Tag Archives: umngeni vlei

Searching for Disa scullyi

CREW fieldtrips are seldom dull.  Kathy Milford compiled this report on a recent excursion:

The 4x4s packed with 10 wild flower lovers, wound their way up a steep hill to Lake Lyndhurst past magnificent indigenous forests dotted with Calodendron capense in full bloom. We passed many clumps of Dierama latifolium.

Lake Lyndhurst

Kobus Kruger who has a thatched home on the lakeside then led us past the lake where we saw a beautiful dark red Brunsvigia natalensis, just before we left the beaten track.

Brunsvigia natalensis

The 4x4s bumped and jolted their way over the boulder strewn mountainside up to the top of the escarpment, with a quick stop to look at the  white Craterocapsa tarsodes.

Craterocapsa tarsodes 1

The view from the top was spectacular. Umgeni source Bertha Kobus 1

We looked down onto the vlei which is the source of the life giving uMngeni river.

Umgeni source 1

The mountaintop of Drinkkop stood next to us. We were surrounded by beautiful flowers between the boulders in the grassland. The bright pink Delosperma lavisiae contrasted beautifully next to yellow Lotononis.

Delosperma lavisiae

The dainty little white flowers of Sutera floribunda peeped between the rocks. A Stachys kuntzei was in full bloom.

Stachys kuntzei

A most delicate white Felicia was blooming and Rhus discolor was in berry.

Rhus discolor 1

Jamesbrittenia breviflora spread along the ground

Jamesbrttenia breviflora 1

and Indigofera woodii bloomed next to a rock. Helichrysum appendiculatum looked like a professionally made posy!

Helichrysum appendiculatum 1

Scilla nervosa,

Scilla nervosa

Tulbaghia natalensis, Oxalis and a beautiful Moraea sp were blooming close together.Moraea sp

Some distance away the eye catching Pelargonium luridum stood tall.

But we had orchids to find, so we climbed into the 4x4s to make our way down the hill to a vlei between Drinkkop and Lake Lyndhurst. We had a quick stop to admire a Disperis cardiophora which has an extraordinary rich spicy scent – enticing us to get down on our hands and knees to smell it.

Disperis cardiophora

A bright little Argyrolobium was blooming nearby.

Argyrolobium sp

We arrived at the vlei and blooming on the side of a dry looking bank was a black Corycium dracomontanum or nigrescens orchid.

Corycium dracomontanum

We walked  down into the vlei passing Monsonia attenuata,

Monsonia attenuata

Wahlenbergia and Monopsis.

The vlei was unbelievably full of orchids. Satyrium trinerve 2

The white Satyrium trinerve were blooming in their hundreds and were the first to catch ones eye.

Satyrium trinerve

In between were dozens of  Satyrium longicauda.


There was a single orange Disa chrysostachya looking like a poker.

Disa chrysostachya

The Disa rhodantha were a rich pink

Disa rhodantha

and the brightest yellow Schizochilus zeyheri were blooming prolifically in between the tall grasses.

There was one lonely potential Disa scullyi which was past its prime and which Benny Bytebier too back to the herbarium to confirm its identity. Yes! it is Disa scullyi – at last we found one!

Having saturated ourselves with the numbers and varieties of orchids we made our way back to the house next to the lake to recharge. We had made a brief stop en route to look at an extraordinary Disa versicolor.

Disa versicolor

After lunch we set off home. A short stop at a little vlei on the way out of the Bravazulu estate did not yield any new orchids but there were little insectivorous Drosera natalensis glistening in the sunlight at the edge.

Drosera natalenis

One lady got stuck up to her knees in mud in the vlei, with water overflowing from her gumboots and was pulled out by Benny before she was swallowed up by the mud!

Vlei orchid

The weather was kind to us – a bright blue sky with white fluffy clouds was replaced with dark grey storm clouds which soon blew over, unlike the hailstorm which caused damage back in Pietermaritzburg.

