Imagine driving out in a hurry early in the morning and spotting a very large, brown, hairy creature skulking among the trees near your home. A Hills and Dales resident decided there could only be one animal sporting a mane like that – a lion.
The Police were notified, the Nooitgedacht Lion Park was contacted and all neighbours given a warning that a predator might be loose in the area. Horse owners were advised not to let their horses out into the veld. The managers in the lion parks in Nooitgedacht and in Kalkheuvel were asked to check on their lions but all of them seemed to be present with no intention of exploring the wild blue yonder.
A search in the thickly wooded area along the Jukskei River was launched and finally the trackers found a spoor – a brown hyena! Bonnie Debbo, who lives in the area where the spoor was found, says her dogs were barking non-stop the night before and she heard very strange calls that she could not identify.
Brown hyena spoor has often been found in Hennops River near the Schurveberg but the animals have seldom ventured so far south. A leopard was spotted in Hennops on April 1 this year but it was regarded as an April Fool story, until the Leopard Conservation Project verified that it was indeed a leopard.
Brown Hyena (Courtesy: Kichaka Private Game Lodge. www.kichaka.co.za)
Allan Eccles of Radiokop found an owl nesting in a potplant holder on his balcony! He has two requests regarding owls.
Thank you for VeldTalk! I ask for assistance from your readers in two matters, both relating to owls.
My wife and I have the unique privilege of having a pair of Spotted Eagle Owls nest on our balcony, in a pot plant! The owls are currently sitting on three eggs. We took photographs and kept a diary, now published in a hard-cover coffee-table book called Pot Plant Owl. We would like to sell the book via game lodges, B&Bs in conservancies, and direct. The web site is www.potplantowl.co.za. A link takes you to a Web Cam and a blog (diary). Proceeds from books bought direct from the website go to EWT, BirdLife or FreeMe.
Grass Owl chick rescued from a veld fire and rehabilitated and released at Suikerbosrand Nature Reserve. (Wikimedia Commons license)
“MmaRitha” of Hennops River sent photos of three newly-hatched Bulbul chicks.
“I sneaked these pics of the Bulbul chicks in the inner courtyard of our house,” she writes. “I quickly took the first pic with my cell phone and it is out of focus because I was so scared that the mother would abandon them if she saw me near them. All the cats were banned from the courtyard for the time being. I had to steel myself, not to keep peeping at the chicks. If the mother left them I would never have forgiven myself.”
“At the end of Week One the chicks had grown feathers but still slept most of the time. After 12 days – exactly according to Roberts' bird book - they were ready to leave the nest. After flying lessons the family took off into the trees along the river. I find it incredible that these tiny creatures are able to fend for themselves within a month of hatching!”
Caption: Bulbul chicks. Day One: Featherless and asleep. Week One: Feathered and still sleeping! Day Twelve: Adventure - preparing to face the world!
Kerri Wolter, Manager of the Vulture Programme, writes:
“The Vulture Programme has been accepted as a beneficiary of the 'My Planet/My School' card. If you have a card, would you be interested or willing to change your beneficiary details to 'The Vulture Programme'? If so, please send me your name and card number as I can get this done for you with no hassle to you.
“If you don't have a 'My Planet/My School' card, would you like one? If so, I can order one for you. There is no cost involved - just swipe the card wherever you see the 'My Planet/My School' sign and that organisation will donate a percentage of your purchase to the Vulture Programme. It's a great way of supporting the work we do with no cost to yourself!"
Cuckoo Finch photographed and identified by Eric Stokenstroom
Blue Crane photographed and identified by Eric Stokenstroom
Goliath Heron phtographed and identified by Gavin Orbell
The Oori Game Reserve's lonely giraffe, George, is awaiting the arrival of two mates. The boma where the ladies will be kept for a while to get used to their new surroundings is being constructed on Jakkalsdans, the Coles' property. Louis Cole, who is in charge of the project, says: “The poles are up, the concrete is curing and we will be putting up the canvas around it soon.”
The Conservancy donated R500 for the cement.
A fund-raising soiree, organised by Louis and Fransa Cole on 22 November, raised about R7 000. A hundred people attended the event which took place at Henry and Jay Barnard's Kwa-Empengele Lodge in the Oori. The spacious lawns and huge shady trees provided an ideal place for people to picnic while they listened to the lovely music provided by Johanna Czerny's group.
Johanna Czerny (second from left) and Friends. Host Henry Barnard (on right) and organiser Louis Cole (second from right).
The boma should be ready early in December. Not a moment too soon. Apparently George is taking out his impatience on the local telephone poles and knocking them over. No great loss there – seeing the area has no Telkom lines anymore.
