Saturday, 28 May 2011


How the branch operates
The Branch’s work has focused on specific local projects (Friends of Pigeon Valley, Umbilo Conservancy, Lower Umngeni River) and environmental activism across a wide area of central Durban.  The committee members have links and activities across the Durban area, and sometimes beyond.
The advantages of having the link to the local projects is that this stimulates local activity, perhaps at the cost though of contact between the branch committee and WESSA members who are not linked to a local project. 
It was decided to move from having meetings every two months to having a monthly meeting, hopefully somewhat shorter, as some issues need greater communication than was possible before.
WESSA as a resource
Increasingly we have realised that a particular role for a branch like Durban is that it is a resource for various groups, a network of people with skills and information related to various aspects of the environment and its protection.  Within the Branch is a wealth of information and experience for others to draw on.  We are keen to make this available.
This also extends to the links between the Branch and the WESSA regional and national organisation.  I think there has been improved communication. 
Collaboration with other conservation groups
The approach has been work in a positive way with other groups, such as Botsoc and the Bird Conservation Monitoring Group.  What is emerging in particular with regard to the latter is the gradual development of a system for natural areas where there is an identifiable champion who can be a focal point for information on birds, vegetation, mammals, insects, bats and so on even when that person is not an expert on more than one area.  This would best be undertaken through the use of the internet, and links.  We have not gone far down this path, but it has the potential for aligning our limited resources in the most effective way.
Relationship with the eThekwini Metro
This is a complex issue; much of our work involves linking with staff in departments such as Parks, but not only that department.  There have been some very positive links, for example with regard to the work the Metro is doing on alien clearing.  There have also been some difficulties which arise when some workers who have been taken on to undertake cutting cut down indigenous as well as alien plants and damage the natural environment.   It seems from our recent experience that it is best to handle these problems at a local level, involving the lower levels of management, and taking a positive attitude to the times when the Metro staff go out of their way to ensure that issues are addressed effectively.  Two recent cases = discussions about problems at Umbilo Ponds, and a recent case of the deaths of two Spotted Ground Thrushes at Pigeon Valley, both indicate a high level of responsiveness and willingness on the part of senior Natural Areas staff to resolve the underlying problem.
While this is not the financial report, it is worth noting that we have been enterprising and have not hesitated to use our resources, but have nonetheless kept reserves in a healthy state.  Particular tribute must go to the tree label work undertaken by Margaret Burger, which generates a steady stream of income.  Our approach has been to support the work of some specific groups, on a once-off basis, and that frees them up to be more effective.  We have also invested money to enable Suburban Wildlife to be printed and sold. 
A key innovation is the new WESSA Durban branch blog:  This is still being tried out, but it means that we can reach membership who access it much more fully, by presenting tables, photographs, and full reports.  Concerns have been raised over the publicity and information provided to members without internet access.
Specific local areas
Without going into full details, members of the committee have been actively involved in the conservation of Pigeon Valley and surrounding areas, the Lower Umngeni, Msinsi Reserve, Monteplier Road, Umbilo Ponds and surrounding areas, Roosfontein nature reserve, and some initiatives in Lamontville. 
The committee
We have learnt that Cheryl Borresen, who has provided a kind of administrative backbone, energised by passion, will no longer be secretary.  We are hugely indebted to her for her contribution, and keenly await seeing where her energies will now be expressed.

Crispin Hemson
Chairperson, 28th May 2011

Bianca McElvey, conservation officer for WESSA KZN, being presented a Friends of Pigeon Valley T shirt by Crispin Hemson after a challenging presentation at the branch AGM

Presentation to outgoing secretary, Cheryl Borresen, at WESSA branch AGM on 28th May

Meeting of Umbilo Conservancy with officials of Parks Department eThekwini

Canary creeper - Senecio Tamoides - flowering in Pigeon Valley

Winter flowering in Pigeon Valley: White-spot Forest Spikethorn, Gymnosporia Nemorosa

Thursday, 19 May 2011

Modelling Friends of Pigeon Valley T shirts

Mxolisi Mzobe, Celo Chili and Derrick Chili on completion of work at Peace Cottage - showing job satisfaction.  Instead of buying overalls we used the FOPV T shirts

Wednesday, 18 May 2011

Brown-hooded Kingfisher in Pigeon Valley

A pensive individual watching alien clearing activities at the reservoir in Pigeon Valley.

The most important task in a democracy

Today is election day, 18th May 2011.  In Pigeon Valley, this group of far-sighted citizens are deliberating on which path to take.  Unlike others, their concerns are not service delivery or open toilets.  Instead, they are focused on security, water quality and the implications of climate change.