Kobus Kruger was an excellent guide and host, and Suvarna “the Stig” Parbhoo turned out to be an expert 4WD driver! Thanks to Benny Bytebier for sharing his amazing orchid knowledge.


Wetlands and Tourism

This article first appeared in The Green Times.

World Wetlands Day celebrated in February marks the adoption of the Convention on Wetlands on 2 February 1971, in Ramsar, Iran. The aim of the convention is to protect the World’s highly sensitive and declining natural wetlands and to raise awareness of the importance and value of wetlands to people around the globe. The Convention has been signed by almost all national governments around-the-world, with South Africa becoming a signatory in December 1975.Bronner panorama WETLAND 4

The country currently has 21 designated wetlands of international importance across the country covering over 554 136 hectares in size and ranging from the Prince Edward Islands to St Lucia, Kosi Bay, Langebaan, Nylsvlei and the Natal Drakensberg Park.

“However, the country has numerous other less well-known local sites that tend to be overlooked or unappreciated and efforts need to be taken to raise the profile of all wetlands in an effort to protect this valuable element of South Africa’s biodiversity” says Greg McManus, managing director of the Heritage Environmental Management Company.

r umngeni vlei in winter 020

An economic driver

With the importance of tourism as an economic driver in South Africa – and the potential negative effects of tourism on these internationally recognised areas, the tourism sector is often best placed to assist in the development of these fragile environments.

r karkloof conservation centre 5th anniversay wetland

SBS International and the Heritage Environmental Management Company have urged the industry to become more involved in efforts to protect and raise awareness of threats faced by wetlands and the important role wetlands play in biodiversity and the protection of species.

“The environment and our unique tourism offerings attract a growing number of tourists annually to the country, and with this comes a greater responsibility by the tourism sector to play an active role in protecting the country’s fragile wetlands. We can best do this by raising awareness of the sites with visitors and locals alike,” he adds.

A natural attraction to water

People are naturally attracted to water, to coastal wetlands such as coral reefs and beaches, and to inland wetlands such as lakes and rivers, reflecting the strong bond between people and nature as well as the unique aesthetic appeal of wetlands.

r kids at karkloof wetland

“Hotel and resort development and tourism activities in and around sites such as wetlands pose additional challenges to the sustainable and responsible use of wetlands, and increased impacts associated with human interaction, traverse patterns and activities associated with tourism need to be fully understood,” says Neal Dickinson, director of operations at Heritage.

As part of their efforts to raise awareness of tourism-based impacts, Heritage works closely with its certified members and others in the tourism and hospitality sector to ensure the highest possible awareness of issues such as wetland protection and has challenged the hotel and resort industry to get involved in the protection and sustainable use of their closest wetlands.

“While there are internationally recognised sites across the country, we need to be aware of the impacts being felt on wetlands closer to home,” adds Dickinson.

Other sensitive areas often overlooked

Often, local, less significant but equally sensitive areas are overlooked by local authorities, development agencies and even developers of tourism-based businesses, and Heritage is working closely with all interested parties to ensure higher awareness of the impacts that unplanned and poorly executed developments take place.

r wetland - Nikki Brighton

“Development of tourist facilities in sensitive areas takes place as a result of a lack of understanding of the role wetlands play in the biodiversity we have, and by raising issues related to the protection of wetlands, we hope developers and the tourism sector will play a more prominent role in their protection” says McManus.

This year’s theme: Wetlands and Agriculture

The theme for World Wetlands Day 2014 is “Wetlands and Agriculture: Partners for Growth” in recognition of the sensitive balance between preservation and agricultural development taking place globally.

The events this year will focus on the need for the wetland and agricultural sectors (and the water sector too of course) to work together for the best shared outcomes and follows the declaration of 2014 as the International Year of Family Farming by the United Nations.

Small-scale farming plays an important role in the hospitality and tourism sectors through the provision of local produce and agricultural products, and often these activities take place in marginal or ecologically sensitive areas around unlisted or local wetlands and ecologically sensitive areas.

wetland flowers bramble invading

The tourism sector can influence the role played by small-scale farmers in the protection of wetlands.

