Issue 27 ~ October 2020

The monthly newsletter of the Lower Breede River Conservancy Trust

Have you renewed your

boat licence yet?

Annual Municipal Boat licences are due for renewal every year from 1 July and valid until 30 June the following year.

Just a reminder of our outlets available for boat licence sales for 2020/2021


Living the Breede

Phone: 067 162 9081 or 082 324 2757

Open: Mon-Fri from 08h00 - 17h00

Sat 08h00 to 13h00 and Sun Closed


Breede Riverine Estate

Phone: 028 542 1345

Open: 09h00 – 17h00


Lower Breede River Conservancy Office

Phone: 028 537 1296

Open: Mon-Fri from 08h00 - 16h00

Sands Supermarket

Phone: 028 537 1800

Nella's se Winkel

Phone: 028 537 1304


Heyneman Yamaha

Phone: 028 514 2010

Open: 8h00 – 17h00


Buy your boat licence online and arrange to pick up your disk at Living the Breede (Malgas) or LBRCT office (Witsand)


Contact our office if you have any questions regarding the boat licences - 028 537 1296 / info@breede-river.com

What we have been up to

In this issue

This issue covers our activities for October 2020. We start off with the highlights of what we have been up during the month. For the species focus we take a look at the Rock Martin, a small bird part of the swallow family. We end off with a summary of our bird count and water quality data for the month.

Pygmy Sperm Whale

A Pygmy Sperm Whale beached itself on the main beach at Witsand on Wednesday, the 30th of September. The whale was heroically put back in the water by concerned members of the public. Sadly it was found dead Thursday morning. With help from Hessequa Municipality we were able to remove the whale from the beach and take it to a safe location until it was collected by the Department of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries on the Friday morning.

These small, robust whales inhabit deep waters over the continental shelf. Little is known about these whales and they are rarely encountered at sea. Strandings often occur between autumn/winter and spring. Squid is the main species preyed upon by the Pygmy Sperm Whale. We would like to thank everybody who was involved with the reporting and attempted rescue of the whale.

The feedback from DEFF was that the whale was pregnant and in good health, but the umbilical cord was wrapped around the fetus.

Nurdle Washout on Beaches

Over the weekend of the 3rd of October, nurdles washed up onto our beaches. The beaches at Infanta appeared to have a much higher concentration of nurdles than Witsand. Members of the public were quick to organise a nurdle cleanup.

This will unfortunitly be an ongoing project and the help of the community is needed. All over, people are organising their own cleanup days and making it a priority when going for walks to take a bag with and bring some back to the allocated drop of points.

It's a lot of work, but every little bit helps. More on nurdles later on in the Newsletter.

Monthly water quality run

On the 14th we did our monthly water quality run. At the end of the newsletter we have the September and October results of the salinity and water temperature.

Assisting with DEA&DP water monitoring

Our rangers assisted DEA&DP with their monthly water sampling visit where they record enviromental parameters and E-coli levels at 10 sites along the Breede River Estuary. We are glad to be involved in this project to help monitor the health of the estuary.

Monthly bird count

On the 19th our rangers were out doing a monthly bird count. If was a bit of a overecast day, but we managed to visit all the sites.

A summary of the species seen at the end of the newsletter.

Training at APSS

On the 28th we visited the African Penguin and Seabird Sanctuary for a refresher training and to learn more about these endangered species. African Penguin Awareness Day was celebrated on the 10th of October. During the year we had a couple of penguin rescues in our area. We work closely with APSS where these birds get sent to rehabilitate before getting released again.

An interesting sighting

This group decided with the perfect weather they just had to go down to the river.

CapeNature Webinar - Essential Estuaries

CapeNature hosted a free online webinar on 29 October to celebrate National Marine Month. They talked about the importance of estuaries, what is being done to manage them, and the role you can play to protect them. If you missed it, click on the underneath button to watch the recording on their Facebook page.

Follow us on your favourite social media platform to see what we are up to daily!

Species Focus

Rock Martin

The Rock Martin is a small bird, which is part of the swallow family, that is widespread throughout Africa. In southern Africa, this resident species is common and widespread. The sexes of this species look the same. The Rock Martin weighs 22 grams. The oldest known Rock Martin is 6 years and 9 months old.

