29 July 2012

De Mond & Waenhuiskrans Nature Reserves

A lot of my work over the last couple of months has been at De Mond Nature Reserve, probably my favourite stretch of coastline anywhere (see map at end).

The Heuningnes Estuary at De Mond Nature Reserve.

Agathosma cerefolium - this buchu has hands down the best smelling foliage of any plant anywhere. Small and inconspicuous, it's hard to see when it's not flowering, but if you just brush against it, the lemony-anise scent tells you it's there. The perfume is so characteristic of the area that the coastal ridge of Agulhas National Park is named Anysberg. Buchus are the fine-leaved Cape branch of the lemon family (Rutaceae).

The neon-green foliage of another buchu, Agathosma collina is much easier to see - it's dominant on the dune fynbos in this part of the Overberg, and in full flower at the moment.

The Pink Orchid Satyrium carneum, just starting to flower now. Regionally considered Near Threatened (redlist.sanbi.org) it's actually locally common in many coastal sandy areas.

De Mond and Waenhuiskrans Nature Reserves are separated by about 5km of private land, but like anywhere else in South Africa, the beach below the high water mark is Admiralty Zone public property and makes for a delightful wild walk.

Waenhuiskrans - the wagon cave. Presumably named for its size, rather than it actual ability to shelter wagons, since it is very wet at high tide. The neighbouring town was named Waenhuiskrans before being renamed to Arniston to commemorate the ship wrecked here in 1867. 

Huge numbers of Southern Right Whales gather every year between June and November to mate,  calve and nurse their young in the shallow, warm coastal waters of the Overberg.

common terns

Oystercatchers, once in decline, are now locally abundant, and commonly seen.

View over the sea from cliffs above Waenhuiskrans

Crowned cormorant. Just before I took this photo a couple of years ago, my GPS fell into the sea. I went back at low tide just after dawn the next morning and actually found it wedged between two rocks, sadly the battery seal had failed and it was full of sea. A long bath in distilled water, then pure ethanol, brought it back to life long enough to retrieve a weeks worth of work before it died forever.

Beach at Waenhuiskrans Nature Reserve.

And for those of you who don't know the Cape well, that's where the reserves are, just along the coast from Cape Agulhas, the southern tip of Africa.