Dickinson calls on hoteliers, resort operators and others in the tourism sector to join Heritage in recognising World Wetlands Day on Sunday, 2 February by becoming involved in any number of initiatives associated with designated sites across the country.

Raising awareness of their closest site with visitors and guests and organising awareness visits and activities is being encouraged as part of this global event.

disa - .RES

All the Mpop Action

Mpophomeni Conservation Group members have organised and participated in many different activities this past week – ranging from exploring the forests of Zululand, hosting visitors to the township, stroking snakes and flying high to see where Mpophomeni fits into the Midlands Water Catchment.


Ayanda Lipheyana and Lindiwe Mkhize represented Mpophomeni Conservation Group at the Annual CREW (Custodians of Rare and Endangered Wildplants) Workshop in Eshowe from 30 August to 2 September along with other Midlands CREW members, Peter Warren, Alex March and Nikki Brighton.

r midlands crew

Ayanda reports: The workshop was attended by CREW groups from different provinces and university students from UKZN, UniZulu and Limpopo.  It was very exciting and wonderful to meet all these new people who care about plants. The speakers were experienced and the presentations interesting.  The first presentation was on taxonomy based on Kniphofia identification and the use of keys to find the species of the family.  Professor Braam van Wyk presented on the evolution of the Maputaland plants, talked about BioGeography and suggested reasons like temperature and underlying rock for the richness of species here – there are 230 endemic plants in the area.  In another presentation Braam talked about Grassland Ecology which was so interesting.

r walking lindiwe

Livhu Nkhuna from the Millenium Seedbank Project talked about seed collection and how we have to keep the seed safely so when plants are extinct in the wild they will be propagated.  Many CREW groups reported back on their activities for the year, the Midlands CREW (very new group) has focussed on inspiring and educating people to make the group stronger. We learnt about ferns from Neil Crouch, geology from Mike Watkeys, the importance of Herbarium specimens with Mkipheni Mgwenya, Alien species with Reshnee Lalla and the Pondoland paraecologist project from Sinegugu Zukulu.

r livhu cracking macadamias

We had a field trip to the Dlinza forest where we saw blue duiker and learnt so much about the trees and plants. The Philenoptera (Milettia) sutherlandia trees were very impressive and the Strangler Figs.  The Boardwalk was great, with an amazing view from above the canopy.  Albizia was flowering below us. We saw hornbills, sunbirds, white eared barbet, grey Cuckooshrike and many more birds in the trees.

r albizia

We also visited grasslands and forest at Entumeni Reserve.  It was a great experience.

r forest

Lindiwe commented: “I am so very happy to have this opportunity. The CREW information was breathtaking for me, now I understand what CREW is all about. The speakers from all walks of life gave us so much information and the fieldtrips to the forest were much fun.  I made unique friends from other places. Everything was super amazing!” 

r ayanda nikki lindz


The Quarterly Roadshow meeting of the Midlands Conservancies Forum was hosted by Mpophomeni Conservation Group on 5 September.  Visitors gathered at the library for a walk along the Mthinzima lead by Penz Malinga.

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Mpophomeni was established in 1964.  A large wetland surrounds the township and the name Mpophomeni comes from the sound of falling water.

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The wetlands are severely degraded and the Mthinzima stream which runs through the township is impacted by massive pollution, in particular overflowing sewerage pipes, with the mini-sass score dropping from eight where the stream rises in the hills to zero at the road after the township.

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Penz pointed out the issues with surcharging sewers and general degradation of the wetland. Litter and the smell of sewage was evident.