The adult birds have a brown head, with the throat and breast a pinkish cinnamon colour. The bill is black and the eyes dark brown. The legs and feet are a dusky pinkish brown. A key characteristic of this species is the square tail and white tail-spots.

Favoured habitat of this species includes rocky hills, mountainous regions, cliffs as well as quarries, buildings, dam walls and bridges.

Insects are hawked (to hunt on the wing) aerially and have been known to feed at night around neon lights.

This species is monogamous (one mate) with male and female birds building the nest. The cup-shaped nest, which is made up of mud pellets, can take up to 40 days to build. The nest is lined with feathers, fine grass or plant down. The nests can be re-used for several years by birds. It has been observed that the same nest was used 14 years in a row.

Peak egg laying dates in South Africa fall between September and December. Usually 2-3 eggs are recorded with each egg laid at 24-hour intervals. The eggs are incubated by the male and female for a period of 17-29 days. Each shift by the parents lasts 2-12 minutes. The egg survival rate is 81.4%.

This species is not threatened

Sinclair I, Hockey P, Tarboton, Ryan P. 2011. Sasol Birds of southern Africa. 4th Edition

Hockey P, Dean W, Ryan P (Eds). 2005. Robert’s Birds of southernAfrican. 7th Edition

Photos: https://www.biodiversityexplorer.info/birds/hirundinidae/hirundo_fuligula.htm

Photo copyright: Johan van Rensberg


Photo copyright: Markus Craig

What is a nurdle?

What is a nurdle?

It is a small plastic pellet that serves as a raw material in the making of plastic products.

How best to collect them?

As they are very small, the use of a sieve or net is the best way to sift them out the sand. These nurdles can then be separated into a bucket or other container. Nurdles float so you can also rinse off using a bucket of water and then scoop them up.

Why is this important?

Nurdles are harmful to marine animals who may ingest them causing blockages, starvation, and death. Nurdles also become toxic as they accumulate other pollutants such as pesticides that have run off into the ocean.

How far do they travel?

In 2017, a storm in Durban-Kwazulu Natal, South Africa, caused a container full of bags of nurdles to break into the ocean – 25 tons worth. Within months they were documented in Gansbaai. In 2018 these nurdles were reported washing up on the coast of Western Australia – they were tracked back to Durban because of their unique chemical signature. Nurdles are an international disaster.

Xavier Zylstra, a Deputy Head at the Two Oceans Aquarium Environmental Education Centre, that frequents Infanta was there with the start of the Nurdle spill and wrote an interesting article on this - The return of the Nurdles. Click on the button below to read more.


Infanta Slipway - Marked bin

LBRCT office in Witsand

The Anchorage Beach Restaurant & Bar

Sources: Dyer Island Conservancy Trust

Infographic: South African Association for Marine Biological Research

In the data

Monthly routine monitoring

October bird count

A total of 552 birds constituting 23 species were seen during October’s waterbird count. Again, Southern Red Bishops (150 birds) were still the most abundant birds seen as they are still highly visible in the reeds. Common terns, which were the second most abundant species seen, are a common breeding Palearctic migrant that are present along coastal waters and adjacent wetlands. In southern Africa they start arriving in October and leave around March. These were followed by Egyptian Geese (65 birds), Whimbrels (48 birds) and South African Shelducks (39 birds).

September and October water quality

Water Quality RunThe water temperature recorded at the bottom of the estuary showed typical trends for a permanently open estuary. Higher water temperatures were recorded in the upper reaches compared to the lower reaches. The lowest temperature was recorded at Mudlark in September (15.42 °C) and October (16.79 °C). This site is much deeper (6.3 meters) than the immediately surrounding sites (2.9m-3.8m) which may explain the lower temperatures. Temperatures decreasing with increasing depth is recorded in estuaries.

Mudlark also recorded the highest salinity at any site in September (32.27) and October (34.26). This deep area at Mudlark could limit the mixing of marine and freshwaters during these rainy months which would explain the high salinities.

The lower salinity observed in the Breede River Estuary during October would result from more freshwater entering the estuary. During September, freshwater conditions were recorded by White House. In October these conditions were recorded closer to the mouth by the Powerlines.

The higher water temperatures observed in October are due to the warmer weather experienced as we head into summer.

Comparative Temprature chart

Comparative Salinity chart

Thank you for reading

We hope you enjoyed this months' 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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