Breede Monitor 

Issue 6 ~ October 2018

The members quarterly of the Lower Breede River Conservancy Trust.

Cape Weaver builds his nest

Never underestimate an animal by its size...

by Tasmyn Taylor

Cape Weavers are abundantly loud, bright yellow and full of

attitude when it comes to getting something they want. They have the perfect

skills to weave the nest to attract not one, not two but up to seven different

females! This is not a skill they learn but are rather born with, some would

say it’s a natural instinct. 😉 

 

Never underestimate an animal by its size; although Cape

Weavers are only 18 cm tall, males fly over 20 km looking for food and nest

materials. When they decide to fly, they often fly in flocks frequently mixing

with other grain-eating species such as sparrows, canaries, bishops and other

weavers.

 

Cape Weavers are polygamous; one male mating with up to

seven females, this is why they build such impressive nests, because there is

more than one female to please. The female lays 2–5 eggs, which she will

incubate for roughly 13 days. The eggs are an immaculate, greenish-blue colour

and the colour is more-or-less evenly distributed over the egg, usually darker

at the thick end. Please enjoy the video clip to see a day-by-day progress of

the skills it takes to build the nest.

Conservation definitions

Important concepts to know.

by Tasmyn Taylor

Keystone species

Each species has a key role in driving ecosystem health. For example, a keystone species can often be a dominant predator within an ecosystem who keeps all other prey populations under control. If this species had to be removed, the ecosystem becomes disproportionate as the prey species explode. A sudden increase in a prey population decreases an ecosystems biodiversity. 

 

Indicator species 

An indicator species can reflect the health of the ecosystem. This species presence indicates environmental health, condition of the ecosystem and of the other species living in that ecosystem. They reflect the quality and changes in environmental conditions as well as aspects of community populations. 

 

Endemic species

Any species whose range is restricted to a limited geographical area due to ideal environmental conditions. 

Water Quality

When it rained, it poured!

by Tasmyn Taylor

We might have had a rocky start to the winter rain but when it rained, it poured! From light showers to melting snow to frosty mornings, the Breede estuary got its fair share of freshwater. The salinity graph, noticeably from August to October shows a dip. This was the freshwater in the system. Freshwater retains heat better than salt water so there was a slight rise in temperature of the water, allowing a bit of fish movement to prepare for the springtime.  The water became a bit darker allowing us to only see a third of a meter deep upstream. But there are no complaints. The freshwater restarts our water systems and brings exciting times ahead for the summer holidays.

Bird species trend

The numbers don't lie.

by Tasmyn Taylor

Birds, unlike trees and shrubs, are very dynamic. Meaning they're able to move from place to place. No bird you see in your garden will be the same bird you see the next day. Like many of us, we would avoid the cold all together if we could. Birds migrate for this very reason. They fly up between the north and south of the globe to avoid winter. 

 

When struck by a worrisome disappearance of birds in the early autumn, people may start searching nearby woodlots and their fears are confirmed. Where recently the gardens, fynbos shrubs and estuary were full of songful birds there is now a pall of silence and inactivity.Because birdsong is such an integral part of our outdoor experience, on a nice day in September we often fail to notice its absence unless we're listening for it. 

 

Once they have left their breeding territories, birds tend to group into feeding flocks and move into areas which provide an abundance of shelter, food and nesting materials. The Breede experiences the highs and lows of bird numbers and species. The graph shows that during winter, the number of species one can see on the estuary drops to below 25, but as the heat gets turned up and summer is around the corner, the number of birds starts to increase. 

 

The numbers don't lie, thanks to the help of Natures Valley Trust, we were able to use the extra hands and count both sides of the river at once. We got a total of 41 species.

#ShareTheShores

Exciting times for the Oystercatchers and Plovers. Some of them got some new bling!

by Tasmyn Taylor

With summer around the corner, the birds and bees are definitely starting to sing. It’s also the time of year the African Oystercatcher and White-fronted Plover start to lay their eggs and bring new life onto our beaches. As a part of ShareTheShores - protection project for these birds, the information sign boards will be up in a month, off-the-leash and leash beaches for dogs will be demarcated and the nesting sites will be zoned. 

 

Thanks to the help of Mark Brown and Brittany Arendse, we were able to use their advice and guide this project to become a success and hopefully continue to grow. Brittany also brought some helping hands to Witsand to ring some breeding pairs and chicks of Oystercatchers and Plovers. By ringing the birds, we can monitor each pair’s breeding success and their movements can be tracked if they decided to fly up and down the coast for the scenic holiday. This is a great step forward in the right direction. 

 

Thank you to Natures Valley Trust for providing us with graphic content to use for campaigning, for training our staff and for taking the time to come and ring our breeding pairs. Another big thank you to the Swellendam Rotary Club for their donation which allowed us to print the information boards and buy the rest of the materials to zone the nesting sites. 

Litter accumulation

Bash that trash!

by Tasmyn Taylor

Witsand's beaches should take pride in knowing that The Wildlife & Environment Society of South Africa (WESSA) has again awarded Blue Flag status to Witsand beach.  Blue Flag is an international annual award which focuses on the environmental management of our coastline and coastal waters. This helps to promote tourism growth and development. 

 

Although it’s a voluntary eco-label, it’s become an international symbol of quality for beaches, boats and marinas. That means these areas meet a standard of excellence in the safety, amenities, cleanliness, environmental information and environmental management categories. The Blue Flag programme offers many benefits: improved tourism facilities, enhanced management of coastal ecosystems, increased awareness of the coast and capacity building of coastal municipalities.

 

The trusted eco-label provides our local beach-goers and domestic and international holiday-makers with the assurance of world class beaches offering safe, clean and well-managed facilities.It’s with this label that we feel it is important to do everything we can to help make sure we live up to our 'Blue Flag Label' and keep all the plastic litter and debris out of our oceans and off our beaches. It’s been a successful six months of running the Litter Accumulation project. We have collected over 196 kg of trash of which 97 % of it has consisted of plastic. 

 

195 kg is double Victor Matfield’s weight or another comparison would be like carrying 15 fully packed grocery bags. The graph below shows all the pieces of trash collected off our beaches for the different months of the year. when referring the pieces, we collected plastic pieces the size of 10 cent coins to 5-liter drums to full-sized 2-man tents.

Thank you for reading

We hope you enjoyed this quarterly issue. Should you have any feedback, questions, or matters you would like us to cover in a future issue, please do not hesitate to write to us at news@breede-river.org. 

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