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We enjoyed sightings of Lap-winged Plovers (listed as vulnerable), Longclaws and found a Sacred Ibis feather.

r mcf road show mpop 008

We headed back to the library meeting room for juice, fruit and the best vetkoek in the township prepared by Ntombenhle Mtambo. Ntombenhle welcomed the group and thanked MCF for their role in fundraising to support the dreams of the “hardworking women of the Mpophomeni“.

r township burgers

Presentations by MCF were followed by uMthobo Enviro Club who told of their concern for the state of the wetland and then Thandanani’s drama about the importance of taking care of our soil, air, water, plants and animals.  Mark Graham from GroundTruth talked about the ability of polluted rivers to heal themselves (findings from the 2012 uMngeni River Walk) and introduced the soon to be launched online data collection website he has helped develop.

r mcf road show mpop 032


After many months of anticipation, Asanda Ngubane and Bulelani Ngobese, founding members of the Mpophomeni Enviro Club (facilitated by MMAEP), woke early on Saturday 7 September in preparation for their flight with pilot Craig Wing to get a bird’s eye view of the township, healthy wetlands and local rivers. The Mpophomeni Enviro Club established by the Midlands Meander Education Project in 2008, funded by N3TC.  Since its inception the focus has been on wetlands and water. Their friend Sihle was jolly envious of their adventure.

asanda sihle bulelani mpop res

Asanda is a Grade 9 learner at Mpophomeni High whose favourite subject is Science.  He has shown real commitment to the environmental cause championed by the Enviro Club over many years, attending regularly, participating quietly and diligently.   He is determined to be a scientist when he finishes school – definitely more of a thinker than a talker.   “We need the environment to be taken care of if we want our grandchildren to live a life that is super good like the old days.  Now the world is facing eco problems, but if I can do something then the planet Earth will be the best place to live. By that I mean, I want us all to do something to ensure the planet is good for many years.   Let us be the 21st Century that will be the ‘history for future life’ – we have to achieve that. We can if we work together and tell people why they should look after the wetlands and nature”.

Confident and well spoken, Bulelani also attends Mpophomeni High School.  His favourite subject in Grade 11 is Life Sciences. After school Bulelani is determined to pursue a career in environmental justice.  “It has been ten years since I started learning about the environment which surrounds us and the effect it has on our lives.  Today in High School, nothing has changed my mind about my love for the environment and because of that I have decided to be an environmental lawyer.  Yes, we don’t have a beautiful and healthy wetland in Mpophomeni but we are trying to take care of what we have. It would be amazing to get a view of other more healthy wetlands and rivers. It is always good to meet others and talk about the relationship between humans and the environment and know that the environment is the most important thing.   I do believe that together we can do more.”

Penny Rees is an environmental activist and EIA specialist for DUCT Howick who is passionate about water and river health. In 2012 she led the 311km walk along the Mngeni River from the source at uMngeni Vlei to Blue Lagoon, documenting all impacts along the river.  Her work has had a huge impact in the Midlands and the research has been included in the uMgungundlovu Strategic Environmental Assessment and other important documents.  She was guide for the flight while at the same time checking out the route she plans to take for the Lion’s River walk later this month.

r bulelani asanda penny mpop flight. JPG

Bulelani wrote this about his experience:  “My dream of flying came true today. As we took off we left all bad things and worries behind and flew over Mpophomeni, Midmar, Impendle, Howick Falls, Lion’s River and Inhlosane.

r inhlosane flight

We saw more than 20 dams and Penny told us about the link between the dams. The most good thing was that we saw some of the healthy wetlands which are not damaged in any way by human activities and which can support wildlife like uMngeni Vlei.

r mngeni vlei flight

We saw that human activities destroy and damage the environment and break the eco-systems.

r patchwork mpop flight

Today I saw things in a much bigger picture and realised that things are not as we see them here on the ground. This was the best experience and if I were to write the history of my life this would be on top.”

r kamberg  flight

Asanda was just as enthralled by the amazing adventure: “When you are in the air the places look like a puzzle. When we flew over Midmar, Penny told us that Midmar Dam feeds lots of paces with water and explained the difference between healthy and unhealthy rivers. Unhealthy ones have algae in them which is green. This is caused by sewage from the urban areas and dairy farms.

r dam flight

The most amazing thing which got my attention was that there is a Table Mountain which is not in Cape Town.

