Spring is here and the visitors have returned for Summer.From dawn to dusk you can hear the melody of birdsong fill the air. It is a hive of activity with nest constructions and mating displays.Some wonderful sightings of our resident Fish Eagle collecting twigs have been recorded and the ever elegant Blue Cranes are gathered in flocks all around the farm. We are planning a Birding weekend in October with Western Cape Birding, hosted by Dr A Odendal. Please send us an e-mail for more information.
Better late than never- The rains have fallen quite late this year so our usual display of flowers are slightly late. Our guides have seen some beautiful specimen around the Reserve including the rare Ground Protea. Be sure to take a drive to our area to see the majestic colour display.
Well you know Spring is here when the you see the sea of yellow around you.On Elandsberg we have planted around 100he of canola this year and its planted as a rational crop on the farm.Canola or rape seed as its know in the rest of the world was developed in the early 1970s using traditional plant breeding techniques by Canadian plant breeders to remove the anti-nutritional components (erucic acid and glucosinolates) from rapeseed to assure its safety for human and animal consumption. The canola plant also produced seeds with a very low level of saturated fat, seven percent or below.
Christened “Canola” from “Can” (for Canada) and “ola” (for oil low acid), canola is not, strictly speaking, rapeseed. There is a internationally regulated definition of canola that differentiates it from rapeseed, based upon its having less than two percent erucic acid and less than 30 umoles glucosinolates. Oilseed products that do not meet this standard cannot use the trademarked term Canola.
I was lucky enough to be able to join my first animal capture. The animals in question were 5 bontebok (3 females and 2 males) and 8 of Elandsbergs Quagga. With my experience of animal capture being a verbal experience, I wasn’t sure what lay ahead of me. All that I knew of a capture was that it involved a lot of running, shouting and frayed tempers. This, on the day was not the case at all.
The proceedings started off at round about 9 in the morning with all the players gathering beforehand to discuss the plan for what was about to unfold. The different parties mentioned were Bernard and Nicola Wooding ,Tom & Frank Turner, Clive, Jane and her husband, Sonja, and myself Steve Meihuizen. We were also lucky enough to have the help of the farm labourers from Frank and Toms Farm.
Tom an experienced game capturer laid out our plan in detail. Each of the 3 land rovers lead by Bernard,Clive and Franc had handheld receiver radios which were in contact with Tom who in turn was in contact with the chopper pilot. Tom would ride ahead on his motorbike and identify were the species had finally dropped, and would communicate to the specific vehicles.
Communication was essential, as the darts administered with bontebok had a very quick reaction time and getting there to prop up the bonteboks beautiful marked heads upright. During the choppers initial flight, in order to identify the individuals suitable for the capture, it was amazing to see the bonteboks in full flight across the plains. We always forget that these stunning creatures actually can hit speeds of 70km/h for a prolonged period.
The whole process was carried out without a hitch, communication was cool calm and articulate. Before we knew it the bontebok capture was complete, and the animals were relocated. Of course saying all this, the bontebok played their part by staying in relative open areas so that hauling into the land cruisers was an easier prospect.
In the afternoon round midday we were off to capture 8 of our striking quaggas. Again the procedure was explained in full detail by Bernard and executed by us the willing volunteers. On game drives you can always see the beauty of these magnificent creatures, with their distinctive lighter hind quarters. Getting up close and very personal just puts the appreciation to another level. The majesty of their coats, the strength in their breathing and the quiet grandeur in their eyes (which we had to cover to reduce the stress levels)
Again the capture went off without a hitch and I was very proud to be part of a team that took such care and effort in making the experience swift with minimal amounts of stress towards the animals. At the end of the day preparation was the key element in making the day a complete and utter success.
The vulnerbale Elandsberg Pea Lotononis complanata has been seen in the Reserve. This species is known from two small subpopulations.The first subpopulation is protected in our nature reserve and is stable.The second subpopulations is likely to continue to delcline to to heavy overgrazing and spreading alien invasive plants.The Elandsberg Pea is a long-lived resprouter (geberation length 30 years) that grows very low to the ground and has a beautiful purple flower which appear in June.
