Thank you to all who attended the Annual General Meeting on 4 August and, for the benefit of those unable to do so, herewith copies of reports tabled at the meeting, also a summary of the excellent presentation by our Guest Speaker, Dr Marlies Craig.
A sincere request from our Chairman and loyal Committee members; Hillcrest Conservancy needs more volunteers to assist, for example with Events, Admin, Publicity, Fundraising, Maintenance.
A commitment will not entail full-time involvement but can be limited to your availability and we’d welcome fresh ideas, talent and skills. We look forward to receiving your offer to assist.
Chairman’s report: George Victor
We had 73 paid up members last year with 53 payments to date – August hopefully will bring in more subs so we may be on track for this year.
Events and Activities
Our annual Frog event was held in conjunction with the Hillcrest Scout Group where we had to split the activities between the Scout Hall and the Resource Centre. This was due to the threat to our Kloof Frog population at the upper end of the reserve. We plan to hold a bigger Frog evening at the Scout Hall this year and are working on the pond protection.
Our Invasive Awareness programme has been successful with many of the local garden technicians now part of the new drive to remove these plants. Part of this work includes the rail reserve, as invasive plants do affect Springside.
We have teamed up with Umgeni Steam Railway to assist them with removing these plants and have also passed on additional skills to our assistants.
We have been successful with on-going tackling of road verges where IAP’s are present, and this has made a difference to the area.
The IAP awareness training programmes continued during the year with the help of presenter Ian Pattrick – we now undertake some practical control work in the reserve as part of the training course. The importance of the training and up-skilling of gardeners is imperative to the success of conservation and we have excelled here this year.
Some of the Eco-Champs from the Aller River project recently received training with much positive feedback provided.
Springside Nature Reserve.
From small beginnings in 1975, the reserve has continued to grow in strength; with ever increasing members of the public using the facility – this is our 36th year of operation since the original Committee was formed in 1982.
The Reserve is used as a model for eThekwini, especially as it is an important interface between rapid urbanization and the protection of bio-diversity. We have now also acquired a trail camera to control neighbours dogs and to monitor wildlife in the Reserve.
Work was done on the handrails of some of the trails and this was undertaken with the help of the council workers – the braai area is also receiving attention.
The alien vegetation programme involving the adjacent Reserve properties is still being carried out with ongoing support from some of the neighbours. We are assisted here by William Latha who is also involved with the Embo Conservancy.
Numerous research projects are still being undertaken in Springside Reserve, which indicates the importance of this facility.
The dedicated work of Jabulani Khoza and his crew in upholding the standard of this Reserve is greatly appreciated, and we are most grateful for this.
The acquisition of the Duckitt pond area at the top end of Springside is still ongoing as this has become an important protected area for the Kloof frog.
The gardener training is going well with 150 gardeners trained during the year. Part of the training includes practical work in Springside Reserve.
The work at “Neglected Park” at 62 Springside Road is still on-going with us handling the IAP’s and council cutting the grass. A road has been graded onto the property.
We have been involved in working with council parks department in clearing and maintaining “Padley Park” which is at the top end of Westriding. Large volumes of dumped industrial waste had to be removed from here.
The work at Embo has also been rewarding, and we are planting indigenous fruit trees as well as undertaking conservation projects together with the community. We have started the Community Gardener Concept as an initiative – working with keen residents to encourage them to plant indigenous plants on their properties. Some of the children are taken on the steam train ride as part of community service in eradicating IAP’s.
Our work with other Conservancies within our Zone, as well as within the eThekwini Conservancies Forum; has been on-going. The Forum meetings provide an opportunity to meet and exchange ideas.
Request for Sub Committee Members
We still have a need for members for the various sub-committees such as Events/Admin/Publicity/
In conclusion, I pay tribute to our small but effective management team, who have worked tirelessly for Springside and the Conservancy, and provided me with fantastic support. The conservancy and the community owe a big debt of gratitude to the team Ian, Carolyn, Ann, Sue, Luci, Roger and Barry, Lindsay and David. Ann Gibson has assisted in planning activities, with Ian being a driving force behind our training programmes and our wealth of knowledge. Barry has been a great help, especially with the work parties. I would like to thank Beryl Draper, who has remains active and has assisted us by running the mail shots and other admin activities from Howick, and for this we are most grateful.
Thank you – George Victor
Report by Sue Schönefeld
There`s been a slight increase in people attending since last year. 28 people came in June 2016, 26 in August 2016, 25 in February 2017 and 27 in May 2017. Otherwise the average is about 17 each month.
There has also been an increase in the number of species identified by sight and sound. An average of 55 species each month compared with just over 40 last year. This is due to the regular birders who have become more experienced in identifying birds and are therefore helping Derek in this regard. In November 2016 Derek registered 70 species – the highest number he has recorded in a birding visit to Springside.
Two new species were recorded during the year – in November 2016 the African Pied Wagtail was seen on two separate occasions in Springside and in May 2017 the Yellow-bellied Greenbul was heard for the first time.
We introduced the minimum donation of R20 per person in March 2017 for the walk and refreshments.
When there is a large group Derek is assisted by the other experienced birders and of course I`m helped by Carolyn, Ann (Gibson) and Dianne (Lyall).
Sue SchönefeldSummary of fascinating presentation by Guest Speaker: Dr Marlies Craig “INSECTS IN THE FOOD WEB”
We always take insects for granted, if we think about them at all. We cannot afford to do that. Insects fulfil a number of vital roles in nature: they recycle waste, pollinate flowers, disperse seeds, feed other animals, keep each other and keep plants in check. It is the extent to which they do this, that is surprising.
- In land and freshwater habitats, about half of known invertebrate species, 95% of vertebrates, and a quarter of insects themselves, eat insects directly.
- 84% of land plants need to be pollinated by animals (mainly insects, birds and bats, and the latter two are insect eaters).
- Therefore herbivores, predators, parasites and detritivores all depend on insects indirectly or down the line in the food chain.
These numbers stack up quickly to the undeniable fact that insects are utterly indispensable in nature. Nature as we know it cannot exist without insects. Yet inadvertently we expect it to.
Insect herbivores are fussy eaters. The vast majority eat only the plants the one or two families – or even species – of plants: the ones they grew up with. Most exotic plants are inedible to local insects, which is why these plants often become invasive. An area overgrown with invasive aliens is a barren desert as far as our insects are concerned. No insect food means no insects, which means no other animals, no pollinators, therefore reduced growth of indigenous plants. It is a deadly downward spiral. In some areas the food web has as good as collapsed. Planting a few indigenous flowers doesn’t help: it is simply not enough food to sustain the food web.
A complete, fully-functioning ecosystem, where multiple animal species and populations can co-exist and keep each other in check, requires sufficient edible biomass. Indigenous trees, and thick, fast-growing indigenous grasslands, both supply vast amounts of food. Removing invasive aliens and restocking indigenous trees, is the key to reviving an ailing nature.