r table mountain flight

We got an aerial view of Howick Falls and also the new dam, Spring Grove which is not full yet.  We were shown a crocodile farm but unfortunately did not spot a crocodile.  We saw the source of the Mngeni river and the Karkloof falls, Albert’s Falls dam and Inanda dam, All of this was breathtaking. It made me realise that we must protect our environment.”

r giants flight

Penny concluded: “On my two previous visits to uMngeni Vlei – at the start of last years river walk, and earlier this year, we watched a Martial Eagle soaring above us and the vlei. I had the privilege yesterday to feel like that beautiful eagle, as I flew above the vlei in a tiny single engine, 4 seater plane, courtesy of the Bateleurs. Flying up from Maritzburg and following the river to the vlei, put everything into perspective as we sailed past stretches of the river that I recognised from May last year.  On turning to head for Oribi airport, I was sad that this wonderful flight was nearly over, and there are no words sufficient enough to thank both the Bateleurs for donating this flight, and Craig Wing our pilot for an awesome time soaring with the eagles.”


Bateleurs  is an organisation that “flies for the environment” – offering free flights to environmental organisations that could benefit from an aerial perspective. www.bateleurs.org  The Midlands Conservancies Forum organised this opportunity for Penny, Bulelani and Asanda.


Pat McKrill, The Snake Man,  is always a hit in Mpop.  This was his second visit this year – organised by MCG and sponsored by N3TC. A crowd  of excited kids gathered under the plane trees at Nokulunga Gumede Memorial as Pat unpacked his boxes.

r snakes 140

He explained clearly where snakes live, what they like to eat and how they do not want to harm humans except if provoked.

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With interpretation by Tutu, Lindiwe and Ntombenhle everyone learnt that when they see a snake the best thing to do is Stop and Stand Still.

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There was lots of interest in touching a snake although sitting still while one slithered under your legs was pretty challenging!

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Pat unpacked a cornsnake and a very beautiful big boa constrictor.

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Passersby stopped to see what all the excitement was about.

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Mpophomeni Conservation Group certainly are the change they want to see! 170 people belong to their Facebook group and they are about to launch into Twitter as well.  Join their group on Facebook – Mpophomeni Hills – and help spread their environmental message.

r snakes 193

Protecting Wattled Cranes and Wetlands

On a winter’s afternoon in late July, potato farmer John Campbell and the Endangered Wildlife Trust’s Tanya Smith surveyed the Umgeni Vlei Nature Reserve from a hilltop on Ivanhoe Farm in the KwaZulu-Natal Midlands. Separated from Smith’s binoculars by a swathe of golden brown grass, the water pooled in the wetland basin that sources the Umgeni River glistens in the mild sunshine as it winds its way for 265 km to meet the ocean at Durban’s coastline.

r umngeni vlei 022

“We’ve got two pairs [of wattled cranes] nesting in here at the moment,” Smith, a senior field officer with the African Crane Conservation Programme told IPS. A week earlier she had flown over the wetland for an annual aerial survey of the critically endangered birds. The birds can grow taller than five feet and are characterised by a bumpy red patch of skin between their beaks and eyes.

There are an estimated 80 breeding pairs of wattled cranes remaining in South Africa. The total South African population is less than 260.

wattled crane photo by Ian White

To maintain Umgeni Vlei’s biodiversity and protect the regal cranes’ habitat, the South African government declared the reserve a Ramsar Site in April this year, giving it special protection as a “wetland of international importance” under the Ramsar Convention, an international treaty on the protection of wetlands.

“On the Ramsar-designated wetland we’ve had up to seven breeding pairs of wattled cranes, but the number fluctuates every year,” said Smith. “If you include [the surrounding] wetlands we’ve had up to 13 breeding pairs – it’s a huge proportion of the country’s breeding population.”

Wetlands on the land owned by Ivanhoe Farming Company, of which Campbell is a director, serve as home to up to six breeding pairs of wattled cranes. To help conserve them, Campbell has designated 800 hectares of farmland which buttress the reserve.

