FoBCA Newsletter 2020 No. 1

A not-so-new year anymore, and many natural events which have had substantial impact are occurring everywhere: the bush fires in Australia; the floods in other parts of our country; the extensive drought in areas like the Northern Cape and the Karoo - all to make us continually aware of the important role that nature and climate change plays in our economy and the well-being of our country. 

Albeit slightly late for New Year's wishes, we do wish you a prosperous and successful 2020.

Here at the FoBCA, the year started with a bang!

Battle of Blaauwberg Commemoration event

The annual commemoration event, held on Sat 18 January at Blaauwberg Farm was a success once again. 

The day started with an early morning walk from Blaauwberg Farm to Blaauwberg Hill. Nearly 50 determined walkers set out on the route the British followed on their way to battle. In the meantime, the exhibitors were setting up and at 10h00 people started arriving to attend the exhibitions and talks. Various experts were present to exchange information, answer questions, and walk those present through details on paintings of the Battle scene, historic maps, diagrams and the ships which formed part of the attacking fleet. 

Marius Breytenbach gave a eulogy to fallen soldiers, after which the MOTHs performed their ceremony in honour of all soldiers. Two cannon shots were fired as is our custom - always causing everyone to jump back in surprise (and fright)!

Here is Dave Honour lighting the cannon fuse…

News article

Table Talk covered the event in detail:

Last but not least - thanks to Dave Honour for all the arrangements and to the committee and members who participated in the staging of the event. Plus, to all our members who attended - we really appreciate your participation.

WESSA BFG (Big Friends Group) – Report back

WETLAND BIODIVERSITY: WHY IT MATTERS , was the title of the WESSA Western Cape BFG gathering (you will remember we invited you to this event in a recent email).  

Saturday 1 February saw 90 Members and Friends of WESSA gather at the Soetwater Environmental Education Centre near Kommetjie (click  here  to learn more about the centre). The popular Centre, home to rehabilitating birds and snakes (Michael Odd, who cares for these was on hand to show WESSA visitors) is set in a coastal reserve, and is ideally suited to youth and adult programmes. The WESSA BFG, co-hosted with FOSNA (Friends of Silvermine Nature Area) began with the traditional early morning guided walk and ended with the vegetarian lunch.

Presentations during the morning by four experts in the field of sustainable water management all stressed the importance of groundwater as an indicator of a country’s general well-being. Monitoring healthy inflow and outflow of our fresh water sources is a vital preoccupation of water consultants. In water-scarce South Africa, with only 3.3% of the land comprising wetlands (rivers, estuarine systems, etc), the importance of our wetlands cannot be emphasised enough. The Wetland ecosystems of the world support the highest diversity of plant and animal species. It makes sense to care for them, and studies show that catchment-restoration is the best way to maintain our natural wetlands and ensure water flows to dams.

You can read full details about the event  here .

iNaturalist Global  City Nature  Challenge   20 20!
You will recall that we communicated quite a bit about the iNaturalist challenge last year, including of course the good news that  Cape Town won the competition  in 2 of the 3 categories in 2019, indeed in the categories that count:

  1. the most number of species  – an amazing tally of 4588 (almost 1000 more than second place)
  2. the most observations  - an astounding 53763
Well, the 2020 competition is looming up ahead! We are happy to hear that many more people intend to participate this year - this will help conquer the third category:  the number of observers . The competition ( see here for more information ) will take place between  24 – 27 April 2020. We are no longer the only South African City taking part - Durban, Nelson Mandela Bay and Tswhane have also entered this year - all the more healthy competition! 

For   those who are not exactly sure how it all works, or those who want to take better photographs this time around so that the experts can more easily identify the species (# 1 above), there are various info/training sessions scheduled to make it easier for the public to participate in the next few months. Follow ' iNaturalist - Southern Africa ' on Facebook and get notifications of their CNC info/training  events  

The CREW team’s Petra Broddle has arranged a  warm-up session at  Eerstesteen  on 18 April, 09h00 – 12h00 , to make sure you know how the iNaturalist app works and to ensure research grade observations. Please diarise this date – we will remind you about it again nearer to the time.