Also seen on the drives is the Men in a boat Colchicum capense or Patrysblom in afrikaans . The vernacular name possibly refers to the belief that the corms were scratched out by the francolins although they have been recorded as being toxic to crows.Another possibility is that the marked bracts of some species resemeble the speckled breast of the birds. This flower appears as if it is floating on dry ground.It is a stemless perennial with lance shaped leaves that have fine hairs along the margins.You would usually find this plant in damp clay soils in the South Western Cape and Namaqualand.Flowering times are June to August.
Here are some updated pictures from our camera traps- sadly no sightingof the Leopard, fingers crossed for the next entry.
Spekboom Portulacaria afra, also known as elephant bush, dwarf jade plant and pork bush, is a small-leaved indigenous succulent plant found in Southern Africa. It is a soft-wooded, semi-evergreen upright shrub or small tree, usually 2.5–4.5 metres. The spekboom is widespread in the Southern Africa. In this moist climate, it is relatively rare, and tends to favour dryer rocky outcrops and slopes. It is also found in much denser numbers in the dryer Southern Cape.
Can you eat this plant? Yes, it is commonly eaten in Southern Africa, usually as one component of a salad or a soup but the most amazing quality this plant has is its ability for carbon sequestration. It is capable of either C3 or CAM carbon fixation, depending on factors such as the season and the age of the leaves. In layman’s terms it absorbs large quantities of carbon dioxide, almost four tons per hectare. It is also water wise and drought resistant and can survive on just 250 -350mm of water a year. Make sure you add this to your garden it can definitely improve the quality of air you breath.
Caracals are medium-sized wild cats native to Africa; it is listed as Least Concern on the IUCN Red List and threatened by habitat loss due to human habitation and farming of natural habitat. Its habitat includes semi-deserts, open savannas, and scrublands. Typically nocturnal, we say typically because out in Nature you’re not allowed to use two words , ALWAYS & NEVER, because nature can surprise you most of the time as we were surprised by the Cat in picture! Caracals are highly secretive and difficult to observe. They are nocturnal but can be active during the day in protected areas. Caracals are carnivores and feed mostly on hares, rodents, rabbits, hyraxes, antelopes and birds.
African Wildcat- Rare and endangered,however, there is currently thought to be at least five different subspecies: the European wildcat, the African wildcat , the Southern African wildcat the Asian wildcat and the Chinese alpine steppecat. These cats are hardly ever seen and to get a picture with the cat and its prey is very rare too. We are very fortunate to have got pictures of these cats walking around during the day on our Reserve and hope to share many more.
Its a new year and a new team and we are very happy to welcome Jonty and Rebecca to the guiding department. They both have their own skill set with Jonty a keen mountain biker and birder and Rebecca a trails guide who loves everything creep crawly and of course cuddly!
They will be sharing their stories with you weekly and we hope that you will be able to learn more about our fascinating Reserve and the Flora and Fauna found here.We do hope that you will get to meet them when you next visit us in the future.
Meet Andrew our new Merino Stud Ram bought at a recent auction and originally from Craddock and named after his breeder Andrew Jordaan.Andrew spent a month in Bloemfoentein at a facility who store and collect samples from animals and are a specialist semen centre where breeders can have samples frozen of their animals in case something happens to them and if another breeders would like to purchase a specific Rams DNA for their stock.Andrew was brought back to the farm to help start the stud programme with our merinos ewes.He had a new haircut after is arrival with over 10kg of wool sheared .After a few weeks of rest from his travels,Andrew will start his new job and Abraham,our sheep Manager and the sheep team are very excited to have him here on Elandsberg- watch this space..!
With all the flowers around the bees are having a tough time pollinating them all. Luckily they have a helping hand in the form of Monkey beetles and various fly species. The down side is that the monkey beetles eat the pollen. In the end nature has a way of working things out.
Some of the pollen gets stuck to the body of these little creatures which is transported to several different flowers as they move around them, thus pollinating them. Be sure to watch them go about their business next time you are in die field as they provide great amusement while fulfilling a vital role in nature.