RiverWise 

Issue 29 ~ February 2021

The monthly newsletter of the Lower Breede River Conservancy Trust

How your membership

can help the Breede

All estuaries in South Africa are under severe pressure resulting from over-exploitation of natural resources, habitat destruction and deterioration of water quality.


If you take an active interest in, or use, the Breede River Estuary we hope that we can persuade you to become a member of the LBRCT and to support our endeavours on your behalf by way of your contribution to these efforts.


The authorities who are ultimately responsible for ensuring protection of our valuable natural resources are contributing, however, they simply cannot afford to allocate sufficient of their available funds to meet the estuary’s conservation needs.


Your membership contribution supplements the funds obtained from the licence fees paid by users of boats; the municipalities by way of supplementary grants constrained by their many other social upliftment and development imperatives, and grants from those government agencies to whom we are contracted.


There are 62 estuaries in the Western Cape and all need support. The Breede is one of the two largest and most important and we all need to play a role in preserving it. 100% of your membership subscriptions are put to the best possible use to help maintain the conservation infrastructure that has taken many years to put in place and initiate new projects such as:


• Turtle and penguin rescue transport

• Environmental education programmes

• Holiday activity programmes

• Funding conservation interns

• Printing brochures, pamphlets, posters and information packs

• Producing and erecting signage

• Materials and equipment for monitoring projects


For R 100 a year, you can assist us with all of the above and add your voice that is so important to ensure that your opinions and concerns are heard. The LBRCT can speak more authoritatively when dealing with the vast number of threats, regulations and legislation that already affect the estuary with the backing of a sizeable member base.


Please think about the future of the estuary and the importance of maintaining its good health for you and your children’s benefit through supporting our effort.

Yes, I want to support the Breede…

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


MALGAS OUTLET:

Living the Breede

Phone: 067 162 9081 or 082 324 2757

Open: Mon-Sun from 08h00 – 17h00


RIVERINE OUTLET:

Breede Riverine Estate

Phone: 028 542 1345

Open: 09h00 – 17h00


WITSAND OUTLETS:

Lower Breede River Conservancy Office

Sands Supermarket

Nella’s se Winkel


SWELLENDAM OUTLET:

Heyneman Yamaha

Phone: 028 514 2010

Open: 8h00 – 17h00


ONLINE LICENCES:

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

https://breede-river.org/licences/


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 February 2021. We start off with the highlights of what we have been up to during the month. Marine regulations were further enforced through Operation Phakisa. For the species focus we take a look at Cape Eagle-Owls. We end off with a summary of our bird count and water quality data for the month.

Operation Phakisa

Operation Phakisa (Oceans Economy) is a government lead initiative that is aimed at the enforcement of the Marine Living Resource regulations of South African estuaries, including the Breede. On the weekend of 12 February our rangers assisted officials from the Department of Environmental, Forestry and Fisheries (DEFF) as well as members of the police from Mossel Bay and Stilbaai. We provided logistic support, vessels for water patrols and contributed additional manpower. A number of transgressions were identified and fines issued. Time was also spent planning for future operations.

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

  • Species of the month:

Cape Eagle-Owl

Bubo capensis

Cape Eagle-Owls (Bubo capensis) are one of the largest owls in Southern Africa. Adults can grow taller than 50 cm and weigh up to 1.4 kg. This nocturnal owl is often confused with the Spotted Eagle-Owl, but can be differentiated by its larger feet, orange eyes and darker breast patches.

Along the Breede River small mammals such as mice, rock hyraxes and rock hares are plentiful and comprise the majority of the Cape Eagle-Owl’s diet. These owls roost in rock crevices, in the shade of overhanging rock ledges, and in trees with dense foliage, such as milkwoods. Before the breeding season it is not uncommon to see a pair of Eagle-Owls roosting together.

Cape Eagle-Owls are territorial birds that have relatively large territories. Breeding occurs annually, typically during the months of May

and June, but records have shown breeding to last until September. During courtship, the male bows up and down in front of the female, whilst puffing up his white throat and hooting in quick succession. Cape Eagle-Owl nests are constructed on the ground and vary from shallow diggings to stick nests built by other birds. Usually two eggs are laid and are incubated by the female whilst the male is responsible for hunting. After approximately 17 days the chicks are old enough to be left alone for the first time, allowing both parents to hunt.


In early December last year we had the privilege of observing and photographing a brood of Cape Eagle-Owls here along the Breede River. The parent’s territory fell between Slangrivier and Bobbejaanskrans on the Infanta side of the river.

These two chicks were old enough for their parents to leave them alone during the day. In the summer heat most of their day is spent

sleeping. Seldom do these chicks make any noises that would give away their position to unwanted predators. The main predators of juvenile Cape Eagle-Owl chicks are Caracals, Martial eagles, and other large birds of prey.

A few weeks later the Eagle-Owls were found again nesting under some Rooikrans trees. Videos. Juvenile Cape Eagle-Owls are pale in colour and blend into their woody landscape very well.

It is not uncommon to see Cape Eagle-Owls hunting at night. Often they perch on telephone poles and fence posts scanning the land

for the slightest movement. At night these owls visit the municipal camping grounds near the tidal pool in Witsand. Unfortunately, Cape Eagle-Owls are frequently subject to road fatalities, so please look out for them!

In the data

Monthly routine monitoring

February bird counts

The LBRC worked in association with CapeNature this month to conduct a Coordinated Waterbird Count (CWAC). These counts are aimed at monitoring the bird populations of the lower Breede river and the conditions of their habitat. It was a cloudy morning with the wind picking up towards midday. A total of 634 birds of 26 different species were observed. The three most abundant species recorded this month were the Common Ringed Plover (261 birds), South African Shelduck (50) and the Kelp Gull (44).

February water quality

The water quality run revealed saline conditions far up river this month. As expected the salinity in the estuary mouth was the highest (around 34 PSU) and steadily decreased with distance upriver. Only closer to the area of Lemoentuin did the salinity start to become negligible. This salt content stretching far upriver is responsible for the death of some of the invasive water hyacinth which still persists in the area. Water hyacinth and its impacts on natural ecosystems are well understood, but cost-effective management strategies remain a problem in South Africa. With summer nearing an end, it is expected that freshwater rainfall will facilitate the establishment of the water hyacinth. The water temperature was warm and pleasant throughout the estuary, averaging 26 °C.

Photo of the month

The photo-of-the-month competition is a new initiative which the LBRC is promoting whereby members of the public can send us their photos of anything related to the natural beauty of the Breede River! The photo of the month for February is of a Cape Grysbok lamb (Raphicerus melanotis). Thank you to Chris Brink for notifying us that it was sleeping on the footpaths of the Witsand Nature Reserve above Skuitbaai early on the morning of the 25th. The bokkie was in healthy condition and had moved off before midday.

Please personal message us your photos on Instagram, Facebook or send them to info@breede-river.org.

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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