period last year.

If I look at the dam and pond levels we are slightly better off. However, I urge everyone to continue to use our water resources responsibly. The experts are predicting another long hot summer.

Staff members have been busy with water bar maintenance at the nature reserve, to manage the winter rainfall.

For those of you who don’t know what a water bar is, and for those who have been asking, “What are the staff digging these big trenches for?”, let me explain: The trenches and mounds one sees on many of the roads and trails in the reserve are in fact water bars – a term we use to describe a barrier that will divert water off the trail surface.

Water is the biggest contributor to erosion on the reserve and if allowed to accelerate, can severely damage the trail. It can also cause additional issues surrounding the trail. With the hope of some good winter rains, we have put many new water bars in place to slow down the rate of run-off and have spent much time maintaining some of the old ones as well.

The second round of seed collecting has been completed. We cleaned and sorted another 10kg of Proteaceae seed, which was scattered in late May this year just before the first big cold front.

The seeds are stimulated by the drop in night time temperatures, rainfall and the smoke in the soil. Yes, there is still sufficient smoke from the ecological burn within the soil to stimulate germination.

We have also completed our twelve-month post-burn monitoring programme and we are happy with the recruitment of the natural vegetation, albeit slower in some areas. This is due to the intensity of the burn last March – some areas had a higher fuel load than others.

At this stage there is nothing to worry about, and we are confident the entire area will soon be covered in pioneer species. We will continue to monitor these sites annually for the next three years and will then move on to a five-year cycle after that.

Some really good news is that we have spotted our first flower head on one of the plants that was sown from seed. This is such a good sign and makes all the hard work more rewarding.

I would like to take this opportunity to welcome Vuyokazi Rubushe to the team. Vuyokazi has been appointed as a field ranger and started with us at the beginning of winter. She has a fantastic story in terms of how her career has developed which I will write about in a future update.

In addition, we say goodbye to Aston Mouton, our site manager, who has been transferred to Tygerberg Nature Reserve.

We are pleased to welcome Sandiso Kraai who will take over Ashton’s responsibilities as Site Manager. Sandiso brings along huge experience and is already hard at work.