This is a protected area with nature reserve status through the KwaZulu-Natal Biodiversity Stewardship Programme run by provincial government body Ezemvelo KwaZulu-Natal Wildlife.

“I think cranes and agriculture can co-exist,” Campbell told IPS. “Most farmers, I find, are conservation-minded.” Wetland preservation is key for wattled crane survival.

Ivanhoe_Wattled Cranes_landscape

South Africa’s population of wattled cranes dwindled through the 1980s, largely due to deaths related to flying into power lines, as well as intentional and unintentional poisoning, Smith said. Population numbers bottomed out in the early 2000s and have gradually increased since, thanks to conservation efforts and increased tagging of power lines, she said.

The cranes are the most wetland-dependent species of crane in South Africa and use their spear-like beaks to forage on bulbs in wetland regions, Smith said. The birds are highly territorial and rely on the permanent wetlands at the Umgeni Vlei Nature Reserve and surrounding private land for food, mating and nesting.

The KwaZulu-Natal province is at the heart of wattled crane activity and is home to about 90 percent of the country’s population. Many of these cranes reside in the Umgeni River’s upper catchment area. “If we lose the birds in these territories then we won’t have a viable population in the country,” said Smith.

Ivanhoe_Wattled Cranes_landscape_1

Since wetlands are the most threatened of all South Africa’s ecosystems, according to South Africa’s 2011 National Biodiversity Assessment, the cranes’ survival is closely tied to wetland conservation. At the same time, the birds serve as an “indicator species” – their presence signals good wetland health.

“If you have wattled cranes [on wetlands], you know you have good water quality and the biodiversity is in good stead,” Ann Burke, conservation projects manager at the KwaZulu-Natal Crane Foundation told IPS. Stewardship protects wetlands and birds.

While the Umgeni Vlei Nature Reserve’s designation as a Ramsar site offers protection to wattled cranes, it is only a small sliver of land of 958 hectares. Campbell is helping protect the birds, and ensure they have areas where they can breed unhindered. He has designated an 800-hectare segment of his farmland as reserve, and has agreed to manage it as such.


The reserve status granted to the designated land at Ivanhoe will be written into the title deeds of the farm. The protected land remains privately owned, and does not become government land, but the reserve status is binding if it is sold to new owners.

Such stewardship agreements offer longstanding protection against development and farming practices that could put fertiliser run-off into the wetland system, the World-Wide Fund for Nature’s (WWF) Susan Viljoen, who is facilitating negotiations between landowners and the government for the biodiversity stewardship agreements told IPS.

“It’s a far stronger guarantee that your land, and those farms, will be managed in a way that is compatible for the birds and for their breeding,” said Viljoen. “The main thing is that you’ve got this permanently open relationship and communication between conservation groupings and the landowner.”


Another landowner in the region has signed a similar stewardship agreement for 635 hectares of land, while the WWF is negotiating with six other landowners to protect portions of their lands, which total 7,569 hectares, said Viljoen.

“To someone who doesn’t really understand the detail of this process it almost might sound like that’s not very many,” she said. “But what I’ve learned through facilitating this process myself is stewardship is long and it’s slow, but the thing is – once it’s in place it’s forever.”

happy valley

Two wetland areas on the Ivanhoe Farm that were drained and converted to pastures for cattle grazing decades ago will also be rehabilitated through the government’s Working for Wetlands programme. Although it could take up to 10 years for the wetlands to return to a state where they can support wattled cranes, Campbell hopes to see birds inhabiting them in future.

“We can see what we’ve done wrong in the past,” said Campbell. “And this is a chance to correct it.”  Ivanhoe Farm  is a member of the Dargle Conservancy.

Article by Brendon Bosworth, first published Aug 5 2013 http://www.ipsnews.net/2013/08/steps-to-protect-south-africas-wattled-cranes/

Excursion to uMngeni Vlei

Vaughan Koopman, Wetland Ecologist with the Mondi Wetlands Programme, led an excursion to uMngeni Vlei yesterday. Everyone who participated thoroughly enjoyed this rare treat.  Margie Fraser said excitedly “We have been wanting to visit the Vlei ever since we arrived in the Midlands.”