Sunday, 15 May 2011

Elephant House garden - belonging to Brain and Elaine Agar

 Albizia adianthifolia
 Elephant House sign posted
Halleria lucida

Jill and Gavin Morley's indigenous garden - designed by Jenny Dean

love the Helichrysum populifolium's grey leaves
Hypoestes aristata behind the bird bath

Barleria obtusa flowering profusely
Metarungia longistrobus - sinbird bush - visit this site:

Botanical Society Open Gardens Saturday 14 May 2011 Durban

The Botanical Society arranges open gardens from time to time as one of their outings.  Yetserday was a gorgeuos day.  Visited 2 gardens - one new and one well established, within close proximity to one another in Morningside.  Enjoy the pictures. Rev Dr Jill Morley and her husband Gavin are the owners of garden number 1, a small new garden and no. 2 is the Elehpant House garden belonging to Elaine and Brain Agar, a listed house and quite clearly a place of historical signiicance.  We had scrumpious tea and Brian entertained us with historical tales - the house is listed - and built in 1849.  That beats ours by 40 years at least.

Margaret Burger

Thursday, 5 May 2011

Umbilo Ponds: where we need to take action

Cast your eyes over these pictures: there is a problem of what is I think Water Hyacinth spreading over the ponds, mixed in with some indigenous water plants.  There are municipal workers removing plants, but not enough is being taken out, given the rate of growth.  Not all is lost: see the Goliath Heron!  The last photo is of Ipomoea Purpurea smothering the bank just below the one parking area.

What the Manor Gardens scholars wrote about the visit...

I really enjoyed walking around pigeon Valley; I was especially fascinated that so many rare species of trees are concentrated in such a small urban area. I really liked the look of the fluted Milkwood’s and how the little creatures shelter in the trees nooks and crannies. The duikers were very sweet and I learnt a lot from what Crispin Hemson had to say.

Pigeon Valley Excursion
The Grade Sevens went on a trip to Pigeon Valley Nature Reserve on the 15th of March. Instead of the usual bus ride, we gained a bit of exercise by walking there and back. When we reached the nature reserve, we met Mr. Crispin Hemson, who would be giving us a tour around Pigeon Valley. As we started walking around the reserve, we started to notice the abundance of life. We discovered many different types of trees, such as the Natal Elm, which are very rare, there being only 15 dotted around the province, but 30 inside the reserve. We also caught a glimpse of the Red Duiker. There are 12 of these shy creatures around Pigeon Valley. There were also a great variety of birds, including the fruit-eating Purple-crested Loerie, the Black Sparrow hawk, which breed in the reserve, and the Spectacled Weaver. We learnt all about ecosystems too, and how everything depends on each other. Our trip was very informative and enjoyable.

Pigeon Valley
At pigeon valley I learnt that a green mamba tree provides safety to birds but when they are hiding in the trees sometimes snakes come and stalk them for their prey particly the green mamba. The animals I saw were, an African flycatcher, bar throated apalis,tambarian dove,blue duiker,red duiker.

Pigeon Valley
The walk to Pigeon Valley was long, but it was worth it when we got there. We saw lots of plants and animals, including Natal Elm trees, a blue vervet monkey and lots of purple crested louries.  The walk through the trees was invigorating.  I learnt that there are more Natal Elm trees in that small park than anywhere else in the world. I loved just listening to the sounds around us, and then we had to go back to school. It was a terrific trip. 

More on the Manor Gardens Primary visit to Pigeon Valley

Manor Gardens Primary go to Pigeon Valley

Wednesday, 4 May 2011

Directions for Ilanda Wilds: Bird count, Saturday 7th May

From Durban on the N2 south bound, take the offramp near Adams Road (Khoto Mkhunya Rd) which joins onto Kingsway. Turn right into Kingsway and shortly right into Khoto Mkhunya Rd and go over the bridge over the N2. Turn left into Isundu Drive just on the other side of the bridge. Follow Isundu Drive till you see the bridge crossing the river. Cross the bridge and follow the road past the library on the left until you reach Riverside Road. Turn right into Riverside Road and follow it past Emtombeni Drive, and look out on the right for the road turning down to Lords and Legends and the bowling greens. Park in the large parking area near Lords and Legends.

What this blog is for...

This is a facility for members of WESSA who are linked to its Durban Branch.  Here we post current developments, show photos of our activities, and take in comments from the WESSA membership.

The activities include these groups and projects:
* Umbilo Conservancy - conservation of the ponds in Umbilo and the surrounding areas
* the Umngeni River work, including the development of trails that are free of alien vegetation
* the Friends of Pigeon Valley, who work on the conservation of Pigeon Valley
* protection of Msinsi Reserve, at the University of KwaZulu-Natal
* training of guides
* production and distribution of labels for indigenous trees
* a source of expertise on alien clearing work