Member Matters

· In our last newsletter which appeared in December, we asked members to report on low-flying helicopters, planes etc along the Blaauwberg coastline. Thank you to those who sent us feedback. It not only impacts nature but also humans (kite surfers, motorised gliders, etc). The Civil Aviation Authority has promised to investigate the matter and we are awaiting feedback.

· We have some soft drinks left over from the Battle of Blaauwberg commemoration event. If you have an event or just wish to top up your stock of soft drinks, please contact the Chairman Stephanie Muller at  This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.  to see what is still available. We would dearly like to sell the remaining drinks ASAP.

· The FOBCA has recently sent official comment on the following proposed developments:

o Wolwerivier Sewerage Pipeline project (heritage aspect)

o City of Cape Town District Spatial Development Framework (for Blaauwberg District)

o Proposed Nature Reserve municipal By-law (currently in progress).


Memorial Service 17 Feb 2020 - Prof Retha Hofmeyr

It is with sadness that we tell you of Retha's passing on 7 Feb. Many of you will remember her from the well-attended presentation at the joint Friends of Rietvlei and FoBCA meeting in April 2018. This was a unique opportunity and a first for Retha to put together the  PowerPoint presentation , which remains on our website.for everyone's benefit.

Her tireless research on tortoises and turtles in Southern Africa is widely recognised and will be everlasting. Through her dedicated efforts, the threatening extinction of the geometric tortoise (suurpootjie) through continual shrinking of habitat, was halted, and is in the process of being reversed She was also a pioneer in the use of diagnostic ultrasound to supplement the unnecessary X-ray exposure to egg carrying female tortoise.

Roy says "For me, personally, Retha was one of those unique people that welcomed you into their whole life and shared so much of herself and passion......I truly hope someone else will continue with her project on the Critically Endangered Geometric Tortoise breeding project at Elandsberg, Hermon. The same Mapula ownership of Bokbaai on our West Coast."

Thanksgiving Service at NG Church, De Eike, Van Der Heever Street, Kuils River at 12h00 Mon 17 Feb

Forthcoming events:

Mon 9 Mar 2020  - Film shown by U3A at Milnerton Library Auditorium, at 09h30 for 10h00 (sharp) start:  Emission Impossible  (definitely relevant for 14-16 year-olds, but also a good reminder for all ages of some important science principles relating to Climate Change). If you intend attending the screening, contact Sue Bellinger on  This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.  by means of a 1-liner email stating how many will be in your group.

Sat 15 Mar 2020  -  Celebrating Bulbs  – a talk to celebrate the autumn flowering bulbs! Petra Broddle will host this talk at Eerstesteen Education Cabin followed by a walk to see the flowering Brunsvigias. Contact Petra Broddle at  This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.  to book your place.

Sat 28 Mar 2020  -  Battle of Blaauwberg Walk and Talk . Read more  here  

Sat 18 Apr 2020 -  City Nature Challenge - the Warm Up  (see above)

Fri 24 Apr - Mon 27 Apr 2020  -  iNaturalist Global City Nature Challenge  (see above)

Sat 25 Apr 2020  -  Two Hills walk . Read more  here  

Last Words…

Our members recommend these very readable books on the fascinating life of trees:

The Hidden Life of Trees ’ by  Peter Wohlleben

In  The Hidden Life of Trees , Peter Wohlleben shares his deep love of woods and forests and explains the amazing processes of life, death, and regeneration he has observed in the woodland and the amazing scientific processes behind the wonders of which we are blissfully unaware.

The Overstory ’ by  Richard Powers

This novel  is about nine Americans whose unique life experiences with trees bring them together to address the destruction of forests. Powers was inspired to write the work while teaching at  Stanford University  after he encountered  giant redwood trees  for the first time. [1]  On 20 September 2018,  The Overstory  was  2019  Pulitzer Prize winner for Fiction  and shortlisted for the  2018  Man Booker Prize .

And finally, some fun stuff on trees: