FoBCA Member Newsletter – October 2018

FoBCA wins the National Award for Groups!

The Wildlife and Environment Society of South Africa (WESSA), paid tribute to a wide range of outstanding environmental achievements with the presentation of the organisation’s Annual Awards at the 92nd Annual General Meeting which was hosted by WESSA’s Eastern Cape membership branch at Cape Recife near Port Elizabeth on Saturday 15 September 2018. The WESSA Awards, which have been presented since 1974, enable WESSA to recognise and honour those who have made a significant contribution to the environmental conservation or environmental education sector in South Africa over the past year in an exceptional and sustained manner. The WESSA Group Award was presented to the Friends of Blaauwberg Conservation Area under the leadership of Roy Fuller-Gee.

The award acknowledges the FoBCA for their enthusiasm, stewardship, network, influence and resilience which created numerous conservation projects in the nature reserve. WESSA recognised their role in the establishment of the Blaauwberg Nature Reserve, which included the establishment of the coastal dune trail, the establishment of a Custodians of Endangered Wildflowers (CREW) team for the area, the ongoing clearing of invasive species from the nature reserve and their vigilance in the protection of the heritage value of the property and land.  - From the WESSA website 

The FoBCA was chosen for the award not only amongst Friends groups, but amongst any group working in the environmental field.  What a pleasant surprise, but if taking into account all the work done under the strong driving force of the past chairman Roy Fuller-Gee over the years and the many achievements, then it is well-deserved.  Roy was flown to PE to receive the award for FoBCA. 

A big thank you to everyone who has over the years contributed to the success of the FOBCA, and who has given many hours to preserve, protect and promote the Blaauwberg Conservation Area - this is YOUR award!

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Green Coast Status Award Ceremony

The new Green Coast Flag was raised at Eerste Steen BBNR on Fri 14 Sep - you would have seen it in the media, as it was BIG news.  This article appeared in the Argus and says it all:

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From left: Rob Slater (WESSA), Roy Fuller-Gee (FoBCA), Councillor Brett Herron (City of Cape Town), Jacques Küyler (City of Cape Town), Lindie Buirski (City of Cape Town)

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The new WESSA GREEN COAST flag proudly flying at Eerste Steen, BBNR.

We will be giving you regular updates on the Green Coast Project as successful progress needs everyone’s co-operation.

Feature Article

Our star team – the Alien Vegetation Hackers!
We recently interviewed the BBNR alien vegetation hacking team.  They brave all kinds of weather every Tuesday to help the conservation staff in clearing the vast tracts of aliens growing on the BBNR.  If you look at the pictures below, you will see the extensive area that has already been cleared.  
They were keen to answer some of our questions:
When did the hacking team start?  We started hacking on BBNR on 27 April 2012, with 3 members. 
How many in your team?  The team now consists of 7 members with 5 attending regularly.  We have some varied ages in our group, with the oldest being 75 years old.  If you see us working, you will not believe our ages though.  We call it our outdoor gym!
How often do you meet?  We meet at 7h15 every Tuesday weather permitting – a very early start to avoid the heat of the day. 
How much have you cleared up to now?  Over the 6½ years up to now, we have cleared 137.91 ha of alien vegetation.   Just this year January - August, we have spent 476 man (and woman) hours hacking on the Reserve.  (If one exchanges this into a monetary value, it adds up to thousands of rands of time and labour donated to the BBNR!)
How do you decide on where and what to clear each Tuesday?  Jacques Küyler, the City of Cape Town Biodiversity Area Coordinator responsible for the Blaauwberg Nature Reserve, discusses with our Team Leader, Eddie Heimann, what needs to be cleared and then the team will do the detailed planning for the day. 
Between November and February each year, when it is too warm for the hard work, we do what we call ‘follow-up’ clearing.  We then go over every single area we have cleared up to now, and clear all the new growth.  Over time the area for follow-up clearing gets bigger but the effort becomes less.  The job is endless, though – the aliens have an amazing power to resurface.
Have you ever come across any snakes?  Yes, mole snakes, but the chainsaws and hacking cause such a din, that the snakes stay away.  We always look out for puff adders, because they don’t move away, but fortunately up to now have not encountered any.   We have been threatened by the Eland bull though! 
And other animals?  Yes, we often see duiker, caracal, and we followed a breeding Martial Eagle nested on the power lines for a long period until the eaglets hatched.  We don’t often see the hartebeest as they are shy buck, unlike the Eland.
What equipment do you use?  Chainsaws, loppers and bow saws.  For follow-ups, spades are used.  One member has been using his personal chainsaw that is already 13 years old.  If you think of the hard work the chainsaw does every week, then it is really good – they don’t make them like they used to!
Do you relax in between?  Not really, as we want to achieve the maximum before the heat sets in for the morning.  We work flat out for 3½ hours.  However, once a month, we end with a braai, and of course we also have a year-end braai!
What about safety precautions?  That is of course very important.  We wear pants made of Kevlar material.  This is the kind of clothing that space crews wear – if a saw slips, and goes into your leg, the blade can’t go through the material.  You will see quite a number of tears on the clothes on the photographs.  We are lucky to say we have never had an injury.  We also have certain security practices like always standing behind someone who uses the chain saw.  And of course we also train the new hackers first before allowing them to use the chain saws.  We have a first aid kit at hand in case something happens.
What exactly do you clear? We clear Port Jackson, Rooikrans, Lupin, Bluegum, and Australian Myrtle.  Myrtle is a hard nut – their roots are twisted and difficult to hack, and their seeds are very light so distribute easily.  A Port Jackson’s seed falls to the ground, so are easier to spot and clear.  Most of it is Port Jackson.  The conservation officer identifies and gives guidance on what to clear
Are you sometimes involved in special projects?  We helped in clearing the Coastal Dune Trail (the popular BBNR trail that starts opposite Eerste Steen), and we sometimes help in Atlantic Beach and the Witzands Reserve when required.  We also help clearing fire breaks such as recently the one leading up to Kleinberg. 
Any other points you want to mention?  It is very satisfying work as there is variety involved.  The team feels valuable in being able to contribute to conservation efforts.  Anyone is welcome to come and help on Tuesday mornings.  Just contact Eddie Heimann at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

The Hack Team in action!

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An aerial view of the vast area already cleared by the Hack Team.

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Back row: Sjaak Bok, Kathy Kilian, Mark Maddams, Mike Philips       
Front row: Eddie Heimann, Dale Slabbert, Jürg Zimmermann, Mzukisi Matyobeni

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Forthcoming events

For more information on the Blaauwberg Nature Reserve and any events of the Friends of BCA, please visit our website www.bca.org.za.
  Sat 6 Oct - It's the last botanical walk on the Coastal Dune Hiking Trail for 2018.  Message from CREW Team Leader Petra Broddle:  ‘It has been a fantastic year and I would like to thank everyone for coming on the walks, supporting us and helping along the way.  Please bring something small to celebrate halfway.  With all the recent rain, we may see something special along the way.'  Let Petra know if you want to join on Saturday morning (9am at Eerste Steen).  SMS her at 079 776 3701 
   Sat 27 Oct – Two Hills Walk in the Blaauwberg Nature Reserve. To participate in the walk, contact Stephanie Muller at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or SMS 083 679 4642.
   Sat 3 Nov - Battle of Blaauwberg Walk.  Dave Honour, FoBCA registered tour guide and also an expert on KZN battle sites, is the leader.  For more information or to book your attendance, please call/SMS Dave Honour at 082 906 4875 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..
   Sun 4 Nov – Morning Star Morning market.  As neighbours of the BBNR, and in appreciation of the important work that the Morning Star Plotwatch is doing for security of the area, the FoBCA will host a stall at this market.  Come and join in the festivities and pop by to say hello!

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Other News

The Baboon Spider Atlas project
The Baboon Spider Atlas project team, part of the Animal Demography Unit at SANBI, has a plea for us to keep a look out for baboon spiders during field trips.
The Baboon Spider Atlas is a project following in the steps of other recent atlas projects for butterflies and reptiles. We hope to publish an atlas for these spectacular but elusive and poorly known animals in a few years’ time, and we need as many photographic records as possible.  Please photograph any baboon spiders you might see, from above or a slight angle to the side, and submit your photos to iNaturalist or the ADU Virtual Museum. Or even more simply, you can upload photos on the project website at www.baboonspideratlas.co.za. All records submitted through the website are also stored directly on the ADU Virtual Museum.
Baboon spiders are large, hairy spiders like the one in the photo below, but there are some smaller species too. You're welcome to submit photos of any spider you suspect might be a baboon spider - it will be stored also. To learn more about the project and where you might find baboon spiders, please visit the website. We look forward to seeing your exciting discoveries!
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University of the Western Cape Nature Reserve's annual FAUNAL SURVEY – 19 to 20 Oct 2018
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