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After meeting in Nottingham Road to car pool, we headed along the Loteni Road and a very dusty farm road until we arrived at the Vlei.r umngeni vlei 022

Soon everyone had their binoculars out to do a little bird watching. We saw some fabulous birds.

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Jenny Fly compiled this list: Cape Vultures, Wattled Cranes, Martial Eagle, Bearded Vulture, Jackal Buzzard, Buffstreaked Chat, Rock Ketstrel, Bokmakierie, Stone Chat, Common Fiscal, Ground Woodpecker, Cape Rock Thrush, Sentinal Rock Thrush, Black Crow, African Marsh Harrier, Fan Tailed Widow, Anteating Chat,  Numerous little brown seedeaters.

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This is an important Birding Area and a small group headed off to see if they could spot the Yellow Breasted Pipit. No luck – we plan to return in November to try again.

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Vaughan explained the importance of wetlands to store and regulate water flows and described all the eco-systems goods and services they provide human kind.

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uMngeni Vlei is an unusual high altitude wetland and has recently been declared a Ramsar site of international importance.  Drakensberg Foothill Moist Grassland dominates the areas around the Vlei.

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Vaughan used the soil auger to extract samples of the soils from right in the wetland and out to the edge, showing us how the composition and colour changed.  Real wetland soil was very dark from all the organic matter, whereas in the sample from the edge we could see traces of dolerite and the soil was lighter and more orange.

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Jessica Barnsley learnt a lot, “I knew wetlands were wet places and that birds lived in them before I came. Now I’ve learnt about the minerals in the soil and how to tell where the wetland edge is.”

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There was plenty of opportunity to ask questions about managing wetlands. Yes, cattle are a useful tool in wetlands, but must be carefully managed. Fire too is important, but timing and careful observation is important.r umngeni vlei 085

Farming wetlands is difficult as they are continually trying to revert to a wetland. After WW2, there was a programme of draining wetlands for agriculture, but nowadays these are being reversed as people recognise their importance.

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We were intrigued by Vaughan’s story that the wetlands of Holland were responsible for our existence.  “Stone age people used the peat as fuel for smelting iron, which increased their wealth and opportunity to trade. Water flooding the excavated wetlands eventually become the Rotterdam harbour (2nd largest in the world). From here explorers set sail and colonised the rest of the world, including South Africa. So we all owe our existence and wealth to those wetlands.”

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Wetlands store much carbon in the form of organic matter but release methane through the anaerobic decomposition which takes place in the water. Despite this, they are still considered important carbon sinks – storage outweighing the methane released. Wetlands are shallow (about 1.5 m deep) and constantly changing as a result of the build up of organic matter.

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Obviously, there was nothing in flower but we found big clumps of Euphorbia claviroides amongst the rocks.

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Sheets of ice floated in the stream entering the vlei – even at midday.

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We spotted a Red Rock Rabbit bounding along the rocks as we basked like lizards in the sun with our picnic lunch.   Red Rock Rabbits inhabit rocky ravines, steep boulder strewn hillsides and krantzes. They require grass as cover and are strictly grazers, preferring short grass, particularly that which has been burnt. They lie up during the day in ‘forms’ in clumps of grass, or amongst boulders, and may become active around sunset, but are predominately nocturnal. Although they are probably not as fast as the hares, they are capable of moving at breakneck speed through the steep rocky terrain which they usually inhabit. These rabbits are usually seen alone when out foraging, but live together in colonies amongst the rocks.  Ref: Maberly’s Mammals of Southern Africa.

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Christie Exall ” We feel really blessed to have joined the group ion that magnificent setting. It still boggles my mind that our water originates from that beautiful, complex area. What a stunning day we had.”

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Read more about uMngeni Vlei at https://midlandsconservanciesforum.wordpress.com/2013/04/15/umngeni-vlei-wetland-of-international-importance/