Tatz Junction on the R511 has a novel way of dealing with the pub's stream of empty bottles. They're baked. The results are glass dishes in different shapes and various beer bottle colours! Practical, sturdy and quite ornamental.
This unique recycling effort was the brainchild of Tatz owner, Oliver Reprich. “We inherited two kilns,” he said, “and decided to experiment with the bottles instead of just discarding them.” The bottles are simply packed side by side on a shaped container, heated to high temperatures and left to cool for 24 hours. The glass melts, fusing the bottles together. And voilà! - an unusual and very useful dish for display or for serving food.
Bongani Khoza, who makes the plates, is very proud of his handiwork. “I can make many different shapes,” he says. “We are not wasting the bottles anymore and that is good.” The plates are sold next to the restaurant and according to Bongani they sell “very fast”.
Jubilation and pride! “The boys from the Oori SOS team played their first soccer match against the chaps from Alpha Conference Centre two weeks ago and won 7-5!” writes Michelle Panos, an Oori resident. This team had been practising with great enthusiasm on the soccer field constructed in August on the SOS Training Village property in Riverside Estates.
“The Marussi and Pahl children made up part of our team and Stef and Natalie Marussi kindly helped transport the children to Alpha,” says Michelle. “The team we played against was considerably older and yet our kids managed to pull out all the stops and make us and their coach, Silo Ncube,very proud!”
The Marussis with a jubilant soccer team
Pink Peril Season and Silly Season arrive together. The pink Pompom has again made its appearance. Treating it at this stage has double benefits because it prevents flowering and saves on the huge job of cutting and burning the flower heads. For treatment details (herbicide, cost, mixing directions, equipment, etc) go to on the www.rnc.za.net website. Pompom's scientific name is Campoloclinium macrocephalum. It is a Categoy 1 invader.
The purple Wild Verbena (Verbena bonariensis) has spread like a plague in the veld. It looks a bit like the statice flowers found in gardens. This plant has been around for years but has suddenly appeared in massive numbers. It has been declared a Category 1 invader which means it must be removed from our properties.
Good news... This Verbena is a perennial but it can be pulled up easily while the soil is wet as it has a different root system from Pompom. The November rains have been in our favour - get busy before it flowers and spreads! (Note: Don't pull up Pompom – it leaves tiny root sections which simply start growing again.)
Too many learners? Too few classrooms? No problem, let's build one! Even better – a “green” one.
Bathabile Primary School in Doornrandje has grown so fast that plans had to be made on the run to provide classrooms for its 1 200 learners. This included temporary prefab buildings and corrugated iron structures which are freezers in winter and ovens in summer. So the Rhenosterspruit Nature Conservancy's NewFutures Forum, in collaboration with SEED (Schools Environmental Education and Development), offered to build a “green” classroom for Bathabile.
“Green” comes in many shapes but after considerable deliberation with the school, and expert advice from green building fundi, Alastair Armstrong of Insynch Technologies, it was decided to build a strawbale and adobe brick classroom.
But, this goes beyond just “building a classroom”. It's a community affair with parents, learners and local residents all getting involved in this pioneering venture.
“Green” architects, tws, drew up the plans (no charge!) and Alastair and Sonia Armstrong taught the technique for both strawbale building and making adobe bricks, using local soils.
Doornrandje resident Niko Knigge has taken on the job of managing this project. “The first working day was very exciting,” he says. “Twenty volunteers turned up for training and we managed to make 60 bricks! This may not sound much, but it's a start. We're all learning new skills.
“Nick Dale (from the Oori) made the moulds, Tina de Waal (SEED) brought the straw. The school workers removed the fence, the older kids helped clear the site in the morning and the younger kids cleared the fine stuff in the afternoon. About 17m³ soil is available on site.
“Special thanks to our local Community Police Forum chairman, Francis Gomes, who has assisted with trucks, front-end loader and building materials. lt's very heartening to meet someone who helps so generously.
“PPC Laezonia has also been a great help, donating 10 m³ of sand. Thank you to Henk Wiltz of PPC for organising it.”
On the wish list: Straw bales (300!), cement, lime, steel for window frames, corrugated iron for the roof, gum poles for the roof structure, egg boxes for insulation, water collection tank, volunteers!
Visit the school's website for more information: www.bathabileschool.org.za
Efforts to set up a recycling depot at the school is ongoing. The Glass Recycling Company has approved Bathabile's application for a bottle bank. Negotiations with other recycling companies are in progress but frustratingly slow. Every Friday the learners clean the stretch of road leading to the school, but the refuse needs to go somewhere – not into a hole to be burnt.